Texas Rangers v Tampa Bay Rays - Game 4

Adrian Beltre hits three homers, clubs the Rangers past the Rays and into the ALCS

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Adrian Beltre hit three homers — all solo shots — to lead the Rangers past the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3.  That win makes three which puts the Rangers in the ALCS, making it there by beating the Rays in the division series for the second straight year.

For the Rays, the season ends six days after it was improbably extended. The high drama occasioned by their pursuit of the collapsing Red Sox offset by a division series that was anti-climactic in the extreme. The momentum, if you believe in such things, carried over into their Game 1 drubbing of the Rangers, but after taking a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning of game 2, they seemed to have no life left in them at all. Mike Napoli took care of them in that game and in Game 3, Beltre today.  Into the postseason with a bang, out with a whimper.

Notes:

  • Beltre was the sixth player to hit three homers in a postseason game.  Reggie Jackson, Adam Kennedy, um, some other guys, and then Beltre.  Points to whoever can name the other three.
  • Matt Harrison struck out nine in five innings. Can’t say he looked extremely dominant — it wasn’t as if he was really overpowering guys — but results is results. And strikeouts lead to big pitch counts, which is why he only went five.
  • Major kudos to Ron Washington and the Rangers front office. Last year there was a sense that Cliff Lee, Hired Gun, was everything. With Lee gone, Jon Daniels pushed a number of buttons, Nolan Ryan opened the purse strings a bit and Ron Washington made it all happen in a way that people, I don’t think, truly appreciate. Just a fantastic organization they got down in Texas.
  • Sean Rodriguez scored from second on a Casey Kotchman single in the fourth. To score he had to barrel into Mike Napoli who is, suffice it to say, is much, much bigger than Rodriguez. Napoli had the plate blocked so the collision was unavoidable, but Napoli took a forearm to the jaw and looked a bit dazed afterward. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s OK and ready to go for the ALCS.
  • Matt Moore relieved Jeremy Hellickson. Believe it or not, it was his home debut. He too gave up a homer to Beltre, but he was impressive all the same. I’ve never seen someone generate his velocity with such an easy, almost lazy delivery. The season is over, but this kid’s future is crazy-bright.
  • Evan Longoria went 1-for-11 with 6Ks in the three Texas wins.  Ouch.
  • It ended up not mattering, but Sean Rodriguez was allowed to score his third run of the game in the ninth when he walked, was allowed to reach second on defensive indifference and then scored on a Casey Kotchman single.  Why on Earth would the Rangers just ignore the runner in that situation? I’ve always hated that. That run didn’t need to score.
  • The attendance was 28,299, which wasn’t a sellout. It’s hard to sell out games at Tropicana Field to begin with, and a weekday 2PM start makes it harder, but that’s still kind of a bummer.

And with that, the Rangers play the waiting game. Do they face the Tigers following A.J. Burnett-pocalypse tonight, or does Burnett hold serve for the Yankees and force a Game 5?  Playoff baseball: it’s, like, totally awesome.

A Mexican team wins the Caribbean Series for the third time in four years

Mexican players celebrate their victory in the Caribbean Series baseball final against Aragua Tigres of Venezuela, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Designated hitter Jorge Vazquez hit a game-winning home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, lifting Mexico's Venados de Mazatlan to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory and the championship of the Caribbean Series. (AP Photo/Roberto Guzman)
Associated Press
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For those who aren’t familiar, Serie del Caribe, or the Caribbean Series, is the highest club level baseball tournament in Latin America, pitting the champions of the winter leagues in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela against one another in a bacchanalia of baseball that, if there was justice in the world, we’d all be watching instead of football.

This year’s installment ended last night with Mexico’s Mazatlan Venados beating Venezuela’s Aragua Tigres 5-4 in the final game at Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Jorge Vazquez — who Yankees fans may remember from a few years back — provided the winning margin when he hit a home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning.

This is the third Serie del Caribe title for a Mexican club in the past four years, with Naranjeros de Hermosillo winning in 2014 and Yaquis de Obregón winning in 2013. Pinar del Río from Cuba won it last winter. This is the first time the Venados have won it.

As we noted yesterday, this was longtime MLB starter Freddy Garcia‘s last game. He gave up four hits and allowed two earned runs over five and a third innings for the Tigres, getting a no-decision.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.