Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton told reporters this past weekend, after Texas had secured a World Series berth by taking care of the Detroit Tigers, that he has been operating at about 50 percent health this postseason due to a lingering groin injury.
After checking out Game 1 of the World Series, we’re thinking he’s hurting even worse than that.
Hamilton seemed to grimace in every at-bat during Wednesday night’s 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Cardinals, and he took an odd route on a David Freese flyout in the fourth inning — allowing Lance Berkman to tag first base and advance to second.
When Hamilton then sent a rainbow throw to the infield, he gave the biggest cringe of the night.
The 30-year-old outfielder is batting just .267/.286/.378 over 47 plate appearances in these playoffs. His swing is off, and it’s not hard to tell that he feels the groin strain most when he tries to quickly twist his core — as one is required to do on all pitches, but most of all ones inside. The Cardinals know they can pound him in, and they’ll continue to do it throughout the Fall Classic. Hamilton was 0-for-4 on Wednesday with a strikeout.
Texas has a nice bench, especially under National League rules. If the three days of rest leading into the World Series didn’t heal Hamilton’s groin, and it’s a problem that is only going to get worse over the course of this seven-game set, it may be time for Rangers manager Ron Washington to make a monumental change.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.