At some point within the next few weeks, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun will have the opportunity to plead his innocence against a charge that he was taking performance-enhancing drugs around the start of the 2011 postseason. But he faces great odds.
The evidence against him comes in the form of a test, administered in either late September or early October, that had a positive reading for elevated levels of testosterone. That test was then passed along to the World Anti-Doping Agency lab in Montreal, where it was determined through further examination that the testosterone was synthetic — not produced by Braun’s body.
Braun might argue that the result was a false-positive, but an expert in the field of drug testing told Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports last month that those are “almost impossible” with today’s technology. Braun might say that result was triggered by a prescribed medication — something non-performance-enhancing — but how can he prove that and would it really matter if he could? The test showed insanely high levels of unnatural testosterone. However that testosterone arrived in Braun’s system, it’s against the rules for it to be there.
And even if Braun is telling the truth, and has never put synthetic testosterone into his body, a test that boasts an accuracy rating of nearly 100 percent says that the stuff was, at one point, present.
Which leads us to a report from Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who was told this weekend by an “MLB official familiar with the process” that Braun’s 50-game suspension is unlikely to be overturned. The 2011 NL MVP deserves his day in court, and he’ll get it later this month when he presents his case in front of an arbitrator, but it’s nearly certain that he’ll miss close to one-third of the 2012 campaign.
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.