Mariano Rivera blows save as Carlos Pena plays hero in first game back with Rays

35 Comments

Craig mentioned earlier how Joe Girardi’s over-managing in the first inning resulted in Carlos Pena hitting a grand slam against CC Sabathia. Well, Pena wasn’t doing playing hero in his first game back in Tampa Bay.

The Yankees actually rallied back from the early deficit, handing the ball to all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera with a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth. However, he quickly gave up a single to Desmond Jennings and a triple to Ben Zobrist to erase the lead. Girardi then called for back-to-back intentional walks to Evan Longoria and Luke Scott to load the bases and set up the force play. Rivera was able to get Sean Rodriguez swinging for the first out of the inning, but then Pena hit a long fly ball to left field which Brett Gardner let fall for the game-winning hit. It was a 7-6 walk-off win for the Rays in a thrilling opener.

Couldn’t imagine a better homecoming for Pena, but something tells me we’ll get at least a couple “Is Mariano Finally Done?” columns on our doorstep tomorrow. Suckers.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

Getty Images
4 Comments

Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.