Yoenis Cespedes hits walkoff homer; A’s sweep Dodgers

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An ugly series for the Dodgers had an especially ugly ending Thursday, with Yoenis Cespedes hitting a walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth to give the A’s a sweep in Oakland.

Josh Lindblom, one of the NL’s best setup men this season, had a terrible ninth today. He walked Coco Crisp to start the inning and then allowed him to advance with a wild pitch. Jemile Weeks then dropped down the bunt everyone in the ballpark knew was coming, yet Lindblom, after picking it up, turned and looked to fire to third base with no one standing there. Juan Uribe was drawn way in on the play, and even had Uribe been back, it was a good enough bunt with a speedy baserunner that Crisp was likely to be safe anyway.

That made it first and third with none out for Cespedes. Had things gone as planned and the sacrifice been successful, Cespedes almost certainly would have been walked to set up the double play. As it was, the A’s pitched to him, and he ripped a line drive that barely stayed to the right of the foul pole in left, giving the A’s a 4-1 win.

Much credit should go to Travis Blackley. Coming off his first win in eight years last week against the Padres, Blackley matched Clayton Kershaw pitch for pitch in this one. Both threw eight innings and allowed one run on three hits. Kershaw struck out seven and walked two. Blackley fanned six and walked none.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers have to be wondering where their offense went. Despite having the DH available, they scored just two runs in being swept. Leadoff man Dee Gordon went without a hit or a walk for the third straight game today, yet still managed to get caught stealing (he reached on a fielder’s choice in the ninth). $85 million outfielder Andre Ethier is hitting .171 in 70 at-bats this month. They actually used Ivan De Jesus — a utilityman who hadn’t started a game in three weeks — as their DH today.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

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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.