And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Angels 4, White Sox 1: Did you know that if you win the AL Central that you contract a horrible disease? If you answered yes, you must be either the Tigers or the White Sox. That’s five straight losses for Chicago. Jered Weaver wins his 19th, allowing one run over six and a third. Kendrys Morales homers and Pujols drives in two.

Twins 10, Tigers 4; Twins 2, Tigers 1: Joe Mauer drove in four in the opener, handing Max Scherzer a rare second half loss. In the nightcap the Tigers couldn’t muster a lick of offense and blew a chance to gain ground on the Sox.  This is just getting pathetic.

Cardinals 6, Cubs 3: St. Louis wins its sixth game in the past seven and continues to hold off the horde.Pete Kozma and Allen Craig each drive in a pair.

Brewers 6, Nationals 2: Milwaukee keeps pace with the Cards. Ryan Braun doubled, singled and hit a sac fly. I can’t wait until no one gives him any MVP votes out of spite.

Dodgers 5, Reds 3: L.A. keeps pace as well, beating the regular-resting Reds. Two homers for Adrian Gonzalez.

Braves 2, Phillies 1: A pretty sweet pitcher’s duel. It’s a shame someone had to lose. But I suppose Cliff Lee has gotten used to that this season. The Braves have won 14 of their last 20 and are on the verge of clinching the wild card. Philly, in contrast, could not afford dropping two of three. The patient is not yet dead, but his next of kin have been told to hang around a phone.

Athletics 5, Yankees 4: The Yankees’ seven game win streak is snapped and the A’s get a much needed win to hold off the Angels. Cliff Pennington homered and drove in three.

Red Sox 2, Orioles 1: The O’s win-streak is snapped as well. And in a one-run game, no less. Quite unusual!  What’s next? Republicans admitting that Obama inherited, rather than created, a bad economy and has done a pretty decent job managing the recovery? Ok, now I’ve seen everything.

Pirates 8, Astros 1: A.J. Burnett was sharp, allowing one run over eight innings while striking out 11, picking up his 16th win and stopping the Pirates’ five game skid.

Rays 3, Blue Jays 0: Your standard six-pitcher shutout for Tampa Bay. B.J. Upton with a solo shot in the first and Evan Longoria with a two-run double in the eighth.

Indians 15, Royals 4: The Tribe outscored the Browns yesterday. I bet that’s happened on more than one Sunday in recent years. Carlos Santana was 3 for 6 with two homers and five driven in.

Mets 3, Marlins 2: Ruben Tejada singled in the winning run with two out in the bottom of the ninth. The Mets season may be a disappointing one, but the straight own the Marlins lately. Seven straight, in fact.

Padres 6, Giants 4: Most of the Giants got a day off the day after clinching the division and the results followed.

Rangers 3, Mariners 2: Texas avoids the sweep thanks to homers from Mike Napoli and Geovany Soto. They had the good sense to lose when the A’s were losing, however, thereby keeping their four game lead in the west.

Diamondbacks 10, Rockies 7: Aaron Hill broke the 4-4 tie in the top of the eighth. The Dbacks are four and a half games back of the Cardinals for the second wild card, but unlike Philly and the Dodgers, no one talks about them really being in it. Wonder why that is?

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.