CC Sabathia goes nine as Yankees beat Orioles, move on to ALCS

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Just as Justin Verlander pitched the Tigers past the A’s, CC Sabathia proved to be the dominant presence as the Yankees beat the Orioles 3-1 in Friday’s decisive Game 5 and advanced to the ALCS.

Sabathia, coming off a win in Game 1 in which he nearly went the distance, did go nine this time for his first complete game in 17 postseason starts. He finished the ALDS with a 1.53 ERA.

The Orioles never put together a serious threat until the eighth. though they did nearly get a run in the sixth. Nate McLouth missed a homer by inches when he pulled a ball down the right-field line; some are even insisting it tipped the foul pole on the way by, though replays were inconclusive. That would have tied the game at 1.

The eighth was more interesting. Lew Ford delivered an RBI single with one out, and thanks to Sabathia’s own mental error on a comebacker, the Orioles loaded the bases afterwards. Sabathia got out of the inning by striking out McLouth and inducing a slow grounder to short from J.J. Hardy.

Had the Yankees bullpen been better rested, Sabathia almost certainly would have departed then. However, since Rafael Soriano pitched one inning Wednesday and two innings Thursday, Sabathia stayed in. He retired Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters in order in the ninth.

Baltimore’s pitching was, once again, excellent. Jason Hammel allowed two runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings in his start. The first came after Buck Showalter’s decision not to hold Mark Teixeira on at first base in the fifth, allowing Teixeira to steal second. Raul Ibanez then hit a grounder up the middle that might have resulted in two outs had the Orioles been at double-play depth. Since they weren’t, it proved to be an RBI single.

The Yankees also scored on a Derek Jeter walk and an Ichiro Suzuki RBI double in the sixth and on Curtis Granderson’s solo homer in the seventh. Granderson went 2-for-3 today after opening the series 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts.

The Bombers will host the Tigers in the Bronx when the ALCS starts on Saturday. With both aces expended, Doug Fister and Andy Pettitte are the expected starters.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.