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.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.