The Yankees were already going it without Mariano Rivera this month, a strange sight to everyone who has followed baseball since the mid-1990s. But then Rivera was only out there for one or two innings per night.
Derek Jeter was the immovable object. The Yankees have played in 158 postseason games since 1996, and Jeter has started every single one of them. He’s the all-time postseason leader in games played by 30, in at-bats by 185 and in hits by 72. He’s also the postseason leader in runs scored and total bases. He’s first in singles, first in doubles, tied for first in triples and even third in homers.
And now he’s done for 2012 due to a fractured ankle.
When the Yankees take the field without Jeter in Sunday’s ALCS Game 2 against the Tigers, it’ll be the first time they’ve done so in the postseason since Oct. 8, 1995. That was a Game 5 loss to the Mariners in the ALDS. Randy Johnson famously came out of the pen and got the win in relief for Seattle.
Tony Fernandez was the Yankees’ shortstop in that contest. Dion James played left field, believe it or not. A 20-year-old Alex Rodriguez pinch-ran for Seattle and got his first ever postseason at-bat in the contest (he grounded out). Tino Martinez was the guy he replaced (he was traded to the Yankees two months later).
That ALDS loss was the Yankees’ first postseason series in 14 years. So, the Bombers haven’t actually won a postseason series without Jeter since 1981, when they prevailed in the ALDS and ALCS before losing to the Dodgers in the World Series.
The odds are stacked against them winning this one, too. They’re down 1-0 to the Tigers, they have Hiroki Kuroda going on short rest in Game 2 and they’ll be up against Justin Verlander in Game 3. Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson are all struggling mightily. And now they’ll be going with Jayson Nix or Eduardo Nunez at shortstop. It’d be a stunning achievement if they can somehow pull this one out.
It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:
In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.
Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.
Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.
The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.
The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.
Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.