Alex Rodriguez appears about as helpless as a week-old kitten at the plate at the moment, at least when he’s facing right-handers, but that doesn’t make it any less baffling that manager Joe Girardi chose tonight’s Game 3 to bench him.
That’s because of the four homers the Yankees hit off Justin Verlander this year, Rodriguez was responsible for half of them.
A-Rod is 8-for-24 with three homers, four walks and just three strikeouts lifetime against Verlander. Now, that was probably the old A-Rod, the one who used to make contact more than once per game. Still, he was Girardi’s choice to start Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS despite looking horrible in the ALDS. Why sit him now?
Part of it is probably that Eric Chavez has also had some success against Verlander. In fact, he was 6-for-10 with a couple of doubles against him this year. But if the Yankees wanted, they could have used either A-Rod or Chavez at DH and stuck Raul Ibanez in left field. They were benching Nick Swisher anyway. As is, they decided to give Brett Gardner his first start since April in Swisher’s place, with Ichiro Suzuki shifting from left to right.
The changes leave the Yankees with a starting nine tonight that has four homers in 207 career at-bats against Verlander. Rodriguez and Swisher, in comparison, have combined for six homers in 79 at-bats.
I’m still not against the Rodriguez benching. He’s not the same player he was even earlier this year. It’s the timing of the decision that’s the problem. Rodriguez should have taken his seat prior to Game 2.
Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.
Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.
It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.
“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”
Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.
This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.
With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.