Jason Grilli

Jason Grilli continues to dominate


Pirates closer Jason Grilli spent most of his 20’s and early 30’s bouncing from organization to organization — he pitched for the White Sox, Tigers, Rockies, and Rangers. Between 2004-09, working almost exclusively as a reliever, he posted a 4.62 ERA. He suffered a knee injury during spring training in 2010 with the Indians, forcing him to miss the entire season. The Phillies picked him up going into 2011 and stashed him in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he thrived with a 1.93 ERA in 32.2 innings. With no spot for him in the Major League bullpen, the Phillies had to let him go and the Pirates quickly snapped him up. From there, the rest is history.

Grilli posted a 2.48 ERA in 32.2 innings pitching mostly in middle relief in the second-half of the 2011 season in Pittsburgh. His performance merited a promotion to set up for closer Joel Hanrahan in 2012, and Grilli once again prospered, posting a 2.91 ERA in 58.2 innings. During the off-season, the Pirates traded Hanrahan to the Red Sox for a handful of prospects, opening up the closer’s role to Grilli.

This afternoon, Grilli nailed down a 1-0 save against the Astros, bumping his MLB-leading total up to 17 on the season and lowering his ERA to 0.92. Grilli, now 36 years old, stands out among a very talented group of relievers across baseball that includes Mariano Rivera, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Jonathan Papelbon, and many others. The Pirates, often a punchline when it comes to player development, were able to strike gold in Grilli as a reclamation project.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.