Starlin Castro pulled after his mental error allows a run to score

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Cubs manager Dale Sveum decided to remove shortstop Starlin Castro from the game after he forgot the number of outs in the top of the fifth inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Matt Carpenter hit a lazy fly ball to shallow left field where Castro ran it down. As he casually slowed down, Jon Jay on third base noticed his lackadaisical nature and raced home. Castro’s throw home was too late as the Cardinals went up 2-0.

Before the top of the sixth, Sveum told Castro to hit the showers. Donnie Murphy moved from third base to shortstop and Cody Ransom entered the game playing third base. The Cardinals would tack on two more runs that inning on a two-run home run by catcher Yadier Molina, upping their lead to 4-0.

It’s been a tough year for Castro. Playing for one of the National League’s worst teams, he is having his worst season by a mile. His adjusted OPS of 71 is well under his previous career-low of 100 (also the league average) set in his rookie season in 2010. According to Baseball Reference, going by WAR, Castro has been the third-least valuable position player for the Cubs with -0.5 WAR, ahead of only Brent Lillibridge (-0.6) and Scott Hairston (-0.6).

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

Associated Press
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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.