And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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It’s cool and crisp here in America’s Heartland and there were some games last night that felt like the playoffs. Can we please just skip September and move straight on into October? Would anyone object to this?

Red Sox 2, Tigers 1: An ALCS preview? Jon Lester outduels Max Scherzer in a tight game with a decided October feel to it. Especially the moment in the fifth inning when Miguel Cabrera came up with the bases loaded and got ahead of Lester 2-0 before grounding out.  How about we just skip September and fast-forward to the playoffs now? I’d be down for that. Anyone else?

Reds 1, Cardinals 0: Another playoff preview, perhaps. The wild card game, actually, if it happened today. Homer Bailey wouldn’t be the worst choice for the Reds in such a game. He tossed seven shutout innings. Billy Hamilton made his MLB debut as a pinch runner in the seventh, stole second off Yadier Molina and then was doubled in by Todd Frazier for the only run of the game.

Braves 3, Mets 1Dodgers 7, Rockies 4: In Atlanta, Kris Medlen allowed one run over seven and Andrelton Simmons and Evan Gattis each went deep. In Colorado, Ricky Nolasco was solid again and the Dodgers sprung out to a 4-0 lead before it got close and before they once again pulled away. Ho-hum. More wins for Atlanta and L.A. I’d like to fast-forward both the Braves and Dodgers to October too to see them challenged a bit.

Pirates 4, Brewers 3: Travis Snider hit a pinch hit homer in the ninth and with that the Pirates end the streak of losing seasons at 20. They also increase their lead over the Cardinals to two games which, at the moment, is a bit more important right now.

Nationals 9, Phillies 6: Wilson Ramos hit a three-run homer and the Nats won despite a sloppy effort. After the game Davey Johnson said “That was an ugly game, one of the ugliest I’ve seen. That’s not the way to win a pennant, I’ll tell you that.” Don’t worry, Davey. You aren’t winning the pennant.

Indians 4, Orioles 3: What have the Indians done with the real Ubaldo Jimenez and who was the man pitching six shutout innings for them last night? Terry Francona put Chris Perez in the game in the ninth and coughed up three runs but managed to finally set the O’s down. In his defense, Perez’s ERA on days he pleads guilty to criminal drug charges has always been high.

Yankees 6, White Sox 4: Chris Sale outpitched Hiroki Kuroda but the White Sox bullpen was awful, allowing two runners inherited from Sale and three runs of their own doing to score in the eighth. Then Mariano Rivera came in and notched his 40th save. It’s the ninth time he has reached 40 saves in his career. He’s pretty good if you didn’t realize that.

Royals 4, Mariners 3: Sal Perez homered in the fourth and hit the go-ahead single in the eighth. Bruce Chen allowed two runs in six innings. His ERA is 2.81 somehow.

Marlins 6, Cubs 2: The Marlins and Cubs probably would like to fast-forward to October too. Lots of good fishing and hunting and stuff to be done that accomplishes more than these meaningless games. Here the Marlins bullpen tossed four and two-thirds hitless innings.

Twins 9, Astros 6: More meaningless than Marlins-Cubs? I feel like it might be. The go-ahead run scored on a wild pitch in the 12th and then Minnesota added a couple of insurance runs.

Rays 7, Angels 1: Matt Moore returns to the Rays for the first time in over a month and looked OK, tossing five and a third innings. Walked four guys, which isn’t great, but not having him around was kind of a drag for Tampa Bay.

Blue Jays 10, Diamondbacks 4: Homers for Rajai Davis, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Moises Sierra. Who I am going to choose to believe is the love child of Moises Alou and Ruben Sierra because the idea of that makes me giggle.

Rangers 5, Athletics 1: Martin Perez allowed one run in seven innings for his sixth straight win and the Rangers take the lead back in the division. Bartolo Colon allowed only one earned run but the unearned ones came via his own error so there’s that.

Padres 3, Giants 2: All kinds of runners stranded for the Giants helping waste a good Madison Bumgarner start. I realize all of those also-ran teams may want the season over but I can’t imagine anyone who wants it over more than the Giants. It’s just been depressing this year.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.