If this was reported at the time I missed it, but Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com has an interesting story about a dustup between former Indians great Kenny Lofton and current Indians leader Nick Swisher back in January.
The upshot: following Lofton’s comments that the 2013 Indians weren’t truly a playoff team because the Wild Card game didn’t really count in his mind, several Indians players were unhappy. When Lofton arrived for FanFest, Swisher went nose-to-nose with him. It was described as “intense.” Since then, Castrovince reports, Indians players have been cold to Lofton, largely ignoring him during his visit to spring training in Goodyear recently.
It’s certainly an interesting dynamic. On the one hand you don’t want to turn one of your franchise’s all-time greats into an enemy. On the other hand, a franchise’s all-time great shouldn’t be in the business of disparaging the current team’s accomplishment. Al Kaline hangs around the Tigers clubhouse all the time and you don’t hear him saying that the 2012 team sucked because they lost the World Series.
You have to figure someone in ownership will try to smooth things over at some point. Or you at least hope they would.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.