And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Padres 3, Dodgers 1: The coolest thing about baseball is that all of us yakkers can spend two months talking about teams’ strengths and weaknesses and How It Will All Go, and then the games start and none of it matters one damn bit. Like the back end of the Dodgers’ bullpen, for example. Brian Wilson came in to protect a 1-0 lead, gave up a tying home run to pinch hitter Seth Smith and then a bunch of clownshoes play by Wilson and the other Dodgers allowed two more in and that was the game.

Yes, I do believe that over the course of 162 games the Dodgers bullpen — particularly Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen — will be a team strength. So this isn’t me reading too much into one game at the expense of those 162 and thus tossing out previous predictions and analysis. But we don’t consume baseball over 162 games. We consume them one game at a time, and in those individual games, anything can happen. Like Brian Wilson getting lit up for three runs in the eighth. We can never predict that, even if we can predict what may happen in six months worth of his appearances. When all you can really know with even a moderate degree of certainty is how things will play out over long periods of time, the short periods of time become that much more exciting. Unless you were a Dodgers fan last night of course.

Tough luck for Hyun-Jin Ryu, who hardly broke a sweat in keeping the padres scoreless on three hits thought seven innings, while tossing only 88 pitches. If it’s later in the season he probably comes out for the eighth here. But dude, Wilson and Jansen! That’s how it was all planned out!

Well, Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht. As do the makers of the 162-game schedule.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $100,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Opening Day’s games (March 31). It’s $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. Starts at 1:05pm ET on Opening Day. Here’s the FanDuel link.

 

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.