Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Didi Gregorius homers twice, powering Yankees into ALCS with 5-2 win over Indians

24 Comments

Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius stole the show during Game 5 of the ALDS against the Indians on Wednesday, helping power the Yankees into the ALCS with a 5-2 win in Cleveland.

Gregorius started the scoring early, ripping a solo home run to right field with two outs in the top of the first inning off of Indians starter Corey Kluber. Gregorius reprised that role in the third, yanking a two-run home run to right field to push the Yankees’ lead to 3-0. He’s the first Yankee with a two-homer playoff game since Raul Ibanez in the 2012 ALDS against the Orioles.

Kluber exited after 3 2/3 innings. He walked Jacoby Ellsbury with two outs, so Indians skipper Terry Francona brought in reliever Andrew Miller. Miller fanned Todd Frazier to exit the inning. Kluber’s final line: three runs on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts.

The Indians finally put together a rally in the bottom of the fifth as Austin Jackson, Jay Bruce, Roberto Perez, and Giovanny Urshela each singled consecutively against starter CC Sabathia to score two runs, making it a 3-2 ballgame. That ended Sabathia’s night. David Robertson came in and got Francisco Lindor to ground into an inning-ending double play. Sabathia’s final line: two runs on five hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.

Robertson stayed in for the seventh, working around a two-out walk of Jay Bruce for a scoreless frame. Aroldis Chapman got the eighth, retiring the side in order with a pair of strikeouts.

The Yankees tacked on insurance for Chapman in the top of the ninth as Aaron Hicks singled and reached second on a fielding error by Jackson in left field with one out. Todd Frazier drew a two-out walk. Then, after an 11-pitch battle between Cody Allen and Brett Gardner, Gardner won by lining the 12th pitch for a single into right field, scoring Hicks. Jay Bruce threw to shortstop and cut-off man Lindor, but the ball bounced in front of him and skipped away, which let Gardner score to push the Yankees’ lead to 5-2.

In the bottom of the ninth, Chapman worked around a leadoff walk of Jose Ramirez by striking out Edwin Encarnacion, getting Carlos Santana to ground into a fielder’s choice, and Jackson to strike out looking. The Yankees defeated last year’s American League champions and are back in the ALCS for the first time since 2012 when they were swept by the Tigers.

The 2017 ALCS begins on Friday at 8 PM ET with the Yankees taking on the Astros in Houston.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
11 Comments

The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.