Cliff Lee is the scariest thing ever

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The disconnect between the “storylines” that surround baseball and the actual baseball seems even starker than usual this week. Mostly because of Cliff Lee.

It seems like everything that has been written about the ALCS has started from the premise that Cliff Lee is like some avenging angel of death against whom no soul has a chance. What will the Yankees do now that they have to face him twice in a five game series? What should they do with the rotation to counter it? Now, courtesy of Ken Rosenthal’s latest column, we’re starting in on the “what will happen if Cliff Lee beats the Phillies in the World Series” stuff.

Don’t get me wrong: they’re interesting storylines, as Lee is a pretty phenomenal pitcher, especially in the postseason. But I just kind of get the feeling that the Yankees and Phillies don’t care all that much about it. The Yankees, as Mark Simon at ESPN New York points out today, have faced a few aces before. Indeed, postseason teams face aces every year because, hey, good pitchers tend to lead their teams to the playoffs.  Lee is great, but he’s not supernatural. Likewise the Phillies would likely rather face someone else, but it’s not like they can be unhappy with the current state of the rotation. Because, you know, it’s pretty good.

Some things matter a lot more than we think because they don’t get talked about all that much before they actually reveal themselves to be gigantically important in a playoff series: Lefty-lefty matchups. Lingering injuries. A defensive liability that just can’t be hidden. Other things seem huge beforehand but really don’t matter a ton.  I’m putting Cliff Lee Hysteria in that category.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.