Underrated reliever Ryan Madson comes up big for Phillies

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It’s probably time that Ryan Madson got some attention for being one of the best relievers in baseball.

He’s appeared in four of five NLCS games, tossing 4.2 scoreless innings, and went 6-2 with a 2.55 ERA, .212 opponents’ batting average, and 64/13 K/BB ratio in 55 innings during the regular season.

Since moving to the bullpen full time in 2007 he has a 3.01 ERA and more strikeouts (252) than hits allowed (242) in 269 innings.

Wednesday night in Game 4 he induced what should have been an inning-ending double play in the seventh, only to have Jimmy Rollins boot the Cody Ross ground ball and load the bases with one out and Pablo Sandoval at the plate. Things could have unraveled in a hurry, but instead Madson turned to Rollins and said, “I got you.” True to his word, he induced an actual inning-ending double play, wriggling out of trouble, and went on to toss a scoreless eighth inning too.

Madson came up big again last night in Game 5, protecting a 3-2 lead with a flawless eighth inning that saw him strike out Buster Posey, Pat Burrell, and Cody Ross. He set them down in order, all swinging, on a total of 13 pitches. Like it was nothin’.

An excellent changeup has always been Madson’s best offering and the pitch has become even tougher to hit thanks to his fastball velocity improving from low-90s early in his career to 94-95 miles per hour over the past two seasons. Toss in a good cut-fastball–which he leaned on heavily in Game 5–and Madson is a rare reliever with three plus pitches in his arsenal.

All of which is why during the past four seasons the only relievers in baseball to throw as many innings as Madson with a lower ERA are Mariano Rivera, Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol, and Darren Oliver.

It’s time to start talking about him as one of the best relievers in the game.

On a night full of letdowns, Yankees’ defense let them down the most

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Game 4 of the ALCS was a gigantic letdown for the Yankees for myriad reasons. They lost, first and foremost, 8-3 to the Astros to fall behind three games to one. Their fans continued to act boorishly. CC Sabathia exited with an injury, likely the final time he’ll pitch in his career. The offense went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

The biggest letdown of the night, though, was the Yankees’ defense. They committed four errors, their highest total in a postseason game since committing five errors in Game 2 of the 1976 ALCS.

Make no mistake: the two three-run home runs hit by George Springer and Carlos Correa, given up by Masahiro and Chad Green respectively, were the big blows in the game. But the errors contributed to the loss and were downright demoralizing.

The first error came at the start of the top of the sixth inning, when Alex Bregman hit a cue shot to first baseman DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu couldn’t read the bounce and the ball clanked off of his knee, allowing Bregman to reach safely. He would score later in the inning on Correa’s blast.

The Yankees committed two errors in the top of the eighth, leading to a run. Yuli Gurriel hit another grounder to LeMahieu, which he couldn’t handle. That not only allowed Gurriel to reach safely, but Bregman — who led off with a double — moved to third base. He would score when second baseman Gleyber Torres couldn’t handle a Yordan Álvarez grounder.

Error number four occurred when Altuve hit a grounder to Torres to lead off the top of the ninth. The ball skipped right under his glove. Facing Michael Brantley, Jonathan Loaisiga uncorked a wild pitch which advanced Altuve to second base. Brantley followed up with a line drive single to left field, plating Altuve for another run. Loaisiga would throw another wild pitch facing Bregman but that one didn’t come back to haunt him.

The Yankees can’t control injuries, the behavior of their fans, or how good the Astros’ pitching is on any given night. They can control the quality of their defense. On Thursday, it was a farce, and now they’re staring down the barrel of having to win three consecutive games against the Astros to stave off elimination.