Rangers in trouble as Cliff Lee falls in Game 1 to Giants

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Cliff Lee was 7-0 in his first eight postseason starts.  He shut out the Yankees in the ALCS and struck out 21 Tampa Bay hitters in two ALDS starts before that.  He was supposed to be unbeatable in big games.  He was supposed to handle the Giants with ease.  He was supposed to lead the Rangers to the franchise’s first-ever World Series title.

So much for predeterminations.

The Giants tagged Lee for eight hits and seven runs on Wednesday night in San Francisco, chasing him from Game 1 of the World Series in the fifth inning while scoring an eventual 11-7 victory.  Lee displayed excellent control for most of the night, but he wasn’t able to hit the corners of the strike zone like he had in recent postseason starts and San Francisco poured on extra-base hit after extra-base hit.

Freddy Sanchez had three consecutive doubles, Juan Uribe homered and rookie phenom Buster Posey collected yet another RBI.

Sanchez hit just .292/.342/.397 during the regular season while battling shoulder and finger injuries, and he had just one extra-base hit in 40-plus postseason at-bats before Wednesday night.  And yet the second baseman played the hero.

The Giants caught heat from certain sections of the baseball universe for trotting out staff ace Tim Lincecum in Game 1 against Lee.  Some thought San Francisco should concede the loss to baseball’s best big-game pitcher and try to play catch-up on the back of “The Freak” in Game 2.  But Giants manager Bruce Bochy is smarter than that.  He’s smart enough to know that past success means very little in the game of baseball and that putting his club’s best foot forward in Game 1 made the most sense.

Bochy’s boys now have a 1-0 lead in the seven-game Fall Classic and have proven they can handle the best pitcher Texas has to offer.

Matt Cain will take the mound in Game 2 against Rangers starter C.J. Wilson and Jonathan Sanchez will go for the Giants in Game 3 against Colby Lewis.  Baseball is impossible to predict, especially during the playoffs, but it’s fact — not opinion — that San Francisco has better pitchers lined up in this series.

Cain, a righty, has not allowed a single earned run in two outings this postseason and features an active four-pitch arsenal that should minimize the danger of Texas’ sluggers.  Wilson, meanwhile, walked a league-high 93 batters during the regular season and was touched up for nine runs in 12 innings of work during the ALCS against New York.

Sanchez, a lefty, struck out 205 batters over 193.1 innings in 2010 and has been just as dominant so far in the playoffs.  Colby Lewis is a fighter with a great backstory, but he doesn’t have the raw stuff that Sanchez boasts and will enter Game 3 as a sure underdog, no matter what takes place on Thursday night in Game 2.

It’s odd to say, considering the many pundits that predicted the Rangers to ease through this 2010 World Series, but the Giants might actually be the favorite from here on out.

No, San Francisco doesn’t have the best offense.  And, no, it’s not going to be easy to win multiple games in what should be a rowdy Rangers Ballpark.  But all it takes is one Cody Ross or a few extra-base hits from a guy like Sanchez.  All it takes is one big inning for the ace-heavy Giants to put away a team like Texas — a team that relies so deeply on offensive production.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.