I’m not going to go all “blame A-Rod” here. The fact is that baseball’s active home run leader wasn’t half bad on Monday night. He lined into a double play in his first at-bat, but that as just bad luck: the ball was scalded. He had a clean single his second time up.
Of course, that was pretty much it. Rodriguez went up to the plate three more times: he flied out in the fifth and then struck out in the seventh and ninth. The second strikeout ended the game as the Orioles won 3-2 to even the best-of-five series.
In all, Rodriguez has five strikeouts to go along with his single and a walk in 10 plate appearances against the Orioles. He did finish the regular season okay, going 6-for-15 with four walks and three strikeouts in his last four games. However, he was in a 2-for-24 slump before that. He has one extra-base since Sept. 14 and one RBI since Sept. 19.
In short, Rodriguez looks like the easiest out in the Yankees lineup right now. He’s not getting around on good fastballs, and when he does get a mistake breaking ball, he’s not driving it out of the park. It’s not that Rodriguez can’t hit in the playoffs or needs to be benched or any of that nonsense. It’s just that with the way he looks right now — and with the way he’s looked pretty much the whole year — he’s probably more of a No. 6 hitter than a guy who should be hitting ahead of Robinson Cano. Switching him and Mark Teixeira would make a lot of sense.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.