Looking ahead to tonight’s playoff action

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Sad jams:  this could be the last time we have multiple baseball games on one day this year. What’s on tap:

Giants vs. Cardinals, 4PM Eastern: Fox:  The series is tied 1-1, but in some ways it feels like the Cardinals are behind. Probably because their starting pitching is in need of some stability. Indeed, they haven’t had a starter go more than four innings in three straight playoff games. Sure, they’ve won two of those three games, but they can’t really expect to make it through a seven game series with the tightrope act they’ve had on display.

Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA) takes the hill for the Cards and will try to turn that dynamic around. This will be his first action against San Francisco this season.  Matt Cain (16-5, 2.79 ERA) goes for the Giants. He faced the Cardinals twice in 2012 and was beat up pretty badly, surrendering nine runs in 11 and two-thirds innings over two starts.  At present it looks like Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro will play despite the strained hip he suffered as a result of Matt Holliday’s farkakte slide in Monday’s game, but he is in some pain and we could just as easily see Ryan Theriot take his place.

Yankees vs. Tigers, 8PM Eastern: TBS: It’s do or die time for the Bombers, and if they have to do, at least they have CC Sabathia on the mound. The Yankees ace came up aces in each of his two playoff starts so far, and they need him to do it again or else it’s fishin’ season for New York. He’s 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA on the year. He made three starts against the Tigers in 2012, winning all three, while allowing eight earned runs in 21 and two-thirds.  Countering Sabathia will be Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.74). He was rocked by the Yankees in his lone start against them this year, but that came way back on April 29, and Scherzer in the second half of the season was a way different pitcher — a way better one — than he was back then.

The real issue isn’t the pitching, though — the Yankees’ pitching has been pretty fantastic, actually — it’s the dead bats. A-Rod and Nick Swisher seem like personae non gratae in Joe Girardi’s lineup, and even when they’ve been in it, they have been non-entities. As has Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and just about everyone else.  You can’t win if you don’t score, and the Yankees just haven’t done it. If this is the last time they play in 2012, it’ll be because the bats just died.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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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.