Ranking the blame as Yankees get swept

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It takes more than a couple of goats for a team to get swept in a seven-game series. Let’s run down the five people most responsible for the Yankee meltdown.

Derek Jeter’s ankle not being a person, we’ll leave it out of this.

5. Eric Chavez – Alex Rodriguez struggled mightily, yet Chavez was worse. A-Rod finished the ALCS 1-for-9 with three strikeouts. His replacement at third base was 0-for-8 with four strikeouts. Chavez also committed an error in Game 3 and made what seemed to be a lazy defensive play in Game 4, hanging back on Omar Infante’s infield single in the first inning. Infante came around to score the Tigers’ first run of the game.

4. Mark Teixeira – After a nice ALDS in which he went 6-for-17 with five walks, Teixeira hit third and fourth in the ALCS, displacing A-Rod, yet he went without an RBI in the series. Of course, that hardly makes him unique among Yankees players. Still, it was bad enough that he wasn’t hitting; his two defensive miscues in Game 4 led to a run in the third and probably contributed to CC Sabathia’s blowup in the fourth, given that the big left-hander had to face three batters too many the previous inning.

3. Joe Girardi – Sitting Rodriguez was appropriate, if oddly timed. And while I’m in the minority, I don’t really blame him for not hitting for Raul Ibanez at the end of Game 3. Benching Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson was pure desperation and was counterproductive to the Yankees’ chances of winning. Then in Game 4, he suddenly became more interested in getting everyone into the series than trying his best to set up an unlikely comeback. Still, it’s really hard to look at this series and suggest that Girardi’s performance was worse than the guys who took the field.

2. Curtis Granderson – Granderson’s big homer in Game 5 of the ALDS didn’t let him off the hook for long. He went 0-for-10 with six strikeouts and a couple of walks before taking a seat prior to Thursday’s Game 4. When he did make an appearance in the finale, he struck out once again. Granderson’s pull-happy, uppercut swing has made him a big threat in Yankee Stadium, but his old Tigers approach might have done him more good here. That said, he was surely more likely to help in Game 4 than a rusty Brett Gardner.

1. Robinson Cano – Really, this isn’t even close. Cano had one hit in 18 at-bats in the ALCS, a single in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s loss that ended his 0-for-29 skid. He also never drew a walk in the series. And in the Game 2 loss, he mishandled a double-play relay, giving the Tigers their first run of the game in the seventh inning.

Now, I still wouldn’t go so far as to say Cano was the Yankees’ worst player in the series; Rodriguez and Granderson probably had more bad swings while getting fewer at-bats. But Cano is the one who had the opportunity to do the most good — half of his at-bats came with men on base — and he never got the job done. His performance is the biggest reason the Yankees went down so easily.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.