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.

Brewers’ and Dodgers’ benches empty after Manny Machado and Jesús Aguilar get into it

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The Brewers and Dodgers haven’t had much action in Game 4 of the NLCS, bringing a 1-1 game through 10 innings and about four and a half hours. We finally got something to get the blood pumping, though, when Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado and Brewers first baseman Jesús Aguilar exchanged some words with each other, prompting both teams’ benches to spill onto the field.

With one out, Machado grounded a 3-1, 95 MPH fastball to shortstop Orlando Arcia, who made an easy throw to first base to complete the out. Machado, running the play out, dragged his left leg, slamming it into Aguilar’s leg as he crossed the bag, causing himself to stumble momentarily. Machado went back and jawed at Aguilar like it was his fault.

Machado has not had the best press in the NLCS. He failed to run out a grounder in Game 2, then made a couple of slides in Game 3 that attempted to interfere with Arcia at the second base bag. He was called for interference on the second one. Machado hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt for his actions tonight.

It’s difficult to imagine Machado’s behavior during the NLCS will affect his windfall as a free agent this offseason, but he’s proving to be somewhat of a distraction for a team trying to get back to the World Series. And that’s not good.