This clinches it: Ned Yost has no idea what he’s doing

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Setting the scene: Indians up 4-3 on the Royals in the top of the ninth. Cleveland closer Chris Perez gives up a single to Salvador Perez and a walk to Mike Moustakas to begin the inning, setting things up very nicely.

Very nicely indeed, for Ned Yost to trample all over what was left of the Royals’ postseason hopes.

After back-to-back hitters reached, Yost, already having pinch-run for both Perez and Moustakas, sent in David Lough to pinch-hit for Lorenzo Cain and lay down a sacrifice bunt. It was successful, giving the Royals runners on second and third with one out.

And that is a defensible decision. It’s not the one I would have made, but it put the Royals in a position to take the lead with a single. It’s what happened next that’s truly remarkable.

Needing a single — again, the whole point of the bunt was to set things up for a two-run single — Yost had Carlos Pena pinch-hit for Jarrod Dyson. The very same Carlos Pena who has hit .197 and .208 the last two years. Pena’s entire game is walks and homers. The only active major leaguer with 1,000 plate appearances and a lesser rate of hitting singles is Adam Dunn. Pena hits singles in 10.3 percent of plate appearances.

So, Pena did what he does best: he struck out looking.

Yost wasn’t done, though. He called on another pinch-hitter for Alcides Escobar. This time, it was George Kottaras. Kottaras doesn’t qualify for that list above. But if you lower that cutoff to 800 plate appearances, there’s absolutely no one in the majors who hits singles less frequently than Kottaras (lower it to 500 and you get five pitchers who do). Kottaras has singled in 9.2 percent of his plate appearances.

Kottaras walked. Which is fine. The Royals were probably happy about that, since it brought up Alex Gordon. Gordon, though, popped up to end the game.

Frankly, I’d fire Yost for the whole sequence. To give up the first out and then call on those two hitters to drive in the runs shows a painful lack of sense. If the bases were loaded and a walk or a sac fly would have won the game, then Pena and/or Kottaras would have been worth a try. But Yost needed a single and he took out two guys who were better bets to get one for him in Dyson and Escobar. Not only that, but the player on the bench most likely to single, Lough, was the guy called on to lay down the bunt. It was a brutal case of overmanaging, and it quite possibly cost the Royals the game and further dimmed their long shot hopes for the postseason.

Just get rid of him, seriously.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.