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The Yankees could beat two 100-win teams this October

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Prior to the fifth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS, Luis Severino was dealing. He tossed 53 pitches, 42 landing for strikes, 13 fanning three batters through four scoreless innings. Justin Verlander matched him at every turn, keeping the Yankees at bay with six strikeouts through five innings (including a filthy curveball to Todd Frazier that just looked ridiculous), but it’s the Yankees who are eligible to join rare company with a win later tonight. Should they overcome a three-run deficit to defeat the Astros, either with a Game 6 victory or a Game 7 tiebreaker tomorrow evening, they’ll be the sixth MLB team to dismantle two 100+ win opponents in the same postseason.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, these are the others:

Predictably, most of the teams were World Series champions: the 2004 Red Sox, 2003 Marlins and 1988 Dodgers. The 2001 Yankees were responsible for kicking the winningest team out of the postseason after taking down the 116-win Mariners, whose record hadn’t been replicated since the 116-36 Cubs in 1906. They pushed the World Series to seven games before dropping a 3-2 nail-biter to the Diamondbacks. The 1998 Padres were even unluckier after finding themselves on the wrong end of a four-game sweep by the Yankees.

It’s not looking particularly swell for the Yankees tonight. Severino was booted in the fifth inning after Brian McCann dented the right field wall with a ground-rule RBI double and Jose Altuve cleared the bases with a two-out, two-RBI line drive. Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius put runners on corners in the sixth, but Verlander refused to relent, inducing an inning-ending groundout to preserve the Astros’ three-run lead.

Houston currently leads 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth.

Gabe Kapler chooses not to bench Jean Segura for lack of effort

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The Phillies are in a tailspin. The club lost its perch atop the NL East, losing 12 of its last 18 games dating back to May 30. They enter Thursday night’s action four games behind the now-first-place Braves. The reasons for the slide are myriad, including a rash of injuries, but the players have also simply not played well. Understandably, fans are upset.

It didn’t help when, for the second time in three weeks, shortstop Jean Segura didn’t run hard on a batted ball. On June 3, Segura didn’t run on an infield pop-up that eventually resulted in a season-ending injury to Andrew McCutchen. On Wednesday during the second game of a doubleheader, Segura weakly hit a Max Scherzer pitch to shallow left-center that wasn’t caught. Because he was watching the ball rather than running hard, he had to hold up after a wide turn around first base.

To the surprise of many, Segura wasn’t pulled from the game despite the lack of effort. To the even further surprise of many, manager Gabe Kapler included Segura in Thursday’s lineup against the Nationals, which has otherwise been thoroughly reshuffled. Per Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Kapler said, “Jean is one of our eight best players. I don’t think taking one of our eight best players and our shortstop out of our lineup is what’s best for the Philadelphia Phillies.”

Kapler said he had a long talk with Segura. “I told him that we’re going to address not just him but other players in the clubhouse and we’re going to talk about the highest level of effort and talk about how we can’t win every night but we can win the game of give-a-[hoot] and be undefeated in that category. Then we can protect the Phillies by putting the best lineup together on a nightly basis and not think about making ourselves feel better by sending a message.”

Kapler hit the nail on the head with that last line. Benching Segura only makes fans and pundits feel better by punishing someone for a perceived transgression. But does it actually teach anything, and is it actually beneficial to the team? Maybe to the former, and no to the latter. Matt Winkelman of Baseball Prospectus brought up a great point on Twitter, writing, “The idea that punishment is the only way to solve a problem or change behavior is such a narrow minded idea.” People learn best in different ways. Some might respond well to punishment. Others may just need a good talking-to. It’s a case-by-case thing. Kapler is right to apply nuance to the situation.

So many of baseball’s long-held beliefs have fallen to the wayside in recent years. The idea that a player must always be punished for a lack of effort will hopefully be the next one to be taken out to the dumpster.

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Update: Appropriately, Segura hit a game-tying solo homer. Good thing he wasn’t benched.