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Athletics to retire Dave Stewart’s number

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Dave Stewart pitched for five different teams in his 16-year big league career but his eight seasons with the Oakland A’s are, without question, what he is best known for. Next year, the team announced yesterday, the A’s will honor him for what he did for those in those eight seasons by retiring his number 34.

Stewart first joined the team as a free agent after being released by the Phillies in May of 1986. Stewart was at a career low point, having seen a good amount of success as a reliever and swingman for the Dodgers but losing effectiveness as he journeyed to Texas and then Philly. For the rest of that 1986 season the A’s used him mostly as starter before he became a full-time member of the rotation in 1987 at which point he took off, improbably, at the age of 30.

Stewart won 20 games and came in third in Cy Young voting in 1987. The next season his A’s teammates took the leap forward with him as Stewart won 21 games, leading the league in games pitched, complete games, and innings pitched as the club won 104 games and the American League pennant. Two more 20+ win seasons by Stewart helped the A’s win two more pennants in 1989 and 1990, as well as that World Series. In all — including a final, 16-game stint with the A’s at the end of his career in 1995, Stewart went 119-78 with a 3.73 ERA (103 ERA+) in green, white, and gold.

While that’s not the stuff of a Hall of Fame career, Stewart was certainly one of the key players of a remarkably successful run in franchise history. That — in my view and, obviously in the view of the A’s — is the stuff of a number retirement. Congratulations

On a night full of letdowns, Yankees’ defense let them down the most

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Game 4 of the ALCS was a gigantic letdown for the Yankees for myriad reasons. They lost, first and foremost, 8-3 to the Astros to fall behind three games to one. Their fans continued to act boorishly. CC Sabathia exited with an injury, likely the final time he’ll pitch in his career. The offense went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

The biggest letdown of the night, though, was the Yankees’ defense. They committed four errors, their highest total in a postseason game since committing five errors in Game 2 of the 1976 ALCS.

Make no mistake: the two three-run home runs hit by George Springer and Carlos Correa, given up by Masahiro and Chad Green respectively, were the big blows in the game. But the errors contributed to the loss and were downright demoralizing.

The first error came at the start of the top of the sixth inning, when Alex Bregman hit a cue shot to first baseman DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu couldn’t read the bounce and the ball clanked off of his knee, allowing Bregman to reach safely. He would score later in the inning on Correa’s blast.

The Yankees committed two errors in the top of the eighth, leading to a run. Yuli Gurriel hit another grounder to LeMahieu, which he couldn’t handle. That not only allowed Gurriel to reach safely, but Bregman — who led off with a double — moved to third base. He would score when second baseman Gleyber Torres couldn’t handle a Yordan Álvarez grounder.

Error number four occurred when Altuve hit a grounder to Torres to lead off the top of the ninth. The ball skipped right under his glove. Facing Michael Brantley, Jonathan Loaisiga uncorked a wild pitch which advanced Altuve to second base. Brantley followed up with a line drive single to left field, plating Altuve for another run. Loaisiga would throw another wild pitch facing Bregman but that one didn’t come back to haunt him.

The Yankees can’t control injuries, the behavior of their fans, or how good the Astros’ pitching is on any given night. They can control the quality of their defense. On Thursday, it was a farce, and now they’re staring down the barrel of having to win three consecutive games against the Astros to stave off elimination.