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Yankees complete sweep of Twins, punch ticket to ALCS

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The Yankees held the Twins’ potent offense at bay en route to a 5-1 victory in Minnesota on Monday night, completing a series sweep in the ALDS. It is the third time since 2009 that the Yankees have swept the Twins out of the ALDS.

Gleyber Torres staked starter Luis Severino to a 1-0 lead with a solo homer that just barely made it over the wall in left field in the second inning off of Jake Odorizzi. The Yankees clawed for an additional run in the third inning on an RBI opposite-field ground ball single by Brett Gardner and again in the seventh when Didi Gregorius grounded an RBI single to right field.

Severino, who made his season debut on September 17 after missing the first five and a half months due to injuries, threw 83 pitches over four innings, scattering four hits and a pair of walks with four strikeouts. The Twins did threaten, loading the bases in the second inning and putting runners on first and second in the fourth, but Severino was able to escape without incurring damage.

Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, and Zach Britton combined to keep the Twins off the board in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings, allowing a combined three hits and one walk with one strikeout.

Britton returned to the mound in the eighth, allowing a leadoff solo homer to Eddie Rosario. He would get Mitch Garver to ground out next but ended exiting with an apparent ankle injury. It is believed that Britton suffered the injury covering first base during the seventh inning. Aroldis Chapman entered the game with the responsibility of converting a five-out save. He got Luiz Arraez to ground out before fanning Miguel Sanó to end the inning.

In the top of the ninth, facing Sergio Romo, Cameron Maybin lifted a very high fly ball that landed several rows back down the left field line for a solo homer, putting the Yankees’ lead back to three runs. The Yankees continued to threaten, as Torres doubled and Gary Sánchez walked, forcing Romo out of the game. Trevor May came in and allowed one of his inherited runners to score on a Gregorius single to make it 5-1.

Chapman returned to the bump in the bottom half of the ninth. He gave up a leadoff single to Marwin González, then walked C.J. Cron. Uh oh. Chapman bounced back by striking out Max Kepler. He then gave up a 106 MPH line drive to Jorge Polanco that was gloved by a diving Gregorius. Nelson Cruz made the final out, taking a called strike three on the inside corner.

The Twins haven’t won a playoff game since 2004. That was a long time ago!

The Yankees are back in the ALCS for the second time in three years. They memorably took the eventual world champion Astros to a seventh game in the ALCS in 2017. The Yankees are looking to return to the World Series for the first time since winning it all in 2009.

The ALCS will begin on Saturday. The Yankees will await the winner of the Astros-Rays ALDS series. The Astros currently lead 2-1 and will look to clinch their spot in the ALCS on Tuesday. If the Astros advance, they will have home field advantage. If the Rays defy the odds and knock the Astros out with two consecutive wins, the Yankees will have home field advantage in the ALCS.

Scott Boras: Astros players don’t need to apologize

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Ken Rosenthal spoke to Scott Boras about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Boras’ take: the Astros need not apologize for what they did. They were mere babes in the woods who were ignorant of everything. I wish I was making this up. Scotty Baby:

“I’m doing what my organization is telling me to do,” Boras said on Wednesday, describing the hypothetical mindset of a player. “You installed this. You put this in front of us. Coaches and managers encourage you to use the information. It is not coming from the player individually. It is coming from the team. In my stadium. Installed. With authority.”

The analogy Boras used was the speed limit.

A man driving 55 mph in a 35-mph zone only believes he is speeding if the limit is clearly posted. Likewise, Boras said Astros’ players who committed infractions only should apologize if they were properly informed of their boundaries.

It’s worth noting two things at this juncture: (1) Scott Boras represents José Altuve and Lance McCullers; and (2) He’s 100% full of crap here. Indeed, the contortions Astros players and their surrogates are putting themselves through to avoid accountability is embarrassing.

The players knew what they were doing.  Please do not insult me by saying they didn’t. Boras is doing what he thinks he needs to do to protect his guys. I get it, that’s his job. His client Altuve in particular stepped on it last weekend when he and other Astros players tried to play the “we’re going to overcome this adversity/no one believed in us” card which played terribly, and the super agent is trying to clean up the mess as best he can. Hat tip to him for his hustle, which he has never not shown. Guy’s a pro.

But he can only do so much because this all remains on the Astros’ players. Yes, the formal punishment is on the manager, the general manager and the club, and I agree that it had to be given all of the complications of the situation, but now that that’s over, it’s time for some honest accountability. And we’re getting zero of it.

Which is insane because the players were given immunity. They’re 100% in the clear. That they cheated has angered a lot of people, but it does not make them irredeemable. As I have noted here many times, lots of others did too. But their lack of accountability over the past couple of weeks speaks very, very poorly of them.

“We crossed a line. No question. We’re sorry. We don’t think it caused us to win anything we didn’t earn, but we see how we created that perception ourselves through our own actions. We shouldn’t have done that. Going forward we’re going to be better. Again, we’re sorry.”

That’s about all it’d take and it’d be done. It’d be pretty easy to say, if for no other reason than because that’s probably what’s gone through their minds anyway. They’re not bad people.

But they’re also observers of America in 2020 and, I suspect, everything they’ve seen, consciously or unconsciously, has counseled against them saying those very simple words or something like them.

Everything that’s going on in America right now — politics especially — tells people that the path to success is to cheat, steal and lie in order to benefit themselves and themselves only. It’s also telling them that, if they get caught, they should lie and deny too. It works. The media, for the most part, will not call anyone of status out on a lie, even if the lie is ridiculous. At most it will repeat the denial like a stenographer reading back from a transcript fearing that to do any more would be to — gasp! — reveal an opinion. “Shlabotnik says that he was cloned by Tralfamadorians and it was his clone, not him, who stole the signs.” Heaven forbid someone add the word “falsely” in there. They won’t because if they do they’re going to be accused of being “biased” or “political” or whatever.

If you see that — and we all see it — why wouldn’t you be predisposed to avoid apologizing for anything? Why wouldn’t you try to offer some canned, facially neutral talking points and hope that everyone is satisfied that you’ve spoken? Why wouldn’t you, having done that for a few weeks, begin to believe that, actually, you’re right not do say anything more. And  that, maybe, you were never in the wrong at all? That’s were we are as a country now, that’s for sure. And given that sports reflects society, it should not be at all surprising that that attitude has infected sports as well.

Astros owner Jim Crane tells Rosenthal that there could be an apology in spring training. “Quite frankly, we’ll apologize for what happened, ask forgiveness and move forward,” Crane said.

One thing I’ve learned in life is that when someone says “quite frankly,” what follows is going to be insincere most of the time. Another thing I’ve learned is that, in comments such as Crane’s, the emphasis is strongly on the “move forward” part of things. He wants an apology to put an end to a bad news cycle. When it comes, it will be P.R.-vetted and couched in the most sterile and corporate language imaginable. It will be anything but sincere.

In the meantime, the rest of the Astros don’t seem to want to offer an apology at all. Why should they? What’s making them?