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Swept: Detroit Pitchers Dominate as Tigers Send Yankees Home

Tigers Celebrate (Photo Tim Fuller- USA Today Sports)

The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.” Earl Weaver

Murderers Row went down with a whimper in the American League Championship Series. The mighty New York Yankees who dominated with their bats during the regular season struggled during the entire post season, hitting just .200 in 9 games against the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers. If it was not for some last inning heroics by Raul Ibanez in Game Three of the ALDS against Baltimore the Yankees might have watched the ALCS from home. However they squeaked by the Orioles in a very tight series but then ran up against the fearsome starting pitching of the Detroit Tigers.

Detroit’s starting rotation of Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer allowed just 2 on runs in 27.1 innings of work while striking out 25 Yankee batters. Overall the Tigers outscored the Yankees 19-6 in the series and the Yankees never led in any game. Overall the Tigers held the Yankee offense to just 6 runs on 22 hits in the series. Tigers pitchers struck out 39 Yankees and limited the Yankees to a .152 team batting average and 3 home runs, 2 of which came in the 9th inning of game one against closer Jose Valverde.

At best the Yankees offense could charitably be described as pathetic and nothing like their regular season performance. Of their regulars only Ichiro Suzuki had a decent series. He hit .353 with a home run but the rest of the line up which struggled against the Orioles completely fell apart against the Tigers. Nick Swisher hit just .250, Mark Teixeira .200, Russell Martin, .143, Alex Rodriguez .111, Robinson Cano .052 and Curtiss Granderson .000. Derek Jeter, the Captain of the Yankees went down with a broken ankle in 12th inning of game 1 hitting 1-5 for a .200 average.

The Tigers will now go on to face the winner of the NLCS either the St Louis Cardinals or if they can come back from a 3-1 deficit the San Francisco Giants. The Yankees will go home with a lot more questions than answers. They are showing their age and in light of the poor playoff performance of their hitters I expect big changes will be coming. I expect that a lot of the Yankees problem was their age. Unlike past seasons where they have been able to rest players during the last couple of weeks of the year they were in a dogfight with the Orioles and did not clinch the division until the last day of the season. The long 162 game schedule takes a toll on older players, especially if there is no chance to rest them.

Big questions will have to be answered. How will Derek Jeter recover from his surgery? How effective will closer Mariano Rivera be after a year off after being injured in warmups early in the year? What will the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez do with the remaining years of his 10 year contract with its no trade clause? What will become of players like Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Eric Chavez and Curtiss Granderson?

Robinson Cano leaves the Dugout after Game 4 (AP Photo-Paul Sancya)

In addition to hitting the Yankees pitching staff is also showing age and had to be bailed out many times in the regular season by great hitting.

Yes the Yankees have a lot of money to throw at problems but it has been a long time since they have had to deal with the possibility of wholesale changes to their line up. This should make the American League East a very interesting race in 2013 since the Red Sox will also be rebuilding after a disastrous season. The issues that the Yankees and Red Sox are facing are large and 2013 AL East could come down to a race between the Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Tigers who were the overwhelming favorites to win the AL Central before the season struggled but came on strong in the last month of the season to overtake the surprising Chicago White Sox. Their surge was very timely, it allowed the to defeat the Oakland Athletics in 5 games and then send the Yankees home in a most convincing manner.

Congratulations to the American League Champion Detroit Tigers.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Omen: Jeter’s Injury Foretells the Future as Yankees Fall to 0-2 to Tigers in ALCS

Before the times of change, still is it so: 
By a divine instinct men’s minds mistrust 
Ensuing dangers; as by proof, we see 
The waters swell before a boisterous storm

William Shakespeare Richard III

Baseball people are tremendously superstitious. Sometimes events, miscues, injuries bad calls and bad luck are of more significance than they would be if they didn’t happen when they did. Cubs fans can attest to this as can the generations of Red Sox, White Sox and Giants fans who endured one shocking disappointment after another as they languished between World Series Championships.

Derek Jeter is the face of the Yankees. He has been a staple of the team and been their as they won championship after championship and his steady play and leadership have been a part of the great success enjoyed by the Yankees. He has played through injuries and never missed a post season game until tonight.

The Yankees may have become the latest team to see things slip away and legends pass. In the space of less than a day the New York Yankees went from looking like they would pull off another late game miracle thanks to the clutch hitting of Raul Ibanez to being down two games to none in the ALCS.

On Saturday the Detroit Tigers appeared to be sailing to an easy win when the Yankees got to closer Jose Valverde in the bottom of the 9th. Up 4-0 the Yankees scored 4 runs including a game tying 2 run home run by veteran Raul Ibanez who seems to have made hitting dramatic late game home runs a new habit.

But in the top of the 12th inning, as the Tigers rallied for what would be a winning lead, Derek Jeter, “The Captain” who had played in spite of injury for much of the past month broke his ankle on a freak play attempting to field a ground ball.

It was a devastating loss for the Yankees, not so much the game but Jeter’s injury. Jeter was one of the few Yankee regulars beside Ichiro Suzuki who have had any offensive punch during the post season. Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, Curtiss Granderson and Robinson Cano have had nightmarish post-seasons.

The Tigers won game one 6-4 and shut out the Yankees 3-0 today to take the 2 game lead in the series. The Tigers were leading 1-0 in the 8th when they benefited from a blown call at second base when Nick Swisher threw behind Omar Infante who gone too far off the base. Cano applied the tag but Infante was called safe. Yankees Manager Joe Girardi argued the call twice and was thrown out of the game.

Girardi can shift blame to the umpires all that he wants but the fact is his team has not hit the ball during the post season with the exception of the 9th inning of game one against the Orioles. The Orioles had a bad call that negated a home run in game 5 of the Division Series against the Yankees that easily could have changed the course of the game, and may have help the Orioles win the series. To see Girardi complaining tonight in the post game interview was unbecoming, especially compared to Buck Showlater’s response to similar questions after game 5 of the ALDS against the Yankees.

Now the series moves on to Detroit and the Yankees will have to face Justin Verlander. Unless the high priced Yankees offense can get going and start getting hits and producing runs they will not play another game at home this year.  The Yankees were lucky to get through against the Orioles and unless something changes fast they will exit the post-season.

I think that this may actually point to greater problems next year for the Yankees. They are getting old and despite their seemingly unlimited ability to buy what they need on the free agent market are not the team that they used to be. They still have a lot of talent but something is not right in the team chemistry and Joe Girardi will have to figure that out in the next few games and after the season ends.

I think that Jeter’s injury and the Yankees struggles portend the changing of the guard in the AL East.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Game 5 Anyone? Resilient Orioles Defeat Yankees in 13 Innings 2-1

Manny Machado Scores winning run (AP Photo)

It was another long night in the Bronx but this time there was no magic from a Yankee hitter and it was yet another thrilling chapter in their 2012 season. The never say die Baltimore Orioles extended their season defeating the Yankees 2-1. Jim Johnson closed out the game in a classic pitchers duel that involved a total of 16 pitchers, 8 from each team. In the 13 innings there were only 15 hits.

Darren O’Day shuts down theYankees in Relief (Elsa Getty Images)

The Orioles struck first as Nate McLouth hit a solo home run in the 5th. The Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the 6th when Robinson Cano grounded out to second to score Derek Jeter who doubled to lead off the inning. Both teams failed to capitalize on when they had runners in scoring position, the Yankees threatened in the bottom of the 8th when they had runners on 2nd and 2rd with only one out. Darren O’Day entered the game and became the hero of Birdland as he struck out Alex Rodriguez and then got Nick Swisher to fly out to right. O’Day then went on to shut down the Yankees in the 9th, 10th innings allowing no hits.

Nate McClouth makes key catch in against the wall off of Jayson Nix, he doubled up Russell Martin. (Elsa Getty Images)

Pedro Strop came into the game in the 11th and pitched two scoreless innings and in the top of the 13th, with the clock already past midnight 20 year old rookie Manny Machado doubled to right and scored on veteran Shortstop J.J. Hardy’s double to left, both off of David Phelps. The Orioles brought in Jim Johnson who put the Yankees down in order in the bottom of the 13th.

Yankees Manager Joe Girardi has managed the series since learning of the death of his father on Sunday (AP Photo Alex Brandon)

It was a tense game as both teams pitchers made the pitches that they needed and hitters struggled. The Yankees and Orioles led the majors in home runs but those big bats for the most part have been remarkably silent. The Orioles can in large part be chalked up to playoff inexperience and hitters swinging at bad pitches, or base running mistakes. The Yankees with the exception of a 5 run 9th inning in game one have been cold and without Ibanez’s home runs in game 3 this series could well be over.

So it comes down to game five. The Orioles and Yankees who were even in the regular season against each other are even again and for one of the teams the 2012 season will be over later tonight, yes it is already Friday.

Meanwhile the magical season on the Oakland A’s came to an end against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. The Orioles or the Yankees will now play Detroit in the ALCS while San Francisco will await the winner of the Cardinals and Nationals game tonight with that series also tied at two apiece.

What a division championship series in both leagues, every series will go the full five games, all competitive and all exciting. This is playoff baseball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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A Quiet Achievement: Jim Thome Hammers Two Home Runs to join Elite 600 Home Run Club

Jim Thome Hits Number 600 (AP Photo)

“Not only is he a great player, but he’s a great individual… I think he was a little apprehensive about passing me up. I said, ‘Jim, I passed a lot of guys up myself along the way. I hope you hit 100 more.'”  Harmon Killebrew on Jim Thome passing him on the home run list with 574 Home Runs in 2010.

There was little build up or fanfare leading up to the Twins and Tigers game tonight. There should have been as one of baseball’s “good guys” did something that only 7 other Major leaguers had ever done, hit 600 home runs.  Maybe it is because he now plays for the Minnesota Twins who are in the midst of one of their worst seasons in recent memory.  Minneapolis is not exactly the center of the sports media universe like New Yorkwhere almost every at bat of Derek Jeter was covered in his quest to reach the 3000 hit mark.  However to me it doesn’t matter. I have been a Jime Thome fan for a long time and while I may be in North Carolina I was watching live when ESPN switched from the Giants-Braves game to the Twins-Tigers game to cover Thome’s at bat in the 7th inning.

A Smile and a Handshake (Getty Images)

Thome came to the plate after hitting home run 599 a two run shot off of Rick Porcello during his previous at bat in the 6th inning.  He was facing Tigers pitcher Daniel Schlereth and with a 2-1 count and two runners on base Thome hit Schlereth’s pitch over the Left Field fence for number 600.  He rounded the bases at Comerica Park in Detroit to a standing ovation given by the Tiger fans as well as his teammates and his family who were also in attendance who also greeted him on the field. On the scoreboard the home team congratulated Thome’s achievement;Detroit does recognize great baseball achievement’s even when it comes at the bat of an opponent.

It was a special moment that all baseball fans should celebrate and that non baseball fans should also take note of because Thome accomplished this huge feat, a feat even great than Jeter reaching 3000 hits Out of the 17,000 plus players that have played in the Majors only 8 have hit 600 or more home runs while 28 players have over 3000 hits.

Thome Honored by Teammates and Opposing Fans

Thome has struggled with injury this year and has not had his best year. He is beginning to show his 40 years the oldest player to reach the 600 mark, the previous being the then 38 year old Sammy Sosa in 2007.  Despite this he was the second fastest player to reach 600 home runs reaching it in at bat 8137 games as opposed to Babe Ruth who by far reached it faster than anyone else needing only 6921 at bats to reach 600 on his way to 714.  In reaching the 600 mark Thome joins Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa in the 600 club.

Thome reached the mark without a lot of fanfare or for that matter controversy. He was never tainted by the steroid controversy and is one of the nicest people in baseball, not hesitating to talk to children that come up to him in public or people that knew him in his early days.  His teammate Michael Cuddyer said “He is the nicest, gentlest, kindest guy you will ever meet … When he walks in a room, everyone watches everything he does. It’s the way he treats people, it’s the way he respects the game….”

His manager Ron Gardenhire said “He’s like Babe Ruth around here…The fans here get all mad at me for not playing him every day.”

Thome is known around the league for his work ethic and will to win.  He worked hard at his craft initially beginning as an outfielder before being converted to Third Base.  Unassuming he once said “I always had to work to be good, because I never was very good. I mean, I always had to work to get where I wanted to be. It was never easy. It still isn’t. It still isn’t.” He is called by some today’s Harmon Killebrew, a complement by any standard of measurement.  I’m sure that Harmon is looking on now cheering and probably telling Saint Pete stories about just how big of an achievement that Thome’s feat is because Thome won’t do it when he meets Saint Pete.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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3000 Plus 3: Jeter Goes 5 for 5 to Join Elite Club

3000  Photo credit: Barton Silverman/The New York Times 

http://sports.yahoo.com/video/player/mlb;_ylt=Aqi43ZhEeJLoj3clzah_58ypu7YF

Derek Jeter joined the elite 3000 hit club going 5 for 5 against the Tampa Bay Rays.  It was a remarkable performance. Jeter has struggled at the plate this year and spent a number of weeks on the disabled list.  It was the last chance before the All Star break and the beginning of a long road trip for the Yankees that he had to get 3000 hits. Had he not done so today it a place where he is loved and a part of an enduring legacy of great Yankees, none who ever had 3000 hits he would have done so on the road. It would have been like Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s record in San Diego, Cal Ripkin Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game record in Oakland, or Pete Rose breaking Ty Cobb’s hit record in Montreal, which according to some he did in Chicago the game before he broke the record in Cincinnati, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But such records are meant to occur at home. Somehow they just seem more magical when done at home.

Today Jeter not only reached 3000 hits mark he did it with aplomb going 5 for 5 with a Home Run and a double and two RBIs.  His 3000th hit was a Home Run on a 3-2 count to deep left field with one out in the bottom of the 3rd inning against Ray’s ace David Price. Price in his career has held Jeter to 6 hits in 25 at bats with only 2 extra base hits and 3 RBIs, not a bad record against Jeter who has a career .312 batting average. Only one other play hit a home run for his 3000th hit, Wade Boggs who did it in 1999.

There are only 28 players in this club and they include 24 Hall of Famers.  The only ones of the club not yet in the Hall of Fame include Jeter who is still active, Craig Biggio who will soon be eligible to be voted in to the Hall of Fame, Rafael Palmeiro who is tainted by the steroids controversy and the all time hit leader Pete Rose who is banned from baseball for life for betting on games.  The 3000 club is truly remarkable. It includes Rose with 4256 hits, Ty Cobb-4191, Hank Aaron-3771, and Stan Musial with 3630 hits.  Also on the list are greats like Cal Ripkin Jr., Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente.

The rest of the men on this list are also remarkable. All had amazing careers that spanned many years frequently with the same team. Their longevity, consistency and ability to get hits were simply remarkable but even more remarkable for Jeter was that he was the first Yankee to reach the 3000 hit mark.  The next nearest is the legendary Lou Gehrig with 2721 and Babe Ruth with 2518.  It is conceivable that had Ruth not pitched his first four years in the Majors or had Lou Gehrig not been forced to retire due to ALS or as some now posit numerous significant concussive injuries that either of them might have been the first Yankee to reach this lofty plateau.

However that feat belongs to Derek Jeter, the Captain of the Yankees and a man who will by his on-field performance, consistency, work ethic and leadership on and off the field will be in that elite group of Yankee legends.  He will also be remembered as a baseball great something that even Yankee haters have to admit.  Someday, hopefully after he has added much more to his legacy and retires he will be become part of the panoply of immortals in the Hall of Fame and have his monument added to those that grace Monument Park at Yankee Stadium along with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Miller Huggins, Casey Stengel, Reggie Jackson,  Lefty Gomez and so many more.

It was a good day for Derek Jeter and his family, the Yankees, baseball and all that love this most magical game.

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Rangers Hammer Yankees 10-3: Take 3-1 ALCS Lead

Josh Hamilton belts his 2nd home run of ALCS Game 4 (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

It looked like A. J. Burnett and the New York Yankees had turned the corner against the pesky Texas Rangers.  Well that was until they saw what they thought might be victory disappear in a barrage of Rangers runs leaving Yankee Stadium nearly devoid of Yankees faithful for the second night running. The feeling among Yankees fans is symbolized by the reaction of their fans, they know that they are done and baring an improbable comeback the Yankees will not repeat as either American League or World Series champs.

Nails in the coffin, Nelson Cruz hits 2 run homer in top of 9th inning to give the Rangers a 10-3 lead (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Yankees got out to an early 1-0 lead on a home run by Robinson Cano that on review should have been ruled as fan interference but was allowed without video review by the umpiring crew. Lance Berkman came up next and hammered a shot down the right field line that was initially ruled as a home run but was reviewed and disallowed passing narrowly to the right of the right field foul pole. The Rangers wasted no time getting those runs back as in the top of the 3rd inning Burnett seemed to lose his edge. David Murphy walked and took second on a wild pitch. Burnett then nailed Benji Molina in the back as Molina was attempting t bunt. Mitch Moreland then hit a sacrifice fly ball to send Murphy to third base and Molina to second. Elvis Andrus grounded out to score Murphy and was followed by Michael Young who singled to plate Molina to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.

Rangers’ starter Tim Hunter struggled giving up another run in the bottom of the third inning when Derek Jeter tripled and scored on Curtis Granderson’s single.  Burnett held the Rangers in the top of the 4th inning and the Yankees made things very interesting in the bottom half of the inning.  Hunter hit Alex Rodriguez with a pitch to lead off the inning and Robinson Cano singled and advanced him to 2nd base. Hunter the struck out Nick Swisher for the first out and Lance Berkman singled to load the bases.  The Rangers’ brought in Derek Holland to attempt to stop the bleeding. Holland got Brett Gardner on fielder’s choice which scored Rodriguez to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead.  Holland then took command striking out Francisco Cervelli to end the inning.

The Rangers loaded the bases in the top of the 5th inning but did not score and Holland despite giving up a leadoff double to Jeter shut down the Yankees in the bottom half of the inning. In the 6th the wheels came off of the Yankee Express. Vladimir Guerrero singled to lead off the inning and Burnett got the following two batters out before intentionally walking David Murphy with Guerrero on second. The brought Benji Molina to the plate and the Rangers’ catcher seized the moment pounding a 3 run home run into the left field seats.  Burnett got Mitch Moreland to foul out but the damage was done, the energy that had been gathering in Yankee Stadium was gone. 

Derek Jeter in the Yankees dugout in the 8th (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

In the 7th inning the Yankees’ relievers were handed the task of trying to shut down the Texas assault on Gotham. David Robertson after a horrific night on Monday got the first two batters out and was relieved by Boone Logan who promptly surrendered a solo home run to Josh Hamilton to bring Joba Chamberlian into the game. Joba fared no better giving up a double to Vladimir Guerrero and walking Nelson Cruz before giving up a RBI single to Ian Kinsler before striking out David Murphy to end the inning with the Rangers ahead of the lifeless Yankees by a score of 7-3.

Holland set down the Yankees in order in the bottom of the 7th inning.  In the 8th Chamberlain allowed a single to Benji Molina but got out of the inning without giving up another run.  In the bottom of the the Yankees threatened again loading the bases on a series of walks by Holland, Darren O’Day and Clay Rapada before bringing in 40 year old veteran Darren Oliver who closed out the inning without giving up a run.   

Benji Molina celebrates after the game (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Yankees woes continued in the top of the 9th as the Rangers put the noose around the Yankees in game four. Sergio Mitre relieved Chamberlain and gave up a leadoff home run to none other than Josh Hamilton, his 4th homer against the Yankees in 4 games.  Guerrero singled and was lifted for pinch runner Julio Borbon but Borbon’s speed would not be needed as Nelson Cruz took Mitre yard for another Rangers home run. The Yankees got a leadoff single from Brett Gardner in the top of the 9th but Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson went down in order leaving the Bronx in a state of shock for the 2nd straight night.

The Rangers scored 10 runs on 13 hits making their total 31 runs for the series on 43 hits agains an anemic 11 runs on 26 hits for the Yankees.  To make matters worse for the Yankees the team lost Mark Teixeira to a season ending hamstring pull while trying to leg out a ground ball. Derek Holland got the win and the 82 million dollar bust, A. J. Burnett took the loss.  The Rangers now lead the Yankees 3 games to 1 and have to have C. C. Sabathia make the performance of his life to stay alive this afternoon.  That will be a tall task as the big right-hander has not done well this post-season.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Dominance at its Best: Cliff Lee Owns the Yankees Rangers Roll 8-0

The Owner of the Yankees Cliff Lee rubs up a new ball (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Cliff Lee simply owns the New York Yankees and if the Sons of the Stein are smart they will find a way to entice their nemesis to play for them in 2011. However, that will not help them this year as Lee dominated the Yankees in a more dominant fashion than he did last year with the Phillies where he beat the Bronx Bombers twice.  On Monday night at Yankee Stadium Lee added to his playoff luster by pitching a 2 hit 8 inning shutout of the Yankees on a night when he struck out 13 Yankee batters walking only one.  He retired 11 Yankees in a row before Jorge Posada blooped a single into right for the first his with two outs in the bottom of the 5th inning and a leadoff single to Brett Gardner in the bottom of the 6th inning.  Every Yankee hitter with the exception of Robinson Cano struck out at least once in the loss.

An unusual October sight at Yankee Statium a loney fan waits for the Yankees to go down in the bottom of the 9th   (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

In fact had the score remained 2-0 going into the bottom of the 9th   and Lee would have likely gotten his way to go out and finish the game.  Instead the Rangers clubbed Yankees relievers for 6 runs in the top of the 9th allowing the Rangers to bring in closer Neftali Felix in a non save situation.  Felix sent the Yankees down in order himself striking out Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira in the inning to make a total of 15 strikeouts.   

Yankees starter Andy Pettitte made only one mistake which occurred in the top of the 1st inning. With one out Michael Young singled and then Josh Hamilton yanked a curve ball from Pettitte over the right field wall to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead. The Rangers added 6 runs on 6 hits in the top of the 9th against Yankees’ relievers Boone Logan and David Robertson. By the end of the night the Rangers had mustered 8 runs on 11 hits.

Pettitte got the loss and Cliff Lee the win to give the Rangers a 2-1 series lead going into game four tonight at Yankee Stadium.  The Rangers will send Tommy Hunter to the hill to face the struggling A. J. Burnett who was 1-7 with a 6.61 ERA in his final 12 starts.  Hunter started against the Yankees on September 11th giving up 2 runs and striking out 8 in five innings work in a 7-6 Rangers win. The Rangers have now scored 20 runs against Yankees pitching and unless Burnett comes up big the Rangers could go into game five with a 3-1 series lead.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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