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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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Texas Lawmen Win: Rangers Win ALCS Dump Yankees in Six

Ginger Ale Celebration: Rangers celebrate after defeating the Yankees 6-1 (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Texas Rangers defeated the New York Yankees on Friday night in Arlington Texas. I have to say up front that I predicted the Yankees to win this series in 6 or 7 games not because of any lack of respect for the Rangers who I actually believed to be the better team but because of how well the Yankees played in the 2009 post season especially against the Angels in the ALCS when the Angels had dominated the Yankees in the regular season.  That being said my first playoff prediction of this season has gone down the tubes but it really doesn’t bother me because in my heart I was pulling for the Rangers to take the American League and the World Series if the Phillies come back against the Giants this weekend to take the NL Pennant. If the Giants win the Pennant of course I will be cheering them on but I will analyze the hell out of the series and make my predictions accordingly.

Josh Hamilton and Rangers celebrate (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Yankees rolled into Arlington having escaped elimination at the “house that George built” on Wednesday night. The Rangers set the tone early against Yankees starter Phil Hughes with Elvis Andrus slamming a leadoff double and scoring on a sacrifice ground ball by Vladimir Guerrero. The score remained 1-0 until the 5th inning as both Hughes and Rangers’ starter Colby Lewis shut down the opposing lineups.

Legendary Rangers pitcher, Hall of Famer and Rangers’ President Nolan Ryan holds the AL Championship trophy up for all to see (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Yankees scored in the top of the 5th when Alex Rodriguez doubled to lead off the inning advanced to third on a sacrifice fly and scored on a wild pitch which actually hit Nick Swisher. This was yet another badly blown call by an umpiring crew that leads me to scream at the top of my lungs for an increased use of replay and an “eye in the sky” umpire as part of the umpiring crew, but I digress, I will cover replay after the World Series.

Yankees in defeat (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Rangers opened things up in the bottom of the 5th scoring 4 runs against the now hapless Hughes and reliever David Robertson. Mitch Moreland singled and then advanced to third on consecutive ground outs.  Hughes then intentionally walked Josh Hamilton to get to Vladimir Guerrero.  Guerrero gave Hughes a fine “how do you do” tattooing a double to deep center which scored both runners.  That was the end for Hughes as he was relieved by Robertson.  Nelson Cruz welcomed Robertson back to Texas slamming a home run to deep center.  The Rangers added an insurance run in the bottom of the 7th as Michael Young doubled to lead off the inning and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ian Kinsler.

That was the last Yankees’ run of the season, Lewis shut the vaunted Yankee’s lineup down through eight innings and Neftali Felix put the Yankees down in order in the 9th fittingly striking out Alex Rodriguez looking.

The end of the line: Alex Rodriguez enters the dugout after striking out looking to end the series as fireworks go off above Rangers’ Ballpark in Arlington (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Rangers won the American League Pennant downing arguably the two best teams in the League to do it. The team which has bonded through great difficulty with ownership issues, as well as addiction and substance abuse issues involving both Hamilton and Manager Ron Washington.  Instead of ostracizing either the team supported them both something that does not always happen.  The Rangers now go to their first World Series in franchise history to face either the San Francisco Giants or Philadelphia Phillies.

One now has to wonder about the Yankees. They are showing their age and their starting pitching staff is not what it was.  Their middle relievers are weak in comparison to many other teams and these weaknesses across to board were shown in gory detail in the ALCS.  The Rangers scored 38 runs on 63 hits and hit .304 against Yankees pitching while the Yankees scored only 19 runs on 38 hits with a .201 average. In team pitching the Rangers had a 3.06 ERA against the Yankees while the Yankees staff had a 6.58 team ERA. Though the Yankees won two games the series was not close or even competitive.  The Yankees will need to retool in a big way in the off season because the Red Sox and the Orioles will be after them as the Rays try to recover after their coming salary cuts and loss of key players.  The Yankees need to figure out what they are going to do with their pitching staff as well as their bloated and non-productive lineup.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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The Yankees Strike Back: Defeat Rangers 7-2 as Bats Come Alive

C. C. Sabathia shouts after striking out Mitch Moreland in the top of the 6th inning (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The New York Yankees rose like the Phoenix from Arizona to extend the ALCS and their season in a do or die game at Yankee Stadium.  The Bronx Bombers who had had empty bomb bays for all but one inning of the ALCS found their payload and unloaded it on Rangers’ starter C. J. Wilson who had mastered the Yankees in game one and the Rays in the ALDS. 

Mitch Moreland goes down on a called third strike in the top of the 6th (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The Yankees struck early with a 3 run first inning that began with a walk to Alex Rodriguez and a one out walk to Lance Berkman. Jorge Posada then singled to drive in Rodriguez Curtis Granderson then singled to score Berkman and Posada scored on a throwing error by Rangers’ right fielder Jeff Francouer’s throwing error to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.  The Yankees continued their mugging of Wilson with back to back home runs in the bottom of the third inning by Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano. 

The Rangers attempted a rally in the bottom of the 5th inning when catcher Matt Traenor homered to left and was followed by Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus singled but the inning ended when Josh Hamilton hit into a double play. The Yankees added another run in the bottom frame as Lance Berkman sacrificed to score Nick Swisher to give the Yankees a 6-1 lead.

The Rangers mounted another rally attempt in the top of the 6th inning as David Murphy, Ian Kinsler and Jeff Fancouer had back to back to back singles to load the bases with one out. Matt Traenor was out on a ground ball that scored Murphy but that would be all the Rangers would muster for their efforts. The Yankees added another run in the bottom of the 8th as Curtis Granderson  homered to make the score 7-2.  Mariano Rivera entered in relief in the top of the 9th and shut down the Rangers in a non-save situation.

Alex Rodriguez, Lance Berkman and Jorge Posada celebrate after game five

C. C. Sabathia got the win despite allowing 11 hits.  The Yankees now force the series back to Rangers Stadium on Friday where Phil Hughes will face Colby Lewis.  If the Yankees get by Lewis they will face their nemesis Cliff Lee in game 7 and that sports fans will be an interesting matchup. The question is do the Yankees have the gas to come back? I predicted the Yankees to win the series but I will not underestimate the Rangers especially with Cliff Lee in waiting.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Blown Away or Thrown Away: Yankees Come Back defeat Rangers 6-5

Ron Washington has some ‘splaining to do about his management of the Rangers’ pitching staff (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Texas Rangers looked like they were about to win their first playoff game at home in their history last night, well until the top of the 8th inning that is then it all went away like a tumbleweed going across the prairie.  The Rangers jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the Yankees and looked to have the game in hand as C. J. Wilson was pitching a gem which Rangers hitters took off where Minnesota left off against Yankee’s workhorse C.C. Sabathia chasing the 20 game-winner off the mount at the end of the 4th inning.  Sabathia gave up 5 runs on 6 hits with four walks and a balk in 4 innings in which he made 95 pitches.  He struggled to get the ball over the plate as only 51 of those pitches were strikes. In Minnesota he got the win and in Texas a no decision but his playoff ERA is now 7.20 which should give the Yankees concern. Sabathia avoided disaster when with the bases load with 2 outs in the bottom of the first inning he threw a wild pitch which luckily for him bounced back directly to Jorge Posada who tagged Nelson Cruz on the arm as he slid into home. Had Cruz scored it might well have opened up the opportunity for a really big inning against Sabathia.

Wilson was solid through 7 innings giving up a solo home run to Robinson Cano in the top of the 7th but then collapsing in the 8th along with 4 relievers sent in by Ron Washington to try to stop the Yankees, only one of which, Derek Holland got anyone out.  Why Washington did not put his closer Neftali Feliz in with the game on the line even though it was not initially a save situation puzzled me as much as it did most experts. Also why Washington seemed to panic with Wilson still throwing hard after a walk and a double that went by a less than stellar third baseman is beyond me. Wilson was to face the heart of the Yankees order but he had dominated Jeter, Teixeira and Rodriguez  who were 0-8 against him with 3 strikeouts and two pop-ups in those 8 at bats. Washington had to remember or had he forgotten that this was the same bullpen that melted down in game three against the Rays.

Brett Gardiner slides into 1st to ignite the Yankees’ 8th inning rally (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

In the 8th the Yankees rally started with Brett Gardiner beating out a ground ball for an infield hit diving into first base to beat Wilson to the bag. He scored on a double to left by Derek Jeter.  This brought set up man Darren Oliver into the game and Oliver walked Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. Oliver was then lifted for Darren O’Day who gave up a single to Alex Rodriguez that scored Jeter and Swisher. Washington then trotted out Clay Rapada who gave up a single to Robinson Cano to score Teixeira.  This brought Holland into the game and Holland gave up a single to Marcus Thames to score Rodriguez to give the Yankees the lead a lead that they did not relinquish.

Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher congratulate each other after scoring in the 8th inning comeback (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

By contrast the Yankees bullpen was solid with Dustin Mosley picking up the win and Mariano Rivera the save. Darren O’Day got the loss for the Rangers. The Rangers gave this one away; Ron Washington seemed to be out of his league last night and made some really questionable decisions.  Now the Rangers have to win today or go to Yankee Stadium with a two game deficit.  The Rangers will send Colby Lewis to the hill to face Phil Hughes. Lewis had a no-decision in game 3 against the Rays giving up just 2 hits in 5 innings work before Washington pulled him and gave the game to the bullpen which just as they did last night melted down. Hughes dominated the Twins in game 3 of their series pitching 7 innings giving up no runs on 4 hits.

If the Rangers do not win tonight, it will take more than heroic efforts by Cliff Lee to get them past the Yankees. It will take a miracle.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Yankees Sweep Twins while Rays Remain Alive

Still smiling, Mariano River and Yankees seal the deal again (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The ALDS series between the Yankees and Twins ended about as I expected it to end, another humiliating defeat for the Twins at the hands of the Yankees.  As I said on my prediction the “Twins cannot beat the Yankees with a stick.”  Once again that proved to be the case as the Twins lost their 12th straight playoff game.  They had an excellent record but did not do well at the end of the season and that carried into the ALDS. Once they lost a 4-0 lead with Francisco Lariano on the hill in game one the writing was on the wall as to how this series would end. The looks on the faces of the Twins players and Manager Ron Gardenhire showed it all and from that moment on they were toast. If one wants to beat the Yankees or for that matter any other good team one has to believe that they can win against them. The Twins unlike the lowly Orioles don’t believe they can beat the Yankees.  That is the difference, until the Twins start believing they can beat the Bronx Bombers they will be the perpetual victim in the ALDS or ALCS whenever they face them.   The Yankees won 6-1 on Saturday with Phil Hughes holding the Twins to just 4 hits in 7 innings work.  The Yankees hitters cranked out 12 hits to get the 6 runs including 2 home runs, one each by Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano.

The Thrill of Victory (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Deep in the heart of Texas the Rays kept their hopes alive against the Rangers. The Rangers took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 7th on an Ian Kinsler home run. It seemed at that point that the momentum had shifted to the Rangers and their usually very effective bullpen. That did not happen, the usually strong bullpen surrendered 2 runs in the 8th and 3 more in the top of the 9th to give the Rays a 6-2 lead. The Rangers scored another run on a Nelson Cruz solo home run.  Rays starter Matt Garza was effective through 6 innings and relievers Randy Choate, Joaquin Benoit and Rafael Soriano limited the Rangers to just 1 hit and allowed no walks in the final three innings.

The Agony of Defeat (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees now get a few days off before they play the winner of the Rangers-Rays series. Today the Rangers and Rays play in the first of three Divisional Series games with Tommy Hunter (13-4 3.73 ERA) going up against Wade Davis (12-10 4.07 ERA).

More later,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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