Tag: 2012 MLB Playoffs

Alex Rodriguez Benched: Yankees Make Right Move Keeping A-Rod out of Lineup

There comes a time when you can’t keep tossing a guy into the lineup when he’s clearly past his prime.

Alex Rodriguez is past his prime and the New York Yankees have consequently decided to remove the veteran third baseman from the starting lineup for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers, per SportsCenter.

Instead, Eric Chavez will start in Rodriguez’s place. You know, that guy who seems like he must be at least 40 years old by now.

It doesn’t matter that Chavez is 0-for-11 with six strikeouts in the playoffs. The Yankees’ patience with Rodriguez is clearly wearing thin, as he’s gone 3-for-23 with 12 strikeouts in the postseason (Chavez can get at least three hits in his next 12 at-bats, right?).

This is a 14-time All-Star, three-time American League MVP and world champion, mind you. We are talking about a player who has hit 647 lifetime home runs, with a career .300 average.

But it’s pretty clear by now that the 37-year-old has slowed down dramatically.

He can’t get around on fastballs as well anymore and that’s been exposed in the playoffs. He’s a guy who thinks he’s about to hit a home run locked in on a fastball, but sees it instead blow past him for strike three. He’s a guy sending baseballs to female fans instead of sending baseballs out of the park.

He’s so past his prime that a guy who really is 40 years old, Raul Ibanez, is upstaging him.

The Yankees have dropped their first two games of the ALCS to the Tigers and they go up against Justin Verlander on Tuesday night. The last thing they need is a guy who is deteriorating physically and looking up into the stands rather than looking to make a difference on the field.

Joe Girardi made the right choice subbing Ibanez in for Rodriguez in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles, and he’s making the right choice keeping Rodriguez out of the starting lineup in a critical game for the Yankees.

It’s time for the Yankees to move on and try to salvage their season and leave Rodriguez behind.


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Why Baseball Fans Should Be Rooting for a Giants vs. Tigers World Series

The four remaining teams in the MLB playoffs present some intriguing potential matchups for the 2012 World Series.

Among the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees, there’s not a surprise upstart to root for. All four clubs were generally expected to win their divisions or make the playoffs. 

Any underdog ambitions for the postseason disappeared when the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics were eliminated during the divisional series round. (Perhaps the Washington Nationals could be included in that as well, since they were new blood for the playoffs. But they finished with the best record in the National League—not very underdog there.) 

So which of the four remaining teams would make the best pairing for the World Series?

The Cardinals and Yankees would pit two classic MLB franchises against one another. The two teams have won more World Series championships than any other clubs. The Yankees have 27 championships and the Cardinals are next on the list with 11. Both have faced each other five times in the World Series, with the Cards winning three them. 

The Yankees and Giants would be a clash between the east and west coast, but there’s also plenty of New York history there. The teams are former crosstown rivals and clashed seven times in the World Series. The Yankees won five of those matchups.

A Cardinals-Tigers finale would be a rematch of the 2006 Fall Classic, during which the underdog Cards surprised the Tigers by winning in five games. Of course, the two teams also faced each other in the ’68 World Series, with the Tigers rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to win in seven. 

Each of those three would make for an enticing World Series. But how about a pairing that we’ve never seen before in October? A Fall Classic between the Giants and Tigers would make for the best championship matchup.

First of all, a Giants vs. Tigers series would provide a quintessential battle between strong pitching and powerful hitting. Framing the matchup as such might be somewhat inaccurate, however.

Until Ryan Vogelsong‘s one-run, seven-inning effort in Monday’s Game 2 of the NLCS, San Francisco’s starting pitching hadn’t been the strength it’s portrayed as. Neither has the Tigers’ hitting prowess, despite the presence of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in their lineup.

But Cabrera is hitting .286 and Detroit has averaged nearly four runs a game during the postseason, so maybe this narrative fits them better. Just remember Prince Fielder and his .200 batting average when telling that story. 

Regardless of whether current numbers align with the preferred storyline, there would still be some extremely compelling pitcher vs. batter confrontations. Matt Cain vs. Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera and Fielder vs. Sergio Romo. Would Vogelsong be able to shut the Tigers down, as he did with the Cardinals and Reds? 

That would go the other way, as well. What about Justin Verlander vs. Buster Posey? How would Doug Fister fare against Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence? Could a struggling Tigers bullpen keep the Giants from rallying or pouring it on in later innings? 

By the way, the previous two paragraphs show the star power that we’d have in this series. The likely Most Valuable Players in the American and National Leagues would be playing each other. Both teams feature Cy Young Award candidates as well.

Bruce Bochy and Jim Leyland are also both considered among the top managers in MLB, and each skipper popular with the media, which would make for a good battle of wits and strategy. The pregame managers’ press conferences would surely be a highlight before each game. 

The Giants and Tigers playing each other would also present an intriguing contrast between cities.

San Francisco is generally considered one of the great, cosmopolitan cities in the United States, with notable landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Transamerica Pyramid.

Detroit, whether it’s accurate or not, is depicted as a crumbling Rust Belt city with no iconic structures other than perhaps the Renaissance Center. 

Another general stereotype of San Francisco is the portrayal of a tech-savvy, hipster population living the modern city lifestyle that’s often held up as the ideal in culture and media. Detroit’s populace is contrarily conveyed as blue collar, perhaps grizzled by the colder weather and harsh economic climate. 

Again, neither classification is entirely accurate. But it’s easy to reduce the two cities and their residents in such a manner. 

Would the Tigers be perceived as an underdog in a World Series with the Giants? Detroit is six years removed from its last Fall Classic, and is likely familiar with MLB playoff fans from last year’s postseason. But the Tigers haven’t won it all since 1984. 

Meanwhile, the Giants were in the postseason just two years ago and finished it off with an upset of the Texas Rangers for the World Series championship. 

Detroit sports fans love to play the disrespect card and carry a chip on their shoulder over how their teams and region are portrayed by the national media and fandom. Call it the Midwestern Inferiority Complex.

But what if the Tigers win national favor during the World Series? They do have the look of an underdog to them. And, of course, there’s no more of an underdog city than Detroit. 

What a Giants-Tigers World Series might lack in tradition and history, it makes up for with plenty of intriguing storylines , subplots and star power. It’s the matchup we should all be rooting for… unless you’re a fan of the Cardinals or Yankees, naturally. 


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New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers: ALCS Game 3 Live Scores and Analysis

Game 3 of the American League Championship series is underway from Detroit’s Comerica Park.

Justin Verlander tries to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead over Phil Hughes and the New York Yankees.

All the action right here.


FINAL: Tigers 2 – 1 Yankees

Hughes injured in the 4th

W: Verlander

L: Hughes

S: Coke

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Yankees vs. Tigers: CC Sabathia Will Lead New York Back into ALCS

Just two games after CC Sabathia’s series-clinching gem in Game 5 of the ALDS, the Yankees and their lifeless bats have dug themselves into a substantial hole. 

Making the trek to Detroit down two games to none wasn’t how Joe Girardi‘s club had envisioned its ALCS experience starting out. And replacing the irreplaceable Derek Jeter for the duration of team’s playoff run was probably the last thing on the skipper’s mind.

Nonetheless, MLB postseason history has shown us time and time again that it’s never actually over until your opponent is in the midst of a celebratory champagne shower. 

Now, preventing Justin Verlander—the reigning AL MVP, who seems to have finally found his playoff groove—from navigating his way through a stagnant lineup in Game 3 at Comerica Park will be no easy task. But even if the Yankees do fall into a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 deficit—all is not lost. 

Sabathia is slated to toe the slab in Game 4, and his own run of dominant pitching could be the shot of energy this squad needs to wake up from its ALCS slumber. 

Sabathia has wins in each of his three starts against the Tigers this year and has now gone at least eight innings in five straight starts dating back to September 21. He allowed no more than two runs in any of those outings. 

In the ALDS against the Orioles, CC was masterful, turning in 8.2 innings of two-run baseball in Game 1 and then shutting the door on Baltimore’s unexpected playoff appearance by hurling a complete game gem (nine strikeouts and one run allowed) in Game 5. 

He’ll square off against Max Scherzer on Wednesday, which, like facing Verlander, doesn’t bode well for the Yankees and their struggling bats. But if Sabathia continues his torrid pace, he won’t need much support to get the job done.

It’s been documented (per Jason Beck of MLB.com) that Detroit’s sluggers haven’t had much success against left-handed pitching this season. So, that alone is one reason to remain optimistic about New York’s chances of making this series, well, a series. 

Following the lefty Sabathia will be Andy Pettitte in Game 5 if New York can indeed avoid a sweep. The 40-year-old vet is another left-handed starter, and one who was able to hold the Tigers lineup scoreless through the first five frames of Game 1 before surrendering a pair of runs in the sixth. 

Girardi will hand the ball to Hiroki Kuroda if the Yankees can stretch it to Game 6, and Sabathia is set to pitch Game 7 at Yankees Stadium on three day’s rest if they can even the series at three games apiece (assuming the Tigers take one of three at home)

Obviously, pitching hasn’t been the Yankees biggest problem; the brunt of their struggles lies at the plate—not on the mound. The back half of the batting order has been piling up strikeouts at an alarming rate and the beef up front hasn’t been doing much to stem the tide.

But one dominant performance is all it takes to swing postseason momentum in your favor. And even if it comes from a pitcher, hitting can feed off of that energy as well. 

If the Yankees can get past Verlander and see CC take the mound down 2-1 in the series instead of 3-0, this ALCS is far from over. Even if the outcome is the latter of those two, the ace may still be able to find a way to keep his team afloat. 

At least he’s guaranteed the chance. 

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NY Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers: New York Players Who Give Yankees Edge in Game 3

Down 0-2 in the ALCS, the New York Yankees aren’t feeling good about their chances. If they want to make this a series, they’ll have to win Game 3 against Detroit’s Justin Verlander. 

The Yankees know this is their do-or-die game. If they go down 0-3, winning four against this Detroit Tigers pitching staff is damn near impossible—unless they go all Boston Red Sox on them. 

The slumping Alex Rodriguez and Company should also know that if they manage to squeeze out a win they will have CC Sabathia going in Game 4, meaning this series could very well end up being tied going into Game 5. 

First thing’s first: There are two key players that will provide an edge for the Yankees in a game where they are heavy underdogs. 


Robinson Cano

The best hitter on a team full of hitters in deep slumps, Cano has hit no different. 

Cano hasn’t had a hit since October 8 against the Baltimore Orioles, a span of 24 at-bats. 

Amongst teams that have started more than three games against Justin Verlander in the past three years, the Yankees have hit him the second best, pegging him with a 3.27 ERA. The Yankees also beat him two times out of three already this season alone. 

For a great hitter like Cano, it is only a matter of time before he breaks out and hits like the person who had 33 homers and 48 doubles while posting a career-high .929 OPS in the regular season. 


Ichiro Suzuki

Small sample size alert! 

But right now, the Yankees don’t really care.

They’ll need all the offense they can muster, and Ichiro Suzuki is the one player who has hit decently in this Detroit series, going 4-10 with a homer. 

It also doesn’t hurt that in 55 at-bats against Verlander Suzuki has hit .309 against him with a .333 OBP

In a game where runs may be sparse, with Phil Hughes pitching well in his playoff start against the Baltimore Orioles, an extra-base hit or a stolen base may be crucial.

Also, the Yankees lineup may present a better chance for more offense against the shoddy play of the Detroit bullpen. 

Against Jose Valverde in Game 1, the Yankees were able to hit two homers off him, but so far against Detroit starters, they haven’t done much. 

Joaquin Benoit has an ERA of 5.52 in the second half of the season. Octavio Dotel is also being used heavily but not effectively, allowing 50 hits in 58 regular-season innings. 

Even without Derek Jeter, the Yankees hold so many good hitters in Cano, Ichiro, Mark Teixeira and even Alex Rodriguez, it’s only a matter of time before they break out. 

What better time than against the league’s best baseball pitcher in a must-win game in Detroit?

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New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers: Changes Yanks Must Make to Win Game 3

The New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers are exposing the MLB playoffs, and the game of baseball in general, for what they really are.

In baseball, a single pitch in a hitter’s hot zone could be the deciding factor between a World Series appearance or historical insignificance. More often than not, a confident team feeding off of recent success is better-suited for October than a team that appears to be superior on paper.

In the case of the 2012 American League Championship Series, the Tigers are playing the role of the team that’s on fire, and the Yankees are starring as the team that can’t remember how good it was in the regular season.

The series is not over, of course. The Yankees have a huge hurdle to clear tonight against Justin Verlander, but the playing field will be more even if New York can avoid the 3-0 hole.

In order to do so, there are a few things the Bronx Bombers must accomplish tonight. If they don’t, it’s going to be a long offseason in the Big Apple.


Stop striking out and get some hits.

We knew coming into October that the Yankees live and die by the long ball. Strikeouts are part of loading the batting order with power hitters, but the prevailing notion was that New York had enough big bats in the lineup to make up for all the strikeouts. 

Turns out that this was an incorrect diagnosis. The Yankees have given new life to the term “free-swinging,” averaging 9.6 strikeouts per outing in their seven playoff games. They’ve struck out 20 times (against just five walks) in two games against Detroit, which has contributed heavily to their going 3-for-18 with runners in scoring position.

The biggest offender has been Robinson Cano. The graceful second baseman has forgotten how to hit, batting 2-for-22 with four strikeouts in the playoffs. That’s a .091 clip for a guy that hit .313 in the regular season. With Justin Verlander taking the mound tonight, the Yankees have to find a way to get good wood on the ball fast, or their season will be for naught. 


Keep the lineup steady.

The big story throughout the playoffs has been whether or not manager Joe Girardi should drop Alex Rodriguez from third in the batting order. Girardi did eventually drop A-Rod—but he switched up a lot more in the process. 

Even before Derek Jeter got injured, Girardi had made questionable decisions. Raul Ibanez had played the hero against Baltimore in the late innings, but that didn’t justify putting him in the cleanup spot. Russell Martin hit .211 during the season and shouldn’t be hitting in the five-hole, and Curtis Granderson, while he does strike out a lot, still shouldn’t be hitting seventh. 

The Yankees need to go back to what made them successful—batting the right guys in the right spots and letting them do their jobs. I understand that the bats have been silenced, but it only takes one good game to awaken a lineup. Hitters are creatures of habit, and constantly shifting them around, in addition to the pressure they face in the playoffs, is the worst strategy to try and shake things up.


Regain that New York swagger—before it’s gone for a while.

Part of the reason the Yankees had such a great regular season is because they scared teams with their power and versatility. Few teams can match the Yankees’ lineup from top to bottom, and New York finished second in the majors in scoring.

They seem to have lost all semblance of that confident team in this postseason. The shocking thing is, it’s not like the Yankees have young players who have little experience. This is the oldest roster in baseball, and it’s wilting under the bright lights like its never been on a big stage before.

In order for the Yankees to beat Verlander, they need to remember how good they really are.

Jeter’s injury is a huge blow, but that doesn’t mean guys like Cano, Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher should be struggling as well. It’s impossible to fathom how far the Yanks have fallen. It seems like literally every player has hit a cold streak at the exact same time, and there’s no way to return to form without gaining back that good old Yankee swagger.

This brings another issue into play: the Yankees’ age.

The roster has an average age of 31.7 years, by far the oldest in the majors. If the Yankees don’t wake up now, they’ll soon see that their amazing run of playoff successes in the last decade will be a distant memory. It’s time to put up or shut up.

The window is closing on the New York Yankees.

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New York Yankees: The Bombers Have No Choice but to Trade Alex Rodriguez Now

I’ve hit my boiling point with Alex Rodriguez.

For the longest time, I’ve tried to defend him and support him when everyone ragged on him, but I’m seriously done vouching for him.

It’s not the .143 he’s currently hitting in the postseason that did it; I’ve grown to accept that he’s a failure in the playoffs.

It’s not the five years and $150 million the Yankees still owe him until the end of the 2017 season, which is one of the worst contracts in team history and perhaps all of baseball.

It’s not even the fact that he’s three years removed from admitting he’s taken steroids and performance-enhancing drugs and as a 37-year-old, he’s starting to break down.

In a story reported on Tuesday by Emily Smith of the New York Post, A-Rod was reportedly caught flirting with two females in the stands shortly after he was pulled out of Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday night.

This, to me, shows that he doesn’t care anymore.

Fellow Bleacher Report writer Ian Casselberry also wrote about how he feels A-Rod has mentally checked out in the playoffs and the team.

Look at it; he’s got his guaranteed money, he got his World Series ring back in 2009, and he also has the single life too.

According to the story from the New York Post, he continued his flirtation with the females until Derek Jeter went down on the field with a fractured ankle in the 12th inning.

What A-Rod does in his personal time is none of my business, although we somehow find out about it one way or another.

But this is completely unprofessional. A-Rod is a professional baseball player who is basically acting like he’s still in high school flirting with females in the stands at Yankee Stadium.

They put up with him being found out that he took PED’s in his career after he lied about it to Katie Couric in a CBS interview back in 2007, they’ve put up with all of the publicity he’s brought with dating celebrities such as Madonna and Kate Hudson after he got divorced.

And let’s not forget the night of Game 4 of the 2007 World Series between the Rockies and Red Sox where the game became second fiddle to the news of him opting out of his contract with the Yankees to become a free agent, which angered everyone, including Major League Baseball themselves. A-Rod knew he screwed up then and because he personally went to the Yankees and fixed the mess he made, I forgave him.

But after the way this season has gone and now with this, I can’t anymore. Many fans like myself probably feel the same way.

After nine seasons, enough is enough with A-Rod, and it’s time for Brian Cashman to trade him once the season is over.

I know he has a lot of money left on his current deal, and the Yankees would have to eat an enormous chunk of it to trade him, but I think it can be done.

The Yankees found a way to deal A.J. Burnett and the two years left on his deal to the Pirates last year with the Yankees taking on most of the money. Many felt it would be hard for the Yankees to deal Burnett, yet they found a taker with Pittsburgh.

Honestly, I think they can find a taker for A-Rod too if the Yankees took on anywhere from half to most of the rest of his deal.

Whatever it takes to get him out of New York needs to happen, because his antics have gotten to the point of no return now.

And given the fact that the Yankees are looking to get under the $189 million mark for their payroll by 2014, getting rid of A-Rod’s contract will help them out in the future.

Either way, it’s time for A-Rod to go, and Cashman needs to find a way to trade him once the season is over.

Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.

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San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Bold Predictions for NLCS

The NLCS between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals has been anything but dull this postseason.

Both teams have proven their ability to come through in clutch games and come back when the game looks to be over. They both have amazing resiliency and have proven to be strong contenders for a World Series championship.

With the series tied at 1-1, both teams will be taking it game by game as they head to St. Louis for the next three.

In a battle like this, there’s only one question to ask: What team is hungrier to win?

These are five bold predictions for the next three games in the NLCS.

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Matt Holliday Slide: Cardinals of Must Be Fined for Dirty Play in NLCS

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday needs to be punished, at least to some degree, for his blatantly obvious slide that was designed to take out San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro during Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. 

Carl Steward of the San Jose Mercury News wrote that the slide was evocative of the Will Clark play back in 1988 when the Giants and Cardinals met in the postseason. 

Clark went in hard at second base attempting to break up a double play and upended Cardinals shortstop Jose Oquendo, touching off one of the most memorable brawls in Giants history. With St. Louis infielders pummeling Clark, the Giants, most notably outfielders Dusty Baker and Candy Maldonado, rushed to his defense. There ensued a full-tilt melee in the middle of the diamond.

While there was no such drama this time around, Holliday’s reckless abandon is not something that can go unnoticed from the Commissioner’s office. 

Most slides into second base are designed to break up a double play, but they don’t deliberately go after the player covering the bag. The runner will keep his hand up or slide slightly out of the line in order to force the defender to put less on the throw. 

That was clearly not the case with Holliday. However, I do think there has to be some leeway. I don’t think that you can suspend Holliday for what he did. Everything has to be taken on a case-by-case basis, and he wasn’t attempting to hurt Scutaro

It is weird since we are saying that Holliday was trying to take out Scutaro, but there is a distinction that can be made. Pete Rose barreling over Ray Fosse was an attempt to hurt a player, not just playing to win. 

Players should have enough respect for themselves, each other and the game to avoid deliberately trying to hurt someone. 

Holliday violated that, at least to some extent, on Monday night. As a result, he deserves to be hit in the wallet. 

Sure, Holliday can afford to pay any fine levied against him, but it is also a way for Major League Baseball to send a message to anyone else, including the Giants, who might look to retaliate in some way later in this series. 

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World Series Predictions 2012: Forecasting Which Team Will Emerge from NLCS

The National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants heads east deadlocked at one game apiece. Judging by the first two games, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the series go the distance.

Matt Holliday’s controversial slide, which took out Marco Scutaro in Game 2, has added some extra fuel to the fire. It’s exactly what the series needed to get more casual fans interested since it doesn’t have nearly as much star power as the ALCS.

On paper, neither team has a distinct advantage in any key area. Both starting rotations are reliable. The bullpens are solid at the back end. And the Giants illustrated on Monday that their unheralded lineup can compete with the Cardinals.

So this series is going to come down to a few key moments, one that may have already happened. The Holliday slide has the potential to turn the tide in two distinctly different ways.

The Giants can use it as motivation, helping to give them the mental advantage moving forward. They definitely seemed to play with an increased level of focus after the incident in Game 2 and have to keep that mindset in the remaining games.

However, the other possibility is San Francisco spends the rest of the series looking for opportunities to “get even” and lets it become a major distraction. In that scenario, the Cardinals gain the edge.

The Giants come off as a tight-knit group of players that should be able to channel that extra energy in a positive direction. After playing nearly 170 games, anything that can provide a short-term boost helps the cause.

The other major facet of the series will be the pitching matchups, which favor San Francisco. The Giants still get to send their ace, Matt Cain, to the mound twice. The Cardinals will counter with Kyle Lohse, who has exceeded expectations, but Cain has the edge.

Suddenly resurgent starter Tim Lincecum is scheduled to start Game 4. If he can pitch that game like he has been out of the bullpen, it’s almost like the Giants made a major acquisition in the middle of the playoffs.

In a series that’s shaping up to go right down to the wire, the team that gets better performances out of its starting pitchers is going to punch its ticket to the World Series.

The Cardinals have enjoyed an amazing run just to reach this point, but it’s hard to pick against the Giants pitching staff in what amounts to a five-game series.

Prediction: Giants in seven games


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