MLB

Indians, Brewers make moves in wild-card races

By Sports Desk September 19, 2019

The play-off chasing Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers boosted their wild-card hopes in MLB action on Thursday.

Cleveland moved back into a tie with the Tampa Bay Rays for the second wild-card spot in the American League with a 7-0 win over the Detroit Tigers.

The Brewers moved one game up on the Chicago Cubs by virtue of their 5-1 win over the San Diego Padres and Cubs' 5-4 loss to the St Louis Cardinals.

The Cubs made an exciting late push in their game, rallying from three runs down to tie it up 4-4 in the ninth inning, but a Matt Carpenter homer in the 10th off Craig Kimbrel – who was making his return from injury – put the game out of reach.

The race in the National League Central is now all but settled for the Cubs. St Louis lead by four games with six matchups with Chicago remaining in the season. The Cubs would have to go 5-1 in those games just to tie the Cardinals.

However, the Brewers do remain just three games behind, and if the Cubs were to go 5-1, they could possibly take the lead in the division.

 

Elmore powers Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jake Elmore went three for five with a double and two RBIs in the team's 6-5 defeat to the Seattle Mariners in extra innings.

Boston Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez tossed six innings while allowing one unearned run and striking out 10 in a 5-4 win over the San Francisco Giants. The win was Rodriguez's 18th of the year.

Brett Gardner went two for three with a home run, three runs scored and three RBIs as the New York Yankees won 9-1 against the Los Angeles Angels to clinch their first AL East title since 2012.

 

Padres pair struggle

Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe combined to go 0 for eight with two strikeouts in the Padres' loss to the Brewers.

 

Acuna nearing MLB feat

Atlanta Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. is now three stolen bases away from a 40/40 season as he hit his 40th home run of the year in a 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

Thursday's results

Atlanta Braves 5-4 Philadelphia Phillies
Seattle Mariners 6-5 Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee Brewers 5-1 San Diego Padres
Boston Red Sox 5-4 San Francisco Giants
Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees 9-1 Los Angeles Angels
Cleveland Indians 7-0 Detroit Tigers
St Louis Cardinals 5-4 Chicago Cubs
Minnesota Twins 8-5 Kansas City Royals

 

Phillies at Indians 

The Phillies are just about out of the wild-card race as they sit four games adrift of the Brewers for the second spot, but as John Belushi famously asked: "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" Of course not. The Phillies technically have time to get back into a playoff spot, but they have to be just about perfect. The problem is the Indians are also fighting for a playoff spot so they will not be an easy out.

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    Jose Altuve was crowned the American League Championship Series MVP after his walk-off homer saw the Houston Astros reach the World Series at the expense of the New York Yankees.

    Altuve smashed a two-run walk-off home run in the ninth inning as the Astros beat the Yankees 6-4 in Game 6 on Saturday, sealing a 4-2 ALCS victory.

    After setting up a showdown with the Washington Nationals in the MLB showpiece, Altuve became the first second baseman to win both the regular-season and postseason-round MVP Award.

    "I wanted to just get a good pitch to hit," said Altuve, who led the Astros to their second World Series in three seasons.

    "[Yankees pitcher Aroldis] Chapman, for me, is one of the best closers I've ever faced, and he throws hard. I wanted to be on time for the fastball, so I was looking for something I could handle, and it just happened.

    "Running around the bases, the only thing I was thinking was, just thanking God for this opportunity to be going to the World Series once again. I thank everybody in the ballpark, because you guys are the biggest reason that we're here. And my team-mates, they're the MVPs of the game. I can't wait for the World Series."

    Altuve – a six-time All-Star – was named American League MVP in 2017 as the Astros went on to win the World Series two years ago.

    "We won the game not because I hit a homer," added Altuve, who is also a Gold Glove winner and five-time Silver Slugger.

    "Yuli [Gurriel] hit a three-run homer. Michael Brantley made a really good play over there, [George] Springer just walked and put some pressure on them to get some momentum going. We worked as a team. We don't have just one player, as I said before, and I'm just so happy for everyone right now."

    Astros manager AJ Hinch added: "The playoff version of him is spectacular. We talk about his Division Series homers and then his attention to detail in every facet of the game.

    "He's turned himself into a star in his career here, and yet he's remained humble, he's remained hungry. He's driven. He's engaging with his team-mates. It's the same old quote of, 'Everything that's right about the Astros is Jose Altuve.'

    "He's been here the longest and seen this organization grow from the ground up. I'm so proud of him. I'm so fortunate to be his manager."

  • Altuve's walk-off homer sends Astros to World Series Altuve's walk-off homer sends Astros to World Series

    Jose Altuve hit a walk-off home run as the Houston Astros topped the New York Yankees to reach the MLB World Series.

    Altuve smashed a two-run walk-off homer to lead the Astros past the Yankees 6-4 in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday.

    It came off the best closer in the game and just a half-inning after the Yankees' DJ LeMahieu tied it up with a two-run homer of his own.

    After sealing a 4-2 ALCS victory, the Astros will meet the Washington Nationals in the World Series.

     

    Three takeaways from the Astros' ALCS-clinching win over the Yankees

    Why are they pitching to Altuve?

    This should go down as one of the biggest managerial blunders in baseball history.

    First, the Astros gave up a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth on a home run to LeMahieu which was bad, but then they won the game on a two-run homer in the ninth from Altuve. But here is the thing: There was no reason to pitch to Altuve. There were two outs. And yes there was a runner on first in George Springer, but the Astros had just taken Michael Brantley out of the game and replaced him with Jake Marisnick.

    Marisnick was one for three in the postseason and is a defensive specialist. While putting a runner in scoring position with a walk is risky, but you would do that to face Marisnick rather than Altuve, who was the American League MVP in 2017.

    Too many looks

    This goes for every single reliever in the postseason: The more looks a team gets at him — no matter how dominant he is — they will get to him eventually. This was the case with Tommy Kahnle and it was also the same with Roberto Osuna.

    First, with Kahnle, he had some success against Houston this season, especially in the playoffs, as he had given up no runs in four separate appearances. But, Aaron Boone insisted on using Kahnle again in Game 6 and it cost him as he gave up hits to Altuve and Brantley and a key insurance run that gave the Astros a vital 4-2 lead.

    That lead was vital because after Osuna had held the Yankees scoreless in three regular-season outings and three postseason appearances, he allowed the two-run homer to LeMahieu in New York's seventh look at him this season. While a good rule of thumb is to throw your best pitchers as often as you can, it is also true that players get a comfort level with those pitchers. That is exactly what happened with Kahnle and Osuna.

    Out of their comfort zone

    Say what you want about Brad Peacock giving up a run in the second inning, Josh James allowing all the base runners and New York putting guys on throughout Game 6, one thing cannot be overlooked here and it is bullpen games are not what the Astros do, and yet, it gave them a chance to win Game 6.

    Houston threw true bullpen games three times this season. It happened twice in July when Framber Valdez was having some issues and then again one more time in August when Gerrit Cole had to be pulled from a start before a game. Houston went 0-3 in those games and posted an ERA of 6.67 in the losses.

    The Astros again were not great in Game 6. The Yankees had baserunners on seemingly the entire game and Houston never looked comfortable. But what the Astros did not do was throw the game away before it started. They competed and kept the team in the game. No one will complain about that in Houston.

  • Yankees keep World Series hopes alive with game five win Yankees keep World Series hopes alive with game five win

    The New York Yankees forced game six on Friday after defeating Houston Astros 4-1 in game five of the American League Championship Series.

    A pair of early home runs and impressive starting pitching from James Paxton helped to get the job done.

    Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning on a night where all five runs came in the team's opening frame.

    The Astros will have to defend home turf in an attempt to avoid game seven, with one win sending them to the World Series. New York must win the last two games to earn a berth in the Fall Classic.

     

    New York found quality pitching when it mattered most

    The Yankees have made it a point to utilise a host of pitchers in the ALCS, but they got a great performance from starter James Paxton and a trio of relievers in a critical game that could've ended their season. Paxton gave up four hits and one earned run in six innings of work, notching nine strikeouts. Then Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman combined to give up one hit for the remainder of the contest once Paxton was taken out.

    The Astros' five hits in the contest were their second-lowest total in the series after being held to just three in their game one loss.


    The stage wasn't too big for Aaron Hicks

    Aaron Hicks was an unlikely hero for the Yankees on Friday. Although the outfielder was initially ruled out for the season in August after suffering a flexor strain in his elbow, he returned from a two-month hiatus to face Houston and help his team with its World Series push. He blasted a three-run homer off the foul pole in the first inning and that made all the difference.

    New York scored all four of its runs in the first inning before going on a scoring drought, but it didn't matter as the Astros experienced a drought of their own. Now the Yankees will likely benefit from a bullpen game on Saturday, and there will be ample opportunity for other players to unexpectedly tee off without facing the best of Houston's starters.


    Justin Verlander continues to be plagued by home runs

    Justin Verlander gave up a career-high 36 home runs in 2019 and that trend has followed him into the post-season. Even though Hicks' home run nearly hooked right of the foul pole, DJ LeMahieu also hit a solo homer and those were the decisive moments in the game. Verlander has given up 10 runs and five home runs in his last three appearances.

    Verlander rebounded tremendously from his poor start in his seven-inning outing, tallying nine strikeouts, but the offense couldn't get flowing and now Houston faces a difficult situation. The Astros' trio of starters has been heralded as the best in MLB, but Gerrit Cole won't be ready to go on short rest in game six.

    New York has coasted on power hitting all season long and now they can take advantage of not having to face elite starters as they look to force game seven.

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