On the back of an impressive power show in the Bronx, the Yankees are moving along to the ALDS.
Luis Severino failed to make it out of the top of the first inning, yielding a leadoff homer to Brian Dozier and a two-run jack to Eddie Rosario before some of the Yankee Stadium faithful could even settle into their seats, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi turned to his deep and talented bullpen and the Bombers went on a bombing raid as New York soared to an 8-4 victory in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game.
Didi Gregorius helped the Yankees quickly counter Minnesota’s hot start with a game-tying three-run homer to right field in the bottom of the first. Brett Gardner added a solo shot in the bottom of the second and then Aaron Judge got in on the fun with a two-run blast in the bottom of the fourth. Judge, a shoo-in for American League Rookie of the Year, rounded the bases to chants of “M-V-P.” He scored three runs on the night, finishing 2-for-4 with a walk.
The real MVP for the Yankees in this one might have been reliever David Robertson, who entered in the top of the third inning to pitch New York out of a jam and didn’t exit until there were two outs on the board in the top of the sixth. Robertson worked a career-high 3 1/3 innings -- all scoreless -- tallying a career-high five strikeouts on a career-high 52 pitches. He rightfully got the win, the fourth postseason win of his career.
Up next for the Yankees is a five-game American League Division Series matchup with the Indians, the top seed in the American League bracket. Severino obviously has to be better, but the bats and the bullpen look ready to make things interesting against the defending AL champions.
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Bauer In Game 1, Kluber In Game 2 … ?
Indians manager Terry Francona announced Tuesday afternoon that Trevor Bauer, not AL Cy Young favorite Corey Kluber, will start Game 1 of the five-game American League Division Series. That news came as a surprise, but Francona did offer a well-thought-out explanation for the controversial decision.
By holding Kluber out until Game 2, the Indians can have their ace available on full rest for a potential loser-goes-home Game 5. There are travel days after both Games 2 and 4. And by keeping Carlos Carrasco out until Game 3, the Indians can start Bauer at home, where he posted far better numbers during the regular season. Bauer at Progressive Field this year: 3.93 ERA, 116/25 K/BB ratio in 103 innings. Bauer everywhere else: 4.54 ERA, 80/35 K/BB ratio in 73 1/3 innings. Francona had decided that Kluber was not going to be used on less than four days of rest in this series, so he wouldn’t have been an option for Game 4 even if he had pitched Game 1. Game 4 will likely go to Josh Tomlin, or possibly the rubber-armed Bauer on three days of rest.
Game 1 winners in the Division Series round have advanced 71 percent of the time to the Championship Series, so this is undoubtedly a risky play on Francona’s part. But if it pays off, it pays off in a big way. Should the Indians beat the Yankees in three or four games, they’ll have Kluber lined up for Game 1 and Carrasco lined up for Game 2 of the seven-game ALCS. It would be a mistake, however, to overlook these Bronx Bombers and their lights-out relief crew.
Scherzer, Arrieta Hobbled By Hammys
Two of the best pitchers in MLB will carry hamstring concerns into a big-time NLDS matchup.
Max Scherzer tweaked his right hamstring during his final regular-season start September 30 against the Pirates and is said to be targeting Game 3 of the Nationals’ NLDS matchup with the Cubs. He’ll throw a bullpen session Wednesday before manager Dusty Baker announces the organization’s rotation plans. Stephen Strasburg is lined up for Game 1 and Gio Gonzalez will handle Game 2 if it is determined that Scherzer needs a little extra rest.
That would set up an enticing NLDS Game 3 matchup of Scherzer versus Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta, who is also battling right hamstring discomfort. He suffered a Grade 1 strain back on September 4 at Pittsburgh's PNC Park and is still working through the injury despite making a five-inning start September 21 against the Brewers and a three-inning start September 26 against the rival Cardinals.
Quick Hits: Twins manager Paul Molitor said Miguel Sano was left off the AL Wild Card Game roster due to "persistent discomfort" in his left shin … Byron Buxton left Tuesday night's American League Wild Card Game due to upper back tightness … Astros manager A.J. Hinch announced that Justin Verlander will start Game 1 of the ALDS against the Red Sox on Thursday … Braves manager Brian Snitker will be retained for the 2018 season … Jim Hickey is out as the Rays’ pitching coach after 11 seasons, with Triple-A Durham pitching coach Kyle Snyder set to replace him … Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that "it’s increasingly likely" Justin Upton will exercise the opt-out clause in his contract and test free agency … Dan Warthen won't return as the Mets’ pitching coach in 2018 … Drew Pomeranz will start Game 2 of the ALDS against the Astros … Red Sox manager John Farrell said Tuesday that "everything points to" Eduardo Nunez (knee) being on the ALDS roster … Derek Lilliquist will not return as the Cardinals' pitching coach … Michael Brantley will be on the Indians' roster for the ALDS … Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins confirmed Tuesday that the team already told Jose Bautista they don't intend to exercise their part of his $18 million option for 2018 … Rich Hill will start for the Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, with Yu Darvish handling Game 3 … Astros outfielder Josh Reddick (back) is expected to be ready for the American League Division Series … Dodgers manager Dave Roberts indicated Tuesday that Hyun-Jin Ryu might be left off the NLDS roster … Indians manager Terry Francona said Tuesday that Brandon Guyer (wrist) is unlikely to return for the postseason … Danny Duffy underwent surgery Tuesday to remove a loose body from his left elbow … Giants general manager Bobby Evans said Tuesday that Gorkys Hernandez is looking at hamate bone surgery … Brandon Belt (concussion) will go into the offseason with no restrictions … Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Brian Goodwin (groin) looked good during Tuesday's workout … Indians manager Terry Francona said Bradley Zimmer (hand) is "a very long shot" to return during the postseason … Zach McAllister will not be on the Indians' roster for the ALDS … White Sox re-signed right-hander Michael Ynoa to a minor league contract … Angels signed right-hander Vicente Campos to a minor league contract.