Nationals

Quick Links

Yankees' season on the brink after 8-3 loss to Astros

astros.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Yankees' season on the brink after 8-3 loss to Astros

NEW YORK (AP) -- CC Sabathia threw a cutter to George Springer and grimaced from the pain in his left shoulder, then covered his face with his glove as he walked to the dugout after what was likely the final pitch of his career.

Three-time Gold Glove winner DJ LeMahieu had the first two-error game of his big league career. Also a pair of miscues by Gleyber Torres .

Gary Sanchez, Torres and Edwin Encarnacion all struck out with the bases loaded, letting Zack Greinke and Ryan Pressly escape.

The Bronx Bombers have gone bust against Houston, and now they're on the brink.

Houston's 8-3 victory over the listless, sloppy Yankees on Thursday night gave the Astros a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series.

And now the Yankees face Justin Verlander in Game 5 on Friday night as they try to avoid what would be their first calendar decade without a World Series appearance since the 1910s.

"We played poorly tonight. There's no other way to explain it," manager Aaron Boone said after addressing the team in a postgame meeting. "We need to flush this immediately."

Sabathia relieved in the eighth inning, knowing the end was near to a 19-season career that included a 251-161 regular-season record with 3,093 strikeouts. After four stints on the injured list this year caused by his balky right knee, the 39-year-old left-hander craved one last October in the limelight, moving to the bullpen.

But his body gave out on his 20th pitch, a metaphor for the entire team against the Astros so far. He walked off the mound toward second, spoke with head athletic trainer Steve Donahue and tried a warmup toss, hoping somehow to push through, but he had to leave.

Even Houston's Gerrit Cole and George Springer joined in the applause as fans gave Sabathia limped off a standing ovation. When he reached the dugout, his face contorted, Sabathia took four steps down toward the clubhouse, then sat near the bottom, his back to the field, as Donahue tried to console him.

"Every single time he went out there, you had to rip the ball or his jersey off to get him off that mound," Yankees slugger Aaron Judge said. "He got everything out of that arm. That's a warrior right there."

Boone said Sabathia could be replaced on the roster Friday, making him ineligible even should the Yankees come back and advance.

"It stinks," reliever Zack Britton said. "It's heartbreaking to watch him leave the field like that. I know how much pain he was in."

Hitting, pitching and fielding all went poof!

New York had not lost consecutive home games to the same opponent since early April, had not made four errors in a postseason game since 1976 -- and never before in the Bronx. Some of the fans who remained in a mostly empty Yankee Stadium applauded sarcastically when shortstop Didi Gregorius caught an infield popup in the ninth.

Earlier, New York also threw a pair of wild pitches.

During the regular season, the Yankees led the major leagues with a .294 batting average with runners in scoring position. In the ALCS, they haven't scored on a hit other than a home run since the opener.

New York was 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, dropping to 4 for 27 in the four games -- including 1 for 16 in the three straight losses. The Yankees stranded 10 runners, increasing their series total to 33. They struck out 13 times, giving them 43 in the series.

This game started to turn in the first inning, when Sanchez fanned on a low slider from the erratic Greinke as New York failed to build on its 1-0 lead following Brett Gardner's bases-loaded walk. With the Yankees trailing 3-1 in the fifth and the bases full again, Torres struck out on a checked swing on an outside slider in rhe dirt from Pressly, and Encarnacion swung over a fastball , ending the inning.

Win by the homer, lose by the homer.

New York's 306 long balls during the regular season were second to Minnesota's big league record of 307. The Yankees led the majors with 943 runs, and were fourth in percentage of runs scored on homers at 51.1, trailing only Toronto (53.2), Milwaukee (51.5) and Minnesota (51.2).

Boone repeatedly maintained he was unconcerned about the power reliance. New York has plated eight of its 13 runs against the Astros on five homers, two-run drives by Judge and Sanchez, a pair of solo shots by Torres and bases-empty pokes by Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela.

After thriving despite 30 players going on the injured list, the aches have become too onerous, players struggling in their return from late-season injuries.

Encarnacion is 1 for 15 with eight strikeouts, Sanchez 2 for 17 with eight strikeouts, Gregorius 2 for 16, Urshela 2 for 15 and Aaron Hicks 1 for 6 with three strikeouts.

After the best regular season at the plate of his career, Gardner is 2 for 15 with seven strikeouts.

Now time is short.

James Paxton takes the mound Friday after getting just seven outs in Game 2, hoping to avoid what would be just the third four-game losing streak for New York this season. The Yankees' 103 regular-season wins, their most in a decade, may not amount to much.

"I've got to step up," Judge said. "Everybody's got to step up."

Quick Links

How Carter Kieboom influences Nationals’ needs in Day 2 at Winter Meetings

How Carter Kieboom influences Nationals’ needs in Day 2 at Winter Meetings

SAN DIEGO -- Stephen Strasburg is back. The rotation is set, at least one through four, and a crab-bucket crawl is ready for the fifth spot. Howie Kendrick signed to play second and first, as well as pinch-hit. Ryan Zimmerman is expected to return. Anthony Rendon remains in limbo.

So, what now?

Day Two at the Winter Meetings for Washington should bring calm. Or at least lesser salvos. The Nationals entered the San Diego soiree with noise around them. Rendon and Strasburg were huge factors in the offseason. Washington is the World Series champion. It, as much as anyone in baseball, was on the marquee when everyone gathered.

Business now is more pragmatic. The Nationals are likely out on Rendon -- despite meager attempts Monday to say they are not -- which means bullpen and second base are at issue. 

Prospect Carter Kieboom is an option at second base. The Nationals began to work him there last offseason and continued to do so throughout 2019 with Triple-A Fresno. Kieboom made limited appearances at third base (10 games, nine starts, four errors) and is not ready to play that position at the major-league level. His work at shortstop in the major leagues showed he’s not ready to play there, either. There’s also no need with Trea Turner under contract.

Which means Kieboom’s future influences possible spending, which influences Rendon -- slightly -- and has a bearing on the bullpen expenditures. 

“He's close,” Davey Martinez said of Kieboom. “After we had him, he went back down to triple A, kept his head up, and played really well, hit well, did some adjustments. He's going to come to Spring Training and get a shot to play different positions. We'll see. We'll see what transpires, but he's a kid that we value very much. We know what he can do with the bat. We've got to figure out a position for him, whether it's second base or third base, but I think that he adds some value and he could help us in the future.”

This is expected and necessary posturing from Martinez. They don’t know where Kieboom should play. They think his bat will play. Can he become a productive hitter and average defender at second base? If so, that’s high value. Could he eventually take over third base? Washington has to consider the notion when tangling with whether to pay Rendon, or, more likely, Josh Donaldson via a shorter contract.

“I really feel that he learned a lot just coming up that short period of time,” Martinez said of Kieboom. “We know what kind of player we think he can be, and like I said, he's learned how to become that player. He went back down, and I've seen a lot of guys that came up and had a rough time that go back down and don't quite put it together. He went back down there and had a really good year in triple A.

“So it's just a learning process for him. ...And the biggest thing I'll tell Carter is that he's a guy that needs to use the whole field when he hits and not to take his at-bats out to the field. It's two different things. You've got to play defense, and then you've got to hit. I think that's something, as a young player, that you need to learn to be consistent up here.”

The organization’s belief in whether Kieboom can do that will factor into its decisions in San Diego. Monday’s Strasburg splash kicked things off. Tuesday is likely to be more about filling gaps than record contracts.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

[]

Quick Links

Anthony Rendon’s future appears set following Stephen Strasburg deal

Anthony Rendon’s future appears set following Stephen Strasburg deal

SAN DIEGO -- On the stage Monday at the Winter Meetings, two key components of Anthony Rendon’s future chatted before the television’s red camera light popped on.

Mike Rizzo and agent Scott Boras passed a final 30 seconds before showtime with small talk, then addressed the first bombastic signing of the Winter Meetings: Stephen Strasburg is returning to the Washington Nationals on a seven-year, $245 million deal. This, for all intents and purposes, ends Rendon’s time with the organization. 

The math creates a crunch. Rizzo tried to maneuver around the reality when on the dais next to Boras, but the reality is Washington does not want to surpass the competitive balance tax, it does not want to blow out payroll, and it has little wiggle room. Rendon moving on is the now an anchor in the offseason.

Washington operates with a big payroll and pocket-lining approach. A seeming dichotomy. It spends just to the edge. Then, it stops. Not too far to go over the tax. Not too far to appear reckless. But always far enough to say, correctly, the organization is a willing spender, a point Rizzo leaned on when asked about Rendon’s future Monday.

“You look at the history of the Nationals and the way we've positioned ourselves and the details of the contract and the way that it's structured, this ownership group has never shied away from putting the resources together to field a championship-caliber club,” Rizzo said. “I don't see them in any way hindering us from going after the elite players in the game.

“I think that Anthony Rendon is, again, one of the players that is most near and dear to my heart, a guy we've drafted, signed, developed, watched turn into a superstar, playoff success, and a huge part of the world championship run that we went on. So he's a guy that we love.

“The ownership has always given us the resources to field a great team, and we're always trying to win, and we're going to continue to do so.”

That is a 141-word non-answer. 

Washington’s managing principal owner Mark Lerner did not help Rizzo’s position before the Winter Meetings by stating the team could bring back only Rendon or Strasburg -- not both. 

“He did?” Rizzo joked. 

He did. Which, naturally, makes reporters curious about the correlation between a statement from ownership and Rizzo’s operating capacity.

“Well, when you look at those comments, and then you look at the structure of this particular deal and the structure of deals we've had getting up to where we are right now, I think Mark realizes that there's ways to fit players in, there's ways that you can field a championship-caliber roster -- and, again, the resources have always been there, so I don't expect that to change,” Rizzo said.

Here, he hopped into the idea Strasburg’s deferred money -- reportedly $80 million to be paid out within three years of the contract’s expiration -- suggesting the manipulation of those numbers keeps Rendon in play for the organization. It’s not enough. Not based on how the Nationals allocate and spend.

Which means they chose. Strasburg or Rendon. They could only have one, and they signed the homegrown pitcher and thanked Rendon for his time.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

[]