One thing about the postseason. A player can be struggling at the end of the regular season, then one postseason at bat can make him a hero.
Such is the case with Didi Gregorius in Game 2 of the ALDS. Didi, who was struggling badly at the end of the regular season, and also in Game 1, hit a grand slam that broke Game 2 open, and the Yanks beat the Twins 8-2 to take a two games to none lead into Minnesota on Monday for Game 3 of the best-of-five series.
Masahiro Tanaka continued to be a postseason force, improving his record to 4-2, 1.54 in the postseason. The YES network showed a graph of people with postseason ERAs under Tanaka’s (minimum five starts). That list was headed by Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson and Eddie Plank (although the YES network screwed up. The picture shown was of Lefty Grove, not Eddie Plank). Wild Bill Hallahan was in there too. Koufax, Mathewson and Plank are all hall-of-famers.
The Twins made a curious decision, starting a rookie, Randy Dobnak, making only his SIXTH start in the majors, and who had only 28 1/3 innings of major league experience. This, in Game 2 of the ALDS, in a game you NEED to win to avoid going down 0-2 in a best of five series. Strange decision indeed.
Not only that, the kid got married last Saturday. So his focus lately hasn’t been 100% on baseball.
Tanaka got out of a jam in first, being the back end of a nifty 3-6-1 DP to end the inning. Tanaka helps himself out when he pitches by holding runners on well and also by fielding his position well. Here his fielding helped him out.
The Yanks got to Dobnak early, scoring one run in the first. D.J. LeMahieu led off with a double and Aaron Judge walked. A flyout by Brett Gardner moved D.J. to third. Edwin Encarnacion, looking hot and nothing like a guy just off the IL, singled to make it 1-0 Yanks.
Then came the third inning. The Yankees tied their postseason record by scoring seven runs in the inning.
Judge led off with a single and Gardner walked. Encarnacion singled to load the bases and Giancarlo Stanton hit a SF to make it 2-0. Gleyber Torres singled in a run, 3-0. Gary Sanchez was HBP to reload the bases and then Didi hit his grand slam. 7-0. After Gio Urshela struck out, D.J. walked and Judge singled. Gardner singled to make it 8-0, and the game was basically over.
Tanaka did give up a run in the fourth, and the Twins also got a run off of Jonathan Loaisiga in the ninth.
Judge 2 hits, 2 walks
Encarnacion 2 hits, RBI
Gregorius 2 hits, 4 RBI. Grand slam. (1st by Yankee in postseason since Robbie Cano 2011)
Urshela 2 hits.
Tanaka (WINNER) 5 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 1 W, 7 K. Brilliant.
Kahnle 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 W, 2 K.
Ottavino 1 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 0 W, 1 K.
Lyons 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 W, 2 K.
Loaisiga 1 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 0 W, 2 K.
Yankees’ pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts. Meanwhile, besides getting 11 hits, the Yankees drew 8 walks.
No offense to other good teams in the AL, like Oakland, Tampa Bay and Cleveland (who didn’t make the playoffs despite winning over 90 games) or the Twins, but for months it has appeared that, unless there is an upset, that the ALCS would be the Yankees vs. the Astros.
That possibility became even more of a certainty Saturday night when Houston beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to go up two games to none in their series. Gerrit Cole struck out 15 in 7 2/3 innings. The only pitchers to strike out more in a postseason game were Bob Gibson and Kevin Brown (yeah, I still wretch when I think of Kevin Brown). Houston pitchers combined for 17 strikeouts and Alex Bregman hit a HR.
Cole is a free agent after the season. The Yanks drafted him in 2008 but he went to college instead. The Yanks tried to trade for him but wouldn’t give up Miguel Andujar in the deal. So the interest is clearly there. Cole went 20-5, 2.50 with 326 K this season. He led the AL in ERA and the majors in strikeouts. You can guess how much I want Hal Steinbrenner to break open the piggy bank and sign Cole (who, obviously, won’t come cheap) in this upcoming offseason. Not only to help the Yanks but to hurt Houston.
Can you imagine a rotation of Cole, Severino, Tanaka, Paxton and Happ (sorry to the youngsters).
Cole is 29. A three-time All-Star who will get CYA consideration for the third time this offseason (and who may win it, unless he loses to teammate Justin Verlander). His 162 g. average is 17-7, 3.22, ERA+ 127.
Look at that rotation again. You can buy Happ out after 2020 and maybe a youngster like Deivi Garcia is ready in 2021 (and I didn’t even mention Jordan Montgomery).
8 years, $250 million?
It isn’t my money, obviously. But I can dream about spending Hal’s, can’t I?