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MINNEAPOLIS – Indoors or outdoors, the New York Yankees still own the Minnesota Twins in the playoffs. Mark Teixeira hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the seventh inning and the Yankees rallied to a 6-4 victory Wednesday night in Game 1 of their A.L. division series, the Twins’ 10th straight postseason loss.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Cliff Lee, postseason ace for hire. Picking up where he left off during in a dazzling October run a year ago, Lee shut down the Tampa Bay Rays while outpitching David Price and leading the Texas Rangers to a 5-1 victory Wednesday in the opening game of the A.L. playoffs.
Head-to-head comparisons of the A.L. Central-winning Minnesota Twins and the A.L. wild card- winning New York Yankees: Starting pitching: Twins. The Yankees’ pitching is even thinner than a year ago, when they used only three starters in the postseason. The Twins don’t shape up a whole lot better, but they’re not all in with their ace (Francisco Liriano) as the Yankees are with CC Sabathia.
Head-to-head comparisons of the A.L. East-champion Tampa Bay Rays and the A.L. West-champion Texas Rangers:
Head-to-head comparisons of the N.L. East-champion Philadelphia Phillies and the N.L. Central- champion Cincinnati Reds: Starting pitching: Phillies. Philadelphia changed its aces on the fly, without skipping a beat. The Phillies enter playoffs without 2009 No. 1 Cliff Lee, but ’08 stud Cole Hamels is back on form with Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt lined up alongside him. The Reds don’t really know what they’ll get out of Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto.
NEW YORK – It’s not just the usual suspects in the playoffs this year. Texas, ranked 23rd according to Major League Baseball’s latest payroll figures, won the American League West Division. Tampa Bay, ranked 20th, beat out the high-spending New York Yankees and Boston to win the A.L. East.
Head-to-head comparisons of the N.L. West-champion San Francisco Giants and the N.L. wild card Atlanta Braves: Starting pitching: Giants. They are so good that they will not need Barry Zito, who makes $18.5 million per year. Their depth kept Bruce Bochy from pushing any of his starters too hard (Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain had four 120-pitch starts, none after August), and their starters had a 1.78 ERA in September. The Braves’ rotation is good too, but not Giants good.
Start with playoff newcomers Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum. Throw in rocket-armed rookies Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel. Add a dash from pickups Cliff Lee and Lance Berkman. Mix in banged-up Josh Hamilton and Evan Longoria. Sounds like a pretty tasty October pie. With all the matchups set after Game No. 162 – no tiebreakers necessary this year – baseball launches into the postseason Wednesday.
A day after the New York Mets ended a second straight losing season, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and his father, Fred, the owner, were eager to get their “family business” back on track. The first act: firing manager Jerry Manuel and general manager Omar Minaya. The Mets plan to begin calling candidates right away to replace Minaya. The Wilpons have a habit of hiring from within – Minaya was their senior assistant GM before taking over the Montreal Expos.
SEATTLE – The symmetry of baseball isn’t always beautiful. Ask the Seattle Mariners, who are back where they were two years ago, reeling from 101 losses and looking for a manager.
As the baseball postseason starts its long, chilly journey into Bud Selig’s November, I’m going to ask America a favor – not a big one – in regard to the American League playoffs: Root for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Mike Redmond was in Boston during the weekend, a special guest of the Red Sox at “Mike Lowell Day” – the retirement ceremony for his close friend and one-time Florida Marlins teammate in front of more than 37,000 at Fenway Park. It was substantially more low-key in Spokane on Monday when Redmond made the end of his baseball playing career official at the age of 39 – but his memories were no less gratifying.
Bobby Cox will get one more try in October. No tiebreaker needed. What could’ve turned into a real tangle of a playoff picture became clear Sunday: Cox and his wild-card Atlanta Braves will face the San Francisco Giants, while the San Diego Padres are finished.
SEATTLE – Nobody with the Seattle Mariners was immune from the strain of a 101-loss season that ended Sunday with a 4-3 defeat to the Oakland A’s. But there were three young players in the clubhouse late Sunday afternoon – Justin Smoak, Adam Moore and Michael Saunders – determined to channel what they endured in 2010 into something more enjoyable in 2011.
Sometimes, Joe Maddon wishes he wasn’t so farsighted. All season long as Tampa Bay, New York and Boston slugged it out in the American League East, the Rays’ manager said it would probably come down to the final day of the season.
SEATTLE – With one game remaining, the Seattle Mariners have attached themselves to a couple of numbers that were difficult for anyone to imagine when the season began. Saturday night’s 5-3 loss to the Oakland A’s at Safeco Field left the Mariners with 100 losses.
The San Diego Padres showed up in San Francisco on the verge of elimination, their hitters in a serious funk and plenty of people counting them out. Two dramatic wins and they’re right back in the mix to still win the N.L. West or land the wild card.
Bobby Cox reached behind his sunglasses to dab his eyes a few times Saturday as the Atlanta Braves paid tribute to their longtime manager. The ceremony before the game against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies attracted about 70 former players and coaches, who all wore their white Braves jerseys and sat in the infield.
SEATTLE – The Mariners crept a little closer to the 100-loss mark on Thursday with an 8-1 loss to the Oakland A’s at Safeco Field. The game was forgettable in just about every way for the Mariners, who allowed 16 hits (including two homers), committed two errors, and even had a run-scoring balk for good measure.
Baseball players and owners settled allegations of possible collusion against free agents after the 2008 and 2009 seasons in one of the first acts for the union since Michael Weiner took over from Donald Fehr. Under the deal announced in New York on Thursday, players no longer have to file for free agency but automatically are set free. The exclusive period for teams to negotiate with their free agent-eligible players was cut from the first 15 days after the World Series to five.