McAdam at the ALCS: Rangers blow game, and opportunity

McAdam at the ALCS: Rangers blow game, and opportunity

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In a subdued clubhouse, the Texas Rangers kept saying all the right things in the apparent belief that if they repeated them often enough and earnestly enough, soon they would come to believe their own words.

The Rangers had led the New York Yankees 5-0 after six innings of Game One of the American League Championship Series ,and 5-1 after seven. But then their entire bullpen seemed to implode in the eighth and they were left trying to sift through the remains of a deflating 6-5 loss to the Yankees.

Ron Washington had used five different pitchers in the eighth, but not until the eighth Yankee stepped to the plate that inning did a Texas pitcher record an out.

You've heard of teams willingly trading runs for outs in the late innings. The Rangers engaged in another kind of swap -- pitchers for outs. It was a deal they ultimately lived to regret.

Darren O'Day, one of the handful of Rangers relievers who tripped and fell in the eighth, kept repeating that his team now had six chances to win four games, and put like that, the loss didn't sound quite as catastrophic.

Except that, for the Rangers, it was.

It's hard to imagine a bigger shift than the one that occurred in the eighth.

The Rangers had jumped on CC Sabathia for three runs after just three hitters in the bottom of the first and when Michael Young drove a booming double to right-center in the fourth, Texas was perfectly positioned to grab a 1-0 lead in the series.

Beating Sabathia, the Yankees' ace, in Game One would have been a huge momentum boost. Beating the Yankees for just the second time in 11 postseason tries would have calmed some nerves.

Even with a loss Saturday in Game Two, the Rangers would have been set up to take a 2-to-1 lead with a win from Cliff Lee Monday night in New York, halfway home to the World Series.

Instead, the Rangers' late-inning splat means something entirely different.

They couldn't win a game in which they chased their opponent's best starting pitcher after just four innings. They couldn't end their own postseason home losing streak (now at three and counting) and will be forced to answer questions about failing to win at The Ballpark again Saturday.

A win and they would have been in command of the series, early as it is. A win and perhaps this would have been the game they looked back on as the turning point.

A loss, by contrast, makes their quest that much harder, amping up the degree of difficulty in a series that was already plenty challenging. A loss and the Rangers can't help but wonder, privately, if this is where it got away.

"How bad was this one?'' a reporter asked of Darren Oliver, who contributed to the relief meltdown by walking the only two hitters he faced.

"The loss or how we lost it?'' responded Oliver, offering up a multiple-choice answer.

Oliver's answer was revealing. It wasn't just the final score that sat uncomfortably in the Rangers' guts; it was how that score came about.

Had Sabathia stifled them and tossed a shutout, it wouldn't have been as devastating. But they had climbed on Sabathia. They had already done the hard part.

"We should have won that game,'' said Oliver, a veteran of eight different teams across 17 major-league seasons. "Obviously, we thought we had this one. If we tried to do what we did in the eighth inning the next time out, it wouldn't happen.''

Others sounded the notion that, with Game Two starting at 3 p.m. Central time Saturday afternoon, the Rangers would have precious little time to ruminate about this defeat.

"Dude,'' said an exasperated C.J. Wilson, who limited the Yankees to a single run over the first six innings, "it's just one game.''

But in the aftermath of one that got away, it was hard not to feel that the Rangers had already let the ALCS, barely underway, get away from them, too.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia is no stranger to injuries. That's a big reason why he's no longer a stranger to the sometimes peculiar practices of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

In an interview on WEEI's "Bradfo Show," Pedroia told Rob Bradford that he's been taking cues from the five-time Super Bowl-winning QB to help extend his playing career and make his body healthier and more durable.

“I understand what he does and know what he does. I think it’s awesome,” Pedroia told Bradford. “There’s a reason why he’s successful at his age (39), and he looks better now than he did when he first came to the league. You have to be smarter as you get older and learn different styles -- the way to train and the way you take care of your body to be able to perform and stay on the field. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing. He’s definitely got that figured out.”

Pedroia, of course, played the entire 2013 World Series-winning season with a torn ligament in his thumb. He's battled through various other lower body and hand injuries over the past few seasons, as well. But in 2016, he had his best season in recent memory, posting his highest OPS since 2011, as WEEI notes.

Part of that is with his own take on the Brady approach -- which focuses more on pliability and resistance training than extensive, heavy weight lifting -- and a healthier overall lifestyle, something Brady is notoriously infamous for having.

"There’s tons of ways to take care of your body. It’s not just get in the weight room and throw weights around,” Pedroia explained. “As you get older, the human body can’t take the pounding if you’re going in there and power lifting. When you’re younger, you can handle some of that. But as you get older, you got to be smarter. Sometimes less is more -- whether that’s weight or reps or whatever. You’ve just got to be smart. And eating wise, that’s a big part of recovery. If you put the right foods in your body, you’ll heal faster if you’re injured or recover faster. It’s like a car, man. Put bad gas in, bro. It’s not going to be the same as good gas.”

He hopes the approach can, at the very least, keep him moving for quite some time.

“I plan on living until I’m 100," he said. "So we’re not even halfway home."

Hanley Ramirez's shoulder already a concern for Red Sox heading into WBC

Hanley Ramirez's shoulder already a concern for Red Sox heading into WBC

Another year, another injury concern for Hanley Ramirez. This time, though, it's a bit more complicated.

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell told the media Monday that Ramirez hadn't played any first base during spring training yet due to discomfort in his right throwing shoulder.

“Well, we’re working through ramping up his throwing program,” Farrell said, via WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. “That has taken a little bit more time than anticipated coming in so we’ve got to kind of take that day to day how much we can increase the intensity with the throwing. He’s just working through some soreness with the throwing.”

As Bradford points out, Ramirez and the Red Sox went through the same process last year. Where it differs this time around is Ramirez's scheduled participation in the World Baseball Classic: He's expected to report to Team Domincan Republic on Friday, which means the Red Sox won't be monitoring his every move on the field (though the two training staffs will be communicating daily, also per Bradford).

Ramirez isn't the only first baseman on the roster, with the Cleveland Indians' Carlos Santana there as well. So will Ramirez be jumping into game action anytime soon?

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. They haven’t told me anything,” Ramirez told WEEI.com “I’m just going to go there and see.”