McAdam at the ALCS: Continuing the battle

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McAdam at the ALCS: Continuing the battle

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- You hear it all the time: The playoffs are a whole new season, a break from the long, six-month, 162-game grind, a fresh start after the long journey.

But someone, apparently, forgot to tell Robinson Cano and Josh Hamilton.

At the end of the September, with Cano's New York Yankees and Hamilton's Texas Rangers each headed for the playoffs, they were widely seen as the top two candidates for the American League Most Valuable Player award.

Ballots were due the day after the regular season ended, with Hamilton considered the slight favorite despite missing most of the final month of the season because of two broken ribs.

But even before the award- winner is announced in November, Cano and Hamilton are extending the debate right through the course of the American League Championship Series. Their one-on-one battle forms a fascinating subtext to the ALCS.

The Rangers hold a 3-to-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, and the personal competition between Hamilton and Cano is even more closely fought. Both players have hit four homers in the five games to date; Hamilton boasts an 1.458 OPS while Cano is at a blistering 1.555.

The votes have been counted, but neither Cano nor Hamilton will quit.

"Two dangerous guys on both sides, said Cano's teammate, Curtis Granderson said. Both teams would be happy to have either one. Both teams are happy with the guy they have. You hear the constant chants (of 'MVP . . . MVP') here and in Texas and it's going to be interesting to see who gets it when it's all said and done.

"Both of those guys have lived up to what they have done during the course of the 2010 season and also this postseason. Seems like there's no stopping any of those guys.''

Added Texas manager Ron Washington: "Two pretty good players. Cano hits the ball as hard as anyone, and Hamilton just drives line drives out of the ballpark. You know, you have two quality teams playing here, you never know what's going to happen each day and these are two guys that are difference-makers. And they'll probably be difference-makers as long as we're playing.

Still recovering from the rib injury, Hamilton had a slow start to the postseason, collecting just one RBI in the Rangers' five-game ALDS win over the Tampa Bay Rays. But as the series progressed, Hamilton began seeing the ball better and rediscovered his swing.

That was evident in his very first plate appearance of the ALCS when he smoked a three-run homer, helping the Rangers spring to an early lead they ultimately forfeited thanks to an eighth-inning bullpen malfunction.

Cano, meanwhile, virtually carried what little there was of the Yankees' offense in the first four games. New York got next to nothing from the likes of Alex Rodriguez (no extra-base hits) and Mark Teixeira (no hits, period).

Teixeira is sidelined the rest of the way because of a strained hamstring, forcing Joe Girardi to move Cano from his customary fifth spot in the Yankee lineup to third, Teixeira's normal role.

Where he hits in the batting order, of course, is of little consequence. The Rangers have to contain him somehow, and to date, they've not been very successful.

"He's hitting everything,'' bemoaned Washington at Thursday's workout. "He's hitting breaking balls, balls down and away, hitting balls up. He's just a tremendous hitter.''

If the Yankees can win the next two games here, Cano seems the obvious choice for ALCS MVP. If the Rangers win in Game Seven and Cliff Lee pitches anywhere near as well as he did in Game Three, he's the likely winner; if the Rangers wrap up the series Friday night, Hamilton could well be selected as the ALCS MVP.

Given that the ALCS MVP will almost certain come from the winning team, Cano and Hamilton would undoubtedly prefer that honor to the one from the regular season. This weekend, one of the two will see his season brought to an abrupt halt, while the other moves on to the World Series, the ultimate goal.

But either way, their extended competition continues. What began across the regular season extends now deep into the postseason, a battle waged even after the voting has stopped.

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

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers:

QUOTES

* “(Matt) Bush has tremendous arm, but what we’ve seen . . . I don’t know that there’s anyone that throws a hard enough to get it by Mookie [Betts]. Just lightening bat speed . . . The dugout erupted when he caught it.” - Farrell said on Betts’ ninth inning homerun.

* “It was an outstanding comeback. Just a tremendous character win tonight by our guys. The work that our bullpen did tonight was just outstanding. ” - John Farrell said following the comeback win over Texas.

* “Koji comes back after a couple of rough outings and was vintage Koji here tonight.” - Farrell said on Uehara striking out the side in the ninth to earn the save

* “The homerun. Without that homerun, you don’t get to that wild pitch.” - Jackie Bradley said on what the Red Sox dugout was more excited about in the ninth.

* “Winning, to me that’s everything. I definitely want to go out there and throw the baseball better. I want to win myself. But at the end of the day I want the Red Sox to win.” - David Price said following the Red Sox win, despite his inability to keep the game close throughout the duration of his start.

NOTES

* David Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his fourth inning single. He’s now 12 for his last 36 during his 10-game hitting streak.

* Sandy Leon’s ninth inning double was his 12th hit of the year. He’s now 12-for-22 (.545) to start his 2016 campaign. Four of his hits are doubles and he also has four RBI. 

* David Price’s 2.1-inning start is his shortest with Boston yet. The lefty gave up a season-worst 12 hits -- the most hits he’s given up since May 8th last season in a 6.1 inning start.

* Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homerun marks his third in the last ten games.

* The Red Sox improve to 22-3 when Jackie Bradley Jr. hits a homerun following his 13th homerun of the season.

STARS

1) Mookie Betts

Betts had over three hours between his two base hits, but his second proved the most important. He launched a 2-0 fastball into left center, tying the game in the ninth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley laced a homerun into the right field second deck to put Boston in striking distance at 7-4. In addition to knocking in two runs, he scored in the ninth after he walked, starting the ninth inning comeback. 

3) Koji Uehara

Despite struggling of late, Uehara was called on to close and struck out the side to seal the win. He was the final piece of the 6.2 innings of relief from the bullpen that came in one of Boston’s biggest wins of the year.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

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First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

First impressions of the Boston Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Texas Rangers:

Boston’s offense is always in striking distance.

The Red Sox had an uphill battle from the get-go thanks to David Price’s tough outing.

But somehow they took advantage of Texas’ equally bad pitching—that just happened to be more spread out than Boston’s bad pitching.

If Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t earn a walk, or Sandy Leon doesn’t fight tooth and nail for a two-out double in the ninth, that Mookie Betts homerun can’t happen.

The Red Sox need another long outing from Steven Wright.

Obviously they’d prefer a strong performance -- but the knuckler may need to bite the bullet if he’s off Saturday night.

Boston’s bullpen has been used and abused of late, and needs some rest following the Chicago series and a 2.1 inning outing from Price.

Price continues to struggle against the Rangers in his career.

Even when he was able to walk out of the first with just the one run after a bases loaded double play, but couldn’t clamp down with two outs.

The biggest reason he struggled wasn’t his velocity—although it seemed down most of the night—but his location. He left a lot of pitches up in the zone and Texas is not the team you can do that with.

Although Price was bound to have a rough start, this start went worse than anyone could’ve anticipated. To say this was a bad start is putting it nicely.

Texas gave him a nice wake-up call. He still has room to grow.

Matt Barnes had a solid performance.

It wasn’t his best, but given the situation, he did well. First off, the Rangers are a very hot team and swing early in the count. Barnes left the ball up time after times, but only surrendered the one run.

Additionally, he entered the game far earlier than he’s used to -- in the midst of a blowout where his team was on the wrong end. That’s not an easy thing to walk into for a reliever, especially one who’s used to pitching late in tight ballgames.

He gave Boston a chance when the offense started to gain momentum.

Hanley Ramirez’s power continues to show.

Although he’s not hitting at the rate he did to start the year, Ramirez laced another homer against the Rangers Friday night.

This homerun may have been his most impressive, coming on a 1-2 slider away, driving it to straightaway center -- the deepest part of the ballpark.

Boston just saw what they look like when they almost blow games.

All season the talk around the league has been how explosive the Red Sox lineup is.

Well, the Rangers offense is right there with them. The league’s hottest team didn’t waist any time scoring, and had 15 hits before Boston pitching recorded an out in the fifth inning.

Although the Red Sox outslugged Texas late, they saw what a potent offense outside the AL East can do -- and how bad pitching can undo all of that.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar