McAdam at the ALCS: Yanks on the brink, Girardi on the hot seat

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McAdam at the ALCS: Yanks on the brink, Girardi on the hot seat

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK -- Five short days ago, the New York Yankees were riding high.

Box score Play by play

They had swatted the Minnesota Twins aside like a bothersome bug in the ALDS, then started defense of their American League pennant with a stirring comeback win on the road against the Texas Rangers.

Now?

Now, they fight for their lives Wednesday afternoon, one misstep away from having their season ended far earlier than they could have imagined.

Their 10-3 loss to Texas in Game Four of the ALCS was plenty ugly, from A.J. Burnett's three-run gopher ball to Bengie Molina in the sixth, to the nasty razzing Joe Giardi got every time one of his bullpen moves backfired, to the fans who, for the second night in a row, emptied the sterile shopping plaza in the Bronx way ahead of schedule.

They trail the Rangers 3-to-1, and frankly, are fortunate the series isn't already over. For that, they have the Rangers' bullpen to thank. Without that collapse by Texas relievers in Game One, the Yanks would have already been swept in a seven-game postseason series for the first time since the 1976 World Series.

They have been badly outplayed and outpitched the entire series. They have led for exactly 4 of the 36 innings played. They've been outscored 30-11 in the series, and since the start of Game Two that figure is 25-5.

Other than trusty Andy Pettitte, they haven't come close to a quality start in the other three games. Not that the problem lies fully with the rotation -- in the last two games alone, their relievers have combined to give up 11 runs in four innings.

When Sergio Mitre is on the mound in the ninth inning two nights in a row, that's usually not a good sign.

It's not just the pitching which has failed them. The Yankees are hitting .198 as a team in the ALCS. Three key stars -- Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira -- are all hitting .133 or lower. And Teixeira, without a hit in this series, won't get a chance to collect his first, having added injury to insult -- he suffered a severe hamstring strain and won't play again until spring training.

Girardi is likely to come under fire for his misplaced faith in Burnett. It's one thing to give him an ALCS start, thus avoiding having to pitch all of his other starters on short rest.

But sticking with Burnett into the sixth, with David Murphy on base representing the go-ahead run, was probably a bit much.

"We like the matchup, A.J. against Molina,'' said Girardi. "We did. And unfortunately, it didn't work out.''

Girardi appeared to get greedy after getting five innings from Burnett with a 3-2 lead. He had Mariano Rivera available for four or five outs, so he wanted to shorten the gap between his starter and his closer.

Then again, as unreliable as Girardi's set-up bunch has been, perhaps there wasn't much of a choice. It's not as if David Robertson or Joba Chamberlain was a lock to slam the door on a Rangers lineup that has clearly found its stroke.

And that, from the Yankees' perspective, is part of the problem. Young and largely untested, the Rangers are seemingly gaining confidence by the inning. If they're intimidated by trying to unseat the defending champs in their own ballpark, they're doing a fine job disguising it.

"They've got a great mojo going right now,'' acknowledged Lance Berkman. "They're a cohesive unit. You can tell they enjoy playing together and they're dangerous. I'm biased towards our lineup, but outside of our lineup, I feel like they've got the best lineup in the game.

"When you have to navigate that and you're not perfect, they can hurt you and they've done that the last couple of nights.''

If the Yankees have to be down and facing the golf course, they at least have CC Sabathia going Wednesday. The Yankees rode Sabathia hard last fall, all the way to World Series title No. 27, but he wasn't sharp in Game One.

At home, however, he's been virtually unbeatable. He needs to be Wednesday, or else the Yankees are going home for the winter, just a week after they seemed destined for another long postseason run.

"As I said,'' restated Girardi, "I believe in this team. We have bounced back many times this year. It's a very resilient, professional bunch and they will be ready to play and you worry about Wednesday and that's it.''

Final score and series status aside, Tuesday wasn't a good day for Girardi. Earlier in the day, the Chicago Cubs made the hiring of interim manager Mike Quade permanent, thus taking away some leverage for Girardi, whose three-year deal is up when the Yankees season is over.

The way things are going, that could come far sooner than anyone anticipated.

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

After ‘tough month,’ Farrell understands speculation on his job status

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After ‘tough month,’ Farrell understands speculation on his job status

BOSTON - With the Red Sox reeling coming off a month in which they went 10-16 and dropped a handful of games in the standings, speculation has recently focused on John Farrell's job security.

Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox' president of baseball operations, told reporters Thursday that Farrell's job status was not a focus and that the entire organization had to perform better. Dombrowski added that it's seldom that one person is responsible for a downturn in play.

"We've come off a tough month and finished a disappointing trip through Texas and Tampa,'' acknowledged Farrell when asked about the chatter regarding his job status. "I can understand the question and the potential speculation that's out there. But our expectation is to win and that doesn't change. The focus daily is that, is to go out and put together an effort to win.      

"My communication with Dave is very consistent. I think he's confident in my focus  and that's to win each and every day. That's where we stand. We're looking forward to  the opportunity to start this final homestand before the [All Star] break, so that gets underway tonight.''

Farrell was also asked about the dichotmy that existed between his own evaluation of David Price's outing Wednesday and Price's own estimation. 

Farrell said post-game that he believed Price "probably had his best stuff of the season, in terms of velocity and in terms of the shape of his secondary pitches.''

Price, who was in full self-flagellation mode, offered a slightly contradictory assessment.

"Changeup, that's probably the worst changeup I've had in a month,'' he said. "Curveball was awful. Can't get my cutter or my slider where I want to. I'm just bad right now.''

Farrell was questioned Friday about the seemingly contradictory analysis.

"The commentary was, here was a guy coming off an outing where he had best velocity he's shown all year -- up to 97 mph,'' said Farrell, "strikes out 10 over six-plus innings. He made some mistakes in the middle of the middle of the plate. But in terms of just raw stuff, I thought he showed a curveball that had much more consistent depth to it than in more recent starts.

So in terms of raw stuff, I thought it was one of his better outings of the year. The execution?

No, that wasn't as good as the game against San Francisco or the game against Seattle.

"Whether that's a differing opinion from someone else? That was just my view of the raw stuff.''

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam

O’Sullivan will return to make start for Red Sox on Sunday

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O’Sullivan will return to make start for Red Sox on Sunday

BOSTON - Sean O'Sullivan -- and not Aaron Wilkerson -- is the Red Sox choice for Sunday's plug-in starter as the Sox search for a temporary replacement for Eduardo Rodriguez's spot in their starting rotation.
      
"That was the recommendation,'' said John Farrell of the choice to go with  O'Sullivan. "Granted, Wilkerson's been throwing the ball well there. But the recommendation was for Sean to come back here and pitch on Sunday.''
      
O'Sullivan made two starts earlier this season, allowing four runs in six innings to the New York Yankees on May 10 before being battered for six runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innings against Houston five days later.
      
Overall, O'Sullivan is 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts for the Pawsox this season.
      
Wilkerson, who was pitching in independent ball just two years ago, is 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA in eight appearances -- seven starts -- at Pawtucket.
      
O'Sullivan's stay with the Red Sox is expcted to be brief, since the Red Sox can through next week and first 10 days of the second half without a fifth starter.
      
"It's likely that spot will come up just once,'' confirmed Farrell. "With next Thursday's off-day, we've got a chance to make sure that [Rick] Porcello and [David] Price get on the mound before the break and that's the direction we're leaining in right now.''

Holt 'definitely happy' to be back with Red Sox

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Holt 'definitely happy' to be back with Red Sox

BOSTON -- After an absence of more than a month, Brock Holt was back in the Red Sox lineup Friday night, playing left field and batting sixth. Holt had been sidelined with a concussion he suffered in early May in a game against Oakland.

"It's good to see Brock back in the lineup,'' said John Farrell. "It will certainly allow for not only a left-handed bat in left field but also the ability to somewhat deepen our bench.''

"I feel good,' said Holt. "I've been working to get back here. Obviously, it took a lot longer than I had hoped, but I'm definitely happy to be back.''

This was the second concussion suffered by Holt, who also incurred one in September 2014. Holt was originally placed on the seven-day concussion DL on May 20 before later being transferred to the 15-day DL.

While on a rehab assignment in Pawtucket, Holt was still experiencing some slight post-concussion symptoms, but he and the club believe he's ready to return.

"There's still a little bit more to improve on,'' said Holt. "But I'm definitely feeling a lot better. In my rehab games down there, I was able to put together good at-bats and hit some balls hard, so that definitely gave me some confidence to take the next step.''

Holt said he occasionally feels "a little light-headedness. Sometimes it comes and goes; sometimes I don't feel it all. It's definitely a lot better than where it was and I feel confident in taking the next step and to come up here and contribute.''

Holt has been told the remaining symptoms will eventually dissipate.

"Then I'll be normal,'' he said. "It's just part of the process. Getting into rehab games was a big step. Now, getting back here is the next step. As long as I just keep doing what I'm doing, it should be normal.''

It's uncertain how regularly Holt can play, but the Red Sox will ease him back into an everyday routine.

"He'll be checked on daily,'' said Farrell, "The progression that he's come through, we know there's going to be diminshing symptoms as we go along. The plan right now is for him to play tonight and Sunday against two right-handers. Beyond that, we'll continue to monitor his availability and check on him every day.''