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

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.