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

Time for Red Sox to clear away Clay

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Time for Red Sox to clear away Clay

In our Early Edition production meeting, someone said Clay Buchholz was pitching for his job tonight.

Sorry, not anymore.

As soon as Steven Wright pitched well for the fifth straight time last night, Buchholz's train left the station. It’s time to do with Clay what the Sox did to Panda: Make up an injury, fake a surgery (okay, that’s all a bit of an overstatement with Sandoval) and get him out of the way.

As soon as the White Sox said goodbye to John Danks, we all said the same thing: If Chicago can do it, why can’t Boston? Danks was to start tonight against Buchholz, but the Chisox said "No more" and paid off the final year of his $65 million contract. The Bosox -- haven’t heard that term in a while, have you? -- could do the same with Clay and the $13 million he's owed for this season, plus a $500,000 buyout at the end of the year. 

David Price is the No. 1 starter and eventually he'll be fine. Eduardo Rodriquez gave up three runs in six innings last night for Pawtucket and will soon be ready to take his spot in the No. 2 slot. Then there's my pick to click, Rick Porcello (with a 2.76 ERA), and the previously mentioned Wright with his 1.76 ERA. Wright was supposed to be the odd man out when E-Rod returned, but that’s not happening. So there are your top four starters. And what about Joe Kelly when he comes back? I would rather see Kelly and anyone from Pawtucket pitch in the fifth spot instead of Buchholz and his 6.51 ERA.

Is there any reason to keep Buchholz?  Not that I can see. Clay can throw his second career no-hitter tonight and my feelings won't change.

It’s time to move on from Clay Buchholz.

MacPherson: No sense in shelving Sandoval unless you have to

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MacPherson: No sense in shelving Sandoval unless you have to

Brian MacPherson calls in to Toucher & Rich to speak on the shoulder surgery Pablo Sandoval underwent, which will keep him out of use for the season.

McAdam: Sandoval's surgery just a temporary solution to Sox problem

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McAdam: Sandoval's surgery just a temporary solution to Sox problem

CHICAGO -- His left shoulder surgically repaired, Pablo Sandoval is now out of sight and out of mind for the Red Sox.
     
Travis Shaw, who beat out Sandoval for the third base job in the spring, is showing that the Sox made the right move with his play at third and his strong start at the plate.
     
Shaw may not be a natural third baseman, or even an above-average one. But his range is superior to that of Sandoval and his offensive production strong.
     
The move was addition by subtraction. Disregard the salaries attached to both players: the Red Sox got better -- not worse -- when Shaw became the starter and Sandoval the stand-in.
    
But the notion that the Red Sox have arrived at some permanent solution here is a false one.
     
Yes, Sandoval will be gone from Fenway, exiled to Florida to rehab his shoulder, and perhaps, reshape his physique.
     
But he's not really disappearing. He'll just be in hiding for a few months. And when spring training begins next February, Sandoval will be a problem all over again for the Red Sox.
     
This surgery -- beyond repairing Sandoval's mysteriously injured shoulder - can be seen as kicking the can down the road. Sandoval's not really going away.
     
When 2017 begins, the Red Sox will still owe him $58 million over the next three seasons ($17 million in 2017, $18 million each in 2018 and 2019 and a $5 million option buyout for 2020).
     
For that, the Red Sox will get a player coming off major surgery who's performance has been in decline for several seasons, who can play only one position, and despite nominally being a switch-hitter, can actually only hit lefthanded.
     
What a treasure.
     
Trimming one year of salary off the $95 million mega deal signed by Sandoval helps some, but it's really only a small step. There's still a lot of money owed to a player who will soon turn 30.
     
In the unlikely event that a player with that profile could interest another team, Sandoval will start have to prove that he's healthy next spring. No team is going to take on even a portion of that contract without having it demonstrated that Sandoval's shoulder is in working condition.
     
Could Sandoval then be pawned off elsewhere? Perhaps. But it will require the Red Sox to subsidize a significant portion of that contract to faciliate a trade.
     
Whatever that price may be -- half of the reminaining money? - the Red Sox should pay it. It's clear that Sandoval won't ever be a contrbuting player in Boston.
     
The Red Sox have Shaw, just 25, as their third baseman of the present and future. They have Hanley Ramirez to either handle first base or slide into the DH vacancy to be created by David Ortiz's retirement.
     
If the Sox want Ramirez to remain at first, they could seek a veteran slugger like Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion to fill the DH job.
     
Or, they could have Ramirez move to DH and promote Sam Travis to be their first baseman.
     
Whatever plan they select, there's no role for Sandoval beyond "aging, overpaid, limited role player.''
     
That's not in anyone's best interest. So until the Red Sox find a more permanent solution, don't be fooled: Sandoval remains a burden - financially and otherwise -- who will, eventually, end up elsewhere.