Yankees advantage to the ALCS
We’ll start the recap of Monday’s four-game marathon with the last one to be played and the first series to be completed. In typical Yankees-against-Twins fashion, New York easily took care of business in this series and pulled off the sweep. This final game was an incredibly frustrating one for any Twins fans out there as Minnesota had their chances against Luis Severino and the rest of the Yankees pitching staff. Severino’s stuff was fantastic, to be fair, but his command was off. The Twins kept getting guys on base and in scoring position, but nothing happened from there. The most egregious example came in the second when they loaded the bases with nobody out and failed to get even a single run across. At that point it seemed over, and it was. The Yankees would win 5-1 and celebrate on the road as they have now punched their ticket to the ALCS. They last made it in 2017, when they lost to the Astros.
Sox Spin: This stinks! I think most of us saw the series going this way, both because the Twins are apparently physically unable to beat the Yankees and also because New York is the better team. As I’ve said before the only good that can come from the Yankees continuing to advance is that it could make the Red Sox more aggressive in keeping this window going. I’d still rather not see the Yankees advance, though.
Rays force Game Four
I think many people were looking for the Astros to finish off a sweep in the first game on Monday, too. Houston has dominated this series behind absolutely absurd starting pitching and were turning to Zack Greinke on the road for the third game. Everything was lining up for them, but Greinke wasn’t quite himself. Houston actually got on their board first against former Astro Charlie Morton, as José Altuve hit a homer in the opening frame. From there, though, it was all Tampa. They smacked three homers off Greinke and then one more off old friend Wade Miley, and that put them ahead comfortably. In the end, they grabbed a 10-3 win and forced a Game Four that will be played on Tuesday.
Sox Spin: I got nothing on this one. I don’t particularly like either team, but it’s nice we get some baseball on Tuesday.
This series has been an absolute classic with each game really coming down to the wire, and that continued on Monday. It wouldn’t have been right if this one didn’t go five, and Atlanta made sure it happened. Like the Twins, the Braves had a lot of chances in this game but the middle of their lineup couldn’t come through with hits when they needed them. Atlanta did get a three-run fifth punctuated by a two-run homer from Ozzie Albies to put them up one, a lead that would hold into the eighth. There, it was Yadier Molina coming through with a runner on third and one out, hitting a fly ball plenty deep enough to left field for a sacrifice fly to tie things up. The Braves had a chance to answer back in the ninth when leadoff man Ronald Acuña doubled to start the inning, but the middle of the order couldn’t drive him in. Julio Teherán then gave up the winning hit to Molina in the tenth, and that was that. They’ll play a decisive Game Five in Atlanta on Wednesday.
Sox Spin: Like I said, this series has been an absolute classic. There’s not much of a Red Sox spin to put on this one other than our old friend Mark Melancon being left in the bullpen while Teherán blew the game. He has been used a bunch in this series and hasn’t really been perfect, but he’s their top reliever. It was surprising he never even got warm.
Nats force their own Game Five
The Cardinals weren’t the only underdog to force a decisive Game Five. The Nationals had their man on the mound for Monday’s Game Four with Max Scherzer going against the Dodgers, and he came through. Things were a little on the shaky side early, with his command being a little touch and go. The ace settled in in a big way as things went along, though, and his night was punctuated with a huge strikeout to leave the bases loaded to end his outing after seven strong innings. His one mistake was in that first inning when he allowed a home run to Justin Turner. The Nationals struggled to answer back for a while before they tied it in the third. Then, in the fifth, they broke things open with a big four-run rally that included a home run from Ryan Zimmerman to put Washington up four. The Nats held that lead and secured a 6-1 win. They now head to Los Angeles for a Game Five on Wednesday featuring an incredible pitching matchup between Stephen Strasburg and Walker Buehler.
Sox Spin: Watching Zimmerman get that big home run was really special, as this could be the Nationals legend’s final year in a Washington uniform. He has meant so much to that franchise as the guy since they moved to D.C. from Montreal. He deserved that kind of moment. It got me thinking about Dustin Pedroia. It’s not quite an analogous situation since so much of the Zimmerman story is him being the only great player on some lousy teams, but it’s a similar story of two stars whose careers took downward turns too quickly. Zimmerman got his moment on Monday, and could have more in this postseason as a part-time player. It’s unlikely, but I want Pedroia to get his.