Blue Jays spring training

A look at the Toronto Blue Jays as they prepare for the 2013 baseball season.

Police recover stolen Blue Jays World Series ring

Cops recover 2 Blue Jays rings, including 1992 World Series ring, stolen in 1994

Free-agent starters the Blue Jays should consider

Free-agent starters the Blue Jays should consider

Free-agent starters the Blue Jays should consider

Free-agent starters the Blue Jays should consider

Stroman still 'gets chills' watching Bautista bat flip

Two years ago, Jose Bautista provided baseball with one of its most iconic moments and Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman relived it on social media.

Stroman still 'gets chills' watching Bautista bat flip

Two years ago, Jose Bautista provided baseball with one of its most iconic moments and Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman relived it on social media.

Stroman still 'gets chills' watching Bautista bat flip

Two years ago, Jose Bautista provided baseball with one of its most iconic moments and Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman relived it on social media.

Stroman still 'gets chills' watching Bautista bat flip

Two years ago, Jose Bautista provided baseball with one of its most iconic moments and Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman relived it on social media.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees

Sep 29, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees

Sep 29, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Free-agent middle infielders the Blue Jays should consider

Free-agent middle infielders the Blue Jays should consider

Free-agent middle infielders the Blue Jays should consider

Free-agent middle infielders the Blue Jays should consider

John Farrell Ran Out of Time Under the Current Red Sox Regime

The five-year reign of John Farrell as Red Sox manager is over. On Wednesday morning, Boston announced that the 55-year-old Farrell was done, two days after the Astros knocked his team out of the postseason in the Division Series—the second straight first-round exit for the Red Sox. The firing ends what had been an inconsistent tenure for Farrell, who won the World Series in his first year at Fenway and back-to-back AL East titles, but also oversaw two last-place finishes as well as those consecutive ALDS defeats.

“I think sometimes change can be better, and that’s why we decided to move forward with this change,” said team president Dave Dombrowski in a Wednesday morning press conference.

Poached away from the Blue Jays despite compiling a 73–89 record for Toronto in 2012, Farrell started his Boston career with a bang, taking a team that had lost 93 games under the despised Bobby Valentine and delivering the franchise its third World Series title in nine seasons. But the Red Sox were unable to get back to those heights, losing 91 games in 2014 and 84 in ’15. Even when the team rebounded to finish first in the division in ’16 and ’17, it was unable to do much in the playoffs, falling to the Indians last year in a sweep and the Astros in four games this October.

You would imagine that a championship and three AL East titles in five years would be enough to earn a manager a lifetime of job security, but that was never going to be the case for Farrell under Dombrowski, who inherited the manager when he took over the front office in 2015. Hardly the most patient of executives, it’s likely that Dombrowski would have let Farrell go that offseason to choose his own skipper—except that Farrell was, at the time, undergoing chemotherapy to combat lymphoma. No matter how much you may want your own man, the optics of firing a guy while he’s fighting cancer are as bad as they get. And while Farrell’s 2016 turnaround probably bought him some more time as well, division titles can only take you so far if you can’t deliver more than that, especially in Boston.

Dombrowski declined to address specifically why he fired Farrell but did say this October’s performance was not the reason. “It’s not a snap decision that says, okay, we lost in the postseason,” he told reporters, adding, “You’re always thinking about how to get better in every facet.” Beyond the loss to Houston, it probably didn’t help Farrell’s cause that every member of a young and talented offense regressed this season along with 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. Farrell made the best out of a tough situation by effectively managing his bullpen, but there was plenty of carping from both fans and media about his slow hook with starters. The down year offensively (Boston finished 26th in baseball in home runs a year after ranking ninth) made life that much harder.

Things didn’t seem any happier in the clubhouse. Back in April, the Red Sox got involved in a pointless and embarrassing beanball war with the Orioles after Manny Machado slid hard into Dustin Pedroia—one that Pedroia loudly disavowed as his idea. In June, David Price twice made a scene, first by yelling at a reporter after a game, then by lighting into NESN broadcaster Dennis Eckersley during a team flight over what he perceived to be negative on-air comments about a fellow starter. And in September, the team was punished by MLB after sign-stealing allegations made their way to the league office courtesy the Yankees—a crime that Farrell insisted he had no idea was going on.

Managing a clubhouse is no easy thing, and last year’s retirement of veteran superstar David Ortiz—the heart and soul of the Red Sox for over a decade—robbed Farrell of his best and most important team leader. But for a manager lauded for his communication skills, that level of public strife and unhappiness is shocking to see and ultimately falls on him, and likely contributed to his downfall as much as any perceived tactical failings.

The trick now for Dombrowski will be finding someone who can do better. For whatever Farrell’s mistakes, he had guided his team to the playoffs three times in five years and mostly avoided controversy in arguably the most media-difficult city in the game. But for as tough a job as Boston offers, Dombrowski’s next manager will inherit one of baseball’s best on-field setups. Boston has a wealth of stars under 30, led by Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers; Chris Sale and Price atop the rotation; elite closer Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen; and a $200 million payroll that the front office likely won’t be afraid to expand in free agency after a disappointing season.

The challenges are plenty, though. That manager will have to find a way to unite a seemingly fractious clubhouse; help those young players get back on track offensively; keep Price healthy and ideally reduce the reliance on Sale, who looked gassed in his ALDS Game 1 start. And he’ll have to do all this while handling the pressures of being a win-now club in the AL’s toughest division with the second-place Yankees poised to be even better next year and the Astros and Indians both expected to be excellent once again.

No manager ever gets a long leash in Boston. If Farrell wants proof, he can go talk to Terry Francona, who won two championships for the Red Sox but was still given the boot. According to the Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, “no level of team success [this season] would have prevented” Farrell being fired (which raises the question of what Dombrowski would have done had his manager won the World Series). But as knee-jerk as this move may seem, Farrell was always going to be under the gun with Dombrowski. That’ll likely be true for Boston’s next manager as well, fairly or unfairly.

John Farrell Ran Out of Time Under the Current Red Sox Regime

The five-year reign of John Farrell as Red Sox manager is over. On Wednesday morning, Boston announced that the 55-year-old Farrell was done, two days after the Astros knocked his team out of the postseason in the Division Series—the second straight first-round exit for the Red Sox. The firing ends what had been an inconsistent tenure for Farrell, who won the World Series in his first year at Fenway and back-to-back AL East titles, but also oversaw two last-place finishes as well as those consecutive ALDS defeats.

“I think sometimes change can be better, and that’s why we decided to move forward with this change,” said team president Dave Dombrowski in a Wednesday morning press conference.

Poached away from the Blue Jays despite compiling a 73–89 record for Toronto in 2012, Farrell started his Boston career with a bang, taking a team that had lost 93 games under the despised Bobby Valentine and delivering the franchise its third World Series title in nine seasons. But the Red Sox were unable to get back to those heights, losing 91 games in 2014 and 84 in ’15. Even when the team rebounded to finish first in the division in ’16 and ’17, it was unable to do much in the playoffs, falling to the Indians last year in a sweep and the Astros in four games this October.

You would imagine that a championship and three AL East titles in five years would be enough to earn a manager a lifetime of job security, but that was never going to be the case for Farrell under Dombrowski, who inherited the manager when he took over the front office in 2015. Hardly the most patient of executives, it’s likely that Dombrowski would have let Farrell go that offseason to choose his own skipper—except that Farrell was, at the time, undergoing chemotherapy to combat lymphoma. No matter how much you may want your own man, the optics of firing a guy while he’s fighting cancer are as bad as they get. And while Farrell’s 2016 turnaround probably bought him some more time as well, division titles can only take you so far if you can’t deliver more than that, especially in Boston.

Dombrowski declined to address specifically why he fired Farrell but did say this October’s performance was not the reason. “It’s not a snap decision that says, okay, we lost in the postseason,” he told reporters, adding, “You’re always thinking about how to get better in every facet.” Beyond the loss to Houston, it probably didn’t help Farrell’s cause that every member of a young and talented offense regressed this season along with 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. Farrell made the best out of a tough situation by effectively managing his bullpen, but there was plenty of carping from both fans and media about his slow hook with starters. The down year offensively (Boston finished 26th in baseball in home runs a year after ranking ninth) made life that much harder.

Things didn’t seem any happier in the clubhouse. Back in April, the Red Sox got involved in a pointless and embarrassing beanball war with the Orioles after Manny Machado slid hard into Dustin Pedroia—one that Pedroia loudly disavowed as his idea. In June, David Price twice made a scene, first by yelling at a reporter after a game, then by lighting into NESN broadcaster Dennis Eckersley during a team flight over what he perceived to be negative on-air comments about a fellow starter. And in September, the team was punished by MLB after sign-stealing allegations made their way to the league office courtesy the Yankees—a crime that Farrell insisted he had no idea was going on.

Managing a clubhouse is no easy thing, and last year’s retirement of veteran superstar David Ortiz—the heart and soul of the Red Sox for over a decade—robbed Farrell of his best and most important team leader. But for a manager lauded for his communication skills, that level of public strife and unhappiness is shocking to see and ultimately falls on him, and likely contributed to his downfall as much as any perceived tactical failings.

The trick now for Dombrowski will be finding someone who can do better. For whatever Farrell’s mistakes, he had guided his team to the playoffs three times in five years and mostly avoided controversy in arguably the most media-difficult city in the game. But for as tough a job as Boston offers, Dombrowski’s next manager will inherit one of baseball’s best on-field setups. Boston has a wealth of stars under 30, led by Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers; Chris Sale and Price atop the rotation; elite closer Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen; and a $200 million payroll that the front office likely won’t be afraid to expand in free agency after a disappointing season.

The challenges are plenty, though. That manager will have to find a way to unite a seemingly fractious clubhouse; help those young players get back on track offensively; keep Price healthy and ideally reduce the reliance on Sale, who looked gassed in his ALDS Game 1 start. And he’ll have to do all this while handling the pressures of being a win-now club in the AL’s toughest division with the second-place Yankees poised to be even better next year and the Astros and Indians both expected to be excellent once again.

No manager ever gets a long leash in Boston. If Farrell wants proof, he can go talk to Terry Francona, who won two championships for the Red Sox but was still given the boot. According to the Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, “no level of team success [this season] would have prevented” Farrell being fired (which raises the question of what Dombrowski would have done had his manager won the World Series). But as knee-jerk as this move may seem, Farrell was always going to be under the gun with Dombrowski. That’ll likely be true for Boston’s next manager as well, fairly or unfairly.

Free agent outfielders the Blue Jays should consider

Free agent outfielders the Blue Jays should consider

Free agent outfielders the Blue Jays should consider

Free agent outfielders the Blue Jays should consider

Red Sox Fire Manager John Farrell

The Red Sox have fired manager John Farrell, the team announced Wednesday.

Farrell, who did not address the media after Boston’s playoff elimination at the hands of the Astros this week, was under contract through the end of the 2018 season.

Boston won the AL East for the second consecutive time this season, the first time in franchise history the club accomplished that feat, with its second straight 93-win campaign. This year marked the second straight ALDS exit for the Red Sox, though.

Farrell, a former Red Sox pitching coach, was hired as manager in 2013 after two seasons managing the Blue Jays. He led the team to a World Series victory in his first season at the helm.

Farrell’s tenure in Boston was tumultuous, though, with two last-place finishes sandwiched between division titles. The Red Sox’ fifth-place finishes in 2014 and 2015 marked the first time they finished last in consecutive years since their six straight years in the cellar from 1925 to 1930. The club picked up Farrell’s contract option after the 2014 season, which included a team option for 2018. The 2018 option was picked up before the start of this season.

FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2008, file photo, Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach Gary Denbo throws batting practice during the team's first official spring training baseball workout in Dunedin, Fla. Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter has begun restructuring his front office by hiring a former mentor, Gary Denbo, as vice president of scouting and player development. Denbo will oversee player development and amateur scouting. (Mike Carlson/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2008, file photo, Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach Gary Denbo throws batting practice during the team's first official spring training baseball workout in Dunedin, Fla. Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter has begun restructuring his front office by hiring a former mentor, Gary Denbo, as vice president of scouting and player development. Denbo will oversee player development and amateur scouting. (Mike Carlson/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Astros Mount Huge Eighth-Inning Comeback to Knock Out Red Sox, Advance to ALCS

A series that seemed so desperately lopsided at first finally got interesting, but in the end the Red Sox could not do enough to stave off elimination at the hands of the Astros. Boston held a lead from the sixth inning of Game 4 of the ALDS until the eighth, but an Alex Bregman home run tied the game and a Josh Reddick RBI single won it. Even some theatrics at the end could not prevent Houston from taking the game 5–4 and the series 3–1. It’s on to the winner of Cleveland–New York for the Astros.

1. What a Relief!

Today was a tale of two aces as Red Sox manager John Farrell called on Chris Sale to begin the fourth inning after starter Rick Porcello faltered … and then, a few minutes later, Astros manager A.J. Hinch did the same with Justin Verlander. Starters have struggled this postseason—across the 13 playoff games thus far, they have averaged 4 innings pitched and an ERA of 5.61—and teams have been forced to deploy their bullpens creatively to plug the gaps. In some cases that has included bringing in other starters on their days off to work in super-relief roles. That’s what happened today, with mixed results: Sale allowed two runs—including the tying and go-ahead scores—and struck out six in 4 2/3 innings. Verlander allowed what at the time was a go-ahead home run, but recovered to go 2 2/3 otherwise scoreless frames.

2. Gu Get 'Em

After a successful first few games, Astros first baseman Yuliesky Gurriel continued to impress on Monday. He got off to a slow start in 2016, but had an OPS+ of 124 in the regular season this year and has only gotten hotter. He hit .529 in the series and went 3-for-5 today; baseballs off his bat seemed to skitter away from Boston gloves, as happened in the sixth, when a grounder got by Devers for two bases. A 33-year-old from Cuba who defected in February 2016 along with his brother, Gurriel was regarded as the best player on the island for years. The general feeling when he and Lourdes, now 23 and in the Blue Jays’ system, came over was that Lourdes had the brighter future ahead of him, but so far Yuli has done everything the Astros could have hoped for when they gave him $47.5 million over five years last July.

3. Benintending to Do That

This had been a rough series for the Red Sox’ young guns. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who turned 25 this month, was hitless entering the day. Leftfielder Andrew Benintendi, 23, was 2-for-12. Even 20-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers, who jump-started the team when he was called up in July and jump-started them again yesterday with a third-inning home run that gave them their first lead of the series, looked—in Hinch’s words—excitable. Today all three looked good: Bogaerts hit a home run in the first inning and walked in the fifth, Benintendi hit what at the time was the go-ahead home run in the fifth and Devers was 2-for-4 with a walk and a ninth-inning inside-the-park home run to put them game within one. In the end it just wasn’t enough.

Masahiro Tanaka and Carlos Carrasco Turn In Rare Pitchers' Duel for ALDS Game 3

NEW YORK—In an October short on pitchers’ duels and long on top starters getting tarred and feathered, the Indians’ Carlos Carrasco and the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka paired for a taut thriller on Sunday night. On the brink of being swept in the best-of-five Division Series, the Yankees summoned a 1-0 victory thanks to Tanaka’s seven brilliant shutout innings, a seventh-inning solo homer by Greg Bird off reliever Andrew Miller, and a five-out save by Aroldis Chapman, the longest of his postseason career.

“You can’t ask for more than what he did tonight,” said manager Joe Girard of Tanaka’s outing. “On a night that one run wins it, he didn’t give up any.”

Elsewhere this postseason, Tanaka’s peers have given up plenty. The Red Sox’ Chris Sale, the Indians’ Corey Kluber and the Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke, all bona fide aces, failed to make it through five innings, while the Yankees’ Luis Severino couldn’t make it out of the first, and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, while providing length, tied a career high by surrendering four home runs. Including Sunday afternoon’s duds by Houston’s Brad Peacock and Boston’s Doug Fister, postseason starters had combined for a 10.97 ERA in the first inning, and a 6.50 ERA overall while averaging just 4.0 innings per turn, with only six out of 22 starters turning in six innings or more, and 13 failing to make it through five.

Tanaka and Carrasco proved to be the exceptions, and both were particularly well-suited to the task, at least going by the statistical splits, some of them in smallish samples. The Yankees’ starter had been much more successful at home this year (3.22 ERA) than on the road (6.48), and at night (3.93) rather than the day (6.99). The Indians’ starter owns the majors’ third-lowest ERA on the road over the past three seasons (2.52), behind only Kershaw and Max Scherzer. In four previous career starts at Yankee Stadium from 2013-16, he had put up a 1.40 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 25 ? innings.

Carrasco missed the Indians’ World Series run last year due to a fractured metacarpal suffered on Sept. 17, and had never pitched in a postseason game. Tanaka’s previous postseason experience stateside consisted of a solid five-inning, two-run effort in the Yankees’ 2015 AL Wild Card Game loss to the Astros.

“I came here to pitch in these type of games,” said the 28-year-old Japanese righty.

The Yankees could be forgiven for wondering just what kind of game they would get after an erratic season during which Tanaka turned in career worsts in ERA (4.74) and home run rate (1.8 per nine), well off the marks of his previous three major league seasons (3.12 and 1.1, respectively). He was even worse in the first half, getting lit for a 5.47 ERA, and while he trimmed that to 3.77 in the second half thanks in part to a strikeout-to-walk ratio that improved from 3.8 to 6.5, he gave up seven earned runs in two separate September outings.

Even so, Tanaka closed the regular season with a dominant 15-strikeout performance against the Blue Jays on September 29. Though not quite as prolific with the K’s on Sunday night, he induced 21 swings and misses, a total he surpassed just four times in the regular season. None were bigger than the sinkers in the dirt blocked by catcher Gary Sanchez in the fourth inning. With the season hanging by a thread, the pair teamed to extricate the Yankees following Jason Kipnis’ one-out triple, just the second of three hits Tanaka allowed.

Kipnis had golfed an inside fastball to rightfield, where Aaron Judge appeared to have a bead on the ball, but mis-timed his jump. The ball hit off the heel of his glove and then caromed off the wall as Kipnis took third. “Off the bat, I didn’t think I had a chance,” said Judge. “But as it got closer, I was right there. I just didn’t make the play.”

With the number three and four hitters in the lineup up next, namely Jose Ramirez and Jay Bruce—an MVP candidate and the series’ offensive star to date, respectively—Tanaka bore down and struck out both swinging at low sinkers. Sanchez, much maligned for his blocking abilities, smothering five pitches in the dirt over the course of the two plate appearances, and threw to first to first to complete the Ramirez strikeout.

In the sixth inning, Judge repaid Tanaka for getting him off the hook by robbing Francisco Lindor of a two-run homer. With a perfectly timed leap and the full extension of his massive 6’7” body, he hauled in the fly ball and deprived noted souvenir hawk Zack Hample of baseball number ten-thousand and something:

“That’s maybe the best I’ve seen him all season,” said Sanchez of Tanaka’s performance. “The difference is his split. He kept it low in the zone, he never gave in, never left it in the middle of the plate, made it really difficult for the hitters to hit it.”

Via Brooks Baseball, Tanaka got 15 strikes and five swings and misses among his 23 splitters, and 20 strikes and eight swings and misses among his 27 sliders. Though he only threw 12 sinkers, nine resulted in strikes and seven via swings and misses. He didn’t need more than 16 pitches in any inning, and thanks to a pair of double plays, faced two batters over the minimum for his seven innings.

Carrasco was every bit as brilliant as Tanaka, delivering zeroes for 5 ? innings. The 30-year-old righty, who ranked among the league’s top half-dozen in several key categories including ERA (3.29) and WAR (5.4),

didn’t allow his first hit until Didi Gregorius singled in the fourth inning, and through five innings had whiffed seven. But with two outs in the sixth, he walked Judge on five pitches, then loaded the bases via a hard-hit single by Sanchez and a walk of Gregorius, also on five pitches. With his pitch count at 85, manager Terry Francona pulled him in favor of Miller, who had thrown 2? scoreless innings over the first two games. Miller needed just two pitches to get out of that jam, inducing Starlin Castro to hit a routine popup to Lindor at shortstop.

Carrasco allowed just three hits and three walks, netting 18 swings and misses, including eight on his changeup and four apiece on his curve and slider; the two breaking balls accounted for six of his seven strike threes.

It would not have been a surprise had Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled Tanaka after six, particularly with the 3-4-5 hitters due up in the seventh. But two days after being stung by criticism that he pulled starter CC Sabathia too early after 77 pitches—the first of several decisions that backfired, to say the least—Girardi stuck with his starter, whose pitch count was at 78. Tanaka rewarded Girardi’s trust by retiring the side in order, striking out Bruce for the third time on the night, his seventh and final whiff.

Miller, so effective last October after being acquired from the Yankees in late July, wasn’t up to the task on Sunday. Facing Bird to lead off the seventh inning, he left a 1-1 four-seamer in the middle of the plate, and the 24-year-old first baseman launched a towering 396-foot solo homer to rightfield as the crowd of 48,614 erupted in catharsis. It was Bird’s second homer of the postseason, the latest shot of redemption for a trying season in which he was almost completely unproductive before returning from right ankle surgery in late August. It was just the second home run Miller surrendered to a left-handed batter all season.

After Tanaka departed, Girardi called upon David Robertson, who had thrown a total of five innings and 77 pitches in his two previous appearances this postseason. After he issued a one-out walk to Michael Brantley, Girardi turned to Chapman, who struck out pinch-hitter Yan Gomes and number nine hitter Giovanny Urshela to end the eighth, and then Lindor to start the ninth. But even as he dialed his fastball well into the triple digits—as high as 104 mph on one foul ball—Kipnis and Ramirez collected back-to-back one-out singles. Chapman then fell behind Bruce 2-0 before getting the 30-year-old slugger to swing at three straight 100 and 101 fastballs on the outer half of the plate for his fourth strikeout of the night, the ol’ golden sombrero. After going to a full count against Carlos Santana, he induced a game-ending fly ball.

In all, Chapman threw 34 pitches, 30 of which were fastballs of at least 100 mph. Asked if he reached back for a little bit more in an elimination game, “This is a decisive game. You can’t hold back. Everything you have, you have to go out there and give it all. Without tonight, there’s no tomorrow.”

For the Yankees, thanks to their stellar pitching, there will be at least one more tomorrow this year.

Masahiro Tanaka and Carlos Carrasco Turn In Rare Pitchers' Duel for ALDS Game 3

NEW YORK—In an October short on pitchers’ duels and long on top starters getting tarred and feathered, the Indians’ Carlos Carrasco and the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka paired for a taut thriller on Sunday night. On the brink of being swept in the best-of-five Division Series, the Yankees summoned a 1-0 victory thanks to Tanaka’s seven brilliant shutout innings, a seventh-inning solo homer by Greg Bird off reliever Andrew Miller, and a five-out save by Aroldis Chapman, the longest of his postseason career.

“You can’t ask for more than what he did tonight,” said manager Joe Girard of Tanaka’s outing. “On a night that one run wins it, he didn’t give up any.”

Elsewhere this postseason, Tanaka’s peers have given up plenty. The Red Sox’ Chris Sale, the Indians’ Corey Kluber and the Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke, all bona fide aces, failed to make it through five innings, while the Yankees’ Luis Severino couldn’t make it out of the first, and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, while providing length, tied a career high by surrendering four home runs. Including Sunday afternoon’s duds by Houston’s Brad Peacock and Boston’s Doug Fister, postseason starters had combined for a 10.97 ERA in the first inning, and a 6.50 ERA overall while averaging just 4.0 innings per turn, with only six out of 22 starters turning in six innings or more, and 13 failing to make it through five.

Tanaka and Carrasco proved to be the exceptions, and both were particularly well-suited to the task, at least going by the statistical splits, some of them in smallish samples. The Yankees’ starter had been much more successful at home this year (3.22 ERA) than on the road (6.48), and at night (3.93) rather than the day (6.99). The Indians’ starter owns the majors’ third-lowest ERA on the road over the past three seasons (2.52), behind only Kershaw and Max Scherzer. In four previous career starts at Yankee Stadium from 2013-16, he had put up a 1.40 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 25 ? innings.

Carrasco missed the Indians’ World Series run last year due to a fractured metacarpal suffered on Sept. 17, and had never pitched in a postseason game. Tanaka’s previous postseason experience stateside consisted of a solid five-inning, two-run effort in the Yankees’ 2015 AL Wild Card Game loss to the Astros.

“I came here to pitch in these type of games,” said the 28-year-old Japanese righty.

The Yankees could be forgiven for wondering just what kind of game they would get after an erratic season during which Tanaka turned in career worsts in ERA (4.74) and home run rate (1.8 per nine), well off the marks of his previous three major league seasons (3.12 and 1.1, respectively). He was even worse in the first half, getting lit for a 5.47 ERA, and while he trimmed that to 3.77 in the second half thanks in part to a strikeout-to-walk ratio that improved from 3.8 to 6.5, he gave up seven earned runs in two separate September outings.

Even so, Tanaka closed the regular season with a dominant 15-strikeout performance against the Blue Jays on September 29. Though not quite as prolific with the K’s on Sunday night, he induced 21 swings and misses, a total he surpassed just four times in the regular season. None were bigger than the sinkers in the dirt blocked by catcher Gary Sanchez in the fourth inning. With the season hanging by a thread, the pair teamed to extricate the Yankees following Jason Kipnis’ one-out triple, just the second of three hits Tanaka allowed.

Kipnis had golfed an inside fastball to rightfield, where Aaron Judge appeared to have a bead on the ball, but mis-timed his jump. The ball hit off the heel of his glove and then caromed off the wall as Kipnis took third. “Off the bat, I didn’t think I had a chance,” said Judge. “But as it got closer, I was right there. I just didn’t make the play.”

With the number three and four hitters in the lineup up next, namely Jose Ramirez and Jay Bruce—an MVP candidate and the series’ offensive star to date, respectively—Tanaka bore down and struck out both swinging at low sinkers. Sanchez, much maligned for his blocking abilities, smothering five pitches in the dirt over the course of the two plate appearances, and threw to first to first to complete the Ramirez strikeout.

In the sixth inning, Judge repaid Tanaka for getting him off the hook by robbing Francisco Lindor of a two-run homer. With a perfectly timed leap and the full extension of his massive 6’7” body, he hauled in the fly ball and deprived noted souvenir hawk Zack Hample of baseball number ten-thousand and something:

“That’s maybe the best I’ve seen him all season,” said Sanchez of Tanaka’s performance. “The difference is his split. He kept it low in the zone, he never gave in, never left it in the middle of the plate, made it really difficult for the hitters to hit it.”

Via Brooks Baseball, Tanaka got 15 strikes and five swings and misses among his 23 splitters, and 20 strikes and eight swings and misses among his 27 sliders. Though he only threw 12 sinkers, nine resulted in strikes and seven via swings and misses. He didn’t need more than 16 pitches in any inning, and thanks to a pair of double plays, faced two batters over the minimum for his seven innings.

Carrasco was every bit as brilliant as Tanaka, delivering zeroes for 5 ? innings. The 30-year-old righty, who ranked among the league’s top half-dozen in several key categories including ERA (3.29) and WAR (5.4),

didn’t allow his first hit until Didi Gregorius singled in the fourth inning, and through five innings had whiffed seven. But with two outs in the sixth, he walked Judge on five pitches, then loaded the bases via a hard-hit single by Sanchez and a walk of Gregorius, also on five pitches. With his pitch count at 85, manager Terry Francona pulled him in favor of Miller, who had thrown 2? scoreless innings over the first two games. Miller needed just two pitches to get out of that jam, inducing Starlin Castro to hit a routine popup to Lindor at shortstop.

Carrasco allowed just three hits and three walks, netting 18 swings and misses, including eight on his changeup and four apiece on his curve and slider; the two breaking balls accounted for six of his seven strike threes.

It would not have been a surprise had Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled Tanaka after six, particularly with the 3-4-5 hitters due up in the seventh. But two days after being stung by criticism that he pulled starter CC Sabathia too early after 77 pitches—the first of several decisions that backfired, to say the least—Girardi stuck with his starter, whose pitch count was at 78. Tanaka rewarded Girardi’s trust by retiring the side in order, striking out Bruce for the third time on the night, his seventh and final whiff.

Miller, so effective last October after being acquired from the Yankees in late July, wasn’t up to the task on Sunday. Facing Bird to lead off the seventh inning, he left a 1-1 four-seamer in the middle of the plate, and the 24-year-old first baseman launched a towering 396-foot solo homer to rightfield as the crowd of 48,614 erupted in catharsis. It was Bird’s second homer of the postseason, the latest shot of redemption for a trying season in which he was almost completely unproductive before returning from right ankle surgery in late August. It was just the second home run Miller surrendered to a left-handed batter all season.

After Tanaka departed, Girardi called upon David Robertson, who had thrown a total of five innings and 77 pitches in his two previous appearances this postseason. After he issued a one-out walk to Michael Brantley, Girardi turned to Chapman, who struck out pinch-hitter Yan Gomes and number nine hitter Giovanny Urshela to end the eighth, and then Lindor to start the ninth. But even as he dialed his fastball well into the triple digits—as high as 104 mph on one foul ball—Kipnis and Ramirez collected back-to-back one-out singles. Chapman then fell behind Bruce 2-0 before getting the 30-year-old slugger to swing at three straight 100 and 101 fastballs on the outer half of the plate for his fourth strikeout of the night, the ol’ golden sombrero. After going to a full count against Carlos Santana, he induced a game-ending fly ball.

In all, Chapman threw 34 pitches, 30 of which were fastballs of at least 100 mph. Asked if he reached back for a little bit more in an elimination game, “This is a decisive game. You can’t hold back. Everything you have, you have to go out there and give it all. Without tonight, there’s no tomorrow.”

For the Yankees, thanks to their stellar pitching, there will be at least one more tomorrow this year.

Yankees Edge Indians in Game 3 Pitchers' Duel to Keep Season Alive

NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka shut down the Indians with seven strikeouts over seven innings and Greg Bird hit a tiebreaking solo home run to give the Yankees a 1–0 win over the Indians in Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday night. The win saved the Yankees season and sends New York into a Game 4 on Monday night, when Luis Severino and Trevor Bauer will try to provide an appropriate sequel to Sunday's spectacular outings. Below are three thoughts from a splendid pitcher’s duel on Sunday night in the Bronx.

1. Holy Cow, What a Pitching Duel

Masahiro Tanaka’s tenure with the Yankees might be a case study in inconsistency, but he produced the most memorable outing of his career with the season on the line. Flummoxing the Indians hitters with his wipeout split-fingered fastball, Tanaka silenced Cleveland over seven innings, allowing just three hits and walking one. Outside of a Jason Kipnis triple in the fourth inning, the Indians could hardly muster any solid contact against the 28-year-old righty. On the heels of a seven-inning, 15-strikeout performance against the Blue Jays to conclude his season, Tanaka looks like the Yankees' best starting pitcher right now. He induced an astonishing 21 swings and misses, including seven on his sinker, a pitch he threw just 8% of the time during the regular season.

As unhittable as Tanaka was most of the night, it was his command that was most impressive. When he needed strikeouts, he got them. After Kipnis tripled off of Aaron Judge's wrist with one out in the fourth, Tanaka struck out Jose Ramirez and Jay Bruce to end the inning. After he walked Carlos Santana to start the fifth inning, Tanaka induced an inning-ending double play from Michael Brantley two batters later. Kipnis was the only Indians player to get past first base during Tanaka's outing. “He was brilliant. He gave us everything he needed and you can’t ask for more than what he did. It was a night where one run won it and he didn’t give up any," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said afterward. Following a 13-inning game that taxed the Yankees bullpen on Friday evening, Tanaka offered a masterpiece that allowed the relief corps to work effectively in the late innings.

Indians starter Carlos Carrasco matched Tanaka’s standout performance in his first career postseason start, but was relegated to second billing after a clunky sixth inning. Armed with a devastating slider and pinpoint control in the early innings, Carrasco carved through the Yankees' lineup the first two times through the order. He didn’t surrender a hit until a Didi Gregorius single in the fourth inning, and Gary Sanchez was the only Yankee to square him up for solid contact. Carrasco finished the night allowing three hits and three walks while striking out seven over 5 2/3 innings. If the Indians advance to the ALCS, they can take comfort knowing that Carrasco isn't fazed by the postseason. After Trevor Bauer's stupendous Game 1 outing and Carrasco's spectacular performance on Sunday, manager Terry Francona knows he has reinforcements available should prospective AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber struggle in his next start.

2. The Bird is the Word

Greg Bird broke the stalemate with a towering homer off of Andrew Miller—just the fourth homer given up by Miller this season and the second to a lefthanded hitter (the other was Dodgers rookie sensation Cody Bellinger). It was Bird’s second homer of the postseason, and a welcome moment for another promising Yankee youngster, but one who struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness for most of 2017.

While fellow young stars Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez basked in the Gotham spotlight through the summer, Bird battled an ankle injury he suffered at the end of spring training in the season’s first month. After electing surgery to have a bone removed from the balky ankle, he’d miss 103 games and have to fend off questions about his season being over.

The Yankees cycled through first basemen in his absence (Chris Carter, Garrett Cooper, Tyler Austin, Rob Refsnyder, Ji-man Choi, Austin Romine and Chase Headley among others) before he finally returned on August 26th. He acclimated nicely, hitting a pedestrian .253, but adding eight homers to secure his spot on the postseason roster. His home run on Sunday night may be a mere footnote in the annals of Yankee postseason lore, but he kept the season alive and delivered Tanaka a deserved win.

3. Aaron Judge made a huge play despite a quiet night at the plate

Aaron Judge typically alters games with his bat, but it was glove and towering height that saved the Yankees from a potentially debilitating sixth-inning deficit. Having shown no life against Carrasco, the Yankees couldn't afford to trail with their season on the line. With the game knotted at zero, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor sent a Tanaka splitter soaring to rightfield.

While the average-sized human would leapt to try and save Lindor’s fly ball from becoming a home run, the 6’ 7" Judge merely bounced from his toes to steal a home run from Lindor (as well as notoriously irritating ballhawk Zack Hample). It was the closest that the Indians would get to a run the entire night, and Judge proved that he’s capable of affecting a ballgame in the field.

Trevor Bauer Mastered the Indians' Modern Pitching Strategy in Game 1 Win over Yankees

CLEVELAND — To become a better pitcher, Trevor Bauer would have friends shoot him with paintball pellets in the middle of delivering a pitch in offseason bullpen sessions, the better to sharpen his focus. Other times he would blast loud music while throwing. He would throw a 3.5-ounce baseball 114 mph from the kind of running start you might see from a javelin thrower. He would play long toss from the absurd distance of one foul pole to another. He bought a $30,000 Trackman system and expensive, super high-speed cameras to learn precisely how his pitches spun through the air.

“Eccentric” was one of the kinder words thrown his way by the baseball establishment, especially the Arizona Diamondbacks, who traded him to Cleveland at age 21, just 18 months after taking him with the third pick in the draft.

“What he always has been,” Indians teammate Cody Allen said, “is ahead of the curve.”

The rest of baseball is catching up to Bauer, though that would not include the hitters on the New York Yankees. Bauer gave a clinic on state-of-the-art pitching in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. It wasn’t just that he took care of the first 20 outs as the Indians dismantled New York, 4–0, in ways the Yankees almost never have seen in their storied postseason history. Only twice in their 381 postseason games have the Yankees struck out 14 times or more without a run: to Cliff Lee and the Rangers in the 2010 ALCS (15 Ks), and last night to Bauer, Andrew Miller and Allen (14 Ks).

The cutting edge involved here also was that Bauer did so with an encyclopedic knowledge of how to make a baseball move through space. While artistry and mystery remain in the craft and always will, pitching has evolved into the scientific realm with the aid of technology. The radar gun, once the lone tool of measurement, now is to pitching what the abacus is to computing.

This much I know: if the Yankees are going to win this series, they are going to have to solve the new paradigm of pitching that the Indians execute so well. They are going to have to hit breaking balls—otherwise Cleveland is going to spin its way right through them, the same as they did to Boston and Toronto last October.

Bauer threw 36 curveballs among his 99 pitches. Combined, Bauer, Miller and Allen fed the Yankees 39% breaking balls (58 out of 149). The Yankees managed one hit out of those 58 breaking balls.

Once upon a time, a pitching coach would tell his pitchers, “Establish your fastball and mix in your breaking ball,” because, well, because an old pitching coach he had once told him that. Now you better have a virtual degree in advanced pitching metrics to understand pitching today. The Cardinals and Mets are the latest teams looking for new pitching coaches who speak this language, a language no team knows better than Bauer and the Indians.

The Indians threw the lowest percentage of fastballs (two-seamers, four-seamers and sinkers) than any team in baseball: 48.05%. And all they did by de-emphasizing the fastball was to strike out more batters than any staff in the history of baseball.

Last year Cleveland pitchers threw breaking balls with 24% of their pitches, which ranked 22nd in baseball. Before the postseason began, pitching coach Mickey Callaway sat down with every imaginable metric and realized something that was happening around baseball, especially with the Red Sox and Blue Jays, their AL playoff opponents: fastballs get hit, breaking balls don’t. So Callaway told his pitchers they were going to dial up the percentage of curveballs.

“It made sense because of who we were playing,” Allen said. “But it also so happens that we have a lot of guys who spin the baseball really well, guys whose best pitch is a breaking ball. And this time of year, you never want to get beat on your second- or third-best pitch.”

Callaway’s crew continued the barrage of breaking balls against the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. It nearly carried them to the title. Cleveland increased its breaking ball percentage in the postseason to 36%, the highest among the 10 playoff teams. The Indians held Boston, Toronto and Chicago to a .196 average against those breaking balls.

This season, emboldened by those results, Cleveland boosted its regular season breaking ball percentage to 29%. Opponents hit .166 against Cleveland’s sliders and curveballs, the lowest such batting average in the league.

Beginning as a high school freshman, when his goal was to throw 100 miles an hour—he was throwing 80 mph at the time—Bauer dove into not just learning how to pitch but also into understanding the whys and hows of ball flight. He studied in a Quonset hut at the Texas Baseball Ranch, and later ventured to a warehouse in Kent, Wash., where Driveline Baseball doesn’t just give archaic “pitching lessons” but offers “data-driven baseball performance training.”

“We have these conversations about how to create spin and maximize your body movements,” Allen said. “He knows more about this stuff than anybody.”

A quiet revolution in learning is happening in the sport. People who never played the game professionally have become many of the game’s best teachers, if only because they have studied pitching, hitting and the kinetic chains of those disciplines better than anybody else. It’s no different than the ones running major league organizations or the best swing coaches in golf. The expertise no longer is found in those who simply had the physical gifts to excel in the doing, but those who brought boundless curiosity, passion and technology to understanding the subjects better than anyone else.

Bauer’s evolution from the third overall pick in the 2011 draft to a reliable postseason starter has been a checkered one. He has overcome, for instance, his own stubbornness.

“Finally,” said his personal catcher, Roberto Perez, “I’m getting him to trust me a little more.”

Perez estimated that Bauer shook him off in Game 1 “maybe two or three times. That’s it.”

Midway through the season, Perez sat Bauer down and told him he had become too predictable. He pulled out some numbers, for instance, and showed Bauer he gave up way too many hits on 0-and-2 curveballs. So they decided to mix in more breaking balls early in counts and more fastballs at 0-and-2.

All of Bauer’s lessons seemed to coalesce in Game 1. His pure stuff, which always has been exceptional, was made better by improved pitch selection and sequencing.

His curveball was made better by the two-seam fastball he learned with the help of his Trackman machine. Bauer watched Kluber in 2014 dominate hitters with his two-seamer. The pitch had saved Kluber’s career. Kluber was a 26-year-old journeyman stuck in the minors when he tried the pitch during a bullpen session in May of 2012. The ball behaved like magic, especially against lefthanded hitters, who jackknifed out of its apparent flight path, only to see it break back over the inside corner for a strike.

Bauer broke down Kluber’s two-seamer has if studying the genome. With the help of his Trackman and high-speed cameras, Bauer did everything he could to clone Kluber’s pitch, trying to get his hand position, spin rate and spin axis just right. It has become an effective third pitch for him, behind his curveball and four-seam fastball, and in Game 1 he twice carved it back over the corner against unsuspecting lefties for third strikes.

(Trackman, though, couldn’t help Bauer’s four-seamer spin even faster. Bauer learned that he could manipulate the spin of every other pitch, but that four-seam spin rate, with his pure backspin, was immutable, a God-given marker, like eye color or fingerprints.)

Bauer’s work at Driveline also paid off in Game 1 with the deception he creates in “tunneling” his pitches. A hitter reads and decides on a pitch mostly in the first 17–20 feet when the ball leaves a pitcher’s hand. What Bauer does extraordinarily well is to keep two distinct pitches—the four-seam fastball and the curveball—traveling in the same narrow path, or tunnel, in those key first 17–20 feet.

The real trick is to have his 78-mph curve and his 94-mph fastball look exactly the same out of his hand. He does this by not having the curveball first pop “up” out of his hand—a tipoff to the hitter that a breaking ball is coming—but to have it travel in the same tunnel as his fastball.

Only when it’s too late will the hitter learn whether the pitch holds its plane (the fastball at the top of the zone) or dive bomb (the curveball that drops into the zone). The Yankees were caught several times taking hittable fastballs and curveballs because they simply couldn’t tell the two pitches apart based on their similar path, even with dissimilar velocity.

Bauer in particular bamboozled Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. They fouled off or took rare fastballs camouflaged amid a downpour of raindrop curveballs. In all, the two young Bronx Bombers batted eight times in the game without getting a hit or a ball out of the infield. Judge tied the franchise postseason record with four strikeouts by a position player, an indignity last suffered by Johnny Damon but also experienced by the likes of Derek Jeter and Mickey Mantle.

The last piece of putting Bauer together was the emotional side of pitching. Asked before the game about the warning signs he looks for when Bauer is courting trouble, Callaway said, “Body language. It’s not stuff. It’s body language. A call doesn’t go his way, a bloop hit falls in, and his shoulders sag or he kicks the dirt. Those are the things I look for.”

There were no such warning signs in Game 1. Even after Bauer lost his no-hit bid in the sixth—Aaron Hicks slashed a curveball off the wall in leftfield for a double—he gave away nothing with his body language. Shortstop Francisco Lindor, perhaps remembering older versions of Bauer, sprinted to the mound and said something to him.

“I said, ‘Don’t let up,’” Lindor said. “’Don’t you dare let up. You’ve got to keep going.’

“Plus, I wanted to know the signs. They hadn’t had a runner at second base until then.”

Said Callaway, “I think we’re one of the best teams in the league at not showing emotion, and not letting it affect the next pitch.”

“People think ‘what took so long’ with Trevor,” Allen said. “What they forget is that he’s only 26 years old. He’s young. He graduated high school a year early. He may have six [big league] years in, but he’s still only 26.”

Bauer left the game in the seventh inning to heartfelt applause and thanks from the Progressive Field crowd. He stalked toward the dugout in that purposeful, mechanical walk of his, but steps from disappearing he broke from his game face mentality to doff his cap to the crowd.

It served also a nod to what else is coming at New York: Kluber’s breaking ball, Carlos Carrasco’s slider and more of Miller’s slider, Allen’s curveball and Bauer’s curveball. The Yankees’ world is spinning right now, and this is the new world of baseball.

Trevor Bauer Mastered the Indians' Modern Pitching Strategy in Game 1 Win over Yankees

CLEVELAND — To become a better pitcher, Trevor Bauer would have friends shoot him with paintball pellets in the middle of delivering a pitch in offseason bullpen sessions, the better to sharpen his focus. Other times he would blast loud music while throwing. He would throw a 3.5-ounce baseball 114 mph from the kind of running start you might see from a javelin thrower. He would play long toss from the absurd distance of one foul pole to another. He bought a $30,000 Trackman system and expensive, super high-speed cameras to learn precisely how his pitches spun through the air.

“Eccentric” was one of the kinder words thrown his way by the baseball establishment, especially the Arizona Diamondbacks, who traded him to Cleveland at age 21, just 18 months after taking him with the third pick in the draft.

“What he always has been,” Indians teammate Cody Allen said, “is ahead of the curve.”

The rest of baseball is catching up to Bauer, though that would not include the hitters on the New York Yankees. Bauer gave a clinic on state-of-the-art pitching in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. It wasn’t just that he took care of the first 20 outs as the Indians dismantled New York, 4–0, in ways the Yankees almost never have seen in their storied postseason history. Only twice in their 381 postseason games have the Yankees struck out 14 times or more without a run: to Cliff Lee and the Rangers in the 2010 ALCS (15 Ks), and last night to Bauer, Andrew Miller and Allen (14 Ks).

The cutting edge involved here also was that Bauer did so with an encyclopedic knowledge of how to make a baseball move through space. While artistry and mystery remain in the craft and always will, pitching has evolved into the scientific realm with the aid of technology. The radar gun, once the lone tool of measurement, now is to pitching what the abacus is to computing.

This much I know: if the Yankees are going to win this series, they are going to have to solve the new paradigm of pitching that the Indians execute so well. They are going to have to hit breaking balls—otherwise Cleveland is going to spin its way right through them, the same as they did to Boston and Toronto last October.

Bauer threw 36 curveballs among his 99 pitches. Combined, Bauer, Miller and Allen fed the Yankees 39% breaking balls (58 out of 149). The Yankees managed one hit out of those 58 breaking balls.

Once upon a time, a pitching coach would tell his pitchers, “Establish your fastball and mix in your breaking ball,” because, well, because an old pitching coach he had once told him that. Now you better have a virtual degree in advanced pitching metrics to understand pitching today. The Cardinals and Mets are the latest teams looking for new pitching coaches who speak this language, a language no team knows better than Bauer and the Indians.

The Indians threw the lowest percentage of fastballs (two-seamers, four-seamers and sinkers) than any team in baseball: 48.05%. And all they did by de-emphasizing the fastball was to strike out more batters than any staff in the history of baseball.

Last year Cleveland pitchers threw breaking balls with 24% of their pitches, which ranked 22nd in baseball. Before the postseason began, pitching coach Mickey Callaway sat down with every imaginable metric and realized something that was happening around baseball, especially with the Red Sox and Blue Jays, their AL playoff opponents: fastballs get hit, breaking balls don’t. So Callaway told his pitchers they were going to dial up the percentage of curveballs.

“It made sense because of who we were playing,” Allen said. “But it also so happens that we have a lot of guys who spin the baseball really well, guys whose best pitch is a breaking ball. And this time of year, you never want to get beat on your second- or third-best pitch.”

Callaway’s crew continued the barrage of breaking balls against the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. It nearly carried them to the title. Cleveland increased its breaking ball percentage in the postseason to 36%, the highest among the 10 playoff teams. The Indians held Boston, Toronto and Chicago to a .196 average against those breaking balls.

This season, emboldened by those results, Cleveland boosted its regular season breaking ball percentage to 29%. Opponents hit .166 against Cleveland’s sliders and curveballs, the lowest such batting average in the league.

Beginning as a high school freshman, when his goal was to throw 100 miles an hour—he was throwing 80 mph at the time—Bauer dove into not just learning how to pitch but also into understanding the whys and hows of ball flight. He studied in a Quonset hut at the Texas Baseball Ranch, and later ventured to a warehouse in Kent, Wash., where Driveline Baseball doesn’t just give archaic “pitching lessons” but offers “data-driven baseball performance training.”

“We have these conversations about how to create spin and maximize your body movements,” Allen said. “He knows more about this stuff than anybody.”

A quiet revolution in learning is happening in the sport. People who never played the game professionally have become many of the game’s best teachers, if only because they have studied pitching, hitting and the kinetic chains of those disciplines better than anybody else. It’s no different than the ones running major league organizations or the best swing coaches in golf. The expertise no longer is found in those who simply had the physical gifts to excel in the doing, but those who brought boundless curiosity, passion and technology to understanding the subjects better than anyone else.

Bauer’s evolution from the third overall pick in the 2011 draft to a reliable postseason starter has been a checkered one. He has overcome, for instance, his own stubbornness.

“Finally,” said his personal catcher, Roberto Perez, “I’m getting him to trust me a little more.”

Perez estimated that Bauer shook him off in Game 1 “maybe two or three times. That’s it.”

Midway through the season, Perez sat Bauer down and told him he had become too predictable. He pulled out some numbers, for instance, and showed Bauer he gave up way too many hits on 0-and-2 curveballs. So they decided to mix in more breaking balls early in counts and more fastballs at 0-and-2.

All of Bauer’s lessons seemed to coalesce in Game 1. His pure stuff, which always has been exceptional, was made better by improved pitch selection and sequencing.

His curveball was made better by the two-seam fastball he learned with the help of his Trackman machine. Bauer watched Kluber in 2014 dominate hitters with his two-seamer. The pitch had saved Kluber’s career. Kluber was a 26-year-old journeyman stuck in the minors when he tried the pitch during a bullpen session in May of 2012. The ball behaved like magic, especially against lefthanded hitters, who jackknifed out of its apparent flight path, only to see it break back over the inside corner for a strike.

Bauer broke down Kluber’s two-seamer has if studying the genome. With the help of his Trackman and high-speed cameras, Bauer did everything he could to clone Kluber’s pitch, trying to get his hand position, spin rate and spin axis just right. It has become an effective third pitch for him, behind his curveball and four-seam fastball, and in Game 1 he twice carved it back over the corner against unsuspecting lefties for third strikes.

(Trackman, though, couldn’t help Bauer’s four-seamer spin even faster. Bauer learned that he could manipulate the spin of every other pitch, but that four-seam spin rate, with his pure backspin, was immutable, a God-given marker, like eye color or fingerprints.)

Bauer’s work at Driveline also paid off in Game 1 with the deception he creates in “tunneling” his pitches. A hitter reads and decides on a pitch mostly in the first 17–20 feet when the ball leaves a pitcher’s hand. What Bauer does extraordinarily well is to keep two distinct pitches—the four-seam fastball and the curveball—traveling in the same narrow path, or tunnel, in those key first 17–20 feet.

The real trick is to have his 78-mph curve and his 94-mph fastball look exactly the same out of his hand. He does this by not having the curveball first pop “up” out of his hand—a tipoff to the hitter that a breaking ball is coming—but to have it travel in the same tunnel as his fastball.

Only when it’s too late will the hitter learn whether the pitch holds its plane (the fastball at the top of the zone) or dive bomb (the curveball that drops into the zone). The Yankees were caught several times taking hittable fastballs and curveballs because they simply couldn’t tell the two pitches apart based on their similar path, even with dissimilar velocity.

Bauer in particular bamboozled Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. They fouled off or took rare fastballs camouflaged amid a downpour of raindrop curveballs. In all, the two young Bronx Bombers batted eight times in the game without getting a hit or a ball out of the infield. Judge tied the franchise postseason record with four strikeouts by a position player, an indignity last suffered by Johnny Damon but also experienced by the likes of Derek Jeter and Mickey Mantle.

The last piece of putting Bauer together was the emotional side of pitching. Asked before the game about the warning signs he looks for when Bauer is courting trouble, Callaway said, “Body language. It’s not stuff. It’s body language. A call doesn’t go his way, a bloop hit falls in, and his shoulders sag or he kicks the dirt. Those are the things I look for.”

There were no such warning signs in Game 1. Even after Bauer lost his no-hit bid in the sixth—Aaron Hicks slashed a curveball off the wall in leftfield for a double—he gave away nothing with his body language. Shortstop Francisco Lindor, perhaps remembering older versions of Bauer, sprinted to the mound and said something to him.

“I said, ‘Don’t let up,’” Lindor said. “’Don’t you dare let up. You’ve got to keep going.’

“Plus, I wanted to know the signs. They hadn’t had a runner at second base until then.”

Said Callaway, “I think we’re one of the best teams in the league at not showing emotion, and not letting it affect the next pitch.”

“People think ‘what took so long’ with Trevor,” Allen said. “What they forget is that he’s only 26 years old. He’s young. He graduated high school a year early. He may have six [big league] years in, but he’s still only 26.”

Bauer left the game in the seventh inning to heartfelt applause and thanks from the Progressive Field crowd. He stalked toward the dugout in that purposeful, mechanical walk of his, but steps from disappearing he broke from his game face mentality to doff his cap to the crowd.

It served also a nod to what else is coming at New York: Kluber’s breaking ball, Carlos Carrasco’s slider and more of Miller’s slider, Allen’s curveball and Bauer’s curveball. The Yankees’ world is spinning right now, and this is the new world of baseball.

The Longest World Series Droughts

As we head into the MLB playoffs, you might be wondering which teams have gone longest without winning a World Series.

The most famous curse in baseball history was broken last year, when the Cubs won the title to end a 108-year drought. The team they beat, the Indians, now hold the title as the baseball team that's suffering through the longest World Series drought. Cleveland last won a title in 1948, 69 years ago.

Two other teams that made this year's playoffs have fan bases that have endured remarkable title droughts. The Astros haven't won a title in their 55-year history, and the Nationals, who've been around since 1969, haven't won one either.

Here's a complete list of the longest (and, inversely, shortest) playoff droughts. Teams that are in this year's playoffs are in bold.

1. Cleveland Indians, 69 years
2. Texas Rangers, 56 years (franchise has never won a World Series title)
3. Houston Astros, 55 years (franchise has never won a World Series title)
4. Milwaukee Brewers, 48 years (franchise has never won a World Series title)
5. San Diego Padres, 48 years (franchise has never won a World Series title)
6. Washington Nationals, 48 years (franchise has never won a World Series title)
7. Seattle Mariners, 40 years (franchise has never won a World Series Title)
8. Pittsburgh Pirates, 38 years
9. Baltimore Orioles, 34 years
10. Detroit Tigers, 33 years
11. New York Mets, 31 years
12. Los Angeles Dodgers, 29 years
13. Oakland Athletics, 28 years
14. Cincinnati Reds, 27 years
15. Minnesota Twins, 26 years
16. Colorado Rockies, 24 years (franchise has never won a World Series Title)
17. Toronto Blue Jays, 24 years
18. Atlanta Braves, 22 years
19. Tampa Bay Rays, 19 years (franchise has never won a World Series Title)
20. Arizona Diamondbacks, 16 years
21. Los Angeles Angels, 15 years
22. Miami Marlins, 14 years
23. Chicago White Sox, 12 years
24. Philadelphia Phillies, 9 years
25. New York Yankees, 8 years
26. St. Louis Cardinals, 6 years
27. Boston Red Sox, 4 years
28. San Francisco Giants, 3 years
29. Kansas City Royals, 2 years
30. Chicago Cubs, 1 year

A Crack of the Bat. A Blow to the Head. Who Pays the Bill?

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 06: General view as the New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays line up for the national anthems before Opening Day on April 6, 2015 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Fans will celebrate Jose Bautista for years: Blue Jays GM

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Tuesday the team will decline their mutual option on slugger Jose Bautista. Atkins says Bautista was “unbelievably professional” when he heard he wouldn’t be back with the Jays in 2018.

Fans will celebrate Jose Bautista for years: Blue Jays GM

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Tuesday the team will decline their mutual option on slugger Jose Bautista. Atkins says Bautista was “unbelievably professional” when he heard he wouldn’t be back with the Jays in 2018.

Fans will celebrate Jose Bautista for years: Blue Jays GM

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Tuesday the team will decline their mutual option on slugger Jose Bautista. Atkins says Bautista was “unbelievably professional” when he heard he wouldn’t be back with the Jays in 2018.

Fans will celebrate Jose Bautista for years: Blue Jays GM

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Tuesday the team will decline their mutual option on slugger Jose Bautista. Atkins says Bautista was “unbelievably professional” when he heard he wouldn’t be back with the Jays in 2018.

A look at baseball's greatest teams - one for each franchise

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 1993, file photo, Toronto Blue Jays' Joe Carter celebrates his game winning three-run home run in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies in Toronto. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 1993, file photo, Toronto Blue Jays' Joe Carter celebrates his game winning three-run home run in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies in Toronto. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)

Blue Jays GM Atkins confirms slugger Bautista not coming back in 2018

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