Nemesis no more: Yankees finally conquer Dallas Keuchel

Nemesis no more: Yankees finally conquer Dallas Keuchel

NEW YORK — Of the opposing athletes who have inspired New Yorkers to feel an overwhelming sense of postseason doom, Michael Jordan remains the modern-day standard. Dallas Keuchel was never Michael Jordan, but this much was clear: When Keuchel threw the baseball, the New York Yankees often took swings that were reminiscent of Jordan’s minor league cuts with the 1994 Birmingham Barons.

Let’s face it, if Keuchel shaved off his “Duck Dynasty” beard, he might’ve been confused with Hal Steinbrenner. The Houston Astros starter owned the Yankees, after all, terminating their season in the 2015 wild-card game and silencing them last week in Game 1 of this American League Championship Series. In those two October games, Keuchel struck out 17 Yankees and allowed seven hits, two walks and no runs over 13 innings.

Keuchel wasn’t just an opportunistic lefty who hit his spots. He was a fire-breathing dragon, and in the Bronx there didn’t appear to be any dragon slayers in sight.

“To beat him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi had conceded, “we have to be close to perfect.”

Guess what? His players went out and beat Dallas Keuchel, and they didn’t need to be close to perfect. They just needed to be smart, patient and completely connected to a Yankee Stadium crowd that has time-traveled itself back to a time and place when the old Stadium, in the ’90s, was as forbidding to visiting antagonists as the Roman Colosseum.

On the eve of his Game 5 start, Keuchel dared New Yorkers to be as loud as they are in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. He spoke of enjoying the boos he heard during introductions before Game 3, referred to the Yankees as “the Evil Empire” without clearing it with Boston rights holders and said the venomous sound from all corners of the Bronx “makes you feel good just because you’re doing your job correctly.”

Keuchel didn’t feel so good Wednesday night when he exited stage left in the fifth inning after doing his job incorrectly, after watching Masahiro Tanaka make him look like a hopeless amateur. The man who had surrendered seven earned runs against the Yankees in 57 2/3 career innings would be charged with giving them four runs in 4 2/3 innings in a devastating 5-0 defeat that left the Astros down 3-2 in the series and dangling by a thread.

The Stadium was as loud as Keuchel wanted it to be before, during and after his unceremonious departure. “I haven’t seen anything like it in major league baseball since I’ve been here,” said Chase Headley, who had two of the seven hits against Keuchel. “Reminds me of college football games. They’re going crazy the entire game. It’s a huge advantage for us.”

The Yankees are 6-0 in the Bronx in the postseason, half of those victories coming at Houston’s expense. They are one game away from beating a second straight opponent that won over 100 regular-season games. The Yankees knocked around Keuchel on Wednesday night the way they knocked around Cleveland’s Corey Kluber in the American League Division Series.

“Keuchel doesn’t lay very many eggs,” Girardi said.

He just laid an awfully big one at the worst possible time. The Astros were psychologically scarred by the Yankees’ comeback in Game 4 and by the sudden bolts of thunder shooting off the bats of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. The Astros desperately needed their starter to put Judge and Sanchez back to sleep, but instead, Keuchel allowed both sluggers to drive in runs and to make the Stadium shake to its core.

In the winners’ locker room afterward, Todd Frazier explained the tweaked approach to Keuchel. “I think basically what we did was we looked middle of the plate,” he said. The third baseman said that Keuchel’s cutter and two-seamer move so much, a batter can’t go after either if it’s starting on the outside or inside third of the plate. But the Yankees’ success wasn’t only about looking at film and adjustments made in the cage. Frazier called Keuchel’s pinstriped dominance “a big challenge” that the Yankees were driven to meet.

“We heard about that the whole time,” he said, “and I’m just glad we got to him and we got him out of there.”

The Yankees would have to be considered unstoppable now, right? The Astros just walked into a Bronx buzzsaw and left the building in a million tiny pieces. They just watched New York’s starters advance their surprising run of dominance. They just watched their own starter, a man with a career 1.09 ERA against the Yanks, get bum-rushed out of town.

“Any time you break through against a pitcher or a team that’s really had your number,” Headley said, “you can take a lot of confidence away from that.”

But there are a few notes of caution to consider. For one, Houston manager A.J. Hinch reminded everyone that the home team has won all five games this series. “If that trend continues,” Hinch said, “we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

For two, the last time the Yankees had three straight magical home games like these at a postseason opponent that arrived in the Bronx with a 2-0 series lead, they lost Games 6 and 7 of the 2001 World Series in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ ballpark. Any Yankees fan who watched both trios of home games can tell you he or she had the same no-way-we’re-losing-now feeling.

Those Diamondbacks had Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson waiting for the Yanks. These Astros have Justin Verlander and, well, we’ll see. Postseason baseball is a wild and crazy animal. Trying to tame it with a prediction of a sure Yankee triumph could be hazardous to the forecaster’s health.

But if nothing else, the Yankees will never again have to hear about Keuchel’s dominance over them. The Astros’ ace was so sure of himself before Game 5, he poked fun at frustrated New Yorkers who played nice with him to earn a few minutes of his time. He said they called out to him, “Keuchel, you’re the best pitcher ever. Can I get your autograph?”

They weren’t calling him the best pitcher ever Wednesday night. Keuchel couldn’t match up to the ultimate New York crusher, Michael Jordan, who to this day still constantly mocks Patrick Ewing about all the times he broke the Knicks’ hearts. (“He’s got six rings and I have none,” Ewing said, “so I just let him trash talk.”)

The Yankees are trash-talk proof. They have 27 rings and stand as a serious threat to possibly attain No. 28 with Girardi leading them. The manager keeps talking up the fans in this postseason, keeps saying they’re bringing him back to his playing days as a contributor to the Jeter-Rivera-Torre dynasty.

“The jumping up and down in the stands, in the outfield,” Girardi said. “People standing the whole time. The pounding on the path in the outfield. The liquids flying in the stands. Those are good memories for me.”

The memories were sweeter when this Game 5 takedown of Keuchel was complete. The Yankees just destroyed their destroyer, and it felt like they deserved some kind of trophy for that.

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Nemesis no more: Yankees finally conquer Dallas Keuchel
Nemesis no more: Yankees finally conquer Dallas Keuchel
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Source: ESPN SPORTS

Astros return home in unfamiliar position: playing from behind

Astros return home in unfamiliar position: playing from behind

NEW YORK — Carlos Beltran expected his teammates to be disappointed by the outcome here Wednesday night. But as he walked into the clubhouse and sat down at his locker, he surveyed the room and didn’t like the vibe he was feeling.

And so, the oldest member of the Houston Astros decided it was time for a speech.

“Sometimes,” Beltran explained later, “you see people acting different than the way they act in the regular season. I just don’t want people to feel down. I don’t want people to feel sorry about themselves.”

A measure of self-pity is understandable after the past three nights. The Astros came to Yankee Stadium in possession of a two-games-to-none lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series and got flattened like a pancake, steamrollered like a driveway. They lost three games in a row for the first time since Sept. 8-10, including Wednesday night’s 5-0 drubbing by the New York Yankees that leaves their season teetering on the brink of extinction.

How bad was it for the Astros? Their powerful offense, which scored more runs than any team in the past eight seasons and crushed the Boston Red Sox in the division series, went 11-for-92 (.120) with five extra-base hits, no home runs and 25 strikeouts in the three games. With runners in scoring position, they went 2-for-21, including 0-for-8 in Game 5.

George Springer is 2-for-18 in the series. Josh Reddick is 0-for-17. Alex Bregman (2-for-17) and Marwin Gonzalez (2-for-15) are struggling, too. Even Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, the dynamic duo in the middle of the Astros’ order, were muted in New York. They went a combined 2-for-22 in Games 3-5. It all prompted manager A.J. Hinch to declare that the Astros “lost a little bit of our offensive mojo.”

And Dallas Keuchel, the Yankees-crushing lefty who was supposed to be Houston’s Game 5 firewall, gave up four runs and seven hits in only 4⅔ innings to put the offense in a hole that was far too deep considering the way things have been going.

“[The Yankees] played better than us in all phases,” catcher Brian McCann said.

It was all so foreign to the Astros. During the regular season, they spent 178 of 183 days — and every day since April 12 — in first place. They held a lead at the end of 25 of 36 innings in the division series. And although they didn’t muster much offense in the first two games of the ALCS, they still were leading or tied through the series’ first 19 innings.

For six months, the Astros have been classic front-runners. Now, all of a sudden, they’re trailing.

It was no wonder, then, that they walked off the field and into the clubhouse after Game 5 with their heads hanging so low they could’ve dragged the infield. Beltran, a veteran of 12 postseason series during a 20-year career, could sense their sagging confidence. He could feel the tension in the quiet room. With a day off in the series Thursday, Beltran didn’t want those emotions to linger.

“My job, and our job as a team, is to encourage each other,” Beltran said. “It’s easy to feel down about yourself when you don’t have a good game or when you give it up as a pitcher. Sometimes people get a tendency of getting down, and our job is to encourage everyone to turn the page and move on and take the challenge.

“At the end of the day, like it’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal. Even though you would love to leave this place [leading] 3-2 [in the series], now it’s our time to try to do the same thing the Yankees did to us here.”

The Astros will take confidence from the fact that ace Justin Verlander will be on the mound Friday night. They also will be back in the comforts of Minute Maid Park. The Yankees had the best home record in the American League this season but a sub-.500 record (40-41) on the road.

But it’s also unclear how the Astros will respond to not playing from in front. They began the season with three consecutive victories, went 16-9 in April and won 38 of their first 54 games. By Memorial Day, they had an 11-game lead in the AL West. By the Fourth of July, the cushion had swelled to 16 games.

It isn’t as though the Astros didn’t face adversity. On the field, they dealt with long-term injuries to Keuchel, Correa and right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., although they were far enough ahead to withstand their absences. And nobody will forget the off-field ordeal of Hurricane Harvey and the Astros’ role in helping to lift up their devastated city.

But the Astros have set the pace all season long. Now, they need to catch back up.

“Our backs are against the wall,” McCann said. “We’ll be ready. This team, we’ve played extremely well all season long, and nothing’s going to change. We’ll be ready for Game 6. We’ve responded all year long.”

Said Springer: “We understand what has to happen. We understand what’s at stake here. You have to win or you go home. During the regular season, you don’t really play any of those games.”

During the regular season, the Astros barely had to break a sweat. This is no time to start feeling the heat, so Beltran tried to turn down the temperature.

On Friday night, everyone will find out if it worked.

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Astros return home in unfamiliar position: playing from behind
Astros return home in unfamiliar position: playing from behind
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Source: ESPN SPORTS

Anna Faris and New Boyfriend Michael Barrett Out in Malibu

Anna Faris and New Boyfriend Michael Barrett Out in Malibu

Anna FarisSomething Brewin’ with New Boyfriend

10/18/2017 8:03 PM PDT

Anna Faris and her new boyfriend Michael Barrett weren’t hiding anything over a month ago … sippin’ beers and hanging out at a local carnival.

Pics have surfaced of the new couple in Malibu taken early September showing the pair enjoying a cold one and taking in the sights. Faris and Barrett aren’t handsy at all … but definitely seem to be enjoying each other’s company.

TMZ broke the story … the two were spotted out in Malibu and The Palisades in the last few weeks. We’re told they met on the set of “Overboard” a movie set for release in 2018 in which Anna stars and Barrett’s working as a cinematographer.

The couple that carnivals together … 

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Anna Faris and New Boyfriend Michael Barrett Out in Malibu
Anna Faris and New Boyfriend Michael Barrett Out in Malibu
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Source: TMZ

Former Dodger/Yankee Steve Sax Sues Sports Collectibles Company Over Autographs

Former Dodger/Yankee Steve Sax Sues Sports Collectibles Company Over Autographs

Former Dodger Steve SaxSues Bobblehead CompanyWhere’s My Autograph Money?!!

10/18/2017 6:55 PM PDT

EXCLUSIVE

Former L.A. Dodgers and N.Y. Yankees second baseman Steve Sax has a bone to pick with the company that made his bobbleheads — he says it screwed him out of some cash for his John Hancock.

Sax claims he made a deal with sports gear company Forever Collectibles for $10,000 — allowing them to produce a bunch of bobbleheads in his likeness and sell them at an event in June … and he’d sign about 504 of the ‘heads.

According to the legal docs that all worked out fine, but Sax says FC also agreed to pay him another $5,000 to be at the event and sign extra autographs and inscriptions … which he claims he did.

The problem, according to the suit, is the company never coughed up the additional dough. Now he’s going after them for the $5k … plus interest.

We reached out to Forever Collectibles … no word back so far.

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Former Dodger/Yankee Steve Sax Sues Sports Collectibles Company Over Autographs
Former Dodger/Yankee Steve Sax Sues Sports Collectibles Company Over Autographs
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Source: TMZ

LeBron's torn jersey leaves Nike scrambling

LeBron's torn jersey leaves Nike scrambling

Nike officials spent much of Wednesday investigating a wardrobe malfunction on its highest-paid active NBA player spokesman.

Although Nike officials declined to publicly comment, sources told ESPN that executives with the shoe and apparel giant were extensively reviewing why the back of LeBron James‘ jersey split down the middle on Tuesday night.

When Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown grabbed at James’ jersey while defending him, the jersey tore, separating the Nos. 2 and 3 on the back of his Cleveland Cavaliers uniform. The NBA’s Last 2 Minute report, issued Wednesday evening, said that Brown should have been called for a foul on the play.

The NBA jerseys were being worn for the first time in a regular-season game, as Nike outbid Adidas to win the rights to be the league’s official uniform supplier. The company signed an eight-year deal that sources say is worth approximately $1 billion.

The incident is drawing more eyeballs because it’s the second time a Nike NBA jersey tore. In the preseason opener on Oct. 1, Los Angeles Lakers guard Tyler Ennis had his jersey ripped, and the 0 in his No. 10 uniform was left hanging.

Nike doesn’t bear sole responsibility for the making of the jersey. While the company makes the materials and provides blank uniforms to the squads, it often is the team’s responsibility to find a vendor to custom-stitch the names and numbers on the official jerseys.

This summer, Nike boasted its NBA jerseys would wick sweat 30 percent faster than the previous jerseys made by Adidas, thanks to a product it calls Alpha Yarns and recycled polyester.

It wasn’t a completely new fabrication. The company used jerseys of a similar makeup for last year’s Summer Olympics in Brazil and with some select college basketball teams during last season with no issues.

James’ torn jersey itself, which was being looked at to find any unforeseen issues, is being auctioned by the NBA, along with other jerseys from opening night, with the proceeds going to hurricane-relief efforts. As of 7 p.m. ET Wednesday, bidding was at $7,960. The auction closes on Oct. 26.

James has a lifetime deal with Nike that is expected to be worth at least $1 billion. He wore his 15th Nike signature shoe for the first time in a regular-season game in Tuesday night’s 102-99 win over the Celtics.

Shoe and apparel malfunctions are not common, though three players — Manu Ginobili, Andrew Bogut and Tony Wroten — had their Nike shoes come apart during games in 2014.

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LeBron's torn jersey leaves Nike scrambling
LeBron's torn jersey leaves Nike scrambling
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Source: ESPN SPORTS

‘Star Trek’ Actress Would Use ‘Years Of Martial Arts Training’ On Weinstein

‘Star Trek’ Actress Would Use ‘Years Of Martial Arts Training’ On Weinstein

Michelle Yeoh, who’s starred in several of Weinstein’s films, called the producer a “bully” and “not always honorable.”

‘Star Trek’ Actress Would Use ‘Years Of Martial Arts Training’ On Weinstein
‘Star Trek’ Actress Would Use ‘Years Of Martial Arts Training’ On Weinstein
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Source: HUFFINGTON POST

Steely Dan Frontman Donald Fagen Sues Insurance Co. Over Canceled Tour

Steely Dan Frontman Donald Fagen Sues Insurance Co. Over Canceled Tour

Steely Dan’s Donald FagenInsurance Co. Stiffing Me for Canceled Tour

10/18/2017 4:53 PM PDT

EXCLUSIVE

Kanye West and Donald Fagen have something in common — major beef with the insurance companies for their tours, and like Yeezy … Fagen’s suing his, claiming it’s failed to pay up.

The Steely Dan singer says he took out a policy with International Insurance Company of Hannover to cover his 28 solo tour dates this year in North America and Japan. As bad luck would have it … Donald says he got sick in September with an upper respiratory tract infection, severe sore throat as well as sinus and headache pains.

The illness came just one week after his musical partner Walter Becker passed away.

Donald had to cancel his remaining shows, and filed a claim for the insurer to cover any financial losses due to the canceled gigs. In the suit, obtained by TMZ, Donald says the company gave him the runaround, demanding more paperwork and medical opinions.

As we first reported, Kanye filed a similar lawsuit against Lloyd’s of London after his breakdown last year forced an early end to his tour.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s fed up … and wants a judge to force his insurer to fork over more than $1 million.

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Steely Dan Frontman Donald Fagen Sues Insurance Co. Over Canceled Tour
Steely Dan Frontman Donald Fagen Sues Insurance Co. Over Canceled Tour
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Source: TMZ