As busy a day of October baseball as we can have. Opening ceremonies will be cut short so we can move straight to the game action.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Pirates 0 1 2 0 2 0 1 1 0 7 Cardinals 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 (Series tied 1-1) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Pirates 7 31 28 3 14 5 3 1 0 Cardinals 13 4 5 5 8 8 7 1 1 WPS Base: 143.6 Best Plays: 36.6 Last Play: 0.1 Grand Total: 180.3
These aren’t just getting boring as baseball games. These are getting boring as examples of what makes a boring baseball game. One team gets ahead early, and never lets the other one get close again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The most interesting thing about this game may have been the wind. It was fooling fielders all day. Deceptively mild-mannered fly balls suddenly took off like Superman and leaped tall fences in a single bound, or sometimes without bounding at all. The final insult was the infield pop that somehow carried past David Freese, letting Marlon Byrd take two bases on his hustle. (He’d score on two productive outs.)
The vaunted St. Louis performance with runners in scoring position deserted the Cardinals today. Pittsburgh shut them down, zero for five. The bigger part of the story was that the Pirates allowed them so few RISP opportunities.
With three other games to cover, I won’t burn many more bits on this one. It does put Pittsburgh squarely back in the series, which puts the legions of Pirates fans squarely into the action for Game Three on Sunday. From what we heard from them in the Wild Card knockout game last Tuesday, that should be worth our attention.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Rays 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 Red Sox 0 0 0 5 3 0 0 4 X 12 (Red Sox lead series 1-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Rays 5 15 5 24 5 2 1 4 0 Red Sox 12 11 6 76 14 0 0 0 X WPS Base: 181.1 Best Plays: 38.7 Last Play: 0.0 Grand Total: 219.8
This game had some actual juice, at least for an inning, because it had something the previous six in this series did not: a lead change. A bizarre lead change, but a thorough one that turned the spigot of excitement right back off by the next inning. I will get to the original inning in a bit.
Once again, we see how deceptive early impressions can be. Jon Lester strikes out the side to open the game—he actually struck out his first four batters—but gave up a home run in the second, and another in the fourth, to pop the bubble of invincibility. His counterpart Matt Moore didn’t allow a hit through three, sparking that idle hope in the bosoms of myriad baseball fans. And then the fourth inning happened to him.
The Tampa Bay Rays are known these days as a smart team, smart in the front office, in the dugout, and on the field. But their defense in the fourth inning wound up two steps behind on every big play. Wil Myers let David Ortiz‘s deep fly ball drop for a ground-rule double. With the score tied, they let Jonny Gomes score from second on Stephen Drew’s dribbler to first base. Then Sean Rodriguez overran Will Middlebrooks‘ ball hitting off the Green Monster and had it ricochet behind him, letting Drew score. Then catcher Jose Lobaton‘s dropped third strike kept the inning alive long enough for a fifth Boston run.
It was almost like midnight had struck, and they had turned back into the Devil Rays. It was also time for the big trend of the playoffs to resume, as Fenway fans began the derisive chant of Myyyyy-errrrrs! What hath Pirates fans wrought!
There was immediate suspicion that the Boston bullpen had coached Myers off the fly ball that he had lined up, then pulled away to watch bounce over the fence. Myers said otherwise: “I saw Des [Desmond Jennings] out of the corner of my eye and backed off. It was totally my fault.” I’ll take him at his word, that he’s not covering by obeying the unwritten baseball rule that you don’t talk about your opponents disobeying the unwritten rules (it makes you look whiny).
Then there’s that other unwritten rule: Don’t show up the other team by stealing in the late innings with a big lead. Jacoby Ellsbury did that in the eighth, his Red Sox up 8-2, on the way to piling on four more runs. That’s something else the Rays may just have to shrug off.
But if David Ortiz takes a heater off his elbow tomorrow, we may have seen a reason or two why today.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Dodgers 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 3 Braves 0 1 0 1 0 0 2 0 X 4 (Series tied 1-1) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Dodgers 22 13 14 15 7 27 43 29 40 Braves 5 25 5 31 5 4 30 3 X WPS Base: 317.1 Best Plays: 49.9 Last Play: 7.5 Grand Total: 374.5
Yes! Finally! Thank you! It may not have been a great game, but it was a good game. It stayed close all the way through the middle innings; when one team finally leaped out to a multi-run lead, the other came back immediately to close the gap; even scoreless innings had enough action to hold a spectator’s interest. The highest Win Percentage Added play of the game, in fact, was the double play that got Atlanta out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh.
The pivotal play that most may remember is Atlanta substitute catcher Gerald Laird throwing out pinch-runner Dee Gordon on a ninth-inning steal attempt that quelled an L.A. rally. The play was awfully close: Shortstop Andrelton Simmons had his glove on Gordon’s back as the ball was arriving, but it came off about the time the ball went into the glove. To my eyes, he had the ball and contact; to others, it wasn’t clear-cut at all. That one could be picked over for a long time, depending on whether the Dodgers wish they had this game back.
After the Myyyyy-errrrrs! affair in Boston, it was good to hear a brief positive chant in Atlanta. Freddie Freeman, being talked up by the announcers as an MVP candidate, got a nice Fred-die! from the hometown folks early in the game, though it wasn’t repeated, as Mr. Myers’ chant was.
Craig Kimbrel came on for a four-out save, his first ever in the postseason, which gives me a chance to make an observation about him. In his three-plus seasons with the Braves, Kimbrel has recorded 139 regular-season saves, with 50 this year. If he stays healthy, there is every reason to believe he will have over 40 next year and put his career total past 180.
And at the end of the 2014 season when he does that, he will still be younger than Mariano Rivera was when he got his first major-league save. At 652 lifetime saves, Mariano is the king, but it may be that the heir is already among us. A lot of things have to go right for Kimbrel, but it would be tough to get off to a better start on the long chase.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Tigers 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 A's 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 (Detroit leads series 1-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Tigers 38 2 4 5 4 6 2 9 3 A's 4 16 8 4 4 10 33 26 17 WPS Base: 195.8 Best Plays: 39.3 Last Play: 3.9 Grand Total: 239.0
And we go right back to the old pattern, with a moderate variation near the end. If you watched the Dodgers and Braves to the final pitch, took a quick bathroom break, then tuned into the Tigers and A’s, you missed the Detroit offense. They jumped on Bartolo Colon early, then fizzled out as though exhausted by the effort. Oakland closed the gap in the seventh on Yoenis Cespedes‘ home run, so the last few innings were less of a WPS drought. The damage was done, though, and could have been undone only by a stirring comeback. The A’s didn’t have that in them.
Max Scherzer broke the recent pattern of pitchers dominating in the first inning, then coming unwound soon after. He compiled nine strikeouts through five innings, 11 for all seven that he pitched, and was one-hitting the A’s after six. Colon did settle down after the first, holding Detroit scoreless the next five innings, so he completely reversed the pattern.
An idle thought crossed my mind as I watched Colon face Prince Fielder: Is this the greatest combined weight of pitcher and batter ever to face each other in the majors? Probably not. I think CC Sabathia has the edge in mass on Colon, or at least did at one time. CC, though, looks big and solid, but Bartolo is just sloppy fat.
There was a weak “MVP!” chant for Josh Donaldson when he first came to bat. Given the presence of Cabrera on the same field, the weakness can be understood.
Miguel Cabrera is obviously hurting. A ball he hit in the eighth inning went off Donaldson’s glove at third. For most batters, this would have meant reaching on an error, but Donaldson calmly tracked down the ball, threw to first, and still got Cabrera by a couple of steps. If his hitting is as badly affected—and the announcers watching his plate technique believed so—he may actually be an impediment to the Tigers right now.
Jhonny Peralta, back from his Biogenesis suspension, pinch-hit in the ninth inning. The Oakland fans gave him a lusty round of boos. The same Oakland fans whose starting pitcher that night had been one-time suspended PED user Bartolo Colon. I reserve further comment.
So it took four games today, but we finally got a pretty good one. One hopes it won’t take another quadruple-header to produce a fun one, but if we need it, we’ve got it. Pittsburgh and Atlanta evened up their series today, meaning all four series will be playing on Monday. So we get to do this again in three days!
Sleep? What’s that? You can sleep in November.