October 18, 2020

NLCS 7: Dodgers 4, Atlanta 3

Atlanta - 110 100 000 - 3  3  0  
Dodgers - 002 001 10x - 4 10  0  
When the Los Angeles Dodgers left the bases loaded in the fourth inning, they had stranded eight men, including six on second or third. Atlanta led 3-2, which meant there was a very real possibility the Dodgers would be haunted by those missed opportunities. (LA had also had at least one runner on base in each of their last 13 innings, but had scored in only two of them.)

But that was not how things turned out. While I'm sure the Dodgers would have been more than happy to have scored five or six of those eight runners, what actually transpired was pretty cool, too. Los Angeles got two solo home runs, by pinch-hitter Kiké Hernández in the sixth and Cody Bellinger in the seventh, as well as three perfect innings of relief from Julio Urías, who closed out the game.

The Dodgers clinched their third National League pennant in the last four years, coming back from 1-3 to defeat Atlanta. They are the first Dodgers team to win a seven-game series after trailing 1-3. 

The Rays and Dodgers will play in the 116th World Series, beginning Tuesday night in Arlington. It will be the first ever World Series played at a neutral site and the first since the all-St. Louis series in 1944 to be played in one ballpark (Sportsman Park, Cardinals/Browns). It will also feature the teams with the best records in their respective leagues, something that has not happened since 2013 (Red Sox and Cardinals).

Corey Seager was named NLCS MVP, setting NLCS records for home runs (5) and RBI (11). Seven of his nine hits were for extra-bases, with two doubles added to the five dongs. I wonder how many LCS or WS MVPs went 0-for-5 in Game 7?

Dustin May learned fairly late that he would be the Dodgers' Game 7 starter (about seven hours before the first pitch). Perhaps that was why his first eight pitches missed the strike zone. May walked Ronald Acuña, who stole second on the first pitch to Freddie Freeman, who also walked. Marcell Ozuna took a strike before hitting a hard grounder through the hole. Acuña beat a strong throw home and Atlanta led 1-0. May avoided further humiliation when Travis d'Arnaud hit into a double play and Ozzie Albies struck out.

Mookie Betts led off the Dodgers first with a single to left and took second on a grounder to first. But Los Angeles could not get him home. Justin Turner flied to center and Max Muncy fanned.

Dansby Swanson led off the second with a solo home run off reliever Tony Gonsolin, giving Atlanta a 2-0 lead. In the bottom half, the Dodgers threatened again, but came up empty. Two-out singles by A.J. Pollock and Joc Pederson put runners at first and third, but Chris Taylor went down swinging.

After Gonsolin had a quick five-pitch third, his teammates went back back to work with the bats. Atlanta starter Ian Anderson (3-5-2-2-2, 73) got two outs on only four pitches. He issued an eight-pitch walk to Turner and was tagged for double into the right field corner by Muncy. Will Smith grounded the first pitch into center and both runners scored, tying the game. Bellinger walked, but Pollock lined out to center.

Atlanta regained the lead almost immediately. Albies walked on a full count, stole second on Gonsolin's 1-0 pitch to Swanson, who also walked. Austin Riley fell behind 0-2, but lined a single to center that scored Albies. (No one knew it then, but that would be Atlanta's last hit of the season.)

Blake Treinen took over on the hill and threw a wild pitch on 0-2, which put men on second and third. The infield was in and Nick Markakis grounded to Turner at third. The runners had taken off on contact (with no outs?). Turner threw home to Smith, who had Swanson was in a rundown. Smith chased the runner back towards the bag and threw back to Turner, who dove and tagged Swanson on the foot before turning on his knees and throwing to Seager at third, who tagged out Riley. The 5-2-5-6 double play was the first such play in postseason history and an epic squander for Atlanta.

The bottom of the fourth was a LOB-tomy for the Dodgers. Facing Tyler Matzek, Taylor singled with one out and Betts walked. Seager smoked a line drive right at Acuña in right field. A wild pitch moved the runners up and Turner walked, loading the bases. Muncy took what looked like a questionable strike on the outside black before missing a fastball away.

Freeman was robbed of a home run by Betts in the fifth. Mookie made several outstanding catches in the series, but "I think the home run robbery [was the best], because that was actually a home run. The other ones were going to stay in the park, but I think it's more fun when they were going to go over the wall."

Both teams were quiet until Hernández led off the sixth against new reliever A.J. Minter. Hernández was ahead in the count 2-1, but Minter got a called strike, and Hernández fouled off the next three pitches (inside, low and inside, low and away) before barreling up a fastball that Minter left over the plate. Hernández lined it off the facing of the second deck in left and the game was again tied, 3-3.

Taylor followed with a double that was ripped down the left field line and into the corner. He went to third on Betts's fly to right-center. Atlanta brought its infield in and when Seager grounded to second, Albies had time to make an accurate throw home and Taylor, coming in with a head-first slide, was easily tagged out.

After Urías pitched an uneventful and clean seventh, the Dodgers faced Chris Martin who had recorded the final out of the sixth. Martin looked good, striking out Muncy and Smith, the latter on three called strikes (all sinkers). Bellinger stepped in with two outs.

Bellinger watched a strike and two balls before taking the 2-1 pitch well outside. But plate umpire James Hoye blew the call, ruling it strike two. Bellinger fouled off three pitches, two of which were also outside, but considering Hoye's unsteady eye, there was no taking chances. Martin's eighth pitch was over the plate, a bit higher than dead center. Bellinger crushed it to deep right. He knew it immediately and his reaction was extremely subdued, all things considered. 

Bellinger's celebration after crossing the plate was anything but subdued. He banged arms with Hernández and jammed his shoulder. The LA Times said he ran straight into the trainer's room. "They popped it back in so I could go out and play defense. It kind of hurt. I'm gonna maybe use my left arm. I've never dislocated that one."

Meanwhile, Urías was as calm as a goggled clam, setting down Atlanta's 2-3-4 hitters in the eighth. Manager Dave Roberts had decided it was Urías's game because I don't think Kelsey Jansen (who had pitched the ninth innings of both Games 5 and 6) warmed up at all.

Albies and Swanson, the first two Atlanta batters in the ninth, grounded to shortstop. The first play was to Seager's backhand, but he handled both chances easily. Riley swung at the first pitch and lofted it to center. Bellinger made the catch, completing the Dodgers' NLCS comeback.

Also: I'm betting Brian Snitker heard a lot of shit about his last name as a kid.

Our ears and intellects were assaulted by John Smoltz for 3:37. But Joe Buck was absent! He was off calling a football game, so Joe Davis had his seat. 

Smoltz's faults as an announcer are many, but the main detriment is: HE WILL NOT SHUT UP. His motormouth is especially bad in the first few innings of a game, when he can overpower the play-by-play man. Smoltz may calm down a bit as the game goes on, but his incessant mansplaining never lets up. He lectured everyone about what you feel before a Game 7, how you feel during a Game 7, how you manage your emotions as a Game 7 evolves, etc. etc. Approximately 99.3% of this chatter was cliched pablum.

Smoltz also likes to shorten various words. We know Ron Darling loves to talk about the "post", how many hits does he have in the "post", how has his curve been in the "post". Smoltz talked a lot about "comp", which stood for either competitor or competition. I wasn't comp sure about that, but I know it didn't stand for no dang "computer", cuz Smoltzie don't truck with analytics. His other abbreviation was "max" (usually used with "max"). Over the course of a game, the time saved by shortening words here and there (or saying a sentence with a few missing words) adds up, allowing him to cram more blather in.

Rookie Ian Anderson came into the game having pitched 15.2 scoreless innings this postseason. With one out in the second inning, that number was 17, and Smoltz imagined the Dodgers on the bench saying, "Let's give this guy an ERA." . . . Of course, Anderson already had an ERA. It was 0.00.

When Betts led off the third, Smoltz informed us: "Looks like he's about to go on a tear." Sadly, we never learned exactly what it was Smoltz spied in that particular plate appearance that prompted such an observation about Betts. Needless to say, Betts did not "go on a tear". Right then, he flied to right. Later, he walked, flied to center, and dropped a double into right-center.

During that same half-inning, Smoltz pointed out how they measure "everything" in baseball now, but what they don't or can't measure (my ears perked up: what could be outside of "everything?") is "heart beat". . . . Actually, there are super-accurate machines that can measure exactly that. Smoltz amended that to "heart" or some such, but I, being quite disappointed in his answer, had tuned out.

After Hernández tied the game in the sixth, Smoltz remarked "Some guys are just wired for October." (In 52 games over six seasons, Hernandez is a .214 postseason hitter. . . . Those wires might be a bit frayed.)

Smoltz did add a few things. One of his numerous pontifications about "Game 7" was about the intense concentration a pitcher needs to have for every single pitch thrown. It can easily make four innings seem like eight. And he criticized Taylor for his headfirst slide into an out at the plate. He didn't come out and say Taylor should have gone in standing up, but he said a runner would have more ways to move around or over the catcher if he doesn't commit to sliding head first.

The other constant topic was "narrative". When I tell you what Smoltz wanted us to understand about "narrative", it's not going to make any sense because no former player in his right mind would ever believe such a thing for even a minute. And I'm not even completely sure what he meant. He seemed to say a game has a narrative and sometimes a player will "flip the script" (an expression I fucking loathe and would pay a nice sum to never hear again) and change the narrative.

You don't have to watch very many baseball games to grasp the concept that games have no narrative at all. Anyone can impose a narrative on a game after it's over. See above for my latest effort. Announcers and sportswriters love to impose their own narratives on past events, telling us why certain things happened. They are always full of shit, of course, but that doesn't stop them from doing it (like how political pundits are 98% dead wrong, yet somehow they remain employed and respected as pundits). But that can't be what Smoltz meant, because a player can't . . . flip . . . ughhh . . . after a game is over.

But it also cannot be possible for Smoltz to think that all baseball games are semi-predetermined, and sometimes a player can upset the expected outcome. Is that it? Is that what he means? What we expect to happen in a game might not actually be what ends up happens? That's not very earth-shattering. That's common sense. That's reality. It's what has happened in damn near every single game ever played.

Smoltz pitched in 845 professional baseball games (plus spring training!) and has been an announcer for seven seasons. He's seen a shitload of games and he must know that every game can be summed up in one word: youneverknow. The rookie pitcher outshines the future Hall of Famer, the juggernaut gets routed by the basement-dweller, the scrawny infielder cranks three home runs, the reliever with pinpoint control walks in the winning run, a former player-turned-announcer has a game in which he says brilliant stuff for nine innings . . . anything can happen! Jayson Stark is beloved as a sportswriter because of the sheer joy he has for knowing and reporting the bizarre and unprecedented and the WTF?!? of baseball.

I probably should go back and listen to the part of the game where Smoltz was lecturing about "narrative" (it was the top of the fourth) but considering there's a World Series coming up and he'll be yapping through the whole fucking thing (plus Joe Buck), I have my limits. (I wonder who the international radio announcers are . . .)

MLB Allowing 11,000 Fans At Each NLCS & World Series Game, Knowing It Can Easily Evade Responsibility For Any Virus Deaths (Cases Surging In Texas, Increasing In 43 Of 50 States)

Last Monday, I was looking at the box score for Game 1 of the NLCS and was confused when I saw:

Att: 10,700.

I had missed the news that MLB had decided to allow a limited number of fans into the NLCS games in Arlington, Texas. The attendance figures for the first six games:

G1: 10,700
G2: 10,624
G3: 10,664
G4: 11,044
G5: 11,119
G6: 10,772

MLB will also allow a limited number of fans to attend each World Seies game, which will aso be played in Arlington. No fans were allowed at any of the seven ALCS games in San Diego.

Texas (a state run by a Republican governor who initially (like most members of his party) denied the virus even existed (similar to how they deny the existence of science and facts)) is in Phase 3 of its reopening plan (which one virologist called "beyond stupid"), which allows open-air stadiums to admit up to 50 percent capacity. Arlington's retractable-roof stadium seats 40,300. 

MLB says it has "received the appropriate approvals". But was the go-ahead given by adults who think Jesus rode a dinosaur?

Jeff Passan, ESPN, October 12, 2020:

Fans over the age of 2 – except for those with a medical condition or disability that precludes their use – will be required to wear masks over their noses and mouths. Around 200 employees will roam the stadium to enforce compliance, said Rob Matwick, the Rangers' executive vice president of ballpark operations. While fans can remove the masks to eat or drink, those seen not wearing them will be given two warnings before being ejected from the game if caught maskless a third time. . . .

Behind the scenes, sources said, MLB owners have balked at the idea of playing to empty stadiums next season, and holding the NLCS and World Series with fans [after speaking to "health experts"] will provide the league with proof of concept to see whether it can work as a short-term fix. . . .

Following those conversations, MLB decided against requiring temperature checks for those entering the stadium . . . [There has] not been testing game-day employees for the coronavirus.

Pictures at NLCS Game 1 showed fans not keeping six feet apart and not wearing masks. Other photos show that social distancing was optional during batting practice. Were stadium employees giving warnings to these fans? We have no idea.

As Kenny Kelly of Beyond The Box Score noted (my emphasis):

These fans with masks around their chins standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers from opposite sides of the country were violating the guidelines MLB had in place for the game, but rules are only as good as the ability to enforce them. In a piece at The Athletic last week, Evan Drellich reported that the league was "still formulating its exact instructions for game day staff in the postseason." That was Monday the 5th. Tickets went on sale the next morning, so there's no doubt MLB started selling tickets before they knew [they] could stick to any sort of safety protocol.

Two days ago, the Texas Tribune reported that hospitals in some parts of the state (West Texas, the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Panhandle, and El Paso) are filling up with coronavirus patients and health officials are warning of yet another surge of new cases. On Friday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 5,870 additional cases, raising the statewide total to 815,678.

Arlington is located roughly equidistant between Dallas and Fort Worth, in Tarrant County, where the "Community Spread Level" in Tarrant County is "substantial". Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said this week, after raising the coronavirus threat level to red (the highest risk): "Unfortunately, we are currently going in the wrong direction."

One reason for the increase, according to Dr. Luis Ostrosky, a professor of infectious disease with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, is "pandemic fatigue", which had led fewer people to wear masks or practice social distancing. "They're not seeing people get sick around them, and they're just starting to be a little bit more permissive."

Which is like being told to take two weeks of medication, then noticing after four days that your condition has improved, so you stop taking the rest of the medication. Spoiler Alert: The condition will likely return.

Over the past week, the United States has averaged 56,210 new cases per day, an increase of 28% from the average two weeks earlier. Cases have been rising in 43 of the 50 states, while the president is lying on a daily basis about "rounding the turn" regarding the virus.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred highlighted his incompetence (one of the few things he does quite well), telling the Wall Street Journal that earlier in the season:

I think there was some sense that if you tested enough, the rest of the preventative measures were maybe not as important.

Kelly describes Manfred's so-called leadership: "Make a plan, don't stick to the plan, scramble to fix things when people get sick."

There are going to be new cases because of the decision to allow fans to attend . . . [there will be at least 11 (and possibly 14) games in Arlington]. New cases will invariably lead to deaths.
The reason MLB is allowing this to happen is that it will be next to impossible to prove that attending these games led to someone dying. . . . 

When fans get sick, it's going to be next to impossible to prove that they got sick at the game. [Hannah Keyser of Yahoo reports that MLB "does not have the authority to contact trace people outside the organization".] Even if someone could prove that they contracted COVID-19 at the NLCS or the World Series, they wouldn't be able to sue because of a waiver included in the ticket agreement. . . .

The World Series will be over before anyone has to go on a ventilator, and no one is going to be able to trace the sickness back to Globe Life Field anyway.

A month from now, we're not going to be able to say how many people got sick or died because they or someone they knew/passed in a grocery store went to these games. That's why MLB is holding these games. They know it's not safe, but they don't have to accept responsibility. All they have to accept are cashless payments.

This is still more evidence that Commissioner Manfred is taking his cues about how to act in this crisis from Donald Trump. It's fine to act irresponsibly, putting tens of thousands of lives at risk for illness and/or death because it will be next to impossible for you to be blamed for any tragedy, but, just to be safe, have everyone attending games/rallies sign waivers absolving you of any legal responsibility for your deliberate carelessness.

October 17, 2020

ALCS 7: Rays 4, Astros 2

Astros - 000 000 020 - 2  7  0
Rays - 210 001 00x - 4 6 0

The 2004 Red Sox stand alone as the only major league team to win a seven-game series after losing the first three games. All remains as it should be in this tiny corner of the universe.

The 2020 Houston Astros found out on Saturday night that coming back from 0-3 is not so easy. The Astros (who finished the regular season 29-31) were not as great a team as the 2004 Red Sox and the Rays were nowhere near as choke-y as the 2004 Yankees.

Tampa Bay starter Charlie Morton pitched 5.2 scoreless innings (5.2-2-0-1-6, 66), Randy Arozarena continued his torrid hitting with a two-run, opposite-field home run in the first inning, his seventh dong in this postseason, and Mike Zunino added a solo shot in the second and a sac fly in the sixth.

Arozarena was named the ALCS Most Valuable Player, the first rookie position player to win an LCS MVP. He hit .321 average, with four home runs boosting a 1.152 OPS.

Pete Fairbanks nailed down the win for the Rays, but he had a rough start to his night. He came into the game with his team up 4-0, but with Astros on first and third and two outs. He walked his first batter on four pitches (and ball 2 was a wild pitch) and gave up a two-run single to Carlos Correa. He ended the threat by striking out Alex Bregman on a 100-mph fastball up and away.

Fairbanks fanned Kyle Tucker to start the ninth. On 0-2, he fired a fastball (99) up, out of the zone, for ball one, followed with a slider (89) in the dirt that was fouled off, and then went back upstairs with heat (99) and Tucker swung under it. Yuri Gurriel lined a 2-1 pitch to right for a single, and Houston brought the potential tying run to the plate. (One benefit of no crowd: We were spared the sight of fans "praying".)

Josh Reddick (who I learned is the all-time leader in "winner-take-all games played", with nine) got ahead in the count 2-1, but took a strike down the middle and fouled off another pitch before going down swinging, on more Fairbanks gas.

Aledmys Diaz (who had pinch-hit in the eighth, walked and scored) did not produce any drama. He lofted the first pitch to right. Manuel Margot came in a little bit, made the catch, and the celebration began. It was the second pennant for the Rays, who also grabbed the flag in 2008 (though the Red Sox nearly came back from 1-3 in that series).

Morton was the undisputed star of the night. (He was the anti-Kevin Brown.) After giving up a hit with two outs in the first, he retired 14 straight batters before going to his first three-ball count on his 18th batter and walking him. Before the walk, Morton had had only three two-ball counts. He threw 30 pitches in three innings, the same number Lance McCullers (3.2-4-3-1-7, 75) threw in the first inning alone. Morton's pitch count after five innings was 49, one fewer than McCullers' first two innings of work.

Also: McCullers is the first pitcher in postseason history to have two games with 7+ strikeouts and 2 home runs allowed (Games 2 and 7). I doubt that will go on his resume.

Dan Martin, Post:

OK, Yankees fans, here's the good news: the Astros aren't going back to the World Series.

The bad news?

The Yankees' newest rivals, the Rays, are headed there instead — and the Yankees remain the only team to have blown a three-game series lead in the playoffs. . . .

Houston was just the second team to have forced a Game 7 after dropping the first three games of a playoff series, joining the 2004 Red Sox. Unlike Boston, though, the Astros couldn't finish the job.

TBS's broadcast was not atrocious (neither Joe Buck not John Smoltz was involved), but it was marred by Ron Darling's excessive earnestness (which lacked the goofiness that Tim McCarver brought to his overheated observations) and some odd interjections from Brian Anderson, the play-by-play guy.

First, we learned that one of the Astros' "keys to victory" was: "Stars need to shine".  . . . Interesting. In the bottom of the first, Darling told us that plate umpire Lance Barksdale is known to have a wider, "pitcher's" strike zone. Wider than what, you might ask? The rule book, I guess. Darling offered no evidence he found the fact of Barksdale's expanding of the strike zone unusual, unethical, or incompetent. However, considering how few times I yelled at the screen, Barksdale seemed to call a decent game, with his zone favouring no one.

In the bottom of the second, Anderson expressed excessive praise for Rays catcher Mike Zunino. He said Zunino had been "doing damage" in the series (with a .250 average and no walks). He had hit a home run in Game 2, which Anderson described as "long" before also telling us it was estimated at 353 feet. (So it actually barely cleared the wall?) Darling and second analyist Jeff Francoeur poked fun at Anderson for thinking a 353-foot homer was hit a "long" ways, but Anderson doubled down, referring to the "long" dong again a few seconds later. (Then Zunino ended an eight-pitch at-bat by blasting a truly long home run, 430 feet, into the second deck in left. Anderson gushed that Zunino was "in the nitro zone". If you say so . . .)

When Morton was pulled and Nick Anderson came in from the bullpen, Announcer Anderson referred to him as "the closer for the starter", which is a dumb expression I have never heard before. Anderson retired his one batter for an inning-ending out, so does he (as the CFTS) get a save for that? Also, when Morton was shown on the bench, the on-screen graphic said he allowed one hit. He had been pulled after giving up his second hit.

At various times, TBS put tweets from other players on the screen. This was wholly unnecessary as the only insight they provided was that major league players are no more pithy than the average fan. Comments like "This is the moment" or a tweet with a player's name and a bicep emoji can only piss off the viewer, thus providing negative value to a broadcast.

2020 is only the third season in which the LCS in both leagues have gone the full seven games. Of course, the ALCS was expanded to seven games fairly recently (in 1985), so this has been possible for only 35 years (omitting 1994). Three out of 35 seasons (2003, 2004, 2020) still seems like very low number.

Go, Dodgers!

"Today, I Consider Myself . . . The Biggest Tampa Bay Rays Fan On The Face Of The Earth"

I am not pleased with the progression of the 2020 American League Championship Series.

Game 1: Rays 2, Astros 1
Game 2: Rays 4, Astros 2
Game 3: Rays 5, Astros 2
Game 4: Astros 4, Rays 3
Game 5: Astros 4, Rays 3
Game 6: Astros 7, Rays 4
Game 7:

A wise man once said: "Anything can happen in a Game 7."

This is some serious shit.

Look, I don't have a problem with another major league baseball team (not named the Yankees) coming back from 0-3 and winning a best-of-7 series. Truly, I don't. But if it happens, I want it to happen only after I'm dead. Let's say 35 years from now, to be safe. So not before 2055.

Of course, the 2004 Red Sox will always be the first team to accomplish that particular feat and nothing can (or will) ever diminish the mind-blowing fucking awesomeness of that comeback (and the corresponding choke by the Yankees). Accomplishing the impossible* against the Yankees was somehow made even better by the fact that it happened in the season directly following (I'll speak only for myself here) the worst trauma this Red Sox fan ever experienced.

*: There's actually a book out there that says Boston's 2004 postseason was "impossible" right in the title. Which frankly doesn't seem wholly accurate, but it's still a hell of a book. Makes a great Christmas gift, too. I'd suggest ordering now because mail service during a plague can be a little wonky.

The Astros have already encroached on our turf, by being the second team to battle back to a seventh game after being down 0-3. That's bad enough. This must stop now.

The Rays' Charlie Morton, who was the winning pitcher for the 2017 Astros in both Game 7 of the ALCS and Game 7 of the World Series, will face Lance McCullers at 8:30 PM ET tonight. McCullers also pitched in both of those games. Elias says McCullers and Morton are the first pair of players in postseason history to pitch in the same winner-take-all game as teammates and then later start against each other in a winner-take-all game.

The Rays lost more than three consecutive games only once in 2020, dropping five straight from July 29 to August 2 (Games 6-10 on the schedule). The Astros finished 29-31. Two games under .500! They have no goddamn business winning this series.

October 15, 2020

MLB: "Profoundly Irresponsible" And "Entirely Predictable"; The "Unmitigated Bullshit" of Hillbilly Elegy's "Bootstraps Porn"

Craig Calcaterra (Cup of Coffee) writes about MLB's recent online survey:
which seem aimed at figuring out how to make fans comfortable about actually going to ballparks next year. . . .

It goes on to ask how fans think their favorite team . . . has handled the pandemic and what level of activities in ballparks stress you out the most. There are also questions about attitudes toward masks, temperature checks, and what things ballpark operations can do to make people feel the most comfortable, such as spaced seating, contactless payments, hand sanitizing stations, and the like, and what might inspire you to go to the ballpark. Finally, it asks you how likely you are to go to a ballpark, followed by a bunch of demographic questions.

Knowledge is always useful, but I feel like something else is going on here. I think Major League Baseball is looking to find as many sources of anti-pandemic safety eyewash that it can find in order to convince people to go to the ballpark next year regardless of the situation on the ground. . . .

As I wrote about at length at the Pandemic Diary, our public officials and institutions have largely given up even trying to fight the pandemic. We're simply reverting to normal because we, as a society, do not have the will to do what is necessary to fight it. . . .

So, you're Major League Baseball. It's next April. You don't have any significant legal restrictions in most markets, but you still have fairly widespread public anxiety and a broad hesitance of people to actually attend sporting events. What do you do? Why, you provide the appearance of safety in a way that, while not adhering to best scientific practices or the recommendations of public health experts — that's what has been rejected in America, remember — at least adheres to public opinions about safety, which is the point of this survey. You let a bunch of sports fans with no scientific expertise decide what they think will keep them safe. . . .

Major League Baseball WILL have games with fans. It just wants fans to feel better about it, regardless of whether or not it’s actually, you know, a good idea. . . .

We will get things which provide the illusion of safety. We will get those things because, in the absence of actual leadership and sacrifice in the face of a deadly enemy, the illusion of safety is all that is really needed and all that can actually be done.

Personally, I think allowing public opinion to decide how we fight this pandemic, while ignoring expert advice, is the primary reason that things have gotten so bad in the first place. And I think that Major League Baseball relying on public opinion, as opposed to expert advice, to shape the ballpark experience in 2021 and beyond is profoundly irresponsible even if it's entirely predictable. . . .

Providing the illusion of safety is what the United States now does best. Quadrennial treks to the voting booth maintain the illusion of democracy (though that veneer has worn quite thin in the past couple of decades), while removing your shoes and having your mini tube of toothpaste confiscated at the airport are essential acts in the national show of "security theater". In the land of illusion, companies make a show of thanking essential workers publicly for risking their lives during a pandemic, but still refuse to pay them a living wage.

There also exists a general impatience with doing things that will benefit other people (an odd quality, one might say, in a country that regards itself as Christian). For many Americans, the inability to perceive any tangible benefit of a public good is an acceptable reason to violently protest against it. Thus, wearing a protective mask and avoiding large crowds - the act of actually saving lives - becomes a crushing burden that can only be compared to slavery (according to the head of the US Department of Justice).

All of which segues into Calcaterra's "almost monomaniacal disdain" for J.D. Vance and his book Hillbilly Elegy, which he describes as "absolute unmitigated bullshit" (in his review and an expanded follow-up) fueled by Vance's "willful and calculated" ignorance.

His central argument is that the crisis of poverty, addiction, and countless other challenges facing rural Americans is attributable to a lack of character and work ethic by those suffering from it. It is Vance's view that the underclass from which he rose is struggling so mightily because it is not taking responsibility for its own decay. That it's the moral failures of the poor, as opposed to external social and economic challenges posed by people, companies and systems which seek to extract money and resources from the lower and middle classes and funnel them to the rich, which are to blame.

These arguments . . . are utter hogwash. Hogwash, it should be noted, that adheres pretty closely to the views of the Yale Professor/author who mentored him and helped get "Hillbilly Elegy" published and the Silicon Valley venture capital class among which Vance worked for many years and continues to work. It also, not coincidentally, is on all fours with GOP political leaders who will, eventually, aid Vance's manifest political ambitions. In our system the poor are blamed for being poor and to the extent we even have a functioning social safety net, it is largely premised on the idea that people deserve to be punished for being poor and should be forced to beg and jump through hoops if the need help. Vance's book is like an instruction manual for maintaining that system. It's written permission for someone to sneer at a mother using SNAP to buy food for their children, an act of absolution for those who would demonize the poor as deadbeats or freeloaders.

It's Vance's political ambitions, by the way, which compel me to continue to stay on his case more than four years after his book came out. . . . [H]e aims, many believe, to be the junior Senator from the State of Ohio one day, and I'll be damned if I let him ride his sugar-coated poor-bashing pablum to Washington unopposed. . . .

If you'd like to actually understand what people in Appalachia and small town America deal with and who and what, actually, are responsible for the problems they face, do yourself a favor: pick up Elizabeth Catte's "What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia" and Brian Alexander's "Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town".

Dodgers Set A Postseason Record With 11-Run Inning, Paste Atlanta 15-3; Astros Beat Rays To Avoid A Sweep

In NLCS Game 2, on Tuesday, the Dodgers saw 134 pitches before they scored their first run, eventually losing and falling behind 0-2 to Atlanta. In Wednesday's Game 3, the Dodgers needed only two pitches to score a run.

A single by Mookie Betts (the original out call was overturned) and a double from Corey Seager gave Los Angeles a quick 1-0 lead. That was only the tip of the iceberg. By the time the top of the first inning was over (it took 32 minutes), the Dodgers had done what no team has ever done in the postseason: score 11 runs in one inning.

After the single and double, Atlanta got a couple of groundouts, so the Dodgers had a man on third and two outs. The rest of the inning unfolded as follows: double, walk, home run (Joc Pederson), home run (Edwin Ríos), walk, pitching change, walk, single, hit by pitch, grand slam (Max Muncy), K.

The Dodgers set a postseason franchise record for runs in their 15-3 win over Atlanta. (They scored 13 in Game 2 of the 1956 World Series and Game 3 of the 2013 NLDS.) And they are remain the only team to not have lost three straight games in 2020.

The previous postseason record for runs in one inning was 10, which has been done four times, most recently last year by the Cardinals against Atlanta, also in the first inning (!). Atlanta is the first team to allow multiple 10-run innings in postseason history.

Biggest Postseason Innings

11 - Dodgers, 2020 NLCS Game 3, first inning, against Atlanta
10 - Cardinals, 2019 NLDS Game 5, first inning, against Atlanta
10 - Angels, 2002 ALCS Game 5, seventh inning, against Twins
10 - Tigers, 1968 World Series Game 6, third inning, against Cardinals
10 - Athletics, 1929 World Series Game 4, seventh inning, against Cubs

This was Atlanta's first loss in the postseason, after seven wins. They lead the NLCS 2-1. Game 4 is tomorrow night at 8:00 PM ET.

The Dodgers' previous high for runs in a postseason inning had been seven, in the 2019 NLDS against the Nationals. It was the first 11+-run inning in "Los Angeles" Dodgers history. The "Brooklyn" Dodgers scored 13 runs in the eighth inning of a 20-7 win over the Redlegs on August 8, 1954. (From 1953-58, the Reds changed their name to Redlegs so no one would think they were communists.)

The Dodgers became the first team in postseason history to hit three home runs in the first inning of a game. Los Angeles' five home runs set a franchise postseason record. (The all-time record is six, by the Cubs in 2015 NLDS Game 3.)

The Dodgers also set an all-time postseason record with 18 total bases in one inning. ... The Dodgers' five extra-base hits tied the all-time postseason record for most in an inning. ... Max Muncy's four first-inning RBIs tied the record for one player in an NLCS inning. ... All nine Dodgers batters had at least one hit by the third inning. Four batters had at least two and Corey Seager had three.

The Dodgers' 15 runs came in the first three innings (11-1-3), the most runs after three innings by a team in any postseason game. (When the Cardinals scored 10 in the first inning against Atlanta last year, they also confined their scoring to the first three innings (10-1-2)!)

The Dodgers' margin of victory (12 runs) was the most in franchise postseason history. In the pennant-clinching Game 4 of the 1974 NLCS against the Pirates, Los Angeles won by 11 runs (12-1).

Atlanta starter Kyle Wright (0.2-5-7-2-0, 28) is the fifth pitcher in postseason history to record fewer than three outs and allow six or more runs. Wright became the first starting pitcher in postseason history to allow at least seven runs without finishing the first inning.

Atlanta's starting pitchers allowed five runs in 38.2 innings (116 outs) in the team's first seven postseason games. Wright allowed seven runs while recording only two outs.

Drawing a dividing line before the seventh inning of Game 2, Atlanta's pitching staff's runs allowed:

First 64 IP: 6 runs allowed

Next 6 IP: 22 runs allowed

Grant Dayton relieved Wright and gave up eight runs in two innings, becoming the fourth reliever in postseason history to give up as many as eight runs, and the first since Jay Witasick of the Yankees in Game 6 of the 2001 World Series against the Diamondbacks (Arizona won 15-3).

The only other team in postseason history to have multiple pitchers allow at least seven earned runs was Cleveland, who lost to the Red Sox 23-7 in Game 4 of the 1999 ALDS. Starter Bartolo Colon (seven runs) and reliever Steve Reed (eight) were the punching bags, as Boston set postseason records for runs and run differential.

In the ALCS, the Astros beat the Rays 4-3 to avoid a sweep. Randy Arozarena of the Rays hit his fifth home run of the postseason. Tampa Bay leads 3-1 with Game 5 tomorrow at 5 PM ET.

October 12, 2020

Rays Kick Off ALCS By Beating Astros 2-1; Dodgers-Atlanta Begin NLCS Today

ALCS Game 2: Astros (McCullers) vs Rays (Morton) at San Diego, 4:00 PM ET
NLCS Game 1: Atlanta (Fried) vs Dodgers (Buehler) at Arlington, TX, 8:00 PM ET

The Rays won Game 1 of the American League Championship Series last night, edging the Astros 2-1. Diego Castillo came into the eighth inning protecting one-run lead, with one out and the bases loaded. He threw a single pitch, which Yuri Gurriel grounded up the middle into a 4U-3 double play, and walked off the mound. Castillo gave up a one-out single in the ninth before nailing down the victory.

Tampa Bay is 33-0 this season when leading after seven innings. The Rays have won 73 consecutive games when leading in the eighth inning or later. The Rays' bullpen has inherited 16 runners this postseason. None have scored. (h/t Craig Calcaterra)

It was the Astros' fifth game in postseason history where they scored in the first inning and were shutout the rest of the way. They lost all five games.

Atlanta comes into the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers having swept the Wild-Card Series and the NLDS, shutting out its opponents four times in five games. I don't expect the Dodgers to be whitewashed too often in the next week.

Last Thursday, LA reliever Julio Urias allowed only one hit over five innings as the Dodgers finished off the Padres. Urias was the first relief pitcher to toss 5+ innings while allowing one or no hits in a postseason series-clinching win since Pedro Martinez in the 1999 ALDS (Game 5, six hitless innings vs Cleveland).

Atlanta is the first team in postseason history to have rookies post back-to-back scoreless starts: Ian Anderson (5.2 innings in NLDS Game 2) and Kyle Wright (6 innings in NLDS Game 3).

Hoping For: Rays and Dodgers.

. . .

Still enjoying the end of the Yankees' season:

October 11, 2020

Schadenfreude 277 (A Continuing Series)

Yankees Try To Make Sense Of Another Season That Ends With Crushing Postseason Loss

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:
Luke Voit sat in a room somewhere in Petco Park, hunched over, elbows on his knees, his dejection obvious on his face. Outside, the Rays were on the field . .  [dancing] to the Yankees signature song: Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York." . . .

It could not make Voit or the Yankees feel any worse.

"There's always a loser . . .," Voit said. . . .

For the fourth straight year, the Yankees season ended in disappointment. After spending a record $324 million on Gerrit Cole, and coming in with World Series expectations, the Yankees could not get out of the ALDS for the second time in four years. . . .

[Aaron Judge:] "To come up short, the past couple years have been tough." . . .

The Yankees season ended with Aroldis Chapman giving up the game-winning home run for the second straight year. Last year it was Jose Altuve, who knew a slider was coming, and crushed it. Friday night, it was Mike Brosseau who hammered the Yankee closer's fastball.

"I feel terrible," Chapman said . . . "I particularly do not want to lose." . . .

Aaron Bone snapped when asked if this season was a failure. . . . "I hate that question every year . . ."

Joel Sherman, Post:
In the aftermath of another postseason elimination, manager Aaron Boone all but scoffed at the notion it [the Game 2 pitching gaffe] was the trigger toward losing to the Rays in the series, calling it "kind of ridiculous."

But what is said about history and not learning from it? . . .

Boone accentuated that the Yankees were trying to negate the platoon advantages the Rays can create with their abundance of lefty and righty hitters and willingness to inject them into games at any time to gain a favorable matchup. Got it.

Except, if this is so vital, why have the Yankees stopped seeking it in their own roster construction? They have become heavily right-handed, declaring . . . their righty bats do well against righty pitching. Except which righty pitching? High-end righty playoff pitching (think, not the Orioles) and the Yankees' susceptibility to it has been central to their postseason ouster the past four years. . . .

You can argue that the staff would have been fine [but for injuries] . . . [P]lease don't do that. The Rays put 11 pitchers on the injured list this year and lost six for good. This for a team that above all else focused its energy on run prevention. Yet with a payroll roughly one quarter of the Yankees' payroll, they still amassed a better overall staff — not to mention that diverse lineup. . . .

The Yankees are going to have to decide how long to run with this core. They can create a narrative that they were bounced by cheaters in 2017 (Astros) and Red Sox (2018), and actually outscored the Astros in the 2019 ALCS and the Rays in a now concluded 2020 ALDS. They are that close, so why change course?

Except those four teams were better. The Yankees have not been the best team in the AL in this recent run. . . .
Mike Vaccaro, Post:
It was more than a baseball season that perished late Friday night when Gio Urshela's line drive was snuffed inside the glove of Tampa Bay third baseman Joey Wendle. No, this time it felt like a little more than that.

We have trod these grounds before, but it bears repeating: We are in the worst championship drought in New York City since we started winning them. That was 1923. The Yankees won it that year. Four years later, in a glorious 1927, the Yankees, Giants won titles, followed by the Rangers and Yankees, again, a year later. . . .

That means that as of midnight Sunday, the tragic number is 3,171.

That's the number of days since Giants 21, Patriots 17, on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. It isn't just the longest drought in New York's history, it is by far the longest drought in New York sports history. . . .

The Yankees beat the Giants, 1-0, in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series . . . And finally, on Jan. 12, 1969, the Jets stunned the Colts in Super Bowl III, 16-7. Thus ended a parched desert stretch in New York City that had lasted all of 2,280 days. That was the very worst of it for years. Close to 6 ½ years of nothing. Who could put up with that? . . .

It has now been almost nine full years. It has been those 3,171 days. And if that's not bad enough, look at it this way:

The Yankees' season ending on Friday guarantees that when dawn breaks on Jan. 27, 2021, that drought will still be in effect — even if the hand of God inspires the Jets and the Giants to rise up and start to win football games by some inexplicable miracle, there will be no champions crowned, once MLB and the NBA are done this month, until February.

And Jan. 27, 2021, will mark 3,280 days since a New York team won a championship.

In other words: A thousand days longer than any New York sports drought has ever lasted before. . . .

Will another thousand days pass on top of that before this finally ends? . . .

The baseball season died Friday night. The tragic number lives on. And keeps growing. And growing. . . .

October 10, 2020

Schadenfreude 276 (A Continuing Series)


Yankee Elimination Days
YED 2001 - November 4
YED 2002 - October 5
YED 2003 - October 25
YED 2004 - October 20
YED 2005 - October 10
YED 2006 - October 7
YED 2007 - October 8
YED 2008 - September 23
YED 2010 - October 22
YED 2011 - October 6
YED 2012 - October 18
YED 2013 - September 25
YED 2014 - September 24
YED 2015 - October 6
YED 2016 - September 29
YED 2017 - October 21
YED 2018 - October 9
YED 2019 - October 19
YED 2020 - October 9 

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:

For the second straight year, the Yankees season was ended by a home run given up by Aroldis Chapman. Friday night, it came with a little bit of revenge. Mike Brosseau had an 101-mile an hour Chapman fastball right behind his head that led to a benches-clearing argument a month ago. He crushed a one of Chapman's 100-mph fastballs Friday night for a game-winning home run.

His homer gave the Rays a 2-1 win over the Yankees in Game 5 of a the American League Division Series at Petco Park. . . . Brosseau worked a 10-pitch at-bat before beating the Yankees closer. . . .

The Rays, who won the AL East and dominated the Yankees all year, now advance to the American League Championship Series where they will face the Astros beginning Sunday night. . . .

The Yankees' season ends in disappointment for the third straight year. Last year, it was Chapman giving up the home run to Jose Altuve in the AL Championship Series that ended the season.

"It's awful. It's cruel, you know, it really is," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said . . .

The Yankees came into this year with World Series expectations, but . . . Their lack of starting pitching depth was exposed in this best-of-five series. . . .

[Gerrit] Cole . . . felt the pain of his first year with the Yankees coming up short. . . .

The Yankees had a runner in scoring position just once Friday night, in the sixth inning, and they failed to score.  . . .

For Judge, it was another year ending in disappointment. . . .

Joel Sherman, Post:

The Yankees keep importing pieces, keep searching for that next title. But the clock ticks, one season turning to the next. Prime years disappear. Aaron Judge completes his fourth season, Gary Sanchez his fifth. The payrolls swell. Yet, one ringless season morphs into another winter of "what ifs."

Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, Sonny Gray and James Paxton are good ideas, and then not. Jacoby Ellsbury is never a good idea. Brian McCann and Didi Gregorius have their term of pinstripe service and then they exit.

Aroldis Chapman comes, goes and returns — a symbol now of great talent, big money and larger frustration.

Twice in a row, a Yankees season has finished out of the hand of the reliever with the largest contract ever. Last year, the Astros' Jose Altuve walked off Chapman and the Yankees in ALCS Game 6. This year, Mike Brosseau, who had a triple-digit Chapman fastball sail over his head on Sept. 1 as part of the blood feud between these squads, exacted revenge by turning a 100.2 mph Chapman fastball into a homer that broke an eighth-inning tie and the Yankees' spirit. The Yankees were not going to get to the Astros this year or to the ALCS . . .

"Every year we come to spring training with that stacked team, ready to roll and compete for a World Series title," Judge said after a 2-1 defeat. "To come up short the last few years is tough."

How tough? The Yankees lost to a team they despise, Tampa Bay, which kept them from facing a club they loathe, Houston. The Rays had more pitching, better at-bats and one more homer. So the Rays get the Astros while the Yankees will turn from a short season to another long offseason. . . .

Chapman likely will begin next regular season serving a suspension for his Sept. 1 dart over Brosseau's head. Brosseau homered twice against the Yankees the next day and got his and the Rays' greatest revenge by winning a 10-pitch at-bat against Chapman and turning around a 100.2 mph fastball — the highest velocity that became a homer this year.

Tampa Bay beat the Yankees in the AL East, in this Division Series and in their extracurriculars. They celebrated on a neutral site without neutrality — blaring on the field "New York, New York" and "Empire State of Mind." Talk about buzzing one over your opponent's head. . . .

[T]he Yankees are now becoming experts at being second best. They lost to the best team in the AL in 2017 (Astros), 2018 (Red Sox), 2019 (Astros) and now 2020 (Rays). They have spent billions trying to be the best and, instead, they were beaten by . . . a player, Brosseau, who was not even drafted.

Both Aaron Boone and Judge said it would "be sweeter" to win after so much heartache. But all that is promised next year is another year. The clock ticking more. The Yankees are good enough to get here, constantly excellent. But the title drought is now 11 seasons — which is substantially more in Yankees calculations. . . .

Brosseau's vengeance pretty much ended the 2020 Yankees because they did not register a hit after the sixth inning and had no hits in eight at-bats with men on base. They were short again. Ringless again. The revolving door spun more in, more out, more payroll, more sorrow. The 2020 season will be another close but …

"It's awful," Boone said. "The ending is cruel, it really is."

Mike Vaccaro, Post:

This time, there was nothing nefarious lurking around the batter's box. Nobody will ever ask if Mike Brosseau had a buzzer attached to his chest. Nobody will ever wonder if someone slammed a garbage can in order to relay what was coming. . . .

This time it was simply the 10th pitch of an epic at-bat on church-quiet neutral grounds. Aroldis Chapman wasn't going to be beaten with his slider this time. He came with the heat. He came with the gas. He came with 100 miles per hour. Brosseau was ready for it.

And Brosseau wasn't going to wave his teammates away after he crushed it, either, wasn't going to beg them to not rip his jersey off. In the serenity of an empty Petco Park, he was going to let joyous Rays teammates share the moment with him any way they wanted to: hugging, back-slapping, dancing, howling.

And all the Yankees could do was stare. . . .

This will be a difficult few days watching — or ignoring — the American League Championship Series, now featuring two bitter enemies. . . .

And somehow the Rays are there after surviving this breathless, breathtaking, winner-take-all classic. Gerrit Cole was as magnificent as he needed to be . . .

It didn't hold up. Meadows hit one just out of Judge's reach in the fifth, and then Brosseau hit one just out of the reach of Brett Gardner in the eighth. Brosseau swore at game's end he wasn't seeking revenge for the missile Chapman had unleashed near his head back in September, and if he says it's so, we have to believe it.

But the contrasting dugouts told you all you needed to know about how everyone else felt. Tampa Bay was jubilant, a frat house unleashed with kegs freshly tapped, a party brewing in San Diego. And the Yankees were instantly silenced, a season of such promise suddenly hooked up to life support. There would be no ninth-inning magic, no 11 o'clock lightning. Not this time. Not this year.

Winter comes early this year. . . .

Ken Davidoff, Post:

First "New York, New York" played over the Petco Park sound system Friday night, a handful of Rays players dancing outside their dugout, smoking cigars and toasting each other.

Then "Empire State of Mind." . . .

A Yankees-hater couldn't have scripted this pinstriped ousting any better: Done in by a team with a fraction of their payroll. Of their fan base. And by the guy who their guy nearly beaned with a 101-mph fastball.

Another Yankees season wraps up without a World Series appearance, and this one must sting immensely. Mike Brosseau's eighth-inning solo home run off Aroldis Chapman propelled the Rays over the Yankees, 2-1, in American League Division Series Game 5 Friday. The win advanced the Rays into the AL Championship Series against the defending league champion Astros.

For this COVID-reduced season, the Yankees wound up playing the Rays 15 times, more than any other opponent. The Rays posted a noticeably lopsided 11-4 edge in those meetings. . . .

[The Yankees will] have regrets or concerns to mull: Gary Sanchez's decline into virtually unplayable. Gleyber Torres' unreliable defense at shortstop; he made an error in this game that didn't directly hurt them yet forced ace Gerrit Cole, starting on three days' rest, to work harder. Their confounding Game 2 decision to limit Deivi Garcia to opening duties and then bring in unhappy veteran J.A. Happ as a bulk guy, a move that failed and impacted everything that followed.

Most of all, though, they must wonder how they got pushed around by the little guys on their block. The Rays drove the Yankees crazy and sent them home. It's their 2020 season in a painful nutshell.

Deesha Thosar, Daily News:

Yankees players, in control of their emotions, would not let themselves get too animated or comfortable throughout their abbreviated 60-game regular season. They made it abundantly clear those feelings of satisfaction, despite any success, would be pushed back and saved for the World Series. . . .

The Yankees stood tight-lipped and sorrowful after Aroldis Chapman gave up a go-ahead home run to the same player, Mike Brosseau, he was headhunting last month. . . .

[T]he Yankees 2020 season, just like last year, was once again a disappointment. . . .

[T]heir lack of success against the Rays in 2020, a team that beat the Yankees in eight out of their 10 regular-season matchups, kept them from enjoying the fruits of their labor beyond an ALDS Game 5. If it was always World Series or bust, then this season was just another failure.

Dennis Young, Daily News:

Alex Rodriguez is right. There haven't been too many opportunities to say that this year; his bid for the Mets veered into shamelessness and his once-sprightly TV work has soured into silly, completely wrong fixations on home runs as "empty calories" and bunting as comfort food. But Rodriguez is on the money with his complaint that his old team — the one he led to its sole title in the last two decades — outsmarted itself on the way to yet another early exit from the AL playoffs. . . .

Instead, the Yankees tried to beat the Rays at their own game, and failed miserably. . . .

This is now the second straight year that the Yankees crashed out of the playoffs because their starting pitching wasn't good enough. . . .

[T]he post-2009 Yankees are hoarding more profits than they ever have; as of 2018 they actually spent the lowest percentage of revenue on players of any team in baseball. The World Series drought isn't quite a coincidence.

Early Editions

George A. King III, Post (10:46 pm):

The pinstriped bubble collapsed Friday night when Aroldis Chapman stuck a very sharp knife in it. . . .

Mike Brosseau, who infamously had his head buzzed by a 101-mph fastball from Chapman at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 1, sent a 3-2 fastball from the Yankees closer, a pitch clocked at 100 mph, over the left-field wall in the eighth inning.

The defeat ended what can only be described as a disappointing season on many levels for the Yankees. Favored to reach the World Series . . . the Yankees finished second to the Rays in the AL East.

Friday night, the Yankees wore the runner-up hat again . . .

[F]our Rays pitchers held the Yankees to three hits . . .

The Rays advanced to the best-of-seven ALCS . . . The Yankees, meanwhile, head into another offseason without reaching the World Series. Their last trip was in 2009 . . .

Since homering off [Cleveland's] Shane Bieber in the first inning of the opening game of the AL wild-card series, Judge [went 3-for-25 in the postseason] . . .

Kristie Ackert, Daily News (10:36 pm):

The Rays were furious when Aroldis Chapman threw a 101-mile an hour fastball behind Mike Brosseau's head back in a fiery regular-season game on Sept. 1. They were even more ticked off when they heard Chapman's suspension for that infraction was deferred on appeal by MLB until next season.

Friday night, they got some satisfaction.

Brosseau worked a 10-pitch at-bat, battling back from 0-2, to hit a go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth off Chapman in the Rays' 2-1 win over the Yankees that clinched the American League Division Series at Petco Park. . . .

The Yankees . . . fail to advance out of the division series for the second time in three seasons. . . .

The Yankees had a runner in scoring position once Friday night, in the sixth inning and failed to score. . . .

October 8, 2020

Robots Desperately Needed. Hello? Is Anyone Listening?

The baseball postseason.

When shitty umpires make shitty calls in the most important games of the year. And there is no accountability, because this is as good as baseball can do. (shrug) 

(Hey, one good thing about the Red Sox shitting the bed this year is we won't be forced to see them robbed of any postseason wins because of "The Human Element".)

But first, an umpire has to be so incompetent, he eliminates a team from the playoffs. Rob Drake was then rewarded by getting to work the Padres-Cardinals Wild-Card series.

Schadenfreude 275 (A Continuing Series)

George A. King III, Post:
A Yankees postseason that started so well could be nine innings from an offseason of regret and hell.

[In the last two games] the Yankees have morphed into goo.

After losing the second game to turn the best-of-five affair into a best-of-three deal, the Yankees were no match for the Rays at the plate or on the mound Wednesday night and were tagged with a deflating 8-4 loss in Game 3 at San Diego's Petco Park.

Since the beginning of both spring trainings, throughout the 60-game regular season and during the postseason, the Yankees never stopped talking about having the talent and mindset to navigate the many COVID-19 hurdles to win a World Series for the first time since 2009.

Now, they enter Game 4 on Thursday night nine innings away from being eliminated by their AL East rivals . . .

Tanaka gave up a leadoff single to Wendle and walked Adames on a close 3-2 pitch to open the top of the fourth. One pitch later the Rays had a 4-1 lead courtesy of Kiermaier hitting a hanging slider over the right-field wall. It was Kiermaier's third career homer off Tanaka in 41 at-bats counting the postseason.

Arozarena ended Tanaka's night with a first-pitch home run to left starting the top of the fifth inning. . . .

Charlie Morton hadn't pitched since Sept. 25 but the 36-year-old had enough to limit the Yankees to two runs in five innings.

Kristie Ackert, Daily News (11:10 PM ET):

So, the Yankees' season now comes down to Jordan Montgomery.

Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees' usually reliable playoff pitcher, got shelled Wednesday night as the Rays took Game 3 of the American League Division Series, 8-4, at Petco Park.

The Yankees face elimination Thursday night . . . They will send the left-hander Montgomery, who has never pitched in the playoffs and has been inconsistent [this season] . . . [It will be his first start since September 24] . . .

Tanaka was unexpectedly ineffective. He allowed five earned runs on eight hits, including two home runs. Aaron Judge and Luke Voit have seemingly disappeared from the Yankees lineup. Gary Sanchez was benched after striking out on Tuesday night and Gleyber Torres is suddenly a singles hitter.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the Yankees finding themselves on the brink of elimination.

Their decision to try to outsmart the Rays on Tuesday night exposed their lack of pitching depth and left them with limited options for this critical Game 4.

They have Montgomery, who could not get out of the first inning against these Rays last month . . .

Wednesday night, the Rays chased [Tanaka] after four innings, Kevin Kiermaier, who has been a thorn in Tanaka's side for years, hit a three-run homer off him in the fourth. Randy Arozarena hit a solo shot off him in the top of the fifth to end his night.

In his last two playoff appearances, Tanaka has allowed 11 earned runs over eight innings. He's allowed four home runs in that span.

Mike Vaccaro, Post:

The Yankees are nine innings away from winter. They lost Wednesday night, 8-4, so they sit on the precipice of the baseball abyss, pushed there by their nemesis, the Tampa Bay Rays, nudged there by their own squandered opportunities (and, sure, prodded there a touch by a couple of umpires calls that could have gone the other way and didn't). . . . 

For a second straight outing Masahiro Tanaka wasn't the equal of his postseason reputation, battered by the bottom of the Tampa lineup. . . .

But the Yankees squandered a chance to beat up on a vulnerable and suddenly wild Charlie Morton in the bottom of the third inning, stranding the bases loaded after they'd squared the game at 1-1.

Part of that, you may already know, was helped along by two borderline pitches to Luke Voit that home plate umpire Mark Carlson called strikes when going the other way would've forced in the go-ahead run. Instead Voit grounded out, the entire Rays dugout exhaled, and you could sense something might have been allowed to get away in that moment.

Not long after, Carlson called ball four instead of strike three on another borderline pitch, this one a Tanaka splitter to Tampa shortstop Willy Adames with Joey Wendle running on the pitch. A different call, that's a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out. This call allowed Kevin Keirmaier to come up with two on, none out, allowed him to drive both men in when he crushed a spinning Tanaka slider.

When that ball disappeared over the right-field fence, it seemed to take what remained of the Yankees' spirit with it. They have fewer than 24 hours to find it again, get it back, and figure a way to do what they've been relentlessly unable to do for most of these past 2 ½ months: beat the Rays.

The Rays . . . were 40-20 for the season, which translates to 108-54 across the full 162. The Yankees spent much of the summer hurt? The Rays have a pitching chart that reads like a triage unit. And were without the services for the first part of the season of Randy Arozarena, who was down with COVID-19 for the better part of a month.

He's better now, you may have noticed. . . .

Nine innings or bust, nine innings or retreat to what may well be the longest, coldest baseball winter we've known in a long, long time.

Dan Martin, Post:

[T]he Yankees had plenty of chances in Wednesday's 8-4 loss in Game 3 of the ALDS.

But with some poor clutch hitting — and another shaky performance from a home plate umpire — the Yankees failed to knock out the Rays when they had the chance and now they head into Thursday's Game 4 facing elimination.

They loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the third — the Yankees were the home team Wednesday and will be again Thursday — but scored just once.

Aaron Judge could muster just a sacrifice fly to right to score Brett Gardner to tie the game at 1-1. After Aaron Hicks walked to load the bases again, the Yankees caught at least one tough break, as a night after home plate umpire CB Bucknor butchered the strike zone, Mark Carlson made his own unenviable impact behind the plate in Game 3.

After Rays starter Charlie Morton loaded the bases — with the help of a pair of walks — the right-hander fell behind Luke Voit 3-0 following a visit from Tampa Bay pitching coach Kyle Snyder.

Morton then threw a ball that appeared to be low that should have been ball four and a run-scoring walk to give the Yankees a lead, but Carlson, the crew chief, called it a strike. Morton's next pitch looked outside, but Carlson gave him the call again to make it a full count.

Voit then grounded to short to end the threat with the game still tied. . . .

The Yankees also caught a tough break an inning later.

In the top of the fourth, with Willy Adames at the plate and Joey Wendle on the run from first on a 3-2 pitch, Masahiro Tanaka threw one near the bottom of the strike zone. Kyle Higashioka's throw to second was in time to get Wendle, but Carlson called the pitch a ball, so Adames walked. Kevin Kiermaier followed with a go-ahead three-run homer.

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:

The fallout was immediate and it could be season-defining.

The Yankees' pitching plan blew up in their faces Tuesday night. Using two of their better starters — Deivi Garcia as an "opener" and J.A. Happ as their "bulk" guy — opened the door to the Rays . . . That forced the Yankees to have to go into Thursday's game facing elimination . . . with their least consistent starter on the mound.

Instead of having the rookie sensation Garcia or veteran Happ to start a Game 4 — both of who the Yankees burned with their plan to piggyback them on Tuesday — they will start Jordan Montgomery, who has never pitched in the playoffs. . . .

If the Yankees have to go to a Game 5, they would be likely asking Gerrit Cole to do something he has never done before in his career: pitch on short rest. . . .

While Cole said on Sunday he believed he could do it, it would again be asking pitchers, who have prepared to do one thing all season, to break their routine. That's kind of how the Yankees got into this mess in the first place.

Greg Joyce, Post:

The Yankees have a new playoff tormentor on their hands — though to be fair, Randy Arozarena has destroyed everything in sight lately, pinstriped or not.

The Rays outfielder continued his torrid ALDS on Wednesday night, racking up three more hits and homering for a third straight game . . .

Arozarena is now an absurd 12-for-20 (.600) for the postseason, with eight of those hits coming against the Yankees. He singled in his first two at-bats Wednesday before knocking Masahiro Tanaka out of the game by crushing a leadoff home run in the fifth inning to make it a 5-1 lead.

"Arozarena has to be the best baseball player on earth right now," Tyler Glasnow, the Rays’ Game 2 starter, said . . .

He clocked a home run off Gerrit Cole in Game 1 and added two more singles against the Yankees ace, then drilled a home run off opener Deivi Garcia in Game 2.

Rays manager Kevin Cash went as far as calling Arozarena the "Cuban Mookie Betts," according to the TBS broadcast.

Ken Davidoff, Post:

Masahiro Tanaka couldn't change the subject with his trademark October magic Wednesday night at Petco Park . . . [and so] the end of the Yankees' season . . . might very well be Thursday.

What a fiasco here. What a sad way this would be for a great Yankees career to end. . . .

[H]is second straight lousy outing in this postseason — this time without the excuse of insane weather — stains a previous staple of his brand as he approaches free agency. . . .

Right now, with the Yankees facing a 2-1 deficit in this best-of-five set and leaning on shaky lefty Jordan Montgomery to bail them out . . . you're still raging about the Yankees' Game 2 gambit . . . that backfired spectacularly. You should be. . . . [If this season ends with] a downfall to their bitter, low-payroll rivals from Tampa Bay, that failed strategy will go down as an all-time blunder in baseball history.

Throw in some poor bullpen work and insufficient offense Wednesday, and enough blame exists to go every which way. And yes, the home plate umpiring by crew chief Mark Carlson left something to be desired, particularly on pair of borderline third-inning strikes to Luke Voit (he wound up grounding out to strand three teammates) and a fourth-inning ball four to Willy Adames (Tanaka said he thought it was a strike, and Kevin Kiermaier blasted the very next pitch for a tiebreaking, three-run homer). Really don't want to hear it. Until robot umps take over (that can't come soon enough), that comes with the job.

Last Sunday, before the ALDS began, Judge spoke about being tortured by the Yankees' past failures, including losing last year's ALCS:

I think about it every day, to be honest. It's something I don't think I'll ever let go until we have a chance to win a championship. That fuels me. I hate losing. Any time I think about past years, getting kicked out of the playoffs, the next one stings as much as the one before. That's what motivates me. . . . The real season is the playoffs. That's when the real team shows up.

His manager said:

There's just a presence he has and an edge he plays the game with . . . but there's a palpable feeling amongst our club when he's in the dugout. There's no doubt in my mind he likes playing when there's more on the line and the bigger these games are.

Let's see how Mr. Edgy Palpable Dugout Presence is doing in these big, real-season games.


Dan Martin, Post:

Aaron Judge picked a bad time to stop hitting.

The right fielder has just three hits in the postseason after Wednesday's 8-4 loss to the Rays in Game 3 of the ALDS, with the Yankees now on the brink of elimination.

For the second straight night, Judge made the final out of the game . . .

He had a chance to give the Yankees the lead in the bottom of the third in Game 3, when he came up with the bases loaded and one out against Charlie Morton.

Judge managed to deliver a sacrifice fly to right field, but the Yankees didn't score again that inning and fell behind for good in the fourth.

He also grounded out and struck out against Morton before a two-out single in the eighth. . . .

It's been a mostly disappointing season for Judge, who missed a chunk of the abbreviated regular season with a strained calf that sidelined him for two weeks before he returned too soon and aggravated the injury, which cost him two more weeks. . . .

Judge will head into Thursday's potentially season-ending game 3-for-23 with nine strikeouts in the postseason. He was also just 6-for-25 against the Astros last year in the ALCS.

After that series, Judge stood in the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park in Houston and called the Yankees' season "a failure."

They're just one loss away from a similar outcome — one round earlier.