October 31, 2017

WS6: Dodgers 3, Astros 1

Astros  - 001 000 000 - 1  6  0
Dodgers - 000 002 10x - 3  5  0
And there will be November baseball in 2017!

The Dodgers rallied against Justin Verlander in the sixth inning, with Chris Taylor's double knocking in Austin Barnes, who began the inning with a single, which ended Verlander's string of 11 straight batters retired. It was also only the Dodgers' second hit of the game. Then Corey Seager's fly ball to deep right brought home Chase Utley (who had been hit with a pitch) with the go-ahead run. Joc Pederson's solo home run added an insurance run in the seventh, but Kenley Jansen did not need it. He pitched two perfect innings, striking out three of the six batters he faced.

Dodger Stadium will host the first Game 7 in its history (55 years) tomorrow night with Yu Darvish and Lance McCullers on the mound.

Rich Hill (4.2-4-1-1-5, 58) was solid once again for Los Angeles. He allowed only two baserunners in the first four innings, but one of them was a home run by George Springer with two outs in the third. In the top of the fifth, Brian McCann lined a single to right and Marwin Gonzalez ripped an opposite-field double down the left field line. Hill then fell behind Josh Reddick 3-0, but gathered himself and battled back to strike him out. Hill then fanned Verlander and after Dodgers manager Dave Roberts ordered an intentional walk to Springer - which loaded the bases - Roberts came and got Hill. (Despite saying before the game that he might allow Hill to face the Astros' lineup a third time in Game 6, Roberts did not. In Hill's four postseason starts, he faced 18, 19, 18, and 19 batters.)

Brandon Morrow - who threw only six pitches and allowed four runs in Game 5 - faced Alex Bregman. The day off must have done Morrow some good, as his first pitch, a fastball at 98, was fouled off, and then Bregman grounded out to shortstop.

Morrow retired the first two batters in the top of the sixth, but Yuli Gurriel - who was booed lustily all night - singled to center. Tony Watson came in and hit McCann with his second pitch. Gonzalez got ahead in the count 3-1 (home plate umpire Dan Iassogna blew the 2-1 pitch; the count should have been 2-2), but Gonzalez lined out to second.

Verlander had been cruising through the first five innings, throwing 69 pitches and allowing only a one-out single to Yasiel Puig in the second. But Barnes singled to left on a 2-0 pitch and Utley (0-for-his-last-29 postseason at-bats) was hit in the front/right foot. Chris Taylor fell behind 1-2, but lined a single over first base and down the right field line, tying the game. Seager, also behind 1-2, crushed a pitch to deep right that looked like it might carry over the wall. But Reddick caught it at the base of the wall - and Utley scored the go-ahead run easily. The Dodgers had a runner at third with two outs, but Justin Turner fouled to first and Cody Bellinger struck out (he whiffed four times (again) tonight).

(Even though Verlander (6-3-2-0-9, 93) had allowed the Dodgers to take a 2-1 lead, Fox's John Smoltz kept heaping praise on the Houston pitcher, as if he was still dominating and throwing a shutout. It was very similar to what Smoltz did in Game 7 of the ALCS, gushing on and on about the glorious Yankees, who were (even as he spoke) both being shut out and getting torched for multiple runs by the soon-to-be-pennant-winning Astros.)

Watson walked Reddick to begin the seventh. After Evan Gattis was announced as a pinch-hitter, Kenta Maeda came in from the pen. Gattis forced Reddick at second, but beat the relay. Roberts questioned whether Reddick's slide into second was legal - and it was. Springer reached on an infield single that Seager dove to his right and knocked down. At the very least, that may have prevented Gattis from going to third. Derek Fisher went in as a pinch-runner at second base, and he advanced to third when Bregman flied to center. With the potential tying run at third, Maeda got Jose Altuve to ground to third. Turner ranged to his left; his throw was low, but Bellinger made a fantastic scoop for the third out.

With his opposite-field home run off Joe Musgrove, Pederson gave LA a 3-1 lead and became the first player in Dodgers history with an extra-base hit in five straight World Series games.

Jansen - who had allowed one run in each of his last three appearances (Games 2, 4, and 5) - got the ball for the eighth. Carlos Correa flied to left on an 0-1 pitch. (That would be the last fair ball of the night for the Astros.) Gurriel fouled to first and McCann struck out on three pitches. After the Dodgers stranded two runners on base in their half of the eighth, Jansen went back to work. Of his 12 pitches in the top of the ninth, 11 were strikes. Gonzalez (csf) fouled to first, Reddick (cbs) struck out swinging, and pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran (fff) struck out swinging, chasing a high fastball (at 94) for the final out.

For the first time since 2001/2002, the World Series will go to a seventh game in two consecutive years.

Justin Verlander / Rich Hill

The Houston Astros can win their first World Series championship in their 55-year existence with a victory tonight. And they have Verlander - 2.05 ERA in this postseason (five games, four starts) - on the mound. (The Astros' only other World Series appearance came in 2005, when they were swept by the White Sox (who broke a World Series drought that was longer than the one the Red Sox broke the year before).)

On Sunday night, the Astros became the fifth team in history to win a World Series game by overcoming three deficits:

1914 Game 3 - Boston 5, Athletics 4 (12)
Athletics - 100 100 000 200 - 4  8  2
Boston    - 010 100 000 201 - 5  9  1
1986 Game 6 - Mets 6, Red Sox 5 (11)
Red Sox - 110 000 100 2 - 5 13  3
Mets    - 000 020 010 3 - 6  8  2
1993 Game 1 - Blue Jays 8, Phillies 5
Phillies  - 201 010 001 - 5 11  1
Blue Jays - 021 011 30x - 8 10  3
2011 Game 6 - Cardinals 10, Rangers 9 (11)
Rangers   - 110 110 300 20 -  9 15  2
Cardinals - 200 101 012 21 - 10 13  3
2017 Game 5 - Astros 13, Dodgers 12 (10)
Dodgers - 300 130 113 0 - 12 14  1
Astros  - 000 430 410 1 - 13 14  1
The previous four teams all won the series.

Yasiel Puig, Dodgers outfielder: "This is not going to be finished Tuesday. There's going to be a Game 7."

Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times: "It's Been A Crazy World Series, And We're Clamoring For More"
The World Series is driving you bonkers, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Every time you think the Dodgers have won, some wide-eyed Houston Astro swings from his fancy cleats, clangs a ball into a bleacher and dances all over your heart.

Every time you think the Dodgers have lost, Cody bellows or Corey flexes or Puig becomes Puiiiiig and suddenly you're clutching that scratchy rally towel and tugging on that faded blue T-shirt and hopping around the middle of your living room to the rattling of your Vin bobblehead.

You scream, you groan, you nearly pass out twice, then, early Monday morning in Houston, your world is turned upside down when the series shifts on a 10th-inning Astros single ...

The Astros' memorable, painful 13-12 victory over the Dodgers in Game 5 was yet another example of a week filled with both miraculous drama and unabashed kookiness. And though you can't take it anymore, you also can't get enough.

This cannot yet be declared the best World Series ever ... [but] this certainly qualifies as the craziest World Series ever, with balls flying, bats flipping, bullpens crumbling, legends dissolving, fans trespassing, players insulting, and a manager feuding with fans.
(That column also features the phrase "sunbathing their testicles".)

David Barron, Houston Chronicle: "Astros, With Justin Verlander On Mound, In Position To Win First World Series"
Minute Maid Park and Dodger Stadium, separated by 1,540 miles of Interstate 10, are opposite poles in a weeklong competition of attrition, success, failure, magic and calamity that is the 2017 World Series.

Five games of the best-of-seven series are in the books, and it will end - must end - on the western side of the commute, where the Astros will win their first World Series championship or the Dodgers will stage a historic comeback before their home fans at Dodger Stadium. ...

The Astros are in position to clinch the series ... because they prevailed Sunday night (and the wee hours of Monday) in one of the most extraordinary games in World Series history, a 13-12 win in 10 innings in which the teams combined for 25 runs, 18 hits, three ties and four lead changes. ...

The situation in which the Astros find themselves entering Game 6 also has historic punch. The Astros in 2004 traveled to St. Louis in search of their first National League pennant, leading the series 3-2 and flying high after a dramatic Game 5 victory, only to lose twice to the Cardinals, who went on to the World Series.

For that matter, these 2017 Astros faced a similar challenge against the Yankees, trailing 3-2 in the American League Championship Series, and returned home to win Games 6 and 7 to advance to the World Series. It was a triumph, but, this week, it's also a warning of what can happen.
Dylan Hernandez, Los Angeles Times: "Dave Roberts' Managing Skills Will Be Put To The Test In Dodgers' Must-Win Game 6 Of World Series"
For Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, running a game borders on a religious experience in that it's an act of faith.

Faith in his players. Faith in the organization's system. ...

The ultimate test is coming up. ...

"You just can't really get caught up in just chasing results," Roberts said. "You have to kind of really believe in the process and I know I do." ...

Roberts also has remained loyal to the organization's philosophy on how to run a pitching staff. Instead of counting on relievers to extinguish fires, he calls on them to prevent fires from even starting. This translates to fewer innings by starting pitchers, who, with the exception of Clayton Kershaw, are typically allowed to pitch to the opposing lineup only twice. ...

The line of thinking came under fire in Game 2 when Roberts removed starter Rich Hill after only four innings. Hill allowed only one run and the Dodgers almost ran out of pitcher in the 11-inning defeat. ...

Over the remainder of this World Series, the challenge for Roberts will be to balance his philosophical beliefs and the physical realities that have taken hold of his team. His bullpen is exhausted ... Roberts acknowledged that would make him more inclined to give Hill a longer leash in Game 6.
Astros: Since 1985, teams with a 3-2 advantage in either an LCS or the World Series have won the series 37 of 56 times (66%). But they have won only 14 out of 28 times (50%) when on the road for Games 6 and 7.

Dodgers: Since 1985, teams down 3-2 in either an LCS or the World Series have come back to win the series 19 of 56 times (34%). When those teams are at home, they have won 14 of 28 times (50%). And if that team won Game 6, they have won Game 7 14 of 16 times (88%). ... In the World Series, 20 teams have come back to win the series after being down 2-3; 14 of the 20 teams did it by winning Game 6 and Game 7 at home.

Recent history of coming back from 2-3: The 2017 Astros won Games 6 and 7 of the ALCS at home. The 2016 Cubs won Games 6 and 7 of the World Series on the road.

October 30, 2017

2004 ALCS Reunion At 2017 World Series

Kevin Millar posted this picture to his Instagram account:

kevinmillar15 Dave Roberts and I saying thank you to Mariano before the game today for being famous!!! 😂🙈 without the walk who knows what the hell we would be doing now!😂 #2004 #TheWalk #TheStolenBase
P.S.: Did you know that Millar wrote the foreword to Don't Let Us Win Tonight? Well, he did. So if you don't yet have copy, get one now.

"Just Because Baseball Is Broken Doesn't Mean It Should Be Fixed"

I have already pointed out the fantastic writing Grant Brisbee has been doing for SB Nation during the World Series. I know a tiny bit about writing on deadline and I'm extremely impressed with his ability, especially in the aftermaths of Games 2 and 5, to accurately recount numerous nearly undescribable events and our myriad thoughts and emotions in the wake of those events within a few hours.

Also, you have to appreciate an article that begins (with all sincerity, I believe) "Words fail", but then uses 1,537 words proving the complete inaccuracy of those first two words.
The Astros And Dodgers Broke The Game Of Baseball Into A Million Pieces
Game 5 of the 2017 World Series was baseball. Unless it was another sport entirely.
Grant Brisbee, SB Nation, October 30, 2017

Words fail. Analogies go limp. A common refrain for a game like Game 5 of the 2017 World Series is that baseball is drunk. Baseball is not drunk. Drunk people don't fall up the stairs, through a window, and explode upon contact with the moon. This is not a movie. Movies have plots, logical progressions from A to B. This is not an avant-garde movie, either, where the director was trying to be weird. Both the Dodgers and Astros really, really, really wanted to be normal, and they absolutely could not. ...

I would like you to consider two truths, both equally valid. The first one is that this is the best baseball has to offer. It was lead change after lead change. It was the absence of hope followed by redemption, several dozen times, on both sides. This was a Rocky movie, where the on-screen boxing didn't resemble real boxing, but nobody cared because it was so damned compelling. There were homers when you expected them and homers when you didn't expect them. ...

The second truth is this: That was unbelievably awful baseball. I have here in my hand a list of 205 stupid, dumb, irredeemable parts of this game. It was unthinkable calamity all around. ...

And yet it was the absolute best baseball game. And the absolute worst baseball game. But also the best! ...

Are the baseballs juiced? Or slick? Did the grind grind grind of relievers in the hook-happy postseason catch up to both teams? Does the season-long attention paid to pitch counts affect the stamina of pitchers trying to slog through an extra month of high-adrenaline baseball? Is this just how baseball is now, a cavalcade of unfathomably strong super-athletes waiting for mistakes that will inevitably come because pitchers have reached the upper limits of what the human body will allow?

It's yes to all of the above, unless it's no to all of them. Hell, I don't know. You don't either. It's just different. We'll get used to it just in time for everything to change again. ...

I figured Game 2 was the wildest game we would see for months. It didn't even take a week for baseball to get sillier and dumber.
I Fell Asleep During Game 5 Of The World Series And I Hate Myself
At least I'm well-rested unlike all of you, though.
Charlotte Wilder, SB Nation, October 30, 2017

I fell asleep. I fell asleep in the sixth inning. ...

I fell asleep before the rest of the most nutso, bizarro, insane, nonsensical — and one of the longest — World Series baseball games of all time. What I didn't see was somehow even more batshit crazy than what I did.

How do I feel about this? Terrible. I'm suffering from a horrible case of baseball FOMO, that devastating and crippling knowledge that you missed The Unbelievable Game Everyone Else is Talking About. While your friends, colleagues, and fellow Americans were riding the roller coaster of home runs, high fives, and heartbreak, you were fucking sleeping.

On the other hand, I got a solid eight hours, so I'm doing great.

Look, postseason baseball is a no-win situation when it comes to being a functional human. You either stay up to witness history with low-grade slumber anxiety ... or you go to bed and wake up the next morning ... and self-flagellate through the news cycle as you read about the incredible things you didn't feel.

[F]eeling is the point of the whole damn sport. Yes, you can always find out what happened the next day, but you can't feel it. ...

So you have to make choices. As an adult fan, you either accept that you're going to be a zombie for most of October and hope it doesn't interfere with your job, your family, your mortgage payments, etc. As a kid, you come to terms with the fact that your grades will dip and you might not get into college, but that it will be worth it in the long run ...

Or you could go to bed, be good at your job, get into a good school, and miss the gut punches and the soaring highs.
Whitney McIntosh, also at SB Nation, offers a recap of Game 5. It's entertaining, because just about any accurate thing you wrote about Game 5 would be entertaining, but the real fun is the two comments by Balmy Henry, the first of which (posted at 5:24 AM!) is titled: "Puig needs to issue a correction for his characterization 'f**king baby stadium'".

October 29, 2017

WS5: Astros 13, Dodgers 12 (10)

Dodgers - 300 130 113 0 - 12 14  1
Astros  - 000 430 410 1 - 13 14  1
Now that the second longest World Series game in history is over, I am very tempted to simply type "If you watched the game, you know what happened; if you did not, then you wouldn't believe me anyway" and go to bed. But I won't.

The first thing is: We did not get the pitching duel we were promised. Neither Clayton Kershaw nor Dallas Keuchel went five innings and I suspect that by the eighth, everyone had forgotten that either pitcher had even been in the game.

Keuchel threw 32 pitches in the top of the first. Chris Taylor singled and, with one out, both Justin Turner and Enrique Hernandez walked. After Cody Bellinger fanned, Logan Forsythe lined a two-run single to left. With Yasiel Puig at the plate, Forsythe took off for second as Keuchel threw to first. Yuli Gurriel's throw to Jose Altuve at second was well off-target, to the outfield side of the bag, and Forsythe was able to slide in ahead of Altuve's tag. Houston challenged the call, but it was upheld. Puig was retired catcher-to-first.

Kershaw looked sharp through three innings. The Astros' only baserunner was a leadoff single in the third by Evan Gattis, who was promptly erased in a double play.

After the Dodgers scored their third run, Keuchel retired the next eight batters. But Forsythe struck again, with a one-out double in the fourth. Austin Barnes knocked him in with a two-out single to left. (At that point, 16 of the Dodgers' 22 runs in the World Series had scored with two outs.) Charlie Culberson kept the inning going with a single and that ended Keuchel's start (3.2-5-4-2-4, 86). Luke Gregerson struck out Taylor to end the rally.

Perhaps the long wait on the bench bothered Kershaw, because he struggled in the fourth. He walked George Springer and Jose Altuve singled with one out. Carlos Correa doubled to left, scoring Springer. The Dodgers challenged the safe call at second, but it was upheld. Gurriel then crushed a first-pitch, three-run homer to deep left. The blast hit high on the back wall behind the bleachers – and the game was tied 4-4.

In the top of the fifth, Collin McHugh began his night by walking Corey Seager and Turner. (He had pitched only once in the entire postseason, throwing four innings in ALCS 3 on October 16.) Hernandez struck out, but Bellinger belted a three-run dong to right-center. The ball landed in the first row of seats, but it was enough to give LA a 7-4 lead. . . . For about 15 minutes. Kershaw (4.2-4-6-3-2, 94) got the first two outs in the bottom of the fifth, but walked Springer (eight pitches) and Alex Bregman (10 pitches). Kenta Maeda took over and Altuve went deep on a full-count pitch. It was the third three-run home run in the last three half-innings – and it re-tied the game at 7-7.

Both teams took a breather in the sixth. Turner opened the seventh with a double, but was forced at third on Hernandez's grounder to reliever Brad Peacock. Bellinger fell behind 0-2 and hit a sinking liner to center. Springer ran in and dove for it, but it skipped past him and rolled to the warning track. Hernandez scored easily on the triple. But the Dodgers could not do anything else, as Forsythe struck out and Puig flied to left.

Brandon Morrow came in for the home half of the seventh – and had one of the worst outings in World Series history. He threw only six pitches, but Houston did about as much damage with them as humanly possible:
Springer: First-pitch home run to left, tying the game at 8-8
Bregman: First-pitch single to center field
Altuve: Called strike 1; double to left-center, Astros lead 9-8
Correa: Ball 1 (wild pitch, Altuve to third); home run to left-center, Astros lead 11-8
Both teams scored in the eighth: Joc Pederson doubled and scored for Los Angeles (but they left runners at second and third) and Brian McCann hit a solo home run for Houston.

The Astros led 12-9 and Chris Devenski, who had recorded the final out in the eighth, was on the mound for the ninth. Three more outs and the Astros would have a 3-2 lead in the series. Devenski fell behind Bellinger 3-0 and walked him on five pitches. After a mound visit, Devenski got Forsythe on strikes. Then Puig homered to left for two runs and Austin Barnes doubled to left-center. Pederson grounded to shortstop for the second out, and Barnes went to third. Taylor fouled off a pitch and Devenski threw two balls. He evened the count at 2-2 with a called strike down the middle, but Taylor grounded the next pitch up the middle and into center field for a hit – and Barnes came home with the tying run. Seager flied to center to end the inning.

Kenley Jansen faced the heart of the Houston lineup in the bottom of the ninth. He got two outs on four pitches, but Gurriel doubled to left-center. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts visited the mound to talk things over. Jansen faced Josh Reddick, who flied to short left on a 1-1 pitch.

And it was on to extra innings! I would not have been surprised if, after such an offensive showing, both teams threw up zeroes for a while, but that did not happen.

Joe Musgrove allowed only a one-out single to Andre Ethier in the top of the tenth. Bellinger flied to center and Forsythe grounded into a fielder's choice.

As he did in the ninth, Jansen got the first two Astros in the tenth. McCann nearly won the game with a long, high drive down the right field line, but it was foul. On the next pitch, McCann was hit on the right arm near the wrist and trotted to first base. Jansen lost control of the strike zone and walked Springer on five pitches, though ball 4 might have been at the top of the strike zone. Derek Fisher pinch-ran for McCann at second base as Bregman – who had homered off Jansen in the ninth inning of Game 4 – stepped in. Jansen threw his 33rd pitch of the night – and Bregman lined it to left. Pederson threw home, but it was not in time as Fisher scored the winning run.

Seven home runs were hit in this game, making a total of 22 for the five games, and a new World Series record. (The 2002 World Series had 21 dongs.)

Way back when the Dodgers led 3-0 and 4-0, Fox gave a couple of factoids: In the last two seasons (including the postseason), when Kershaw has worked with a three-run lead, the Dodgers are 25-1. And since 2012 (including postseason games), when Kershaw has a four-run lead, his team is 49-1. . . . Well, you can make that now 25-2 and 49-2.

The game lasted 5:17, ending at 1:39 AM (EST). The longest World Series game in history was Game 3 in 2005 (5:41), when the White Sox beat the Astros 7-5 in 14 innings. That game tied Game 2 of the 1916 World Series for the longest game by innings (Red Sox 2, Dodgers 1, with Babe Ruth throwing a complete game in 2:32 (!!)).
Clayton Kershaw / Dallas Keuchel

The 2017 World Series is now a best-of-three, with a deciding third game, if necessary, at Dodger Stadium.

Kershaw pitched seven innings in Game 1, limiting the Astros to one run and three hits, while striking out 11 and issuing no walks. Keuchel allowed three runs and six hits (including two home runs) in 6.2 innings. This rematch marks the first time since the 2010 World Series (so not that long ago, actually) that former Cy Young Award winners faced each other twice in the same World Series.

Kershaw has allowed eight runs in this postseason, and all of them have scored on home runs. He's given up seven dongs in four starts. "I feel the homers I give up are pretty legit. As long as you're making your pitches, you might hit one off the wall that you're not supposed to or something, but other than that, you can't really change."

Some meaningless stuff: Since 1985, when the LCS expanded to a best-of-seven, there have been 28 LCS or World Series tied at 2-2. The Game 5 winner has taken home the trophy in 18 of those 28 series (64.3%).
For Dodgers fans: When a team wins Game 5 on the road and takes a 3-2 lead (with Games 6 (and possibly) 7 at home), it has won the series 9 out of 10 times.

For Astros fans: When a team wins Game 5 at home and takes a 3-2 lead (with Games 6 (and possibly) 7 on the road), it has won the series 9 out of 18 times.
Noted: Over at MLB.com, it appears that all of the writers are referring to the World Series now as simply the "World Series". Previews, game stories, opinion pieces, everything ... just "World Series". No mention of a corporate sponsor. I cannot imagine enough people complained to MLB to get it to stop the practice, so perhaps the sponsor paid MLB to force its writers to type the corporation's name after "World Series" for only the first couple of games.

Opinions On Manfred's Decision To Suspend Gurriel ... In 2018

Commissioner Manfred Must Act Now And Suspend Yuli Gurriel For His Racist Gesture
Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic, October 28, 2017
Rob Manfred faces one of his most difficult decisions since becoming baseball commissioner on January 25, 2015. Suspend Yuli Gurriel, and many Houston Astros fans will flip out, no small consideration with the next two games of the World Series at Minute Maid Park. Slap Gurriel on the wrist and many, many other fans will become angry over baseball turning a blind eye to a player who was caught on camera making a racist gesture.

Manfred is going to catch hell either way, so he might as well do the right thing. He should suspend Gurriel immediately for one game. Do not simply fine him. Do not delay his suspension until next season. Send a message as the leader of a sport that is growing ever more international, ever more inclusive. ...

Manfred cannot worry about the union. He cannot worry about the percentage of fans who will be upset. He cannot worry about any perception of bias. Gurriel's action was indefensible, and even the union officials who would fight his suspension know it.

Here's the problem for Manfred: Suspending Gurriel could dramatically affect the outcome of the Series, which the Astros lead two games to one after their 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night. ... In 57 plate appearances this postseason, he is batting .340 with a .933 OPS. ...

Gurriel's gesture and mouthing of the word Chinito, which he said is a description Cubans use for all Asians, were captured not by the FOX cameras, but by the international feed. The images spread quickly on social media ...

Even accounting for cultural differences, Gurriel, 33, should have been smarter. ... [A]s the son of Lourdes Gurriel, a famed Cuban player, he did not grow up in isolation. He followed his father into baseball, playing in numerous international tournaments before his brief stopover in Japan. ...

[I]t's probably unreasonable for Manfred to lay this on the Astros and ask them to suspend their own player. No, on the biggest stage the sport offers, it is the commissioner who must take responsibility. A one-game suspension for Gurriel is appropriate. Manfred needs to take a stand and offer leadership, send a message and do the right thing.

MLB Gives Yuli Gurriel Delayed Suspension For Offensive Gesture
Paolo Uggetti, The Ringer, October 28, 2017
Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel will not face suspension during the World Series following being caught by TV cameras pulling back on his eyes and saying, "chinito" – Spanish slang for "little Chinese boy" – in reference to Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish ...

Commissioner Rob Manfred ... announced that Gurriel will be serving a five-game suspension without pay to start the 2018 season, and that Gurriel will also undergo sensitivity training during the offseason. ...

Manfred said he wanted the punishment to come with the loss of salary. In addition, he said the penalty should fall to the wrongdoer and not the whole team because it was "unfair to punish the other 24 players on the Astros roster." ...
Initially, Gurriel responded to questions about the incident after Game 3 by expressing ignorance about the offensiveness of his actions.

"The truth is, I don't know, I didn't know how offensive it was. What I do know is that it wasn't my intention," Gurriel said in Spanish postgame. "I really feel, I feel ... I'm sorry because there were people that felt really offended, and that was in no way my intention, so I'm really sorry." ...

For his part, Darvish said postgame he was bothered by it, but that it was a learning experience. ... Darvish posted a tweet afterward ...

Manfred's Leadership Was Tested With The Gurriel Incident – And He Passed
Jerry Crasnick, ESPN, October 28, 2017
Manfred made the best of a bad situation ... To his credit, Manfred didn't bury the lead. Upon taking his seat in a packed interview room four hours before Game 4 of the World Series, Manfred laser-focused on the heart of the matter.

"There is complete unanimity – me, my office, both owners, both clubs and the MLBPA – that there is no place in our game for the behavior or any behavior like the behavior we witnessed last night," Manfred said. ...

The reactions of the two main parties helped lower the temperature. Gurriel was remorseful and contrite over his actions, and Darvish took the high road ...

So what could baseball do to send the proper message? If Manfred had tried to drop the hammer immediately, the union could have appealed, and the machinations of a grievance proceeding would have become an unwelcome sideshow to the sport's crown jewel event. Gurriel has already agreed to not appeal ...

Given the examples on the books, a five-game suspension for Gurriel seems like a logical progression. In 2012, Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar received a three-game suspension for displaying a homophobic slur on his eye black. This year, Toronto's Kevin Pillar and Oakland's Matt Joyce were both hit with two-game suspensions for anti-gay slurs in May and August, respectively. ...

Manfred's response was authoritative and pragmatic in a way that marked his tenure as baseball's labor lawyer under Bud Selig and bodes well for his commissionership. ...

His leadership skills were tested on the fly, and he passed the test.
Manfred Whiffs On Gurriel Suspension
By Michael Baumann, The Ringer, October 28, 2017
MLB routinely suspends players for using identity-based insults during games (even if they immediately apologize as Gurriel did), but after 18 hours of inaction, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred ... bungled this in a way that's offensive all its own. ...

Gurriel's gesture and language – however benign he claims his intent to have been – is a verbal attack on every Asian and Asian American player and fan watching the game. How can you be comfortable watching this game if such behavior is tolerated? How can you feel like you're a part of that community when one of its most prominent members is sending that message on its biggest stage?

And insofar as the union has a duty to protect Gurriel from suspension, it also has a duty to Darvish – and every player of every race – to ensure that they'll be able to work with dignity, rather than having to face insults for who they are. ... In protecting Gurriel, they've failed many of their other members. ...

When someone does wrong, we expect him to apologize, atone, and not do it again. Gurriel apologized, and missing a World Series game would've been a fitting atonement precisely because it would have had the effect Manfred wanted to avoid: It would have penalized Gurriel's teammates for his ill behavior.

Athletes live in an insular community ... And the best way to change the hurtful language that gets tossed around casually in that environment is to provide an incentive for the players to police themselves: Incentives don't come much bigger than losing a middle-of-the-order hitter for a World Series game. ...

By pushing Gurriel's suspension to the regular season, Manfred is saying that promoting a world free of racist language is a less important goal than preserving the Astros' best chance to win the World Series. ... This isn't about baseball – it's about showing what kind of behavior you tolerate when the eyes of the world are upon you.

Perhaps this shouldn't be so shocking from a league that allowed a team called the Indians to put its redface caricature mascot on national TV throughout last year's playoffs. Chief Wahoo is just as offensive as what Gurriel did, even if we're desensitized to it by exposure, and MLB's stance could not be a better example of all talk, no action.
Yu Darvish Saves Yuli Gurriel From World Series Banishment After Racist Gesture
Steve Buckley, Boston herald, October 29, 2017
Despite what MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says, a little bit of me will always wonder if the magnanimity and diplomacy of Yu Darvish rescued Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel from being suspended from the World Series.

In a vacuum, Gurriel should have been escorted from the Fall Classic premises and told not to rejoin the Astros until spring training. ...

It was blatantly racist. Please hold the cards, letters and emails about overdone political correctness, the "cultural differences" that arise from Gurriel being from Cuba and the fact that an end-of-the-night apology was offered. It was racist. Start there or stop reading. ...

Manfred's decision – a five-game suspension, without pay, to be served at the beginning of next season – will be viewed by some as a slap on the wrist.

It's not. It's the right call. Yes, Manfred could have made a more forceful statement by tossing Gurriel out of the World Series. The Players Association could have appealed, thereby allowing Gurriel to continue playing, but that's not the point. A World Series suspension, appealed or not, would have been history-making. Manfred chose not to unleash that level of power, partly, he said, because it would have been "unfair to punish the other 24 players on the Astros roster."
Baseball, Manfred Strike Out On Gurriel's Delayed Suspension
By Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times
The racist gesture made by the Houston Astros' Yuli Gurriel toward the Dodgers' Yu Darvish on Friday night called for somebody in power to swing for the fences.

Instead, baseball bunted. ...

Commissioner Rob Manfred needed to make a powerful statement Saturday that included an immediate suspension.

Instead, he offered words backed by weakness.

"There is no place in our game for the behavior or any behavior like we witnessed last night," announced Manfred.

Except, apparently, in the World Series, where Gurriel will continue to maintain his place without immediate punishment.

"There is no excuse or explanation that makes that type of behavior acceptable," Manfred added.

Except for the excuse that, hey, everybody chill, we don't want to mess up the mojo of our Fall Classic! ...

[I]t was announced Saturday that Gurriel will be suspended for five games next season. Yes, next season. Six months from now. When nobody cares. A statement nobody hears.

Manfred offered four excuses for why Guerriel wouldn't be suspended now, four lame rationalizations falling under a single description: Baseball was taking the easy way out. ...

[Manfred's] fourth [excuse] is absolutely bonkers: "I felt it was unfair to punish the other 24 players on the Astros roster," Manfred said. "I wanted the burden of this discipline to fall primarily on the wrongdoer."

Yeah, because that should be his priority, keeping a bunch of baseball players happy at the expense of his sport's social integrity. Forget the nation of fans who saw the gesture and were offended.

So, really, baseball will initially tolerate the mocking of millions of Asian Americans as long as it doesn't do anything to inconvenience 24 ballplayers?

Baseball wasn't so forgiving three Octobers ago when it came to the Dodgers. Remember the 2015 National League Division Series against the New York Mets? Remember what happened when Chase Utley's takeout slide into second base in Game 2 broke the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada?

Utley was suspended for two games. Immediately. There was no waiting for next season. There was no worry about impacting the other Dodgers. There was no fear of fooling with the postseason. The suspension was delivered on the spot.

Yes, Utley appealed ... [and] the suspension was overturned the following spring, so it also didn't cost him any money.

But the point was made that dangerous play would not be tolerated even on one of baseball's biggest stages.

When it came to racism at the World Series, sadly, stunningly, that point was lost.
MLB Suspends Astros' Yuli Gurriel For 5 Games Next Season But Not World Series
Associated Press/CBC, October 28, 2017
Manfred would not compare Gurriel's actions with the Cleveland Indians' decision to keep using their Chief Wahoo logo, which has been criticized by Native Americans and others.

"I see a difference between behaviour from one player directed specifically at a player and a logo," he said. "While both are problematic, I don't see them as the same issue. We continue to have conversations with the Indians about the logo, and it's an issue I intend to deal with in the off-season."

Dodgers And Astros Claim A Different Ball Is Being Used In World Series

Pitchers and coaches from both the Dodgers and Astros have told Sports Illustrated that the baseballs being used during the World Series are slicker than the ones used during the regular season

Astros pitching coach Brent Strom:
Why in the world would the baseballs in the World Series be different? ... It's obvious. You can see it and you can feel it. It's not the same. Someone's got to explain to me why.
Tom Verducci, who wrote the SI story, said Strom showed him both a regular season baseball and one from WS Game 4:
The regular season ball had not been prepared for a game with the specialty mud that umpires or their attendants rub into baseballs to reduce the shine and slickness. Even accounting for that difference, the leather grain of the World Series ball looked and felt noticeably different. It was slicker to the touch.
Verducci added that he had been told by members of the Cleveland team during the ALDS that the postseason ball felt different from the regular season ball.
Houston pitcher Charlie Morton:
Lance McCullers took the blindfold test in the bullpen. He could tell which ball was which with his eyes closed. It's that different.
Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt:
[G]uys have been talking about the ball. I also know that MLB has been talking for a while about maybe a ball that's more like the ball in Japan, where the leather is tackier so that you can use it right out of the wrapper.
Astros pitcher Justin Verlander:
The World Series ball is slicker. No doubt. I'm telling you, we're in here signing [World Series] balls before the game, and it's hard to get the ink on the ball sometimes. ... That's how slick the leather is. It's different. I noticed it especially throwing a slider. It didn't feel the same. The home run I gave up to [Joc] Pederson was a slider.
Verlander threw 17 sliders in Game 2 and got only one swing and miss.

Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish: "I had trouble with the ball throwing a slider. It was slicker."

Darvish lasted only 1.2 innings in Game 3. His best pitch is his slider, and he got no swings and misses on any of his 14 sliders, something that had not happened in any of his 34 starts this season. Verducci reported that Darvish's slider in Game 3 had an average horizontal break of only 8.42 inches, compared to 9.12 inches during the regular season.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen gave up a home run on a slider to Alex Bregman in the ninth inning of Game 4, the first time all year Jansen had allowed a home run on a slider (96 pitches).

Astros reliever Ken Giles threw his slider 47% of the time during the regular season, but he has had such bad luck with it in the postseason that he threw it only twice (out of eight pitches) in Game 4. Not having to worry about that effective pitch in Giles's arsenal, the Dodgers have capitalized. They began their game-winning, ninth-inning rally with a single, walk, and double against Giles.

Game 4 was a 1-0 pitchers' duel through six innings between Morton and Alex Wood. Verducci notes:
Neither pitcher throws a slider. The seven relievers that followed them combined to throw only 12 sliders – and obtained no swings and misses on those sliders. Though he doesn't throw a slider, Morton said the slicker baseball did influence his pitch selection.
It affects running my two-seamer in to righthanders. When the ball is slick you can't throw in with the same aggressiveness. If you don't have control of the baseball, you might end somebody's career. That's a very bad thought to have in your head. ... [I]t's the World Series. So you do everything you can to block out everything. You've got to focus with every pitch. ... But if that's what you're thinking about it does affect your conviction on certain pitches.
After the Astros and Dodgers combined to hit eight home runs in Game 2, a record for a World Series game, Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel said:
Obviously, the balls are juiced. I think they're juiced 100%. ... There are really powerful guys in this league and they're going to get theirs. But where you can tell a difference is the mid-range guy who's hitting 20-plus home runs now. That doesn't happen. That's not supposed to happen. ... That's what Major League Baseball wants. They want that exciting two home-run lead, and then they (the Dodgers) come back and hit another home run, and everybody's still watching. That's what they want. That's what they're getting.
A story in The Ringer from June 2017 stated that "new evidence has arisen that seems to [show] that much of the rise in home runs can be explained by the ball":
The testing revealed significant differences in balls used after the 2015 All-Star break in each of the components that could affect the flight of the ball, in the directions we would have expected based on the massive hike in home run rate. While none of these attributes in isolation could explain the increase in home runs that we saw in the summer of 2015, in combination, they can.
A report during the same month by 538 looked at air resistance on fly balls. The report also noted that the baseballs used since the middle of the 2015 season were slightly smaller and the seams are lower.

A record total of home runs - 6,104 - were hit during the 2017 regular season, obliterating the previous high of 5,693, set in 2000.
MLB senior vice president of baseball operations Peter Woodfork said the World Series balls are made from the same materials as the balls used during the regular season: "The only difference is the gold [rather than blue] stamping on the baseballs."

Bill Baer, NBC Sports:
Commissioner Rob Manfred has already gone on record disingenuously trying to blame anything else for the spike in home runs. Major League Baseball released a statement in early July claiming balls remain within established guidelines and that there is no evidence that the ball has been changed "in any way that would lead to a meaningful impact on on-field play." Later in July, he blamed bats. He said, "One thing that we're thinking about is bats. We've kind of taken for granted that bats aren't different. We're starting to look at the issue of bats." ...

On Friday, prior to Game 3 of the World Series, Manfred responded to claims of a juiced ball. Via Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal, Manfred reiterated that game balls have been tested and remain within specifications. Manfred also said that people analyzing a supposedly juiced ball based on one homer-happy game (Game 2) isn't really analysis.

Which, of course, is disingenuous. It's not a one-game sample. We have two and a half regular seasons worth of data, plus two well-performed studies. Keuchel thinks the balls are juiced. So does Justin Verlander. So do David Price, Dan Warthen, Brad Ziegler, Jerry Blevins, and Chris Archer. Meanwhile, Manfred has been unable to actually refute any amount of the overwhelming evidence. He has only attempted to deflect.

The game changes every so often. The mound gets lower. Stadiums get smaller. Players get bigger, focus on different mechanics. Rules get added, removed, and amended. Changing the baseball isn't a capital offense. ... Just admit the balls were changed so we have official context for recent statistics. That's all.

October 28, 2017

WS4: Dodgers 6, Astros 2

Dodgers - 000 000 105 - 6  7  0
Astros  - 000 001 001 - 2  2  0
Alex Wood, pitching for only the second time in 32 days, did not allow a hit until the sixth inning. After the Astros took a 1-0 lead, Cody Bellinger - who had struck out four times in Game 3 - doubled and scored the tying run in the seventh and doubled home the go-ahead run in the ninth. Joc Pederson crushed a three-run homer later in the inning to put the game on ice, as the Dodgers tied the World series at two games apiece. Los Angeles, who knew it could not afford to fall behind 1-3 in the series, now may have the upper hand, with Clayton Kershaw pitching in Game 5.

Tonight's game was the 109th World Series game played by the Dodgers and none of their starting pitchers had ever begun a game with five no-hit innings. Wood issued two walks, including a pass to Carlos Correa to start the second, but a double play erased that baserunner. Charlie Morton allowed a single to Chris Taylor leading off the game before matching Wood pitch-for-pitch, needing only 50 pitches through five innings.

In the sixth, Morton hit Austin Barnes and gave up a one-out single to Enrique Hernandez. (A total of 95 minutes had passed between hits in the game.) Los Angeles had runners at first and third. Taylor chopped the ball towards third. Alex Bregman ran in, made a beautiful sweeping scoop of the ball on a short hop, and fired a low throw to Brian McCann. Barnes stopped running, with a vague idea of going back to third, but McCann easily tagged him. Then Morton got Corey Seager on a first-pitch fly to left.

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Houston's George Springer belted a 3-1 pitch to left for a solo home run, ending the no-hit bid, the shutout, and Wood's outing (5.2-1-1-2-3, 84). Wood was the first pitcher since Jerry Koosman of the Mets to throw at least 5.2 no-hit innings in a World Series game. Koosman threw six no-hit innings in Game 2 of the 1969 World Series.

The Dodgers wasted no time in tying the game. Bellinger doubled to deep left-center, which forced Morton out of the game (6.1-3-1-0-7, 76). Will Harris got Yasiel Puig to fly to right, but Logan Forsythe lined a single to left-center and Seager scored.

Neither team put a man on base in the eighth. The Astros had Ken Giles on the mound in the top of the ninth. Seager grounded Giles's first pitch into the shift and past Jose Altuve into right field for a single. Giles fell behind Justin Turner 3-0 and Joe Musgrove began warming up in the Houston bullpen. Giles eventually walked Turner. Bellinger lined a 1-0 pitch into the gap in left-center and hustled his way to a double. Seager scored and Turner went to third.

LA's 2-1 lead was the first time in eight postseason home games that the Astros had trailed. Giles was done after only eight pitches, with Astros manager A.J. Hinch bringing in Musgrove. Charlie Culberson ran for Turner at third. Puig struck out and Forsythe was walked intentionally, loading the bases. (Is that ever a good idea?) Barnes flied to deep right, scoring Culberson. Pederson followed with a three-run dong.

Kenley Jansen was one out away from nailing down the first World Series one-hitter since 1995, but Bregman homered to left with two outs.

This was the first game in World Series history in which both starting pitchers allowed four or fewer baserunners.

Teams that have won Game 4 to tie any World Series have gone on to win the series 24 of 44 times. The 2013 Red Sox were one of those 24 teams.
Alex Wood / Charlie Morton

The Astros have won all seven home games during this postseason, outscoring their opponents 36-10. Opposing starters have a 7.43 ERA.

Through the first three games, the Astros have nearly twice as many hits as the Dodgers (29-15), but have scored only one more run (13-12).

Rather than have Clayton Kershaw pitch on three days rest, the Dodgers are giving the ball to lefty Alex Wood, who has pitched only once in the past 31 days. After his final regular season appearance on September 26, he went 4.2 innings in NLCS Game 4 on October 18, allowing three runs and four hits. When asked about the time off, Wood said:
[P]hysically it helps me feel a lot more ready, because you have so much time off, but at the same time, trying to stay sharp and stay on top of your game. We've tried to do our best with bullpens and live [sessions] and throwing flat grounds ... Really at this point it's more about kind of mental fortitude than anything.
Since MLB permanently went to the 2-3-2 format for the World Series in 1946, teams that have won Game 3 at home and taken a 2-1 lead have gone on to win the WS 11 of 16 times and eight of the past nine. (The one exception among those nine was the 2013 Red Sox. After falling behind 1-2 in the series, Boston won the next three games.)

I'm sticking with the Dodgers and Alex "No Relation" Wood in what feels like a must-win for Los Angeles. Dodgers 5-4.

October 27, 2017

WS3: Astros 5, Dodgers 3

Dodgers - 001 002 000 - 3  4  2
Astros  - 040 010 00x - 5 12  0
The first five Astros reached base in the second inning and four of them scored. Yu Darvish (1.2-6-4-1-0, 49) threw 27 pitches before recording the inning's first out. That early rally was enough for Houston. And when Lance McCullers (5.1-4-3-4-3, 87) got into a jam in the sixth, Brad Peacock took over and pitched the rest of the way, allowing only one baserunner (via a walk) in final 3.2 innings.

Darvish allowed a leadoff double to George Springer in the first inning, but stranded him at third. Facing the bottom of Houston's lineup in the second, Darvish's luck was all bad. Yuli Gurriel began the inning with a long home run to left. (When he was back in the dugout, Gurriel made a racist caricature of Darvish; after the game, he said he "did not mean it to be offensive".)

Josh Reddick doubled to left and Evan Gattis walked. Marwin Gonzalez singled in one run and Brian McCann singled in another. Springer lined to second and Alex Bregman lined a sacrifice fly to center, giving Darvish his second out and giving the Astros a 4-0 lead. After Jose Altuve doubled to deep left, LA manager Dave Roberts went to the bullpen. He ended up using five relievers.

After watching his teammates bat around and score four times, McCullers went out and walked the bases loaded with no outs in the top of the third. But LA could not capitalize, as Corey Seager grounded into a 3-6-1 double play (scoring one run) and Justin Turner grounded to short. Joc Pederson doubled with one out in the fifth, but nothing came of it - and Houston added an unearned run in the home half.

Seager walked to start the sixth and went to third on Turner's double. After McCullers struck out Cody Bellinger, Peacock came in and got the next two outs, with Yasiel Puig grounding to second on the first pitch (a run scored) and pinch-hitter Chase Utley fouling to shortstop.

Peacock walked Andre Ethier with two outs in the seventh, but Taylor (as the potential tying run) grounded out to first. That turned out to be the Dodgers' last chance at coming back. In the eighth, Peacock struck out Seager, got Turner on a foul pop to the catcher and fanned Bellinger (who struck out in all four of his plate appearances). Puig struck out to start the ninth, Utley grounded back to the mound, and Yasmani Grandal flied to right.

In the three games, the Dodgers have had only 15 hits (six, five, and four). The Astros have 26 hits in the last two games, the two wins that have given them a 2-1 lead in the series.
Yu Darvish / Lance McCullers

Expecting these two teams to match (or somehow surpass) the unprecedented events of Game 2 is too much, but I hope they come real close.

IYI: MLB adopted the current 2-3-2 format for the World Series in 1946. Since then, the series has been tied after two games 34 times. The home team for Games 3-5 has won the trophy 18 of those 34 times (52.9%). ... So that tells us nothing!

Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel, commenting on Charlie Culberson's reaction to hitting a home run in the 11th inning of Game 2: "Culberson acted like he just won the World Series."

I'm surprised Keuchel would make such a dickhead comment, especially when two of his own high-profile teammates (Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa) ran out of the dugout during the same game, and danced around in foul territory like sugared-up kids whenever one of their teammates got a base hit. (In other words, when they hadn't done shit. At least Culberson hit a home run.) Anyway, give him a few more days - Culberson might be celebrating winning the World Series for real.

My money's with Darvish the Dog Rescuer. Dodgers 6-3.

Smoltz: When You Absolutely Need To Score A Run, A Single Is Better Than A Home Run

Just because John Smoltz is working alongside Joe Buck for Fox's broadcasts of this year's World Series does not mean he has to adopt the inane (and wrong) opinions of Buck's former, long-time booth partner, Tim McCarver. But it appears that Smoltz has done so, anyway.

During the top of the ninth inning of Game 2 on Wednesday, Houston's Marwin Gonzalez was leading off against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. The Astros trailed by one run, 3-2. If Houston did not score at least one run in that inning, it would lose the game. After Gonzalez fouled off a pitch to fall behind in the count 0-2, Smoltz said this:
Well, the Astros would love to get a big swing and tie it up, but I think if they can get on base, and create a little more havoc for Jansen, he has to speed up his delivery when there is a runner on. Coming into this game, 52 out of 57 attempted steals have been successful.
Smoltz pitched in the major leagues for 21 years and is a member of the Hall of Fame. He has been hired by Fox Sports to explain the game of baseball to fans watching at home, to offer some insight into what is happening on the field. And he said that if a team absolutely must score at least one run to avoid losing the game, hitting a single is better than hitting a home run. Seriously. He said that.

Yes, yes, I know, a home run would tie the game at 3-3. But a single. A single creates "havoc" for the pitcher, and in Jansen's case, that "havoc" can get him somewhat out of his usual rhythm on the mound. Smoltz notes that most runners who attempt to steal a base against Jansen are successful. That is true - 91% successful, in fact - but the steal puts the runner only at second base. The home run has him trotting right past second base unmolested and across the plate. ... Why am I even explaining this?

Oh, Gonzalez hit the next pitch over the fence in left-center for a game-tying home run.

From 2010-2015, a team with a runner on first base and no outs could be expected to score 0.859 runs. If the leadoff batter hits a home run, then his team has already scored 1.000 runs in the inning - and is still expected to score 0.481 more runs from that point on. Is Smoltz acquainted with the old saying "a bird in the hand"?

In August 2006, Tim McCarver said:
There is nothing that opens up big innings any more than a leadoff walk. Leadoff home runs don't do it. Leadoff singles, maybe. But a leadoff walk. It changes the mindset of a pitcher. Since he walked the first hitter, now all of a sudden he wants to find the fatter part of the plate with the succeeding hitters. And that could make for a big inning.
You might think that a home run would be most likely to start a big inning, because - Boom! - you've already got one run on the board. It's "free money". ... Nope. McCarver, who played professional baseball, unlike you, believes a leadoff walk is the absolute best thing. (McCarver also said that a leadoff walk always scores, always!, so you know that's true.)

I have heard McCarver say that during a rally, hitting a double is better than hitting a home run because it keeps a guy on base - to rattle the pitcher. ... So rather than have that guy score a run, it's preferable to have him on base and hope he can score.

This is where we got the joke of referring to home runs as "rally killers". Except there are a ton of people who work in sports media - and some former players - who actually have called home runs "rally killers"!

Steve Lyons (working as a Dodgers announcer) said it.

Lance Berkman said it.

Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler (Blue Jays announcers) said it.

George Brett said it.

Mike Schmidt said it.

Steve Lyons said it again (seven years later, not having learned a goddamn thing).

Mark Grace said it.

Jeff Francoeur said it.

We've been watching baseball games the wrong way, for decades. We never realized that when your team has a rally going, the desired outcome is fewer runs. In fact, it's probably best if the opposing pitcher throws a perfect game. That way, none of your team's players will be "clogging up the bases".

October 26, 2017

Two More Coaches Leave The Red Sox

The Red Sox lost two more coaches today.

After pitching coach Carl Willis headed to Cleveland, the Cubs announced that they have hired hitting coach Chili Davis and third base coach Brian Butterfield.

I Am Still Shaking My Head Over Game 2

I am looking at my scorecard from last night's game and asking myself: Did all of that really happen?

Grant Brisbee has a fantastic piece for SB Nation:
At some point after the hills around Dodger Stadium caught on fire and a drunken fan jumped into the Astros' bullpen, there was a home run, a longer home run, an even longer home run, and a home run after the home run after that. There was an umpire moonlighting as a hockey goalie to prevent the winning run from scoring, and there was an immaculate bullpen that couldn't stop allowing runs. The Astros were dead before they were alive before they were dead before they were alive before they were dead before they were victorious, and as the smoke poured into the ballpark, it was impossible to know if the whump-whump-whump of the helicopters around the ballpark were for the fire or the World Series, and it's not like anyone could tell the difference. ...

The Houston Astros have their first World Series win in franchise history, and they had to earn it. They had to clamber over the narratives and self-doubt to reclaim their identity as the lumber-thumping monsters under every pitcher's bed, and they had to figure out which wire to cut, while the timer on the homemade bomb was ticking down to zero. They had to beat Kenley Jansen, who is an improbable analog to Mariano Rivera, who was improbable to begin with. They had to pick themselves up off the floor after yet another dismal offensive showing through the first seven innings, and they had to focus after their bullpen blew yet another sure win. It was as if Ra's al Ghul crushed up a blue flower and made the Astros confront their deepest, darkest fears from the last week, and they succeeded anyway. ...

There was a solid two hours of Game 2 where I was going to center this article around the Branch Rickey quote, "Luck is the residue of design." Rickey was the former GM of the Dodgers and a sabermetric pioneer, and that quote was the perfect prism through which to watch this game. For the first seven innings, it was clear that the Dodgers had the luck, and they had the design. It didn't matter where one started and the other ended. All that mattered is that they were never going to lose again, even if that's not how baseball is supposed to work. ...
Brisbee concludes that "Laz Diaz [the second base umpire] is the reason why the Dodgers don't have a 2-0 lead".

Here is some more crazy shit about Game 2:

The Astros and Dodgers combined for eight home runs, the most in any World Series game.
5th inning - Joc Pederson
6th inning - Corey Seager
9th inning - Marwin Gonzalez
10th inning - Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Yasiel Puig
11th inning - George Springer, Charlie Culberson
Before last night, there had been 17 extra-inning home runs hit in the 113-year history of the World Series (651 games). There were five in Game 2.

This was the first game in history - regular season or postseason - with five extra-inning home runs. (None of the 200,000+ regular-season games ever played had more than four home runs hit after the ninth inning.)

The Astros became the first team to hit at least one home run in the ninth, 10th, and 11th innings of a postseason game.

The Astros became the first team to hit three home runs after the ninth inning of a postseason game.

In the top of the ninth, the Dodgers were three outs from a victory, and they had only two hits (both home runs). The last World Series team to win a game with only two hits was also the Dodgers, who won Game 4 of the 1963 World Series 2-1 and finished a four-game sweep of the Yankees. (Frank Howard had both hits.)

If the Dodgers had hung on and won, I thought they could be the first team to win a World Series game with no singles. Well, the Dodgers did not win in nine innings, and they eventually hit a single, and there have been four World Series games in which the winning team did not hit a single (including two in the same series!):

1930 World Series Game 1 - A's beat Cardinals 5-2 (1 double, 1 triple, 2 home runs)
1930 World Series Game 6 - A's beat Cardinals 7-1 (5 doubles, 2 home runs)
1947 World Series Game 4 - Dodgers beat Yankees 3-2 (1 double)
1952 World Series Game 4 - Yankees beat Dodgers 2-0 (2 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run)

This was also the third game in World Series history that produced four game-tying or go-ahead hits in the ninth inning or after, joining Game 4 of the 1957 World Series and Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

The Dodgers entered Game 2 with a 98-0 record when leading after eight innings (including the playoffs), the only team with a perfect mark. Their bullpen had pitched 28 scoreless postseason innings between NLDS Game 2 and the eighth inning last night (a MLB record). And that streak utterly crashed and burned, as the Astros scored in four straight innings off the LA pen.

Altuve and Correa hit back-to-back home runs in the 10th inning. That had happened only once before in extra innings of a postseason game. In 2000, the Mariners' Edgar Martinez and John Olerud hit consecutive homers off Keith Foulke of the White Sox in the 10th inning of ALDS Game 1.

When Puig led off the bottom of the 10th with a home run, it was the first time in postseason history that three home runs were hit in a single extra inning. There had never been more than one homer in any previous extra inning during the World Series.

Enrique Hernandez's two-out single in the bottom of the 10th was the Dodgers' fourth hit of the game, with the first three being home runs. It was the latest in a postseason game that any team had produced its first non-homer hit. (The old record: the aforementioned 1947 World Series Game 4, when the Brooklyn's Cookie Lavagetto broke up a potential no-hitter by Bill Bevens of the Yankees by hitting a two-run, walkoff double with two outs in the ninth inning.)

One more time: There have been 22 extra-inning World Series home runs. Five of them were hit last night.

Yankees Fire Girardi; Cleveland Hires Carl Willis

Joe Girardi is now unemployed.

The Yankees announced this morning that they have dumped their manager of the last 10 years.

GM Brian Cashman: "Everything this organization does is done with careful and thorough consideration, and we've decided to pursue alternatives for the managerial position."

Girardi ranks sixth in regular season wins (910) in Yankees history behind Joe McCarthy (1,460), Joe Torre (1,173), Casey Stengel (1,149), Miller Huggins (1,067) and Ralph Houk (944).

The Post notes that "Cashman has a history of hiring people he is familiar with" so Kevin Long (the team's hitting coach from 2007-2014) and Rob Thomson (Girardi's bench coach for the past four seasons).
In Red Sox news, pitching coach Carl Willis has been hired to be Cleveland's pitching coach. Willis previously worked in Cleveland from 2003-09. He spent two seasons with the Red Sox.

October 25, 2017

WS2: Astros 7, Dodgers 6 (11)

Astros  - 001 000 011 22 - 7 14  1
Dodgers - 000 012 000 21 - 6  5  0
... and people will sit there and insist that baseball is boring.

In the Dark Ages - before Tito and Flo and that wonderful Cast of Motley Idiots led us to the Promised Land - I fully expected that if (and when) the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, every game (all seven of them, of course) would play out like tonight's contest - tonight's ridiculous, astonishing, outlandish, exhausting, and awesome battle.

That was not some dream or fantasy. That was what I truly believed I would be forced to endure in order to be allowed to see my team win a championship. Because when you considered the team's history of heartbreak, how could it go any other way? As it happened, it did go another way. We had our anxiety and tension and times when we nearly passed out from stress in the ALCS. Then we sat back, put our fucking feet up, and won four straight World Series games, thank you very much. (If I'm being honest, it felt a little anti-climatic.)

Anyway. ... Game 2 of 2017. ... I have seen only one World Series game in my life that can match the wildness of this one. It was on Thursday, October 27, 2011, Game 6 between Texas and St. Louis. The visiting Rangers led 3-games-to-2, but the Cardinals won 10-9 in 11 innings - and then won the World Series the following night. (I was curious what I wrote after that game, but I did not blog that World Series.)

Justin Verlander (6-2-3-2-5, 79) began the night by retiring the first nine Dodgers. In that time, his teammates got him a run. Josh Reddick singled off Rich Hill (4-3-1-3-7, 60) in the top of the third. Verlander bunted him to second and George Springer's single to left put him on third. Alex Bregman lined a pitch to left center. Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor dove in the gap for the ball, but it bounced in front of him. Then it caromed off the bill of his cap - directly to left fielder Joc Pederson, who held Springer at second. But Reddick scored. Hill then struck out Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa on six pitches.

Verlander walked Taylor to start the fourth, but a double play ended the inning. However, Pederson got Los Angeles' first hit - and tied the game at the same time - when he homered to right-center with two outs in the fifth. The Dodgers took the lead when - after Verlander had retired the first two batters - Taylor walked (balls 3 and 4 were very close) and Corey Seager homered to left for a 3-1 lead.

Meanwhile, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled Hill after only four innings and went to his pen (which had a streak of 25 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason). Kenta Maeda retired the side in the fifth and after giving up a single and getting an out in the sixth, he departed as Roberts brought in lefty Tony Watson to face Brian McCann. Watson threw one pitch and McCann grounded into a double play.

Now that LA led 3-1, Ross Striping began the top of the seventh. He walked Marwin Gonzalez on four pitches - and Roberts decided that was enough. Brandon Morrow took the mound and got Reddick to hit into a double play - the second time in a span of three batters that a new reliever got a double play from the first man he faced.

Will Harris took over for Verlander in the bottom of the seventh and an infield error, a wild pitch, and a groundout put Cody Bellinger on third with one out. Harris kept the Dodgers' lead at 3-1 by striking out Pederson, getting him to swing and miss three high fastballs, and retiring Barnes on a nubber in front of the plate that McCann made the play on.

Now it's the top of the eighth. And the wildness begins. ... Bregman led off for the Astros and lined a 1-1 pitch towards the right field corner. Yasiel Puig sprinted after it and dove, but the ball ticked off the end of his glove, hit the warning track dirt, and bounced into the crowd. Puig, furious at not making the play, ripped the glove off his left hand and fired it to the ground. Back in the infield, Playoff Assassin Roberts was not messing around. He went to Kenley Jansen, who had thrown 14 pitches in Game 1. Roberts was probably asking for a six-out save, but even if he wasn't, he was smart in bringing in his best arm when the game was on the line. (At the same time, Enrique Hernandez replaced Pederson in left field.)

Altuve grounded to second and Bregman went to third. Correa chopped a 1-0 pitch up the middle, just out of Chase Utley's range and into center field. Bregman scored, cutting LA's lead to 3-2. Yuli Gurriel fouled to first and Jansen struck out McCann.

After the Dodgers went quietly in the bottom half, Jansen returned to the mound, three outs away from sending his team to Houston with a two-game lead. He got two strikes on Gonzalez and then Gonzalez belted a home run to left-center, tying the game at 3-3. Jansen got two quick outs,but Springer ripped a double down the left field line. Bregman had a chance to put the Astros on top again, but he grounded to shortstop.

(The Astros' rally ruined a great opportunity to point out what a stupid and worthless thing the "win" is for pitchers. If Jansen had held the lead and the Dodgers had won the game, the "win" would have been awarded to Tony "One-Pitch" Watson.)

Houston's closer Ken Giles started the bottom of the ninth by striking out Seager and getting Turner on a grounder to short. Bellinger seemed to crush a 1-0 pitch to right-center, but Reddick made the catch on the warning track. (I did not see a replay of Giles's reaction, but I think he was truped as much as I, or anyone else watching on TV, was.)

And so we went to extra innings. The Dodgers went with Josh Fields after Jansen threw 29 pitches in two innings. Altuve looked at two balls and slammed a home run to left. Then Correa fouled a pitch off and HE homered to left, just a bit deeper than Altuve's dong. Gurriel then pasted the first pitch he saw for a double to the gap in left-center. Fields had thrown only six pitches and his team trailed 5-3 and they had a runner on second with no one out.

Tony Cingrani came in to clean up the mess. Roberts made a few other changes, moving catcher Austin Barnes to second base, putting Yasmani Grandal behind the plate, moving Logan Forsythe (who took over for Utley in the bottom of the ninth) from second to first, and pulling Bellinger. (I had switched from Fox to ballpark sound in the middle of the seventh, so I did not fully get all of these changes.) McCann flied to center and after an intentional walk to Gonzalez, Reddick grounded back to the mound and Cingrani started a double play.

Giles returned for the home half of the tenth, having thrown only 10 pitches in the ninth. Puig led off and, on a 2-1 pitch, he belted a home run to deep left-center. (I had hoped to see Puig end the game in the previous inning with a walkoff dong, but the Dodgers had gone in order. Here was the homer, but the Dodgers still needed at least one more run.) And Puig, who was recently criticized for flipping his bat on what turned out to be a double, bent down and placed the bat gently on the ground before beginning his trot.

In my mind I was taunting Giles to not blow it, but he got his shit together and struck out the next two hitters, Grandal and Barnes. So it was up to Forsythe. And Giles was consistently staying away from the strike zone. With a 1-2 count, Giles threw three straight pitches away from Forsythe and out of the zone. A walk! Hernandez was up now - the man who hit three home runs in the pennant-winning game against the Cubs.

Giles threw another pitch low and outside for a ball. Then he bounced one and it got past McCann. Forsythe advanced to second - and the crowd really started roaring. A foul and another ball (away) put the count at 3-1. Hernandez lined the next one into right field for a single. With two outs, Forsythe had been off with the crack of the bat and sprinted around third as if the proverbial hounds of hell were closing in. Reddick scooped up the ball and fired the ball home. It reached McCann on the fly, but just a split-second too late, as Forsythe dove head first and brushed his fingers over the edge of the plate before McCann could apply a sweeping tag. TIED! The game was tied at 5-5.

An amazing fact: Hernandez's single was the Dodgers' first hit of the game that was not a home run - and it came with two outs in the tenth inning! (Their only hits before that were the homers by Pederson, Seager, and Puig.)

Hernandez had taken second on the throw and Astros manager A.J. Hinch changed pitchers, bringing in Chris Devenski. But before Devenski threw a pitch to Taylor, he whirled and fired to second, trying to pick off Hernandez. But his throw was wild and it struck umpire Laz Diaz, who was trying to leap out of the way, high on his left thigh. The ball rolled away but Hernandez had to stay where he was. Taylor flied to center - and it was on to the eleventh!

Roberts went with his ninth pitcher of the night - and the last man in the bullpen, Brandon McCarthy. (Taylor was pulled and Charlie Culberson went to left, with Hernandez moving over to center.) Cameron Maybin, who took over in center when Devenski came into the game, led off from the ninth spot. And he lined a single to left-center. After McCarthy threw over to first twice, Maybin took off and stole second. Two pitches later, Springer launched the Astros' fourth home run in the last two-plus innings. It sailed over the fence in right-center and it gave Houston a 7-5 lead. McCarthy retired the next three batters - and everyone wondered if the Dodgers could match the Astros again.

Devenski retired Seager on a fly to center. He battled Turner for nine pitches before Turner smoked a line drive to third that Bregman caught on his left side. Two outs. As I said above, I was not clear on all of the double switches, so I thought Bellinger was now batting - which offered some hope. But it was Culberson, who had batted .154 and slugged .231 in 15 plate appearances during the regular season. He had gone 5-for-11 in the NLCS, so maybe it shouldn't have been such a shock when he sent Devenski's 1-0 pitch over the wall in left for a home run! And - once again - the Dodgers were one good swing away from tying the game for the third time.

More amazing facts: Culberson's solo shot was the eighth home run of the game - the most ever hit in a World Series game. And there were five home runs hit in extra innings - something that had never happened in any game in history, regular season or postseason.

It was up to Puig. He took two called strikes and fouled the third pitch off. The crowd was chanting "Let's go, Puig! Let's go, Puig!" at what seemed like a deafening volume. He took ball 1 outside and checked his swing on ball 2, low and away. He checked his swing again on the 2-2 pitch and he probably swung, but first base umpire Gerry Davis ruled that he did not. (Which - robots aside - was fine, because that would have been a shitty way for this game to end.) So the count was full. Puig fouled off the seventh pitch. And he fouled off the eighth pitch. "Let's go, Puig! Let's go, Puig!" Devenski's ninth pitch of the at-bat was also low and outside, but this time, Puig went after it. And he did not get it. Strike three. And - after 4:19 - the end of the game.

This was the first World Series game victory in Astros' history. They had lost their first five WS games.

And now everyone gets a day of rest before the festivities resume on Friday night in Houston.
Justin Verlander / Rich Hill

Verlander faces a team that has outscored its opponents 51-20 in the postseason* while going 8-1, including 5-0 at Dodger Stadium. In three postseason starts, Verlander - the MVP of the ALCS - has allowed only three earned runs in 22 innings (1.23 ERA).

*: Houston has outscored its opponents 44-40.

Hill has made two postseason starts, lasting four innings against Arizona and five innings against the Cubs. In those nine innings, he gave up six hits, four walks, and three runs.

The Dodgers have a slightly different lineup tonight, with Corey Seager batting second and Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, and Yasiel Puig all moving down a spot. Joc Pederson will be in left field and Chase Utley is at second base.

Prediction: Astros 4-2.