November 25, 2017

With Longer Games Becoming A "Serious Problem", American League Passes Rule Limiting Mound Conferences

In an effort to speed up play, the American League ... passed a rule curbing pitching mound conferences. But it now develops that the move was only the opening gun in its fight against the wearisome marathon contests.

"We feel that the lengthening time required for completion of our games is a serious problem that must be dealt with in order to keep baseball interesting and attractive to the fans," said President Will Harridge of the American League.

[Over the past 13 seasons, the average length of games has increased by 33 minutes.]

"There are a lot of minor things that could be eliminated to reduce playing time, but in the final analysis we have found that the main responsibility for the problem lies with the manager and the pitchers. ...

"[The manager] can have his batters stop their frequent delays by stepping out of the box, he can instruct his infielders to keep their mound huddles to a minimum ... and he can even school his pitchers not to waste so much time before they get ready to pitch. And there, of course, is the other big answer to the speed-up of games. Most of the time consumed is taken by the pitcher. First of all, they are more deliberate than they used to be and, secondly, they throw more pitches." ...

[Cal Hubbard, American League supervisor of umpires:] "Pitching is consuming so much more time because the pitchers have grown so cautious. They throw so many pitches because they have to be careful with every hitter who steps up there. Anybody can knock it out of the park now - even the little guys ... If they throw one down the pipe now the ball game is gone. Everybody swings from the end of the bat and goes for the fences. They didn't always do that. But the bats are better now. They are lighter, better made and easier to swing.

"When we started to enforce the 20-second rule that requires a pitcher to deliver the ball in that time after he steps on the rubber, we found no violations. ... Some pitchers, of course, aggravate you with their antics around the mound. They step off the rubber a couple of times before they deliver the ball. That wouldn't make much difference if such a pitcher threw only two or three times to each batter. But where time piles up is the 3-2 and 2-2 counts on every batter. ...

"[I]n the old days they threw that first pitch over the plate. They don't do that any more. They're afraid to. One pitch can beat them. ... [T]hey nibble around the corners. They never throw a fat strike. Eventually they're down to 3-2. I imagine at least 50 percent of the counts in a game are 2-2 or 3-2. ...

"Frankly, I don't know how pitching can be speeded up, unless you can change the entire attitude of the pitchers and get them in a more daring mood," replied Hubbard. "But I do know one thing I'd like to see adopted ... That's the elimination of the four pitches in giving an intentional pass. I'd just have the manager order the batter put on base and get on with the ball game. You know, I suggested that change once and Clark Griffith objected to it. He opposed it because he said it would deprive the fans of four chances to boo."
Harridge Demands Pilots Speed Games
A.L. President Calls Lagging Play 'Serious'
All Managers and Umpires to Meet in Florida to Map Plans for Cutting Delays
The Sporting News, January 18, 1956

November 24, 2017

Bryant: "How Have We Not Progressed Past These Mascots?"

How Have We Not Progressed Past These Mascots?
Howard Bryant, ESPN The Magazine, November 23, 2017
[It is] appropriate to wonder why Native Americans are spared the dignity of progress, why the sports industry continues to insult them today as society commonly did 100 years ago. To many fans, perhaps nothing feels more American than logos like those of the Indians, Blackhawks and Redskins, but that feeling requires ignoring the history. Native Americans were excluded from being American -- from the 14th Amendment of 1868, which granted equal protection and naturalization of all citizens born on United States soil, to the 15th, which granted African-American men the right to vote, in 1870. Native Americans were not granted American citizenship until 1924 and did not receive full nationwide voting rights until 1957. By that time, each of the team names, as racist then as they are today, was well fixed within the sports culture. America has chosen logos over people. ...

"You cannot have capitalism without racism," Malcolm X once said. His statement was directed toward the class warfare that lies at the root of capitalism, and it applies even to the blankets, foam fingers, jerseys, caps and T-shirts the sports teams sell, even on a day ostensibly dedicated to a giving of thanks and peace between settlers and natives. The hypocrisy is disgusting. ...

It might be difficult for sports leagues to appear to capitulate to the protest behind a word's usage, even if that capitulation is out of simple decency. It might be difficult for teams and the public to admit their casual racism. It is not, however, complicated to understand that these logos must go. It is not complicated to know a relic from the first decades of the 20th century, routinely regarded by historians as the most racist period since the antebellum era, is inappropriate today. ...

Enough. We all know better.
In the first paragraph of his article, Bryant notes that during the 2016 World Series MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he and Cleveland owner Paul Dolan would have "a conversation" about the Chief Wahoo logo in the offseason. ... Did the two men eventually speak? I can't remember. It doesn't really matter, though, because absolutely nothing was done.

The Wahoo Issue came up again during the 2017 World Series. And Manfred said (again) that the "problematic" logo was totally on his winter to-do list: "[I]t's an issue I intend to deal with in the offseason." ... Manfred had better hurry. Cleveland is hosting the 2019 All-Star Game.

November 17, 2017

AL MVP: Betts and Sale Finish in Top 10

Jose Altuve is the 2017 American League Most Valuable Player. He received 27 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Mookie Betts finished sixth. He was listed as #4 on two ballots: Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times and Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star.

Chris Sale finished ninth. His highest placement was #5, by Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). (The Globe's Nick Cafardo listed Corey Kluber #3 on his MVP ballot, the only writer to list the Cleveland higher than #5.)

Sale finished second to Kluber in the AL Cy Young voting. Kluber received 28 first-place votes, with Sale receiving the other two (Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald and Bruce Levine of Sale was named #2 on the other 28 ballots. Craig Kimbrel finished sixth, by being named #3 on six ballots.

Andrew Benintendi received 23 second-place votes and 6 third-place votes for AL Rookie of the Year. One writer did not feel Benintendi was one of the top three rookies in the AL. That writer was old friend La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

And when I say "old friend" I mean "asshole", because it was Neal - along with George A. King III of the New York Post - who screwed over Pedro Martinez for the AL MVP award in 1999. Neither writer had Pedro's name on his ballot at all. (And it's so perfect that both of these fatuous clowns now use their middle initials and "III" in their by-lines.)

When King was asked about his ballot, he said he did not believe pitchers should be eligible for the MVP (which is in violation of the BBWAA's rules and should have led to the revocation of his voting rights). Then it was revealed that King had included pitchers David Wells and Rick Helling on his ballot the year before. His snubbing of Pedro was obviously deliberate.

The 2017 breakdowns (individual ballots can be seen at the BBWAA link above):

November 14, 2017

The Worst Ball And Strike Calls Of The Season

Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs shares the worst ball and strike calls of the 2017 season:

The Worst Called Strike of the Season
The worst called strike of this season was thrown in the eighth inning of a game between the Astros and the Tigers on the second-to-last day of July. I measure these things by the distance between the location of the pitch and the nearest part of the rule-book strike zone, and, here, we have a called strike on a pitch that missed the zone by 9.8 inches.
Umpire: Ramon De Jesus

The Worst Called Ball of the Season
The worst called ball of the whole season was thrown on August 20.
Umpire: Dan Bellino

November 12, 2017

Mookie Bowls First 300 Game in PBA Event

Mookie Betts bowled what he believes is his 10th career 300 game on Sunday night, but it was his first perfect game in a Professional Bowlers Association event. Betts was competing in the final qualifying round of the World Series of Bowling in Reno, Nevada.

Photo from here.

November 10, 2017

Red Sox Obviously Doomed As Long As Judge Wears Pinstripes

Jesus. It's been only a few short years since the retirement of The Most Awesome Derek Jeter, but the sports media apparently cannot exist unless it has a Yankees player to constantly hold up as a shining example of how amazing and humble and wonderful and gifted and humble a single human being can be.

I can only hope Aaron Judge - who is quite a bit taller than the average player, did you know that? - falls flat on his ugly mug and flames out in a historic blaze of strikeouts or maybe somehow ends up playing for another team somewhere no one cares about (Milwaukee?), because, otherwise, it's gonna be a seriously long fucking slog for the many years he will play for our main rival.

ESPN frames the Red Sox's entire winter as a struggle to do what they can to counter The Judge Effect. (Because we know from history that Judge will only get better and better. He cannot possibly regress.) From two ESPN reports (Scott Lauber on the Red Sox and Andrew Marchand on the Yankees):
Boston Red Sox: Will they turn the power back on?

Home runs are en vogue again, but the Red Sox missed the memo. In the first year of their post-David Ortiz era, they hit only 168 homers, fewest in the American League. Of the 74 players who hit at least 25 homers, none were part of the Red Sox's lineup. Deposed manager John Farrell used seven different players in the cleanup spot, a testament to the fact that the team lacked a true middle-of-the-order power threat. As a result, the Sox scored 785 runs, a drop-off of 103 runs from 2016.

It's little wonder, then, that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already made several public declarations that he'll be shopping for offense this winter. Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez are the top names on the free-agent market, and they would fit into the Red Sox's lineup as either a first baseman or designated hitter, respectively. And then there's the really big fish: Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who is potentially available via a trade now that Derek Jeter is running things in South Florida. As the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry heats up once again, it would be hard for Boston to find a more suitable counter to Aaron Judge.
Hey, look! We even got a Jeter reference in there!
New York Yankees: Will it really be a quiet offseason?

This winter is one that might be looked upon as a quiet one for the Yankees, except for the fact they will add a new manager, could add the "Babe Ruth of Japan" and may make a trade or two. Yankees GM Brian Cashman is looking for an "A.J. Hinch-type" to connect with the team's young players better than Joe Girardi could. Shohei Otani, the 23-year-old pitcher/outfielder, wants to come to the United States. As it stands now, if he does, he will not receive a huge contract because of the new collective bargaining agreement rules. That means the Yankees could have as good a chance as anyone to land him. Otani could be a sixth starter for the Yankees, while DHing and playing some outfield.

The Yankees will look to re-sign CC Sabathia, but for far less than the $25 million that the big lefty made in 2017. They will talk with Todd Frazier's representatives, but with Chase Headley already signed for 2018 it is unclear how much they will offer Frazier to play third. The Yankees could look to trade Headley, Starlin Castro and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Yes, there are likely many teams lining up for the privilege of grabbing Ellsbury, who has posted OPS+s of 87, 88, and 97 over the last three seasons and is due to be paid $63.3 million through 2020. Check out his total bases over the last two seasons as compared to 2011, the season that made the Yankees so excited to sign him as a free agent.
              GMS     PA    TB
2011          158    732   364
2016-17       260   1035   349
Sign me up!

November 9, 2017

You've Heard "Kars4Kids" Mentioned During Red Sox Games. What Is It?

If you listen to radio broadcasts of Red Sox games, you have likely heard about Kars4Kids. Listeners are encouraged to make a cash donation or donate their used car to help "kids in need".

Have you ever wondered who are these kids - and how are used cars helping them?

My partner Laura Kaminker did. What she discovered is here.

November 5, 2017

The Start Of The Off-Season

The Red Sox will officially announce that Alex Cora is the team's new manager tomorrow. And since the end of the World Series, Cora has assisted in assembling his coaches:
Bench Coach: Ron Roenicke
1B Coach: Tom Goodwin
3B Coach: Carlos Febles
Hitting Coach: Tim Hyers
Assistant Hitting Coach: Andy Barkett
Dana LeVangie returns as the bullpen coach. The team has yet to hire a pitching coach.

Roenicke managed the San Antonio Missions (AA) to the Texas League Championship in 1997; Cora, then 21, was a shortstop and the second-youngest player on the team. The 2011 Brewers, with Roenicke in his first season as a major league manager, won a franchise-best 96 games. The Providence Journal states that, during his time with Milwaukee, Roenicke was known "for his analytical bend, including aggressive shifting on the infield".

Febles, after a six-year career with the Royals, worked as a hitting coach for three Red Sox minor league teams from 2007-10. He then managed the Lowell Spinners (2011), Greenville Drive (2012-13), Salem Red Sox (2014-15), and Portland Sea Dogs (2016-17). During those years, Febles had plenty of experience working with and overseeing the maturation of several of the Red Sox's young players, including Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, and Rafael Devers.

For Hyers, this job represents a return to the Red Sox. He was an area scout from 2009-12, then served as the team's minor league hitting coordinator from 2013-15. (He also filled in as interim hitting coach during 2014 after Greg Colbrunn suffered a brain hemorrhage.) For the past two seasons, he was the Dodgers' assistant hitting coach.

Barkett has managed in the minors and worked as an assistant hitting coordinator for both the Pirates and Marlins.

Also: Tony LaRussa has joined the Red Sox front office as a vice president and special assistant to the president of baseball operations, a position newly created by Dave Dombrowski, who worked with LaRussa with the White Sox. This report states LaRussa "will assist with player development and serve as a consultant to the major and minor league coaching staffs, including rookie manager Alex Cora".
Peter Gammons wrote (without offering any examples or evidence):
In many ways, [hiring Alex Cora] is a seismic shift for the Red Sox, who now must deal with the reality that the Yankees have become the Theo Epstein Red Sox and may be a major power for the next few years as Boston faces tough, critical decisions between now and 2019 to avoid the American League East resembling what it was from 1996-2001.
Gammons does not employ an editor at his website, so we get both run-on and partial sentences, like this: "But the wires that bound this franchise from 2004-2013 are frayed, requiring."

Also, when will people stop writing things like: "[T]hese are not your Mike Higgins Red Sox." ... For the record, Higgins last sat in a Red Sox dugout 55 years ago, when Gammons was still a teenager. A few things have happened since then.

Old Hickory is not the only writer touting the Yankees as the team to beat in 2018.

In mid-October, John Harper of the Daily News wrote that the simple act of Boston firing John Farrell meant the Yankees had overtaken the Red Sox as the AL East favourite. That made little sense, of course - and now that the Yankees will also have a new manager for 2018, it makes zero sense. From Harper's article:
"It's hard to win without power, and the Yankees have it while the Red Sox are a little short," was the way a major-league scout put it on Wednesday. "Boston has some good pieces but they do need a thumper to replace Ortiz. I'd rather have the Yankees' kids. They're going to put up some big home-run numbers in the coming years. And they have better young pitching." ...

[T]he Sox are short on pitching depth ... and the Sox don't have any phenoms immediately on the horizon.

Remember, they traded two blue-chip prospects, infielder Yoan Moncada and pitcher Michael Kopech, in the deal with the White Sox last winter, and while [Chris] Sale certainly lived up to expectations, it was a win-now trade that didn't produce a championship, while significantly weakening the Red Sox farm system. ...

As the scout said, young power-hitting is the area where the Yankees are separating themselves. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird ... form the most formidable age 25-or-younger offensive trio in baseball. ...

All of which is a way of saying that, on the matter of young stars, things have changed more quickly between the Yankees and Red Sox than anyone would have anticipated.

A new manager in Boston isn't going to change the fact that it feels like the Sox, though two games better this season, are already trailing the Yankees going into 2018.
A little later in October, the Post's Joel Sherman offered "a peek at Yankees' potentially devastating 2018 rotation" and advised how the Yankees can finish 2018 in "The Canyon Of Heroes":
The 2017 Yankees came faster and went further than expected, reaching Game 7 of the ALCS. Their roster and farm system and future payroll are lined up to produce even better teams. But the step from promise to a parade is perilous. ...

[U]nlike 2017 next spring training is going to begin with the Yanks in their historically familiar position as the hunted, as a team with the overbearing expectations. ...

Joe Girardi talked about "mental growth" after his Yankees were eliminated by the Astros. ... What earmarked the dynastic Yankees that Girardi was part of as a player was that even as fame and fortune and pressure mounted for that group, hunger to win and unity to do so together never wavered. Their mental toughness and physical durability was special.
Most of ESPN's Dan Szymborski's article on early ZiPS projections for 2018 is behind a paywall, but the AL East is visible:

November 4, 2017

Phillies Hire Gabe Kapler As Manager; "Coconut Oil Is A Phrase"

The Philadelphia Phillies hired Gabe Kapler as their new manager last Thursday.

Todd Zolecki,
Of course, the Phillies also looked deep into Kapler's background, which included a handful of eyebrow-raising posts on his lifestyle blog about men's health.
Are you curious about what is meant by "eyebrow-raising posts"? I was.

As soon as word of Kapler's hiring leaked, the intrepid sports media trawled the internet, looking for information/dirt on The World's Strongest Jew. Kapler's blog KapLifestyle (to which he posted from December 2013 to February 2017) is still online. In June 2014, he posted "Coconut Oil - Beyond Cooking":
This post aims to save you at least $39. Go ahead and trash your body lotion ($8), chapstick ($3), teeth whitening mouthwash ($6), face cream ($15) and KY jelly ($7). Replace them all with pure, unrefined, organic coconut oil. ...

The sun has set, and the moon is out. Perhaps you have a friend nearby, perhaps it's just you by your lonesome...well, this is awkward. I've promised you authenticity, honesty and openness. Take this how you wish and I'll spare you the step by step. Coconut oil is the world's greatest lubricant. I can't help where your mind goes with this. Once the ball leaves the bat, I can't steer it.
Howard Eskin, a longtime Philadelphia sports talk radio and TV host, was not pleased. He tweeted his disgust in several tweets, including one that described Kapler as "a little to [sic] nutty". Also:
"Here he is .. your new #phillies manager Gabe Kapler. If his analytics don't work as a manager maybe he can be a model for leopard thongs."

"I wonder how much more will come out on Gabe Kapler. His ideas not exactly along lines of ownership."

"Call it what you want. He's not the kind of person you want as the new face of your #phillies franchise. He sure does love himself. Will players take instruction or laugh at him. Or will public laugh at him. If he didn't love analytics and sports science GM may be laughing too"

"Think kids that love to follow #phillies are ready to hear his ideas about use of coconut oil. Baseball is a family sport. Don't think parents are on board with hearing this stuff about the manager."

"Lots of things need to be addressed these days."
Some thoughts:

1. The picture that Eskin included with the first indented tweet is a decent example of soft-core gay porn.

2. Anyone else notice that Eskin's first sentence in the fourth tweet appears to say young Phillies fans are ready for Kapler's oil ideas? All it needs is an "I" at the beginning.

3. Eskin initially states that Kapler's ideas are "not exactly" the same as those of Phillies management, but then he implies that it's a good thing for Kapler that his ideas (love of analytics, for example) are similar to those of Phillies management. ... Oh, Eskin must have meant his ideas about masturbation!

And so Eskin took the brave step of bringing up this touchy subject at the Phillies' press conference:
Eskin: [Phillies general manager] Matt [Klentak], earlier you expressed there were no reservations with some of the things that you saw that Gabe had written on his blog and had tweeted. I'm trying to figure out if - you said there were none, there are none - and as far as Gabe, Gabe, are you proud of some of the stuff - you said you express yourself. I don't want to get specific, but I'm - there's an elephant in the room - people here, I mean, coconut oil is a phrase. I threw it out there. Gabe, any reservations? And Matt, any reservations? Gabe, for putting it out there, and Matt, while you were in the interview process?

Kapler (looks at Klentak): I'll take it first. Certainly, like I mentioned before, much of what I have written is several years old. And when I was writing, I was in a different mindset than I am now, as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Even with that said, if you look through the various posts, there is some tongue-in-cheek stuff that I had directed to players, because I thought it might make them laugh. Thinking through it, there are some things I might have written a little bit differently. Certainly, we all make mistakes and miss the mark from time to time, but if you go back and look at those posts, they were meant for health. They were meant to help people be more prepared and stronger. And so - they're imperfect, I'm imperfect, but I am also very proud of a lot of the content that I would encourage people to go back to and dig into and find the stuff that really does hit the mark.

Klentak: I would - I agree and support everything he just said, but I would kind of repeat what I said earlier, I think as we try to move the needle here, as we try to move this organization forward, some of that is - there's an element of risk and new behaviors and trying new things. That's inevitable. And I think that's part of what we are excited about with Kap's arrival here, is that this guy has demonstrated that, over the last handful of years with the Dodgers, with a tremendous amount of success. And I think, we can't project exactly how the next few years are going to play out, but boy oh boy, it's going to be fun, and as I said to Jim's question earlier, we are going to embrace a lot of his ideas and we're going to collaborate on them as we try to push this thing forward and bring the championship trophy back to Philadelphia.
It's not clear if this is one of the "new behaviors" and "new things" the 2018 Phillies will try in spring training.
If you want to be your strongest, get some sun on your boys. And by boys, I mean your testicles.
Too bad Eskin did not get a chance to ask a follow-up question.

November 1, 2017

WS7: Astros 5, Dodgers 1

Astros  - 230 000 000 - 5  5  0
Dodgers - 000 001 000 - 1  6  1
In an unforgettable World Series, who would have expected Game 7 to be fairly dull and anti-climatic? (Note: As long as you were not a serious fan of either team.)

The Houston Astros are baseball's champions, prevailing in a game whose course was set by the middle of the second inning. The Astros scored two quick runs off Yu Darvish in the first, aided by an LA fielding error. After the Dodgers left the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, Houston scored three more times in the second, capping the inning on George Springer's two-run homer.

The Dodgers continued putting men on base but were unable to bring them home. Through six innings, they went 1-for-13 with runners on second and/or third and left 10 runners on base. When they did finally score a run, on Andre Ethier's pinch-hit single with one out in the sixth, it seemed like maybe getting a run on the scoreboard would loosen up the Dodgers and they could get back in the game. As it turned out, that was the high point (such as it was) of their night. Charlie Morton retired the next (and last) 11 Los Angeles batters, allowing only two balls out of the infield.

Springer's home run was his fifth of the series and gave him the honour of being the only player in history to homer in four consecutive games in the same World Series. Springer also set World Series records for extra-base hits (eight) and total bases (29). He also had an extra-base hit in six consecutive WS games.

As it turned out, the June 24, 2014 issue of Sports Illustrated (pictured above) was right. The magazine even put Springer (the 2017 World Series MVP) on the cover! Ben Reiter wrote that story three seasons ago and last week, he explained why. Reiter also noted that the Houston Chronicle called SI's claim "more of an attention-grabbing, perhaps even tongue-in-cheek projection than a prediction".

Springer began the game by hitting Darvish's third pitch for a double into the left field corner. Alex Bregman grounded a ball to the right side. Cody Bellinger ranged far to his right, and his throw to first was behind Darvish and went for an error. Springer scored. Bregman stole third without a throw and scored on Jose Altuve's grounder to first. Darvish had thrown only eight pitches and the Dodgers trailed 2-0. Darvish got the final two outs, one of which was a 13-pitch battle against Yuli Gurriel.

In the Dodgers first, Chris Taylor led off with a double to right-center. Corey Seager struck out, but Astros starter Lance McCullers hit Justin Turner with a 1-2 pitch. After Bellinger - who set a new WS record with 17 strikeouts - whiffed, McCullers drilled Puig. With the bases loaded, Joc Pederson grounded an 0-2 pitch to second.

Darvish appeared to have struck out Brian McCann to begin the second, but home plate umpire Mark Wegner incorrectly called the 1-2 pitch a ball. McCann eventually walked. When Marwin Gonzalez doubled McCann to third, I could easily see Wegner's blown call making a huge difference in this game. If Wegner had made the proper call, perhaps Darvish doesn't allow any runs in the second and the Dodgers, feeling more confident down by only two runs, end up on top. It is not an outlandish proposition. A blown call changing the course of a Game 7 does not have to be on a late-inning tag at home plate. It could be a wrong call at any point that causes an inning to get out of control.

The Dodgers played the infield in and Darvish got two ground balls to second. The second one, off McCullers's bat, scored McCann. Darvish (1.2-3-5-1-0, 47) fell behind Springer 2-0, worked the count full, and gave up a 438-foot blast to deep left-center. Brandon Morrow got the final out.

(Morrow is now the second pitcher to appear in all seven games of a World Series, joining Darold Knowles of the 1973 Athletics. This was the first Game 7 in World Series history in which neither of the starting pitchers lasted three innings.)

In the bottom of the second, Logan Forsythe singled and after a groundout moved him to second, McCullers hit pinch-hitter Enrique Hernandez. The BABIP gods cursed the Dodgers when Taylor lined out to shortstop and Forsythe was doubled off second.

The LA third offered more of the same. Seager singled and McCullers hit Turner for the second time. It was McCuller's fourth HBP in 12 batters. After McCullers (2.1-3-0-0-3, 49) struck out Bellinger, A.J. Hinch went to his bullpen. Brad Peacock got Puig to fly to center and then he struck out Pederson.

Through the first three innings, the Dodgers sent 15 men to the plate - and 10 of them batted with a runners on second and/or third. None of those 10 batters got a hit.

The Dodgers also left two men on base in each of the fifth and sixth innings.

Clayton Kershaw took the mound in the third inning and threw four scoreless innings, allowing only two singles and two intentional walks. The walks came in the sixth after Carlos Correa led off with a single and reached third with two outs. LA manager put Gonzalez on first and then, when Evan Gattis was announced as a pinch-hitter for Josh Reddick, Roberts put him on base, too. The moves gave Kershaw no margin for error and if Houston could add to its 5-0 lead, that would likely put the game on ice. Kershaw got a called strike on Cameron Maybin, another pinch-hitter, and then got him to foul out to third.

So the score remained 5-0 and the Dodgers finally scored in the bottom of the sixth. They trailed 5-1 and had runners at first and second with one out. Morton had no problem striking out Taylor, who was anxious and hacking at everything. He took a strike, then swung and missed, fouled a pitch off, and swung and missed again. Seager grounded the first pitch to shortstop, shattering his bat. Correa ran in and had trouble getting the ball out of his glove, but made the play to end the inning.

Morton then retired the side in order in each of the last three innings. The last two outs in the ninth were ground balls to Altuve at second.

Lance McCullers / Yu Darvish

There have been 38 World Series winner-take-all games. The home team has won 19 and the visiting team has won 19. (Also, the World Series has gone to seven games in three of the last four seasons.)

This is the first World Series Game 7 between two 100-win teams since 1931, when St. Louis' "Gas House Gang" Cardinals beat the Philadelphia A's, who had won the previous two World Series under manager Connie Mack.

This will also be the 11th World Series game that has been played in November. The previous ten: 2001 (Games 5-7), 2009 (Games 4-6), 2010 (Game 5), 2015 (Game 5), and 2016 (Games 6-7).

Barry Petchesky, Deadspin: Get Ready For A Night Of Weird Bullpens
This series, this season is going to end tonight, or maybe early tomorrow morning. Just a few more outs left to get. It's been a while since the managers' decisions on who to get those outs felt like they carried so much weight.
Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan discusses Rich Hill and "The Early At-Bat That Changed the Whole Game":
Hill knew if he could just get through Reddick, he might find a way mostly out of the inning. ... If Reddick could be retired, then, presumably, Verlander could be retired. Then it would be a matter of facing Springer or Alex Bregman. Nothing easy, to be sure, but better to get there with two outs than one. ...

Hill needed to focus on getting rid of Reddick. ... That was going to keep the Dodgers alive. ... Ball one. Then ball two. Then ball three. ...

Do you know what happens after 3-and-0 counts? Let me tell you what happens after 0-and-0 counts. Batters walked 9% of the time. They struck out 22% of the time. ... And, after 3-and-0? Batters walked 60% of the time. They struck out 7% of the time. ...
Hill's margin of error had been reduced right down to nothing. ... Hill didn't want to concede. He just had to be perfect. ...
Baseball Lets You Lose Your Mind
Lindsey Adler, Deadspin, October 31, 2017
[I]n baseball, there are a billion and four different outcomes in any single moment, and there is no clock limiting the possibilities. It's a game that people smarter than me have quantified in nearly every way imaginable, and yet, it's by its nature the game that allows for the most random deviation of what's expected based on the information about every batter, every pitcher, even every fielder now. To watch baseball is to submit to a reprieve from control. It's the ultimate antidote to control-freak tendencies. It's a game of suspense and chance, and when that outcome is a ball hit 450 feet through the park, it's a game of wonder.
Fun Fact, from Craig Edwards:
There have been two games in World Series history with 5 plays where win probability changed at least 25%
Game 2, 2017
Game 5, 2017
If you thought Hill stepped off the mound each time Yuli Gurriel came to the plate last night in order to give Dodgers fans more time to boo Gurriel for his racist gesture in Game 3, you are right. Hill said after the game "that was my silent gesture" to condemn Gurriel's actions.

Astros Game 7 starter Lance McCullers began warming up as soon as Game 6 ended.

Fox/Smoltz Note: In Game 6, Dodger pitcher Tony Watson had a 2-1 count on Marwin Gonzalez in the sixth inning. His next pitch was over the plate and low, but clearly within the strike zone. Home plate umpire Dan Iassogna called it a ball. Fox's John Smoltz started to say the umpire blew the call, but stopped. He probably realized he should not say that on the air. Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes had failed to catch the ball smoothly, so Smoltz jumped on that, saying that Iassogna made his call because the pitch "was not presented as a strike". There is absolutely nothing in the rule book about how pitches should be "presented" to the umpire. It doesn't matter if the pitch drills the ump in the nuts: if it passes over the plate within the strike zone, it's a strike. ... Have you ever been at a game and overheard some idiot behind you manplaining the game to his date and uttering the most ridiculous (and obviously wrong) things? Have you ever wondered where that guy could have picked up such silly ideas about how baseball works? Well, wonder no more.

Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated has a lengthy article about David Ortiz's transition from the diamond to the TV studio and his relationship with fellow analyst Alex Rodriguez.