October 18, 2018

ALCS 5: Red Sox 4, Astros 1

Red Sox - 001 003 000 - 4  8  0
Astros  - 000 000 100 - 1  5  1
The Boston Red Sox are the 2018 American League champions!

David Price (6-3-0-0-9, 93) was magnificent, setting a career postseason high with nine strikeouts. He retired 15 of his last 16 batters after allowing a leadoff single in the second inning. His command was impeccable; he went to a three-ball count only once, on his third batter of the night.

This game should silence forever the critics who have harped about Price's zero postseason wins as a starting pitcher. Not postseason wins only, however, because Price already had two of those. Those were ignored because they interfered with the necessary negativity of that narrative.

Not surprisingly, TBS committed a huge error on that point.

Price's "first career postseason win" actually came on October 11, 2008, more than 10 years ago.

Rafael Devers belted an opposite-field home run with two on in the sixth, giving the Red Sox some breathing room. Boston's first run scored on a solo shot by J.D. Martinez, a prodigious blast that struck halfway up the wall at the back of the left field stands.

Both dongs came off Justin Verlander (6-7-4-2-4, 97), the hearthrob of the TBS booth, who lamented, in the late innings, that this game was supposed to have been "scripted" for the Astros' awesome right-hander. ... Sorry, boys, but sometimes the better team wins. Game 1 of the World Series will be played at Fenway Park next Tuesday, October 23.

Craig Kimbrel pitched a nearly-uneventful ninth inning. After recording a quick strikeout, he walked Yuli Gurriel on four pitches. But Kimbrel was masterful against Marwin Gonzalez, painting with his fastball and getting three called strikes. Tony Kemp lifted a 1-1 pitch to deep left-center. Andrew Benintendi drifted to the warning track and the ball "settled" in his glove, sending last year's champions home for the winter.

And at 11:43 PM (Boston time), the celebration began ...

Jackie Bradley was named the ALCS's Most Valuable Player. Bradley had only three hits in the series, but he drove in nine runs.

The Red Sox won the pennant on first-year manager Alex Cora's 43rd birthday. The team sang "Happy Birthday!" during the postgame celebration.

Verlander came into the game having thrown 24 consecutive scoreless innings in postseason elimination games. The TBS crew of Brian Anderson and Ron Darling made him the focus of the night's narrative. The team with the most wins, with two hitters who may both finish in the Top 3 of the MVP balloting, was on the brink of the World Series? Whatever.

The mindset of the announcers for all five games can be distilled to this:
Astros: 103 wins - This powerful team should not lose a single game in the postseason
Red Sox: 108 wins - Nowhere close to the Astros' level of talent (& shaky bullpen)
This synopsis would also apply to the ALDS if you substitute "Yankees" for "Astros" and "100" for "103". And despite all evidence to the contrary - a mountain of facts that grew larger as each game was played - Anderson and Darling stubbornly stuck to their script, repeating the same worn-out anecdotes and heaping praise on everything the Astros did, even mundane stuff like taking one extra base on an error, making a routine catch of a line drive in the outfield, or (in the case of Alex Bregman in the eighth inning tonight) fouling off a 99 mph fastball. It was right out of the Calm Eyes And Elegant Gait School of Announcing.

And yet Verlander found himself in trouble in the second inning. Bregman made a throwing error on Ian Kinsler's ground ball with one out. Christian Vazquez singled with two down and Verlander walked Bradley, loading the bases. Verlander escaped by striking out Mookie Betts. In the third, Verlander threw a strike on an 0-2 count to Martinez. Plate umpire Chris Guccione blew the call on the pitch, which was nestled in the lower, outside corner of the zone. Martinez took advantage by crushing the next pitch to deep left.

(Check out Grumpy Gus scowling over Vazquez's head.)

There have been oodles of bad calls by the plate umpires in this series and TBS uttered nary a peep about them. Not this time. Verlander would throw only five more pitches in the inning and in that short time Anderson and Darling managed to complain about the bad call four times. They ended up referring to it nearly a dozen times during the game, acting like the blown call gave Boston a home run, as if it was a natural consequence or even part of the rules. But why not talk about Verlander's failure to make a better pitch on 1-2? Or maybe give a little credit to Martinez? Regularly bringing up the call, even many innings later, easily crossed the line into whining. Also, did that one incorrect call prevent Houston from scoring more than one run all night?

Price was sharp from the start. Bregman flied to left on his first pitch. Two strikeouts - of George Springer and Carlos Correa - sandwiched a two-out hit by Jose Altuve. Price shrugged off a leadoff single from Gurriel in the second by getting two fly outs and a called strike three on Martin Maldonado with a nasty curveball.

Price retired the Astros in order in the third on 12 pitches and struck out the first two batters in the fourth. Gurriel doubled to left and Price responded by fanning Marwin Gonzalez. Houston went in order in the fifth on only nine pitches. On the last one, Price fielded a dribbler to the third base side by Jake Marisnick and made a quick one-hop throw to first.

After the JDM HR, the Red Sox bats were fairly quiet until the sixth, when Mitch Moreland doubled to left. Kemp attempted another leaping catch at the wall, but this time the ball clearly hit the fence on its way into his glove. Kinsler lined an opposite-field single to right (he also doubled in the eighth, heating up in time for the World Series). Devers drove Verlander's first pitch to the opposite field and it landed in the left field seats for a three-run homer. The Red Sox led 4-0.

(Ryan Brasier celebrates Devers's homer in the bullpen.)

Price was at 82 pitches through five innings and Cora gave him the sixth. The first out came on Betts's leaping catch at the wall of Bregman's long drive. One nearby Red Sox fan made a show of not interfering with the play, raising his hands like he was being placed under arrest.

Springer grounded to third. Price ended the inning - and his night - with a three-pitch strikeout of Altuve.

Matt Barnes (who appeared in all five games in the series) started the seventh with two grounders to third, on which Devers smoothly ranged to his left and got the outs (TBS missed the opportunity to call him "Bregmanesque".) And then, with the Red Sox seven outs away from the pennant, we started seeing shots of sad Astros fans in the stands.

(I love the lone Astros earring hanging between the couple who might be thinking that, instead of Game 5 tickets, they could have spent that money on something enjoyable.)

Those crowd shots stopped when Gonzalez homered to left. (Anderson called the play with a level of excitement that should have been reserved for a game-tying blast. I would love to hear side-by-side recordings of Anderson calling hits and runs and catches by both teams. I'll bet the clips would be very "interesting", to use a word Darling uttered 3,054 times in this series. ... I counted.)

When Barnes walked Kemp, Cora summoned Eovaldi. (Eduardo Rodriguez had also been getting ready.) The fireballing Eovaldi started pinch-hitter Josh Reddick with an excellent curve. He followed that up with a cutter and Reddick flied to right.

When Reddick hit the ball, TBS's cameras switched to a shot of the second deck in right field. For a fraction of a second, I thought the game was now 4-3 and I was wondering why Anderson was not screaming like a schoolgirl at a Beatles concert. The cameraman hurriedly panned the shot down to the field in time to see Betts calmly catch the routine fly ball. That camerawork might have been worse than anything I saw on NESN this year.)

The ball is the white dot between the two panels of the car advertisement.

Eovaldi gave up a two-out single to Springer in the eighth. Joe Kelly started warming as Eovaldi fell behind Altuve 3-1. But the Astros' DH flied harmlessly to center.

After Robert Osuna finished his third inning of relief, we went to the bottom of the the ninth. Three outs to go! Cora did not hesitate in bringing in Kimbrel. (And Red Sox fans did not hesitate to reach for the antacids.)

Correa fouled off three pitches before swinging and missing an outside fastball at 99. Kimbrel threw four balls to Gurriel, causing a decent percentage of Red Sox to think, Here we go again.

But Kimbrel was as sharp as ever against Gonzalez, who never took the bat off his shoulders and watched three strikes whiz past him.

Strike 3! Paint!

Kemp took a strike and a ball before flying to deep left-center. And it was Benintendi who (for the second straight night) caught the final out of a Red Sox win.

Some final notes on TBS:

Betts began the game by fouling out to Bregman as Anderson exclaimed: "Bregman's got the stirrups on tonight!!"

Anderson described Bregman's errant throw in the second inning as "an unforced error". Anderson has a horrible habit of using non-baseball terminology while talking about a baseball game. He said (multiple times) teams "held serve" if they prevented the other team from scoring and he was especially fond of noting that a player "stuck the landing".

Darling called Nolan Ryan "Nollie" (wasn't that what got Robin Ventura in a headlock?) and Anderson claimed that Ryan's seven no-hitters "will never be accomplished".

After Price struck out Bregman in the bottom of the third, Anderson said the lefty had "the banjo effect going on". I have no idea what this means.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said his team had their backs to the wall and they needed a win to keep their season alive. Darling was impressed, describing Hinch's "great gift" of speaking so openly and honestly ... when all he did was spout the same cliches that every manager always says in that situation.

During the ALDS, Anderson kept referring to someone named "John Carlos Stanton". In the ALCS, he called Boston's catcher "Voss-quez".

When Gurriel doubled on the ninth pitch of his fourth-inning at-bat, Darling said he had "outwaited" Price.

In the top of the sixth, Anderson said: "The Astros have McCullers warming up, among others". At the same time, the camera showed us McCullers throwing all by himself.

In the seventh, Anderson said the Red Sox have "turned the script" in this game and Darling followed by saying this game "was scripted" for Verlander ... and it would have happened if it wasn't for those meddling, script-flipping Red Sox.

Late in the game, Darling says that despite what happens on the field, "managers always push the right buttons in the postseason". ... Somewhere in America, Zach Britton did a spit take, a former Red Sox manager I refuse to name silently nodded his head, and Dave Stapleton threw his remote at the TV.

When Gonzalez homered, giving the Astros one run, Anderson says (probably to himself as much as to us): "These games can turn in a flash."

In the end, of course, the Red Sox failed. As you may recall from the end of Game 2, Anderson said the Red Sox desperately hoped to bring this series back to Boston. But the ALCS ended in Houston. Damn.
What's going on in New York, you ask?

Ken Davidoff, Post:
Look away, Yankees fans: The Red Sox are back in the World Series. Their 13th pennant in franchise history arrived Thursday night in the same all-business, conventional-wisdom-bashing manner that got them this far, as noted Octoberphobe David Price — on short rest! — outpitched future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander for a 4-1 Red Sox victory over the Astros in American League Championship Series Game 5 ...

Rafael Devers produced the killing blow: A cheapie three-run homer, the other way, into the inviting left-field seats ...
David Price / Justin Verlander
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Moreland, 1B
Kinsler, 2B
Devers, 3B
Vázquez, C
Bradley, CF
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com (you may recall his name from various Schadenfreude posts because he wrote for the Daily News):
David Price has started one game in his career on three days rest - and that was after throwing 14 pitches in relief four days earlier. In other words, tonight will be the first time he's ever made back-to-back starts on short rest. Should be interesting.
The first comment, from DinoMartini59: "So, he's undefeated on three days rest"

An ideal situation could develop this evening, whereby at around midnight:
1. David Price has earned his first postseason victory (as a starting pitcher), leading the Boston Red Sox to the 2018 American League pennant.

2. We are experiencing a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, in no small part because we know we never again have to listen to hours of inane statements from Brian Anderson and Ron Darling.

3. We are happily look forward to the fantastic - and once-utterly-unthinkable - opportunity of watching the Red Sox win a FOURTH World Series championship in our lifetimes.


MThomas said...

That was the worst camera-Trup of all time on Reddick's routine flyout to left against Eovaldi in the seventh. Was it on the warning track? So happy we got to see the fans in the second deck while mookie set up under it outside of the screen.

Paul Hickman said...

Tonight I have the Full Bar available for the 9th !!!!!!!

Paul Hickman said...

Price wins as a Starter !!!!!

Verlander beaten ......

Kimbrel closes with only a slight stutter

I must be on Hallucinogens ?


Jake of All Trades said...

“An ideal situation could develop this evening, whereby at around midnight..:”

Check the box on all 3!!!!

FenFan said...

Rafael Devers produced the killing blow: A cheapie three-run homer, the other way, into the inviting left-field seats ...

Any home run to right field at the Toilet is a "cheapie," so quit your belly-achin' and enjoy the links.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the final wrap-up roast of TBS, Anderson, and Darling. It's an absolute sham that TBS even has rights to broadcast postseason games. Or is it the post? TBS, Anderson and Darling: go away.

My feeling right now: we skated in September to get here, and now, this team is finding its stride again, much like it had during those epic runs in the spring and summer where they could not lose. Mookie, Benni, JD, and Bogie have been good, but they are about to go off. I can feel it. Couple that with what Pearce/Moreland, Rafy, Brockstar/Kinsler, Vazquez, and JBJ have done -- watch out. Also, we just took down two 100 win teams in back to back series . . . without having Sale anywhere close to his best.

Lastly, love how the NY Post calls Devers' shot a cheapie, when they literally play 81 games/ year in a ball park with a right field fence that is barely larger than a little league field.

laura k said...

What a fun post. Thanks. I'd say it is inevitable, but that was 2007. #YearOfTheMookie