November 6, 2022

World Series 6: Astros 4, Phillies 1

Phillies - 000 001 000 - 1  3  0
Astros - 000 004 00x - 4 7 0
In Game 1, Houston's Aledmys Diaz, with his team trailing the Phillies 6-5 with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning, tried to keep a potential game-saving rally going by extravagantly leaning his left elbow into a pitch. But instead of loading the bases for the Astros, the play was nullified by plate umpire James Hoye. Diaz was in violation of Rule 5.05(b), which says a batter must make an effort to avoid geting hit with a pitched ball. Two pitches later, Diaz grounded out, giving the Phillies a series-opening win.

In Game 6, Houston's Martin Maldonado, with his team trailing the Phillies 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, tried to get a potential rally going by leaning his left elbow into a pitch. Plate umpire Lance Barksdale signaled hit-by-pitch and Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto immediately mentioned Maldonado's deliberate attempt to get plunked. The Phillies challenged the HBP call and while we waited, replays from every angle showed Maldonado without question moving his elbow down and into the path of the pitch. (P.S: Maldonado used an illegal bat in Game 1. Fox was very ho-hum about this news. Was a gag order part of its broadcasting contract with MLB?

The ruling from the Replay Center came in . . . upholding Barksdale's blown call. Maldonado, who had moved considerably closer to the plate after his third-inning at-bat, trotted down to first. Jose Altuve forced Maldonado at second and Jeremy Pena's single into center put Astros at first and third. Phillies manager Rob Thomson pulled starter Zack Wheeler (5.1-3-2-1-5, 70) and brought in Jose Alvarado.

After ducking away from a 99.2 mph sinker up and in, Yordan Alvarez's eyes lit up at another sinker, this one coming in more or less right down the middle, and he crushed it high and deep to dead center, where it found a home 450 feet from the plate, in the hands of Jim Rice (not that one; this guy is a lifelong Astros fan). The pitch was clocked at 98.9 mph pitch, which is the fastest pitch Alvarez has hit for a homer in his four-year career (104 dongs, regular season and postseason combined).

Alvarez's blast was the third time in this postseason that he homered to give his team the lead when it had been trailing in the sixth inning or later. No other player in baseball history has done that more than once. Again, Alvarz did it three times in this postseason.

The Astros tacked on another run to take a 4-1 lead that probably felt like 40-1 to the Phillies. Houston manager Dusty Baker called it a night for starter Framber Valdez (6-2-1-2-9, 93) and went to his top bullpen arms, who have been insanely great this postseason. As the top of the ninth began, Philadelphia still had a 3% chance of winning this game, but most of the teams that previously pulled that off were not facing the Houston's October 2022 bullpen. The Phillies had a 0% chance -- and they mostly likely knew it.

Hector Neris got a pop-up and two strikeouts in the seventh. Bryan Abreu pitched a perfect eighth. In the ninth, Ryan Pressly retired Rhys Hoskins on a fly ball to right. The next three Phillies all put the first pitch into play, the last two hacking at balls outside the strike zone as if they simply wanted this whole thing to be over as soon as possible. Realmuto lined a single to center, Bryce Harper popped up to left, and Nick Castellanos fouled out to Tucker in right.

The Houston Astros are the 2022 World Champions of Major League Baseball. Manfred presented them with a Piece of MetalÔ.
They are the first team to clinch the World Series at home since the 2013 Red Sox. There had been seven straight World Series in which the winning team clinched on the road, the longest streak of road winners in history. (The 2020 WS was played at a neutral site and not included in this factoid.)

The Astros' bullpen finished the postseason with a 0.83 ERA, the lowest of any team in any postseason (min. 35 IP). The 1973 Oakland Athletics, led by the dastardly Rollie Fingers*, previously held the record (1.05).

[*: In 1972, Fingers batted .316 and hit one of his two career home runs. He was 6-for-19 and struck out only three times.]

There have been 94 teams whose bullpens pitched 35+ innings in a single postseason. Of those 94 teams, the 2022 Astros' pen had:
the lowest ERA: 0.83 (5 earned runs in 54.1 innings)
the lowest opponents' batting average: .126
the lowest opponents' on-base percentage: .215
the lowest opponents' slugging percentage: .208
the lowest opponents' OPS (of course): .423
the lowest WHIP: 0.75
Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly combined for a 0.00 ERA in 22.1 innings in the postseason (there was one unearned run). They struck out 32 of the 85 batters they faced. 

Jeremy Peña (10-for-25, .400/.423/.600/1.023) became only the third rookie -- and the first rookie position player -- to be named World Series MVP, joining pitchers Larry Sherry (1959 Dodgers) and Livan Hernández (1997 Marlins). Peña was also the MVP of the ALCS (in which the MFY were swept). He finished the postseason with an OPS of 1.005: 20-for-58, .345/.367/.638.

Peña is also the first rookie to have at least one hit in six straight World Series games. Three other rookies have hits in six games in a single WS, but the games were not consecutive: Jimmy Sebring (1903), Mike McCormick (1940), Tom Tresh (1962), and Chuck Knoblauch (1991).

After the Phillies hit five home runs and won Game 3, it looked like they held the upper hand. But after the fifth inning of that 7-0 victory, they ended up scoring only three runs on 10 hits over the next 30 innings. That's one run and three hits per nine innings -- not a recipe for success at any level.

For Dusty Baker, his first World Series championship as a manager was a long time coming. Baker has managed 3,884 regular-season games, which is now the most games on a managerial resume for a first-time World Series winner. Bruce Bochy won in 2010 after 2,574 regular season games. This was also Baker's 97th postseason game as a manager, also a new record, surpassing Dave Roberts's 65 games when he won with the Dodgers in 2020.

Baker played on the 1981 Dodgers (who beat the MFY in the WS) and then waited 40 years to win a title as a manager. The previous longest span between two World Series titles as player and/or manager was Bob Lemon's 29 years. 

When Baker was hired as the Giants' manager in late 1992, he was only 43, the youngest manager in the majors. Now, at 73, he's the oldest manager or head coach in MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL history to win a championship.

Wheeler and Valdez dueled brilliantly through the first five innings.

Valdez began the game by walking Schwarber (actually, Schwarber looked at strike three and took a few steps towards the dugout before realizing that Lance Barksdale had blown the call). But Hoskins grounded into a double play. Realmuto was apparently hit on the front foot, but replays seemed to show the ball going over his cleat and hitting the dirt between his feet. (It was a great start for Barksdale, who would of course fuck up several more times before the night was over!)

In the second, Alex Bohm singled to center and Matt Vierling walked with two outs. Edmundo Sosa lifted a fly to deep left center, but Alvarez was there near the warning track to catch it. Valdez struck out the side in the third, although it appeared that Hoskins had singled over the third base bag with one out. The ball landed very close to the foul line. Third base umpire Dan Issaonga ruled it a foul ball, but for his call to be correct, the ball would have had to move like Oswald's magic bullet. Since it was curving foul off the bat, if it did manage to pass over the bag in foul territory, it would have had to then quickly bend in the opposite direction to land so close to the line.

Wheeler made a nice play in the third when, with a man on first, Chas McCormick grounded back to the mound. The business end of his bat was also flying towards the mound. Wheeler ducked, turned, and threw to Jean Segura at second for the force. Segura had to contend with the bat as well, as it nearly made it to the infield dirt by second base on the fly. It ended up skittering into the outfield. Maldonado also reached base, but Jose Altuve went down by way of the K.

Valdez had retired 10 Phillies in a row (including striking out five consecutive batters) when Schwarber led off the top of the sixth with a home run to right. That lead did not last very long, however, as Houston scored for times in the home half. (More on Altuve and Schwarbs below.)

After Alvarez's bomb gave the Astros a 3-1 lead, Phillies reliever Jose Alvarado, possibly shook by the blast, went to 3-0 on Alex Bregman before issuing a full-count walk. His first pitch to Kyle Tucker was wild, moving Bregman to second. Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson might have wanted to make a pitching change, but he could do nothing because Alvarado had been forced to face Bregman and then he was forced to face Tucker -- because another of Manfred's asinine rules is that a relief pitcher must face at least three batters (unless the inning ends). Alvarado struck out Tucker (a 10-pitch at-bat) and  so the manager could finally manage again, bringing in Seranthony Dominguez. Somebody Named Christian Vazquez lined a single to left, scoring Bregman.

As mentioned, the Phillies could do nothing against the Astros pen. How bleak did it get? Schwarber actually bunted with two outs in the eighth, fouling off a 1-2 pitch, thus striking out and ending the inning.

It was 8:17 when the game ended. Some part of me still expects World Series games to not start until after 8:17! Turn back the clocks a little early, and it was over at roughly quarter after seven!
On Sportsnet, Dave Flemming and Dan Plesac acted like the Astros held an insurmountable lead when the game was 0-0. Once the sixth inning was over, and Houston actually did have an insurmountable lead, we wisely decided to watch the rest on mute. 

I wish I had kept a list of Dan Plesac's many "modes" from either Game 1 or 2. By the time I realized it was a thing, it was too late. I kept track today, but only heard three: Segura was in "protect mode" (second inning), Altuve was in "swing mode" (third), and Castellanos was in "struggle mode" (fourth). At some point, he said one of the pitchers was on "cruise control". I practically interrupted him. Don't you mean "cruise mode"?

Wait. I take that back. My Game 2 scorecard has the word "mode" circled and these notes: "7-8x/gm, survival, swing, take, cruise, battle". . . . I knew I was right about cruise! They also used the phrase "soft serve" about five or six times, which made me really want a creemee (is that word only a Vermont thing?).

Just copious amounts of stupidity. It was not possible for me to go back and double check my quotes, so you'll have to trust me:

Plesac, after Vierling had seen three sliders in the second: "He hasn't seen the curveball yet, so he might be looking for a fastball." Wha? That made no sense. Plesac was dead wrong, of course: Vierling got another slider.

Plesac, after Tucker battles Wheeler for 10 pitches and walks: "Wheeler wasn't going to give in to Tucker." Did anyone really think that after seven pitches or so, Wheeler was going to throw up his hands, say fuck it and groove a fastball that Tucker could hammer?

Flemming's habit of saying "Wouldn't it be amazing" if this or that happened was highly annoying. How about calling what happens rather than what you wish would happen, Mr. PBP?

Flemming, after Altuve fouled off a pitch in the third to keep the count at 2-2: "Might be time [for Wheeler] to go away, maybe a big, sweeping breaking ball." Flemming was dead wrong, of course: Inside fastball at 98, Altuve swung and missed, inning over.

Plesac, earlier in that at-bat, praised Altuve for a "good job of watching that pitch" (which was outside). Shit, I could probably stand there and watch pitches. Maybe if Plesac ever manages a team, I'll call him up and ask for a try-out.

Sportsnet shows side-by-side overhead shots of Maldonado batting in the third and the sixth. He's much closer to the plate in the sixth. Flemming: "I think that was by design." Do you? You don't think major league hitters (and in the World Fucking Series, too) just amble up to the plate and stand wherever?

When McCormick bats in the fifth, Sportsnet shows a replay of his shattered bat's barrel flying nearly to second base in the air. Flemming helpfully points out that he's coming up "with a different bat" this time. (Okay, here's a spot I wish I could go back and get the exact quote.)

Before the game, they said Valdez's pitch count was "limitless". Wow, this could be interesting. I thought Dusty wasn't allowed to ruin young arms anymore. As Valdez started the top of the sixth, "limitless" was substantially revised down to 90-95 pitches. He was at 79 at that point and ended up throwing 93 pitches in six innings.

Schwarber, a left-handed hitter, led off that inning with a solo home run off Valdez, who had (according to these clowns, I didn't check it) allowed only one dong to a lefty all season. The Sportsnet duo said the fact of Schwarber going deep here was "stunning" and "it almost seems impossible". For fucks' sake . . . 

Trey Mancini began this game 0-for-18 in the postseason. Plesac was going on about how tough it was for him, maybe he found it hard to believe in himself, and whatnot. Somehow Mancini lined an opposite field single to right. "Now he feels like he's part of this World Series!" Later, as he walked to the plate in the fifth, they said: "He looks like a different hitter", as his Shlabotnikian .053 batting average appeared on-screen. Dead wrong again, of course: Mancini struck out. He finished the postseason 1-for-21. It turned out he was the same hitter.

Honestly, it almost made me wish for Joe Buck. . . . "That's just because you aren't hearing him now," Laura told me. . . . She's probably right. Plus, he'd be polishing Judge's balls the entire time.


johngoldfine said...

It's not a Maine thing anyway. Here it's soft serve, dairy queen, dairy whip, or, at my house, a little finger spiral plus the word 'twisty' puts us in communication mode.

I rode horseback across Wales a few years ago, and waiting for us on the beach when we finished was a soft serve truck. After six days in the saddle I was slightly silly and, I could not stop giggling when I learned that my fellow riders saw nothing off or odd at referring to the soft serve as a 'Mr Whippy.' Le vice anglais!

Jim said...

Thanks for recapping the idiocy of those 2 morons so I didn't have to. By the time the game ended, I swear my head had shook so much I was like that guy in Exorcist. You'd think Sportsnet would have enough juice to say to Manfred "hey, we have a team in the big leagues. We broadcast all our team's games plus countless other ones (that is, before Apple et al arrived). Surely our subscribers deserve to watch the Big Boy telecast like the rest of MLB fans? Maybe Rob would take a backhander.

Benjamin said...

Peña's father, Gerónimo Peña, batted lead off for St Louis in the bottom of the 1st inning of Dusty Baker's managerial debut on April 6, 1993.

Jere said...

Soft serve in CT, NY, RI, MA... Surprised to hear it called a "dairy queen" in the way southerners (supposedly) call all sodas Cokes. As in Pepsi-coke, RC-coke, etc. I mean yes you can get a soft serve at Dairy Queen, but how pissed are mom and pop at the Frosty Twerk gonna be if you ask for a "vanilla dairy queen"?