Sunday, October 6, 2019

MLB Playoffs: Day Three

It was nice of MLB to schedule a couple of snoozers for a day when most of us were watching college football.  The Yankees hit the Twins for seven runs in the third inning, and then both teams snoozed through the remainder of an 8-2 blowout to give the Yanks a 2-0 series lead.  In the nightcap, Houston's Gerrit Cole overwhelmed the Rays -- he threw 7 2/3 innings, allowing no runs, one walk, and four hits, while striking about 15 Tampa batters.  The Astros rolled to an easy 3-1 win, giving them a 2-0 series lead.  As someone who's been waiting for a showdown between the Astros and the Yankees since May, the sooner these preliminaries are over, the happier I will be.

And now MLB will combine with the NFL to give middle-aged dads one of the best sports days of the year.  This is why we have those big screen televisions, those comfortable chairs, those overstuffed couches, those mini-refrigerators, and all the other knick-knacks in our "Man Cave," "Den," "Rec Room," or whatever name you choose to call the place where you watch sports.  It's cool and overcast in much of the Eastern United States, and the time is perfect for staying home and watching sports.  Here's my suggestion (assuming that, like me, you belong to a church that does not have an evening service):

1.  Big lunch with the family.

2.  Nap until about 3 PM Central Time.

3.  Wake up and catch the end of the NFL games that kicked off at noon Central.

4.  Load up with snacks, iPad, or any other entertainment you use to supplement your sports viewing.  Tell your wife and kids that you'll be in whatever room you use for serious viewing.  Keep the door open for anyone who wants to drop by.

5.  At 3:10 Central, start toggling back and forth between the Cowboys-Packers game on Fox and the Cardinals-Braves game on TBS.  (You can find TBS -- it's still wherever it was during the NCAA Tournament).  This is a huge game for St. Louis and Atlanta.  The Cardinals would have to play any Game Five in Atlanta, so they will want to wrap up the series in the next two games.  On the other hand, the Braves will not want to fall behind two games to one, which would force them to face an elimination game in St. Louis.  So this should be a good one.  These days, MLB games last about as long as NFL games, so you should be good for three hours of entertainment.

6.  Once these games have wrapped up, go into the kitchen and do some dad cooking.  Make something that you and the kids don't normally get to eat -- chocolate fudge, maybe, or some type of unusual sandwich.  If you're lucky, you may need to take one of the kids with you to the grocery store to pick up some extra ingredients.  (Just remember not to leave the kitchen in a big mess.)

7.  At around 7 PM Central, go back to the TV room, bringing any leftovers from the meal you just repaired.  Toggle back and forth between Chiefs-Colts on NBC and Nats-Dodgers on TBS.  Don't worry if you miss the beginning -- these games will go well past 10 P.M.  Personally, I would go with the Westwood One Radio broadcast of the football game and the TV picture of the baseball game, because the TBS announcers are dreadful, and the Westwood One announcers are great.  But that's all a matter of personal taste.  Actually, you could turn off the sound on the TV, and put some really good music on the hi-fi -- something a bit more sophisticated than you normally listen to.  Frank Sinatra, say, or an old Windham Hill album.  This is also a good time to catch up on your internet scrolling.  But keep an eye on the baseball, because the later innings of this game could be the key to this whole series.  The Dodgers can win the series even if they lose tonight -- they are clearly good enough to beat the Nats in Games Four and Five.  But the Nats are probably done for if they lose a game where Max Scherzer is starting.  I know the Nats always go out in this round -- and I expect them to do so again -- but they have a lot of grit and no bullpen, and that usually makes for high drama in the late innings.

Tomorrow, when you're at work, you can find the one old guy who really likes baseball, or (if you live in Western Kentucky) you can talk to all the folks who like the Cardinals.  Use baseball talk to brighten your Monday.

And that's it.  Enjoy the day!

(All times Central):
3:10 P.M.  Atlanta at St. Louis (series tied 1-1) (TBS)
6:45 P.M.  Los Angeles at Washington (series tied 1-1) (TBS)


  1. Really bad news for the Nats already. Victor Robles, the Nats' usual center fielder, is out with a hamstring problem. He will be replaced by Michael A. Taylor, who simply cannot hit.

  2. In St. Louis, Adam Wainwright is trying to beat the Braves by himself. The Cardinals have only 1 hit, and 1 lone run, which they picked up in the second inning. But so far Wainwright has pitched five shutout innings, so St. Louis leads 1-0 after five.

  3. Wainwright strikes out Freddie Freeman with a runner on first to end the top of the 6th. Cardinals still lead 1-0. But Wainwright has thrown 93 pitches.

  4. Meanwhile, Mike Soroka is mowing down the Cardinals. In 6 innings, he has allowed 1 run on 1 hit, and has thrown only 76 pitches. Cards lead 1-0 going into the 7th. They may need a shutout to win this game.

  5. Wainwright mows down the Braves on nine pitches in the 7th inning. He still leads 1-0, and he's thrown 102 pitches.

  6. Top 10 Washington MLB players (by WAR):

    1. Walter Johnson: 164.3
    2. Sam Rice: 52.5
    3. Joe Judge: 47.0
    4. Goose Goslin: 43.2
    5. Buddy Myer: 40.7
    6. Clyde Milan: 40.0
    7. Ryan Zimmerman: 37.8
    8. Joe Chronin: 36.8
    9. Max Scherzer: 36.5
    10. Stephen Strasburg: 33.9

  7. Top 10 Dodgers by WAR:

    1. Clayton Kershaw: 68.0
    2. Don Drysdale: 67.1
    3. Pee Wee Reese: 66.3
    4. Duke Snider: 65.7
    5. Jackie Robinson: 61.4
    6. Zack Wheat: 59.7
    7. Dazzy Vance: 58.9
    8. Willie Davis: 54.6
    9. Sandy Koufax: 48.9
    10. Don Sutton: 48.8

  8. In the bottom of the 7th, the Cards get another hit but no more runs. They lead 1-0 after 7.

  9. Braves have something going in the 8th. Men on first and second with two out, and Ozzie Albies (their number-2 hitter) coming to the plate. Wainwright has thrown 115 pitches. The Cardinals' infield assembles at the mound, but there's no question of removing Wainwright.

  10. Wainwright v. Albies:

    Pitch 1: Ball low (1-0)
    Pitch 2: Ball high (2-0)
    Pitch 3: Long foul into the right field corner (2-1)
    Pitch 4: Ball high (3-1)
    Pitch 5: Ball outside. Albies walks, and the bases are loaded.

  11. That's it for Wainwright, who had nothing left. He was smart to walk Albies; anything close to the plate was going to get crushed. But now the Cardinals have to bring in a reliever to face Freddie Freeman, who is one of the best hitters in the National League.

  12. So the Cardinals bring in Andrew Miller, who has a record of 5-6 and an ERA of 4.45.

    Miller v. Freeman:

    Pitch 1: Swinging strike (0-1)
    Pitch 2: Freeman hits a long, lazy fly straight to the center fielder. Inning over.

    That was a brilliant example of bringing in a left-handed pitcher to retire a left-handed batter. That never works for the Nats, but it worked really well there.

  13. In the bottom of the 8th, the Cards get two walks and a single, but it comes to nothing, in large part because they had a pinch runner who was picked off trying to steal third. St. Louis will take its 1-0 lead into the 9th.

  14. Josh Donaldson leads off the top of the 9th with a line shot double that goes whistling down into the left corner. The Braves are in business. Billy Hamilton enters to run for Donaldson.

  15. Carlos Martinez, trying to close this game for the Cardinals, strikes out Nick Markakis. One out.

  16. On a full count, Martinez strikes out Adeiny Hechavarria. Two out. But Hamilton steals third base. Now it's up to Brian McCann.

  17. No it's not. The Cardinals walk McCann, who is replaced by pinch runner Rafael Ortega. Now it's up to Dansby Swanson, the Braves' shortstop.

    Martinez v. Swanson:

    Pitch 1: Swanson CRUSHES A DOUBLE OFF THE LEFT FIELD WALL. Hamilton scores and the game is TIED. Ortega stops at third -- the ball was hit too hard and came straight back to the left fielder, so he could not score. The Braves have tied the game at 1 run apiece.

  18. Now it's Adam Duvall batting for the pitcher. He singles to center field, and THE BRAVES TAKE THE LEAD 3-1.

    I have to say that this was terrible management by St. Louis. Your relief pitcher, Carlos Martinez, has already given up two doubles in this inning. He clearly doesn't have good stuff. You absolutely must retire Duvall to preserve the tie, and give your team a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. Even a single will put you into a 2-run hole. I just don't see how you can let Martinez face Duvall there.

  19. Now the Braves send up the top of their order with Ronald Acuna, who is one of the best players in baseball. Apparently they've all gone to sleep in the Cardinals dugout, because they let Martinez pitch to him, too. Martinez hits Acuna to put runners on first and second. He's thrown 24 pitches in this inning, and now he's pitching to Albies.

  20. Albies lines out to right, and the inning is mercifully over. The Cardinal fans shown on TV look like they want to do that thing from "All the Right Moves" where the angry fans trash the coach's house after his blunder lost the game. I can't really blame them.

  21. I really don't understand what the Cardinals gained by walking McCann. His run scored, and that's the difference between a one-run game and a two-run game.

    The truth is that most teams don't have very good bullpens -- they have to pitch too many innings, and they wear out over the course of the season. You really have to pay attention as the manager, and you have to be something of a pessimist.

  22. With one out, and the Cards down to their last chance, Paul Goldschmidt whacks a double. This brings up Marcell Ozuna, the St. Louis cleanup hitter.

  23. Ozuna is called out on strikes -- he was badly fooled by the last pitch. The Cardinals' last hope is Yadier Molina.

  24. Molina flies out to center, and the Braves WIN by a score of 3 to 1.

    This is the first time since 2002 that the Braves have led in a post-season series.

    I will be stunned if the Cardinals come back from this defeat.

  25. In Washington, Natstown has decided to go with Anabel Sanchez instead of Max Scherzer for this game. In effect, the Nats are willing to concede this game, in the hopes that a well-rested Scherzer can win Game Four, and a well-rested Strasburg can win Game Five. In effect, the Nats have concluded that Strasburg and Scherzer are their only remaining good pitchers, and they want to maximize their chances of success.

    Tom Boswell tweets out that he agrees with this strategy. And I do, too. Once the Dodgers beat Scherzer or Strasburg, it's over for the Nats anyway. Let's postpone that evil day for as long as possible.

  26. Sanchez starts off with an 0-2 count on the Dodgers' lead-off hitter, and then throws four balls in a row. I don't think this game will be very close.

  27. With 1:41 left in the fourth quarter, the Packers lead the Cowboys 34 to 24.

  28. Sanchez pitches out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the first, and escapes without yielding a run. In the bottom of the 1st, Adam Eaton walks, and Nats' young superstar Juan Soto crushes a pitch to dead center field for a TWO-RUN HOMER. The Nats lead 2-0, and they do their dance in the dugout. Natstown is going nuts.

  29. The Nats do no further damage, and they lead 2-0 after 1.

  30. Nats still lead 2-0 after 4. Green Bay beat Dallas 34-24.

  31. In the top of the 5th, Max Muncy crushes Sanchez's 82d pitch of the game into the right field seats, and the Nats now lead 2-1. That was painful -- it was an 0-2 count with two outs. But it shows the chasm over which Sanchez has been walking. If he can hold the Dodgers to 1 run through 5 innings, he will have done significantly better than I expected.

  32. Sanchez finishes the 5th with no further damage, and the Nats lead 2-1 going into the bottom of the 5th.

  33. Sanchez is done. The Nats are going to pinch hit for him in the bottom of the 5th.

  34. If you notice, you'll see that teams like the Nats, the Cardinals, and the Rays are all really struggling to score in the playoffs. These days, teams at that level tend to have a lot of guys who feast on bad pitching. If you really want to watch the Nats hit, you should see them against the Marlins or the Phillies. Then they can whack the ball all over the place. But outside of Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto, they will struggle against really good pitching.

  35. While I was typing that, Michael A. Taylor -- who may be the worst-hitting outfielder I've ever seen in the Big Leagues -- pokes a one-out single up the middle. Now the Old Legend, Ryan Zimmerman, will come up as a pinch-hitter for Sanchez.

    I have to give credit to the Nats -- they aren't even pretending that they can apply a normal strategy to this series. They are not as good as the Dodgers, and they are accepting that and taking appropriate chances. Good for them.

  36. Zimmerman grounded out to first. The Dodgers walked Trea Turner to pitch to Adam Eaton. Eaton flew out, and the score remains Washington 2, Los Angeles 1.

  37. Now the Nats are going to take another chance. They are bringing in Patrick Corbin (their Game One starter) to replace Sanchez. I don't think Washington is scoring any more runs, so their fate is in Corbin's hands.

    This is exactly how I used to manage games in Extra Innings. I'm really excited to see the Nats trying all these desperate tactics. It's a lot better than just getting crushed.

  38. Corbin fails. He gives up a lead-off single to Cody Bellinger. Then he strikes out Corey Seager and A.J. Pollock. But David Freese hits a single to right. And Russell Martin doubles to left. The Dodgers score two runs, they lead 3-2, and now it's just a matter of how many more runs they'll score tonight.

    Again, the Nats cannot use any more good pitchers in this game. They now have to save everyone for tomorrow night, when Max Scherzer will be trying to save their season.

  39. Chris Taylor walks. Kiki Hernandez whacks a double to left. The Dodgers lead 5-2. To be fair, they are dramatically better than the Nats.

  40. Natstown will try again tomorrow night with Max Scherzer. In the meantime, I'm gonna watch the Colts and the Chiefs.

    But consider what we saw in these two games. The moment the Cardinals and Nats showed any weakness on the mound, that weakness was ruthlessly exploited by the Braves and the Dodgers. That's how you're supposed to play the game.