Archive for October, 2008
Thursday, October 30th, 2008
12:46 AM Eastern
That, ladies and gentlemen, is about which that I am talking.
In the interests of full disclosure, I had a lot on the line tonight. Not gambling-wise, not at all, but about a month ago, in my infinite wisdom (read: complete and total lack of same), I booked a family trip for the end of this week. Tomorrow is my wife’s birthday, so I had planned on taking her and the kiddies to Boston for a few days, visit family, see a show (yes, it’s the “So You Think You Can Dance” tour – it’s her birthday and The Billie loves it, too – what could I do?), hours and hours of family fun. I checked the MLB post-season schedule, and figured – I have no idea how – that October 30th would be a good day to go. Once I noticed that October 30th was Game 7 of the World Series, I felt kinda sick. But that was nothing compared to how I felt Monday night, then yesterday, and then tonight.
As a result, I was more emotionally invested in the final third of this baseball game than I have been in any sporting event in probably 15 years. It was amazing to live and die with every pitch like that; it reminded me what it was to be a die-hard fan and I loved it. I miss that being in this job, but it’s a hell of a way to make a living.
So, I’m thrilled right now, but not because the Rays lost (which I’m sure many of you might have been thinking). Had the Rays been up three games to one, I’d have been cheering for them just as hard as I was cheering for the Phillies.
This was a lot of fun to watch, with the teams trading runs early in the late-going until the bullpens settled down very late. Even Brad Lidge couldn’t come through the 9th completely clean, giving up the broken-bat looper to Dioner Navarro and having to deal with the tying run at second and one out. But Lidge got lucky when Ben Zobrist hit his sharp line drive right at Jayson Werth, and he then struck out Eric Hinske on three pitches to complete his 48th save in as many opportunities this year. Hinske is now a career .333/.333/1.333 hitter in the World Series. That’s a home run and two strikeouts.
Cole Hamels was the World Series MVP. He started twice and threw 13 innings, allowing four runs on ten hits, walking three and striking out eight. He was the winning pitcher in Game 1 and the pitcher of record to win it when he left Game 5 because of the 46-hour rain delay. Had the Phillies’ pen held onto that 3-2 lead, Hamels would have become the first pitcher ever to win five starts in one post-season. Of course, you have to remember that there have only been 14 seasons with three rounds of playoffs, but still, first ever.
I was surprised off the top of the re-start when Joe Maddon didn’t go to David Price as soon as Geoff Jenkins came out to pinch-hit for Hamels to start the 6th, instead sticking with Grant Balfour. The Aussie gave up a lead-off double and later a one-out bloop RBI single to Jayson Werth. My guess is that Maddon either wanted to squeeze one inning out of Balfour, who was already in the game, didn’t want to have to worry about pinch-hitting for Price, who would have been due up 4th in the 7th barring a double-switch, or didn’t want to have to trust J.P. Howell or Dan Wheeler in the 9th or later if the Rays had taken the lead.
As it turned out, he sent the pitcher (Howell) up to hit in the 7th anyway, and Price didn’t wind up getting into the game until the Rays were behind.
The spotlight may shine brightly on Jason Bartlett, who was thrown out at the plate to end the top of the 7th with what would have been the go-ahead run. Bartlett was on second with two out when Akinori Iwamura hit a ground ball up the middle that Chase Utley flagged down well behind the bag at second. I don’t know if it was Utley’s feint to second, or the fact that Utley was moving so hard to his right that made Bartlett and third-base coach Tom Foley think the run was there for the taking, but Utley’s throw beat the runner by plenty, and despite the fact that it drove catcher Carlos Ruiz back, Bartlett couldn’t dive around the tag.
Of course, had Bartlett been running hard to third, he might have been able to score. That’s something that has been an issue for the Rays this series. A few times, Rays’ players have been caught not running hard, and this at a time when one would imagine there would be no greater incentive. Whether it was B.J. Upton, Rocco Baldelli or Bartlett, too many times a Tampa Bay player was caught not hustling.
Of course, Jayson Werth almost made up for that himself by the way he ran the bases in this series.
Massive congratulations to both the Phillies and the Rays.
To the Phillies for taking down the whole shebang, and for doing it without getting a big hit in a big situation until Game 4. Pedro Feliz was tonight’s hero, breaking the 3-3 tie with an RBI single in the 7th, and he’s probably the worst hitting non-pitcher in their line-up. I feel great for Pat Gillick, who wins his third World Series as a GM, with the fourth different team he’s taken to the post-season. I feel great for Matt Stairs, despite the fact that his entire contribution to this World Series was the same as Hinske’s contribution to the Red Sox’ win last season – one at-bat, a strikeout, in the 8th inning of a big win. That said, do the Phillies even get to this point without Stairs, who hit a game-winning two-run homer in Game 4 of the NLCS? If the Dodgers win that game, the series is tied at two and who knows what happens from there. I also feel great for Brad Lidge, who exorcised all his Pujolsian and Podsednikic post-season demons by dominating his way through a perfect post-season.
Yes, Lidge was 41-or-41 converting save opportunities in the regular season, but in the back of a lot of people’s minds, he still had plenty to prove once the playoffs came around. Lidge got seven save opportunities in the playoffs, and slammed the door with authoritah every time. He pitched 9 1/3 innings and allowed just one run on six hits, walking three and striking out 13. That is how one gets it done.
I’m also a big fan of Chase Utley’s and Ryan Howard’s.
And hey, how about the City of Brotherly Love itself? 25 years without a championship in any of the four major pro sports, and for the Phillies, only the second title in the history of a franchise that’s been around since the beginning of Major League Baseball. They’re now tied with the Blue Jays, and they had a 74-year head start.
As for the Tampa Bay Rays, yes, I’ve been picking against them all year, but I’m not going to revel in their demise. They earned their way to the big dance, without question, and were three wins away from having been the worst team ever to win the World Series the year after that worseness (or something – hopefully you get what I mean). It’s impossible not to admire players like James Shields, Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Rocco Baldelli, and not to be amazed by what David Price has been able to accomplish. The sky certainly appears to be the limit for him. Despite the fact that they went down in five games, and that they won just two of their last eight playoff games, the Rays should be very, very proud of their season.
Will they be this good next year? I have my doubts, what with the bullpen’s performance, for starters, but it’ll be interesting to see what tweaks they make to improve. That rotation of Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza and Price is going to be something to deal with, though.
We did manage to get some post-post-game talk in, and here it is, for your listening pleasure:
The last one of the year. Sigh. I feel bad for the transplanted Philadelphian who I think REALLY wanted me to agree with him that the Phillies were the best team in baseball. I’m sorry, but they definitely were the best team this week.
So that’s it for season 1 of the bloggage. It’s been a labour, without question, but for the most part a labour of love. I never dreamed it would be this much work, but it’s only been like that because of the response I have gotten from you readers. I’ve been overwhelmed. We averaged close to, if not over, 100 comments a day during the season, and I made the mistake of answering them all early on, so I had to keep doing it all year. But hey, that’s what you very obviously wanted, so I was happy to oblige.
In the off-season, I’ll be back with weeklyish posts, and of course, more when the situation merits it. Keep checking in, because if a Jays story breaks, you’ll get reaction here right away. The thing I love most about this blog is that I can expand on the things with which I just don’t have time to deal in a 40-second report on the radio station. I’m hoping the higher-ups at the Fan590 decide to send me to the winter meetings, and if they do, you can expect the same kind of coverage that you got last year from Nashville, when the blog began.
The next post will probably be about the post-season awards, which will be handed out starting November 10th with the Evan Longoria….I mean, A.L. Rookie of the Year. I’ll continue to moderate comments throughout the off-season, though I don’t think I’ll respond to as many, but we’ll see how it goes as the winter goes along.
Before I go decompress for a while, I have to say thank you to everyone who came by to read this little corner of the interweb, whether you stopped by once, hated it and never came back (though you certainly wouldn’t be reading this now, would you?) or were a regular reader/commenter or were something in between. This thing is out here for you, and wouldn’t be nearly the monster into which it has grown without you. Thank you so much for reading, for listening and for loving the greatest game there is.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome. Have a terrific off-season!
Tuesday, October 28th, 2008
12:12 AM Eastern
For the first time in World Series history, we have a suspended game. You can’t blame Bud Selig for starting this one, since the weather forecast was for a light rain throughout the night on a field that can handle some rain, but once it started pouring in the 4th inning, they kept going.
Really, the game should have gone into delay sometime in the bottom of the 4th or the top of the 5th. After Jimmy Rollins dropped Rocco Baldelli’s pop-up to start the 5th would have been a great time. That way, if the weather clears out after a little, you have a short delay and the game continues. If it doesn’t, you’re not screwed, because the game’s not official. Instead, they were screwed once the top of the 5th came to a close. At least, they would have been if they hadn’t miraculously changed the rules of the game. Selig announced after the game that if they’d gone into delay with the Phillies ahead, despite the fact that it was an official game, the rain delay would have been indefinite, and could have lasted days.
One wonders if they had realized that before or after they pulled the teams off the field. Because if the “infinite rain delay” had been dreamed up ahead of time, why did they appear to wait until the game could be suspended by rule (i.e. tied or visiting team having taken the lead without the home team having had a chance to respond) to pull the teams off the field?
Selig said, in his post-game news conference, that he and the umpires had come to the decision that the game couldn’t continue in the 5th inning. Yet they allowed the teams to play the top of the 6th anyway, and the Rays tied the game in conditions that were deplorable. Jimmy Rollins had a two-out grounder skip off his wrist, allowing B.J. Upton to reach. Upton then stole second and scored on a single by Carlos Pena. Does Upton even reach if they’re not playing in sludge? Who knows?
Then, pretty much as soon as the game is tied, they go into delay. The game will resume, said Selig, “when (he) believe(s) that weather conditions are appropriate.” So I’m thinking that if it clears up around 11:30 tomorrow morning, that’s when they’ll go. I’m assuming they’ll phone or something to let us know.
What we have now is a battle of the bullpens. Tie game after 5 1/2 with the Phillies unable to bring back Cole Hamels and the Rays already having yanked Scott Kazmir. There weren’t any bench players used in the game, so everyone is still available on both sides, and there’s no reason Grant Balfour can’t come out to start the 6th against whatever pinch-hitter Charlie Manuel decides to send up (since Hamels is due to lead off when play resumes). I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of David Price tomorrow night.
There is good news for the Phillies here, and that’s that Hamels only needed 75 pitches to get through his six innings of work. That means that he may well be available to come back and pitch Thursday in a Game 7, if it gets that far. If it doesn’t get that far, well, then it’s great news for the Phillies, because they’ll already have won the whole shebang.
Watching the last couple of innings of this game was painful, and patently unfair to both teams. How can you decide your championship in conditions like those? Again, if they’d come up with rain delay forever idea earlier, how can they defend continuing?
And what happens if it rains in Philly for the next few days, then begins to snow and bang – we’ve got winter? Do they pick it up in April? Man, that would be a long rain delay.
I’m assuming they resume sometime Tuesday night, and if they do, it means that we’ll have a Blue Jay A Day Pre-Pre-Game Show for you. I’m going to try to get Travis Snider, and I’ll get word out as soon as we have a guest. Tonight, we had Scott Downs, who was fantastic. I’m stunned, given that he hardly said a word to me all season, but he seems to be a completely different guy in the off-season, and despite the poor quality of his home phone, did a great job. If you don’t believe me, listen to it yourself:
And for those of you who can’t get enough great radio, here’s tonight’s post-post-game phone-in for your listening pleasure:
The rest of Game 5 awaits! Probably!
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome.
Monday, October 27th, 2008
Monday, October 27th, 2008
12:35 AM Eastern
The Philadelphia Phillies are one win away from bringing the curtain down on the 2008 baseball season, thanks to their pounding of the Rays in Game 4.
This was the first game that featured no late mystery, the only question being would we have our first game of this World Series in which at least one team played clean? The answer, sadly, was no. The Rays had an error on the books by the third, and Akinori Iwamura made his second of the game in the 4th, but the Phillies still had a big, fat zero in the error column going into the final frame. However, Dioner Navarro led off the 9th with a dribbler in front of the mound that J.C. Romero pounced on, then threw low to first and Ryan Howard couldn’t handle the bounce. E-1, and for the fourth straight game, at least one error for each team.
At least the Philbos did some damage with runners in scoring position, though it didn’t look as though they would early on. In the first inning alone, the Phils were 0-for-4 with RISP. You know you’re having a hard time when you manage an 0-for-FOUR in a single inning. That dropped the Phils to 2-for-37 in that situation for the Series, though they did manage to score one run thanks to a brutal call by third-base umpire Tim Welke.
Credit to 680News utilityman Momin Qureshi for this line: Evan Longoria gave Jimmy Rollins a colonoscopy as Rollins dove back to third base trying to avoid a tag, but somehow Welke didn’t see any tag. Another call that once again points out just how bad the umpiring has been in this series.
Still, probe or otherwise, that play shouldn’t even have been an issue, because Andy Sonnanstine should never have thrown to third in the first place. Runners on the corners, one out, first inning of a 0-0 game, and Ryan Howard hits a one-hop comebacker to the mound. It’s textbook – start a double play by throwing to second. Sonnanstine felt the Fall Classic-ic pressure, saw a chance to cut off a run, and decided to come home. Stupid. If he throws to second, it’s a double play and the inning is over.
The mistake didn’t wind up costing the Rays much, because of the 0-for-4. The Phils managed to score just one run despite having the bases loaded and one out, and that came on a walk to Pat Burrell.
The Phillies were 0-for-their-first-6 with RISP tonight, but Pedro Feliz opened the floodgates with a sharp line single to left with two on and two out in the second, scoring Chase Utley to make it 2-0. From that point, the Phils were 3-for-6, including big home runs by Howard (with two on) and Jayson Werth as they turned it into a laugher.
Even Joe Blanton got in on the action, putting every ounce of his 225(?)-pound frame into a huge swing, taking Edwin Jackson deep for his first career home run. He became the first pitcher to go deep in the World Series since Kenny Holtzman (now the director of the St. Louis J.C.C., by the way) went yard for the A’s in Game 4 of the 1974 Series.
Blanton, like Jamie Moyer last night/this morning, stymied the Rays’ big bats, allowing only solo homers to Carl Crawford and Eric Hinske in his six innings of work. Hinske was placed on the roster today because Cliff Floyd hurt his shoulder in Game 2. It was his second World Series at-bat (he struck out as a pinch-hitter in Game 1 last year for the Red Sox).
As much as I’ve dwelt on the Phillies and their incredible inability to get a hit in a big situation this series, they have a commanding three games to one lead, and that’s in large part thanks to the disappearance of the Rays’ two most important hitters. Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria have been non-existent in this World Series. Pena is hitless in 13 at-bats, with three walks, and Longoria is 0-for-16, having struck out nine times. These two have been the bus drivers for T-Bay all season, even with Bossman Junior as hot as he has been throughout the post-season, and without them, the Rays’ task gets that much more difficult. They’re going to have to turn it around now, and they’re going to have to start against Cole Hamels, a daunting task indeed.
Hamels has been fantastic throughout the post-season, and he has a chance to put it away for the Philbos tomorrow night. But don’t forget, the Rays have NEVER lost a playoff game when facing elimination. Never ever. Not once in franchise history.
Though Pena and Longoria have gone missing, Ryan Howard has shown up for the Phils. I mentioned the other day that Howard’s huge double that went over B.J. Upton’s head and short-hopped the centre-field wall at the Trop in Game 2 might have been our signal that his bat was coming around, and boy, has it ever. Going into Game 2, Howard had been 6-for-36 in the playoffs, without a home run. The double came in his first at-bat of Game 2, and since and including that at-bat he’s gone 6-for-13 with a double and three homers, for a nice, tidy mark of .462/.500/1.231. Remember what I said yesterday about Carlos Ruiz having the inside track on the World Series MVP? Not so much.
Howard drove in five runs tonight, the first time a hitter has had a 5 RBI game in the World Series since 1993. No, it wasn’t a Blue Jay. In fact, it was the Phillies’ current hitting coach, Milthon Thompson, who drove in five in the crazy 15-14 Game 4.
So we go into Game 5 with a chance that the baseball season could end tomorrow night. I hate when that happens.
We will have a Blue Jay A Day Pre-Pre-Game Show for you tomorrow night at 7:05 PM Eastern on the Fan590 and this very website, but I have no idea who our guest is going to be. A.J. Burnett is Plan A, but I doubt very much that he’ll be interested, given his contract situation, and I won’t blame him if he says no. I’m thinking Plan B might be Travis Snider. I’ll post the news here on the blerg as soon as I get a player confirmed.
Today, we had a double shot of BJADPPGS. First, John McDonald:
And second, Jesse Litsch:
Make sure you tune in tomorrow night, and savour it! It might be our last chance to see this great game until March. If it is, hopefully the players will give the season a good send-off with a tight, exciting game, and maybe even make it error-free!
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Sunday, October 26th, 2008
2:45 AM Eastern
The game didn’t finish until about a quarter to two in the morning, local (and Toronto) time, but nobody was falling asleep with the crazy finish down in Philadelphia. The Rays came back from a 4-1 deficit through six to tie it up with a sloppy run, but the Phillies won it in the bottom of the 9th on an even sloppier one.
It started with a 91-minute rain delay, and once they got things going, the Phils were up to their old tricks. First inning, second and third nobody out, and they couldn’t pick up a hit. One run scored on a Chase Utley groundout, but in that situation with 3-4-5 coming up, one would expect that a team good enough to get to the World Series would be able to score both runs.
The failure to score two didn’t hurt immediately, because Jamie Moyer threw by far his best game of the playoffs. Throwing his fastball at 79 miles an hour at times, he had the Rays eating out of his hand through six innings of three-hitter, the only run scoring on a second-inning sac fly by Gabe Gross after Carl Crawford doubled and stole third. In the bottom of the inning, Carlos Ruiz homered to give the Phillies their one-run lead back.
The big bats struck in the 6th, when the Philbos broke it open with solo homers by Utley and Ryan Howard. It was the first time we’d seen back-to-back World Series jacks in six years. Last time it happened it was Reggie Sanders and David Bell turning the trick for the Giants in Game 2 of the 2002 Fall Classic. Anaheim won that one 11-10 on the way to a seven-game victory, the last time the World Series has gone the distance.
The Rays got the two runs back right away with a rally that started when Crawford dropped a bunt down the first-base line. Moyer came over, laid out and flipped the ball with his glove to the bare hand of Howard to get Crawford by half a step, but umpire Tom Hallion called Crawford safe. The Rays got second and third and none out and scored both, on a pair of groundouts, to close to within one, and then they got the ugly one to tie it in the 8th.
Bossman Junior led off that inning with a chopper up the middle that Jimmy Rollins snared, but had trouble getting out of his glove, and the throw to first was late. Upton then stole second, and then stole third. The ball on which he took third was a bouncer in front of Ruiz, but he short-hopped it and threw anyway, and the throw sailed to the inside of the bag, hit Upton’s leg and bounced away, allowing Upton to stroll home to tie the game.
The Phils had a chance to take the lead in their half of the 8th when Jayson Werth led off with a walk and stole second. But with one out and Howard at the plate, Werth fell for the old “spin on the mound and throw” trick pulled by J.P. Howell and was meatcake trying to scramble back to first.
That’s pretty unforgivable right there. You’re the winning run, late in the ballgame, and Werth has enough speed that he has to worry about neither getting a big secondary lead nor stealing third. He simply cannot get picked off there, that’s the absolute minimum asked of him in that situation. Luckily for the Phillies, it didn’t kill them.
In the bottom of the 9th, it was payback time. Upton had scored the tying run thanks to an infield chopper and a bad throw, the Phillies scored the winning run thanks to an even uglier set of circumstances.
Eric Bruntlett was hit by Howell to lead off the inning, and in came Grant Balfour, whose 0-1 pitch to the next hitter, Shane Victorino, went right to the backstop. Bruntlett took off but the Rays got a great bounce off the backstop and the ball came right back to catcher Dioner Navarro, who turned and threw to second – and right into centrefield.
With the winning run on third and nobody out, Rays manager Joe Maddon really had no choice but to walk the bases loaded, and he did, which brought up Ruiz, who had homered in the second and who was 3-for-7 with four walks to that point in the Series, with all his hits going for extra bases. While Maddon was in the process of walking the bases loaded, he also brought his right fielder Ben Zobrist (a natural shortstop) in to play as a 5th infielder, leaving the outfield for Crawford and Upton to cover. The idea was to lock up the infield, that any ball on the ground gets gobbled up by one of the five, who would throw home for the force and keep the game going. If a ball gets to the outfield, the game is likely over anyway.
So Ruiz, the “big power bat” (1.143 SLG for the Series so far) hit a little nubber up the third-base line that barely got 40 feet. Evan Longoria charged it as hard as he could, and tried the underhand flip over Bruntlett who was running down the line with the winning run, and flipped it about 20 feet over Navarro’s head and the game was over.
Hopefully Alanis Morissette was watching, because this was actual irony. Bringing in a fifth infielder to prevent the winning run being scored with a ball on the ground, and then having the winning run score on a ground ball is a lot more ironic than a free ride when you’ve already paid.
The official scorer gave Navarro a single, which was probably the right call, so that gave the Phillies one hit with a runner in scoring position in this game. They’re now 2-for-33 with RISP in the series, and are actually firmly in control, with the spectre of Cole Hamels awaiting the Rays in Game 5 Monday night.
Could Longoria have let the ball roll foul? Maybe, but he picked it up a few inches shy of even the dirt basepath, and though it was spinning towards the line, there was no guarantee that it was going to go foul. He had to try to make that play.
As Jerry Howarth would say, Ruiz had the long and short of it- the homer and the nubber, and even with a lot of this series left, the inside track on World Series MVP (right now – that could all change in a few hours).
So far, this has been a pretty rough World Series. Each team has made at least one error in each game, there has yet to be an offensive half-inning in which more than two runs have scored, and we’ve seen several baserunning mistakes, as well, let alone the Phillies complete inability to hit with runners in scoring position or score runners from third with less than two out. Yes, the bottom of the 9th excepted.
But the games have been close, and they’ve certainly been entertaining. Heck, we almost had a chance to see Matt Stairs play hero again tonight – he was on deck when Ruiz drove in the game-winner.
Seven and a half hours before we signed off for the night, we had the Jays’ Director of Scouting, Jon Lalonde, on the BJADPPGS. He was, as I assumed he’d be, an outstanding guest, and you can listen to his hour on the air right here:
Before I go, just a quick comment about the Jays’ two acquisitions of Friday, Adam Loewen and Bryan Bullington. These are two guys the Jays would have loved to have drafted ahead of Russ Adams in 2002 – Bullington went first overall and Loewen fourth. Both are extreme low-risk signings, and at least Bullington has a chance to really pay off. The righty was on the fast track to the bigs before he blew out his shoulder and missed the entire 2006 season. He made it back to the majors this year and was OK in a couple of starts with the Indians. The Jays are talking about moving him to the bullpen, but he could be a dark horse to really help out the rotation next season.
As for Loewen, well, maybe the Jays can convince him to have another elbow surgery and resume his pitching career. If they can (and I don’t believe for a second that they’re trying to), then this is a fantastic signing. If they can’t, he’ll go down to A-ball and see if he can regain the form that saw him win the batting title at the 2002 World Juniors, ahead of such U.S. stars-to-be like Delmon Young and Lastings Milledge. Loewen can hit – at least he could, he hasn’t really swung a bat in anger in over six years – the question is, will he be able to develop into a legit major-league hitter? There’s no one who knows the answer to that question. It’ll be fun to watch him try to work his way back, but the odds of him becoming Rick Ankiel II are remote indeed.
Friday, October 24th, 2008
11:30 AM Eastern -Updated with Thursday night’s post-post-game audio
1:25 AM Eastern
I didn’t think that the Blue Jays had made the playoffs, but watching the Phillies the last two nights has brought back a ton of memories for me.
All kinds of baserunners, all kinds of chances, and yet the Philbos have been simply incapable of picking up a hit with a runner in scoring position. After an 0-for-13 in the opener, which they managed to win anyway behind the good left arm of Cole Hamels, the Phils went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position in Game 2 and, of course, that one hit didn’t result in a run being scored.
It’s eerie, and one wonders whether it’s a good or bad omen for the NL champs. On one hand, how long can they keep putting runners on and failing to score them (2 1/2 months or so, if the 2008 Blue Jays are any indication)? On the other hand, not taking advantage of the chances they’ve been given has cost the Phils at least one win, and in a short series, you can’t afford to give up many W’s when they’re being offered.
Ryan Howard appeared to be getting out of his post-season funk by following a line-drive double over the head of B.J. Upton in dead centre with a ground-ball single through the shift on the right side, but The Prodigy got him twice late in the game, each time with Howard representing the tying run. With two on and two out in the 7th, David Price struck out Howard looking with a heater on the outside black, and with one on and two out in the 9th, Price got Howard on a first-pitch grounder to short right, into the shift, to end the game.
It was another game in which Jimmy Rollins failed to get a hit. He did get hit by a pitch in the 9th (well, his shirt did, but that counts), but home plate umpire Kerwin Danley didn’t notice, and Rollins wound up popping to short. Last year’s MVP is 0-for-10 so far in the Series, and hitless in his last 13 at-bats overall.
I can’t believe that Matt Stairs wasn’t in the line-up as the DH tonight. Charlie Manuel went with defense, playing Pedro Feliz (0-for-4, 6 LOB) at third and DHing Greg Dobbs (1-for-3, 2 Ks, 4 LOB). Manuel said he was considering using Dobbs at third and Stairs as the DH, opting for more offense, but decided to go with the glove at third and sat Matt because of Stairs’ lifetime 3-for-20 mark against James Shields. You can’t tell me, though, that Stairs would have done worse than Feliz, or even than Dobbs, whose hit was a little flare into short-centre that B.J. Upton trapped while making a diving try.
Manuel will get the chance to make up for his mistake in Game 6, if the Series gets that far. Of course, he has no interest in seeing the Series go back to T-Bay.
As for the Rays, they were everything the Phillies weren’t in this game – opportunistic. They took advantage of Jayson Werth booting an Upton single in the first to put runners on second and third with nobody out, and both runners scored on ground outs. They got a two-out single with the bases loaded to add another run, and after Jason Bartlett fouled off a suicide squeeze attempt in the 4th, he got the safety squeeze down on the next pitch to cash the Rays final run.Tampa got four runners to third base with less than two out, and they all scored. In contrast, Philly got three runners to third base with less than two out – none of them scored.
That third Philly run, by the way, was thanks in part to home plate umpire Kerwin Danley. He threw up the fist for the strike three call on Rocco Baldelli with one on and one out in the second, and then immediately after the fist went up, pointed to first as if to appeal a check-swing call. Rarely do you see an umpire correct himself mid-call, but that’s what Danley appeared to do. Of course, since umpires are never wrong, Danley tried to say he was calling for the appeal the whole time. Right.
David Price did a great job again, working the final 2 1/3 innings to close it out. I like this move by Rays’ manager Joe Maddon – he has more faith in the kid than he does in J.P. Howell and Grant Balfour, two guys without whose major contributions the Rays wouldn’t be in the playoffs at all. He knows that they’re not happy being left in the bullpen while Price picks up the big outs late, and he doesn’t care. Winning is more important than individuals’ feelings, though you can probably only get away with this during the playoffs.
With Price having thrown 42 pitches tonight, though, you wonder whether he’ll be available for Game 3 on Saturday. I think he will, but only for a one-shot Utley-Howard stint. One of Balfour, Wheeler or Howell (or Trever Miller or Chad Bradford) will have to do the heavy lifting. Of course, Matt Garza could just imagine that he’s facing the Blue Jays and pitch a one-hitter, though that’ll be tough in that bandbox in Philly.
Adam Lind was our fine guest on the BJADPPGS today, here’s what our conversation sounded like:
We had a nice, long post-post, and here it is for your listening pleasure:
A lot of it was spent on the worthiness of the ludicrous nickname “Big Game” for James Shields. I like Shields a lot, but to call him “Big Game James” is an insult to all those pitchers who have pitched and thrived in big games in the past. It’s an AMAZING stretch to refer to a guy as “Big Game” when he’s 1-2 lifetime in the playoffs, has pitched for one playoff team and had just two September wins for that team, neither of which were in games in which a loss would have come even close to knocking that team out of a playoff spot. Shields has never pitched in a game in which his team was facing elimination, and he’s pitched in one game in which his team could have clinched a playoff series. He was the losing pitcher. I know won-loss record is a terrible way to evaluate a pitcher’s performance, but you don’t get nicknamed “Big Game” by pitching very well in a loss or a no-decision.
Game 3 (or Game 1 of the best-of-5) goes Saturday night in Philly, with the Philbos throwing Big Game Jamie Moyer against Tampa’s Matt “Big Game” Garza.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
1:01 AM Eastern
Whatever the Phillies did to stay sharp during their week off sure worked, and they went into the Trop and took the World Series opener in front of over 40,000 people who only recently learned that there was a major-league baseball franchise in the vicinity.
Last year, the red-hot Rockies had eight days off after sweeping the NLCS, and got thumped 13-1 in Game 1 of the World Series on the way to getting swept by the Red Sox, who won the ALCS in seven. Two years ago, the Tigers had six days off after sweeping the ALCS, and got smacked 7-2 in the Fall Classic opener on the way to losing in five to St. Louis, who won the NLCS in seven. This year, the trend didn’t continue.
In the first inning, four pitches after trying to bunt his way on, Chase Utley ripped a 2-2 fastball into the right-field seats with a man on to give the Philbos an early lead that they would never relinquish. Cole Hamels took it from there and continued his magical post-season with seven very strong innings, allowing two runs on five hits. Hamels has won all four of his post-season starts, picking up the NLCS MVP along the way, without giving up more than two runs or six hits in any of them, pitching at least seven innings each time. He’s been fantastic, and he shut the Rays down completely – the first time that’s happened to them since Daisuke Matsuzaka almost no-hit them in the ALCS opener. Of course, after that game, Tampa Bay ran off three straight wins.
Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge were outstanding in relief, retiring all six batters they faced. Lidge is now 47-for-47 in save situations this year, and Madson’s perfect inning included a routine fly from Akinori Iwamura and a strikeout of Bossman Junior.
I have said before that I love the Phillies because of their American League-style offense, with all the big bangers in the middle. Tonight, the big bangers (Utley, Howard and Burrell) combined to go 2-for-11, with Utley getting both hits. Jimmy Rollins kicked in with an 0-for-5 of his own. The Phillies were a pathetic 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. They got a runner to third with less than two out four times, and only scored once. It was a brutal offensive display, and they won because of Cole Hamels.
This was the week-off mulligan for the Philbos’ offense. At least, it had to have been if they harbor any hope of winning this series, because Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton are certainly unlikely to duplicate Hamels’ performance.
I need to pick up on what I said up top about the Rays fans. It’s nice that they seem into it, and that they’re packing the place (40,783 tonight). They appear to be excited, and know when to cheer and stuff (though they don’t know to get in the way of an opposing player trying to catch a foul pop-up), but I had a really hard time looking at so many of them wearing team paraphernalia and, worse, looking actually worried and upset when things weren’t going well.
Honestly, there were dozens of shots of the crowd where you could see all this fear, angst and concern in the faces of these “die-hard” fans, most of whom were probably still in the single digits in lifetime games attended. I find it incredibly hard to believe that there are even a hundred people in the Bay Area that are so emotionally invested in the success or failure of the Rays.
As our fine producer Ken Rodney mentioned during the game, he wasn’t surprised that there weren’t any old “Devil Rays” jerseys on display in the stands, because he figured that most of the fans in attendance weren’t even aware that the team used to be called the Devil Rays. I’m really looking forward to seeing the looks on their faces if the Phillies come out and win tomorrow night, too.
Speaking of tomorrow night, Adam Lind is scheduled to be our guest on the Blue Jay A Day Pre-Pre-Game Show, though that still has to be confirmed. That’ll get underway at 7:05 PM Eastern on the Fan590 and on this very website, so make sure you tune in, and call early.
Vernon Wells was our guest today, and here’s his appearance, for your listening pleasure:
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008
10:52 AM Eastern
Just a quick note to let you know that on tonight’s Blue Jay A Day Pre-Pre-Game Show, our guest will be Vernon Wells, taking your phone calls from 7:05 PM Eastern until about 7:40 PM.
It should be Adam Lind tomorrow, before Game 2 of the World Series, I’m hoping to be able to firm that up later today.
There are close to 100 comments in the queue waiting to be moderated, I should be able to get to them during the ESPN pre-game before first pitch tonight.
As far as a World Series prediction goes, well, regardless of how much one thinks one knows, it’s impossible to do more than just take a stab at it. The Rays haven’t had a week off, and they’ve managed to make it out of the toughest division in the tougher league, so one would think they’d be odds-on favourites to win the whole shebang.
I’ll admit that if the Red Sox had won Game 7, I’d be taking Boston to win the series in four or five games, but when you combine the fact that I’ve been picking against the Rays all year with the fact that there’s just something about those Phillies, whether it’s the power-laden infield, the solid pitching staff and bullpen, Matt Stairs, whatever it is, there’s just something about those Phillies.
I’ll say this: Tampa Bay probably wins, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Phillies took it in five. That fence feels really good.
Reasonable, rational comments are always welcome, and remember – if you want to make sure you get to talk to Vernon Wells tonight, call in the first 5-10 minutes. We often get a big run of calls later in the segment, and don’t have time to get to everybody.
Monday, October 20th, 2008
12:42 AM Eastern
I’ve mentioned before that every single time the Tampa Bay Rays have been counted out this year, they have risen to the challenge and made their doubters eat it. They lost seven in a row leading up to the all-star break, falling from five games up in the A.L. East to half a game behind the Red Sox, but they were back in top spot after winning their first game post-break and never relinquished their position again. When Evan Longoria broke his wrist the first week of August, many sounded the death knell, and when Carl Crawford got hurt two days later, we were sure. Nice run, but wait until next year.
Well……not so much. Without both Crawford and Longoria, the Rays went 16-11 and held onto first place, losing just two games off their lead. Included in those 27 games were 18 against teams with winning records, and12 of those were on the road.
When the playoffs began, it was supposed to be a whole different animal, but the Rays handled the White Sox very easily.
When the ALCS began, well, it was the Boston Red Sox, and the Sox sent a huge message in the opening game of the series. Daisuke Matsuzaka took a no-hitter into the 7th and Boston won the game 2-0. But the Rays came back by beating the hell out of the Sox the next three games by a combined score of 31-13.
When the Rays blew a 7-0 lead with two out in the 7th inning of Game 5, losing the chance to put the Red Sox away for good, we heard it again. There was no way that Boston was going to lose this series, especially after the Red Sox won Game 6.
Not so much.
I found it hilarious that I was one of the only ones on today’s pre-pre-game show who wasn’t saying that the Red Sox had it locked up, especially given that I’ve been one of the most vocal of the Rays doubters all season long. Did I think the Red Sox would win? I definitely did. Did I think they were destined to? Heck, no. Momentum only means as much as Matt Garza going out there and throwing seven innings of two-hitter.
It’s amazing that the Red Sox managed to win nine straight ALCS games when facing elimination, and it seemed as though they were set up nicely to go for a tenth in a row, but they didn’t take advantage of their few opportunities tonight and the Rays’ pitching did a fantastic job.
And David Price? You’ve got to be kidding me. He hasn’t exactly been Tampa’s Francisco Rodriguez thus far in the playoffs, having made just two appearances totalling a single inning prior to tonight (though he did get the win in Game 2), but with just 15 big-league innings under his belt, he was asked to get the last four outs of Game 7 and he was unbelieveable.
I was wondering what Joe Maddon was doing in the top of the 8th when, leading 3-1, he went to Dan Wheeler with a runner on first and nobody out. Was he going to ask his closer to throw two innings, even after Thursday night’s meltdown? Was he going to let him pitch to David Ortiz? Nope. Maddon went to J.P. Howell for Ortiz, and Howell got him on a ground ball. He then went to Chad Bradford with two on and two out to face Kevin Youkilis, which I thought was a great move for two reasons: 1 – Bradford kills righties (.255/.289/.295) and B – Bradford just plain doesn’t give up home runs, and a home run was the only thing that could give the Sox the lead at that point. But when Bradford walked Youkilis to load the bases, it was Grant Balfour time, right? At the very least, Trever Miller, because the lefty J.D. Drew was coming to the plate.
Nope. Maddon went against pretty much everything he’s ever done, channeling the memories of K-Rod from back when Maddon was the Angels’ bench coach in 2002, and went to the kid. Price immediately got ahead of Drew 0-2 with a pair of filthy sliders, and wound up striking him out on a half-swing to end the inning. Great job, go take a shower and let’s get Balfour in there to finish things up, no? Well, no.
Price came back out to the mound to start the 9th, and stuck around after a lead-off walk to Jason Bay to strike out Mark Kotsay looking and Jason Varitek swinging, and then get pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie to ground to second to end the game and the American League season.
It was a performance for which there aren’t enough superlatives. Rookies with less than five weeks of big-league time tend not to even be asked to join a club in the playoffs, let alone play at all, let alone perform in a huge situation. Price won a lot of fans tonight, and deservedly so.
So did Joe Maddon. He didn’t panic, didn’t overmanage (despite how that top of the 8th looked), and wasn’t afraid to go against convention to do what he felt was best. Many, many managers and coaches would be so terrified of the reaction from the fans/press/whatever that they would NEVER stray so far from the script, but Maddon rightly figured that he had nothing to lose. If it didn’t work out, well, the Red Sox were “destined” to win the series anyway. It did, and now he’s the man who will guide the World Series favourites starting on Wednesday night.
Congratulations to the Rays, they have earned every bit of it. Whether or not they caught lightning in a bottle with their bullpen this year and guys like Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske and Willy Aybar (come on – a double and a homer in Game 7 of the ALCS? Really?) among others, they’re deserving American League champions and should be the people’s choice to roll over the probably-too-well-rested Phillies in the World Series.
I’m really looking forward to the Fall Classic – these are two teams that can pitch and can hit the ball out of the ballpark. Aybar’s homer tonight was the Rays’ 16th of the ALCS alone, which is a record. B.J. Upton needs to hit one World Series homer to tie Barry Bonds and Carlos Beltran for the all-time record for home runs in a single post-season, with eight. Longoria needs two. Perhaps more impressively, Upton needs just two World Series home runs to have his playoff total equal his REGULAR SEASON total, accomplished in 145 games.
We’ll be on the air at 7:05 PM Eastern on Wednesday night with the Blue Jay A Day Pre-Pre-Game Show on the Fan590 and this very website, and I’m hoping that for the first two games of the World Series, we’ll have Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells for you. However, while I’m hopeful, I’m not confident that either one of them will agree to do it, so I have Adam Lind ready to step in for Game 1 should the need arise (he’s already said he’d do it).
Here’s tonight’s pre-pre-game, complete with Jets-Raiders updates, for your listening pleasure:
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Friday, October 17th, 2008
1:07 AM Eastern
All the credit in the world goes to our producer Ken Rodney for this one. With the score 7-1 Tampa Bay and David Ortiz at the plate in the bottom of the 7th, K-Rod said the following: “If Ortiz hits a home run here, the Red Sox will win the game.” After Covelli Crisp’s single to right scored Mark Kotsay with the tying run to end the bottom of the 8th, K-Rod said the following: “Tampa Bay will not score again.” After Carlos Pena hit into a double play with two on to end the top of the 9th, K-Rod said the following: “This game will end in the bottom of the 9th.”
I’m thinking I should probably hand the reins over to him right about now, but he has to wait his turn.
The Boston Red Sox pulled off an incredible, improbable, nearly-unfathomable comeback, climbing back from 7-0 down with two out in the 7th inning. They needed to score seven runs to tie the game, and they only had seven outs with which to do it. They only needed three.
It was the second-largest deficit overcome to win a game in playoff history. The biggest one was in a bigger spot, but not as big a spot. Bigger because it was the World Series, but not as big because the Philadelphia A’s, who overcame an 8-0 deficit in the 7th to win 10-8, weren’t facing elimination. In fact, they led the series two games to one, and went on to beat the Cubs in five.
How about this – the Red Sox have won the last EIGHT ALCS games they’ve played when facing elimination. This one, Games 5, 6 and 7 against the Indians in the ALCS last year and, of course, Games 4, 5, 6 and 7 against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. By the way, did you know the Yankees are the only team in MLB playoff history to blow a three games to nothing series lead?
Anyway, until that 7th inning, I didn’t think the Red Sox had a prayer in this game. The Rays jumped out to a big lead early, with home runs by B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria helping them to a 5-0 advantage just seven outs into the game, and after Upton’s two-run double off Jonathan Papelbon in the 7th made it 7-0, I actually asked why it was that they had to keep playing. Evidently, the Rays were asking the same question, and now they know the answer.
Amazing what you can do when your lead-off man actually gets on base, huh? Before tonight’s 7th inning, the Red Sox’ top-spot hitter (Jacoby Ellsbury for three games, then J.D. Drew and Crisp) was 0-for-21 in this series. The only time the lead-off man had even reached base was when Crisp walked in the first. But with a runner on second and two out in the 7th, Crisp kept the budding rally going with a line single to left – Dustin Pedroia followed with an RBI single to set up Ortiz’ three-run jack. Crisp struck again in the 8th, driving in the tying run with a single to right after fouling off four straight 3-2 pitches.
As I sit here, I still can’t believe that the Rays didn’t win this game. By all rights, they should be winging their way back to Florida set to enjoy five days off before kicking off the World Series against the Phillies on Wednesday. Instead, they’ve got another one of those tough tests that not many people expect them to pass. So far, they’ve passed every one of those this year.
That momentum sure is something, huh? Which is to say there’s no such thing. Could the Rays possibly have had more momentum than they did after the Upton double in the 7th? At that point in time, they had outscored the Sox 29-5 in the three games at Fenway Park, winning the first two and leading the third 7-0.
Two last things I want to touch on about this game:
1 – Joe Maddon took some heat for switching around his starting rotation, having Scott Kazmir start this game, pushing James Shields back to Game 6, if necessary. I didn’t really get the criticism – it’s not like Kazmir isn’t a terrific pitcher, too. It turned out that the move worked out great for the Rays. No one could have asked for more from Kazmir, who threw six innings of two-hit shutout. He left in the 7th with a 7-0 lead.
2 – Gabe Gross got criticized for playing a bit shallow on the game’s final at-bat, which allowed Drew’s line drive to sail over his head and bounce into the stands for the game-winning single (Drew didn’t bother to touch second). The thing is, though, there were two out and the tying run was on second base. If Gross isn’t playing a little shallow, then the winning run scores on a single. He had to be there.
Oh, one more thing – how’s this for eerie? The Red Sox won this game exactly five years after they lost Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS to the Yankees. Not just to the day, but to the MINUTE. Drew hit that ground-rule single at 12:16 AM Eastern on October 17th, 2003. Aaron Boone hit his walk-off, 11th-inning homer off TimWakefield at 12:16 AM Eastern on October 17th, 2003. I don’t know what it means, but that’s spooky.
The Blue Jay A Day Pre-Pre-Game Show went beautifully again tonight. If you didn’t know it before, you now know (or you will once you listen) that Jesse Carlson is one of the nicest guys in the world. He did a terrific job, as did Lyle Overbay and Joe Inglett before him. I don’t know what our schedule is going to be like on the weekend, but I’m going to try my best to get Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells to come on for the first two nights of the World Series next week, at least.
Here’s the BJADPPGS feat. Jesse Carlson, for your listening pleasure:
I know I had said it would be Alex Rios tonight, but I couldn’t get in touch with him yesterday or today, despite leaving numerous phone and text messages. Hopefully we’ll be able to get him for the World Series, too.
And here, for your additional listening pleasure, is tonight’s post-post-game call-in:
Game Six of the ALCS goes Saturday night, with the Sox throwing Josh Beckett at Shields and the Rays down in St. Pete. We’ll hook up with the ESPN broadcast at 7:35 pm Eastern for an 8:07 first pitch. Again, I’m not yet sure whether there will be a BJADPPGS yet.
Rational, reasonable comments are welcome!