So all of a sudden, they’re talking about the 2011 World Series as potentially being the greatest of all-time. Is that accurate? Well, maybe. Now, the two series that normally take up the top two spots on any list of greatest World Series ever are 1975 and 1991. 1975 was before I was born, though I have seen an abbreviated replay of Game 6 on ESPN Classic, and although I was alive in 1991, I have no memories of that Series; I was only two years old at the time. I do have some vague memories of 2001, one of the many that sometimes got put at the #3 position in the past, although I wasn’t quite the overall baseball fan that I am today and as such didn’t really watch a Series featuring the hated Yankees. Is this better than 2001? I’d say so. Now, I’ve got a book that covered the first 100 years of the World Series (not the first hundred series; it was only 98 of them, 1903-2002), and it had a top ten and bottom ten. Invariably, all ten members of the top ten went 7 games (except, of course, for 1912, which due to a Game 2 tie ended up going 8 games). Well, check. They mentioned a number of close games being an important factor—look at 1975; while Game 6 is the most famous, there were something like 4 or 5 one-run games. Game 7 was a one-run game, the winning run being driven in in the top of the 9th. Game 3 was an extra-inning walkoff win. 1991, the final two games were extra-inning affairs, walkoffs; high drama all around. Well, look at this series. Game 1, Allen Craig comes up as a pinch-hitter in the 6th inning and breaks a 2-2 tie. Game 2, he does the same thing in a scoreless tie in the seventh, but the Rangers come back with two runs in the top of the ninth and win it 2-1. Game Three, the requisite lone blowout, but Albert Pujols makes it worthwhile with a historic performance, 5-for-6 with 3 home runs. Game 4 was probably the least dramatic, final score 4-0 Rangers. Still a good performance by Holland, but it’s the weak link for now. Game 5 was another one that was tied at 2-2 late, and then Texas scored a couple to win it 4-2. And then, Game 6. An instant classic. Rangers score one in the top of the first; Cardinals take the lead with a pair in the bottom of the frame. Rangers tie it up in the top of the second, and thanks to some shoddy defense, they retake the lead, 3-2 in the top of the fourth. Then they make an error and St. Louis ties it in the bottom of the fourth. For the third straight half-inning, the leadoff runner reaches on an error in the top of the fifth, and Texas takes the lead a third time, 4-3. Then things fall apart in the bottom of the sixth, and Alexi Ogando walks Yadier Molina with the bases loaded to tie up the score. Matt Holliday then continues to make his case for 2011 World Series goat by getting picked off of third, and the Rangers escape with the score tied, 4-4. Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz go back to back to start the top of the seventh, the latter tying the record for home runs in a single postseason, and the Rangers push another run across to make it 7-4. Allen Craig, into the game after Holliday injured himself on the play where he was picked off, continues to carve his place in postseason history by hitting a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth. There’s enough turnover that in the ninth inning, Pujols came up and gets his only hit outside of that five-hit game, doubling with one out and none on, and Lance Berkman walks behind him to bring up Craig again. He strikes out. One out away. Two strikes. David Freese, NLCS MVP, dropper of an easy pop-up in the fifth inning, that ball is back-back-back and off the wall! Pujols will score! Here comes Berkman! Freese going to third! Would this have been an instant classic if Freese had hit a 3-run walkoff home run there in the ninth? Maybe—they were still one strike away from elimination, and would’ve been going to Game 7 in dramatic fashion. But instead, it’s a two-run triple, tying the score at 7-7. 1975 had Games 3 and 6; 1991 had Games 6 and 7. 2011 had plenty of drama, but lacked extra-inning games. So this is better. The game goes to the tenth. Josh Hamilton, the Rangers’ slugging star, playing hurt and held without a home run through the first 15 games of the Rangers’ postseason and the first nine innings of their 16th, and there he goes. Two-run homer, 9-7 Rangers. But the Cardinals don’t quit, and the struggling John Jay and Daniel Descalso work their way on, first and second with none out. Lacking position players, LaRussa sends up his best bunting pitcher to pinch-hit, and Lohse lays down a perfect bunt. Second and third, one out. A run-scoring groundout makes the Cards the first team in World Series history to score in the eighth, ninth, and tenth innings of a World Series game, but they still trail 9-8. Pujols is intentionally walked, and Berkman gets into a 1-2 count, and base hit into centerfield! One strike away again, and the Rangers let it slip away! But Craig can’t deliver Pujols from third, and the Rangers’ Mr. Clutch, Nelson Cruz, is coming to bat in the top of the eleventh, and…something’s wrong…he’s injured! What is going on?! The Rangers don’t score, and leading off the bottom of the eleventh is David Freese, and again he gets a hold of one, deep to centerfield and GONE!!!!!!!! David Freese with a walkoff home run! I have to admit, at first I wasn’t sure what I had just seen, seeing something white in the dogpile at home plate, and then I saw the postgame interview and what the heck Freese’s jersey has been ripped off. Seriously, that’s just crazy. That’s strength, to just rip it apart like that. Who did that? Does it even matter? There’s a Game 7 coming up, and Game 6 was one of the greatest World Series games of all time. That cannot be debated. But will the Series as a whole be considered an all-time greatest? It’s definitely in the conversation, but…like I said before, 1975 had multiple extra-inning games. So did 1991. We’ve had three one-run games and a two-run game so far, and the one true blowout has a historic individual performance mitigating its lack of drama (and it actually was dramatic for awhile before the Cards just started pouring it on), but if tonight’s game is lopsided? It can’t make the number one spot. It’s definitely top ten regardless of what happens tonight, and if tonight’s game is tied after 9 innings? Then yeah, it should be in the conversation. And the teams involved help its case. St. Louis, wild card team, trailed by double-digits in late August and stormed back to steal the Wild Card on the final day of the season. Texas, first-wave expansion team, won a grand total of one postseason game in their first 49 years of existence, reached the World Series last year and making an encore performance. Fourteen of the original sixteen have won championships in the expansion era, so the Rangers have the third-longest drought. October: When legends are made.
I’ve previously mentioned my concept of the “All-Name” team–the major leaguers with the names that are weirdest or just plain most fun to say. I never quite determined the whole composition, but one of the locks for the team’s rotation is Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies. Tonight, Jimenez did something that no other Rockies pitcher has ever done: he pitched a no-hitter. It definitely looked like it was only a matter of time before the first no-hitter of the year, with so many close calls already, but Rockies-Braves? And the Rox are the ones doing it? Definitely a pleasant surprise.
Elsewhere, the Mets have just taken a 1-0 lead over the Cardinals in the top of the 19th inning. I almost wish I’d been tuned to FOX from the beginning.
Update: Ouch. Ryan Ludwick got debatably tagged out trying to steal second during Albert Pujols’s at-bat, and then Pujols hit a double. That could’ve been a game-changer. Kyle Lohse (the left fielder in this particular game, who actually made the catch on the sac fly that gave the Mets their run) then made a productive out, getting Pujols to third. This is f***in’ weird!
BASE HIT YADI MOLINA! WE’RE TIED AT 1-1!
Which means…that Jeff Francoeur, now 0-for-7 (with a sac fly), will get another chance to continue his hitting streak. If he manages to do so, it would probably not set a new record for most consecutive hitless at-bats without breaking a hitting streak, as in 2006 Willy Taveras, already with a streak over 25 games, extended a hitting streak in the first at-bat of what would eventually be an 18-inning game; he would end that game 1-for-9. He then needed four at-bats to get his first hit of the next game, resulting in an 0-for-11 stretch in the midst of a hitting streak.
On the other hand, he might not get a chance to bat again, as the Mets have runners at first and third with nobody out in the top of the 20th.
…Make that a runner at first with one out. Sac fly Jose Reyes.
7:49 EDT: Okay, not game time quite yet, but it’s definitely time to start the entry. Decided it’s best to time-stamp this one, even though it’s going to be tough to keep it up all night. Especially if this computer starts acting up again the way it had been this weekend. Anyway, I’m happy to see that I might finally be catching on, and we’re off
8:21 EDT: Whoa, still not started. We haven’t even seen President Obama’s first pitch yet!
8:26 EDT: Yeah, inspirational is fun, but this is getting ridiculous!
8:35 EDT: Finally! Barack Obama comes out in his White Sox jacket and throws a strike to Albert Pujols.
8:47 EDT: The NL All-Stars take the field!
8:49 EDT: Ichiro steps up to bat, and the computer starts to freak out. Sigh…
8:50 EDT (I hope): Whoa, really, Derek Jeter’s had a resurgence with the bat? I hadn’t noticed. No, honestly, I hadn’t.
8:52 EDT: Jeter’s been hit, and there are two on with no outs. So much for the mighty Lincecum. Mauer up.
8:53 EDT: …What’s up with Lincecum? He’s not pitching like his usual self. Wait, double play…no, not a double play. Pujols pulled off the bag. Still got Ichiro out.
8:55 EDT: Normally I’d be happy that the AL has the early lead, but that’s not what I predicted! E-3.
???: Yeah, my computer’s clock froze up again, so no more time stamps. Half-inning done, 2-0 AL.
Okay, yeah, we’re only in the first inning and I already want to press mute. FOX, do you actually listen to anything anyone says? Because consensus is that your “B-team” announcers are actually bearable. Hell, even McCarver isn’t a total idiot…Buck brings out the worst in him, and is the truly unbearable one. And FOX feels that Buck is their best broadcaster, even sending him to multiple sports.
Yeah, I had to leave for awhile. We’re now in the bottom of the second, with President Obama in the booth.
Wright breaks up the no-hitter, and Victorino follows it up with another single.
Holy crap it’s tied! Yadi Molina singles to drive in Wright, and Victorino scores on an error. And now Prince Fielder has a pinch-hit ground rule double to give the NL the lead. Whoa.
Ryan Franklin is coming into the game second? Huh? Closers this early?
So far, Franklin’s effective. Teixeira’s up. And now he’s down.
Ah, “Lie To Me” is going to be this year’s over-promoted ASG show. Last year it was Fringe, which I predicted was going to flop miserably, saying nobody wants X-Files knockoffs these days. Shows what I know.
Buehrle nearly hits Pujols, but gets him to ground out 3-1 for the second out. 1-2-3 top of the inning, and the first two–yes, 1-2-3 bottom.
Interview with Buehrle as Haren pitches to the AL All-Stars. Two fly-outs so far. Young singles to extend the inning for Hill.
Greinke comes in and gets Ibanez on one pitch. Ends up being a quick inning.
Billingsley pitches to Crawford, the pinch-hitter. Suzuki up.
9:58 EDT: Hey, my computer caught up to reality! And…we made it through three and a half innings in an hour, when it took an hour just to get from the supposed start time to the end of the top of the first. Ichiro grounds into a fielder’s choice.
10:01 EDT: Stupid facts about Jeter, who also grounds into a fielder’s choice.
10:02 EDT: Mauer’s still in, which is good because he’s the only AL catcher with experience catching a knuckleball.
10:04 EDT: Mauer of Power! Joe Mauer ties it up with an RBI double. Tex’s turn.
10:05 EDT: Pujols makes a beautiful defensive gem to get Tex, 3-1. Tie game after 4-1/2.
10:14 EDT: Hoffman pitching, Miggy T at short. (Speaking of short, did you see him during pregame introductions? Looked like he was sitting down, he was so low to the ground!)
10:16 EDT: Inning over already, double play. Five pitches! All it took! Now I’m watching an extremely bizarre commercial for Taco Bell’s value menu declaring that “silver’s our new green” and “it’s all about the Roosevelts” (dimes). What the hell do they think this is, the Super Bowl?
10:19 EDT: Morneau at first, Zobrist at short, Felix Hernandez pitching, Adam Jones in right, Curtis Granderson in center, and Orlando Hudson pinch-hit for Utley. Yes, it’s finally that time of game. No, wait, Bartlett’s at short. Where’s Zobrist? And wasn’t Bartlett on the DL? Justin Upton pinch-hits for Braun.
10:23 EDT: Oh, I give up. You can figure out who the subs are.
10:26 EDT: Pujols interviewed by Eric Karros. Man, this game’s boring compared to last year…or maybe I’m just not sleep-deprived enough yet.
10:28 EDT: McCarver says that the evening started with “The Man” (Stan Musial), and in the seventh, “El Hombre” leaves. Last night, Pujols said he didn’t want to be called “El Hombre” because regardless of language, the title of “The Man” belongs to Musial. Luckily, McCarver’s Spanish isn’t so great, and he actually called Pujols “El Hambre”, which means “The Hunger”.
10:34 EDT: CARL CRAWFORD!!! Robs Brad Hawpe of a home run!
10:37 EDT: Pap’s making us nervous, but so far, he’s getting the job done.
10:42 EDT: Now in the eighth; Papelbon got the strikeout of McCann to end it. Heath Bell takes over for the man he succeeded as San Diego closer.
10:48 EDT: Adam Jones sac fly gives the AL the lead, scoring Granderson, who tripled.
10:57 EDT (hopefully): Computer’s seizing up again. What a drone. Amazing that there have been that many hits at all. Oh, yes, they just mentioned that the AL has retired 18 NLers in a row, second-longest stretch in ASG history and longest by the AL. And sure enough, Joe F*ck jinxed it, as Adrian Gonzalez walks, followed by Hudson singling. Ryan Howard up to pinch-hit.
11:03 EDT (probably not): Howard strikes out. We’re safe, no thanks to “Would You Please Shut The Buck Up?” there.
11:04 EDT: Absolutely MUST find out what song that Lincoln commercial uses.
11:12 EDT (okay, not really): 1 down for Mo. Hawpe up to bat.
11:14 EDT (or something like that): Tejada flies out to end it. 1-2-3.
11:?? EDT: 2 hours, 31 minutes–or shorter than the pregame cermonies. Geez, shouldn’t All-Star Games be, I don’t know, longer than the average game? Because a 2-1/2 hour game is pretty damn quick these days. This blows. I had more snarky comments about my computer than I did about the game, and I didn’t even get a chance to call Tejada any names! I started to, but then it went from him being the “last hope” to being out before I could get it off. Also, he seems to have shrunk all over so I can’t make any steroids references anymore. (Insert “shrinkage” joke here.)
Wow. This is awesome. Again, cements the Rays’ status as a “cool” team (even if it is that stupid Jonny Gomes, bleah!), but more importantly, it allows me to make fun of stupid school administrators. Making fun of stupid school administrators is a lot of fun, albeit extremely easy. On the baseball side of things, BJ Upton and Evan Longoria have five home runs apiece in the postseason. The record for a single postseason is 7, by BALCO Barry in 2002. With his fifth of the postseason tonight, Evan Longoria sets a new rookie record for postseason home runs, one better than Miguel Cabrera in 2003.
When Upton hit his fifth home run of the postseason in Game 3, he set a new record for youngest player to hit five home runs in a postseason, previously held by Albert Pujols. This is what’s known as a “one-day record”, as Evan Longoria is younger still. Another record that lasted precisely one day: Longest postseason game by time, which was actually set twice in the same day–once early in the morning, when Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS ended at 5:02, and then late that night, when Game 5 ended at 5:49. Neither was a record for innings, which shows the increased level of commercialization that evolved after 1986 (Mets-Astros, 16 innings.) Also proof of increased commercialization? When the Astros and Braves broke the innings record with 18 innings in the ’05 NLDS, they only just barely broke the time record, 5:50. Why so close to the 14-inning game in length? LDS on ESPN vs. LCS on FOX. Purists, express your disgust.
Purists, root for the Dodgers these next two games. If the NLCS reaches a seventh game, Derek Lowe will start Game 7, making him the first pitcher to make three starts in a postseason series since…well, I don’t know who was the last to do it, but it probably wasn’t in my lifetime. Of course, since Lowe was the winner of the 2004 ALCS game 7, they’ll probably bring up the same fact that they mentioned when 2004 NLCS game winner Jeff Suppan started Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS–that only the legendary Bob Gibson has won two deciding Game 7s in his career (1964 WS and 1967 WS–and he started a third one afterwards, in the ’68 WS!). This is still the case, as while the Cards won Game 7 in ’06, Suppan got a no-decision. (Thank Endy Chavez for that. And thank Yadier Molina for the Cards winning it anyway.)
The Seattle Mariners put on a brilliant rally last night, coming from a 7-0 deficit after seven innings to…create a save situation for Francisco Rodriguez, who picked up his record-tying fifty-seventh save of the season. In the wake of the Angels’ AL West clinch, manager Mike Scioscia says they’ll still be playing for home field advantage, but I don’t know if they’ll really be going all out. Making sure everyone’s ready for the playoffs is what’s important, and besides, the Angels are still far and away the best road team in the majors, so no home field advantage isn’t a huge deal to them. The manager also said that his usage of K-Rod wouldn’t change after the record was set and the playoff spot clinched, and this I believe. To be effective, a closer has to be in a good rhythm. Assuming that the rate of overall Angels wins to K-Rod’s saves stays constant, even a conservative 7-9 estimate for the Angels’ last 16 games would produce 61 or 62 saves. As for other hotly contested races, Chipper Jones has retaken the NL batting lead, .362 to Albert Pujols’s .360. Josh Hamilton’s once-dominant lead in RBIs has vanished, now just four ahead of Justin Morneau for the AL lead and trailing NL leader Ryan Howard by 5. Jacoby Ellsbury still leads the American League in stolen bases, 45-42 over B.J. Upton, although it would take a remarkable run for him to break the Red Sox’ team record, something that seemed a sure thing midway through the season. (He picked up number 35 on July 1). Still, it’s a sign of how unusual it is for Boston to have such a player that a player still considered a rookie is tied for 41st on the Red Sox’ all-time career stolen bases list. At this rate, he’ll likely be the team’s all-time leader by the time he’d first be eligible for free agency (if the Sox don’t sign him to an extension before he’s eligible, which they probably will.) On to the elimination scenarios… Detroit from AL Wild Card with loss and Boston win, that’s all for one-day. Two-day: Texas from AL Wild Card with two losses and a Boston win or a loss and two Boston wins; Cleveland from AL Wild Card with two losses and two Boston wins. Yeah, boring.
Final note: The first two games of this weekend’s Cubs-Astros series have been preemptively postponed due to Hurricane Ike. No word on when they’ll be made up–and trust me, with the way the NL Central/Wild Card race has been going, they will be made up.
The same day it’s being posted
Extra innings abounded yesterday, as the two New York teams both won in extras, the Yanks in 10, the Mets in 12. Together, the two games were just five innings longer than the Braves’ 7-6 victory over Houston, four straight singles leading off the bottom of the seventeenth. Detroit and Seattle also went 15, the visiting Tigers winning 2-1. Mariners backup catcher Jamie Burke came in as a reliever. All-Star selections were announced yesterday, and my powers of preseason prognostication proved faulty–quite deservingly with the somewhat down year he’s been having, Nick Markakis is not an All-Star. This prediction had been made partly because I thought Markakis was a rising star and partly because I didn’t think the O’s had any better candidates. The lone representative of the Baltimore club is in his first year with the team, and that is George Sherrill, the former Seattle setup man who became the Orioles’ closer. Brian Roberts, two-time All-Star, has been relegated to the final man ballot. However, as an American League fan who wants the AL to win, I must advocate for a member of a team that I’m not particularly fond of right now: Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays. “Longo” is the best of the five players on the ballot, in my opinion. However, since I’m a fair guy, I’ll also tell you honestly who I think should get the final spot in the National League: Pat Burrell, Philadelphia Phillies. Other fairly happy news: the underachieving Jason Varitek, for a long time the AL vote leader at catcher, has been relegated to backup status by Joe Mauer. Why is Tek still the backup? Er, well, I think it has something to do with Francona being the AL manager. The players pick the first line of backups, but there are two reserve catchers and Dioner Navarro seems more likely as the players’ choice. Like most of the Rays, he’s been having a good year. C.C. Sabathia has been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Correction: Varitek was the players’ choice…sort of. The player ballot is submitted before the fan voting ends, and so the with the players’ choice, Mauer, the starter, the second-place finisher on their ballot gets the nod. Well, on the plus side, there’s no rule saying Terry has to play him…but of course, he will anyway, because he’s not about to diss his captain…is he? Does he have the guts to follow the example of Tony La Russa, who last year chose Dmitri Young over his own player, Albert Pujols, to pinch-hit in the ninth inning with the game on the line? I sure hope so. Final observation: The Twins are currently on a 17-2 run.