Tagged: Chase Utley

Dusty deja vu

Jeffrey Maier actually reached over the fence to help guide a Derek Jeter fly ball out of the reach of Orioles right fielder Tony Tarrasco into the stands for a postseason home run, whereas Steve Bartman was neither seated in fair territory nor reaching over the fence when he interfered with Cubs left fielder Moises Alou on a fly ball off the bat of Luis Castillo. 7 years after Bartman and twice as long since Maier, the Reds–which like those 2003 Cubs are managed by Dusty Baker–were victimized by a hybrid of the two. Like Bartman, the fan that prevented centerfielder Drew Stubbs from potentially making what would admittedly be an amazing play did not reach over the fence at Great American Ballpark to do so–and as you might guess from Stubbs’s position, the result was a Chase Utley home run, just like the Maier incident. Granted, this is probably a moot point since the Phillies’ pitching has been outstanding pretty much all series long aside from a rough first inning or two by Oswalt. But that’s a heartbreaker.

Elsewhere, another pitcher with a regular-season no-hitter on his career resume made a decent bid at providing the seventh official one of 2010. Jonathan Sanchez, who in July 2009 pitched a game in which the only baserunner reached on an eighth-inning error by Juan Uribe, no-hit the Braves through 5.1 before Tim Hudson broke it up with a single. Yes, the opposing pitcher. Amazingly, despite their low hit total for the game, the Braves actually managed to take the lead at one point, courtesy of an eighth-inning pinch-hit homer by modern-day Lonnie Smith Eric Hinske. (You remember Smith, right? Won a World Series ring in his rookie year with the 1980 Phillies, then picked up another with the ’82 Cardinals, a third with the ’85 Royals, then played in two more with the Braves in ’91 and ’92). The Giants struck right back with a pair of two-out runs in the top of the ninth, the latter scoring on Brooks Conrad’s third error of the game (his first error brought in the Giants’ first run). The 3-2 win gives the Giants a 2-1 advantage in the series.

Leading the league in useless stats

The ever-wonderful Jayson Stark is at it again. Note that the link goes to ESPN Insider article, so you may not be able to read it.For this reason, and also because I want to comment, I’ll sum up some of the weirdness here.

In this past Thursday’s Phillies-Nationals game, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino of the Phillies and Ryan Zimmerman of the Nats all homered, marking the first time that players whose names begin with the letters U, V, and Z all homered in the same game. That this has never happened before is not exactly surprising. What I want to know is, were all three necessary, or would some combination of two be sufficient? Obviously U and V have homered together before–Utley and Victorino–but none of those three letters is terribly common, and V is probably the most common of the 3. So have there been other times that U and Z have homered in the same game? And if so, was Zimmerman the “Z” involved? With both the Phillies and the Marlins in the same division as the Nats, this seems plausible enough…although I completely forgot about the Upton brothers when listing the active U’s, which changes things completely. Okay, so now the most likely combo for U/Z is B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays–although it’s quite possible this hasn’t happened yet, as both are fairly young and Zobrist didn’t really get regular playing time until just last year. Come to think of it, now that we have a plausible U-Z pair, what’s our V-Z?

Also, and I actually heard about this game while it was happening, there was Thursday’s White Sox-Blue Jays game. Freddy Garcia got knocked around early and only lasted 3+ innings, striking out 3 and being charged with all 7 runs. The first reliever, Randy Williams, struck out 3 over two shaky innings. Sergio Santos came in for the 6th inning and struck out the side, 1-2-3, and J.J. Putz pitched the 7th, allowing a hit but getting all three of his outs by way of the K. Scott Linebrink came in for the 8th, and sure enough, all three outs he recorded were strikeouts (he, too, allowed a hit.) Never before in a 9-inning game have five different pitchers gotten 3 strikeouts for a team. Also, never before has a team gotten their last 9 outs by way of strikeout with 3 pitchers getting 3 each. What makes this even more impressive, as far as I’m concerned, is the fact that the White Sox managed to strike out 15 Blue Jays despite being a losing road team; therefore, it was 15 out of 24 outs, not 15 of 27. Not a bad performance at all, except for the part where they ended up trailing 7-0 after four innings.

Also, Monday’s Royals-Tigers game marked the first time that two Guillens (Carlos of the Tigers and Jose of the Royals) homered in the same game.

More LOL Mets, too. Josh Willingham of the Nationals hit a grand slam off of Johan Santana last Sunday, but it didn’t get ruled home run right away, so people started running like crazy. Adam Dunn, who had been on first when the ball was hit, had to bowl over Mets catcher Rod Barajas in order to score, and when the ball got away, Willingham tried to score as well, creating another home plate collision and initially being ruled out, until replay decided that it was a home run. Why is this in the category of “LOL Mets“? Because they were the home team, which means the home run that almost wasn’t is courtesy of their ballpark. Still, even securely in last place, this year’s Mets have a long way to go to become as LOL-worthy as last year’s were–and most of last night’s biggest weirdness (position players on the mound and pitchers in left field, for example) was courtesy of the Cardinals. Although having a starter with more saves than your closer is, well, kind of silly.

Why the Phillies need to win Game 6

Okay, full disclosure: As a Red Sox fan, I want the Phillies to win the Series, period. Heck, there’s even a good reason for that one, as a pure fan of the game. That reason, of course, is Chase Utley. With two home runs in Game 5, Utley now has five homers in the World Series, tying the single-series record set by Reggie Jackson in 1977–a Series the Yankees won. If Utley ties or even breaks Reggie’s record in a losing effort, it just wouldn’t seem right. (Then again, the 1960 Yankees still hold most of the records for team offensive production in a single Series, and they lost that in seven games, thanks to three double-digit wins and four losses by three runs or less. So maybe that’s not important.)

Here’s why the Phillies need to win Game 6: a return to the way things used to be.

Now, I may be young, but I’m not so young that I don’t remember a Series that went seven games. That last happened in 2002, and although I probably wasn’t paying attention to that one, I do remember 2001, probably the best Series of my lifetime the period of my lifetime that I would reasonably be expected to remember (the only debate when limiting it to my lifetime would be 1991 vs. 2001, but I was just a toddler in ’91.)

I’m talking about pitchers making three starts in a series. I’m a fan of the history of the game, and way back when, three-man rotations in the postseason were the norm (and four-man rotations in the regular season, but that’s besides the point.) And when three-man rotations in the postseason were common, a pitcher would pitch Games 1, 4, and 7. (Okay, okay, that actually happened in the 2001 World Series, too, although the Diamondbacks did use four starters–Schilling in 1, 4, and 7; Johnson in 2 and 6; Brian Anderson in 3; and Miguel Batista in 5). If this series ends tonight, we’re denied that. But if the Phillies send it to Game 7, C.C. Sabathia makes his return for Game 7. I’d rather see the Phillies win that game, too, but either way, Game 7 is what I want to see.

Game time!

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.)

Changing of the months

“As announcers, we use the word unbelievable far too often. This is unbelievable.”–John Sterling, November 1, 2001

Yep, another early morning, another classic game. What I found
unbelievable about that game was that a fan had a sign with the words
“Mr. November” at that game…which didn’t reach midnight until the
tenth inning. Premonition that it would go late?

Nothing last night was truly unbelievable, just highly unlikely. For
example, two 13-1 scores, neither of which were the biggest blowout of
the night (that would be the Cubs’ 19-5 pasting of the Brewers). The
Dodgers pounded the Marlins for that score, and the Pirates crushed the
Mets. In slightly closer affairs, the Diamondbacks closed out April
with their 20th win of the season, beating Houston 8-7, while the Red
Sox (for the second night in a row) and the Nationals walked off with
wins, the latter in 12 innings. 1-run games appear to be somewhat of a
trend this year. The average number of games played to date is 27.8
(BOS, NYY, LAA, OAK, STL, HOU, CIN, SF 29; CWS and NYM 26; other 20
teams evenly split between 27 and 28). In these approximately 27.8
games, the average team has played 8.4 one-run games. In addition, only
Kansas City (3-2 in 1-run games) and Detroit (1-3) have fewer than six
1-run games. In the National League, 74 of the 222 games played thus
far (remember to divide by two when counting the total number of games
played, because each game has two teams). That is precisely one out of
every three games! The worst record in one-run games belongs to
Atlanta, 0-9. Baltimore and Boston have the best such records, 7-2 thus
far. The team with the most 1-run games to date is San Francisco, with
7 wins and 6 losses. I predicted at the beginning of the year that
there would be a number of save opportunities for NL West closers. Sure
enough, while every other division has at least one team with just six
one-run games (or fewer, in the case of the AL Central), no NL West
team has played fewer than eight, and it hosts the only two teams that
exceed ten! (Colorado is 4-7.)

Now, I don’t know if the official monthly awards have been given out yet, but it’s time to name my Monthly award winners for April.

AL Rookie of the Month: A number of promising candidates, as Evan
Longoria has been a revelation for the Rays and Carlos Gomez of the
Twins and Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox are 1-2 in the AL in steals.
However, with a league-leading 11 doubles and an OPS north of .800, my
pick is David Murphy of the Texas Rangers. (I was a little
unsure about this, having heard somewhere that he was a rookie but
having gotten the feeling that he ought to have used up his eligibility
already, so I checked. Combined between Boston in ’06 and ’07 and Texas
at the end of ’07, he had 127 at-bats, just few enough to still be
considered a rookie. Wait, shouldn’t it be based on plate appearances?
Eh, whatever.)
NL Rookie of the Month: I’ve previously expressed that I’m a big fan of
Johnny Cueto, but while still good (only his first bad outing on
Tuesday) he hasn’t quite held up to the blazing start he got off to,
and since he is technically eligible and has re-energized the Cubs and their fan base (read this week’s article in Sports Illustrated), I’m going with Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.
AL Pitcher of the Month: An easy choice here: Cleveland Indians starter Cliff Lee.
Last night, he gave up three earned runs in six innings, which were it
his first appearance of the year, would make his ERA 4.50. It wasn’t,
and his ERA is 0.96. Um, whoa. 5-0 record also good.
NL Pitcher of the Month: Another easy pick, as only one starter is 6-0: the always dominant Brandon Webb
of the Arizona Diamondbacks. B-Webb’s 1.98 ERA is sixth-best in the
majors, trailing the aforementioned Lee, Edinson Volquez of Cincinnati,
KC’s Zack Greinke, Ben Sheets of the Brewers and San Francisco’s Tim
Lincecum.
AL Player of the Month: How does a team get two of the three awards for
the first month of the year and end up with the worst record?
Outfielder Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers is the pick here,
with 32 RBIs (at least 10 RBIs more than all but one other American
Leaguer, Emil Brown of the Oakland Athletics, who has 25), 6 HRs
(behind only Joe Crede and Carlos Quentin of the White Sox, who have
seven apiece) and a .330 average (fourth in the league, trailing Victor
Martinez, Casey Kotchman and Manny Ramirez). So, what’s wrong with
Texas? Oh, right, the same thing that’s always wrong with Texas:
pitching. They became the last team to hit double-digits in victories
with their tenth last night, an 11-9 slugfest.
NL Player of the Month: At first, I was going to give it to Chipper
Jones, who is not only leading the league with a cosmic .410 batting
average, but also is second in home runs with 8. Then I took another
look at the league leader in that category. Chase Utley of the
Philadelphia Phillies has a league-leading 11 home runs, 85 total bases
and .766 slugging percentage, and his 10 doubles are second only to
Nate McClouth’s twelve. In addition, despite the 50-point difference in
their batting averages, Chipper only has one hit more than Utley–the
difference is that Chipper missed a few games and therefore has 11
fewer at-bats. I definitely like my new choice better. If Utley stays
healthy this year, the Phillies could have three different players win
the MVP in three consecutive years.