My last entry was called “Ready for history”. The Rays and Phillies haven’t disappointed. Well, okay, some of them have, but that’s a different story. It has come to my attention that people have been complaining about everything about this Series.
“People” need to shut up and pay attention to the game’s magnificent history.
As I write this, I sit in the cafeteria of my beloved Drew University in Madison, NJ, looking out a window that takes up an entire wall. It appears to be snowing. Par for the course, eh? Yes, the weather has been one of the “problems” with this series–Game 5 shouldn’t have even been started, it should’ve been postponed earlier (before the Rays tied it up), etc. Weather happens. Some of the best World Series ever have been affected by the weather. Weren’t there like three days or so in between the fifth and sixth games of the 1975 World Series, which is always listed among the top two in any list of the greatest World Series ever? The fact that the Phillies have essentially lost the advantage that they had by having Hamels on the mound just adds to the mythos of the game. On the one hand, if they win in spite of Mother Nature, it’s a great story. On the other, if the Rays gain the momentum from this and triumph, they’re truly a team of destiny, one that the Almighty himself intervened to aid. (It’s always a good Series when you can invoke the Lord’s name in describing it and not sound completely blasphemous.) Also in the weather department–Game 3, delayed by rain, getting record lows in ratings as a result. Quite a shame, as it was a great game–a walkoff, in fact. Being a college student, and with it being a weekend, I of course was tuned in until the end.
The snow isn’t falling as hard now as it was when I first started writing, but it’s definitely snow–the flakes have increased in size. Another complaint about this Series, ironically, is the exact opposite–Tropicana Field. Even after the Philadelphia rain has screwed around with everything, the suggestion that it would be easier in a dome has been met with criticism. It’s unnatural, they say. Feh! There are plenty of domes out there. The other member of the consensus top 2 thus far, which is the one more commonly chosen as number one, was played in part in a dome–1991, Braves vs. Twins. If weather is a factor, domes should be a factor as well. Every park is different, and they all have their quirks. Are Tropicana’s catwalks really a bigger factor than a 37-foot-high wall with a ladder attached to it, an indentation in the outfield side wall with a garage door, the shortest distance down the right-field line of any park in the country, an extremely low wall out in right-center, and “the Triangle”? I doubt it, but no one complains about Fenway. Its quirks are “charming”.
Snow’s finally stopping, I think. Another complaint, of course, is that the teams aren’t interesting. The Rays and Phillies have no history. Well, uh, yeah. The Rays are only in their eleventh season, and the first ten, they were horrible! This is of course where Unpleasable Fanbase really comes into play. If big-market teams like the Dodgers and Red Sox make the Series, people complain about being sick of them. If they don’t, people complain about how nobody wants to watch small-market teams. MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MINDS!!! And, of course, Tampa Bay may be small-market, but Philadelphia is probably a larger market than, say, Minneapolis or Atlanta were. Not to mention, the Braves and Twins hadn’t been very good the previous year. The Twins, though World Champions in 1987, had fallen to last place in the AL West in 1990. The Braves, meanwhile, had been bad for numerous years and had the worst record in the majors in 1990–much like the 2007 Rays. Or 2007 Devil Rays, as it were–I’ve finally gotten used to calling them “the Rays”. Please, don’t tell me this isn’t an amazing story.
Finally, there have been complaints about the officiating at large. Part of this stems from the decisions in last night’s game, which really weren’t the umpires’ to make, but also, there have been complaints about bad calls. This mars the Series how, exactly? Need I remind you that 1975 had its high-profile potentially Series-changing umpiring blunders as well–namely, an interference non-call on pinch-hitter Ed Armbrister in the tenth inning of Game 3, the difference between a runner on first and one out and runners on second and third with no outs. Seeing as how the sac fly that scored the game-ending run of that game was the second of the inning, it’s probably safe to say that the game would’ve at least reached the eleventh, even if the Reds may have still won it anyway. So, yeah, let the umps continue to do their thing. Let people complain. But the Rays will have shutdown David Price on the mound for the resumption of Game 5, and then they go back to Tampa for Game 6 with “Big Game James” Shields on the mound. Chances of it reaching seven games: Very favorable. Where this will rank among the lists of all-time greatest World Series ever? Depends on how those games turn out. It’ll definitely help if the Rays win it, and while Game 3’s walkoff was nice, 1975 had two extra-inning games, both walkoffs, and three other one-run games, including the clincher in which the Reds broke a 3-3 tie with a run in the top of the ninth, while 1991 saw three extra-inning games, all walkoff wins, and two other one-run games, one a ninth-inning walkoff, the other seeing the winning run score in the eighth. Game 1 was a one-run game, and Game 2 a two-run game, and Game 3 the walkoff. Game 5 is tied after 5.5. 1975 and 1991 each had an abberation, so Game 4 can be excused if need be. So if the Rays win close in each of the next three games–tightly pitched games, and it might help if neither team scores in this resumption until the eleventh or so–this worst-to-first story could dethrone 1991 (or 1975, to some, although the fact that these two are 1-2 in some order is almost unanimously accepted) as the Greatest World Series Ever.
Oh, and while the wind is still blowing, it appears that it’s not even raining anymore.
Well, so much for that. The Phillies won game 5 of the NLCS to advance to the World Series. Incidentally, I was wrong about no starter starting three games in a seven-game series during my lifetime. Curt Schilling started three games in the 2001 World Series, with one win and two no-decisions.
Joe Maddon is creating a big stir once again. He has switched around his rotation, bringing Scott Kazmir back on normal rest for Game 5 and holding James Shields out for a potential Game 6. Personally, I think this is a good move on the Rays’ part. Up 3-1, they only need one more win, and Shields, their best pitcher, hasn’t been great at Fenway this year, or any other time in his young career, for that matter. By sending Kazmir up against Daisuke Matsuzaka tonight, they may indeed be hurting their chances of winning Game 5, but they’d still have a 3-2 series lead and a very favorable Game 6 pitching matchup at home of Shields versus Josh Beckett. Incidentally, that extra off-day between Games 4 and 5 works both ways, and the Red Sox could conceivably bring Jon Lester back on normal rest for Game 6, allowing the ailing Beckett an extra day of rest before a potential Game 7 matchup with Matt Garza on the mound for the Rays. I think this is the Red Sox’ best chance of winning. I also don’t have enough faith in Terry Francona to believe that this is going to happen. Good luck against Philly, Rays.
The blowouts detailed in the entry for yesterday continued in yesterday’s games. The Yankees revenged Tuesday’s loss with a 10-0 victory over the Pirates, Joba Chamberlain picking up his first win as a starter, while Tampa Bay scored 10 runs in a single inning, which I can only explain by copying over ESPN.com’s play-by-play. What exactly is a “fielder’s choice to center”, anyway, and how does an error by the shortstop end up being described as “to center” when the pitcher was batting? (Was that where the ball ended up after the shortstop’s throw?)
|Tampa Bay – Top of 5th||SCORE|
|Ryan Tucker pitching for Florida||TAM||FLA|
|C Crawford homered to right.||5||0|
|B Upton walked.||5||0|
|E Hinske doubled to deep right, B Upton scored.||6||0|
|E De La Cruz relieved R Tucker.||6||0|
|E Longoria homered to left, E Hinske scored.||8||0|
|D Navarro walked.||8||0|
|G Gross walked, D Navarro to second.||8||0|
|B Zobrist singled to right, D Navarro to third, G Gross to second.||8||0|
|J Shields grounded into fielder’s choice to center, D Navarro and G Gross scored on error by shortstop H Ramirez, B Zobrist safe at third on error by shortstop H Ramirez.||10||0|
|A Iwamura doubled to deep left, B Zobrist scored, J Shields to third.||11||0|
|L Kensing relieved E De La Cruz.||11||0|
|C Crawford grounded out to second, J Shields scored, A Iwamura to third.||12||0|
|B Upton singled to left center, A Iwamura scored.||13||0|
|E Hinske fouled out to third.||13||0|
|B Upton to second on wild pitch by L Kensing.||13||0|
|E Longoria singled to shallow right center, B Upton scored.||14||0|
|D Navarro struck out swinging.||14||0|
The Rays committed four errors in the game, but only one was in an inning in which they allowed a run, and they won by a score of 15-3. As mentioned before, today’s Rays-Marlins game saw the visitors attempting to pick up their first franchise no-hitter, and they came darn close, a one-out walk in the fourth (erased on a double play) and a leadoff homer in the seventh the only two blemishes on an otherwise perfect game for Matt Garza; 6-1 the final. Three of Wednesday’s games were considerably more exciting down the stretch, however. The Nationals took a 4-2 lead in the sixth, only to see the Angels tie it up in the eighth, then won 5-4 in a walkoff in nine. Cincy and Toronto were tied after nine, the visiting Reds winning 6-5 in the tenth. And in Detroit, the visiting Cardinals quickly got off to a 2-0 lead, then re-took the lead with a run in the top of the third after Detroit scored twice in the second. Another run in the fourth would extend the lead to 4-2, and they scored again in the top of the fifth to tie it after the Tigers scored three in the bottom of the fourth. The Cards took a 6-5 lead in the seventh, only to see the Tigers tie that same inning, then went on top 7-6 in the eighth, again seeing it disappear in the bottom of the frame. The Tigers won 8-7 in a ninth-inning walkoff. The excitement would only continue in this afternoon’s game, where no team led for more than half an inning at a time. The Tigers started the scoring with a run in the bottom of the sixth, only to see the Cards respond in the top of the seventh. The Cards then took a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth, and the Tigers answered to send it into extras, where they would have a walk-off of the most literal sense in the tenth, Clete Thomas drawing the bases-loaded walk after Carlos Guillen had been intentionally walked with one out and Curtis Granderson on second and Miguel Cabrera had been intentionally walked with two outs and Granderson now at third on a fly out. Intentional walks with two outs can come back to haunt you–just ask the Chicago Cubs, who intentionally walked Nick Markakis with two outs in the third inning of a scoreless game this afternoon to load the bases for Kevin Millar. Millar drew a walk to drive in the first run (on a full-count pitch that looked to me to be right down the pipe), Aubrey Huff followed up with a two-run double, and Jay Payton followed that with a two-run single that would be all the offense the Orioles would need; they scored six more times in later innings to win 11-4.
Is it possible to get thrown out of a game that’s already over? It
didn’t quite happen, but all-time ejections leader Bobby Cox was out to
argue as trail runner Gregor Blanco was called out at home plate on
Yunel Escobar’s two-out RBI single in the tenth; had Blanco been safe,
the game would’ve been tied at four, the Phillies having scored twice
in the top of the inning. Shane Victorino drove in the first of the
Phils’ two tenth-inning runs with a triple, scored the other on a Chase
Utley double, and threw Blanco out to save the game. Also in the
Phillies’ area of MLB.com: future “Excuse me?” All-Star Devaris
Strange-Gordon, selected in the fourth round of the draft by the
Dodgers, son of tonight’s winning pitcher, Tom Gordon, much beloved in
Boston (as memorialized in a Stephen King book) for saving 46 games in
1998 and for spectacularly failing to record a single out in the eighth
inning of the fifth game of the 2004 ALCS.
Meanwhile, the Rockies climbed the ladder in the eighth inning, as four
consecutive batters combined for a cycle in ascending order: Ryan
Spilborghs with the single, Todd Helton with the double (driving in
Jonathan Herrera, who had singled ahead of Spilborghs to start the
inning), Garret Atkins tripled to chase Guillermo Mota without a single
out to his credit, and Brad Hawpe greeted Brian Shouse with a home run.
The Rockies run an “E-Mentoring” program, and because tonight’s
featured school, Columbine Elementary, picked Brad Hawpe to homer
tonight and he did, the students get tickets to a September game. Yes,
I was actually listening to the Rockies’ broadcast. I got hungry, okay?
I can choose any game I want to to listen to in the car, and this was more interesting than
Mets-Padres, Cubs-Dodgers, or A’s-Angels. Atkins’s triple tied the game
at 4-4, and Brian Fuentes recorded the save to give the Rox their first
three-game winning streak since mid-May–the first game back from
interleague weekend was the third win in their last one.
In residual Rays-Red Sox news, eight suspensions totalling thirty-eight
games were handed out, led by the three ejected players–7 games for
Crisp, 6 for Shields, and 5 for Gomes. Pitchers Jon Lester and Edwin
Jackson also got five apiece–Lester for hitting a batter after the
warnings had been issued, Jackson for his role in the brawl. Also
ejected for their roles in the brawl were Rays outfielder Carl Crawford
(4 games), Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura, and Red Sox first
baseman Sean Casey (3 games apiece). Ironically, the player initially
responsible for getting these teams riled up got no suspension at
all–Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett, who angered Coco Crisp by blocking
second base on a (successful) stolen base attempt in the sixth inning
of Wednesday’s game. In follow-up action, the Rays ended their
three-game losing streak by following in Cleveland’s footsteps and
pounding the sh*t out of the Rangers, tripling their hosts’ output over
each of the following three stretches: the first seven innings (3-1),
the eighth inning (3-1), and the ninth inning (6-2). The Red Sox didn’t
fare quite so well, as Seattle scored in five different innings en
route to an 8-0 victory; Felix Hernandez has yet to allow a run in two
career starts at Fenway Park, the other start being Daisuke’s first
home start last year, at which point Hernandez stole the show by
carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
Speaking of ejections, I’m now listening to the Cubs-Dodgers game, and
apparently Jeff Kent was ejected. Apparently he was arguing a called
third strike to end the fifth inning. LA leads 2-0 after 5.
And speaking of Cleveland, Paul Byrd recorded his 100th career win as the
Native Americans Indians beat the Detroit Tigers for the 1,000th time in franchise history (opposite 1,022 losses).
You knew it was only a matter of time now that they’re both contenders.
The Rays and Red Sox went at it today, rekindling an ongoing blood feud
from years past. In yesterday’s game, Coco Crisp felt that Tampa SS
Jason Bartlett blocked the bag with his leg on Crisp’s steal in the
sixth inning, and retaliated by sliding into second hard in the eighth,
hitting Akinori Iwamura in the process. In today’s game, Coco charged
the mound after being hit by a pitch from starter James Shields in the
second inning, getting in a few glancing blows before being restrained
by Rays catcher Dioner Navarro, who tackled him. In the ensuing
benches-clearing brawl, Rays DH Jonny Gomes then jumped on top of Crisp
and Navarro and threw a few punches at Crisp, which was sufficient to
get Gomes ejected in addition to Crisp and Shields. Gomes was suspended
at the start of the season as the result of a brawl in a spring training
game with the Yankees under similar circumstances. Four days after Rays
prospect Eliot Johnson barrelled into Yankees catching prospect
Francisco Cervelli at home plate, Shelley Duncan slid into second base
with spikes high after alluding to possible retaliation before the
game, spiking Iwamura in the thigh, and Gomes charged in from his place
in right field, ramming into Duncan. Now, there are two possibilities.
One is that Gomes is just volatile (you can make your own assumptions
as to why this might be). The other is that he’s unusually protective
of his second baseman…Iwamura was also hit by a pitch in the game, as
were Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia. Youkilis, who
entered the game after Jacoby Ellsbury left with a wrist injury in the
fourth inning, also got into a shouting match in the dugout with
teammate Manny Ramirez, the starting DH on this night; Manny also had
to leave the game in the seventh, appearing to have his knee buckle
during an at-bat in which he would eventually walk. Manny also hit his
503rd career home run in the game. Chris Carter made his major league
debut pinch-running for the ejected Crisp in the second, scoring on
Dustin Pedroia’s sac fly, and went 2 for 3.
Native Americans Indians and Rangers combined for
sixty-five runs over the first three games of their series in Texas.
Generally, we call that bad pitching, but these are two highly
offensive-minded teams and Texas is a hitter’s ballpark, so we’ll let
it slide. Wait…Cleveland’s not an offensive-minded club! And yet they
won two of the first three, a real surprise considering the fact that
they’re poorly suited to the slugfest, their best slugger is on the DL,
and road teams have just been generally bad this year. Go figure.