“OFF THE GLOVE OF AYBAR!” This World Baseball Classic has been crazy. Who’d have expected Australia to mercy-rule Mexico? Or Italy to knock out Canada? Or, the big one, Netherlands handing the Dominican Republic both of the losses to knock them out? Errors are what killed the Dominicans, as both the innings in which they allowed runs featured two errors. The 11th inning of the second one, though, that was rough. A blown pickoff putting the go-ahead run at third with one out is rough, but Marmol got the key strikeout, then walked the only batter the Netherlands had with any significant major league time, Randall “Sausage-Basher” Simon, intentionally. Then Willy Aybar let Yurendell de Caster’s line drive go off of his glove to allow Eugene Kingsdale to score, and the Netherlands are suddenly in round 2. Then again, the Dutch have already established themselves as authors of memorable WBC moments. (See: Martis, Shairon.) Now, with one upstart already into the second round, we’ll see if we can make it two. Australia and Cuba are tied at 0-0 in the top of the third, and if the Aussies can win either this game or the next game against Mexico, they’ll make it another Cinderella. (Speaking of Cinderellas, the new expanded Big East tournament started today, with all 16 teams instead of just the top 12, and we’ve already had two upsets by teams that wouldn’t have even made the field in previous years, including DePaul, 0-18 in the Big East ine the regular season, beating Cincinnati 67-57.)
Update: 1:12 AM here, and the Aussies are up 4-3…never mind, Cuba just took a 5-4 lead with 2 outs in the eighth inning on a two-run homer.
First off, yeah, yeah, I know, I jinxed it on that last entry. Sorry. Anyway, on to today’s entry.
The title of today’s entry comes from a stat given on
Saturday’s Yankees-Orioles broadcast. Alex Rodriguez had just been hit by a
Jeremy Guthrie pitch, and YES Network announcers Michael Kay and Ken Singleton
were talking about the correlation between home runs and getting hit by
pitches, noting that many of the top guys in one category were also tops in the
other and that home run leader Carlos Quentin also led the league in being hit
by pitches, 20 times already this season. Then they said that Garret Anderson
has only been hit 11 times in his entire career. Remind me again, how
many seasons has he been playing? Since the mid-’90s, at least. That’s less
than 1 HBP per season. Those are some mad skills. That is the work of a
baseball ninja. Also with mad skills: A.J. Pierzynski. The thief of games (see:
ALCS Game 2, 2005) stole another one yesterday, being granted third base after
a controversial interference call when caught in a rundown. I didn’t actually
see the game, but the Associated Press story running in my paper suggests that
it was actually Pierzynski, not Rays third baseman Willy Aybar, who initiated
contact. Pierzynski then scored the winning run as the Sox won it 6-5 in ten
innings. I wasn’t happy about the miscarriage of justice in the ’05 ALCS, but
this I’ll take, as the Red Sox gained another game in the AL East standings
with a win over Toronto, 6-5 in 11 innings. They now lead the wild card by a
full game over Minnesota, 5-3 losers to the Angels. Angels closer Francisco
Rodriguez picked up his 50th save of the year in the game. It’s only
the eleventh time a closer has racked up 50 saves in a season, and certainly
the only time one has reached the mark in August. The Angels are 79-50, which
prorates to about a 99-win season. Taking into consideration the percentage of
Angels victories in which K-Rod records a save, that puts him on pace for
around 63 saves, six up on the record. I actually heard one of the ESPN
broadcasters suggest that with all of the worthy Cy Young candidates in the
American League, K-Rod should not win that award, but should win the
MVP. Balderdash, I say. No pitcher has ever won the MVP but not the Cy
Young since before the latter existed.
Extra innings was somewhat of a theme yesterday, actually.
In addition to the two American League games I mentioned, four NL games went
beyond nine. The Mets…well, here’s a great case of selective journalism. The
story, which is not AP because of my location, is headlined “Familiar
snag catches Mets”, sub-headline “Bullpen loses lead, then game in 10th“.
The reality? The tying run was already on base when the starter was pulled…with
only one out…in the seventh inning. No runs scored thereafter until the tenth.
The Mets were at home, giving them three chances to answer before extras hit.
Sorry, but I don’t think we can pin the blame solely on the bullpen. This has
to be spread around. In Milwaukee, CC Sabathia left uncharacteristically early,
being removed for a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning. The move paid off
initially, as pinch-hitter Gabe Kapler had an RBI single and the Brewers turned
a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 advantage, setting Sabathia up for a chance at
improving to 9-0 in the National League…but it wasn’t meant to be, as David
Riske allowed a run in the seventh for the blown save. The Brewers scored again
in the eighth, only to face another blown save at the hands of Salomon Torres,
who pitched the ninth and tenth. Guillermo Mota ended up with the win as the
Brewers finally took it in twelve, J.J. Hardy catering to the all-too-familiar
trope that the player being honored with a bobblehead day will end up the hero,
4-3 the final in twelve. Also 4-3 in twelve, the Rockies over the Reds, the
Rockies scoring in the seventh and ninth in order to force extras. Wait, why
did the Reds’ bullpen have to take over in the fourth? Is something wrong with
Johnny Cueto? Finally, the late game saw the Phillies end it with a three-run
homer in the eleventh, 5-2 the final.
Addendum: A faux pas, didn’t even notice, but my local paper cut the bottom off the NL West standings, the Padres were completely missing. Speaking of completely missing, it’s almost time to start breaking out the green numbers of elimination. Off-days keep it from hitting tonight, because the games remaining doesn’t raise the effective wild card leader total beyond the actual leader total of 76, but Wednesday morning, I could be using a different color for Washington in the wild card race section of my database, the lime green that indicates the date of a team’s elimination from contention. Hold on… Actually, the first green number could go up tomorrow morning, on the AL side of the table. The Angels are at home against Oakland, still with the worst record since the All-Star Break, while the Mariners host highly contending Minnesota. A win for the Halos and a loss for the M’s mathematically eliminates the latter from division contention. Yes, most teams are eliminated long before they’re officially eliminated, but you can never be too careful. The Astros tried to teach us that lesson in 2006 and fell just short. The Rockies took a shot at it last year and succeeded. 13 days left in the season, they sat 6 back in their own division, in fourth place, five back in the wild card race, tied for fourth with a team that only trailed by half a game in their division and just half a game better than the sixth-place team. And they won, and they won, and they won, and a few other teams lost in bizarre fashion, and so it really never is over until it’s over.