Saturday, October 27, 2018

World Series Madness

Ah, baseball. I stayed up last night to watch every minute of that stupid baseball game - it was - well, literally: the most epic world series game ever. Longest in time, longest in innings, most players - 18 innings, 7 plus hours, 46 of 50 players, 18 pitchers (plus Kershaw, pinch hitting - almost forgot that) - and bookended by two of the best pitching performances of the post-season - Buehler dominant to start; Eovaldi dominant out of the pen, his third straight game, going 6 plus, 97 pitches, and losing on a home run by Max Muncy who, shall we say, also had a game for the ages, in the form of a home run, a walk and a hustle extra base. The whole thing was a mind blower - but that 13th inning:

There are lots of extra inning games in baseball - the monsters, 16, 17, 18 innings don't come along often, but you get a couple every year, maybe one fo them really ridiculous. All that gets exaggerated in the post-season, where 10 or 11 innings can feel like you've been playing for a month - rather shocking to note that before this, 14 was the most innings anyone had played in the series (Sox and Dodgers, in their Robins guise, a complete game by the greatest baseball player of all time, completed in a bit over 2 hours.) This on was, in a lot of ways, just another long night where no one could hit and everyone swung for the fences on every pitch after the 12th or so - except for that 13th.

Sox up - Holt walks, goes to steal, the ball rattles around the batters box and the catcher upends Eduardo Nunez. Nunez writhes around - can he walk? it mattered, by then, because the Sox had emptied the bench - Vazquez was playing first; Pomeranz and Sale were all that remained on the bench. He shook it off - he took a swing - a dribbler toward the pitcher. He ran (so to speak) down the line and dove into first - ahead fo the throw, which went wide - Holt came in to score! 2-1 Sox - but Nunez was on the ground, more writhing... but he made it up - went to the dugout for celebration and managed to head butt poor Rick Porcello... Okay: back on the field. The sox got runners to second and third, two outs, Mookie up - walk, Xander up - failure! (A theme...) Bottom of the inning, Eovaldi (unhittable through the post season as a starter and reliever and for a couple innings already this night.) So: he walked Muncy to lead off the inning - rare, but just one baserunner, etc. Machado pops out. Then Bellinger up, did what most fo the hitters did in the second game they played last night - swung for the downs, late, popped it up, in this case on the third base side foul. Nunez was playing almost straight up the middle -0 ran all the way over, caught the ball and flipped into the stands, all Derek Jeter like.

And Muncy saw and scampered on to second.

What the sox did to score in the top of the inning felt like something out of an LA nightmare; but it wasn't just LA's nightmare. The baseball gods, or whatever malignant force rules these games, was not going to make it that easy. Puig hit a sharp grounder toward the middle, but easily gathered byu Ian Kinsler, multiple gold glove winner, who grabbed it went to turn, and the earth moved under his feet, he slipped - just a bit - and threw the ball past Vazquez, letting Muncy in to tie the game.

Games like this, with my team up 2-0, I can usually let go. it gets past midnight, past 1, and you say, all right, they're either going to lose it (which I was resigned to before JBJ went yard), or they win it, either way, there's a bunch more games to watch, and I can read about this one in the morning. And I was close, there in the 11th or 12th - but I hung around, mostly because of how good Eovaldi has been this year - and thought I was going to be rewarded. I was not. Instead - after that 13th, how can you not do them the service of watching them finish it? 5 more innings! or, really, 4 1/2 and a batter - but hell's bells. That inning changed it from being a tense, scary long post season nail biter into something surreal, something almost inconceivable. I didn't really know what I was watching after that, didn't know how it could end - because at that point, anything that happened was going to feel like Fate - but couldn't stop. Mind blowing.

So they do it again this evening. Drew Pomeranz might well get the start - pretty terrifying stuff. Maybe they push up Sale - maybe Eduardo Rodriguez gets a shot at Eovaldi/Price style heroism. Hell, maybe Price gets in there. Maybe they figure if the Babe can go 14, so can Eovaldi, and put him back out there for 7 more. I don't know. I have seen lots of second guessing of Cora for this game, much of it for the pitching - but he didn't really do anything strange with the pitching. He did what he has done all along - expect all his relievers to pitch every single day; NOT expect them to go more than an inning (other than Kimbrel, though only when he can save it) - which meant he was down to three pitchers by the 12th, including Eovaldi - who was, after all, supposed to start today. So he got in his start in the morning instead fo this evening. Even losing, Eovaldi's contribution was immense - he gave them every chance to win; he saved those last two pitchers for this evening. And the fact is - everyone else is still going to be around tonight. Eovaldi and Porcello are probably the only guys off limits tonight. In the end, both teams used up their pens - the Sox pen might be fresher, after all of that, thanks to Eovaldi. I have no problem with Cora's use of his pitchers, and Eovaldi - that's a guy making himself very very rich, this October, assuming he still has an arm attached when it's over.

I'm not so thrilled with Cora's lineup handling. He managed to maneuver himself into a spring training split squad lineup at the end, no one on the bench, two non-hitting catchers (who both got on base a couple times, so - that might not be the problem) in the lineup, Eduardo Nunez taking more abuse than a football player - tipped over int he batting box, diving into first, tumbling into the stands, tripping over the pitching mound - though through it all - getting the outs, getting the hit, just, somehow keeping the game going, and getting up and doing it again... Cora managed to leave Benentendi out of most of the game, then lose both him and JD Martinez, and both hitting first basemen, and - a lot of it, without really getting anything out of the change. Sure, the specifics matter, but as a manager, if you have the weapons he has, you have to have a decent team on the field in the end. You have to find a way to keep Benny or Martinez in that game - you have to. For all the talk about Mookie at second, they didn't do that - they put Vazquez at first, and Holt in left. That is not how you do it. Robert beat him up and down the field at this part of the game - the Dodgers had Turner, Machado, Muncy, Bellinger and Puig in there at the end - that's a lot of pop left in the lineup, and sooner or later one of them is going to connect.

It was a strange one. Down to this: the reason the Red Sox lost, in the end, is that none of those offensive powerhouses did a goddamned thing. Betts and Bogaerts did nothing. JD did nothing, Moreland did nothing, the pinch hitters did nothing. It was more telling because Leon, and Vazquez and Nunez and JBJ were on base - generated all the offense and gave them more chances besides. Strange game.

And tonight? the Sox may not have a starter, but the pen is relatively fresh; they got nothing out of their stars, but - how often do those guys disappear for two games in a row? It took 18 innings, the best start of the post-season, a magisterial bullpen performance, a couple fantastic defensive plays, their own best players taking the night off, a gold glover slipping on a relatively easy grounder, their OWN best defensive play of the night advancing the tying run to scoring position, to lose last night - so - I can take comfort. Sox is 6 still looks like a good bet.

No comments: