Thursday, April 30, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

It was fitting that game seven of the 1968 Fall Classic featured Bob Gibson and Mickey Lolich. Both their ERAs were 1.67 at the conclusion of that year's World Series. The Detroit Tigers won this memorable Fall Classic, four games to three over St. Louis, after being behind three to one.

Gibson seemed stronger than Lolich. He beat Denny McLain 4-0 in game one in St. Louis. And did he ever rack up the K's. Seventeen to be exact. The Tigers were held to just five hits. St. Louis, though, only had six themselves, however. Gibson was just so dominating, you had to feel he'd be that way for the rest of the World Series.

St. Louis got another six in the second game, but it was far too few as Lolich went the distance in an 8-1 win. Lolich also went 2-4 at the plate with  a home run and two RBIs.

The Cardinals put down the accelerator in games three and four in Detroit. The took a home run-happy game three, 7-3. Gibson was back in game four, and made it look easy as he beat McLain 10-1 and hit a home run of his own. Lou Brock got it all going with a home run to start the game on McLain's second pitch, and the Tigers were never in it. Things were looking grim for Detroit.

But Lolich did it all in game five. Down 3-0, he held Detroit in it. In the bottom of the seventh with Detroit still down 3-2, he singled with one out to start a four-run rally. From there, he held his 5-3 lead into the ninth, where he slammed the door on the Cards, who got the first two men on.

McLain won game six back at St. Louis, 13-1, and that squared this Fall Classic at three games each. Detroit scored ten runs in the top of the second, four of them on a Jim Northrup grand slam.

That set up Lolich and Gibson in game seven. Each were 2-0, but Gibson's ERA was 0.50 and Lolich's 2.00.

Gibson started out stronger. Pitching for the home side, it was 1-2-3 in the first, second and third. Detroit got a man on in the fourth, but Hoot got the other three men out. Lolich settled down after the Cards put two runners on in the bottom of the first. Gibson had given up one hit through seven.

Bob got Mickey Stanley to strikeout to start the top of the seventh. Al Kaline grounded out. Gibson seemed safe. But then the roof caved in. Norm Cash and Willie Horton singled. When Jim Northrup followed with a drive to centre, Curt Flood misjudged it and it sailed right over him for a triple. 2-0, Detroit. When Bill Freehan followed that with a double, it was 3-0.

Mike Shannon reached on an error in the bottom of the frame, but was stranded. Brock walked in the bottom of the eighth after Gibson set down Detroit 1-2-3 again, but it led nowhere. But with one out in the top of the ninth, Horton singled for his second hit of the game. Had Willie not been Bob's seventeenth K of game one? What a second go-around makes. Jim Northrup then got his second hit of the afternoon, a single. Freehan was retired on a foul to first. But Don Wert singled and Horton scored his second of the game. 4-0, Detroit. Three outs to go.

Lolich got Flood to line out. Orlando Cepeda fouled out to catcher Bill Freehan. Shannon took Lolich out of the park to left to make it a 4-1 game. But when Tim McCarver popped out to Freehan like Cepeda did, the 1968 Fall Classic belonged to Detroit.

Gibson and Lolich never got another crack at the World Series. Gibson made it to the Hall Of Fame, Lolich was not dominating enough despite over 200 wins to make it. But no matter. They were the two best pitchers in the World Series that year. And they each pitched amazing ball in all three of their starts.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Four Departing Goalies In The Big East Were Superb!

So the first round of the 2015 NHL playoffs are over. Four teams are moving on in the East, and four more in the west. That makes eight for you counting. My apologizes to those following the Ducks, Jets, Flames, et all, I was more in tuned with Detroit / Tampa Bay, Montreal / Ottawa, New York / Pittsburgh, New York Islanders (From this point on, they'll be playing in Brooklyn) / Washington Capitals. The storylines seemed to offer plenty of intrigue. And while Ottawa, Pittsburgh, the Islanders and Detroit ended up exiting stage left, their goaltenders looked pretty strong.

The focus in Ottawa was, of course, on Andrew Hammond. Just so that you know, his GAA and S% was actually lower then Carey Price in the regular season. But in order to qualify, you must play 25 games. Hammond played 24. So it was The MVP-Caliber Goalie vs. The Hotshot Rookie (But he doesn't qualify for being a rookie). Craig Anderson, always clutch in the playoffs, was not even supposed to be a factor.

But Ottawa went out and lost the first two games, and by just a single goal. With that, Hammond had more losses in the postseason then the regular season. Enough to prove that his bubble had burst perhaps? Maybe. Game three was a must win for Ottawa, and they turned to Anderson, who only played four games since January 21st. An injury and the emergence of Hammond seemed to spell the end for his time in The Nation's Capital. And the Habs won game three, 2-1 in overtime. Montreal was one win away from advancing. But before I started to feel sorry for Anderson, I just had to look at the stats: 49 SOG, 47 SV! Rust? None!

A performance for the ages. Anderson then pitched a shutout in game four as the series went back to Montreal for it's conclusion. But wait! Anderson had another ace up his sleeve. A dazzling 45-save performance sent it back to Ottawa for game six. It was hard not to be amazed by this, but Anderson has a habit of doing this in the postseason. It took a 43-save performance by Carey Price to beat Anderson and Ottawa in game six, but Montreal only scored once on Craig.

The Sens season was over. Obviously, management has some thinking to do about Hammond and Anderson. Robin Lehner is also there. My money is on Anderson staying. Here's something to consider: In the 2015 postseason, he posted a 0.97 GAA and .972 S%!

Career wise, it's been much of the same, as Anderson has a .933 S% and 2.35 GAA. The guy is just born to play in the postseason. No way is Ottawa parting ways with that kind of postseason performance savy!

The Rangers needed just five games to take out Sid and co. in the first round. The Pens had injuries, of course. And it was enough to turn this potentially-great seven games, into a short, five-game affair. But this one had some goaltending!

Marc Andre Fleury. It's just human, isn't it, to blame him? I mean Sidney Crosby (2 goals and 4 points) and Malkin (0 points) aren't going to get blamed, are they? No way, no how. Now, I didn't think Crosby was too bad in this playoffs. I've seen him play better. But I've also seen him play worse (Think 2014). But back to Fleury. What stat proves all his detractors right? His poor S%, right? Never mind that this year he topped everyone, Price included, in shutouts with 10. Never mind he posted a .933 S% in the 2008 postseason, right? But I know, that save percentage never really been that good. And it needs to be in the postseason. Yet, his GAA is usually pretty good in the playoffs, right? He's had years of 1.97, 2.52, plus 2.40 in 2014 and  2.12 in these playoffs. It just seems like poor Marc never gets the goal support he needs, eh? Where are Sid and Evgeni when you need them? Their offence, as well as their teammates, just seemed to hit a wall by the name of Henrik Lundqvist the last two postseasons.

True enough. The Pens lost all four games, 2-1. They won game two. Fleury gave up three goals, but one was in the waning seconds and Pittsburgh was up 4-2. Crosby got two goals. But Pittsburgh proceeded to lose three straight games, two of which were in OT (Including the deciding game five). So, actually, Fleury allowed a grand total of one goal through sixty minutes of hockey in two of the five games, while posting a S% of .927 throughout that and OT. Those kind of numbers, and his S% of .920 in the regular season, might be a sign of Fleury (All of 30 years and with over 300 wins to his name already) maturing into one of the games' better goalies. Will he ever be elite? We will have to wait and see.

One of Fleury's postseason losses was back in 2010. You might recall it was to Montreal, with Jaroslav Halak in goal. They also topped Washington that year, the round before. Halak almost seemed like a forgotten playoff goalie. The kind that steal the show, as well as a few games. Traded to St. Louis, he had some fine years, but didn't get much playoff action. Which is odd considering that's what St. Louis got him for. When he played in the regular season, he was good. Given a chance to play in the playoffs in 2012, he posted a 1.73 GAA and .973 S% in two games. But that's just that, two games. Was what he did in 2010 all a fluke? Would he ever get a chance to prove himself again? He was there, in 2014/15 with Jonathan Tavares and company. What did he do?

The Islanders, as mentioned before, were playing out their last season in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and Halak was there for the ride. All he did was set a franchise record for wins in a single season with 38 in only 59 games. I guess the big problem was his low S%, just .917. Ah, so just like Fleury, he shouldn't even been in-between the pipes in the playoffs, right? Even his GAA (2.43) seemed to prove it was all Tavares and teammates doing the job for him in those 38 wins. What would another crack at Ovie mean? Discomfort, Down-to-earth? Distaster?

What it meant was a seven-game defeat. But, Halak kept 'em in it. He allowed four goals in game two, and another five in game five, but those were Jaro's only bad games. In games one and three, he stopped 24 of 25 shots for the win. In game six, a must win with the Islanders down 3-2, Jaroslav was even better, stopping 38 of 39 Washington shots in huge win. And, in the finale, Halak allowed just two goals while New York could only pot one. The future looks bright for Halak. He also has 182 regular season wins to his name already (Coincidentally, so does Anderson) and 30 playoff games with a .924 S% under his belt. That number is actually better, if you throw away his .889 mark from back in 2008 with the Habs. Halak has been money in the playoffs ever since, and I think you can count on that every postseason from here on in.

Petr Mrazek for Detroit, is the kid among these men. He's just 23 and played in his first game seven about an hour or so ago. It was a tough one, as he took a 2-0 loss to Ben Bishop and the Lightning. For a while, this kid was steering Detroit to an upset. Mzarek was the Andrew Hammond of the playoffs. But in the regular season, he appeared in just five more games then Hammond (29) and won 16 of them. But his .918 S% did not bode well for the postseason. But Detroit, can make any goalie look good, right?

But Mrazek was good, and made Detroit look that way in game one. And he made Tampa Bay look human. He stopped 44 of 46 shots on goal right there in Tampa as Detroit stole game one. In game three, he recorded his first playoff shutout. With things all even at two games for game five (Again in Tampa), Petr stepped up again. Another shutout. And now just one win away!

Detroit, alas, never got it. Mzarek was ordinary in game six (four goals on twenty-seven shots) and not quite up for the task in game seven. He did, however, stop 15 of 16 SOG, only to lose 2-0 (Tampa got an ENG to seal the deal) in the final game.

A tough way to lose, but the kid showed so much poise. Two shutouts in his first playoff series. Taking Tampa to game seven? I say we give Petr the benefit of the doubt. Detroit has a bright future with this kid.

The playoffs are a tough time for all. Scores shrink. Whistles are put away by the men in black and white. Pressure builds. Emotions boil over. Sanity is tested. The goalies seem to suffer the most, because that next goal might be the fatal one. A tired, old veteran who was written off, an under-appreciated tender lost in the mix of superstars, a forgotten playoff hero of some years past. And a promising rookie. Each was in a tough situation with the postseason spotlight shining right on them. And while their teams may have come up a goal or two short too many times, these masked marvels came through when the playoff pressure was there.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Billy Martin was the first player to collect twelve hits in less than seven games. That had been the standard for "Most hits in one World Series".

It was the 1953 October Classic between New York and Brooklyn. Another Yankees / Dodgers Fall Classic battle. Martin could not have picked a better team to do it against.

Game one was in Yankees Stadium, and Martin's Yankees had things well under control. They put a "4" on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first. The Dodgers charged back and eventually tied it in the top of the seventh, but you had a feeling the hometown team was gonna pull it off. Allie Reynolds and Johnny Sain (Who actually blew a save), had pitched better then in this game, but were stopping the Dodgers from taking the lead. Joe Collins put the mighty Bronx Bombers up for good with a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. Three more runs the next innings ended the suspense. Martin was amazing: 3 hits, 3 RBIs!

In game two, New York won again, but it was more their pitching then their hitting. New York, as a team, collected just five hits, but used them to produce four runs to Brooklyn's (who had nine hits) two. Martin collected two hits, one of them a home run. His pal, Mickey Mantle, drove home two runs with a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth. That broke a 2-2 tie. Is their any wonder why manager Casey Stengel loved Martin and Mantle so much, along with pitcher Whitey Ford. Games like this, eh?

But in game three at Ebbets Field, the Dodgers won 3-2. Mantle was held hitless and Martin got just one hit. Brooklyn was right back in it, down two games to one. Game four was not much better as the Dodgers went out and ended Whitey Ford's day after just one inning. The great lefty gave up three runs. Martin collected two hits and an RBI, Mantle a hit and an RBI. Far too little, as Brooklyn had this thing all the way, 7-3. The 1953 Fall Classic was all knotted at two games apiece. Game five, was, needless to say, a crucial one.

And the Yankees went out and won a slugfest, 11-7. Martin had two hits, bringing his total to ten. It was a game of home runs, as the team's combined for six. But New York hit four of them, Martin getting one himself. The biggest was Mantle's, however. It was a grand slam. New York was heading home up three to two, and needed just one of the two at home to win this thing.

Martin drove in Hank Bauer as his ground ball resulted in an error. But because there was only one out, and the run would have scored anyways, Billy had an RBI. Later, he collected a single that did nothing. Brooklyn, however, came back to tie this thing. The teams headed into the bottom of the ninth, tied at three.

Hank Bauer drew a walk off Clem Labine. Yogi Berra was out on a liner. Mantle singled. Billy Martin batted next. He singled back through the box, Bauer came around to score. With the win, the Yankees had their fifth straight World Series.

Billy Martin wasn't in the class of guys like Mantle and Ford, although they were good buddies. Yeah, they had a lot of fun, which included a beer or two. But when the Fall Classic came around, Martin always seemed to shine on the big stage. Years later, Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar would collect six hits in the 1993 World Series, which also was six games. So Martin would hold this record for forty years. Marquis Grissom would also turn the trick in 1996. I'm not sure if Martin, who died in 1989 in a car accident, would mind sharing the record or spotlight with other players, just as long as they were on his team and the team won. The Brooklyn / New York Fall Classics of the 1940s and 50s seemed to all be classics, even if they were only six or five games. Martin's name in the record book, along with his walk-off single in 1953, made that Fall Classic, another one for the ages!


Monday, April 27, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Bob Feller lost both his starts in the 1948 Fall Classic. His Cleveland Indians won in six over the Boston Braves, but it seems had to imagine that Rapid Robert would perform the worst among the Indians' pitching!

Feller was in a jewel of a pitcher's duel in game in game one. So well pitched was the tilt, that it took only 102 minutes to play it. It was Feller vs. Johhny Sain. Sain was no pushover. No, he wasn't quite Warren Spahn. But he lead the National League in wins in 1948 with 24.

Feller would finish with a two-hitter - and a loss! Sain allowed four hits himself, but scattered them nicely enough. Bob, in fact, retired the first eleven batters, yet strangly wasn't getting the K's. Through four he would have only two. Through eight innings, he was held to just two strikeouts: Earl Torgeson in the bottom of the first and Bill Salkeld in the bottom of the second!

When Torgeson batted next in the bottom of the fourth, the ball was again not put into play. Feller walked him. Earl stole second but was stranded! Feller's control would not be an issue. He walked only three batters, and one of them was Eddie Stanky intentionally. The next inning saw Boston collect their first hit, but Bob made sure the Braves were denied a run.

But Salkeld singled to start the bottom of the eighth in this scoreless deadlock. Phil Masi came in to pinch run. A bunt moved Phil to second. Stanky batted, and here's where Bob walked him. There must be something with the first name, "Eddie" and the ability to draw walks in this era. For soon, Eddie Yost and Eddie Mathews would do their share of leading their respective leagues in that department.

But for 1948, it was Eddie Stanky not leading the league in walks. It was actually Bob Elliott, with 131. And he was on Boston. Feller retired him all three times. But as Johnny Sain himself batted, Feller tried to pick Masi off second. It appeared to get him, but Phil was called safe. But from the looks of pictures I've seen in numerous books, I'm not alone in thinking this was a blown call. Would it impact the final outcome? Sain lined out, two away. But Tommy Holmes singled to score the game's only run. Ken Keltner, whose two famous plays at third stopped Joe DiMaggio's streak at third (On one of them, he got The Yankee Clipper by an eyelash at first), reached first on an error in the ninth, but Sain retired the other three batters that came to the dish. Boston had won this stunner, 1-0! Could Feller come back and win his next start?

Cleveland went ahead and won the next three games, so Feller was there in game five at home to put the nail in the Braves' coffin. It did not turn out that way.

Feller was tagged for three runs in the top of the first, while Cleveland could only come back with a single tally in the bottom of the frame. Another run in the top of the third seemed to spell the end. Feller got settled down and held Boston scoreless in the fourth and fifth, meanwhile Cleveland tied it with four in the bottom of the fourth.

But a run by Boston in the top of the sixth put Boston up for good. Then the routed Feller and two more relief pitchers by scoring six times in the top of the next inning. Boston won, 11-5 to hand Feller another Fall Classic loss. It turned out to be Bob's last World Series appearance. Cleveland won game six back in Boston to clinch it.

The Indians made it back in 1954, only to be swept by the New York Giants. I well remember my father not being able to remember if Feller was there, but he sure was. 13-3. That paled in comparison to Early Wynn, Bob Lemon and Mike Garcia. Art Houtteman went 15-7. I guess that explains why Bob did not make it to the mound in '54.

We always love it to see our favourites conquer the opposition in the postseason. After all, they do it time and time again over the course of 154 (now 162) games. But the World Series is a different story. Two seasons earlier, Ted Williams and Stan Musial failed to produce in what turned out to be their final World Series. Ty Cobb failed in his first and third try their (Never winning it all, for that matter!). The Fall Classic is just a whole new ball game for even the all-time greats!


Sunday, April 26, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

By winning game three of the 1938 Fall Classic, Yankee Lefty Gomez had six wins without a loss in the postseason. In terms of World Series, Gomez has the highest winning percentage of any pitcher (6-0). The New York Yankees had another Mr. October long before Reggie Jackson!

Gomez had previously beaten the Chicago Cubs once in the 1932 Fall Classic. He added two wins in 1936 against the New York Giants, and another two in 1937 against them.

So, here he was in game two of the '38 October Classic. The Chicago Cubs provided the opposition, and the Yankees were looking for their first sweep since Grove and co. needed only four games to beat Chicago back in '32. The downside, of course, was that Grove might not get another start to expand on his October heroics.

The Cubs sent Dizzy Dean to the hill to try and finally stop the Yankees. It would prove to be 'Ol Diz's last hurrah. But what a hurrah it was! Dizzy, having long since lost his stuff in a freak injury in the 1937 All-Star Game, went out and matched Lefty out-for-out!

Diz was doing his share of Yankee dissing in this game. He was 7-1 in 1938, as he only pitched sporadically. But he also posted and ERA of 1.81. And let's not forget about his swagger, character, not to mention his heroics in the 1934 Fall Classic. His brother Paul and Dizzy went out and won two games each that World Series.

The Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the top of the first in this game played at Wrigley Field. In the bottom of the frame, Stan Hack (Who many feel belongs in the Hall Of Fame), got it going with a single. He eventually scored on a sac fly.

New York got a double from Joe Gordon that scored two Hall Of Famers. Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio trotted on home to make it 2-1, Yankees on the two-bagger. Gomez himself ended the inning with a fly ball.

Stan Hack, was again the spark the Cubs needed in the bottom of the third. His single started things. When Babe Herman followed suite, New York was in trouble. A sac bunt and a double by Joe Marty the centrefielder, and Chicago was back on top, 3-2.

Dean, if you can believe it, was in god mode from the top of the third through the top of the seventh. The mighty Bronx Bombers did got get a man to first safely in those innings. Gomez, meanwhile, did give up a single in the bottom of the fourth. It was quickly erased via a double play. Marty singled in the bottom of the fifth, but was cut down on an attempted steal. An error put a runner on first the next inning, but that's all Chicago got. Dean led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, continuing his heroics. But with two down, Lefty picked Dizzy off first. And, in the top of the eighth, the wheels came off Dean's chariot!

Canadian George Selkirk singled to break up Dean's spell of retiring sixteen batters in a row. Dean got the next batter to force Selkirk, and was within five outs of leveling the 1938 Fall Classic. But Lefty Gomez, the next scheduled batter, was pinch hit for. Dean was equal to the task, and got Myril Hoag to hit into a force. With that, Dizzy had retired eighteen of nineteen batters. Four more outs to go. But Dizzy would retire only one of the next four batters he faced.

Frank Crosetti took Dean out of the park to make it 4-3, Yankees. Dizzy fanned the next batter, Red Rolfe, but now the Cubbies had a uphill climb. They had to face the Mariano Rivera of the time. Closer, Johnny Murphy. Murp got 'em 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eight.

Dean was greeted in the ninth by way of a single by Tommy Henrich. Old Reliable had come through again. The next batter was The Yankee Clipper himself. Joe DiMaggio smacked a home run to make it 6-3. Incredibly, the Cubs got the tying run to the plate after the first two men went down in the bottom of the frame. But Murphy picked up the save by retiring Hack on liner to short.

Gomez had the win, the Yankees eventually completed the sweep. Gomez did not make it back to the hill in the 1938 Fall Classic. In his last-ever World Series start in 1939, he lasted just one inning. It was his seventh start, and it ended with a no decision.

Gomez eventually went to the Hall Of Fame, despite not winning 200 games (189). Amazingly enough, his mound opponent in his sixth World Series win, also went to the Hall despite just 150 wins. Each was heroic in October, so it seems fitting that they ended up facing each other in this all-so-important game. Gomez had won game two of the 1932 World Series vs. Chicago, but no one remembers that. Babe Ruth's called shot defied that Fall Classic. In any event, Gomez had come full circle. Red Ruffling, Allie Reynolds, Bob Gibson and Whitey Ford all went on to win more games then Lefty, but each of them lost at least two games. So it's Gomez, who's nickname was Goofy, that proved to be Mr. Pitcher in the Fall Classic.

Friday, April 24, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

The 1925 Fall Classic had the only instance in postseason history of a batter hitting out of turn! The Washington Senators, the beneficence of this missed call, still lost the World Series, but this was the first of two plays in this game that must have seemed like the umpires were helping the Senators win. How they could miss the first call is understandable, as it ended up being the right declaration. The second mistake, how can you miss?

Game three of the 1925 Fall Classic saw the Senators and Pittsburgh Pirates tied with one win apiece. Pittsburgh took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh, with the hometown Nats coming to the dish to try and tie it up. It was a big moment in a great World Series. But somehow, something happened that shouldn't have.

Nemo Leibold pinch hit for pitcher Alex Ferguson to lead off the inning. Washington needed to get the first batter on. Leibold, a member of the ill-fated 1919 Chicago White Sox, did just that and walked. Earl McNeely came in to run. Nothing wrong so far.

Sam Rice flew out. Bucky Harris singled, and so did Goose Goslin. Bases loaded. A sac fly scored McNeely and another single scored Harris. 3-2, Washington after seven. Still no problem. But after the third out of this inning, something happened to begin the top of the eighth.

Firpo Marberry came into pitch, and double-switched with Joe Harris in right. So he was now batting fifth, McNeely, though, went into to play centre, switching with Sam Rice who went to the vacant right field. McNeely was, of course, hitting in the ninth spot. The spot the pitcher normally bats in.

Again, there was no problem as Marberry did the job in the top of the eighth. Marberry got 'em 1-2-3 that inning, fanning the first two batters he faced.

Roger Peckinpaugh grounded out to start the bottom of the eighth for the Senators. Muddy Ruel singled to left. Here's where McNeely bats right? Wrong. The Senators sent up Marberry, even though he was hitting fifth. He got the bunt down and moved Muddy to second, but he should have been out automatically for batting out of turn. Sam Rice ended the inning by grounding out.

The Pirates almost took the lead in the top of the ninth, as they loaded 'em up with only two outs. But a pop up and a  fly ball ended that. Washington won, 3-2 and were up two games to one.

The Senators also got a great catch by Sam Rice in centre in the top of the sixth, but years later he confirmed the play was legit. Some witnesses weren't sure he'd held on to the ball. Had he not, the Pirates would have scored two runs that inning, not one, as the ruling would have been a home run.

The World Series causes great excitement. Even among players, owners and even umpires. The men who dish out the decisions are also human like you and me. They make mistakes. And yes, it is unfortunate in the heat of the moment when it happens. Think of that pickoff play in game one of '48. Or that tag by Kelly Gruber in game three of '92 that would have completed the triple play. Ask Red Sox fans about how game three of '75 ended. You get the idea. Sometimes the fate of your team rests in the hands of umpires. They are allowed to be wrong once out of a hundred times, right? Just as long as they don't do it in October, eh?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

The 1915 Boston Red Sox didn't have a modern day bullpen. And for good reason: The didn't need one!

They had a stacked pitching staff. So good, that only three pitchers made it to the hill in the '15 World Series. Two of their fine starters, failed to make it. Oh, did I mention who one of the unfortunate ones was? That would be their lefty pitcher with an 18-8 record. Babe Ruth.

Smokey Joe Wood, 15-7 and a league-leading 1.49 ERA, was also out of the frame in the World Series. That would probably have been due to him grabbing his shoulder in a 3-1 loss to Walter Johnson on October 2nd, 1915. Babe Ruth had to come in and get the last six outs. It did not help. Wood did, however, look sharp in his final appearance of the season, a three-inning scoreless appearance (And three strikeouts) four days later. It was the first game of a doubleheader Ruth, taking a cue for the sake of his value to the team with his next start, hurled a five-hitter later that day for his eighteenth win.

So, how come these two fine hurlers were not there in October. You know, both of them were good hitters, too. But so was another pitcher named Carl Mays, who finished with over 200 wins and a .268 batting average. Mays was not a part of the rotation, and fit into more of the modern day, long man. He started just six games for the Boston Red Sox in 1915, went 6-5 with seven saves and an ERA of 2,60. Mays, though, is best remembered for beaming Cleveland's Ray Chapman in the 1920 season. Chapman later died from his head injuries. Mays was also going to take this all in, from the sidelines. Now, before you say, "Wow, Ruth didn't even make it to the postseason in 1915?" let me explain what went down that Fall Classic almost a century ago.

Ernie Shore. You know him. The guy that relieved Ruth in that game two years later, after Ruth was ejected for arguing balls and strikes after walking the leadoff man. The runner was gunned down before Shore could retired a man. Shore retired the next twenty six men in succession. Ruht pitched a combined no-hitter. Well, sort of.

But Shore didn't need Babe Ruth in game one of the World Series that year against Philadelphia. He stymied the poor home team on a fine five-hitter. Boston scored only one run, however. Philly scored three to win this one. But who did Shore lose this game to? Why Grover Cleveland Alexander! The Red Sox had a man on with one out in the top of the ninth, and Shore left for a pinch hitter. It was Babe Ruth. But The Babe could only ground out. This was his only postseason appearance of 1915. But at least he made it!

But the Boston Red Sox were no ordinary team in 1915. Their best player was Tris Speaker, the centrefielder. The Red Sox pitching was their best asset. Shore was 19-8, as was Rube Foster (Not to be confused with the Negro League legend of the same name). Shore led the team in ERA with a low tally of 1.64. Dutch Leonard, like Wood, won 15 games. This was one fab five to deal with. Was it a small consolation that the Phillies would only have to face three of them?

Foster fired a three-hitter, giving up just one run, in a game two Red Sox win. That squared things as they headed to Boston.

Dutch Leonard was another Boston pitching star, too. While he posted an ERA of 2.36 that season, he'd set an all-time record of 0.96 the year before. Like Mays, he's famous for something negative. In 1925, he accused Ty Cobb and Speaker of fixing a game late in the 1919 season. Whether or not he was telling the truth, it was another stain on the game that season, and nearly led to both Hall Of Famers (Something Leonard was certainly not) being banished for life.

But Leonard was 52-24 with a 1.90 ERA from 1914 to 1916, so he was at a Hall-Of-Fame level at the time of this World Series. As was Smokey Joe Wood. The difference was, Leonard went out and pitched the second straight three-hitter for Boston in game three. Alexander finished with a fine six-hitter of his own, but the Red Sox took it, 2-1.

Shore won game four by that same score, but Philly got seven hits off him. When Foster got his second victory (5-4) in game five at The Baker Bowl, Boston had won their second Fall Classic.

For Wood, it was his second World Series win. Ruth was a winner for the first of what turned out to be many times. Seven to be exact. Wood even made it back with Cleveland in 1920, for his third. His pitching career, along with his stay in Boston, ended with his arm beyond repair after 1915. But for me, when I think of the Red Sox of this era, I think of Ruth. Wood, like him also is interesting because of his Ruth-like switch from pitcher to positioned player. Shore, is remembered for the "perfect game" he threw, but in 1991 it was relegated to just a no-hitter, the only by a relief pitcher. But because Babe Ruth was involved, it's got a place in every baseball historians memory banks.

However, it is wrong to exclude Foster, Leonard, and Shore (sans his 1917 gem) as mere mortals compared to Ruth, Wood and Carl Mays on the 1915 Red Sox. Ruth, in fact, had the highest ERA (It was a very new stat, but no doubt considered) of any of the Boston starters. Without The Big Three, Ruth and Wood aren't on the winning team anyways. It just amazes me, that in 1954, the great Bob Feller never made it to the mound in the Fall Classic. Ruth made a cameo in 1915, Wood nothing. The Red Sox were just that good on the mound that year, plain and simple!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Your Guide To The Magnificent Seven Of The 'Pen!

So, you watch Kershaw, Bumgarner, Kluber, Scherzer, Price, and Wainwright leave the game, and your interest leaves with them. Someone hops in from the bullpen, and you start questioning the skipper's logic. Why is this guy on the mound? Here's who, and he's what his role is!

Long Reliever

He's also called, the long man. The long reliever usually comes into the game for a few reasons. The starter has been knocked out, or his arm is tiring early. An injury. An ejection. Usually, it's very early in the game. Before the fifth inning. Or the game has gone into extras, say the twelve or thirteenth inning, you've used up everyone else. Or, you want to save the bullpen for the next game for some reason. In that case, the long reliever comes in. These pitchers are actually good enough to be a starter. In fact, their pitch selection and stamina might be only a little behind or ahead of the fifth starter. The point is, you need someone to go, a long way. So you bring him the long man. He would not be used in the closer or setup spot, unless they (and several other pitchers) were spent from their previous outings. These are the relievers that usually get the most wins, since they'll might very well earn some spot stars. Should a starter be in a slump, get traded, or is demoted, the long man might be inserted into the rotation for a few weeks. And likewise, the fifth starter becomes the long reliever. In the American League, there is no problem with them going four or five innings the odd time. But in the National League, they usually only pitch three innings at the most, for they are pinch hit for. They may, however, bat the odd time. Again, this would probably only be if there were few / no relief pitchers left. Rarely, if ever, does he ever finish the game. If the long man is used enough, he might end up with more innings pitched then the closer or setup man, despite less appearances. Generally, the long reliever is right-handed. If he's a lefty, then the middle reliever is right-handed. Mark Eichhorn spent a great deal of his career as a long reliever. He also had stints as the righty specialist and setup man in his career. More on those, later.

Middle Reliever

Also called, middle man. He generally enters the game around the middle of the game. Hence, the name. Or, he can be used in or seventh inning. Again, if it's a National League game, odds are he exits for a pinch hitter. The manager, seeing that the pitcher's spot in due up in two innings (One of those games where no one is getting on base) would bring him in in that instance. Again, like the long reliever, he has a pretty good pitch selection. But it would not be as good as the fifth starter or long man. His stamina would also be less then that of a long man or fifth starter. If needs be, this could also be the pitcher who pitches the seventh or eighth inning, assuming the setup man is unavailable. And if the closer and setup man are unavailable, he might finish the game. However, it's very rare. Middle man, like long man, are often low in the games finished department. This pitcher would bat no more than two or three times in a season. Normally, he is out of the game by the eighth inning. He also can be used in extra innings, along with the long man, if the game is looking like a marathon. Here, he would bat for himself. He can be a left-hander, assuming the long man is a right-hander. He would get some holds, but not anywhere near as many as the setup man, or closer. Fewer, too, then the right/lefty specialist and short man.

Rightly Specialist

As the name indicates, he's tough on righties. And he's right-handed, by the way. No exceptions. But lefties own the right-handed specialist. He's could also be the short man on the team, and it's not to uncommon that he does both. He might only face one batter. The next batter is a lefty, so regardless of the result, he exits after facing one batter. There's a fun acroynim for that, ROOG, which stands for Righty One Out Guy. He might get the call if the long, middle, and setup man are faltering, especially if the game is one the line. The starter, too, might get pulled in favour of the righty specialist if it's an important time in the game, and it's the other team's best right-handed hitter. This can happen even if the starter is a righty. He would under certain circumstances go more than one inning. Lets say the next five batters are right-handed. So the righty would probably face at least two of them. The righty specialist generally has few pitches to work with, and low stamina. It would be an odd sight to see him go two innings. He can finish the game, if it's a dangerous hitter up in the ninth, with the manager lacking confidence in his closer, or he's unavailable. But the righty specialist generally does not collect saves or finish games. But he, along with the lefty specialist, if they are good, get a lot of holds.

Lefty Specialist

In so many cases, the lefty is brought in to face the other team's star lefty hitter. If Ted Williams was playing today, this guy would be brought in every game his team faced Williams' team. He can work an inning, but it's usually only to face three straight lefties. Perhaps, if there is one righty around three lefties, he's kept in, pitching carefully to the right-handed batter. But like the righty specialist, his pitch selection and stamina are so low, that two innings are the most he'd pitch. That's assuming there are five or six lefties in the opposing lineup. When that happens, the opposing manager usually brings in a right-handed hitter in, ending the lefty on the mound's night. He can also be, the short man, since it's so often a one-batter appearance. Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup can do this for the Jays.

Short Reliever (Or Short Man)

As mentioned, it's often that he's one of the two above. One and done. And that means one batter. Or it can be one inning, but that's pushing the envelope. His stuff and stamina are simply lacking to let him go too far. Simply put, short man does not have enough of either, obviously, to be the setup man or the closer. He throws 30 pitches? His arm is ready to come off! But still, in a tight game in the sixth or seventh inning, look for him to make an appearance. He doesn't get many wins, and probably gets zero saves. He gets plenty of holds if he does his job, however!

Setup Man

Mr. Eight. The team has the lead, and he comes in to "set it up" for the closer. That doesn't mean he doesn't come in in the seventh, too. That would be if there's trouble. Say the starter is working on a low-hit game, and/or shutout into the seventh or eighth. But then, some trouble emerges. In comes the setup man. Maybe I should have just used two words, Wade Davis! He's one of the finest. Now, Mr. Setup usually has some more to offer then the closer in terms of pitches or stamina. But not that much. He is also commonly the reliever with the best K/9 outside of the closer. The setup man is sometimes also used as a closer. Say it's the nightcap of the doubleheader. The closer pitches the opener, and it's another save situation in the second game. If the closer is spent (and the setup guy's isn't), look for the setup man to come in to mop up. The setup man will also become the closer if the finisher becomes injured. On the DL? Expect the setup man to make consecutive appearances in the coming games in the ninth. He'll get some saves anyways, but usually no more than five or six a season. Holds, is the key stat for the setup pitcher. Davis has many. 33 last year. The setup man can also be the short man or righty specialist. He might also close if the manager has a lefty closer (The setup man is usually a righty) and there are no lefties in sight in the lineup. Say the closer failed his last time out, and is looking at a righty-stacked lineup for the ninth. The setup man might have to get the last six outs. He might end up with more appearances and/or innings pitched then the closer, and often ends up second in games finished and saves. My favourite off all time, by the way, was Blue Jay Duane Ward. He'd come in and setup Henke for the ninth so many times in the late 80s and early 90s before he found himself in the closer role in 1993. Mariano Rivera was sort of in the same boat as Ward to John Wettland in 1996. After which, The Sandman was The Man in the Bronx! Will it be Davis sometime?


The savour. Well, the pitcher who gets all the saves. Usually, he's right-handed. But not always. John Franco comes to mind as a lefty closer. However, think Rivera, think Eckersley, think Gossage. Dennis Eckerlsey sort of changed the appearance mode for closers. Before him, many closer would just come in and pitch to the end of the game, because they were good enough to be a starter or long reliever. But today, the closer commonly has only pitch. His other pitch is used infrequently. And that one pitch is almost always a fastball. Thrown at some incredible high velocity. His control is usually tops on the staff. But the closer's stamina is commonly the lowest of any pitcher on the team. As is, of course, his pitch count. Only when there are no other options does the manager let him go more than one inning. And that's the ninth or the bottom frame in extras following the lead taken. If he's used for two innings in a game, you run the risk of his unavailability the next game. Two stats that are a guarantee, saves and games finished! And, unless he loses his job, the second most of both those stats on the team is way behind. How often the closer is used is dependent on his stuff, his arm strength, and the team he's on. It used to be that the closer would also have a high win total, the most of any non-starter, but now it's considerably less. The days of Dick Radatz, Ken Tekulve and Mike Marshall-like relievers are long gone.


Halberstam, David. October 1964. New York: Villard, 1994. Print.

Halberstam, David. Summer of 49. New York: William Morrow / Avon Books, 1989.

Kalb, Elliott. Who's Better, Who's Best in Baseball: Mr. Stats Sets the Record Straight on the Top 75 Players of All Time. McGraw-Hill, 2005. Print.

Shalin, Mike, and Neil Shalin. Out By A Step: The 100 Best Players Not In The Baseball Hall of Fame. Lanham: Diamond Communications, 2002. Print.

Whiteford, Mike, and Taylor Jones. How to Talk Baseball. Revised Edition. Galahad Books, 1987.

Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 21 Apr. 2015. <>.

Monday, April 20, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Ty Cobb got his first Fall Classic hit in the second tilt of the 1907 Fall Classic. But his Detroit Tigers still lost the game. The Chicago Cubs had a reputation, you see, of getting to the World Series a lot back then, and they weren't about to let a brass young man deny them. Even someone with the highest lifetime batting average of all time.

Having stopped The Georgia Peach from even getting it out of the infield in game one, all the Cubs could show for that was the first World Series tie. A tie for Ty despite not good wood on the ball?

So in game two in Chicago (Playing at the West Side Grounds), the Cubbies sent Jack Pfiester to the hill. Jack The Giant Killer, as he was called. And it seemed like a good choice. That year, he led the National League in ERA with a microscopic 1.15.

Things didn't start out well, however. Detroit put two on with only one out in the top of the first on a pair of singles. Now, here's where guys like Cobb come through, right? Wrong. Ty hit into a double play. That was rough. Things would get rougher for Cobb, later.

Tied1-1 in the top of the fourth, and Cobb led off the inning. The right way! He singled. When Claude Rossman followed suite, it looked like the Tigers had a big inning on their hands. They could take the lead, and get some insurance! They did neither, however!

Cobb made it to third on the play, no doubt pleased with how fast he was. But Rossman decided to try for second. He was gunned out. The next two men were also retired, leaving Ty at third. Ty tied in game one. Ty on third in game two. Tied in game two, as well. Ty, Ty, Ty!

Ty's third at bat ended in failure as he grounded out in the top of the sixth. Detroit needed him now, you see. Chicago had taken a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth, and were running out of time. Time for Ty an co. to take over! But they did not do that.

Davy Jones led off the top of the eighth with a single. He took second as the next batter grounded out. Sam Crawford was out on a fly to right, Jones holding. Cobb came to bat as the tying run. Time to get one for the team, Ty!

Instead, he took one for the team. Pfiester hit him. I don't know if that was a good move. Was it intentional? Odds are, yes! Did Detroit make him pay? No. Jones decided to try for third on an attempted steal. He was gunned out!

Detroit, still down 3-1, got the side out in the bottom of the eighth. In the top of the ninth, it was Rossman, atoning somewhat for his earlier mistake, with a single. However, a double play and a groundout ended the game. Chicago, had drawn first blood in the 2007 Fall Classic.

The Cubs went on to win the next three games for good measure, so Detroit had to settle for the opening game no-decision as their only salvation. Cobb had little to be happy about. Not only did his team fail to win a game, but he ended the five games with just four hits for a batting average of just .200.

The greats do fail. And it's always painful to see them not come through on the big stage. Look at Ted Williams in 1946, along with Stan Musial for that matter. Cobb would have two more cracks at a World Series win, but Ty did no accomplish that. He batted .368 in 1908, but Detroit lost again. When he hit .231 in 1909 and the Tigers again came up short, Cobb had played in his last Fall Classic. He was only 22 years old.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

The 2006 Fall Classic saw twelve different pitchers post and ERA of 0.00. That's a World Series record. It was a short series, but both teams had hurlers who made short work of the opposing hitters. St. Louis and Detroit had the arms they needed.

Game one didn't have either starter do that. By the top of the second, both of them had surrendered an earned run. But they were both rookies, so what do you expect? Fireman time, says I! Yep, it was up to the bullpen to be "Lights out!" It all started out that way in St. Louis...But it was the bullpen that did it!

The Tigers were behind 5-1 in the top of the sixth when Justin Verlander was yanked. There were runners on second and third and not a man out. Jason Grilli replaced him, but two runs did score. Both were not charged to Grilli, and they were unearned anyways as Brandon Inge made a throwing error. Grilli got the next three batters out, and St. Louis did not score another run in the game. But it was 7-1, Cards, so it was too little, too late.

Fernando Ledezma pitched a 1-2-3 top of the seventh for Detroit, but he would ultimately finish the 2006 Fall Classic with an ERA of 4.50. In the top of the eight, it was Wil Ledezma gave the Cards a leadoff single, then settled down to get the next three batters. This was the first of two scoreless outings for him.

Todd Jones got two of the three batters to face him in the top of the ninth out, then parted for Jamie Walker. Walker threw a wild pitch, but got pinch hitter Preston Wilson out to end the Cardinals' night at the plate. So actually, four pitchers for Detroit (Who lost the game 7-2) finished game one with an ERA of 0.00. Both St. Louis pitchers gave up a single run. But somehow, I don't think they cared.

The Tigers got the scoreless innings from their starter in game two. And they needed to win this one before they "Meet Me In St. Louis, Louie!" Indeed, it was Kenny Rogers who went eight innings and gave up just two hits. He was picked up by Todd Jones, who allowed an unearned run in the ninth inning, but that was the only St. Louis scoring of the game.

Jeff Weaver left after five, but Detroit did not score again, either. Tyler Johnson got the first two batters out in the bottom of the sixth, and then the Cards brought in Josh Kinney. Kinney prolonged the agony by walking a batter and then hitting a batter. He retired Magglio Ordonez to end that danger.

Randy Flores pitched the bottom of the seventh and gave up a leadoff single. But a double play and a fly ball ended that. Brad Thompson needed no double plays the next inning. He fanned the first batter to face him, then got Ramon Santiago on a grounder. That, however, was the end of the night for Thompson, who would not pitch again in this Fall Classic. Adam Wainwright came in and got the final out of the inning. The bullpen had done the job for both teams on this night. With the 3-1 win, Detroit had tied this thing.

Chris Carpenter started for the home team as this thing moved to St. Louis, and he almost did as good as Rogers. When he departed after eight, he had allowed just three hits and no runs. Braden Looper again came in, and again pitched a scoreless inning. The Cardinals ended up with a comfortable 5-0 win. Nate Robertson did not pitch bad, but left after five down 2-0. Ledezma gave up a hit and retired a batter, managing to keep his ERA at zero. Grilli later came in and allowed a walk but no runs in 2/3 of an inning. Zack Miner made his only Fall Classic appearance and allowed no runs in 2/3 innings of his own. It would prove to be his only appearance of the 2006 Fall Classic. St. Louis, up 2-1 in the Fall Classic now, looked for more superior pitching!

Game four was close again. St. Louis won, 5-4, and neither starter progressed beyond the sixth inning. St. Louis fought back from 3-0 down and even took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Detroit tied it in the top of the eight off Looper, but ended up giving up the winning run in the bottom of the frame.

Adam Wainwright finished the game with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. Detroit had all sorts of problems in this game, as all three of their pitchers gave up at least one run. But of the five runs scored, only three were earned. Kinney pitched another scoreless appearance for the Cardinals. Tyler Johnson retired the only batter to face him. The only negative, in addition to Jeff Suppan going only six and giving up eight hits and three runs, was Wainwright giving up a double in the top of the eighth to allow the tying run to score. That was the first batter he faced. But then, he turned on god-mode and got the next five batters out. Three of them (in a row) were retired on strikeouts. This got him the win, and put the Cardinals up, three games to one. Time to seal the deal!

Justin Verlander tried to keep the Tigers in the hunt in game five, but he left after six trailing 3-2. More bad news came when Fernando Rodney gave up a run in relief to make it a 4-2 game. Jeff Weaver went eight strong innings, gave up just four hits and two earned runs for St. Louis.

Wainwright came in to nail it down and had trouble. A double, a wild pitch, and a walk put runners on the corners with two down. But when he fanned Inge, the 2006 Fall Classic belonged to the St. Louis Cardinals, four games to one!

St. Louis had needed a good group effort on the hill. Wainwright, as it turned out, got the only save for them. Four different pitchers won games. But none of them, despite Carpenter, Weaver and Anthony Reyes' (game one winner) fine efforts, went the distance. The middle relief and Wainwright were needed more than you would have expected. And they came through. Detroit may have lost, but they kept two of their losses (and game three was close until the bottom of the seventh) and their one win, competitive. It seemed unlikely that both the winning and losing teams in a five-game Fall Classic would have six pitchers each with ERAs of 0.00, but it happened. And that happens to make the 2006 World Series another memorable St. Louis / Detroit affair!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Game three of the 2013 Fall Classic had one of the craziest ending you will ever seen. You know, as a sports fan, I rank it right up their with The Play (Band on the field) from Cal and Stanford in 1982, and Mookie Wilson's grounder through Bill Buckner's legs. These were wild finishes, I'll tell ya! Maybe for me, Devon White's catch off Dave Justice and the near triple play they got. But still, that wasn't the ending to game.

The Boston Red Sox were in another Fall Classic against the St. Louis Cardinals. For the record, they've met in 1946, 1967, 2004 and 2013. They've had some moments. And while 2004 was a sweep for the Sox, it doesn't mean it wasn't memorable. It did three things: 1) It nenewed the rivalry 2) It broke the 86-year Red Sox World Series drought 3) The Cardinals and Red Sox began their tradition of postseason success.

Indeed, don't feel sorry for the Cards. While they were only there for four games in 2004, St. Louis made sure to win it all in 2006 over Detroit. In the process, they gained some sweet revenge for what had happened against the Tigers in 1968. This time, they got ahead three games to one, and won game five. The Cards weren't about to stop making it to the Fall Classic.

Down to their last strike twice in 2011, St. Louis charged back to win against Texas. That proved to be the last World Series for Tony La Russa, and it was fitting he went out a winner. But again, October would continue to beckon the Cards. Two years later, under new manager Mike Matheny, St. Louis was back to face Boston, and ready to avenge the sweep from 2004. All Matheny has done has carry on the tradition of Cardinal success. In three seasons in Cardinal land, 88, 97, and 90 games.

Boston, meanwhile, won the World Series again in 2007, and again it was a sweep. But against the Cards six years later, there would be no sweep.

However, Boston was determine to administer another four-game drubbing. In game one at Fenway, it was all Red Sox. It was 5-0 after two, 7-0 after seven, and 8-0 after eight. The final score was 8-1 Red Sox. The Cards needed game two for the split.

It didn't look too promising. The Cardinals scored the first run of the game in the top of the fourth, but the Red Sox tallied twice in the bottom of the sixth to take the lead. St. Louis dug deep to score three times the next inning. Matt Carpenter tied it with a sac fly, and on the same play, the Red Sox somehow made two errors, allowing St. Louis to take the lead. Before Boston could recover from that, Carlos Beltran singled to make it 4-2. The Cards hung on to send it home all tied at one game each.

In game three, it seemed like St. Louis could not break free of Boston nipping at their heels. The Cards touched home twice in the bottom of the first one a single, a bunt, and three more singles. The Red Sox came back with a run in the top of the fifth and another the next inning. Matt Holliday then stepped into the hero's role with a single in the bottom of the seventh to score Carpenter and Beltran. It was 4-2, St. Louis. Was Boston done for the night?

Not quite.

The first two batters reached in the top of the eighth. A bunt moved the tying run to second. David Ortiz was the batter, and St. Louis walked him. Daniel Nava was retired on a ground ball, but it scored a run. 4-3, St. Louis. Xander Bogaerts followed with a single, and it was all tied at four.

St. Louis did not score in the bottom of the frame, and Trevor Rosenthal retired Boston 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth. That set the stage for an amazing finish. Were do I begin, where do I end.

I start with Matt Adams striking out for the third time in the game. But Yadier Molina singled for the third time on this night. The sent Boston pitcher Brandon Workman to work on the showers. Rosenthal was the next scheduled hitter.

Kogi Uehara, the Red Sox closer with 21 saves was on the hill. He posted a 4-1 record to go along with that, and an ERA of just 1.09. The first batter he would face was a pinch hitter.

It turned out to be Allen Craig. First pitch to Craig, he hit a clutch double down the left field line. The winning run was ninety feet away. No chance for a double play, no outs. Would the Red Sox pitch to Jon Jay?

Boston decided to. They moved their infield in to cut down Molina at the dish. Jay was pitched to! On the second pitch of the at-bat, he sent a grounder to second which Yadier headed home on. Huh? Dustin Pedroia saw all this, and rifled it home to nail him for the second out. Boston had a huge out, but seconds later, it didn't matter.

Craig, waited, started, then hesitated and headed towards third on the play. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, having just made the putout, looked right towards third and tried to nail Craig. The throw never made it there, however. It went wide to the right of third, and into the outfield. Allen hustled on home. Before he could get there, he was tripped up by Will Middelbrooks. The throw hit Middelbrooks and ended up going to foul territory. Daniel Nava was right there and gunned it to home, seemingly getting Craig as Saltalamacchia slapped on the tag.

Home plate umpire Dan DeMuth motioned towards third base umpire Jim Joyce. Joyce had motioned towards the play between runner and third basemen, thus meaning obstruction. Craig had touched third base legally, and was awarded another base, winning the game for the Cardinals!

It was the first time in Fall Classic history that a game had ended on an obstruction call. St. Louis had a two games to one edge. Alas, Boston came back and won the next three games. No matter. This game was going to be talked about for years.

Boston and St. Louis have always put on a show. There always seems to be something at stake when the two teams meet. It's 1946, and it's Ted Williams vs. Stan Musial (But that was a bit of a flop for both of them, eh?). It's 1967 and it's Bob Gibson's pitching, Lou Brock's speed vs. Yaz's bat and Lonborg's pitching. It's 2004, and Boston is trying to end The Curse. And it's 2013, and it's St. Louis with eighth Fall Classic's (The most of any National League team at the time, although San Francisco has since tied them) and Boston with six, so they are trying to close or widen the gap for Fall Classic triumphs. And, also you're trying to wrap your head around what you've just witnessed in game three...And explaining it...Well...


Monday, April 13, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

The Detroit Tigers batted just .159 in the 2012 Fall Classic. That is the lowest mark since the Los Angeles Dodgers batted just .142 in the 1966 World Series. Each of those, not surprisingly, resulted in sweeps. However, two games were close in 1966 and three were tight as well in 2012. Detroit came out just a run or two short. The San Francisco Giants had the answers on the mound.

Detroit got eight hits in game one in San Francisco. But the problem was, the offence didn't get going until the top of the sixth. Further damaging was the fact that the Giants were ahead 6-0 at the time. Detroit collected three hits that inning, and finally scored. They were retired 1-2-3 in the next two frames. In the top of the ninth, down  8-1, they scored two more on Jhonny Peralta's two-run home run. But it was too little, too late.

Detroit had even more problems in game two. They were blanked 2-0 on a fine two-hitter over seven innings by Madison Bumgarner. Omar Infante got a single. Delmon Young hit a double. Neither scored a run. However, this game was tied through 6 1/2. San Francisco tallied once each in the seventh and eighth, so the outcome was still in doubt. Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo retired the Tigers in order in the top of the eighth and ninth. The loss was tough on Detroit's starting pitcher Doug Fister, who went six strong, giving up just a single run.

In Detroit for game three, the Tigers came up on the wrong side of another 2-0 blanking. San Francisco's only two runs came in the top of the second. Detroit got five hits this time, but could not score as Ryan Vogelsong went 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball. The bullpen of Tim Lincecum and Romo did the job the rest of the way. They combined to fan four and walk just one batter while pitching hitless ball over the last 2 1/3 innings. Anibal Sanchez took the loss, despite pitching well. Now, San Francisco could taste the champagne, as they were up three games to none.

Detroit fought hard in game four. Trying to extend things, they scored twice in the bottom of the third to erase a 1-0 San Fran lead. Buster Posey's two-run home run in the top of the sixth seemed to spell the end for the Tigers. Down 3-2, Detroit rallied again. Delmon Young took Matt Cain out of the park for a game-tying solo home run. This thing was destined for extras.

Marco Scutaro's single in the top of the tenth put the Giants up 4-3. Romo was needed again, and for the third straight game, he retired the side for the save. It was very impressive as he got 'em 1-2-3 on strikeouts. Detroit had been held to just five hits.

Detroit finished the 2012 Fall Classic with just twenty hits in the four games. So their .159 batting average reflects their five hits per game average. Of those twenty, just five were for extra bases. The San Francisco Giants had Bumgarner, Barry Zito as star power starters. Romo and Lincecum were amazing in relief. They shut down the Tigers. Baseaball's old adage of, "Good pitching beats good hitting", here again!


World Series: Did You Know?

Like the New York Mets in 1986, the St. Louis Cardinals were one strike away from losing it all in 2011. In each case, it was game six. They both rallied to win the game, then won game seven. Furthermore, game six and seven were both at home. You don't want to lose it in your park, right? The poor Texas Rangers had to contend with back-to-back near misses, despite getting to within one strike in 2011, having also had their share of strikeouts the previous year.

So game six of 2011 was a back-and-forth affair, just like it had been in 1986. Meet Me In St. Louis, Louie! The Cards put a "2" on the board in the bottom of the first, after the Rangers had touched home in the top of the frame. Texas then tied it up in the top of the second. The teams traded single tallies in the fourth. Texas scored again in the top of the fifth, but St. Louis came back with one the next inning. 4-4. That is, until Texas plated three more in the top of the seventh. The Cards got one run back the next inning, but trailed by two going into the bottom of the ninth. 7-5, Texas, for those keeping track.

St. Louis put two on with one out, but then a strikeout seemed to doom them. Neftali Feliz needed just one more out and had a two-run lead. Hmmmm, just like Calvin Schiraldi did! And there were two batters out. Then, the count went to 2-2 on the next hitter, David Freese. But Freese, did what Ray Knight did, only he did Ray two bases better! He stroked a triple to right that Nelson Cruz leaped for and just missed. That scored both runners. Unlike 1986, however, the next batter was retired and the inning was over. This thing was tied at seven!

The Rangers, however, were not about to go quietly, either. Josh Hamilton plated two runners of his own with a two-run home run in the top of the tenth. 9-7, Texas. Three more outs!

Darren Oliver was on the hill for the Rangers to try and nail it down, but was greeted the hard way. Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay singled. The tying run was again an extra base hit away from scoring. And this time, no outs!

Kyle Lohse was sent up as a pinch hitter. He did his job and moved both runners over with a sac bunt. Now, all the Cards needed was a single! It did not happen with the next batter. Ryan Theriot was up and grounded out to third off new pitcher Scott Feldman. Descalso scored, Jay held at second, but there was now two outs, and Texas was still ahead, 9-8.

Albert Pujols was the batter. The Rangers decided to walk him and pitch to Lance Berkman. But Berkman was the wrong guy to pitch to. Feldman, still on the hill, was a right-handed pitcher. There was no one to bring in to face Berkman, though. Berkman was a switch hitter!

Berkman fouled one off, then took a ball. When he fouled off another one, the Cards were down to their last strike again. The next pitch was a ball, so it was 2-2. Where had we seen this all before?

Berkamn smacked a single to centre to tie it at nine! Wow! He wasn't done yet. The winning run, Pujols, made it to third on the play. What better player to score the winning run than Pujols? Berkman then took off to second on the first pitch to Allen Craig. Second and third. Craig grounded out to third as this thing headed towards the eleventh hour and eleventh inning.

Texas put a runner on, as they tried to take the lead again. They failed to score. Then, in the bottom of the frame, Freese led off against new pitcher Mark Lowe. Lowe fell behind 3-0, then battled back to a full count. But Freese crushed this one to centre, over the wall, and a bunch of jubilant fans crossed over to the big green gap in centre to retrieve the ball. It was all over, and St. Louis was ecstatic!

The feeling carried over to game seven, which St. Louis won, 6-2. It was a tough one, obviously, for Texas. So close. I'd always wondered as a child how the Red Sox could come up empty when they were just a strike away, but it ended up happening to Texas in back-to-back innings. So close and yet so far. Baseball, can be a cruel game, indeed!


Friday, April 10, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

While losing in just five games in the 2010 Fall Classic, the Texas Rangers averaged exactly 9 K's per 9! The San Francisco Giants gladly swung and missed, as long as it got them the World Series trophy.

The Giants won a wild first game, right at home, 11-7. The game wasn't even as close as four runs. San Fran led 8-2 after five and 11-4 after eight. The problem was all those K's. For every run they scored, they struck out. Oh, they actually had one more strikeout than runs scored. Pat Burrell and Juan Uribe combined for seven at-bats and six strikeouts! The Rangers fanned a total of five times.

But who cares if you got the win and the opener? The Giants made game two a laugher to go up 2-0 in the 2010 World Series. Texas couldn't score or strikeout, but San Francisco sure could. They collected nine strikeouts, eight hits and six walks. The only two batters to stick out like a sore thumb were Freddy Sanchez and Buster Possey, who K'd twice. Texas, as a team, fanned twice. But things were looking up for the Giants as they headed to Texas.

But in game three, the Rangers did the job wherever you asked it. The won this crucial game, 4-2, to get right back in it. There pitching was superb, there were eight strikeouts, and only two walks. Colby Lewis ran his postseason win-loss record to an undefeated 3-0 with the win, fanning six batter in seven and two-thirds inning. The Giants, by comparison, got four K's out of their pitching, and four walks. The game was actually a rout, 4-0, until the Giants got solo home runs by Cody Ross in the top of the seventh and another by Andres Torres the next inning. But that was as close as it got.

Still, the Giants pitching was better, and it was proven in game four. A 4-0 win put them one win away. Four runs allowed in three games. That was the good news. The bad news? You guessed it, the strikeouts. Actually, it wasn't that bad this game. San Fran went down on strikes only six times. It was Texas who were handcuffed by the pitching of Madison Bumgarner (Three-hitter, six strikeouts through eight) and Brian Wilson (1-2-3 ninth on 11 pitches, 2 K's of his own).

The Giants won it all as they eked out a 3-1 win in game five. For the second straight game, they had amazing pitching. Another combined three-hitter. And the strikeouts? How about twelve for the victorious Giants. But Cliff Lee and Netfali Felix weren't pitchers who were strangers to strikeouts for Texas. They fanned eight of their own.

But all that, 43 K's in 43 innings, was not enough. The Giants had gotten through this with little trouble in three games. The had the big sticks, and Madison Bumgarner (Who has continued to this day to come up with great performances in the clutch) passing his first Fall Classic test, and turning the strikeout tide. Strikeouts are not always a bad thing. They are better than hitting into a double However, even when you win it all, there has to be some negativity, is what I'm trying to say, O-K?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

The latest a Fall Classic has ended was back in 2009. The Phillies and Yankees battled it out until November. That broke the previous latest day in baseball, November 4th, 2001. The Yankees were in that one, too. The difference is, it was in 2001 and they lost. Now it was 2009, and it was later in October and November for this World Series. The New York Yankees won this thing. Good thing too, for it would be a very short off-season, right?

But the Philadelphia Phillies, having won it all in 2008, weren't about to make this thing a cakewalk for New York. If there were going to be any doubts, the opener proved otherwise. It was a late start for the game in New York. As in, October 28th. The Yankees finally scored a run in the bottom of the ninth, but it was too late in the game and too late in October. Philly 6. Yankees 1. Revenge from 1950?

So New York needed to win game two at home to get the split, and sure enough, they did. But they had to overcome a strong performance by Philly's Pedro Martinez. Trailing 1-0 after two inning, the Yankees tallied single tallies in the fourth, sixth, and seventh. A.J. Burnett finished with a six-hitter. Mariano Rivera had a rare two-inning save. The Yankees were being forced to dig deep. It was all tied up heading to The City Of Brotherly Love. Do you love baseball in November?

In game three, the Phillies put up a three in the bottom of the second. Once again, they had the lead after two. And once again, the resilient Yankees came back to win. The difference is, both teams had it going offensively in this game. The teams combined to hit five home runs. Andy Pettitte got the win. Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher (Off future Blue Jay, J.A. Happ in the top of the sixth) and Hideki Matsui did the honours for New York. A-Rod also got hit twice, remember!This game was played on October 31st, so game four was in October. Would the Fall Classic last until Remembrance Day up here Canada. That's on November 11th. Odds looking good!

But New York had no intentions of that as they hammered home a decisive 7-4 win in game four. Now up three games to one and in control, this thing was looking over. But oddly enough, New York failed to hit a single home run. Philly, on the losing end, got one from Chase Utley and another from Pedro Feliz. Still, Philadelphia was looking at elimination, right at home, possibly!

However, Philadelpha won game five to send it back to the Big, Bad, Bronx. It was another slugfest, with Utley going deep again. The final score was 8-6 and New York could take some solace in still being ahead thee games to two. It was also November 2nd. Game six was played on November 4th.

The Yankees beat Martinez, 7-3 to clinch it. Would you believe it, that I didn't watch it? Nope, I was watching the Buffalo Sabers take on the New York Islanders. It was the Islanders, with John Tavares as a rookie, lost 3-0. This is hockey for those wondering. Yup, they were that far into the regular season.

There was a time when the Fall Classic got underway while still in September. But the last time that happened was 1955, and back then, the World Series was the only part of the postseason. 1969 brought about the League Companionship Series. 1994 was supposed to start the Division Series (Used once previous in 1981), but a strike stopped that. Since 1995 though, it's been a long postseason. And it keeps getting longer and longer. 2012 saw a one-game playoff instituted in the American and National League to determine the Wild Card team. Does it hurt the World Series? To me, yes. I'm all for an extended playoff, but to me, that's for other sports like hockey and NCAA basketball. The more playoff games you have, the longer baseball goes. The regular season is still 162 games, and by the end of them, I'm thinking about the World Series, believe me. Even I don't have that kind of patience!


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Game three of the 2008 Fall Classic is the first game to end with an infield walk-off. It was the Philadelphia Phillies way of welcoming the Tampa Bay Devil rays to the World Series. Or saying goodbye to them. Probably both!

The Phillies charged out in front of this Fall Classic, but it was anything but easy. Game one, in Tampa, saw the Rays put up a spirited fight in a pitcher's duel. Neither starter finished the game, but all the scoring was done in the first five innings. Both bullpens came through. The 3-2, Philly win really did little to make a case for the Phillies from being better. That what is fun about one-run games, especially in October's Classic. How many times, for that matter, has a team gone from being up one to down one? It's like a pendulum that can just swing either way! But you never know what way.

The Rays needed to square this thing before heading to Philly, and charged out in front 4-0 in game two. Philly, however, didn't go away quietly. Held scoreless through seven, they tallied a run in the top of the eighth and another in the top of the ninth. The got the tying run to the dish with only one out, but got no closer. Still, you can't help but think the Rays' were not intimidated in the least of Philly.

But Philadelphia went home and showed 'em the way. They build up a three-run lead by the end of the sixth, only to see it come undone. Down 4-1, the Rays scored twice in the top of the seventh (Jays fans take note, it was Dioner Navarro who scored the run to make it a 4-3 game) and one more in the top of the eighth. That tied it at four. The Series was actually dead even at this point. Each team had a win. Through 8 1/2 of game three, each team had four runs.

J.P. Howell was on the hill for Tampa to pitch the bottom of the ninth. He did the one thing you don't do to in this situation. He let the first hitter, Eric Bruntlett get to first. He hit him. That was all for J.P.

In came Grant Balfour came in, and was probably told not to go, "Ball Four" on any hitters, unless they needed a force. It was actually a double-switch that brough Balfour in, but that substitution would not matter

Shane Victorino came to the plate. In the second pitch of the at-bat, Balfour threw a wild pitch. Navarro, then made a poor throw to second that went to the right of the bag, and into the outfield. Bruntlett motored to third. The winning run was ninety feet away and there was nobody out. Victorino, as expected, was walked intentionally. But all the Phillies had to do now was get the ball to the outfield.

Greg Dobbs was sent to the dish to pinch hit, but he was also walked intentionally. So the bases were loaded, there were still no outs, and it was time for some dramatics. Carlos Ruiz, Navarro's counterpart behind the plate, was the batter.

Balfour got ahead in the count, 1-2. Ruiz stayed alive by fouling off the next pitch. Balfour then missed high and wide, so the count was even, 2-2.

The next pitch was also up, and Ruiz swung. He hit a Baltimore Chop that wasn't going much further then 20 feet to third. Evan Longoria (For the millionth time, not related to Eva Longoria) charged in and had to be quick, as Bruntlett motored home and the throw was wide of the plate to the first base side. Philly had pulled it off! 2-1 up in the October Classic!

Ironically, Philly was playing in their first Fall Classic since 1993, which ended on a long walk-off. That being the Joe Carter home run. Philly hadn't quite put the sting of that out of their minds, but this game sure helped the 2008 cause, for sure.

The Phillies won game four, 10-2, and were now up three games to one. They clinched it at home (Just like they had in 1980), but it was back to a close call, 4-3.

Even five game Fall Classics can be close. 1974 comes to mind, as does 1933. 1961 may have looked like a rout for the Yankees over the Reds, but two of the game's were nail-biters and Cincinnati got in a one-sided win for their only triumph. Here, in 2008, it was close in four of the five games. And Ruiz's walk-off may have been a little cheap. The Phillies may have lost a World Series on a walk-off, but they are in the record books as the first team to win one on a infield hit for a walk-off. Even trade-off? You'll have to ask a Phillies fan!


Monday, April 6, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Ty Cobb failed to get the ball out of the infield in his first Fall Classic game in 1907. Because of that, Ty and his mates had to settle for the first World Series tie. A tie for Ty? I'm sure he wasn't happy. Not winning the game is not winning the game. You gotta win the games in October. A tie doesn't help. Having Ty Cobb on your team, helps, however. His Detroit Tigers were also playing their first Fall Classic game, and the Cubs were coming off a loss in 1906 to their American League counterpart. The Tigers seemed to be even more of a challenge. Sam Crawford and Ty Cobb may have had their differences, but they worked so well together with double steals and hit-and-runs, that Chicago had to worry about them both batting and base running. The Cubs could leave nothing to chance, even though they had the famed, Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance infield. That's what it was going to come down to: Cobb and Crawford vs. The Infield!

No wonder Cobb couldn't get it out against those guys!

Cobb seemed to be out of sorts in this game. And yes, the same could be said about some of his teammates. In the top of the first, Cobb came to bat with two outs and Germany Schaefer in first. Schaefer was a bit of what in baseball terminology is called a "flake." And oddball. His attempt for a steal ended the inning. Batting first in the top of the second, Cobb was out on a grounder to first. Frank Chance made the play himself.

Crawford then singled to lead off the fourth. Cobb came to bat and hit a short grounder in front of the plate. Johnny Kling, the catcher, got it and fired to first. Crawford to second. The score was still 0-0 and a single would put the Tigers up a run. Claude Rossman walked. But then, a liner to second by Bill Coughlin was caught by Johhny Evers. Crawford was a dead duck at second as Evers fired it to Joe Tinker. Inning over. In the bottom of the inning, it was Frank Chance scoring the game's first run after getting to first via a walk.

Cobb came up in what looked like a promising inning in the top of the sixth. Not only was his pal Crawford on again after another single, but Schaefer had led off the inning with a single, too! Cobb, sadly, popped out to Tinker. Rossman grounded out to Tinker, but both baserunners advanced. Schaefer then got picked off and caught in a rundown between third and home.

But Detroit was not about to be denied in this game. In the top of the eighth, they did almost everything right and Chicago did almost everything wrong.

With one out, Davvy Jones got it all going with an infield single. Then, he took a page out of Crawford and Cobb's handbook with a swipe of second. Schaefer was next, and he didn't screw up this time. He reached on an error by Tinker. Crawford single again, the third such time he had in this game, and both runners scored. Crawford made it all the way to third. 2-1, Tigers, and Cobb back to the plate!

But all Ty could do was hit it back to pitcher Orval Overall. Overall tried to get Crawford leading a little off the bag. Cobb made it all the way to second in all the commotion. Third basemen Harry Steinfeldt dropped the throw, and now it was second and third with just one out.

Rossman's fly to centre scored Crawford to make it 3-1, Detroit. The lead held until the bottom of the ninth, as a dropped third strike doomed Detroit. Chicago had already scored a run earlier in the frame as a result of an error by Bill Coughlin. An attempted steal of home by Chicago ended the inning.

Detroit did not take advantage of that mistake. They went down 1-2-3 in the top of the tenth, with Crawford fanning. Cobb, the last batter, grounded out to Chance again.

Chicago almost won it again in the bottom of the inning. A double steal put runners on second and third with two down. But then, Jimmy Slagle, Cobb's counterpart in centre, was out on baserunner interference!

The Tigers got a man on as a result of another error by Steinfeldt in the top of the eleventh, but did not score. Chicago looked like it was ready to win in the bottom of the eleventh. It was the eleventh hour for Detroit.

Bill Donovan got the first out, then proceeded to allow three straight singles. Evers got one of them. But the only one that mattered was on third, and that was catcher Johnny Kling. Donovan had to dig deep.

And he did just that!

Heinie Zimmerman fanned. Two down. When new pitcher Ed Reulbach batted for himself and forced Frank Schulte at second, Detroit had a pulse! On to the twelve. This was 68 years before Carlton Fisk, so there would be no home run to end it.

Reulbach kept his composure and got Detroit 1-2-3. Donovan returned to the hill in the bottom of the frame and got Chicago 1-2-3 to stay equal to the task. Chance was the last batter. The game was called due to darkness.

Cobb and his mates had given it their all, but it was not enough to snatch victory for Chicago. As it turns out, this was as close as they would come to winning any game in the 1907 World Series. Chicago swept through the next four games to take it all.

Cobb had to have been disappointed. He managed four hits in the remaining four games, but ended the Fall Classic with a puny average of .200. He would return to the World Series the next two years, but Detroit lost both times. Ty had no way of knowing it, but these were the only years he'd actually appear in the Fall Classic. His failing to get the ball out of the infield would be a fitting intro for him in the World Series. It always seems to be a little bit harder in October then it is in April. Even for the best of hitters.


World Series: Did You Know?

2007 was a sweep for the Boston Red Sox. But the team swept the Colorado Rockies. It was all a group effort. Four different pitchers with a win, four or more RBIs. Actually, three of them had exactly four, and the other had five.

The Red Sox, seeking their second Fall Classic triumph in three years, made i a laugher in the opener at home. Boston won it, 13-1. Josh Beckett won it, with some help from Mike Timlin and Eric Gagne. But the Sox had plenty of run support, of course. Dustin Pedroia drove in two, as did David Ortiz. Jason Varitek also drove in two. Sadly, Mike Lowell was at the low end of the totem pole, and didn't collect an RBI.

In game two, the Red Sox again again. This time though, it was close. Boston won, 2-1, behind the pitching of Curt Schilling. Curt left after 5 1/3 innings. The bullpen helped out even more in this game, as they shut down Colorado for the last 3 2/3 innings. The offence seemed to die, as Lowell got his first RBI and Varitek, his third. But that was all.

In Colorado for game three, it was a little easier. Boston scored ten, but Colorado came alive with some offence of their own. They scored five, alas, it was not enough to make a game of this. And now, this Fall Classic was a rout. Daisuke Matsuzaka was the winning pitcher, but like Schilling in the game before, he lasted only 5 1/3 innings. The bullpen faltered, this time. Colorado scored twice off Matsuzaka, and then three more times in only 3 2/3 innings of the Red Sox 'pen. Not helping matters was the eight hits surrendered in that span by the relief corps. On the plus side, it was Pedroia with a pair of RBIs to give him four in three games. Ortiz had one himself, as he drove home the first run of the game on a double. Lowell had his second-straight two RBI game, giving him three for the Series. Varitek had only one, but that upped his total to four. All this offence, and Boston did not hit a home run, which is odd. Colorado got one from Matt Holliday. But it was the Sox who were just a game away.

Game four followed game two, a one-run Red Sox win. That made it a sweep for Boston, but at least two of the games' were close. Boston build up a 3-0 lead before Colorado came alive. John Lester started and got one more batter out than Schilling and Matsuzaka got in their outings. He gave up no runs and only three hits. The three walks doomed him. The bullpen did falter, although Timlin and Jonathan Papelbon held the Rockies scoreless. Pedroia failed to get a hit or an RBI. So he finished with four. Ortiz got one, but just one, to give him four as well. Varitek drove in Boston's second run with a single in the top of the fifth. Lowell's had, you guessed it, only one. But it was a dandy. A home run in the top of the seventh to make it 3-0. Varitek had one more than Ortiz, Lowell and Pedroia.

The World Series is always a "National League Team vs. American League Team." And just that, team! There's an MVP (In this case, Lowell got it.), and there's got to be a winning pitcher in anywhere from four to seven games. Someone has to step up to the plate for your team and get the runner's home. Or shut them down on the mound. The Red Sox had many players ready to do that in the 2007 Fall Classic!


Saturday, April 4, 2015

World Series: Did You Know?

Game one of 2006 featured not one, but two rookies on the hill. The first time the Fall Classic has started with two wet-behind-the-ears pitchers.

Anthony Reyes, with all of five wins to his name in '06, was pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals. What was he doing on the mound with a 5-8 record and a 5.06 ERA? I have no idea. But at the end of the game, the Detroit Tigers had seen enough of him,

The Bengals sent a much better to do the pitching chores. It was a very young Justin Verlander. 17-9, with a 3.63 ERA. As of the end of the 2014 season, he's over the 150 win total. Still, this was not going to be a start to remember for Justin.

The Cardinals pounced on him, scoring early and at will. Reyes gave up a run in the bottom of the first to the hometown team, but the lead did not last too long. In the top of the second, St. Louis tied the game. Then came the next inning, and the tie was broken.

Verlander gave up a single to start the frame, then looked to have settled down. The next two men went back to the dugout, and Justin was one out away from a fairly easy inning. But Chris Duncan rocked a double to right to make it a 2-1 Cardinal lead. They would not relinquish it. Before Detroit could recover, the very next batter, Albert Pujols, took Verlander out of the park. 4-1, St. Louis.

Verlander got through the next two innings, allowing only a walk while fanning four. But when St. Louis got another run off him in the top of the sixth, he was removed. He ended the game allowing seven runs (six earned) and fanning eight.

Reyes was fairing much better. It was shutout ball from the second inning on. But in the bottom of the ninth, he faltered a bit himself. Craig Monroe, who had doubled and scored the run in the bottom of the first, led off the ninth with a home run. It was just the fourth hit of the game for Detroit. Reyes had faced his last batter. But Monroe had just stroked the last hit of the game. It went into the record books as a 6-2, St. Louis win.

The Cardinals avenged their embarrassing loss to Detroit in 1968 (Blowing a 3-1 lead in that. That wasn't the only time they did, either!) by winning this thing in five games. That's how you hold a 3-1 lead! Verlander ended up the losing pitcher in the last game.

Oddly enough, Reyes, never pitched again the World Series, and was out of the bigs by 2010. He had only 13 wins at the major league level. Verlander, the two-game loser of the 2006 Fall Classic, lost his only start of the 2012 World Series, leaving him with an 0-3 all time in the October Classic.

It's always amazed me, the way it works in the World Series. Bob Feller, the great Cleveland Indian pitcher, lost both his games in 1948, then didn't even pitch at all in 1954. So he never got that win in the World Series. Then, you have guys like Reyes, who shouldn't even be there on the mound at all in the Fall Classic. First game, first win. Easy as 1-2-3, eh? Not for everyone, it seems. But sometimes, it's just in the Cards for rookies!