And That Happened: All-Star Game Edition

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If you followed along with our liveblog last night
some of this may be redundant for you, but I kept a quasi-running diary
of the All-Star game and here are some of my random observations:


— I really enjoyed all of the presidents talking during the
Everyday All-Stars thing. Obama looks like he’s growing a little
mustache, which is quite stylish. George W. Bush looks more relaxed
than he’s been since his days as the Rangers’ owner, which is totally
understandable. Maybe it’s because he’s living with his dad now. At
least I assume he is, because both him and H.W. Bush were speaking from
the same room. Nice callback by Bush Sr. to the “thousand points of
light” thing, by the way. That’s like a rapper sampling Young M.C. or
something. Jimmy Carter is looking pretty spry. I think he’s going to
break Hoover’s record for the most post-presidency years alive. Very
underrated record, by the way.

— Sheryl Crow did a good job on the anthem. Very businesslike.
Hopefully the message is finally starting to get around that “The Star
Spangled Banner” is not some soul ballad.

— I liked Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Red Schoendienst, Bruce Sutter and
Ozzie Smith in their red blazers, though as my wife pointed out, they
kind of looked like real estate agents.

— I also love me some Stan Musial, though seeing him come in via
the golf cart kind of reminded me of Ted Williams in the golf cart at
the All-Star game in Boston several years back. The next time we
thought of Williams after that was when he died and his son froze him
in carbonite or whatever the hell it was. Anyway, it was bittersweet
seeing Musial, knowing that we probably won’t see him in public again.

First Pitch:

— I LOVE that Obama came out in his White Sox jacket. Clinton would
have conducted focus groups before deciding what to wear. Bush would
have worn a bomber jacket or something. Obama is a fan, and no matter
what your politics are, you have to respect that. As for his pitch: Eh,
it was a lollipop job that made Tim Robbins in “Bull Durham” look like
Roger Clemens, but at least it made it to the plate on the fly. Unless
Greg Maddux ever becomes president, I think George W. is going to hold
the record for the sharpest Commander-in-Chief first pitch.

The Game:

— Lincecum plunked Jeter. Or at least so said Dana Demuth. I’ll
admit that my perception may have been a bit, um, impaired due to
pregame festivities at Chez Calcaterra, but from where I was sitting,
it looked like it hit the knob of the bat. Nice sales job by Jeter,
though. But some advice, Derek: next time don’t limp down to first base when the ball was supposed to have hit your wrist.

— Obama in the broadcast booth was pretty sweet. First he hated on the
Nationals, and then in response to a bail-out joke he said “we’re out
of money.” If nothing else you have to applaud him for his honesty. As
is always the case with a three man booth, however, we missed a lot of
action on the field while everyone was chatting. Roy Halladay was
roughed up and it might have been nice to hear someone talk about his
trade prospects and stuff.

— Third inning, and Ryan Franklin came in to pitch. Really, Charlie
Manuel? Ryan Franklin is the second guy out of the pen? Haven’t the
Cardinals fans had enough pandering over the past couple of days? Sure,
he sets the AL down 1-2-3 which makes me look like an idiot, but just
because something turned out OK doesn’t make it the right move in the
first instance.

(rest of the recap after the jump)

— I blinked twice and missed the entire half inning pitched by Mark
Buehrle. I really, really like that guy. I wish everyone pitched like

— Based on the trailer, the “G.I. Joe” movie looks like the worst
piece of excrement ever committed to celluloid. They could have done
better by simply making a live-action version of that multi-part
episode of the cartoon where Shipwreck wakes up with amnesia and is
married with a family and everything. Don’t look at me that way. You know which one I’m talking about.

— Zack Greinke made David Wright and Shane Victorino look really,
really bad. Too bad his talents are being wasted in Kansas City.

— I’m really mad at Ichiro for fouling off the pitch on which Carl
Crawford was trying to steal, because I wanted to see a Molina vs.
Crawford showdown. Nice play by Chase Utley’s in the hole throwing out
Crawford at second, however.

— Jumping to the sixth inning, I feel it’s time to note, once
again, that Adam Jones is the spitting image of Eric Davis. By the way,
the game was humming right along at that point. Just think: if it
didn’t take 50 minutes to get through the pregame show, everyone on the
East Coast could have gone to bed at a decent hour.

— Pujols finished 0-3 with what proved to be a costly error, but he
had a couple of gems on defense as well. Albert: You’ve been a fabulous
host for two days, but the Cards need you healthy and rested for the
second half, so please do absolutely nothing today except sit in a
lounge chair and read magazines.

— Pujols being interviewed by Eric Karros:

Karros: So, does the best player in the game get butterflies?

Pujols: I don’t think I’m the best player in the game.

Karros: Albert, we are men of action. Lies do not become us.

OK, that’s not really what Karros said, but he should have.

— Carl Crawford’s snag of Brad Hawpe’s would-be homer was sweet,
and of course, ended up earning him the MVP. Lost in that was the fact
that Tejada nailed the next pitch off of Papelbon to the wall as well.
Buck called Papelbon “automatic” but he’s kind of scary if you ask me,
even if he is effective.

— Heath Bell is just a ridiculous oversized puppy dog of a human
being. He’s big and choppy and sloppy out there, like he’s with the
Gashouse Gorillas or something. Oh, and he gave up a triple to Curtis
Granderson. But let’s not blame Bell for that. Let’s blame Jayson
Werth, who failed to hit the cutoff man. If he had, Granderson possibly
stops at second or gets gunned down at third. Werth probably took the
roster slot that Matt Kemp should have had. One wonders if Kemp would
have missed the cutoff man.

— Granderson went on to score on the sac fly, making it 4-3 A.L.
with Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera waiting in the wings. It’s hindsight
now, but when I was watching last night I thought “uh-oh, game over.”

— And it was. Mariano Rivera entered the game in the ninth. The NL
knew what was coming and they couldn’t do anything about it:

— Upton grounded out . . .

— Hawpe struck out . . .

— Tejada popped out . . . ballgame.

The Upshot:

AL wins again, which is fairly depressing for an NL Fan like me.
Still, when you see Mariano Rivera closing it out, you have to
appreciate how the currents of history are flowing these days. In 50
years, people are going to think about the mid-90s to the late oughts
as a time when giants named Rivera and Jeter roamed the Earth, and
games like this one are going to help form the chronicle. To have
interlopers like Francisco Cordero and Brad Hawpe screw with that
narrative simply wouldn’t do, and NL fans have to accept that.

All in all a good game. Brisk. No silliness about everyone getting
playing time. Joe Maddon left three position players on the bench:
Carlos Pena, Nelson Cruz and Chone Figgins. Manuel left Hunter Pence
and Freddy Sanchez. Each had multiple pitchers left. At no point did it
feel like a Little League game, which is more than I can say for some
of the past few years. It felt like real baseball and looked like real
baseball. I don’t have any complaints.

Now, if we can manage through one more day without baseball, we’ll all be OK.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.