Maybe the HR Derby isn't such a good idea

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Are we ready to blame the Home Run Derby for squashing Albert Pujols’ chance at the Triple Crown, or is that just an easy excuse? We remember players from the past flaming out after taking part in the Derby – David Wright hit only 6 HR after the break in 2006, and of course Bobby Abreu hit a mere 6 dingers in the second half after dominating the slugfest the year before – but such a thing couldn’t happen to Big Al, right?

Perhaps it’s because we’re looking at a small sample size or maybe a slight statistical decline was inevitable because no human being can keep up the absurd offensive pace that Pujols set from April through early July. But it’s worth peeking at the splits before and after the Derby:
Before: 90 G, .332/.456/.723, 32 HR, 87 RBI, 35 K
After:    31 G, .280/.401/.525, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 14 K
These aren’t bad numbers – I’ll take a .926 OPS, thank you. They’re just not what we were getting from Pujols a couple months ago. Did the HR Derby mess up his swing a bit? Probably the only person who might know is him. And it must be nice to be in a relative slump and still have 39 HR in late August.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.