I have preferred the TBS playoff coverage to the FOX coverage over the past couple of years for two reasons: (1) Unlike FOX, TBS’s producers don’t appear to have ADHD and can keep to a single camera shot for more than a half second, resisting the urge to cut from closeup to closeup to closeup between pitches; and (2) in the grand scheme of things, Chip Caray + Ron Darling > Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Based on last night’s game, however, these assumptions may no longer be operative.
The direction in the Twins-Tigers tilt was practically seizure-inducing. If there was a woman in the Metrodome stands holding her hands together in prayer that the cameras didn’t cut to in between pitches I’ll be utterly shocked. Also, Tigers’ third base coach Gene Lamont needs to give his publicist a raise, because whatever it is he’s doing to get his client more camera time while he sits uncomfortably in his too-tight uniform in the dugout while the Tigers are in the field is obviously working. Between the fan shots and Lamont-o-vision it was rare to actually see a catcher give the signs and the pitcher come set in the late innings.
Caray has reached a whole new level. The one everyone is talking about today is his call of Nick Punto’s “Line drive! Base hit!” to left in the 10th inning. It was the first line drive base hit I’ve ever seen result in the batter being out and the runner being killed at the plate following a tag-up. But that wasn’t Caray’s only delightful moment. Every foul ball was “fisted”. Every fair ball was a “hot shot!” In a game where there was no shortage of organic drama, Caray tried to infuse every call with instant phony drama rather than let the game speak for itself. By the time we were in extra innings, Ron Darling was spending more time trying to cover for Caray’s screwups than he was offering analysis. Which, while entertaining in its own right, almost makes one pine for Buck and McCarver. At least we’ve had more practice tuning them out.
There are three games today, all on TBS. The only saving grace is that Chip Caray can only call one of them.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.