Aided by umps, Angels run away with Game 1

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The Angels, who have had three of their last four postseason runs spoiled by the Red Sox, took a big step towards getting the Rally Monkey off their backs with a 5-0 victory in Thursday’s ALDS Game 1.
Boston had plenty of reason to gripe after the game. Torii Hunter should have been rung up on strikes before walking to lead the bases in the third. First-base ump C.B. Bucknor missed Kevin Youkilis’ obvious tag on Howie Kendrick to extend the fourth inning. Bucknor had an even worse call in the sixth, when Youkilis had to jump off first base to make a catch. He clearly came right back down on the bag, yet Bucknor called the runner safe anyway.
That none of those plays came in innings in which the Angels scored means there won’t be any long-term controversy here. Still, those extra pitches Lester was forced to throw added up. Vladimir Guerrero should have been the first out of the fourth, not the last of the third. Jeff Mathis, the easiest out in either lineup, never should have come to the plate in the fourth, yet he made the last out after the blown call on Kendrick. Had things worked out differently, perhaps Torii Hunter never would have made it to the plate to hit his three-run homer in the fifth.
In the end, it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. After an encouraging first inning, the Red Sox turned in mostly atrocious at-bats against an impressive John Lackey, who pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings. The only threat was a two-out rally in the sixth, when Dustin Pedroia singled and Victor Martinez walked. Youkilis went on to work a 3-0 count and then took what was clearly ball four on the TBS pitch trax, only to have an inconsistent Joe West call it a strike. He went on to ground out, and the Red Sox put just one runner on during the final three innings.
The story of the game was Lackey’s performance. He allowed four hits, walked just the one and struck out four. Darren Oliver replaced him in the eighth and retired five in a row to end the game. It was Lackey’s first postseason victory since the 2002 World Series. He had been 0-3 in six outings since. Boston was shut out in the postseason for the first time since 1995.

Matthew Stafford audibles with “Kershaw! Kershaw!”

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Last night the Detroit Lions played the New York Giants. During the game Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford called an audible. The call itself referenced Stafford’s childhood friend and high school baseball teammate, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. From the Freep:

Matthew Stafford stepped to the line of scrimmage late in the third quarter and surveyed the Giants defense.

With five pass rushers across the front and three Giants cornerbacks showing a press-man look, Stafford looked at his two receivers to the left and invoked the name of his childhood friend, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

“Give me Kershaw here, Kershaw,” Stafford said, repeating his friend’s name two more times as he spun around at the line of scrimmage.

The audible did not result in a pick-4 to Aaron Altherr. It called for a run up the middle. And it worked nicely, gaining eight yards.

You may suggest the results of other starting pitcher-themed audibles in the comments. I’ll start: “Harvey! Harvey!” is where the QB fakes a handoff, drops back, looks deep and then his arm falls completely off. Damndest thing.

Matt Harvey has a 13.19 ERA since coming back from the disabled list

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Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.

Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.

Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.

Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.

Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.