Sherrill, Ibanez, and the unpredictable playoffs

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Count me among those who think that the playoffs involve a lot more luck and random chance than most people would like to believe. An example of the unpredictable, anything-can-happen nature of the postseason was on display last night when George Sherrill came out of the Dodgers’ bullpen to pitch the eighth inning of a 5-4 game.
Sherrill is among the best left-handed relievers in baseball and was absolutely fantastic after joining the Dodgers in a midseason trade, posting a 0.65 ERA in 27.2 innings while holding opponents to a .192 batting average. Overall this season left-handed batters managed to hit a measly .128 with zero homers against Sherrill and he also held lefties to a .190 batting average last year.
So what happened? Well, first Sherrill walked Ryan Howard, a left-handed batter who hit just .207 with a putrid .653 OPS against southpaws this season. And then he walked Jayson Werth, which as ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark pointed out was the first time in Sherrill’s entire career that he’d walked back-to-back hitters leading off an inning that he’d started. But wait, there’s more.
With two men on base Raul Ibanez stepped to the plate, at which point Sherrill served up his first home run to a left-handed hitter since June 14, 2008. Now, to Ibanez’s credit he’s typically done well against left-handed pitching, so his hitting the homer isn’t so shocking. But the entire sequence had to come as a shock to Joe Torre, who’s spent the last few months watching Sherrill give up a grand total of one run in 30 appearances while being basically unhittable against lefties.
So naturally Sherrill walks the first two batters he sees, including a left-handed hitter who struggles mightily against pitchers like him, and then serves up his first homer to a lefty in 17 months. These are the types of things that determine who wins and loses in the playoffs, and there’s just no way to predict them in an environment where losing three or four games to a good team ends your season. It’s an awful lot of fun to watch, though.

Nationals do not activate Bryce Harper for Monday’s game

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The Nationals were expected to activate outfielder Bryce Harper from the 10-day disabled list in advance of Monday’s series opener in Philadelphia, but they did not because Harper woke up with flulike symptoms, Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reports. It doesn’t have anything to do with the knee injury which sent him to the DL last month or the ensuing rehab, he adds.

Rain had fallen in Washington, D.C. on August 12 ahead of the Nationals’ game against the Giants. Harper attempted to beat out a ground out to first base but slipped on the wet first base bag and was later diagnosed with a bone bruise in his left knee.

Harper was in the midst of a great season prior to the injury, perhaps one that would have led to an NL MVP Award. When he comes back, he’ll do what he can to pad his .326/.419/.614 slash line along with 29 home runs, 87 RBI, and 92 runs scored in 472 plate appearances. The Nationals are just concerned with getting him back in the flow of things in time for the playoffs. They have seven games remaining in the regular season.

Chris Archer on joining Bruce Maxwell’s protest: “I don’t think it would be the best thing to do for me at this time.”

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Rays pitcher Chris Archer doesn’t see himself joining Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest any time soon, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reports. Archer said, “From the feedback that I’ve gotten from my teammates, I don’t think it would be the best thing to do for me, at this time. I agree with the message. I believe in equality.”

Archer continued, “I don’t want to offend anybody. No matter how you explain it or justify it, some people just can’t get past the military element of it and it’s not something I want to do, is ruffle my teammates’ feathers on my personal views that have nothing to do with baseball.”

Archer did express admiration for the way Maxwell handled his situation. The right-hander said, “The way he went about it was totally, I think, as respectful as possible, just letting everybody know that this doesn’t have anything to do with the military, first and foremost, noting that he has family members that are in the military. It’s a little bit tougher for baseball players to make that leap, but I think he was the right person to do it.”

Maxwell recently became the first baseball player to kneel as the national anthem was sung, a method of protest popularized by quarterback Colin Kaepernick. As Craig explained yesterday, baseball’s hierarchical culture has proven to be a strong deterrent for players to express their unpopular opinions. We can certainly see that in Archer’s justification. Archer was one of 62 African Americans on the Opening Day roster across 30 major league clubs (750 total players, 8.3%).