Scenes from Spring Training: Red Sox Nation South Part 3

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Price hand.jpgBack up to the press box, I got my lunch on.  Much more elaborate spread than the Mets or the Twins put out. Lasagna, hot dogs, cold cuts, chicken salad, fresh fruit, cake and all kinds of other stuff. And though I didn’t hang around that long, there was a sign saying that they did a press box dinner too.  Given the amount of copy Red Sox beat writers generate I’m surprised they don’t have breakfast and a room full of cots for allnighters too.

Eventually, a game started.  Some random observations:

  • There were three fans in Rays shirts standing in front of their seats just below the press box,stretching along with the team. They were doing the same drills and everything. And it’s not like it was smartass college kids. It was a woman in her late 50s or early 60s and a guy around my age who was probably her son. Odd;
  • When I got to the press box that morning, all the windows were closed. I assumed at some point people would begin to open the windows so as to, you know, be able to enjoy the weather and listen to the sounds of the game. As the first pitch drew near, however, everyone’s window was still closed.  Given just how many seasoned pros were there I didn’t want to be the first one to open a window. Maybe there was some dumb ritual involved? Protocols beyond my understanding.  A sacred rite of window opening that, should I violate it, would cause unspeakable horrors to be visited upon me. Ah screw it. I opened my window. Then everyone else opened theirs. I tend to over think stuff like that;
  • Garciaparra threw out the first pitch, which was caught by his college and pro teammate, Jason Varitek. It went over the plate and, amazingly, Nomar didn’t rupture or strain anything.  David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus was standing near me when it all went down and he had a great idea: Nomar should have stood at short and made a throw to first base instead.  Assuming he can still make that throw I think it’s an awesome idea.  If anyone who matters in Red Sox Nation is reading this, you should totally do that at Fenway sometime this season;
  • Adrian Belte’s bat broke in the second inning, sending a shard in David Price’s direction. It hit him on the hand and forced him out of the game with an abrasion. BatGlove anyone?
  • Jacoby Ellsbury hit two home runs.  What with all the power I guess it’s safe to say that he’s taking that move to left field to heart;
  • After Ellsbury hit the first one, the PA announcer said “this home run was brought to you by Germain Toyota!”  Germain is actually a Columbus, Ohio-based car dealer, who opened up a Fort Myers branch a few years back.  Earlier in the day I heard a promo on the Ft. Myers NPR station saying that the show was “brought to you by Roetzel & Andress,” which is an Ohio law firm that happens to have a couple of south Florida offices. The main drag through Ft. Myers is called Cleveland Avenue. A half hour north of town there’s an exit off of I-75 for Toledo Blade Blvd., obviously named after the newspaper.  Call me crazy, but I think the Ohio invasion was a success.  Governor Strickland should come down to Tallahassee and accept Charlie Crist’s surrender;
  • Things you forget when it’s been a while since you’ve seen a baseball game in person:  they call it a “base knock” because I’ll be damned if doesn’t sound just like someone knocking on a solid wood door when it’s the ball is hit just right.  So simple. So satisfying.

OK, here’s the Jonny Miller story:  Miller keeps meticulous score during the game. Doesn’t miss a play. Around the fourth inning the Red Sox PR guy comes by and tells Miller that Jon Lester is available for interviews. Miller turns to me and says — doesn’t really ask, just says — “you make sure to keep score for me while I’m gone.”  Despite the fact that I rarely if ever keep score during games, I nodded and said I would.  Crap.

OK, so I start keeping score, utilizing my sloppy, inconsistent system, in smeary pen on the paper score sheet they hand out in the press room.  Miller is gone a long time. Two thirds of the Red Sox half of the third and the entire Rays half of the fourth, during which they sent ten guys to the plate. My score sheet is a complete disaster at this point and there’s no way Miller’s going to be able to follow it.  I can read it, however, so I figure that I’ll just read it back to him when he returns.

Miller comes back and says “hand me your score sheet.”  I tell him it’s hard to read. He either doesn’t hear this or doesn’t care and just repeats “hand me your score sheet.”  I give it to him and nod my head in shame. He starts writing, then stops. Then he just kind of looks at me with an expression that seems to say “kid, you got problems.” He hands it back to me and says, wearily, “just tell me who got the RBIs.”  I only knew this guy for about three hours at this point, but I felt like I was disappointing my father or something.

We parted on a great note, however.  The game was running really long, and since I had to drive up to Bradenton afterward to meet my mother-in-law for dinner, I figured I’d skip the postgame interviews and get on the road early.  As I was packing up, Miller asked me if I was leaving. I explained and he understood.

“Long game today,” he said. “Could go four hours. You’d better go see your mother-in-law.”

“Yeah, just too long for me today,” I said.

“March 8, 1973. Longest spring training game I ever been to,” Miller says. “Red Sox and White Sox in Sarasota.  Twelve innings.”

“That had to be a killer,” I said.

“No. It was great.”

And you can tell by his tone that he truly meant it.  I’ll remember that the next time I’m bitching about a long game.

Jacob deGrom outduels Clayton Kershaw, Mets take 1-0 NLDS lead

Jacob de Grom
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Jacob deGrom put together one of the best post-season starts in Mets history, outdueling three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to pitch his team into a 1-0 NLDS lead. The right-hander fanned 13 over seven shutout innings, holding the Dodgers to five hits and a walk as the Mets won 3-1.

deGrom’s game score of 79 is the fifth-best by a Mets starter in the playoffs, behind Jon Matlack, Mike Hampton, Bobby Jones, and Tom Seaver, according to Baseball Reference. As Katie Sharp notes on Twitter, deGrom is one of three pitchers to hold the opposition scoreless on 13 or more strikeouts and one or fewer walks. The other two are Tim Lincecum and Mike Scott.

In the eighth inning, reliever Tyler Clippard allowed a one-out double to Howie Kendrick followed by an RBI single to Adrian Gonzalez as the Dodgers finally got on the board. Closer Jeurys Familia entered and recorded the final out of the eighth inning by inducing a weak line out from Justin Turner. In the ninth, Familia worked a 1-2-3 frame to wrap up the game.

Kershaw remains winless in the post-season since Game 1 of the 2013 NLDS, a span of seven starts. He gave up a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning, then walked the bases loaded in the seventh inning before departing with two outs. Reliever Pedro Baez entered and allowed two of his inherited runners to score when David Wright lined a single to center field. On the evening, Kershaw was on the hook for three runs on four hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts. Though he lost his command a bit towards the end of his start, the lefty pitched quite well and will be on the receiving end of some unnecessary criticism as a result of taking another post-season loss.

deGrom and Kershaw both struck out 11 batters, the first time that has happened in a major league post-season game.

Michael Cuddyer didn’t look too good out in left field for the Mets.

Game 2 of the NLDS will continue on Saturday at 9:00 PM EDT. Noah Syndergaard will start for the Mets opposite Zack Greinke of the Dodgers.

Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom create MLB first with 11 strikeouts each in the playoffs

Jacob deGrom
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers over six frames on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and four walks total in 6 2/3 innings.

The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.

Michael Cuddyer not shining in left field early in NLDS Game 1

Michael Cuddyer
AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek

Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.

Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.

With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.

Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.