Well, Trevor Hoffman was still around to notch his 600th save and no one had to forfeit, but a lot of dudes got the hook in last night’s Cardinals-Brewers game:
- Ken Macha was ejected for arguing when the play was called dead and a run taken off the board after second base umpire Tim Timmons ruled that Craig Counsell slid out of the baseline when trying to break up a double play attempt. Sure looked like the right call to me. Counsell wasn’t anywhere near the bag.
- The next inning, Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan was ejected by home plate umpire Bob Davidson for something he said from the dugout. Presumably Davidson’s strike zone had something to do with it and, yeah, you can’t argue balls and strikes, but this one seemed a bit off to me. Either (a) Duncan said something really, really over the line; or (b) Davidson is way too sensitive to criticism. In an ideal world the umps would tune that stuff out, but I suppose it depends on what Duncan said.
- Chris Dickerson later got tossed for arguing balls and strikes, though he was on the field at the time — indeed, he was the strikeout victim — so it was a bit more clear cut.
- Finally, Davidson ejected a fan for heckling Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. The guy was later cited for disorderly conduct, which is often code for “dude, you had too many beers and are acting like an ass.” I’ve never understood ballpark drunks, by the way. Beer there costs like $8. If you’re hellbent on getting drunk, you can get a six pack of relatively top-end beer for eight bucks and watch the game in your rumpus room.
Also worth noting that the umps reversed a call on a throw to first that, at first blush, appeared to pull Albert Pujols into the baseline. After the conference, the umps ruled that Pujols didn’t interfere and called the runner safe. Again, looked like the right call, and good for the boys in blue (well, black and gray) for conferring and changing the call.
Davidson’s strike zone seemed wonky, and we can quibble over whether umps should eject pitching coaches for complaining from the dugout, but all in all it was a pretty solid effort on the confrontation front from the umps. In a year with so many examples of bad umpire behavior, you have to consider this something of a victory for reasonableness.
Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.
Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.
Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.
It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.
After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.
The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.
Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.
The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.
Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.
Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.
After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.
The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.