For want of a nail: the Braves stun the Giants and then the Giants stun them right back

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For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

Or was that about second basemen?

Before I start in on the Brooks Conrad sturm und drang, allow me to say that no matter who wins this series, it has been a fantastic one.  Close. Exciting.  Filled with the unexpected.  That went for Friday’s game without question, but perhaps it went even more for tonight.

The Giants led most of the way behind a strong performance from Jonathan Sanchez.  Meanwhile, the only damage the Giants could do resulted from Jason Heyward slamming against the wall to give Mike Fontenot a triple, followed by a Brooks Conrad error that allowed Fontenot to score.

Well, at least he got that out of his system, right?

Flash forward to the eighth inning where pinch-hitter Eric Hinske hit a two-run homer.  It’s the kind of thing, combined with Rick Ankiel’s home run on Friday, that truly makes you marvel at the blinding star power the Braves are riding in this series. Frank Wren had put a call in to Francisco Cabrera to ask if he wanted to pinch hit and Cabrera turned him down because the gig was way too low-rent for him.  Hinske was dramatic enough, however, yelling and pumping his fist at one of the more improbable home runs in recent memory.  If the game could have ended right there, oh how memorable it would have been.

But with Billy Wagner at a field hospital someplace, no lead is a sure thing for the Braves.  After getting two outs and allowing one baserunner, Craig Kimbrel allowed a Freddy Sanchez single to center.  Bobby Cox — who is so damn trusting that he doesn’t even remove Brooks Conrad for a defensive replacement — doesn’t trust Kimbrel to get one more out and brings in Mike Dunn to face Aubrey Huff. Huff singled in the tying run.

What happened next was just so . . . appropriate.  Peter Moylan comes in and induces a grounder to second by Buster Posey.  That goes right through Brooks Conrad’s wickets. It was his third error of the game.  If Bobby Cox wishes to manage more than one more game in his career, it will be the last defensive chance Conrad ever receives.  Seriously, put Tim Hudson in at second base. It couldn’t be worse.

It was lost in rage-haze, but I’m told that the Braves eventually got the third out and then went down mostly quietly in the bottom of the ninth.  Game over: Giants win 3-2.

If they could take a man’s life for the thoughts that’s in his head . . .

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.