The disconnect between the “storylines” that surround baseball and the actual baseball seems even starker than usual this week. Mostly because of Cliff Lee.
It seems like everything that has been written about the ALCS has started from the premise that Cliff Lee is like some avenging angel of death against whom no soul has a chance. What will the Yankees do now that they have to face him twice in a five game series? What should they do with the rotation to counter it? Now, courtesy of Ken Rosenthal’s latest column, we’re starting in on the “what will happen if Cliff Lee beats the Phillies in the World Series” stuff.
Don’t get me wrong: they’re interesting storylines, as Lee is a pretty phenomenal pitcher, especially in the postseason. But I just kind of get the feeling that the Yankees and Phillies don’t care all that much about it. The Yankees, as Mark Simon at ESPN New York points out today, have faced a few aces before. Indeed, postseason teams face aces every year because, hey, good pitchers tend to lead their teams to the playoffs. Lee is great, but he’s not supernatural. Likewise the Phillies would likely rather face someone else, but it’s not like they can be unhappy with the current state of the rotation. Because, you know, it’s pretty good.
Some things matter a lot more than we think because they don’t get talked about all that much before they actually reveal themselves to be gigantically important in a playoff series: Lefty-lefty matchups. Lingering injuries. A defensive liability that just can’t be hidden. Other things seem huge beforehand but really don’t matter a ton. I’m putting Cliff Lee Hysteria in that category.
Update (11:09 PM EDT):
From unlucky to lucky, the Cardinals maintained their position in the National League Wild Card race with walk-off victory over the Reds on Thursday night.
The Cardinals went into the top of the ninth with a 3-2 lead over the Reds, but saw the game tied when Scott Schebler dribbled a two-strike, two out ground ball down the third base line. It seemed as if the baseball gods had turned their backs on the Cardinals.
In the bottom of the ninth against reliever Blake Wood, Matt Carpenter drew a one-out walk. Randal Grichuk then struck out, leaving all of the Cardinals’ hopes on Yadier Molina. Molina went ahead 2-0 in the count, then ripped a 95 MPH fastball to left field. The ball bounced high and over the left field fence for what seemed like an obvious ground-rule double. Carpenter motored around third base and scored the winning run.
The Cardinals poured onto the field in celebration and the umpires walked off the field. Manager Bryan Price wanted to have the play reviewed, but when he went onto the field, the umpires were nowhere to be found. Price chased after them but to no avail. As the Cardinals left the field and the stadium emptied, the Reds remained in the dugout. The Reds’ relievers were left in a bit of purgatory, standing aimlessly in left field after exiting the bullpen. Finally, the game was announced as complete over the P.A. system at Busch Stadium. The results are great if you’re a Cardinals fan, but terrible if you’re a Mets or Giants fan.
As Jon Morosi points out, the rules clearly state that the signage above the fence in left field is out of the field of play. The umpires got it wrong.
Price, however, also took too long to speak to the umpires. Per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
If this happened between two teams playing a meaningless game, it would’ve been a lot easier to swallow, but Thursday’s Reds-Cardinals game had implications on not only the Cardinals’ future, but the Mets’ and Giants’ as well.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman went 0-for-4 during Thursday’s win against the Phillies, snapping his hitting streak at 30 games. It marked the longest hitting streak of the 2016 season. Freeman’s streak of 46 consecutive games reaching base safely ended as well.
The longest hitting streak in Atlanta Braves history belongs to Dan Uggla, who hit in 33 consecutive games in 2011. Tommy Holmes hit in 37 straight for the Boston Braves in 1945.
During his hitting streak, Freeman hit .384/.485/.670 with 11 doubles, seven home runs, 27 RBI, and 26 runs scored in 136 plate appearances. That padded what were already very strong numbers on the season. After Thursday’s game, Freeman is overall batting .306/.404/.572 with 33 home runs, 88 RBI< and 101 runs scored in 677 plate appearances.