The Panic Index: The Red Sox, Giants, Rays and Brewers

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Panic on the streets of Boston … St. Pete, Frisco and Milwaukee …

OK, fine, so the Smiths sang about panic better than I can, but the “oh noes!” quotient is pretty high among some fans this morning. Fans who, it seems, forgot that baseball is not football and three or four games don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but their pain is real even if it’s not entirely rational.

Or is it?  Based on random comments, emails and tweets, fans of four teams seem to be most concerned on this fine day. Let’s see if they’re taking to their fainting couches prematurely or if they really do have something to worry about. Let’s rate the panic on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning that you’re just mad about Saffron, and ten meaning that it’s time for fans to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside:

Red Sox: Yeah, it was an ugly weekend with the pitching staff serving up meatballs, but I really do think this is just a blip. The Sox are not the first team to leave The Ballpark with an ugly ERA and they won’t be the last. The Rangers are good. Everyone is healthy. The 1998 Yankees began the season 0-3 and they somehow found 114 wins lying around over the next six months, so there’s no reason to push the panic button in Beantown. Panic Index: 3

Giants: Yeah, the chalk outline of Aubrey Huff in right was funny, but with the way he’s flopped around out there I’m worried for his safety, be it from going into a wall Bump Bailey-style or be it from his pitching staff murdering him. The defense is a huge problem for San Francisco. Perhaps a bigger problem than we assumed this spring. Still, Cody Ross will be back soon, moving Huff to left, and you can’t really get down on a team with this kind of pitching. Panic Index: 5

Brewers: Eh, hard to say if it’s panic time yet. The Reds are good. Milwaukee should have won that Opening Day game. Zack Greinke will come back and restore order. But the defense, while not as spectacularly shaky as the Giants was this weekend, was bad, and Randy Wolf made everyone flash back to the Brewers’ pitching struggles in 2010.  Panic Index: 6

Rays: This is a problem. No, not the anemic showing against the Orioles as such — Chris Tillman and Zach Britton are going to make a lot of guys look bad over the next few years — but because of the injuries. Evan Longoria could be on the shelf for three weeks if you believe Joe Maddon, and Johnny Damon — a guy whose primary value at this point is his dependability — is hurting only two games into this thing.  For the Rays to have a hope at being relevant, everything needs to go their way. They need to get the breaks. Losing their best player and their starting left fielder is not something they need. Panic Index: 8

So there you have it.  Knowing these things won’t prevent you from panicking, of course, but at least you now know how rational your panic truly is. And knowing is half the battle.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.