I had all kinds of fun yesterday watching that gonzo Angels-Tigers game. But really, no one distinguished themselves once it got all ugly. For those who missed it:
- Magglio Ordonez may or may not have shown up Jered Weaver by posing for a home run after he hit it. I actually buy Ordonez’s argument that he was merely watching to see if it went foul — that was my thought as I watched it live — but Weaver obviously felt differently.
- Carlos Guillen then really did pose (and preen and strut and generally act like an ass) after his home run off Weaver.
- Weaver then did the absolutely inexcusable in throwing the next pitch at Alex Avila’s head. Really, no excuse whatsoever. You could end a guy’s career with that kind of crap. Or worse. If I was in charge I’d suspend Weaver 20 games for that.
- Erik Aybar bunted in an effort to break up Verlander’s no-hitter. This is a fun one. On the one hand, yes, it’s an alleged violation of the unwritten rules to do this. And maybe I agree if it’s a 9-0 game, but this was a close game and Aybar came around to score, so no worries. Except, isn’t it possible that the play can both be defensible against charges of an unwritten rule violation but also be kind of a dick move? I bet the Angels wanted to mess with Verlander and get a guy on base and were content to do both at the same time. So while I don’t care if he bunted, let’s not pretend that it was a purely tactical move.
- Oh, and Aybar’s “reached on an error” should have been a single. Only a hometown official scorer gives Verlander a throwing error in that situation. Didn’t matter given that the no-hitter was broken up on a clean single, but it’s still worth noting.
- And of course Aybar threw an elbow at Verlander as he crossed home plate.
Add in all of the in-game and post-game beefing from these guys — I counted at least three F-bombs yelled from players during the game — and we have a game in which everyone came off badly.
The worst thing of all, though? These two teams don’t play each other again until next year. Sigh.
The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.
After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.
But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.
- They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
- They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
- They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
- They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.
The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.
Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.