And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Giants 10, Astros 0: A simply unbelievable night for Matt Cain.  As we noted last night, this was among the best games ever pitched in the history of baseball. Perfection is one thing. Doing it while striking out 14 is dominant perfection.  And don’t try to diminish it by saying “hey, it was the Astros.” Their offense is respectable this season. And Cain only faced the opposing pitcher one time.

Mets 9, Rays 1: When you east coasters went to bed I bet you thought R.A. Dickey was going to have the best game of the night among pitchers, huh?  And it was good. Dickey tossed a one-hitter, striking out 12. The Mets are appealing the one hit, though, arguing it was an error. Um, OK, I guess David Wright — the man who would be charged with the error — won’t mind. But it’s not like Dickey is gonna get a dogpile and a pie to the face out of this if it is overruled. All of the joy of a no-hitter tends to come in the moment, ya know?

Cardinals 1, White Sox 0: Last night I decided to go retrogeek so I dialed up a couple of Star Trek TNG episodes on Netflix and let my dork flag fly.  One of them I watched was “Parallels,” a seventh season number in which Worf finds himself shifting among alternate universes. A pretty good one. Partially because it featured a lot of late-model Counselor Troi with a part big enough for her to hang around a lot — which was something I certainly appreciated back in 1993 — but not so big to where the writers’ inability to give her anything approaching decent dialogue or things to do would ruin the episode.

The gist of the episode was that any moment in time presents infinite possibilities and that all of those possibilities actually do occur, just in parallel universes.  So, for example, back in February, the Chris Carpenter in our universe was injured and went on the DL.  But in some other universe, Carpenter was fine and has taken his turn in the Cardinals’ rotation every time out.  If that were to happen here, Lance Lynn would not have won his tenth game last night, would not have struck out 12 and would not have lowered his ERA to 2.42 after seven and a third shutout innings.

Rangers 1, Diamondbacks 0: The other episode I watched was “Tapestry,” because I love me some Q. It had absolutely nothing to do with Matt Harrison shutting out the Dbacks for seven and a third and Craig Gentry singling in a run. Unless of course it was found out later that Harrison winning this one caused some future problem for him that he wished never happened, the win was undone by an omnipotent being, it caused Harrison to totally lose his mojo and he then begged to have time set right again, whatever the consequences.

And now that I think about it, I probably could have more easily shoehorned the Mets/R.A. Dickey recap into “Tapestry” if I wanted to, imagining a future where Dickey is awarded the no-hitter only to have it ruin his life somehow. I imagine his conversations with Q would be way more interesting than Matt Harrison’s at any rate.

Tigers 8, Cubs 4: Brennan Boesch went 4 for 5 and drove in two and Jhonny Peralta went 3 for 4 and drove in two more. Ramon Santiago drove in two also, but both came on groundouts. I guess I’d feel OK with that if I were him, even if it wasn’t quite as fun.

Phillies 9, Twins 8: The Phillies had six-run leads twice, almost blowing both of them but ultimately holding on. Jim Thome was big, driving in four. Too bad the Phillies can’t use a DH all season.

Red Sox 10, Marlins 2: Any team in baseball streakier than the Marlins this year? They’ve gone from cold to hot to cold again. Maybe Ozzie should talk up some despot once again and try to jump start things.   “I love Gul Madred.  A lot of people have wanted to kill Gul Madred for the last 60 years, but that (expletive) is still here.”

Reds 5, Indians 3: Mat Latos gave up two runs over seven innings and Brandon Phillips went 3 for 3 with a two-run homer. Oh, and Derek Lowe called Dusty Baker out after the game with one of those “he knows what he did” rants that are always so amusing.

Orioles 7, Pirates 1: Jake Arrieta wasn’t even supposed to be there yesterday. It was Brian Matusz’s start, but he knocked himself in the face in the batting cage the other day. Arrieta was up to the challenge, however, as he struck out nine over seven innings, ending a personal six-game losing streak and helping the O’s win their fourth straight.

Yankees 3, Braves 2: New York comes into Atlanta and takes three straight. Just like 1996 all over again.

Nationals 6, Blue Jays 2: Stephen Strasburg continues his outrageously good year, striking out eight in six innings and winning his eighth game. Tyler Moore is 25 and is just now getting his footing in the majors, but after a two-homer five RBI day, it looks like he’s gonna make it after all.

Royals 4, Brewers 3: John Axford doesn’t blow a lot of saves, but he blew a two-run lead in the ninth here, giving up a two-run triple to Alcides Escobar, sending it to extras.  In the 11th, Kameron Loe loaded the bases, was yanked for Jose Veras and Veras walked Mike Moustakas on five pitches. Ballgame.

Angels 2, Dodgers 1: Erick Aybar doesn’t hit a lot of homers. Indeed, the game-winning shot he hit in the ninth inning of this one was his first all season. Aybar was also involved in a weird play in which he “dropped” a line drive with a runner on first, but began a double play when he picked up the ball. Umpire Sam Holbrook ruled, however, that Aybar did it on purpose, called the batter out but sent the runner back to first. I can’t recall ever seeing that happen in a game.

Padres 1, Mariners 0: The third 1-0 game of the night. From the files of the unexpected: Jason Marquis threw six and third shutout innings. Shame he has an “r” in his name. If he didn’t he’d be way more badass.

Athletics 10, Rockies 8: Seven straight losses for Colorado, this after leading since the bottom of the first. Brandon Inge hit a two-out, two-run double in the ninth to plate the winning run and an insurance run. Michael Cuddyer hit two homers in a losing cause. Not to be a poop-stirrer, but at what point does Jim Tracy get canned here?

2017 World Series Preview: How the Astros and Dodgers match up

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The Dodgers are seeking their first World Series championship in 29 years. The Astros are seeking their first in the franchise’s 56-season history. Clayton Kershaw is making his first appearance on baseball’s biggest stage. Justin Verlander is making his third, but looking for his first ring. The Astros two aces are facing the Dodgers’ deep lineup. The Dodgers power throwing bullpen will face off against the Astros powerful lineup. For the first time in 47 years each team in the World Series won 100 games in the regular season.

Stars taking on stars. Power facing power. History, of one kind or another, somewhere between five and nine days from being made. It’s the Fall Classic, and it gets underway tonight. Here’s how it all breaks down:

 

THE ROTATIONS

It’s a bit of a shame that the rotations didn’t line up in order to give us a Verlander-Kershaw battle in Game 1, as it’s not every day you see two pitchers who each won an MVP Award face off. We’re still going to get some great matchups of staters here, however, as Kershaw — who still has something to prove as a big-game pitcher, his pennant-clinching Game 5 NLCS victory notwithstanding — meets 2015 Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel in tonight’s Game 1. Game 2 gives us Rich Hill, who has remade himself into one of baseball’s best in the latter stages of his career, against Verlander, who many though his best days were behind him. That was before his trade to Houston and his 9-0 run for the Astros that culminated in a couple of the most dominant postseason starts in recent memory.

The back end of the rotations, featuring Yu Darvish and Alex Wood for L.A. and Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers for Houston, are pretty evenly matched. At their best the Dodgers back two are probably better, but they have each been touched at times late in the season while both Morton and McCullers found a new gear in the ALCS. Whether driving at that gear has them low on gas at the moment is an open question. ADVANTAGE DODGERS.

 

THE LINEUPS

The Dodgers’ lineup has been top heavy in the postseason, but the top has been really, really heavy, so it’s been just fine. Chris Taylor, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig have been nearly impossible to pitch to. Fill-in shortstop Charlie Culberson was a revelation in Corey Seager‘s injury absence, but Seager’s back is better and he will be back for the World Series. The bottom half of the lineup has not come through too often — Kiké Hernandez’s big NLCS Game 5 notwithstanding — with left field (Andre Ethier/Hernandez/Curtis Granderson) second base (Logan Forsythe/Chase Utley) and catcher (Austin Barnes, who has pushed Yasmani Grandal to the bench) struggling. The Dodgers can win it all if the top half of the lineup continues doing what it’s doing, but given how slumps can hit at any time, Dave Roberts would like to see a new postseason star emerge.

The Astros bats need no introduction, but they could use a bit more consistency in the postseason. Houston led the majors in runs, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, were second in homers and struck out less than any team in baseball. The Yankees kept them quiet in the first five games of the ALCS but they roared back to life in Games 6 and 7. The attack will be keyed, as always, by possible AL MVP Jose Altuve, leadoff power source George Springer and shortstop Carlos Correa. As Houston showed all season, however, almost everyone in this lineup is dangerous.  ADVANTAGE ASTROS.

 

THE BULLPENS

This is probably the biggest separator between the clubs, with the Dodgers sporting a big advantage. Unlike in postseasons past, Dave Roberts has not had to use Clayton Kershaw or his other starters as relievers. This is due in part to the Dodgers taking care of their business quickly, sweeping the Dbacks in the NLDS and beating the Cubs in five in the NLCS. It’s mostly, though, due to the uncharacteristic depth and power of L.A’s relief corps. They didn’t allow a run against the Cubs in 17 innings of work in the NLCS.

Kenley Jansen needs no introduction. He continues to be one of the best if not the best closer in the game. Roberts will not hesitate to use him for multiple innings if need be. Has retired 24 of the 28 batters he has faced in the playoffs. He’s yet to be challenged. Hard throwing Brandon Morrow looks like an ace closer this postseason. Kenta Maeda has been a revelation as a setup man who can go multiple innings if need be. Tony Cingrani, Tony Watson and Josh Fields have not been used heavily, but each provides Roberts with an embarrassment of matchup possibilities.

Houston has talent in their pen, but it’s been somewhat shaky in the postseason. Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Joe Musgrove were all gotten to by Yankees hitters in the ALCS. Ken Giles has been OK, but not dominant, and A.J. Hinch has leaned a bit heavier than usual on him at times. More tellingly, Hinch has leaned on starters in relief, using Justin Verlander in that role in the ALDS against the Red Sox and using McCullers for four innings of relief in Game 7 of the ALCS. Hinch’s best hope is that he gets a lot of innings from Keuchel and Verlander in Games 1 and 2 and then has everyone in the pen well-rested for he middle games of the Series. If not, he’s going to be doing a lot of shuffling and, yes, we may see a lot of short rest work from starters in relief roles. ADVANTAGE DODGERS.

 

THE MANAGERS

Dave Roberts is the reigning NL Manager of the Year and both he and A.J. Hinch has a good shot of winning the award this year. Neither man has been second guessed very often in this postseason, as Roberts has not had to gamble at all and Hinch’s gambles have largely paid off. Unlike in some years, there are few dramatic storylines and little philosophical tension at play here. Both of these guys played the game, both work well with analytically-minded front offices yet both have shown that they have a free hand to use their instincts to make changes on the fly and manage the game on the field rather than simply carry out a game plan. If either of these two guys make themselves into a big story in this series it’ll be pretty surprising. EVEN.

 

THE BENCHES

The Dodgers lineup is a bit more fluid than Houston’s, with Roberts subbing in different guys at left field and second base in various postseason games. As such, if they’re not starting they may be a bit more game-ready than your usual benchwarmer. Houston tends to roll with the same lineup most nights, but Hinch has some flexibility at catcher where Evan Gattis and Brian McCann are both options and at DH in the home games, where either of them or Carlos Beltran can see action. ADVANTAGE DODGERS.

 

X-FACTOR

We don’t put much stock in intangibles, history or dramatic storylines when it comes to the World Series. We’ll leave that to the producers at Fox. Buy we will throw one wild card into the mix: home field advantage.

It’s not often the most important thing going in baseball, but it’s been an usually big boost in the 2017 postseason. Home teams are 23-8 (.742) this October, which is the best mark since the playoffs expanded to include Wild Card teams. So far the Astros are 6-0 in Houston and the Dodgers are 4-0 in Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers, likewise, had the best home record in all of baseball in the regular season. L.A. hasn’t yet had to bring a playoff series back home after it began, but the chance to host four home games in a best of seven may loom a bit larger this year than most. Oh, and keep an eye on guys’ stamina levels in Games 1 and 2. It’s gonna be close to 100 degrees at Dodger Stadium at game time for each of those tiltsADVANTAGE DODGERS.

 

PREDICTION

This is the matchup many of us were hoping for as early as late July. The Dodgers swooned in late August and early September, but the fact that they still won 104 games tells you just how dominant a club they were in 2017. While the Indians had the AL’s best record thanks to their late season winning streak, the Astros were, in our view, the best team in the American League all season long. This is the first matchup of 100-win teams in the Fall Classic in 47 years. It is, quite simply, the best on-paper World Series matchup we’ve had in many, many years. It’s sad someone has to lose this thing, but that’s how it goes.

Los Angeles hasn’t had to come back to Dodger Stadium to finish off a series yet. We don’t think they’ll be that lucky this time around, but we do think that their bullpen gives them a clear advantage and will work to neutralize those dangerous Astros bats in the final 3-4 innings of every game. That’s enough daylight for us to say that, in our view it’ll be . . .

DODGERS IN SIX