There’s nothing more annoying than fans of an otherwise awesome team obsessing on that team’s flaws. Or what the fans perceive to be flaws. They’re baseball’s version of First World Problems, really. The rest of us — who follow legitimately flawed teams — don’t really want to hear it.
This year it’s Yankees fans — driven by some media folks, actually — complaining that the Yanks are too home run-dependent. Never mind that they are clearly the best team in baseball and hold a ten-game lead in what is supposed to be the toughest division in the game. They hit too many home runs, the argument goes, and if they want to go far in the playoffs, they have to learn to manufacture runs.
Today Ken Davidoff of the New York Post examines that bit of wisdom. And finds that, really, there isn’t anything to the notion that a team has to play a certain brand of baseball in order to win the World Series. Check it out.
It may be frustrated to see your powerful sluggers mowed down in the postseason and I suppose it’s understandable to then think that a team built around the longball is doomed come October. But the fact is that the postseason is short, stuff happens and complaining that your team hits too many home runs to win a World Series is just nothing anyone wants to hear.
The Angels have claimed outfielder Todd Cunningham off waivers from the Braves, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes was designated for assignment to create room for Cunningham on the 40-man roster.
Cunningham, 26, took only 93 trips to the plate for the Braves this season, batting .221/.280/.267 with 15 singles, four doubles, four RBI, and 13 runs scored. He did play above-average defense in limited playing time. Cunningham will simply serve as organizational outfield depth for the Halos.
The waiver claim is the first move made by new Angels GM Billy Eppler, who joined the team from the Yankees earlier this week.
John Lackey flirted with a no-hitter but settled for 7 1/3 terrific, shutout innings to beat the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. The right-hander held the opposition to two hits and a walk while striking out five. Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist struck out two to finish the eighth without issue. Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around a one-out walk and a two-out single in the ninth to seal the 4-0 win, recording all three outs on called strike threes.
Lackey brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but lost it quickly when Addison Russell hit a ground ball single up the middle to lead off the frame. Russell would steal second base but was stranded.
Opposing starter Jon Lester wasn’t too shabby himself, relenting three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings. The first run came around in the first inning on Matt Holliday‘s RBI single, which followed a one-out double by Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot in the eighth inning and launched a solo home run off of Lester to double the Cardinals’ lead. Lester walked Matt Carpenter before exiting. Pedro Strop came in and promptly served up a two-run home run to Stephen Piscotty.
The closest the Cubs came to scoring was when Dexter Fowler sent a deep fly ball to right field with a man on base and two outs in the sixth inning, but Randal Grichuk caught it with a foot or two to spare in front of the fence on the warning track.
The two clubs will play Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday at 5:30 PM EDT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and oppose Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.
Scott Kazmir went winless with a 6.52 ERA in six September starts. He allowed 41 hits, eight of them homers, in 29 innings, posting an 18/11 K/BB ratio. When the Astros got five innings of two-run ball from him Friday against the Royals, they should have thanked their good fortune and moved right along to the pen.
And they knew this. They must have. Josh Fields got up in the pen after Kazmir issued a one-out walk in the fifth. The left-hander got out of the frame, making himself eligible for the victory in what was then a 4-2 game, but it was still very surprising to see him come back out for the sixth, particularly with the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist (.926 OPS against lefties) and right-handed Lorenzo Cain due up.
Kazmir retired Zobrist, but he gave up a double to Cain. He was then pulled, even with the left-handed Eric Hosmer coming up. Manager A.J. Hinch had committed my biggest baseball pet peeve: he sent his starter back to the mound with the idea of pulling him after his first mistake.
It worked out terribly. Oliver Perez gave up a pair of soft hits to Hosmer and Kendrys Morales before walking Mike Moustakas. Fields then entered and walked the unwalkable Salvador Perez to tie the game at 4. The Astros gave up another run in the seventh and lost the game 5-4.
Maybe that’s the way it would have worked out anyway. Kazmir did give up just the one baserunner. It might not have even harmed the Astros if Perez had better luck.
Still, the thinking that went into the decision was disturbing. It’s always better to bring that reliever in with no one on base when you can. That’s especially the case with this Astros pen, which lacks a double-play specialist, much less a Wade Davis. But anyone in that pen would have been a better choice than sending Kazmir out to face Zobrist and Cain for a third time. Hinch needs to be more aggressive going forward.