Ryan Zimmerman has been the Nationals’ primary No. 3 hitter for several years now, but manager Davey Johnson said yesterday that he’s leaning strongly toward moving Bryce Harper into the third spot this season because “he’s a tough out, he doesn’t swing at bad pitches, and he uses the whole field.”
He’s also still just 20 years old and hitters that young simply don’t hit third very often. In fact, in the entire history of baseball only one 20-year-old hitter has started more than 100 games batting third: Hall of Famer Al Kaline for the Tigers in 1955. He hit .340 that year and finished runner-up to Yogi Berra for AL MVP.
In addition to Kaline the only other 20-year-olds to start more than 80 games as No. 3 hitters are Arky Vaughan for the Pirates in 1932, Cesar Cedeno for the Astros in 1971, and Ken Griffey Jr. for the Mariners in 1990. Harper would be the fifth all time, assuming Johnson sticks with his plan for at least half the season.
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.