Zero Effect

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights


Mets 1, Marlins 0: There were 12 pitchers in this game. Eleven of them didn’t allow any runs, including both starters, Dillon Gee and Tom Koehler. Travis d’Arnaud singled off Zach Phillips in the 12th for the game’s only run. All of those zeroes made me think of one of my favorite movies of all time. Quite possibly my very favorite movie of the 90s. I won’t tell you what it is, but I can give you a hint in figuring it out by offering a few words on looking for things: Remember that when you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you’re only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you’re sure to find some of them.

And no, it’s not “Miller’s Crossing.” Which, now that I think of it may be my favorite movie of the 90s. The one I’m thinking of is, like, 1A, though. And should have been a series of movies or TV movies or maybe a TV series because, man, it was so good and if you haven’t seen it quit denying yourself, man.

Padres 4, Braves 0: Burch Smith —  who sounds more like a character from a romance novel than a pitcher — struck out ten and got his first win. I didn’t see the game but I’m imagining Burch Smith looks like this.

Athletics 5, Rangers 1: What a late surge for the A’s. What a late swoon for the Rangers. The A’s sweep, giving them a six and a half game lead in the division, which effectively gives them the division title. Meanwhile the Rangers are now tied with the Rays in the wild card slot meaning that they’re vulnerable of falling out of the playoff picture entirely.

Tigers 3, Royals 2: I was stuck in a hospital emergency room for over five hours yesterday. Don’t ask. Everyone’s OK now and 99% of the time there was just waiting around. The point, though, was that rather than watch any game I wanted, I was forced to watch about five innings of this one on TBS. I rarely watch the TBS broadcast, partially because of my aversion to three-man booths. And with nothing else to focus on, all I could do is pay attention to just how inane 95% of the stuff that John Smoltz and Cal Ripken say really is. This isn’t necessarily their fault. Indeed, I think Smoltz is actually pretty good in the booth when he’s actually analyzing something. The problem is that a three-man booth almost demands “talking to hear ourselves talk” conversation and bigger picture stories rather than actually focusing on the game at hand. There’s rebop about the grass on the field and pressure on guys approaching milestones and overarching narrative about what kind of team each team is (The Royals are like an NL team! The Tigers have a good lineup!) and very little game action is actually described, let alone analyzed. For each time one color analyst says something about the action, the other analyst feels the need to follow on, and frankly, there aren’t two good points to be made about most plays thus we get into blah blah blah land. Funny how the one guy left who works alone — Scully — is the best and the three-man booths are the worst. I think Scully is great, but I don’t think it’s impossible for someone else to be close to his level. Maybe if we let some broadcasters handle booths solo we’d have better broadcasts, hmm?

Anyway, the Tigers won this one. Sorry for the digression.

Nationals 11, Phillies 2: That last recap was long, so we’ll throw this one to Domonic Brown for analysis. Dom: “Excuse my French, but we got our ass whooped.” Yes, he actually said that.

Orioles 3, Blue Jays 1: The Orioles haven’t been firing on all cylinders lately, but they keep pace in the wild card race with a series win. They’re 2.5 back, with Texas, Tampa Bay and Cleveland ahead of them.

Indians 7, White Sox 1: The Tribe is one half game out. Not to toot my own horn, because I got a lot of predictions wrong this year, but one I got right was the Indians challenging for the wild card. And in recent weeks whenever anyone asks me who I like for the wild card, I’ve noted the Indians cupcake late schedule and said I think they still look like one of the wild card teams to me. So, toot toot.

Pirates 3, Cubs 2: Note: when I went to the hospital yesterday I just grabbed the first shirt I could find on the floor in my bedroom, and it happened to be my Pirates shit. Also, because it was sunny and bald men are always aware of the danger of sunburned bald heads, I grabbed for a cap as I left the house and it was my Pirates cap. So I had quite a little Buccos uniform on at the ER. The security guard decided to strike up baseball conversation with me thusly: “you guys have been pretty good, but we’re gonna win it.” He eventually let on he was a Cardinals fan. I thought about telling him that I wasn’t really a Pirates fan, “I just like gear from various teams and I bought this for a Pirates game last month and really I’m a Braves fan you see, and blah, blah, blah” but I figured that’s be too lame and complicated, so I just said “well, I like our chances,” and left it at that. Later I stopped by CVS to get a prescription and a guy in line ahead of me told me that, when he left the house, the Pirates were up 2-0 in this one. Pirates fans crawling out of the woodwork lately.

Twins 6, Rays 4: The Rays blow a chance to bypass the Rangers and give themselves the luxury of having another wild card team blow it before they do. Oh well. Funny how if the season ended today Texas would play Tampa Bay in the on-off, but they are the two teams people probably want to see the least. And are certainly not playing good baseball.

Brewers 6, Reds 5: The Reds had a three-run lead heading into the bottom of the eighth and then, blammo, they lost in a Sean Halton walkoff homer. Strong assist from Carlos Gomez who robbed Jay Bruce of a homer in the ninth. That guy is just a crazy nuts good outfielder. In other news, as the game was slipping away in the late innings Dusty Baker didn’t go to Aroldis Chapman because The Book says you don’t use your closer in non-save situations on the road. So I guess that means this game could never have been saved.

Angels 2, Astros 1: Five of six for the Angels who continue to play great on the road and great late and oh what it could have been if they had played anything other than sucky for most of the season. Meanwhile, the Astros lose their 98th game. Obviously not a great season, but they have 13 games left. If they go 5-8 or better they will improve upon last year’s record. If they go 6-7 or better they will have their best record in three years. Considering they were supposed to crater worse than anything this year I suppose that’d be a victory of sorts, even if three-straight 100-loss season is pretty rare and awful.

Cardinals 12, Mariners 2: Four hits for Yadier Molina who is maybe getting a bit tired of the MVP conversation subtly shifting to Andrew McCutchen. Molina had a homer and three singles and the Cardinals remain tied with Pittsburgh, much to the pleasure of the security guy at the Ohio State University Medical Center Emergency Department.

Giants 4, Dodgers 3: Hunter Pence continues his amazing tear. After driving in seven on Saturday night he hit two homers yesterday as the Giants take three of four from the Dodgers, thereby delaying the latter’s clinchy gratification. Pence, by the way, has homers in four straight games and five of his last six. He’s gonna get a great-for-him long term deal from the Giants this winter, I presume. Less optimistic it’ll be a great-for-the-Giants deal, but it’s not my money.

Diamondbacks 8, Rockies 2: Your future third-place NL MVP guy, Paul Goldschmidt, drives in five. Which isn’t a slight to him. It’s just, sorry dude, you’re not a catcher nor a center fielder. Goldschmidt homered and went 4 for 4.

Red Sox 9 Yankees 2: TMC showed “Vertigo,” “Rear Window” and “To Catch a Thief” back-to-back-to-back, AMC had “Breaking Bad” which was just insane and then there was NFL stuff on NBC, so I imagine this was the least-watched Red Sox-Yankees game in some time. Or, I dunno, maybe there aren’t enough people with the good taste out there to watch some Hitchcock on a Sunday night. Either way: the Red Sox are laying waste to the American League and the Yankees, as valiant as their effort has been down the stretch, just couldn’t overcome all of their injuries and could no longer play above their talent level like they did in the early part of the season and, in many ways, since the trading deadline. Props to them, but they are just out-gunned.

Concerns over Jon Lester’s throwing ability much ado about nothing

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20: Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Going into Thursday night’s NLCS Game 5, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts planned to have his team be annoying and distracting on the base paths for Cubs starter Jon Lester. Lester, you see, has a hard time making throws when he’s not pitching from the rubber, as seen here.

The Dodgers got an immediate opportunity to test their strategy, as Enrique Hernandez drew a four-pitch walk to start the game in the bottom of the first inning. Hernandez was taking leads between 15 and 25 feet, just taunting Lester to throw over to first base. Lester never did. And despite being given the luxury of such a large lead, Hernandez never attempted to steal second base.

It ended up costing the Dodgers a run. After Justin Turner struck out, Corey Seager lined a single to center field. Hernandez, large lead and all, should’ve been well on his way to third base, but he settled for staying at second base. Carlos Ruiz then flied out to right field on what should’ve been a sacrifice fly. Hernandez instead just advanced to third. Howie Kendrick grounded out to end the inning with the Dodgers having scored no runs.

In the bottom of the second inning with two outs, Joc Pederson dropped down a bunt, but Lester was able to field it and make a bounce-throw to Anthony Rizzo at first base to end the inning. Lester stared angrily into the Dodgers’ dugout as he walked off the field. If it were me, I’d have been glaring angrily not because the opposing team was attempting to exploit my weakness, but because the strategy is so poor.

The bunting would continue in the seventh inning as first baseman and noted power hitter Adrian Gonzalez tried to sneak a bunt past Lester on the right side of the infield. Second baseman Javier Baez was able to scoop it up and fire to first. Gonzalez was initially ruled safe, but the call was overturned upon replay review.

Lester countered the Dodgers’ bunting and greedy lead-taking by just pitching his game. He went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. The Cubs went on to win 8-4, taking a 3-2 lead in the NLCS. A worthy consideration for the National League Cy Young Award based on his regular season performance, Lester now has a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings spanning three starts this postseason. Turns out, the yips isn’t debilitating if you’re really good at your main job.

Cubs swat their way past the Dodgers 8-4 in NLCS Game 5

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20:  Addison Russell #27 of the Chicago Cubs hits a two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

During the regular season, the Cubs had the second-best offense in baseball behind the Rockies, averaging 4.99 runs per game. It was the best after debiting the Rockies for playing in Coors Field. There was no way, after getting shut out in NLCS Games 2 and 3, that the offense was going to stay dormant much longer. They broke out for 10 runs in a Game 4 victory on Wednesday night. They scored eight more to beat the Dodgers 8-4 in Game 5, taking a 3-2 NLCS lead.

The Cubs took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when leadoff batter Dexter Fowler greeted Kenta Maeda with a single to center field. He’d come around to score on a one-out double by Anthony Rizzo who, like teammate Addison Russell, hadn’t hit much until breaking out in Game 4.

Starter Jon Lester was able to silence the Dodgers’ offense despite their strategy of attempting bunts and taking big leads, knowing Lester has trouble throwing when it’s not from the pitching rubber. They managed just one run, coming around in the fourth inning to knot the game at 1-1 when Howie Kendrick doubled, stole third base, and scored on an Adrian Gonzalez ground out.

Ultimately, Lester lasted seven innings, holding the Dodgers to five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. Addison Russell allowed him to leave with a lead, slugging a two-run home run off of reliever Joe Blanton in the sixth to break the 1-1 tie.

The Cubs tacked on plenty of insurance in the top of the eighth against reliever Pedro Baez, which proved to be rather necessary. Russell reached on an error by Baez, Willson Contreras singled, and Albert Almora, Jr. moved both runners up a base on a sacrifice bunt. Dexter Fowler then hit a single to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, but Baez didn’t break to cover first base. Gonzalez wasn’t able to beat Fowler to the bag, allowing the Cubs’ fourth run to score. Kris Bryant hit a weak grounder to third base and he was able to beat that out as well, pushing across another run in the process. Anthony Rizzo lined out, but Baez prolonged the inning by walking Ben Zobrist. Ross Stripling relieved Baez, but he served up a bases-clearing double to Javier Baez, making it an 8-1 ballgame. Jason Heyward, as has often been the case, popped up feebly, mercifully ending the inning with the Cubs having hung up a five-spot.

Pedro Strop took over for Lester in the bottom of the eighth. He gave up a double to Andrew Toles, then hit Justin Turner to begin the inning. Though Strop was able to induce a ground ball double play from Corey Seager, Carlos Ruiz followed up with a double to left-center to push in a run. Howie Kendrick flied out to send the game to the ninth.

Closer Aroldis Chapman took over with a six-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. He issued a leadoff walk to Gonzalez, then served up a single to Yasiel Puig. Joc Pederson grounded out, but Josh Reddick knocked in Gonzalez and moved Puig to third with a single to center. Toles plated Puig with a sacrifice fly, making it 8-4. Turner grounded out to shortstop to end the game, finalizing the victory for the Cubs.

The two clubs will take Friday off to travel back to Chicago. Game 6 will take place at Wrigley Field at 8:00 PM EDT. Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers opposite the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks.