In the top of the ninth inning against the Angels, Mariners outfielder Raul Ibanez hit a solo home run to right field off of closer Ernesto Frieri. The blast was the 300th of Ibanez’s 18-year career, becoming the 137th player in Major League Baseball history to join the 300-homer club.
The home run was also the 29th of the season for Ibanez, tying Ted Williams for the most home runs hit in a single season by a 41-year-old player. Williams hit 29 in 1960, the final year of his career.
Ibanez also brought his slugging percentage up to .503. If he can keep it above .500 through the end of the season, he would be the first player since Barry Bonds in 2007 to post a .500 or better slugging percentage at the age of 40 or older (min. 450 plate appearances). Before Bonds, who also accomplished the feat in 2006, you have to go back to Harold Baines in 1999 to find the last occurrence. The Mariners, who brought Ibanez in on a one-year, $2.75 million deal, have certainly gotten their money’s worth out of the veteran.
Ibanez’s contribution was not enough for the Mariners, however. The solo shot brought them within one run at 6-5, but Frieri was able to shut the door for his 36th save of the season.
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.