The field of teams for the playoffs in the National League is now in place.
The Pirates beat the Cubs 2-1 tonight in Chicago while the Reds topped the Mets 3-2 in 10 innings in Cincinnati. Combine that with the Nationals’ loss to the Cardinals tonight and that means that the Pirates and Reds have both clinched playoff spots.
Kudos to the Pirates and their long-suffering fans, as this is the franchise’s first postseason berth since way back in 1992. Meanwhile, the Reds are back in the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons.
While the Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds are all in, the National League Central is still up for grabs. The first-place Cardinals currently hold a two-game lead over the Pirates and Reds with five left to play. Whoever finishes second and third will meet in the Wild Card game one week from tomorrow.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.