ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game One

The David Ortiz home run through the eyes of a Tigers fan: a play in one act


The scene: the Calcaterra fortified compound during last night’s Tigers-Red Sox game. The lady of the house is a Tigers fan. She is enjoying some bourbon. She is also enjoying the Tigers’ 5-1 lead over the Red Sox.

But she is only enjoying it so much. For the bottom of the eighth inning is beginning and the bullpen is coming on. She has watched over 100 Tigers games from her current position on the couch this year. Approximately zero of them which involved the bullpen in anything approaching a stressful situation were truly enjoyable.

I, as a person who doesn’t have a deep rooting interest in this game and as a person who skews optimistic, make a mostly dispassionate observation about how, whatever the bullpen’s shortcomings, a 5-1 lead with two innings to go against a team who has looked lost at the plate seems at least moderately safe. It is met with a more-than-moderate sigh. I mistake this for pessimism. It turns out to be cold, hard realism.

Snapshots as the evening wears on:

[Eighth inning starts, Jose Veras comes in for Max Scherzer]

“Here we go.”

[Will Middlebrooks doubles]

“Can you get me a refill?”

[Alleged lefty specialist Drew Smyly walks left Jacoby Ellsbury]

“You had ONE JOB!” [takes drink].

At this point Al Alburquerque comes in and strikes out Shane Victorino. I look to my right to see if this has encouraged her. There is no sign of encouragement.

At this point Al Alburquerque allows a single to Dustin Pedroia to load the bases. I look to my right. I expect anger and/or anxiety and/or distress on her part. But there is none. She has already skipped over three or four stages of grief and seems to be in full acceptance mode already. Acceptance of some disaster which hasn’t even happened yet and, hey, may not actually happen. But acceptance is unmistakeable. It lasts throughout the entire pitching change.

[David Ortiz steps to the plate to face Joaquin Benoit]

“Just walk him,” she says. “He should just walk in a run and pitch to the next guy.”

[David Ortiz hits a grand slam]

She calmly picks up her iPad, hands me the remainder of her drink to finish and walks upstairs. I don’t ask why she is walking away from a tie game. She has traveled into the future already. She has done so by remembering the past and knowing full well this Tigers team she follows. And knowing this Boston team pretty well too.  She is as certain of the outcome of this game as she is her name, her address and her social security number.

I hear her washing her face and getting ready for bed. A few minutes later Jarrod Saltalamacchia singles in the winning run. I call upstairs to let her know what happened and that the game is over. I may as well be telling her what she had for breakfast today. She knows. 

I go upstairs, brush my teeth and get into bed, thinking how amazing baseball can be and how, as has happened so many times in my life, I just witnessed something that some people will remember for the rest of theirs.

“Baseball is stupid,” she says.

Remember for better or for worse.

The Mets break out the whuppin’ sticks, rout the Dodgers 13-7

Cespedes d'Arnaud

So often in life the anticipation of something outpaces its reality. For Mets fans tonight, it was the exact opposite. They had a grand old time. The Mets broke out the lumber and overwhelmed the Dodgers 13-4 to take a 2-1 lead in NLDS.

So much of that anticipation was about revenge, really. Hitting Chase Utley if he was in the lineup, perhaps, or at the very least sending some sort of retaliatory message the Dodgers’ way in response to Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg on Saturday. But with Utley out of the lineup — and the notion that base runners matter a whole heck of a lot in a playoff game — Matt Harvey just set out to pitch, not plunk. And Mets hitters set out to beat the living heck out of Brett Anderson and a couple Dodgers relievers. Living well is the best revenge, and for a major league team, winning baseball games is living well.

It didn’t start out so well for Harvey, as Yasmani Grandal singled in two runs in the top of the second with a third run scoring on a Curtis Granderson error on the same play. It was 3-0 Dodgers early and Mets’ fans sphincters’ clenched. But only momentarily.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the second with four runs with a Travis d'Arnaud single and a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double from Curtis Granderson. In the next inning d’Arnaud hit a two-run shot. In the fourth Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb to left to make it 10-3. The Dodgers got one back in the top of the seventh but New York scored three more of their own in the bottom half. It was never a ballgame after the third inning.

Brett Anderson was the author of the damage through three, Alex Wood gave up the four runs in the fourth and hung on in the fifth in what became mop-up duty. Harvey was done after five and took the win. He wasn’t necessarily sharp, but he did strike out seven and was good enough. Some late damage from the Dodgers, including a three-run homer in the ninth from Howie Kendrick, was too little, too late. Granderson and d’Arnaud did the damage for New York, driving in five and three runs, respectively.

Once the competitive portion of this game was over, the Mets’ crowd turned to more important matters. Chanting things like “We want Utley!” Don Mattingly didn’t give him to ’em, probably because there was no downside to smacking him after the game got out of hand. But no upside either. Because of that stuff about living well, remember?

Now it’s on Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers from elimination [looks at watch] tonight, technically. If he doesn’t, his detractors will write another page in their Big Book of Clayton Kershaw Playoff Failures. If he does, we get a Game 5 back in Los Angeles.

Maybe Chase Utley gets into one of those.

Jake Arrieta beatable, but still unbeaten

Jake Arrieta
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Jake Arrieta gave up as many earned runs Monday against the Cardinals as he had in his previous 13 starts combined, yet the Cubs still won 8-6.

It’s the 15th straight time the Cubs have won a game started by Arrieta, who is set to finish first or second in the Cy Young balloting announced next month. Their last loss in an Arrieta-pitched game was when the Phillies’ Cole Hamels no-hit them on July 25. They won the previous four before that, too, so make it 19 of 20.

The outing could go down as Arrieta’s last of the season, though that would require the Cardinals beating the Cubs in back-to-back games to finish the NLDS. The more likely scenario at this point is that Arrieta starts Game 1 of the NLCS against the Dodgers or Mets.

Arrieta, though, was vulnerable in this one, turning in his shortest start since June. Even in the shutout of Pittsburgh in the wild card game, the Pirates had chances in the middle innings (most notably before Starling Marte‘s well-hit grounder with the bases loaded turned into a double play in the sixth).

Tonight, he walked two in a row at one point, after not walking a single batter in his previous three starts. He gave up his first homer in six starts. The wind was a factor in tonight’s eight-homer barrage, but Jason Heyward‘s two-run shot off Arrieta went against the grain in left-center.

So, if nothing else, the illusion of impenetrability is now gone. Arrieta can be gotten to, if primarily in short bursts. That’s not going to do anything for the Cardinals — at least not unless Arrieta is called on to pitch an inning or two in Game 5 — but it’ll probably come into play later in the postseason.

Ding-Dong! The Cubbies ride homers to a 2-1 series lead

Jorge Soler

The wind was blowing out of Wrigley Field on Monday night, but mostly for the home team. Makes you think that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t all about the wind.

The Cubs hit six homers off of Cardinals pitching, one each from each of the first six batters in their lineup. Three of them came against Michael Wacha, who Mike Matheny inexplicably let bat for himself in the top of the fifth and take the hill in the bottom of the fifth and on to a third time through the Cubs’ order. He was shaky as it was, and quickly put a runner on and then allowed a two-run homer to Kris Bryant to make it 4-2. One batter later Kevin Siegrist came in and let Anthony Rizzo take him VERY deep to right field to make it 5-2.

Jason Heyward made it interesting in the top of the sixth with a two run shot to make it a one-run game but then Jorge Soler hit a two run shot in the bottom half and Dexter Fowler hit one in the eighth to make it 8-4. You can’t trade solo shots for multiple two-run jobs. You wanna get the Cardinals? Here’s how you get ’em. They pull a knife, you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! They hit a solo homer, you hit a bunch of two-run shots. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get the Cardinals!

Not that the Cardinals didn’t do a lot. They scored four runs in five and a third against Jake Arrieta, who hadn’t been damaged like that since June 16. But five Cubs relievers held mostly firm. You tell me before the game that they got to Arrieta like that and I tell you they won. But nope.

Now it’s 2-1 Cubs in a best of five. They go tomorrow with Jason Hammel and try to eliminate the Cards. Who had best figure out how to counter the Cubs’ power.