David Ortiz finds his stroke at perfect time

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David Ortiz had one mammoth hit in the ALCS — a game-tying grand slam off Joaquin Benoit in Game 2 — but he finished just 2-for-22 for the series. Apart from the slam, he hadn’t driven in any runs in seven games.

His Game 1 of the World Series shouldn’t have started any better. With two on in the top of the first, he hit a double-play ball, only to have Matt Carpenter and Pete Kozma botch it, resulting in first one and then no outs after a John Farrell argument.

After that, it was bombs away. In the second, Ortiz hit what would have been his second grand slam in the postseason, but a lunging Carlos Beltran turned it into a sac fly, injuring himself in the process. In the fourth, he lined a single into center. And in the seventh, he got that homer, the first ever given up to a left-hander by Cardinals rookie reliever Kevin Siegrist. Left-handers hit .118 and slugged .127 against Siegrist in the regular season.

Obviously, it couldn’t have come at a better time for Boston, which went on to win 8-1. But it doesn’t make things a whole lot easier on manager John Farrell. He’s going to have to bench either Ortiz or Mike Napoli when the series shifts to Busch Stadium for Game 3. Napoli, like Ortiz, had a three-RBI game tonight, getting the scoring started with a bases-loaded double in the first. He was the Red Sox’s best hitter in the ALCS, going 6-for-20 with two homers and two doubles.

With the Cardinals throwing all right-handers, there’s no obvious play on how to share first base between Ortiz and Napoli in St. Louis. It’s expected that one will start Game 3, the other Game 4. We might not know until after Game 4 who will start Game 5, assuming there is a Game 5.

The big game tonight makes Ortiz 11-for-31 with two homers and 11 RBI in nine career World Series games. He still hasn’t lost one; the Red Sox are 9-0 in their last three World Series appearances.

The Japanese playoffs are super unfair

Hiroshima Carp
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I know a little about Japanese baseball. Not a lot, mind you. Like, I couldn’t hold my own with people who actually watch it or report on it or whatever, but I could explain some of the broad differences and similarities between the NPB and the U.S. majors.  I can say a few things about how the two leagues compare competitively speaking. I can name some stars and (I think) all the clubs. But there’s, quite obviously, a ton I don’t know.

A thing I did not know until today: the NPB playoffs are really messed up.

The NPB is divided into two leagues, the Central and the Pacific, with the winner of each league facing off in the Japan Series. Like the U.S. majors, they have preliminary playoff rounds in each league. Each league has three playoff teams, with the second and third seed teams playing a series first, and the winner of that series playing the top seed — the team with the best record in the league — in what is called the Climax Series.

Here’s the weird part: the higher-seeded team in the Climax Series — the team which won the league in the regular season — gets every single playoff game at home. What’s more, that team begins the Climax Series with an automatic 1-0 advantage. So, yes, it’s a seven-game series on paper, but one of the teams only has to win three games to advance to the Japan Series.

Oh, in Japan, they also have no problems ending a playoff game early if it rains. That’s what happened in the Central League Climax Series last night, where the lower-seeded Yokohama BayStars took on the league champ Hiroshima Carp. Here’s the report from Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times:

The rainy conditions in Hiroshima caused the umpires to stop play for over 30 minutes and ultimately call the game after five innings, minutes after the Carp put three runs on the board. Just like that, it was over. The Carp won 3-0, with Yokohama robbed of the four innings (at least) it would’ve had to try and rally.

Even better: as Coskrey notes, there are five days in between the end of the Climax Series and the beginning of the Japan Series, so there is no reason they could not suspend a game and resume it the next day. They just choose not to. The upshot: the Carp were staked to a 2-0 series lead despite the fact that they had only played five innings of baseball. UPDATE: they played a full game today, the BayStars won, so now it’s 2-1 Hiroshima.

Imagine if that happened in the NLCS. Imagine if the Dodgers began the series with a 1-0 lead over the Cubs and played all of their games in Los Angeles. Imagine there was a freak L.A. storm and it ended one of the game in the fifth inning, right after Justin Turner hit a homer. I’m pretty sure people would riot.

Kinda makes our complaints about the replay system seem rather quaint, eh?