Which ending was weirder: Game 3 or Game 4?

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We sports fans will argue about anything. ANYTHING. Everyone knows that. We will not only argue about who the American League MVP should be, we will argue about the Dolphins’ new helmet (old one better), we will argue about Frank Caliendo’s best impression (Morgan Freeman), we will argue about the strongest arm in the NFL (Joe Flacco usually wins the day, but after Sunday night I’m more convinced that it’s actually Aaron Rodgers), we will argue about what horrible thing should happen to the Jeremy family in the T-Mobile commercials (stranded on desert island without power).

In many ways, we sports fans are like the parents in Woody Allen’s classic “Radio Days.”

Narrator: And then there were my father and mother … two people who could find an argument in any subject.
Father: Wait a minute. Are you telling me you think the Atlantic is a greater ocean than the Pacific?
Mother: No, have it your way. The Pacific is great.

When Sunday’s World Series Game 4 ended, I reflexively tweeted* that, in a way, the finish was even weirder than the already classic obstruction call that ended Game 3.

*New JoeWord: Twex, verb, to tweet something instantly, emotionally and with almost instant regret. Can also be used as a noun.

Several people almost instantly responded with a simple response: No way. And also: You are crazy. And I got a few emails that said: No way. And also: You are crazy. And then a friend of mine wanted to argue that there is NO WAY that Kolen Wong getting picked off to end Game 4 could be weirder than the whole Allen-Craig-Will-Middlebrooks-Jim-Joyce obstruction party that ended Game 3. He too mentioned that I was crazy.

Wait a minute. Are you telling me you think the Atlantic is a greater ocean than the Pacific?

Of course, it doesn’t matter — they’re both weird. They’re both unprecedented (no World Series had ever ended either way). They’re both keyed around colossal blunders that you would not expect Major League Baseball players to make. There’s a bit of controversy in the obstruction, I suppose, while I have not heard anyone say the umpire missed the call on Wong. It doesn’t really seem a subject worth arguing about.

So let’s argue about it anyway.

The thing about the obstruction call is that the only weird part WAS the obstruction. The rest of it was just good and bad baseball. St. Louis’ Jon Jay hit a ground ball that Boston’s Dustin Pedroia stabbed and threw home in time to get the runner. Good baseball. Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia then launched the ball somewhere toward third base in an utterly misguided effort to get a runner that was already there. Bad baseball. If third baseman Will Middlebrooks and runner Allen Craig don’t get tied up, Craig scores, the game’s over and nothing especially crazy happened. But they did get tied up, then the outfield throw beat Craig to the plate, and Jim Joyce called obstruction. Weird. No doubt.

But think now about Sunday night’s game. In the ninth inning, the Red Sox led the game by two runs. With one out, that man Allen Craig singleed off closer Koji Uehara and limped to first base. It would have been a double for just about anyone with two functional legs. Uehara is almost unhittable, except by Allen Craig — he must have some Kojinite or something. Anyway, Craig was replaced a pinch runner by Kolen Wong, a 23-year old rookie who was born in Hawaii. Wong had been in the big leagues long enough to get 62 plate appearances — he hit .153/.194/.169, so that wasn’t why he was on the World Series roster. He was there to pinch-run and play some late-inning defense.

Wong did not represent the tying run, of course, so he did not figure to be an important part of the story. The Cardinals were sending up two of their best hitters — Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran — so the focus was on home plate. Uehara had the lowest WHIP in baseball history (for pitchers with 50-plus innings pitched). Carpenter had a legitimate MVP season. Beltran has an amazing postseason history. This was going to be good.

But something really weird was happening in the background. The Red Sox were holding Wong on at first. This was hard to figure. It might have made just a little bit of sense when Matt Carpenter was hitting because there was only one out and pinning Wong at first base kept the double play in order. But let’s be real here: In that situation, almost any other team would concede the double play rather than give up the giant hole on the left side of the infield with a talented left-handed hitter like Matt Carpenter up there. Red Sox manager John Farrell has proven that he dances to his own tune. Anyway, when Carpenter hit an infield pop-up for the second out of the inning that double-play reason was gone.

And still the Red Sox held on Kolten Wong at first base — even with dead-pull hitter Carlos Beltran up next.

Everyone, these days, seems to be talking a lot about the difference between process and results. The discussion is based around the superficially simple idea that you really want to focus on how you do things rather than how they turn out. This can be frustrating, though. Sometimes, a thing done well ends up badly. You might leave an hour early for an important meeting, buy your client’s favorite coffee on the way, then have someone carelessly sideswipe your car, delaying you so long that you show up late with the coffee cold enough to make the client spit it out. You lose the contract. You get demoted. The process was right — leaving an hour early, buying the coffee. But the result was bad.

And, just as frustrating, you might do things COMPLETELY wrong and have them turn out well. You might leave 20 minutes late for that same meeting, catch every light, have the client and your boss stuck in traffic, and have a friendly co-worker give you the client’s favorite coffee at the last possible second, which wins you the contract.

The temptation, of course, is to judge things by the results — and we usually do. The boss in the first scenario might be angry enough to demote you and to give you a giant raise in the second. In reality, the first process is much better than the second and should work much more often. But it’s hard to judge things that way. You wouldn’t give the first guy a raise for losing the client. You would demote the second guy for winning the contract. This is luck. This is randomness. This is life.

The process of holding on Kolen Wong on first base seems to me hopelessly flawed. It seems exponentially more likely that Carlos Beltran would whack a hit through the gaping hole in the infield than anything good happening because you held the runner.

But … the result was shockingly good for Boston. Wong blundered in a way that, sadly, will always attach itself to his name. He learned a bit and Uehara unexpectedly threw to first. Wong’s right foot slipped a bit as he tried to dive back to the bag, and he was out. You can give a million reasons why Wong should not have been picked off. His run wasn’t the important one. There was no need for him to get to second base. His sole purpose out there was to make sure Carlos Beltran got his chance at the plate.

But reasons don’t matter here — nobody was more aware of the situation than Wong. He made a combo physical/mental mistake — a mesical mistake — and he was out.

And I would put that whole series of events — the fact that the Red Sox held on Wong in the first place, the fact that Uehara actually threw over there, the fact that Wong would do the one thing he was out there not to do — as being an even weirder series of events than the Saturday night craziness.

In percentage form, I would put it like this:

Game 3 ending:

Percent chance that Salty would throw the ball (and throw it away): 2%
Percent chance that Middlebrooks and Craig would tangle up: 1%
Percent chance that umpire would call interference: 60%

Total percentage: .012% (1 in 8,333)

Game 4 ending:
Percent chance that the Red Sox would hold on Wong: 5%
Percent chance that Uehara would throw over: 20%
Percent chance that Wong would get picked off: 1%

Total percentage: .01% (1 in 10,000).

So the Game 4 ending was inarguably weirder.*

*These percentages have been verified by the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers or someone like them and therefore cannot be argued with, rescinded, not even questioned. Also, the Pacific Ocean is better than the Atlantic.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Dodgers 8, Mets 2Yasmani Grandal hit two solo homers, but it was Yasiel Puig‘s three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth which padded the Dodgers’ lead to 5-1 and essentially ended the competitive portion of the ballgame. It started the cranky portion, however, as Puig admired the blast and took a slow trot which caused several Mets players to chirp at him. After the game Wilmer Flores said this of Puig:

“I don’t think he knows what having respect for the game is. We’re playing horrible right now, we don’t need his  sh–.”

I haven’t seem a Wilmer so testy since the last time I watched “The Maltese Falcon.” I dunno, Wilmer. Maybe play better? The Mets have dropped six of seven. The Dodgers have won six straight and 12 of 13.

Mariners 7, Tigers 5: Elsewhere in unwritten rules land, Jarrod Dyson bunted to break up Justin Verlander‘s perfect game in the sixth. Unlike the Mets, no one with the Tigers took exception with it. Probably because it sparked a three-run rally for the M’s which put them back in the ballgame. Nelson Cruz drove in two that inning with a double and three overall. Mitch Haniger homered.

Marlins 2, Nationals 1: I wrote this one up in detail here. Short version: Max Scherzer loses both the no-hitter and the game in the eighth inning. Guess it wasn’t a good day for taking no-hitters deep in the game for current and/or former members of the Tigers rotation. I know he’s on the DL now, but please, someone check on Drew Smyly.

Rays 8, Reds 3Trevor Plouffe and Taylor Featherston homered. Steven Souza and Logan Morrison each drove in two runs. A really long rundown happened too, nabbing Billy Hamilton. It took five throws and an outfielder made the putout. I can’t find a real time video of it from MLB, but this is pretty funny. The lighted dot in the top is Mallex Smith, who came a long way in from left to finally make the play:

Royals 6, Red Sox 4: Down 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth, the Royals loaded the bases and Sal Perez smacked a grand slam. He used one of Miguel Cabrera‘s bats to do it too. Miggy had given the bat to Drew Butera who gave it to Perez. Thanks to the blast, the Royals moved three games ahead of Detroit for third place in the Central. Thanks, Miggy!

Cardinals 7, Phillies 6: Rather than quickly recap the details of a very ugly Phillies loss, I’m gonna just send you to Bill’s recap of this game from late last night. Bill, a Phillies fan, does not spare a detail here, even though every part of him probably wanted to forget this game even happened. It’s sort of like one of those morbidity and mortality reports they make doctors give after patients die. Sure, you’d like to put it all behind you, but there is a value in hashing out all of the horrible mistakes. Doing so makes doctors better in the long run. I’m not sure what Bill is getting out of this. Either way, his patient is dead on a slab.

Padres 3, Cubs 2Erick Aybar hit a home run to things up at two in the sixth inning and Luis Torrens walked with the bases loaded against Koji Uehara to put the Pads ahead in the eighth. Torrens wouldn’t have even been playing if it weren’t for the fact that Austin Hedges was hurt and if it wasn’t for Antony Rizzo’s bad slide the other night, Hedges wouldn’t have been hurt. Some folks might call that karma.

Indians 5, Orioles 1: Carlos Carrasco struck out 10 in six shutout innings, scattering seven hits. Francisco Lindor homered and drove in three. Cleveland has won seven of eight. Baltimore has lost 10 of 14 and have allowed at least five runs in 18 consecutive games. That’s two short of the major league record set by the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies.

Yankees 8, Angels 4Didi Gregorius and Matt Holliday each homered as the Yankees end a seven game losing streak. Despite the win, the Yankees still got the now de rigueur terrible outing from Tyler Clippard, who came into a six-run game in the ninth inning and promptly gave up a double and a two-run homer, causing Joe Girardi to go to Aroldis Chapman despite it not being a save situation. That homer was by Martin Maldonado. He hit two in the game, in fact.

Braves 5, Giants 3Matt Kemp hit a two-run walkoff homer in the 11th inning to give the Braves the win. Matt Adams hit a two-run homer and Tyler Flowers went deep as well. It was the Braves 12th walkoff win. That leads the bigs this year.

Blue Jays 7, Rangers 5: The Jays jumped out to a 6-o lead in the first inning and built it to 7-0 after three. That’s all the scoring they’d do, but it was enough even though the Rangers made it close. Darwin Barney hit a two-run homer in that first frame. The most exciting play of the game, however, was Joey Gallo hitting an inside the park homer:

He was aided, of course, by Steven Pearce losing the ball, slamming into the wall and falling, but an inside-the-park dong is an inside-the-park dong.

Brewers 4, Pirates 3: Down 3-2 in the seventh, Domingo Santana jacked a two-run homer to give the Brewers the lead and the win. Later, Orlando Arcia made a great defensive play to end the game. It only shows up as a 6-3 putout in the box score, but it was dang spiffy:

Twins 4, White Sox 2: The young stars lead the Twins to victory: Jose Berrios allowed two runs over eight innings, striking out eight and Miguel Sano homered for the second straight night. The future looks bright for Minnesota.

Diamondbacks 16, Rockies 5: You don’t win many games when you allow ten runs in a single inning like the Rockies did here in the fourth. Brandon Drury drove in six runs without even homering. Indeed, the Rockies only gave up one homer, and it was already 12-3 when that one happened. All this on the day when the Dbacks skipped batting practice. Maybe there’s a lesson in there.

Actually, no, there’s no lesson in there. Stuff just happens. That’s basically true for most things in the universe: Stuff. Just. Happens.

 

Astros 5, Athletics 1: Houston hits a lot of homers, but here they strung together five singles in their three-run sixth inning. Carlos Correa would homer in the ninth, but the game was already over by then. Mike Fiers allowed one run over six innings for his fifth straight win.

Jarrod Dyson bunted and broke up Justin Verlander’s perfect game attempt

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Update: Both Verlander and Ausmus took no issue with Dyson’s bunt. Via MLB.com’s Jason Beck:

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Tigers starter Justin Verlander had thrown five perfect innings against the Mariners and retired Mitch Haniger on strikes to begin the sixth inning. That brought up the speedy Jarrod Dyson. With a 1-1 count in a 4-0 game, Dyson laid a bunt down the first base line. Both Verlander and first baseman Miguel Cabrera charged towards the ball and second baseman Ian Kinsler was late covering the bag, so there was absolutely zero chance Dyson would’ve been out.

In the rather hefty tome of baseball’s unwritten rules, “don’t bunt to break up a perfect game or no-hitter” is somewhere in there. Ben Davis famously and successfully broke up Curt Schilling’s perfect game bid in the eighth inning back in 2001, which earned him some scorn. Then-manager Bob Brenly called the bunt “chicken,” though Schilling didn’t have any unkind words towards Davis after the game. It’s happened a few times since then.

Following the bunt single, Verlander walked Mike Zunino and allowed an infield single to Jean Segura to load the bases. Ben Gamel brought in the Mariners’ first run with a single to center field. Verlander had light at the end of the tunnel when he struck out Robinson Cano for the second out, but served up a two-run double to Nelson Cruz, ending his evening. Shane Greene relieved him.

Verlander and manager Brad Ausmus will almost certainly be asked for their thoughts on Dyson’s bunt after the game. It’ll be interesting to see if they take the high road or the low road.