The art of scuffing

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Dirk Hayhurst used to be a professional pitcher. A professional pitcher with arm trouble. As a result, he had to go all Eddie Harris from time to time. Today, at Sports on Earth, he reveals what he knows about the fine art of the scuff:

Doug Brocail¬†could get a fresh ball back from the umpire and, within three windmill-like movements of his throwing arm, have a ball so scuffed you’d think he just took sandpaper to it, though he used nothing more than his thumbnail. My pitching coach in A ball, Dave Rajsich, told me of a teammate who once cut the red Rawlings “R” out of his glove only to replace it with a red (painted) sandpaper facsimile, with a painted white “R” in the center. He’d pass the ball over the letter like he was casually adjusting his mitt.

Great stuff. And an excuse to think about Joe Niekro and his emery board. The best part of which was his smooth-as-crap attempt to get rid of it as the umps searched him. I could watch it all day.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.