Since the sad news of Tony Gwynn’s passing came down this morning, we have heard countless tidbits and anecdotes about his brilliance as a hitter. If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of them. Joe Posnanski wrote about Gwynn’s legacy and artistry in his latest piece for NBCSports.com:
See, for most Major League hitters – even the best of hitters – hitting is some brew of instinct and technique and muscle memory and something unspoken. It’s a physical act and it’s a mental act, but it isn’t generally an application of imagination. The cliché is irrepressible, you’ve heard it a million times: Nothing in sports is as difficult as hitting a baseball. The greatest hitters have reduced the difficulty to platitudes because, well, you don’t talk about batting. You DO it.
“See the ball, hit the ball,” Tony Perez used to say.
“Empty your mind,” George Brett used to say.
“You can’t think and hit at the same time,” Yogi Berra used to say.
Gwynn did, though He thought and hit at the same time. He would not empty his mind. He did not only see the ball (and hit it), he would see the pitcher preparation, see the smallest hitch or twist in his delivery, see the openings in the defense, see the ball release from the pitcher’s hand, see the way the baseball turned, see angles and lines and geometric shapes like parabolas. I once asked him how closely he noticed the defensive alignment. “If the second baseman was one inch more to the left or right,” he told me, “I knew.”
It’s a wonderful tribute. Make sure to set aside a few moments and read it.
Remembering the great Tony Gwynn
Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil suffered “a pretty significant tear” in his left calf during his team’s loss to the Rangers in Game 2 of the ALDS on Friday, per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.
Cecil allowed the Rangers to tie the game at 4-4 in the eighth inning on Mike Napoli‘s RBI single. The lefty promptly picked Napoli off of first base, engaging the Rangers’ slugger in a rundown, but suffered the calf tear in the process. The Blue Jays can expect to be without Cecil for the remainder of the post-season, whether that lasts just one more game or longer.
Cecil, 29, got off to a shaky start during the regular season but finished strong, ultimately compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 70/13 K/BB ratio over 54 1/3 innings. He allowed only two runs — both unearned — in 37 appearances between June 24 and the end of the regular season.
The Blue Jays suffered an injury scare in Game 1 as Josh Donaldson took a knee to the helmet trying to break up a double play. He was removed from the game for precautionary purposes but returned for Game 2, during which he belted a solo home run. Outfielder Jose Bautista also exited Game 1 early with a right hamstring cramp, but was able to make Friday’s start.
Here are the lineups for the Mets and Cardinals for Game 1 of the NLDS, starting at 9:45 PM EDT at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on Friday night.
RF Curtis Granderson
3B David Wright
CF Yoenis Cespedes
2B Daniel Murphy
C Travis d'Arnaud
1B Lucas Duda
LF Michael Cuddyer
SS Ruben Tejada
SP Jacob deGrom
Wilmer Flores is battling strep throat, so Ruben Tejada gets the call to start at shortstop for the Mets. Also notable is veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer getting the start in left field over hot-hitting rookie Michael Conforto. Cuddyer mustered a meager .699 OPS during an injury-plagued campaign, while Conforto wowed with an .841 OPS since debuting in the majors shortly after the All-Star break.
LF Carl Crawford
2B Howie Kendrick
SS Corey Seager
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Justin Turner
RF Andre Ethier
C A.J. Ellis
CF Joc Pederson
SP Clayton Kershaw
Outfielder Yasiel Puig is riding the bench, which is no surprise. Puig spent most of the second half sidelined with a hamstring injury and returned just before the end of the regular season. He’s currently battling back spasms. Ethier performs very well against right-handed pitching — he posted a .900 OPS against them this season — so expect Puig to ride the bench until Game 4 (if necessary), when lefty Steven Matz starts for the Mets. Also noteworthy is rookie Corey Seager hitting third to open the post-season for the Dodgers. Seager, one of baseball’s top prospects entering the season according to most, hit .337/.425/.561 in 113 plate appearances after making his big league debut on September 3.
The Rangers outlasted the Blue Jays in 14 innings to take the second game of the ALDS on Friday 6-4, moving to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Second baseman Rougned Odor‘s star shone brightest, as he used his speed to set up the go-ahead run in the top of the 14th.
With LaTroy Hawkins on the mound and the Jays employing an infield shift, Odor slapped a weak ground ball towards Josh Donaldson, positioned where the shortstop would normally play. Donaldson’s momentum took his momentum away from first base, so he had to make an off-balance throw. Odor then moved to second base on Chris Jimenez’s single to right field — narrowly making it back to the second base bag after rounding too far, a play which required replay review. Odor scored the go-ahead run, breaking a 4-4 tie, when Hanser Alberto (Adrian Beltre‘s replacement at third base) lined a single to center field.
Center fielder Delino DeShields had three hits with an RBI and two runs scored in seven at-bats. The RBI padded the Rangers’ lead to 6-4 in the 14th, as he beat out an infield single against Liam Hendriks. Starter Cole Hamels was strong over seven innings, allowing four runs (only two earned) on six hits with no walks and six strikeouts. The Rangers’ bullpen pitched seven scoreless innings of relief, including Ross Ohlendorf‘s 14th inning in which he recorded all three outs on strikeouts.
On the Jays’ side of things, Josh Donaldson hit a home run and helped instigate a benches-clearing argument with Rangers reliever Keone Kela. Donaldson had smoked a Kela offering home run distance was foul, then repeatedly swore at Kela because he felt the right-hander was quick-pitching him, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
Jays starter Marcus Stroman was shaky early, coughing up three runs in the first two innings, but was able to settle down. He ultimately allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts in seven innings. The Jays’ bullpen allowed only four base runners on two hits and two walks through the 13th, before Hawkins and Hendriks relented.
The two teams will have an off-day on Saturday as they travel to Texas to continue the ALDS. Game 3 starts on Sunday at 8:00 PM EDT, featuring Marco Estrada starting for the Jays and Martin Perez for the Rangers. The Blue Jays are still in search of their first playoff victory since Joe Carter’s walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.