Torii Hunter is having his worst offensive season in over a decade and his defense is getting to be damn nigh intolerable. He now has a tight hamstring that has kept him out of action for he past eight days. J.D. Martinez, his replacement in right field, was just named the A.L. Player of the Week.
The writing is, therefore, on the wall. And Torii Hunter is reading it. From Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press, who writes about what will happen now that it appears Hunter is poised to come back to action:
“I will do whatever is best for the team. We’re back to hitting the right groove right now, firing on all cylinders. If that means I have to split time in the field — if that’s in the best interest to help us win — then I’m fine with that. When you get to this point in your career, it becomes a lot easier figuring out what’s most important to you. I want to win.”
When it comes to on-the-field stuff at least, Hunter has always said and done the right things. He moved off of center field in Anaheim when it was clear the Peter Bourjos was better than him defensively. He does not have a history of complaining about where he hits in the lineup or plays in the field. Of course, until this year he hasn’t been faced with a lot of those situations given that he’s been one of the more productive and durable outfielders in all of baseball.
But now things are different. Hunter turns 39 next month and it’s likely that this year’s dip in performance is the new normal, not some temporary slump. He can certainly still be useful to a contender like the Tigers, but Brad Ausmus will have to give him rest and pick his spots in which to play him. Maybe way more against lefties, for example.
Interesting times for a guy who, as recently as last year, was still putting up pretty darn good numbers. Now we’ll see how he takes to a reduced role.
The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.
After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.
But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.
- They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
- They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
- They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
- They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.
The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.
Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.