Tag: Chris Davis

Division Series - Kansas City Royals v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Game One

Royals continue to confound baseball logic


ANAHEIM, Calif. — In a general way, there are two ways to perform magic for people. The first way you might call the David Copperfield way; another term for it might be “confident magic.” The magician is always in control. Missing cards appear, minds are read, assistants emerge whole from dangerous predicaments – and the magician acts like he knew it was going to happen all along.

Then there is a second kind of magic show, one where the magician – maybe it’s Penn & Teller or Lance Burton – seems as befuddled as the audience does. Birds keep flying in, bottles of champagne keep popping up, the man’s watch isn’t anywhere to be found, and when it all turns out in the end the magician just kind of shrugs as if to say, “How the heck did that happen?”

These Kansas City Royals are the second kind of magic act.

Thursday night in Anaheim, the Royals beat the Angels, 3-2, in an 11-inning game so implausible that, long after it was over, the Royals still did not seem quite positive they had won. The victory had required eight pitchers, a series of preposterous catches, a momentary blackout of common sense by Angels manager Mike Scioscia and, finally, an extra-inning home run from Kansas City’s No. 9 hitter, who had not hit one since August.

source: Getty Images
“Bull Moose!” — awful headline-writers across America

That No. 9 hitter, third baseman Mike Moustakas, once projected be the Royals first 40-home run hitter since … ever. Kansas City’s team home run record of 36, set by ’80s cult slugger Steve Balboni, has long been a bit of an eyesore for the team. For three decades the Royals drafted, picked up and traded for a sequence of men with power in the odd hope of finding a Jim Thome or Ryan Howard or a Chris Davis. But, being the Royals, their efforts usually ended in dark comedy. There’s the story of Mark Quinn, who hit two home runs in his first big league game but then became obsessed with swinging the bat at any form of movement. He once went on a spectacularly long streak of games without a walk, and when he finally did draw a base on balls some smart-aleck set off the Kauffman Stadium fireworks.

Moustakas set a California high school record for home runs, and scouts gushed he had “80 power” which is as high as that scouting scale goes, and he mashed 36 home runs in Class AA and AAA when he was just 21. He showed some of that power when he got to the major leagues too, but other hits and walks proved elusive. This year he was sent to the minors for time with his batting average drowning in the .150s. He came back with a slightly more conservative swing, which brought the average up over the Mendoza line but at the expense of ever hitting a ball over a fence. His last home run was Aug. 25.

So when he came up in the 11th with the score somehow still tied, Moustakas wasn’t thinking about hitting a long ball. Royals legend George Brett had told him again and again that not thinking about home runs is the way to hit ‘em. Moustakas saw a hanging Fernando Salas change-up, turned on it and deposited the ball over the high right-field wall. An Angels crowd, which had been more and more desperately calling upon rally monkeys for support, slumped into its chairs. Beleaguered Royals manager Ned Yost somehow reached this point in the game without using his electrifying closer, Greg Holland — who with a one-run lead dispatched the Angels comfortably to end the game. In the Royals’ clubhouse celebration, players and former players and executives kept looking at each other with expressions that said, “How did we do that?”

“I don’t consider myself the hero,” Moustakas would say. “This clubhouse is filled with heroes.”

In this, he was right because it took a variety of heroes and anti-heroes to keep the Royals and Angels tied going into the 11th inning in the first place. The theme was set early. On the first pitch the Angels saw, Kole Calhoun blasted a 400-foot shot to deep center field, and Kansas City’s superb center fielder Lorenzo Cain raced back to the wall, leaped and somehow pulled it in. Lo Cain is actually a Hebrew contradiction, “lo” meaning no and “cain” meaning yes. That more or less describes Cain’s brilliant defense, where at contact pitchers yell “No,” at completion they shout “Yes.”

“That was about as high as I can go,” Cain would say afterward, and, as it turns out, the Angels would test that. In the sixth inning, with two runners on, the Angels’ Howie Kendrick crushed a ball to deep right-center, and Cain again loped gracefully after it and, at the precise moment he leaped as high as he could … and the ball went about two inches over the top of his glove. Fortunately for the Royals, right fielder Nori Aoki was nearby, and he blindly and awkwardly stabbed his glove in the right general direction. The ball stuck in there.

source: Getty Images
“Aoki-Dokie,”– former headline writers across America

It’s worth talking for a second about Aoki, because he so thoroughly symbolizes this team. As a young man, he was a major star in his home country of Japan, a whirlwind of a hitter a sort of a second Ichiro. At 29 he somewhat inexplicably fell off. He then found himself in Milwaukee, and this past offseason, he came to Kansas City. He was thoroughly disappointing until late September when, for no apparent reason, he briefly proved impossible to get out. He hit .458 the last two weeks of the season as the Royals held on to their first playoff spot in a generation.

But it is in the field that Aoki is a particular joy to watch; I have never seen a player look so confused while making so many good plays. It is like Aoki’s mind is a lost GPS voice repeating, “Still calculating,” but he somehow gets to the ball and catches it anyway. In addition to the backhanded stab over Cain’s glove, he also spun helplessly under a ball he’d lost in the lights, and he chased after one warning track fly ball by way of San Bernardino. But the balls all ended up in his glove, as always happens, and in this, he seems as surprised as everyone else. After catching the ball over Cain, he smiled and shrugged and theatrically tossed the ball into the booing crowd.

The Angels had the best record in baseball this year and for them to lose this game to the Royals took plenty of their own blundering. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton went a combined 0-for-13, with Hamilton looking especially dazed. Scioscia, despite having one of the most powerful lineups in baseball, decided three times to have his hitters sacrifice, leading to zero runs and one particularly silly scene. In the eighth inning, Los Angeles’ Chris Iannetta led off with a walk – bringing up Calhoun, Trout and Pujols. Scioscia bizarrely decided to give up an out by having Calhoun bunt, even though Calhoun is a slugger who only hit into five double plays all year.

This was strange enough, but then even stranger, Calhoun worked to a 3-1 count against Royals super-reliever Wade Davis. This put Calhoun in an ideal hitting position, and it seemed impossible that the bunt was still on. But it was. Calhoun popped up the bunt and, had Moustakas been aware, he could have dropped the ball and gotten a double play because Calhoun was so defeated he did not even run to first base.

Of course it’s only one game, and there is still time for this series and baseball to regain its natural order. But for one more night in this crazy season, the Kansas City Royals’ magic worked. The clubhouse party was a mishmash of thrilled young players, elated club officials, and a few former Royals players like Mike Sweeney and Jeff Suppan and Jeff Montgomery who come from a time when absolutely nothing ever went the Royals’ way. Raul Ibanez, a 42-year-old hitter who played for some of those unfortunate Royals teams and plays for this one, too, says it like this: “It’s baseball. It doesn’t have to make sense.”

And Royals general manager Dayton Moore, who came to this team eight years ago and, like James Taylor, has seen fire and seen rain, puts his arm around you and says: “How did you like that game? For us, that’s a blowout.”

ALDS, Game 1: Tigers vs. Orioles lineups


Here are the lineups for Game 1 of the Tigers-Orioles series in Baltimore:

2B Ian Kinsler
RF Torii Hunter
1B Miguel Cabrera
DH Victor Martinez
LF J.D. Martinez
C Alex Avila
3B Nick Castellanos
SS Andrew Romine
CF Rajai Davis

SP Max Scherzer

Rajai Davis was questionable to be included on the ALDS roster because of a groin injury, but he’s healthy enough to start in center field for Game 1. Andrew Romine gets the nod over Eugenio Suarez at shortstop after basically splitting the position during the regular season. And everything else is a typical Tigers lineup.

RF Nick Markakis
LF Alejando De Aza
CF Adam Jones
DH Nelson Cruz
1B Steve Pearce
SS J.J. Hardy
3B Ryan Flaherty
C Nick Hundley
2B Jonathan Schoop

SP Chris Tillman

Baltimore is going with the exact same lineup it used for the regular season finale Sunday, which means Ryan Flaherty as the fill-in for Manny Machado at third base and Nick Hundley as the fill-in for Matt Wieters behind the plate. Steve Pearce, who moved around the diamond all season, is at first base with Chris Davis suspended for Adderall usage.

Chris Davis is playing third base in instructional league games

chris davis getty

The Orioles’ third baseman in exile is keeping prepared:

Davis would be eligible to play in a theoretical ninth Orioles playoff game and beyond. If they get that far, however, one wonders if they won’t have decided by then that, really, Kelly Johnson is a better bet.

Who to root for in the postseason — American League

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If, like most of us, your preferred rooting interest is not in the playoffs, you have two choices: tune out totally and throw yourself into another sport or pick a surrogate rooting interest for the post season.

I mean, sure, maybe you can just “watch for the love of baseball” and not root for anyone, but then who would you took smack about? Man, you GOTTA pick a postseason rooting interest.


A couple of universal rules however:

1. You are totally excused from picking a division rival to your actual rooting interest. You can if you want to of course, but intra-division hatred is likely to trump all of the pros and cons listed below and you need not apologize for that.

2. You are totally free to go back to hating your postseason rooting interest next spring when the new year starts. Indeed, you probably should. I know a lot of people have “second favorite teams” but that’s not a good look for anyone over 12. I sorta like the Dodgers, for example, but I’m never gonna describe them as “my second favorite team,” ever, and when they play the Barves next year, I am going to hope they get beat 20-0 every game because they ain’t my team, get me?

OK, with that aside, let’s break them down. First with the AL. The NL will follow in a bit.

Baltimore Orioles

  • Why To Root For Them: They overcame big injuries — Weiters, Machado — and big disappointments — Chris Davis, the Ubaldo Jimenez signing — and cruised to the division title. That’s pretty cool. Adam Jones is a fun guy who is hard to hate. They hit a lot of home runs, and that’s about as rare these days as a profitable unicorn farm. Buck Showalter has, inexplicably, transformed from something an uptight killjoy back in the 90s to one of the more loose, “I don’t give a crap” quote-giving managers around, and that can be refreshing.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Peter Angelos is pretty awful. Based on their comments at this blog, Orioles fans may get on your case if you don’t root for then in EXACTLY the right way. Non-trivial chance that Ray Lewis may be featured in the commentary somehow, and that’s too unimaginable to contemplate.

Detroit Tigers

  • Why To Root For Them: Man, if you’re not from Detroit I am having a hard time thinking about why you’d adopt them. Nothing personal, but they’ve been in the playoffs a lot and if you’re an AL fan already you are probably too used to rooting against them. Plus the fatigue factor. I’d say Victor Martinez is a good reason to root for them. He seems cool. Brad Asumus is Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager, and that probably counts for something. I also feel like it’s a good time to buy low on Joba Chamberlain. He actually had a bit of a bounceback year, but it still widely loathed, I feel. But now he looks like Steve Earle or a Duck Dynasty dude and if he gets a key out in a big moment, it will drive Yankees fans totally nuts, and that’s what it’s all about, you guys.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: The aforementioned fatigue factor. The fact that, no matter how valid a point it is that Detroit has had hard times and loves its Tigers — it has and they do — the whole “you gotta pull for the Tigers because they represent a city that has had tough times” thing is both old and pretty condescending to Detroit. If you want to support Detroit, go visit there and help the economy — there’s actually cool things to do there besides take pictures of ruin porn — don’t shallowly adopt the Tigers for three weeks.

Kansas City Royals

  • Why To Root For Them: The underdog factor, which is hard to resist, I appreciate. If you dig pitching, they have good pitching and almost all of their pitchers are (a) fun to watch; and (b) have been given way less exposure than most great players this year. Also: they have Ned Yost on their side, so they’ll need all the help they can get.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: That bandwagon could get AWFULLY crowded. Every person who had a layover in Kansas City and ate some watered down airport version of their good BBQ once is going to inflate their ties to and love for the place, and God that can be exhausting. Did I mention Ned Yost? Anti-statheads are gonna pound that “all of the calculator lovers in their mom’s basement thought the James Shields-Wil Myers trade was gonna be a bust for the Royals, and boy aren’t they DUMB!” until we’re all numb, and who needs that noise.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

  • Why To Root For Them: Mike Trout is awesome, and if we’re ever going to get out from under the dumb “oh noes, what will we do without Jeter?” panicking, we’re going to need a new superstar to shine in the postseason for a bit. That’s kind of all I got for them.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols storylines have been pretty much beaten into the ground for the past decade and those 40 minute World Series postgame shows are going to be even more unbearable if we have to endure more of them. Since Tony La Russa retired, there has been a dearth of “[Manager] is a genius” talk, and don’t think for a minute that the commentators aren’t going to remember that they used to say that about Mike Scioscia back in the day. Do you really want more Mike Scioscia in your life?

Oakland Athletics

  • Why To Root For Them: Because you finally want to shut up “Moneyball” critics, even if their criticisms were outdated eight years ago. Less negatively, because they friggin’ went for it this year with the Jon Lester trade, and it’s about time they did that. Because the longer the ballpark is hosting sellout crowds in October, the more likely it is that they’ll have another disaster with the plumbing, forcing Bud Selig and the rest of the Lords of Baseball into uncomfortable situations on national television. Because Adam Dunn plays for them and if you are a right-thinking person you realize how awesome Adam Dunn is and you want nothing more than to see him taking a champagne and beer shower at the end of the month, announcing his retirement and then walking the Earth like Caine from “Kung Fu.”
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Because they traded a top prospect for Jon Lester  Jeff Samardzija thereby betraying their “Moneyball” roots. Hahaha, just kidding. No one cares about that crap. If you do, man, reevaluate. Really, the biggest reason not to root for them is that they wear white cleats and white cleats are awful.

There is the information. Make your choice wisely. The National League is next.


Chris Davis plays instructional league game during 25-game suspension

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays

Chris Davis played three innings in an instructional league game at the Orioles’ spring training complex in Florida today as he serves a 25-game suspension from MLB for Adderall usage after letting his previous exemption for the drug lapse.

Davis is banned from being with the Orioles during the suspension, but he’ll be eligible to rejoin the team and resume playing for the ninth game of the playoffs … if they can advance that far.

Michael Kolligian of the Baltimore Sun reports that he played third base and got three plate appearances in his instructional league debut.