Tommy Lasorda is the best

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Tommy Lasorda.jpgI was never a big Tommy Lasorda fan back when he was a manager, but I kind of like retired old man Tommy Lasorda. He was a hoot working the room and telling war stories at the Winter Meetings. Reminded me of my late father-in-law, who also happened to be a large and jolly Italian man with a zillion stories of dubious provenance. Once he got past, oh, 65 we just let him be him and happily went along for the ride.

Same goes for Lasorda.  The latest: Tommy tweetsI’m teaching our young pitcher Kenley Jensen my curveball.”  Here’s the pic to prove it.  Then he tweetsIt’s the same curveball I used to strike out Stan ‘The Man’ Musial and ‘Say Hey’ Willie Mays.”

And he did strike out Musial once.  It happened on May 5, 1955.  In the first inning. Lasorda got the start, and dadgummit, Stan the Man went down swinging.  Of course, it may have been in self defense. Lasorda walked two guys and threw three wild pitches that inning, allowing a run to score without allowing a hit. He was removed to start the second.

Sadly, however, Lasorda’s memory may be failing him — or his whimsy running away with him — when it comes to Willie Mays.  Lasorda never faced him, let alone struck him out. At least not in a major league, regular season game.

But just like I used to let my father-in-law tell the story about how the Beatles once tipped him with an autographed photo when he was delivering pizzas in Hamburg, Germany, I’ll let Tommy Lasorda tell people he struck out Willie Mays once.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.