Francisco Cervelli has a new helmet

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You may now update all of your old “David Wright looks funny in that big batting helmet” jokes to Francsico Cervelli, who will be donning one in New York this season after suffering his second concussion earlier this week:

Cervelli said he plans to wear the helmet at the plate all season, though he won’t wear it when catching or running the bases.

“To me it just makes sense,” said Girardi, who would make the new
helmets mandatory. “It you have something you’ve had to deal with, if
there’s some way to improve the protection or keep you maybe from being
injured again, it makes sense to use that device… It is much more
padded. It’s really unbelievable. You look at it and think ‘why don’t
more people wear it? Why doesn’t everyone wear it?'”

Yeah, on second thought, let’s just 86 the jokes, OK?  Yes, the helmet looks odd, but we’re only just now starting to realize how serious concussions — especially second and third concussions — really are.  Last night there were a lot of jokes among Yankees writers in the Twitterverse regarding Cervelli’s new headgear — and apparently he’s taking some mocking from his teammates too — but a guy’s health and career are no laughing matter.

If I was standing in against 95 mph heat, I’d wear a propeller hat, a mixing bowl or a church crown on my head if I thought it’d keep me safe.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.