Appreciating the historic, unhittable greatness of Billy Wagner

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Billy Wagner’s phenomenal career ending with him leaving a save situation and limping off the field before being replaced on the playoff roster due to an oblique injury is all kinds of not fair, but the diminutive flame-thrower remained a badass until the very end, agreeing to a pair of injections for the slim chance it would allow him to pitch again because he “didn’t care about the risk of long-term injury.”
My hope is that the unfortunate manner his career ended doesn’t take anything away from how spectacular he was for 15 seasons. Wagner is a seven-time All-Star who ranks fifth all time with 422 saves, but a deeper look at his career numbers reveals his true dominance.
For instance, among all the pitchers in baseball history with at least 800 career innings Wagner has the highest strikeout rate:

                     SO/9
BILLY WAGNER        11.92
Randy Johnson       10.61
Kerry Wood          10.35
Pedro Martinez      10.04
Nolan Ryan           9.55

That’s a pretty amazing list to sit atop. Not coincidentally, he’s also the all-time leader in fewest hits allowed per nine innings:

                     H/9
BILLY WAGNER        5.99
Herb Score          6.39
Nolan Ryan          6.56
Sandy Koufax        6.79
J.R. Richard        6.88

Wagner is also the all-time leader in adjusted ERA+ among all left-handed relievers with at least 800 innings:

                      ERA+
BILLY WAGNER          187
John Franco           138
John Hiller           134
Sparky Lyle           128
Jesse Orosco          126

The degree to which Wagner blows away the rest of the lefty reliever competition in ERA+ is ridiculous. To put those numbers in some context, consider that the difference between Wagner at 187 and second-place John Franco at 138 is bigger than the difference between Franco at 138 and, say, Scott Schoeneweis at 92.
And here’s how Wagner ranks in ERA+ among all relievers with 800-plus career innings:

                      ERA+
Mariano Rivera        204
BILLY WAGNER          187
Hoyt Wilhelm          147
Dan Quisenberry       147
Trevor Hoffman        141

Highest strikeout rate of all time, fewest hits per nine innings of all time, best ERA+ ever by a left-handed reliever, and second-best ERA+ among all relievers behind only Mariano Rivera. I really hope everyone who saw Wagner limp off the mound Friday night realizes they saw the end of one of the most extraordinarily dominant reliever careers in baseball history.
In his final season, at age 38, he saved 37 games with a 1.43 ERA, .159 opponents’ batting average, and 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings. I hope Wagner enjoys his retirement, because I know National League hitters will.

Bellinger lifts Dodgers over Brewers 2-1 in 13

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Cody Bellinger singled home the winning run in the 13th inning, lifting the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 on Tuesday night and tying the NL Championship Series at two games apiece.

Bellinger grounded a 3-2 pitch from Junior Guerra into right field, scoring Manny Machado, who slid home and touched the plate with his left hand to beat the tag and end a thriller that took 5 hours, 15 minutes.

The Dodgers struck out 17 times; the Brewers 15.

Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, with Wade Miley going for the Brewers against fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw. The teams return to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Friday.

With one out in the 13th, Machado had a broken-bat single to left field and went to second on Guerra’s wild pitch. With first base open and slumping Yasmani Grandal on deck, the Brewers chose to pitch to Bellinger – and it cost them.

Bellinger, who entered as a pinch hitter in the sixth, also had the defensive play of the game. He made a diving catch on his belly of a ball hit by Lorenzo Cain leading off the 10th, spreading his arms out and sliding like a snow angel in right field.

Both teams used all their position players and wasted numerous chances.

Dodgers starter Rich Hill allowed one run and three hits in five innings. The left-hander struck out six and walked three.

The Brewers tied the game 1-all in the fifth on pinch-hitter Domingo Santana‘s RBI double that took one hop against the right-field wall with Yasiel Puig scrambling in pursuit.

The Dodgers led 1-0 on Brian Dozier‘s RBI single in the first off Gio Gonzalez, who left after twisting his ankle while fielding an infield single by Puig in the second.

The sellout crowd of 53,764 was considerably noisier than on Monday, when Enrique Hernandez criticized Dodgers fans for being too quiet. Joc Pederson and Bellinger waved blue rally towels in the dugout.

But the Dodgers again struggled offensively after going 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position in a 4-0 loss in Game 3.

The Brewers had the potential go-ahead run at third in the seventh. Manny Pina doubled against Kenta Maeda leading off, thrusting his hips and waving his arms in a display that drew boos. Orlando Arcia flied out to left, with Chris Taylor and Bellinger nearly colliding before Taylor made a sliding catch.

Pina took third on pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson‘s flyout to center before Cain grounded out to second against Dylan Floro to end the inning.

The Dodgers had runners on the corners in the bottom of the eighth against hard-throwing Josh Hader, who pitched for the second consecutive day.

Pinch-hitter Matt Kemp struck out to end the threat.

The Brewers had a chance in the ninth. Pina drew a one-out walk from Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. With fans on their feet, Arcia grounded out, moving pinch-runner Hernan Perez to third. Pinch-hitter Travis Shaw struck out swinging on four pitches.

Corey Knebel allowed a two-out walk to Taylor in the bottom of the ninth but Justin Turner flied out to center.

In the 10th, Ryan Braun singled with two outs and stole second against Jansen, who struck out Jesus Aguilar to end the inning.

MANNY’S MOVE

Machado allowed his left leg to clip the lower right leg of Aguilar at first base while getting thrown out on a routine play in the 10th. Aguilar appeared upset and the two exchanged words. Both benches and bullpens emptied, but no punches were thrown.

MANNY’S CUP OF TEA

Machado says there’s “no excuse” for his lack of effort while running the bases.

It was especially notable in Game 2 when he failed to run out a grounder hit to Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia with no score.

“There’s no excuse for it, honestly,” Machado said in an interview aired on Fox Sports 1 before Game 4.

However, Machado says he has no plan to change his style.

“I’m not the type of player that’s going to be `Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base,” he said. “That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am.”

Machado can become a free agent after the season.

TICKETS ANYBODY?

The Dodgers say tickets are still available for Game 5, which begins at 2:05 p.m. PDT.

UP NEXT

Brewers: Miley makes his third postseason start in Game 5 on Wednesday. He pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 2 of the NLCS, allowing two hits while striking out three and walking none. His other start came in Game 3 of the NLDS at Colorado. He didn’t factor in the decision either time.

Dodgers: Kershaw took the loss in Game 1 against the Brewers. Kershaw had the best postseason outing of his career in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves, allowing two hits over eight shutout innings.

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