Johnny Pesky’s terrific big-league start

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Johnny Pesky didn’t finish his major league career with anything close to Hall of Fame numbers, but who knows what might have happened if he didn’t miss his age 23, 24 and 25 seasons to serve in World War II?

I’ll admit that I didn’t realize just how good Pesky was early on before checking out his stats today. The Needle led the American League in hits each of his first three seasons.  As a 22-year-old rookie in 1942, he managed to pull off the rare double of leading his league in both hits (205) and sacrifice bunts (22) on his way to a third-place finish in the MVP balloting. Back from the war in 1946, he had 208 hits and finished fourth in the MVP vote.  In 1947, he had 207 hits.

Here’s the all-time top 10 for hits in a player’s first three seasons:

678 – Lloyd Waner
662 – Ichiro Suzuki
640 – Paul Waner
635 – Al Simmons
620 – Johnny Pesky
615 – Joe Dimaggio
591 – Albert Pujols
588 – Earl Averill
587 – Kirby Puckett
583 – Pinky Whitney

Every player in the top nine besides Pesky is or will be a Hall of Famer. Not only that, but they were all outfielders (even Pujols was an outfielder then). Pesky was a shortstop and a pretty good one, though he did move to third base to make room for Vern Stephens in 1947.

Of course, Pesky was a singles-hitter helped out by batting high in some very good Red Sox lineups, aiding his raw hit totals. He did bat .330 over the three-year span, though. His overall .330/.390/.411 line matches up pretty well with Ichiro’s .328/.374/.440 line and rates a lot better than Puckett’s .304/.340/.424 line.

Pesky remained a fine regular for four more years after 1947. He never led the league in anything, but he had some remarkable strikeout-to-walk ratios (in 1949, he had 19 strikeouts and 100 walks in 712 plate appearances). In 1951, at age 31, he hit .313/.416/.398 in 131 games. And that was pretty much it for him. He fell all of the way off to .225/.372/.262 in 1952, had a modest rebound in 103 games with the Tigers in 1953 and then struggled through one final year in 1954.

It’s what happened after Pesky’s playing career that will cause him to be remembered so fondly by Red Sox Nation, but make no mistake: he was an excellent player, one of the AL’s best at his peak. He ended up with six .300 seasons, four seasons with at least a .400 OBP (plus two more over .390) and six seasons with at least 100 runs scored.

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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