Jeff Kent on “Survivor” recap: Nobody puts Jeff in a corner

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I watched Jeff Kent on “Survivor” last night so you didn’t have to …

• This week’s reward challenge involved each player holding a small idol on a tray and trying to slap the idol off the tray of their opponent. In the first round Kent beat his opponent, Malcolm, but they were matched up again to break the tie in the final round and Malcolm beat Kent to win the challenge.

• During the obstacle course immunity challenge Kent stayed back at the beginning to basically carry a female tribe-mate, Katie, who was really struggling. Later the tribe chose Kent to chop wood with a small hatchet, which when chopped all the way through released the next portion of the challenge. Kent started to slow down about halfway through and his tribe-mate Jonathan subbed for him.

• Kent’s tribe lost by about three seconds and for the first time they had to vote someone off the island, so he immediately approached new tribe member Denise about joining his alliance. She agreed, giving Kent’s group majority voting power.

• “Right now it comes down to who’s going to hold the most value in the challenges for us,” Kent explained while trying to determine which female tribe-mate to vote off, showing a pretty good understanding of how the Wins Above Replacement concept can apply to something other than baseball.

• In talking about the possibility of voting out Dawson, a female tribe-mate who performed poorly in the immunity challenge, Kent hilariously said: “I’m fricking fumed.” Actually, it was more like “I’m frickin’ fuuuumed.” And then he spit, like he was standing at second base between pitches.

• Dawson, who’s the only person aware of Kent’s baseball days, decided to tweak him by bringing up sports as a conversation topic. Here’s an except of their exchange while lounging around the campsite:

Dawson: “Maybe I should date an athlete.”
Kent: “What do you consider an athlete?”
Dawson: “Basketball … and I guess at the end maybe baseball. … There’s too much standing around.”

Then she admitted to the camera that she knew about Kent and explained: “I enjoy … making him uncomfortable. I feel like I’ve got a little mouse that doesn’t know it’s in a corner.”

• Kent started to get nervous, saying to the camera: “Dawson starts talking a lot of sports, so I’m walking on egg shells. Right now I’m having a good time with these people being normal. And I am normal. If they end up putting two and two together, I’m in trouble. If Dawson knows my history as an athlete, the best scenario might just be to vote her out.”

• Sure enough, Dawson is voted out during tribal council and exits without saying a word to anyone about Kent’s baseball career. Not only does he appear to have a lot of power within his tribe thanks to the majority alliance, Kent’s secret is seemingly now safe for the remainder of the show.

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.