Tomorrow’s World Series narratives today

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We’ve talked a lot about narrative lately, but that’s all pregame to the crowning jewel of narrative season: the World Series.

The big narrative: that whoever wins four out of seven games is and always was special and uniquely destined for this. There will be lots of post-facto story-telling after each victory and especially after the series is over. Folks looking back at seemingly random and inconsequential event X from earlier in the season which, now that we see how history unfolded, clearly meant that history was going to unfold just so.

But that’s easy. The narratives that are more fun are the individual ones. The “Kevin Millar kept the team loose” and “Jerome Bettis is from Detroit” kinds of things.  Had the Steelers and Red Sox lost in 2004 and 2006, respectively, those tales would have dried up pretty fast. Or changed to “Kevin Millar and his idiots didn’t take things seriously” and “Jerome Bettis had too many social obligations in Detroit” kinds of things.  Winning and losing changes the story.

Let’s see if we can get ahead of the game here, shall we?  Some off-the-top-of-my head narratives coming to a broadcast or next-day column near you:

  • Barry Zito: Everyone’s looking for a redemption story, and as the improbable Game 1 starter [all together now] two years after he was left off the playoff roster, Zito is the most likely candidate. Good luck to those of you who can find the personal hardship angle for a guy who still has another year left on his $126 million contract, has had to endure living in the most beautiful city in America for the last 13 years and somehow soldiers through the day married to a gorgeous woman.
  • Justin Verlander: Because we’re finally acknowledging that Miguel Cabrera has a World Series ring, I presume Verlander will be the focus of the “he needs a ring to cement his legacy” thing. If he throws a no-hitter tonight but the Tigers lose in six, you see, he isn’t a good pitcher. If he gets beat up in two World Series starts but the Tigers still manage to win, he’s achieved his crowning glory.
  • BONUS LEGACY: Jim Leyland will likely get the Miguel Cabrera treatment from someone. You know, with folks forgetting that he also has a World Series ring thanks to his time in Florida. I bet we can’t go the next week without someone saying that winning this year would validate him somehow.
  • Miguel Cabrera/Buster Posey: As the MVPs presumptive, they will no doubt have every at bat analyzed more closely than others. As they should, of course. But do be on the lookout for Tim McCarver reminding us, in the event one of them struggles, that the MVP ballots were submitted prior to the beginning of the postseason and that none of this takes away from their worthiness for the award.
  • Phil Coke/Hunter Pence: We love both of you, but sorry guys, there can only be one clown prince/crazy guy/oddball per World Series, which means that whichever of you finds yourself on the winning team should be prepared for an offseason full of feature stories. Well, more feature stories, as each of you have already received that treatment already this postseason. The loser, though, will disappear from view.
  • BONUS QUIRKINESS: Though he has contributed zero to the Giants 2013 season, Brian Wilson has a Lifetime Pass in the quirky narrative, so be ready for the myriad shots of him doing zany, zany things in the dugout during Giants rallies.
  • Delmon Young: Postseason God: Delmon Young is a not good player who has had a few big hits in the past couple of postseasons. I figure that we will soon learn that this is a talent of his and that is somehow makes him less of a miserable person who can’t play baseball very well.  In non-narrative news, I also wonder if a couple of big World Series hits won’t land him a way-too-good-for-him contract next season.
  • Detroit Ruin Porn: Did you know that every Detroit sports team since 1968 has carried the forlorn hopes and shattered dreams of a blighted city on its shoulders and that, if they win, everything will be OK in the Motor City once again, at least for a little while?  It’s true! Enjoy your sidebars and photo slideshows of burnt out buildings and abandoned neighborhoods. Bonus points if the reporter takes on the hushed and portentous tones of some someone visiting blighted sub-Saharan Africa or whatever.

That’s all I got for now. I’m sure some more of these will pop up. Because if there’s one thing we in the media love doing is to apply storylines and to assign personal and moral worth to the outcome of sporting events.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Rockies 8, Yankees 4: James Paxton is no dummy. It was hotter than Hell’s hinges yesterday so he — I assume — decided to pitch like garbage and get to a cool shower and an air conditioned clubhouse early. He allowed seven runs — four earned — on five hits and was hosing off his frothy lather before the fourth inning was over. You just can’t teach good sense like that. Germán Marquez, meanwhile, has some learning to do. Again, it was hotter than a hay harvest and Marquez went out there and pitched really well, allowing only two runs on three hits, which meant that he was out there for seven miserably hot innings. He’s only 24, though. He’ll learn. Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado, and David Dahl each drove in two and Charlie Blackmon, who went 4-for-5, was allowed to hit a leadoff homer by the savvy Paxton.

Orioles 5, Red Sox 0: Special Agent Andrew Cashner carried out the orders he was apparently given when he was sent undercover to Boston nine days ago by tossing a couple of meatballs to former comrade Trey Mancini — he hit two homers — and allowing four runs in six innings. Orioles starter Asher Wojciechowski, in contrast, carried out his duties loyally by shutting out the Sox on one hit into the eighth inning while striking out 10. OK, I know that’s not really how it works — they all try to win for the teams that currently employ them — but I feel like baseball would be way more interesting if baseball had double agents and intrigue and crap.

Rays 4, White Sox 2: Travis d'Arnaud hit a grand slam in the second for all of the Rays’ runs and Blake Snell tossed six shutout innings, striking out ten. It’s like the Rays know I recap all these games every morning and know that, sometimes, I just need a straightforward narrative to make one of ’em really easy to wrap up, especially on 15-game days. Thanks, dudes.

Indians 5, Royals 4: Kansas City jumped out to a 2-0 lead but Francisco Lindor‘s two-run homer tied it up in the third. Cleveland added three more in the sixth, led by Jose Ramírez’s tie-breaking homer. That’s all good for a win for Cleveland, but it was clouded by an injury to a three-year-old boy who was hit by a Lindor foul ball. He was sitting well past the dugout, past where the netting at Progressive Field ends but before where a handful of teams have either extended it or have committed to extending it. Including the Royals, by the way, who just announced they were extending theirs to the foul poles after a fan was injured. Now I’d bet a fair amount of money that the Indians will announce they’ll extend the netting too, sooner rather than later. What a world we’d live in if these teams decided to do this BEFORE young children were injured. But I suppose things are impossible to foresee, eh?

Tigers 4, Blue Jays 3: I was in Detroit Saturday and yesterday and I had given serious thought to going to this game before heading back home. I decided against it at the last minute because (a) I was out until like 2AM on Saturday night, almost got into a fight with a belligerent Scottish guy, among other things, and was exhausted; (b) I had a three and a half hour drive home; and (c) it was, again, hotter than a basted turkey yesterday, so I gave it a pass. So of course they go and play what looked to be a pretty fun game and now I sit here with regret. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to tie things up at three and to force extras and then Nicholas Castellanos hit a walkoff homer. Could be Castellanos’ last big moment as a Tiger given that he’s a prime trade candidate and the deadline is nine days away. I probably shoulda been there. Dang it.

Dodgers 9, Marlins 0: Forfeit score which, as we like to mention around here, means that the Marlins would’ve been better off simply not showing up and taking their flight to Chicago for their series against the White Sox earlier in the day. Walker Buehler tossed seven shutout innings, striking out 11 and A.J. Pollock hit a three-run homer and an RBI single. Max Muncy and Joc Pederson went deep too.

Lest you think I’m a bad person for not going to the Tigers game yesterday, know that I’m taking my family to Los Angeles tomorrow for a little vacation that’ll go through the weekend and we are going to Dodger Stadium on Wednesday to see the Angels-Dodgers game. Can’t wait to show my kids Mike Trout, the best player in the game, and the Dodgers, the best team in the game, only to have them tell me “whatever,” but that’s what having teenagers is all about, I suppose.

Cardinals 3, Reds 1:  Yairo Muñoz singled, tripled and homered and drove in two. Jack Flaherty shut the Reds out into the fifth and all they ended up getting off of anyone was a solo homer by Phillip Ervin. The Cards take three of four from Cincy.

Phillies 2, Pirates 1: The Phillies signed Drew Smyly after he tanked in Texas and couldn’t get a callup to Milwaukee. When we wrote about the Phillies probably signing him last week a bunch of people made jokes and/or lamented Philly’s desperation and all that jazz. So of course he goes out and allows one run in six innings and strikes out eight. We all saw that coming, right?

Astros 5, Rangers 3: Michael Brantley hit two homers, a two-run shot and a solo shot, and José Altuve went deep as well. Rogelio Armenteros allowed one run and two hits with six strikeouts in five innings. That’s a three-game sweep of the Rangers and five wins in all for Houston.

Twins 7, Athletics 6: Minnesota led 4-0 and blew it but Max Kepler but the Twins on his back with a four-RBI day, including a walkoff single. He doubled and homered too. The walkoff was set up by Ehire Adrianza tripling in the tying run just prior. Minnesota split the four-game set with Oakland.

Padres 5, Cubs 1: Francisco Mejía homered, Fernando Tatís Jr. drove in three as the Padres avoided a sweep. Cal Quantrill didn’t start — San Diego used an opener for two and two-thirds innings — but he tossed five and two-thirds of scoreless relief.

Giants 3, Mets 2: Mike Yastrzemski hit a walkoff homer in the 12th. It was the Giants’ first hit since the fourth inning. Which makes that a couple of games in the past week in which Mets relievers were, actually, really good for a long time but just not, you know, at the end. Progress? The Giants have won 15 of 18, which, proportionally, is one better than seven of nine.

Brewers 7, Diamondbacks 4: Arizona took a 4-0 lead and Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff left the game with an oblique injury that’ll send him to the IL. But the Brewers’ pen tossed six shutout innings of relief, Tyler Saladino hit a grand slam to tie things up in the fourth and Milwaukee plated three more in the eighth to win it and take their third of four in the series.

Angels 9, Mariners 3: Brian Goodwin hit two homers for the Angels and Mike Trout and Albert Pujols each added a longball of their own as they win this one easily. Trout’s homer was his 32nd, which leads the AL, and the RBI was his 78th, which also leads the AL. He also leads the league in WAR and OPS by A LOT. Can’t wait to see who the writers twist themselves into knots to argue is a better choice for MVP this fall. Should be awesome.

Braves 7, Nationals 1: Not sure I’d have bet even a buck on Kevin Gausman allowing one run over seven innings in his first game back since early June but that’s baseball for ya. Josh Donaldson and Ronald Acuña hitting homers? Well, sure, I’d have bet on that. That’s baseball too. Those two and Nick Markakis each drove in a couple while Freddie Freeman went 3-for-5 and scored twice as Atlanta splits the four-game series with the Nats and keep their division lead at six and a half.