Two Days in the Valley

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It was a pretty full weekend in Arizona. And yes, I took that picture of Matt Harrison. Kinda proud of it.

I left Tempe Diablo Stadium on Friday afternoon and decided to get some food and a drink. I ended up getting that plus a poor man’s Raymond Carver story out of it, so that was good. You’ll have to read all of that to appreciate it, but it was the first time I’ve ever had a date to go to a baseball game blown off in favor of a Popeye the Sailor man tattoo, but that’s where we are.

My girlfriend flew in for a quick weekend getaway on Friday night. When she landed I broke that diet you guys are sick of hearing about in order to make an In-n-Out Burger pilgrimage because you sort of have to do that even if you’re trying not to die of a heart attack in your 40s. It won’t help it, but you sorta have to do it.

Saturday we headed out to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick to take in a game as fans rather than media. Since it was a Diamondbacks game we amped up the grit factor by eating dirt, rocks and gravel for breakfast. Then we ran through a brick wall. We hoped that that demonstration of gamer-ship would keep Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers from having security throw us out.

Salt River Fields is fantastic. Kinda on the cushy side, even, which probably pisses off Gibson to no end.

Gibson: I’d like to take out the overhangs which provide shade from the desert sun and replace the molded plastic seats with small boulders.

Owner Ken Kendrick: Kirk, please, keep the grittiness to the roster. The fans have to have some luxuries. This is Arizona. Many of them are older.

Gibson: [under his breath] Turnin’ our fans into a bunch of pampered Uptons …

There were over 12,000 in attendance that day but it didn’t feel half again as crowded as some of the older parks feel when they’re packed with 7,000-8,000 fans. It’s practically a major league park. I suppose it’s inevitable that the places will get nicer and nicer as time marches on, but it’s almost disorienting going from that sort of place to, say, Phoenix Municipal, which is how the Soviets would build their stadiums if they had the good sense to like baseball. Oh well.

The game itself was pretty par for the course in early spring training: lots of errors, base running mistakes and at bats which looked a little less-than-planned-out, both from the hitters’ and the pitchers’ perspectives. The highlight of the game for me was messing with the Diamondbacks’ Vice President of Communications, Josh Rawitch:

source:

I guess I wasn’t technically “messing with” Josh. Because I really was stealing the press box Wi-fi.

Random observations from the game, which pitted the Grit-Meisters against the Texas Rangers:

  • Lance Berkman was the leadoff hitter for the Rangers. He didn’t attempt to steal, but he drew a pickoff throw from Wade Miley while on second base. Spring training is cool.
  • In the space of a few short minutes Martin Prado made a bad throw from left field and Randall Delgado got knocked around a bit and looked kinda sloppy. I guess the Braves win the Justin Upton trade.
  • Kila Ka’aihue came to the plate for the Diamondbacks. Kila Ka’aihue? On the Dbacks? Who knew?
  • I watched Nate Robertson warm up in the Rangers’ bullpen for a while. Over the winter we heard about how he was coming back and how a big part of that comeback was him developing a sidearm motion that was totally different than anything he did before.   After warming up he flashed that sidearm action for several pitches in the pen. It looked good too. Then he went into the game and threw his old overhead business. I guess he doesn’t trust it yet. I’m going to Rangers camp today and I’m gonna ask him about it.
  • Oh, and some skeezeoid hit on my girlfriend:

All-in-all a pretty good day at the park.

I woke up yesterday, read a bunch of weapons-grade stupid from a guy who should know better, and then headed out to Camelback Ranch to take in the Dodgers and Indians.

I like Camelback well enough as a media member, but as a fair skinned person of mostly British/Irish extraction, seeing a game as a fan there is akin to a death sentence given the lack of shade in that place.  Unlike just about every other park in Arizona, it faces south-southeast instead of northeast, which means that the roof of the grandstand provides almost no shade. I have no idea why they built it that way, but they did. We lucked out in that it was pretty cloudy yesterday, but I’d like to hear the explanation for that design choice.

Random things from the Dodgers and Indians:

  • On the way to the park Allison and I wondered who was pitching and each of us agreed that we didn’t care as long as it wasn’t Josh Beckett because he’s a drag to watch pitch. It was Josh Beckett.
  • The Dodgers play a bad cover version of “Centerfield” before the game. It was the only time in my life I’ve pined for John Fogerty’s version.
  • Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis were the only two bona fide regulars in the Indians lineup. I know that veterans usually don’t travel, but I’ve seen split squad games with a better showing than that. I guess everyone else got Sunday off.
  • Jason Giambi was there, however, DH-ing. I tried my best to relish his plate appearances because I think there’s a non-trivial chance he never gets another regular season at bat in the bigs. This really could be it for him, which is kind of sad. UPDATE: Or not. What do I know?
  • Matt Kemp’s bat shattered and a shard of it stuck in the ground like a javelin or something:

source:

Kinda scary. We’re gonna have another player impaled by a bat one of these days.

  • Yasiel Puig came in late in the game and hit a three-run homer. And it wasn’t a cheapie. He tattooed the ball. I’ve seen him play three times in five days now and I have been impressed. He’s raw and all of that but boy howdy I can’t wait to see more of him.
  • Late in the game someone hit a foul ball and it went back into the open window of Ned Colletti’s box. Colletti retrieved the foul ball and gave it to a fan. Then Colletti gave the fan three years, $30 million. The Dodgers, man.

With the game over I put my girlfriend on a plane and then went and climbed a butte. Mostly because “butte” is a funny word. Say it. Tell me it’s not funny.

This morning I’m off to Surprise to see the Rangers and Padres. Surprise being approximately three miles east of Los Angeles, it may take me a while to get there.

Sox, Astros look to take a lead, Brewers look to take command in tonight’s LCS action

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The Red Sox and Astros felt each other out for Games 1 and 2 and now things shift to Houston for Game 3. Each team faces a challenge of sorts here, with the Astros facing a right-handed starter for the first time in the series — they have hit better against lefties on the season — and the Red Sox entering the game with some questions about their bullpen, particularly closer Craig Kimbrel. Also of note: each team has a big bit — Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez — which has been cold thus far. Altuve has gone 1-for-8 in the first two games and Martinez is 0-for-7. Altuve is nursing a sore right knee and may be the DH this afternoon. Martinez, of course, will DH for Boston. It’ll be interesting to see if either one of ’em gets of the schneid.

In Los Angeles, the Brewers would take a commanding 3-1 lead with a victory tonight. As noted below, things are set up nicely for them from a pitching perspective, having basically everyone available in what will be, essentially, a bullpen game. The Dodgers have a traditional starter on the mound in Rich Hill, but since Walker Buehler went seven innings and Dave Roberts did not have to use his top relief arms, he’ll likely be calling down to the pen earlier than usual as well. Indeed, expect him to pull out all the stops he can to avoid falling into a 1-3 hole in this best-of-seven series.

Your viewing guide:

ALCS Game 3

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 5:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Dallas Keuchel
Breakdown:

Eovaldi is coming off seven innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts and no walks in his Game 3 start against the Yankees in the ALDS. Earlier this year he faced the Astros when he was still with the Rays — as you probably heard by now, that didn’t go too well — but he’s been solid as a rock for Boston since the beginning of September, not allowing more than two runs in any start and blanking the opposition three times. Keuchel is working on seven days of rest since giving up two runs over five innings in his Game 3 of the ALDS. Sometimes people say guys with sinking stuff like his do worse with more rest but I feel like every time I’ve heard that for the past decade, a guy like him has either been just fine on extra rest or has gotten shelled on the allegedly good short rest they get. It’s mostly noise. So much small sample stuff this time of year is noise. Including the fact that Keuchel is 0-1 with a 9.15 ERA over four appearances against the Sox in his career. People say that stuff to have something to say. Like I just did.

NLCS Game 4

Brewers vs. Dodgers
Ballpark: Dodger Stadium
Time: 9:09 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers: Gio Gonzalez vs. Rich Hill
Breakdown:

Gio Gonzalez will start the game, but as was the case in Game 1 when Gonzalez pitched just two innings, look for him to be an opener here once again. In Game 1 Craig Counsell used seven pitchers, with Brandon Woodruff going two innings and Josh Hader going three. Hader pitched yesterday but it was only two-thirds of an inning in which he only threw eight pitches, so expect to see him once again. The Dodgers, blanked yesterday, will need to show that they can do something against the Brewers’ best or this thing isn’t going back to Milwaukee for a Game 6 or 7. As for their starter, Rich Hill hasn’t pitched in eight days, last going four and a third against the Braves in the NLDS, allowing two runs. He’ll be pitching to Austin Barnes after Yasmani Grandal’s boo-inspiring performance in the postseason thus far sends him to the pine.