Josh Hamilton is back on chewing tobacco

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Last year Josh Hamilton famously struggled with quitting chewing tobacco, which led to cryptic comments about “personal issues” and coincided with struggles at the plate. Nolan Ryan criticized Hamilton for trying to quit during the season. Hamilton himself characterized it as a struggle to maintain “obedience to the Lord,” which presumably means Hamilton views chewing tobacco, or not, as a matter that goes to his very soul.

So this, from Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times, is interesting:

Josh Hamilton finished a workout with the team’s strength and conditioning coach Tuesday afternoon, went into the Angels’ dugout for some water, took a small wad of chewing tobacco out of his mouth and flung it to the floor.

Asked if he had resumed chewing tobacco after quitting last July — a move that led to withdrawal symptoms and may have contributed to his second-half slump with Texas — Hamilton said, “No comment.”

He later tried to downplay the issue to DiGiovanna, asking “is this really a story?” Normally, probably not. But given that Hamilton has decided this is an issue of his faith and his sobriety — and given how explicit Hamilton has been that his faith and his sobriety are an essential part of his baseball career —  yes, it is kind of an issue when he’s the guy dipping.

I don’t think anyone on the planet besides Hamilton and his family truly cares if he uses tobacco. Most just want him to hit the ball, some probably want him to be content, healthy and happy, and some probably want him to be a good role model. But this was something Hamilton considered important. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to be OK making the reasonable distinction between a dip on the diamond and the other threats to his faith and sobriety that so many others are but with which he has had so many problems.

Brewers on the brink of their first pennant in 36 years

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A series that had swung back and forth twice already swung back in Milwaukee’s favor last night with a convincing win. That it was convincing — it was not at all close after the second inning — is a key factor heading into today, as Craig Counsell has his bullpen set up nicely to shorten the game if his Brewers can get an early lead.

Josh Hader — who, if you are unaware, has not allowed a run and has struck out 12 batters in seven innings of postseason work — did not pitch yesterday or in Game 5. As such, he’s had three full days off. Given that this is a win or go home day and, if they win, he’s guaranteed two more days off before the World Series, he’s good for two innings and could very well go for three. That’s not what you want if you’re the Dodgers.

But it gets worse. Jeremy Jeffress pitched last night but it was only one pretty easy inning, so he could go two if he has to. Corey Knebel pitched an inning and two-thirds but he could probably give Counsell an inning of work if need be. Joakim Soria didn’t pitch at all yesterday. Between those guys and the less important relievers, all of whom save Brandon Woodruff are all pretty fresh, the Dodgers aren’t going to have any easy marks.

But the thing is: Counsell may not need to go that deep given that Jhoulys Chacin, their best starter of the postseason, gets the start. So, yes, in light of that, you have to like the Brewers’ chances tonight, and that’s before you realize that the home crowd is going to be louder than hell.

Not that the Dodgers are going to roll over — it’ll be all hands on deck for them with every pitcher except for Hyun-Jim Ryu available, you figure — but if they’re going to repeat as NL champs, they’re going to have to earn it either by bloodying Chacin’s nose early and neutralizing the threat of facing Hader and company with a lead, or by marching through the teeth of the Brewers bullpen and coming out alive on the other side.
NLCS Game 6

Dodgers vs. Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers:  Walker Buehler vs. Jhoulys Chacin
Breakdown:

The most important part of this breakdown — the stuff about the Brewers’ pen — has already been said and, I presume anyway, the starters here will have the shortest of leashes. Chacin’s will be longer, as he has not allowed a run over 10 and a third innings in his first two postseason starts, making him the Brewers’ defacto ace. Every inning he goes tonight makes things much, much harder for the Dodgers once he’s gone as it means Milwaukee will be able to rely more and more on Hader and Jeffress, so the Dodgers had best get to him early.

Buehler has come up weak so far this postseason, having allowed nine runs in 12 innings, including surrendering four runs on six hits over seven innings in Milwaukee’s Game 3 victory. Still, it’s not hard to remember how dominating he was in the second half of the season. If that Buehler shows up and can keep things close, we’ll have a ballgame. If L.A. finds itself in an early hole once again, theirs will be the tallest of orders.