We cover the PED stuff pretty heavily because it’s news and that’s what we do. But I know a lot of you are sick of it. Maybe so sick of it that your overall view of baseball is soured. If so that’s unfortunate, because as Jonah Keri reminds us, baseball is flippin’ sweet at the moment:
There’s a lot more to love than to hate this season, as there is every season. For every player likely to be suspended this year, there are 10 more doing extraordinary things. For every team that could see its pennant chances affected by the Biogenesis case’s undertow, there are five more with amazing stories to tell. In short, baseball is fun as hell right now.
Jonah goes over the stories that are going underreported: the Pirates’ ongoing dream season. Ed Lucas. Yasiel Puig. Mike Trout somehow doing it again. Cabrera and Davis. I’ll add another thing to that list: we are seeing absolutely wonderful pitching performances every single night. Actually, five or six of them each night. I don’t think people are really grasping how much good pitching is going down these days.
Maybe those aren’t all underreported. But they certainly have been cast to the side in the past week or two. And while Biogenesis suspensions are going to continue to dominate the news for a while, they don’t tell the entire story of the 2013 season. That stuff never does. Because baseball is cool and is bigger and better than that.
World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted a sub-2.92 ERA. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.
And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.
Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.
Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.
The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.