Matt Adams shoves fan with glove after missing foul ball

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There was an interesting moment in the bottom of the third inning at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati this afternoon, as Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams attempted to catch a foul ball off the bat of Reds outfielder Chris Heisey. He dove into the stands along the first-base line to catch it, but came up empty-handed. Adams decided to tap the fan who caught the ball with his glove, which ended up looking a lot like a shove. The fan quickly responded by flipping the bird to Adams. Fun stuff.

Check out the exchange in this Vine, courtesy of user Chris Looy.

C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer caught up with the fan in question, Chris Smith, after the incident:

“He gave me a shove and I fell back,” Smith said. “I’m pretty sensitive about my knee right now. I’m fresh out of surgery, it’s nothing to joke around about.”

Leaning over the tarp, Adams was in position to catch the ball, but Smith had his glove above Adams’ glove and made the catch. A fan has the right to catch a ball if he doesn’t go into the field of play, and replays showed Smith didn’t.

“I didn’t reach over, I stayed where I was, I couldn’t reach out if I tried, because I can’t hit my knee on anything,” Smith said, pointing to the cup holder in front of him right at knee-level.

Smith and friend Kristen Kidd, who was sitting next to him, said there were no words exchanged between the two. Just the shove — and the gesture that was caught live on TV.

“I wouldn’t be mad if he wasn’t hurt,” Kidd said.

There is, of course, no way Adams could know Smith was hurt, but it was still her first reaction to look out for her friend.

“He didn’t say anything,” Smith said. “He just looked at me right in the face and walked away.”

This isn’t the end of the world, but you have to wonder how this incident would be covered if say, someone like Yasiel Puig was the one who did it. Anyway, the fan was well within his rights to catch the ball and hopefully Adams will think twice next time about touching a fan unprovoked. Fortunately, this didn’t escalate into a bigger confrontation.

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.