The Mariners won last night but Seattle Times reporter Ryan Divish says the atmosphere in the clubhouse afterward was “similar to a 12-inning loss.” Why? Because, as Divish reports, the M’s designated popular veteran catcher John Buck for assignment.
Buck was hitting .226/.293/.286 with one homer in 84 at-bats this season. This is the sort of production they probably should’ve expected from Buck when they signed him to a one-year, $1 million deal back in January and they’re not likely to receive better production behind the plate from any internal replacements (they are likely to call up Jesus Sucre from Tacoma). But Divish notes that there were “concerns about Buck’s defense and receiving and blocking from the Mariners crew of hard throwers” among M’s brass, so he’s out.
This may bug M’s players and maybe some M’s fans. But, assuming those fears about Buck’s defense are well-founded, it’s the kind of around-the-edges improvements that teams in the playoff hunt make to improve their chances. Maybe Buck is still on the team is they’re a dozen games back of the wild card leaders. But that’s not where the Mariners are these days, and when you’re contending sometimes you gotta make tough choices.
One team has punched its ticket to the Fall Classic. Two teams are looking to join them, with the Dodgers carrying the distinct advantage. Los Angeles needs only a split in the final two games of the NLCS while Milwaukee needing to win both games at home. Doable? Absolutely. But to do it, the Brewers are going to have to wake up their sleepy bats.
NLCS Game 6
Dodgers vs. Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Time: 8:39 PM Eastern
Pitchers: Hyun-Jin Ryu vs Wade Miley
The Dodgers will give the ball to left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who tossed seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but allowed two runs and tossed 72 pitches, failing to get out of the fifth inning, in Game 2 against Milwaukee. Even if he again turns in a short outing Dave Roberts should feel pretty confident, however, as the Dodgers’ bullpen — considered a question mark coming into this series — has allowed only three runs in in 21 and two-thirds innings of work.
For Milwaukee it’s once again Wade Miley, who was the Game 5 “starter,” but who pitched to only one batter. I suppose it’s possible that Craig Counsell will burn him like that again, but it seems more likely that Miley will actually pitch in this game rather than be used as a decoy.
As I noted the other day, though, the Brewers’ pitching gamesmanship has not really been a factor in this series. The real problem for them has been their offense. They’ve scored only 16 runs in five games while batting .219. That’s actually identical to the Dodgers’ run total and average overall, but L.A. has been better at distributing that meager offense. Milwaukee has been cold at the worst times, too, going 5-for-35 with runners in scoring position in the series, including one for their last 11. If that doesn’t change, their season ends tonight.