Thoughts from an 18-inning marathon

38 Comments

It shouldn’t have been an 18-inning game. If Nationals manager Matt Williams had just stuck with Jordan Zimmermann in the ninth, his club most likely would have beaten the Giants 1-0 to even the NLDS at a game apiece.

But, then, the most likely outcome with Drew Storen entering with a man on first and two down in the ninth was also a 1-0 Nationals victory. Storen, while not necessarily terrific coming on with runners on base, had gone his last 23 appearances without allowing an earned run. He finished the season with a ridiculous 1.12 ERA. Yes, he had something of a meltdown in his previous postseason appearance two years earlier, but that’s not something that should have been factored in tonight. He’s been pitching about as well as any NL reliever.

So, no, I’m not going to slam Williams for the choice. I didn’t think Zimmermann needed to come out, but I didn’t see anything wrong with Storen coming in.

– Of course, the Giants went on to win 2-1 in 18 innings, thanks to a Brandon Belt homer and a host of fine pitching. Yusmeiro Petit joined the small list of pitchers to throw six scoreless innings of relief in a postseason game. Pedro Martinez did it, not giving up a hit in the process, to clinch Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS for the Red Sox. Petit struck out seven and allowed just one hit to earn the victory.

– When Petit came in, my initial thought was that the Giants just hurt their chances of winning Game 4; they hadn’t announced whether Petit or Ryan Vogelsong would pitch that game. Obviously, Game 4 or no, Bruce Bochy made the right call.

– Tim Hudson, who has started both 18-inning games in postseason history, was terrific in what was shaping up as a losing cause, giving up one run in 7 1/3 innings. Hudson is now just one Giants win away from going to an LCS for the first time in his illustrious career; his teams were 0-for-6 in LDS play (the A’s were 0-for-4, the Braves 0-for-2). That previous 18-inning affair was between the Braves and Astros in Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS. Hudson allowed three runs in seven-plus innings, and the Braves lost hours later on a Chris Burke homer.

– In all, the two teams tonight hit .143 in 119 at-bats. They slugged .193. The Giants were 8-for-57 with 14 strikeouts. The Nationals were 9-for-62 with 20 strikeouts.

– Facing elimination, the Nationals will have a tough call on whether to play Ryan Zimmerman on Monday against left-hander Madison Bumgarner. It’d be nice to squeeze him in somehow, but doing so would weaken the defense. Also, Zimmerman is a mere 3-for-17 with a homer off Bumgarner in his career. The candidates to be bumped — Bryce Harper (3-for-9, 1 HR), Asdrubal Cabrera (2-for-3) or Adam LaRoche (6-for-21, 3 2B) — have all been more successful, though those numbers mean next to nothing (or maybe just nothing).

Astros greeted with boos in first spring training game

Astros
Getty Images
13 Comments

The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.

Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.

There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.

That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.

The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.

One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.

Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.

Follow @StelliniTweets.