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Montero’s pinch-hit grand slam lifts Cubs 1-0 in NLCS

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This is the stuff of October baseball. This is the kind of postseason turmoil and triumph that generates the narratives we’ll repeat over and over to our children and our children’s children and our children’s children’s cats for years to come.

We’ll start with Kenta Maeda‘s command issues against the top of the Dodgers’ order, when he centered two fastballs in the strike zone and left them susceptible to Dexter Fowler‘s .276 average and Kris Bryant‘s .554 slugging percentage as the two sluggers combined to bring home the first run of the night. At their urging, we’ll briefly mention Maeda’s first postseason single in the top of the second inning, ripped off of a Jon Lester heater and wasted as Adrian Gonzalez was tagged out at home for the last out, then we’ll skip to the bottom of the second inning and Jason Heyward‘s leadoff triple.

We’ll tell them about Javier Baez, he of the .974 postseason OPS, and how he parked a slider in center field to score Heyward, then dashed for third base on a wild pitch to Jon Lester. When Lester moved to bunt, Baez raced home to startle Dodgers’ catcher Carlos Ruiz a second before the throw reached the bag. We’ll touch on Lester’s four consecutive shutout frames, then drop the bomb: an Andre Ethier home run in the fifth, skied to left center field to bring the Dodgers within two runs of tying the game.

And then, we’ll say, leaning in a little closer and speaking just a little more quietly, this is where gets good. After back-to-back scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh, with nary a run between the two teams, the Dodgers loaded the bases against right-hander Pedro Strop. The Cubs brought in Aroldis Chapman; the Dodgers, Corey Seager. Seager went down on four pitches, as did Yasiel Puig. With two outs, Adrian Gonzalez lashed the first 101-m.p.h. fastball he saw for a base hit, driving in two runs and promptly stealing second base before Yasmani Grandal grounded out to strand the go-ahead run.

In the bottom of the frame, with the Dodgers and Cubs knotted 3-3, Los Angeles’ right-hander Joe Blanton surrendered a leadoff double to Ben Zobrist, then intentionally walked Jason Heyward and Chris Coghlan to get to the pitcher’s spot in the lineup. Joe Maddon pulled Chapman for backup catcher and pinch-hitter Miguel Montero, who swung through two strikes to get to the perfect pitch, a 0-2 slider that landed deep in the right field bleachers for the first go-ahead, pinch-hit grand slam in postseason history.

Maybe we’ll polish off the story with the tale of Dexter Fowler solo shot that trailed Montero’s blast, or the way Hector Rondon gave up a run while trying to close out the ninth inning. Maybe, though, we’ll just leave them with this one flawless moment instead.

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Scott Boras: Astros players don’t need to apologize

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Ken Rosenthal spoke to Scott Boras about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Boras’ take: the Astros need not apologize for what they did. They were mere babes in the woods who were ignorant of everything. I wish I was making this up. Scotty Baby:

“I’m doing what my organization is telling me to do,” Boras said on Wednesday, describing the hypothetical mindset of a player. “You installed this. You put this in front of us. Coaches and managers encourage you to use the information. It is not coming from the player individually. It is coming from the team. In my stadium. Installed. With authority.”

The analogy Boras used was the speed limit.

A man driving 55 mph in a 35-mph zone only believes he is speeding if the limit is clearly posted. Likewise, Boras said Astros’ players who committed infractions only should apologize if they were properly informed of their boundaries.

It’s worth noting two things at this juncture: (1) Scott Boras represents José Altuve and Lance McCullers; and (2) He’s 100% full of crap here. Indeed, the contortions Astros players and their surrogates are putting themselves through to avoid accountability is embarrassing.

The players knew what they were doing.  Please do not insult me by saying they didn’t. Boras is doing what he thinks he needs to do to protect his guys. I get it, that’s his job. His client Altuve in particular stepped on it last weekend when he and other Astros players tried to play the “we’re going to overcome this adversity/no one believed in us” card which played terribly, and the super agent is trying to clean up the mess as best he can. Hat tip to him for his hustle, which he has never not shown. Guy’s a pro.

But he can only do so much because this all remains on the Astros’ players. Yes, the formal punishment is on the manager, the general manager and the club, and I agree that it had to be given all of the complications of the situation, but now that that’s over, it’s time for some honest accountability. And we’re getting zero of it.

Which is insane because the players were given immunity. They’re 100% in the clear. That they cheated has angered a lot of people, but it does not make them irredeemable. As I have noted here many times, lots of others did too. But their lack of accountability over the past couple of weeks speaks very, very poorly of them.

“We crossed a line. No question. We’re sorry. We don’t think it caused us to win anything we didn’t earn, but we see how we created that perception ourselves through our own actions. We shouldn’t have done that. Going forward we’re going to be better. Again, we’re sorry.”

That’s about all it’d take and it’d be done. It’d be pretty easy to say, if for no other reason than because that’s probably what’s gone through their minds anyway. They’re not bad people.

But they’re also observers of America in 2020 and, I suspect, everything they’ve seen, consciously or unconsciously, has counseled against them saying those very simple words or something like them.

Everything that’s going on in America right now — politics especially — tells people that the path to success is to cheat, steal and lie in order to benefit themselves and themselves only. It’s also telling them that, if they get caught, they should lie and deny too. It works. The media, for the most part, will not call anyone of status out on a lie, even if the lie is ridiculous. At most it will repeat the denial like a stenographer reading back from a transcript fearing that to do any more would be to — gasp! — reveal an opinion. “Shlabotnik says that he was cloned by Tralfamadorians and it was his clone, not him, who stole the signs.” Heaven forbid someone add the word “falsely” in there. They won’t because if they do they’re going to be accused of being “biased” or “political” or whatever.

If you see that — and we all see it — why wouldn’t you be predisposed to avoid apologizing for anything? Why wouldn’t you try to offer some canned, facially neutral talking points and hope that everyone is satisfied that you’ve spoken? Why wouldn’t you, having done that for a few weeks, begin to believe that, actually, you’re right not do say anything more. And  that, maybe, you were never in the wrong at all? That’s were we are as a country now, that’s for sure. And given that sports reflects society, it should not be at all surprising that that attitude has infected sports as well.

Astros owner Jim Crane tells Rosenthal that there could be an apology in spring training. “Quite frankly, we’ll apologize for what happened, ask forgiveness and move forward,” Crane said.

One thing I’ve learned in life is that when someone says “quite frankly,” what follows is going to be insincere most of the time. Another thing I’ve learned is that, in comments such as Crane’s, the emphasis is strongly on the “move forward” part of things. He wants an apology to put an end to a bad news cycle. When it comes, it will be P.R.-vetted and couched in the most sterile and corporate language imaginable. It will be anything but sincere.

In the meantime, the rest of the Astros don’t seem to want to offer an apology at all. Why should they? What’s making them?