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Ron Darling thinks Andrew Benintendi twice broke baseball’s unwritten rules


Broadcaster and former player Ron Darling has had an interesting few days calling the ALDS for TBS. Referencing the Red Sox getting to Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka in Game 2, he used an old idiom that happens to include a racial slur. Darling apologized for the remark. During Game 3, when the Red Sox were getting to starter Luis Severino, Darling suggested that the right-hander had gotten a late start warming up, explaining his struggles. After the game, Severino pushed back against the comments and denied having warmed up late. Darling didn’t see any reason to walk back his comment.

We now have a new controversy at Darling’s suggestion. The Red Sox obliterated the Yankees 16-1 in Game 3, which saw them take a 10-0 lead after four innings. In the fifth, after the Yankees clawed back to score one run, Red sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi drew a two-out walk against reliever Chad Green. With J.D. Martinez at the plate, Benintendi stole second base. Baseball’s unwritten rules typically refer to the regular season. In the playoffs, anything goes within reason, usually. Benintendi’s stolen base was in something of a gray area. Is a nine-run lead in the fifth inning big enough for a team to avoid running up the score in the postseason?

Darling said after Benintendi stole second base, “Well, I guess [that’s] from the school of never taking anything for granted. You don’t usually see that. In the postseason, maybe. In the regular season, never.”

The Yankees, however, were holding Benintendi on with Luke Voit at the first base bag. If it’s so obvious he shouldn’t steal given the game state, then don’t hold him on.

In the seventh inning, with the Red Sox still up 10-1, Benintendi went ahead 3-0 against Jonathan Holder, then swung at a fastball. Swinging 3-0 in a blowout is another behavior covered in baseball’s unwritten rules, so Darling had an opinion about that. He said, “I found [Benintendi stealing second base] unusual, but you know, you can still keep pushing the envelope. But boy, swinging 3-0 in the seventh with a 10-1 lead … there used to be a book. There’s no book anymore. Everything’s grey, but I would find that offensive, personally.”

Despite getting embarrassed on national television, the Yankees likely don’t care to focus on Benintendi’s infraction heading into Tuesday night’s Game 4. Perhaps in the regular season, CC Sabathia (Tuesday’s starter) might have gone for retribution, which would not have been out of character. Facing elimination in the postseason, however, the Yankees are likely singularly focused on the goal of staying alive. Giving the Red Sox a free base runner would only get in the way of that goal.

As an aside — and I’ve talked about this before — the broadcasters for the postseason thus far have been quite underwhelming. Many of them, like Darling, have come off as curmudgeonly. John Smoltz, for example, has spent much of his time on air complaining about the way baseball is played today and that it’s inferior to the way the game used to be played. Others, like Jim Kaat (who called Jesús Aguilar “Jesús Aguilera”), simply seem ill-prepared. More focus should be put on giving broadcasting gigs to people who are enthusiastic and make the effort to stay knowledgeable about the game and the players who play it. If I weren’t a baseball fan (or perhaps a lapsed fan) but happened to be tuned into a broadcast, I would not be motivated at all to continue watching because the Darlings, Smoltzes, and Kaats make it seem like the game is a drag and the players are buffoons.

Brewers on the brink of their first pennant in 36 years

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A series that had swung back and forth twice already swung back in Milwaukee’s favor last night with a convincing win. That it was convincing — it was not at all close after the second inning — is a key factor heading into today, as Craig Counsell has his bullpen set up nicely to shorten the game if his Brewers can get an early lead.

Josh Hader — who, if you are unaware, has not allowed a run and has struck out 12 batters in seven innings of postseason work — did not pitch yesterday or in Game 5. As such, he’s had three full days off. Given that this is a win or go home day and, if they win, he’s guaranteed two more days off before the World Series, he’s good for two innings and could very well go for three. That’s not what you want if you’re the Dodgers.

But it gets worse. Jeremy Jeffress pitched last night but it was only one pretty easy inning, so he could go two if he has to. Corey Knebel pitched an inning and two-thirds but he could probably give Counsell an inning of work if need be. Joakim Soria didn’t pitch at all yesterday. Between those guys and the less important relievers, all of whom save Brandon Woodruff are all pretty fresh, the Dodgers aren’t going to have any easy marks.

But the thing is: Counsell may not need to go that deep given that Jhoulys Chacin, their best starter of the postseason, gets the start. So, yes, in light of that, you have to like the Brewers’ chances tonight, and that’s before you realize that the home crowd is going to be louder than hell.

Not that the Dodgers are going to roll over — it’ll be all hands on deck for them with every pitcher except for Hyun-Jim Ryu available, you figure — but if they’re going to repeat as NL champs, they’re going to have to earn it either by bloodying Chacin’s nose early and neutralizing the threat of facing Hader and company with a lead, or by marching through the teeth of the Brewers bullpen and coming out alive on the other side.
NLCS Game 6

Dodgers vs. Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
Pitchers:  Walker Buehler vs. Jhoulys Chacin

The most important part of this breakdown — the stuff about the Brewers’ pen — has already been said and, I presume anyway, the starters here will have the shortest of leashes. Chacin’s will be longer, as he has not allowed a run over 10 and a third innings in his first two postseason starts, making him the Brewers’ defacto ace. Every inning he goes tonight makes things much, much harder for the Dodgers once he’s gone as it means Milwaukee will be able to rely more and more on Hader and Jeffress, so the Dodgers had best get to him early.

Buehler has come up weak so far this postseason, having allowed nine runs in 12 innings, including surrendering four runs on six hits over seven innings in Milwaukee’s Game 3 victory. Still, it’s not hard to remember how dominating he was in the second half of the season. If that Buehler shows up and can keep things close, we’ll have a ballgame. If L.A. finds itself in an early hole once again, theirs will be the tallest of orders.