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You Can’t Always Get What You Want But I Did Get My Dream Extra-Inning Game 7

If you scroll through these blogs over the past few years, you’ll see that I fervently believe in Lowenfish’s Law: No lead of four runs or less is ever safe in a baseball game until the last man is out.

In my last blog, I wrote that the Indians just might win a seventh game in what shaped up as a very close World Series. Well, the Indians did have a chance to win that seventh game on the second night of November.

They rallied from 5-1 and 6-3 deficits to score three in the 8th against the Cubs’ star closer Aroldis Chapman. Journeyman Rajai Davis hit a two-run home run to tie the game.

I couldn’t help thinking of a similar great World Series game in 1975 when Bernie Carbo hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game against Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine. Would there be a Carlton Fisk to win the game in extra innings?

That classic contest was only a Game 6 and this one was for all the marbles, a Game 7.
Alas for Cleveland, there was no Carlton Fisk on their roster. Chapman recovered his poise to retire the Indians in order in the 9th, and the Cubs got the lead in the top of the 10th on a clutch RBI single by Ben Zobrist, the deserving MVP of the Series.

I really had no horse in this race. Both teams deserved to win but in organized sports there is only one winner. I was glad that the triumphant Cubs were gracious in victory. Both manager Joe Maddon and team architect Theo Epstein praised the Indians for their gallant effort.

Zobrist, who now has won back-to-back World Series (he played for the 2015 champion KC Royals), added to his laurels as one of the classiest as well as most versatile of MLB players. He praised his teammate Anthony Rizzo for being so good that he was walked intentionally to get to Zobrist in the chance of getting the inning-ending double play.

People who truly love sports know there are times when it is a shame that there has to be a loser. The 2016 World Series was a prime example.

The Indians showed amazing heart not just in the last game but in sweeping the Red Sox in the first round, knocking out the Blue Jays in five games in the ALCS, and taking the highly favored Cubs to the last out of game 7 in the Series.

That the Tribe accomplished all this missing two key starters in their rotation, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, was quite remarkable. I know this is small consolation for Cleveland which has now not won a World Series since 1948 and has only appeared in four since then.

I think the most astonishing part of this Series is that no starting pitcher threw a ball in the seventh inning and very few got far into the sixth. The Indians had the superior bullpen and excellent manager Terry "Tito" Francona was not afraid to use Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, and Bryan Shaw more than one inning.

Joe Maddon didn’t have as many relief reliables as Francona but he hoped to get as many as three innings out of the powerful arm of Aroldis Chapman. This strategy almost backfired in Game 7 when starter Kyle Hendricks was yanked with two out in the 5th inning with a four run lead.

A throwing error by catcher David Ross followed by a wild pitch that led to two immediate runs made it a 5-3 game. But Ross, ending his 15-year major league career in style, atoned for his miscue with a big solo home run in the next half inning.

So now winter has come for everyone in baseball, but very soon news of free agent possibilities and signings will hit the sports pages. Teams have exclusive rights to their potential free agents until five days after the Series ends, which means Monday November 7.

Here are some questions for the Series teams and one other playoff team to answer:
**Will the Cubs re-sign Dexter Fowler their leadoff hitter and centerfielder?

**Will they re-sign Aroldis Chapman or will he possibly return to the Yankees ?

**How will the Indians fortify their lineup with more power and consistent hitting?

**Will the Dodgers, who actually led the Cubs two games to one in the NLCS, keep their free agents - solid third baseman/timely hitter Justin Turner and potent closer Kenley Jansen?

Those answers will be coming soon. In the meantime, let’s salute everyone on the Cubs and Indians who kept winter away for so long.

That’s all for now - always remember: Take it easy but take it.
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The Enduring Redemptive Quality in Baseball

On Monday night September 9 in the bottom of the first inning with the Orioles trailing the Yankees 1-0 on an Alex Rodriguez home run off team ace Chris Tillman, Nick Markakis led off against CC Sabathia. It was a year and a day after Sabathia hit Markakis with a pitch in the first inning at Yankee Stadium, breaking his thumb and prematurely ending the Oriole right fielder’s season.

A lifelong Oriole Markakis had never come close to playing in a pennant race and Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s fierce consoling embrace of his veteran once the news was broken is etched in the memory of Oriole fans.

Redemption came to Markakis early on Monday night as he rocketed a ground-rule double to right center and ultimately scored the tying run on Adam Jones’ short sacrifice fly to center fielder Brett Gardner. In his second AB Markakis, no speedster, legged out an infield hit down the third base line, and in the fifth inning he stroked a single up the middle that gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead that they never lost in their 4-2 victory behind a great Tillman performance.

Markakis has had a perplexing season, recently going two months without an extra-base hit. One scout told me that he has power but doesn't like to use it. Yet he continues to play solid defense in right field on a team whose fielding prowess is virtually worth the price of admission. The less said about Oriole problems with RISP – Runners in Scoring Position – the better.

Today’s point, class, is the redemptive feature of baseball, one of its greatest attributes because it is built into the game. I believe it was Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk who once said that he felt for the fans in pennant races because they can do absolutely nothing about the fate of their teams. They can root, they can agonize, they can change locations in front of the TV set (and also increasingly at the newer ballparks where wide concourses allow fans to roam almost at will). But only the players and sometimes the managers with their moves can shape the fate of a game.

So I suggest look for redemption in every game. It happened for Yankee left fielder Alfonso Soriano last weekend against the Bosox at Yankee Stadium. He was picked off second as the potential tying run in the bottom of the 9th inning one night as the Yanks lost in extra-innings to the powerful ever-resilient Red Sox. But then the following night on his very first AB Soriano hit a long two-run HR.

Redemption doesn’t always come immediately in baseball and sometimes it doesn’t come at all. But it is a feature that makes the game ever so interesting and compelling.

We are in double-digit September, less than three weeks to go in the season and every game and every AB is important. Enjoy the agony if you can. And always remember:
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