instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Prize Fight Intensity On Display in Baseball Playoffs

After watching the Yankees-Minnesota first inning last Tuesday Oct 3 (Bobby Thomson Day BTW in 1951 and Dave Winfield's birthday), I couldn’t help thinking of the first round of the Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns middleweight fight in April 1985.

More haymakers were thrown in the first round of that classic fight than in most entire bouts (Hagler won it by a third-round KO - I saw it on small theatre TV at Madison Square Garden’s long-gone Felt Forum.)

The Twins hit two HRs and knocked out Yankee ace Luis Severino in first inning. But Curacao’s pride Didi Gregorius smacked a three-run dinger to tie the game immediately, and Yanks won going away.

Nothing like playoff games to reveal intensity a la boxing’s concentrated mayhem. (I’m not an ardent boxing fan because the aim of the sport is really to concuss your rival. But I’m a flawed human being who does believe in a fair fight with no favor.)

And with the exception of LA Dodgers sweep of the Diamondbacks, the playoffs have been intense and gripping (despite the length of the games due to extra commercials and incessant meetings between catchers and pitchers).

We’ll see if Cleveland can continue in the playoffs by winning Game 5 at home tomorrow night (Wed Oct 11). “Momentum in baseball is the next day’s starting pitcher” will be truer than ever. Cleveland ace Corey Kluber will be matched against the former Indian CC Sabathia.

Kluber was treated rudely by the Yankees in the now-infamous Game 2 - you know the one where Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, the obsessive note-taker with the big thick looseleaf book, didn’t appeal a bad call on a hit-by-pitch. And moments later Indians leader Francisco Lindor hit a grand-slammer to bring the Indians back into a game they won in extra innings.

Just hope it is a good game like the classic Game 3 in which Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka won a gripping 1-0 shutout that proved again that nothing quite beats a low-scoring baseball game with plenty of base runners but stout pitching.
Revived Yankee first baseman Greg Bird homered deep into the upper right field stands off usually impregnable reliever Andrew Miller for the game's only run.

It would be nice for Cleveland if they can get injured slugger Edwin Encarnacion back into the lineup. And if their number three hitter Jose Ramirez finds his hitting stroke.
The playoffs, being so short compared to the long grind of the regular season where “tomorrow is your best friend,” intensify slumps. Hope J Ramirez snaps out of it.

Meanwhile Houston eliminated the Red Sox three games to one. The Astros embarrassed punchless Boston in the first two games in Texas by identical 8-2 scores.
The Red Sox salvaged some respect by winning the third game at home and leading the fourth one by one run into the 8th.

But the talented young Alex Bregman, a natural shortstop now playing third because of the emergence of Carlos Correa at short, homered to tie it. And then former Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick hit an opposite field single to give the Astros the lead in their ultimate 5-4 win.

The only blemish on the Astros performance was center fielder George Springer’s botching balls in Fenway Park’s tricky deep center field. On Sunday he played a catchable ball into a double when he didn’t realize he had more room to catch it.

Yesterday (Monday Oct 9) Springer allowed an inside-the-park home run to talented Red Sox 20-year-old rookie third baseman Rafael Devers when the ball ricocheted wildly off the metal wall into Fenway’s vast right field.

For Houston’s sake I hope Springer plays better on the road in the upcoming ALCS either in Cleveland or New York. Or maybe Jake Marisnick returns to the lineup.

In the National League, the Cubs have taken a 2-1 lead over the Washington Nationals. The pitching has been great in this series - the defense not so great.
I was glad that the Nats at least won a game at home before heading to Wrigley Field for Games 3 and 4. They'll have to conquer Jake Arrieta to stay alive.

Washington has not won a playoff series since they returned to the majors in 2005 as the former Montreal Expos. It looks like they will have their work cut out for them to break that bad streak.

Before I close, I want to tip my cap to some of the insights of the Fox Sports One team covering Boston-Houston, Joe Davis and former players David Cone and AJ Pierzynski.

Cone, whose first team was the KC Royals, paid homage to the former Kansas City reliever the late great Dan Quisenberry who once noted that Fenway’s Green Monster Wall had a heartbeat and as the games got close, you felt it beating.

It was also Quisenberry that described the secret to his success: “Thirty ground balls, thirty strikeouts, thirty great plays.”

Cone, Davis, and Pierzinski also deserve kudos for praising Alex Bregman’s confident take of a pitch seconds before he hit his tying home over the Green Monster off Red Sox ace closer Craig Kimbrel.

Just remember as these games go on until the end of the month - “The only reason to play baseball is to keep winter away.” Next time I hope to say about my two alma maters currently undefeated on the gridiron - Columbia (4-0) and Wisconsin (5-0).
Both have tough games ahead so not feeling overconfident.

In the meantime, always remember: “take it easy but take it."
 Read More 
Be the first to comment

Reflections on The Orioles Shaky Series at Yankee Stadium

MLB's baseball schedule is unfathomable and unfair but it seems it is here to stay (until there is a major realignment that I am not sure I would favor.) I realize that two 15-team major leagues now require an inter-league game every day, but divisional play should still take precedence at regular intervals.

Not so for the Orioles who paid their first visit of 2016 to Yankee Stadium from July 18-21. The Birds had already hosted the Bronx Bombers twice this year and won each series two games to one. Sadly, in a post-All-Star Game batting slump, they provided little opposition as the Yankees mowed them down easily in the first three games, 2-1, 7-1, and 5-0.

Though not convinced that the Orioles are a bona fide championship contender, especially because of a shaky starting pitching rotation, I attended every game. The Birds were undermanned because a stomach virus engulfed the Oriole roster keeping Chris Davis out of the lineup in the first three games and also forcing Manny Machado to the sidelines for game three.

Fortunately, both played in the Thursday day game that saw Chris Tillman perform like a true ace. His seven solid innings preserved the lead that shortstop JJ Hardy gave him with a bases-loaded single in the first inning. It was a ball that handcuffed normally reliable Yankee shortstop Didi Gregorius. It was hit hard enough to be a legitimate single though it was a play that Gregorius usually makes.

Later in the game Didi made amends with some brilliant plays. His double play partner Starlin Caatro also flashed plenty of range and leather. They are the likely future of the Yankees as they aim to get younger and better.

Jonathan Schoop, like Gregorius from the tiny land of Curacao not far from Venezuela, delivered a key two-run insurance double in the seventh inning.

Remember the names of Schoop and Gregorius. Neither made the 2016 All-Star team but beginning next season they should likely add that laurel of recognition.

The Red Sox have moved into first place in the AL East, one lost game ahead of Baltimore with Toronto close behind. The trade deadline looms on August 1 and all teams will strive to improve for either this year or future years like perhaps the Yankees.

I am fascinated that so many Yankee fans are convinced that the current squad needs revamping. Yet the Steinbrenner family and close associates still evidently cling to the belief that this year can still lead to a playoff.

One word of advice to all teams (that of course won't be heeded) - Don't make deals just because of the clamoring of the media. I personally prefer the older deadline of mid-June.

It says here that teams should rely primarily on what their own organizations have developed. But since building a championship roster is such a difficult process, there will always be trades and wise acquisitions by other means.

There should be plenty of drama ahead and I for one am grateful for that. It is a precious time of year when pennant race baseball should have the main attention of real fans.
When the football season begins in late August/early September that focus will change.

That's all for now. I'm off to teach at Chautauqua in western New York during the first week of August. Will be back with reports on that later in the summer.
In the meantime, always remember: Take it easy but take it!
 Read More 
Be the first to comment