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Let's Hope The World Series Will Match The Drama of the Playoffs

Baseball fans have to feel blessed that we've had gripping games to fill our October nights during this pandemic and the immense uncertainty about our future as a republic. It was only the third time since MLB went to seven-game championship series that both leagues came down to Game 7 dramas.

 

For six innings, the Braves-Dodgers NLCS final game looked like a classic in the making. Braves took early lead, Dodgers tied it in the third on clutch two-out single by young catcher Will Smith from University of Louisville. 

 

To me Smith was one of the unsung heroes of the Dodgers victory.  He hit a game-turning three-run homer against Braves southpaw reliever Will Smith to win a previous game. 

 

It was quickly announced that it was the first time in the playoffs that a player hit a homer against a pitcher with the same name.  What I want to know:  WHEN DID IT HAPPEN IN THE REGULAR SEASON?  No word at press time. 

 

Smith also made the key defensive play thwarting a big Braves rally when they gained the lead again.  He ran Dansby Swanson back to third base when he broke too soon for the plate on a grounder to third. Justin Turner made a great tag on Swanson heading home and then threw out young Austin Riley who delayed going to third from second.

 

The Dodger bullpen then shut down the Braves totally for the rest of the game.  You just knew that sooner or later they would score and that they did on a Cody Bellinger home run

in the bottom of the 7th.

 

A 2018 NL MVP, Bellinger has not had a good year but if he gets on a hot streak that Dodger lineup will be hard to beat. But don't count out the newly crowned AL titleists Tampa Bay Rays.

 

Rays fans told me that I wouldn't jinx them by my ode last week to their beating the Yankees.  It allowed us to celebrate YED, Yankee Elimination Day, that special holiday that should but doesn't teach humility to the outrageous entitlement of too many Yankee fans.

 

The Houston Astros under Dusty Baker's quietly passionate leadership did throw a major scare into Tampa Bay. They won three close games in a row after losing the first three.

But a first inning home run by Randy Arozarena, the sensation from Cuba who now lives in Mexico, gave the Rays a two-run lead in the first inning.

 

Talk about the little things that determine close games.  The TV camera caught Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. hesitating before he threw the fateful pitch to Arozarena.

He kept the team in the game afterwards, giving up just a solo homer to another unsung star catcher Mike Zunino.

 

But former Astro and Pirate Charlie Morton was on his game and pitched nearly flawlessly.

In this age of the annoying mantra, "Don't dare let a pitcher go through a lineup three times", Morton left with two on and two out in top of sixth after only 66 pitches.  But the Rays bullpen sealed the deal in the 4-2 victory.

 

The odds-makers and TV people love LA and Hollywood and the Dodgers certainly have a lot to prove after winning eight NL West division titles in a row with no World Series wins.

But I'll be rooting for the Rays and their scrappy defense and their "Stable of Horses" in the bullpen who are seemingly interchangeable.  Just hope Randy A. gets more help at bat.

 

Always remember not only "Take it easy but take it!" but also, "The only reason to play baseball is to keep winter away." 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Can The Dodgers Avenge Their 1916 Loss to Bosox? (updated)

One of the great things about baseball is more than any sport there is a living vibrant link to the past. Checking my old reliable Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia, I see that in early October 1916 the Red Sox beat the Dodgers in five games.

Babe Ruth was hitless in five at-bats but won game two, 2-1. He allowed only six hits, walked three and struck out four in a 14-inning complete game masterpiece. Ernie Shore won the first and last games and baseball's first Dutch Leonard won the fourth one.

Outfielders Harry Hooper and Duffy Lewis showed why they were a formidable regular season duo each hitting over .300 in the Series and future Hall of Famer Hooper led both teams with 6 runs scored.

Third baseman Larry Gardner only had 3 hits in the Series but two of them were homers, one of them a three-run job that won Game 4. Shortstop Everett Scott, another Bosox player who wound up with the Yankees in owner's Harry Frazee's fire seal deals, saved the first game win with a late game dramatic defensive robbery.

And let's not forget first baseman Dick Hoblitzell who did not contribute much offensively but has one of the great forgotten names in baseball history. The three games in Boston were played in Braves Field that had a larger capacity than Fenway Park. (A Boston-Milwaukee series would have delighted local historians because of the Hub town connection of each team but it was not to be.)

On the Brooklyn side, outfielder Casey Stengel tied for the team lead with 4 hits but produced only 2 runs. Jack Coombs won the only game for Brooklyn and would retire undefeated in Series action with a 5-0 record, the other four coming with Connie Mack's first Philadelphia A's dynasty.

The home run dominates the game in the 21st century and yet I firmly believe that pitching and defense still wins championship. Just look at LA Dodgers Game 7 win over the Brewers last night (Oct. 20).

Chris Taylor's sensational catch on Christian Yelich's two-strike screaming liner into the left center field alley preserved LA's precarious 2-1 lead. And let's not forget Manny Machado's remarkable 3-2 bunt that immediately preceded Cody Bellinger's game-changing two-run homer.

Little things still win baseball games. Appreciation of these nuances for me makes baseball the great game it is. I hope to live to see the day when the cutting comment, "Baseball is what this country used to be, football is what it has become," no longer is accurate.

As for the coming World Series, I like the Dodgers in six or seven. I think their starting pitching looks a little sharper than Boston's. Their bullpen too looks in better shape than Boston's, especially if closer Craig Kimbrel keeps near-imploding.
Winning the final game against Milwaukee on the road indoors has to also provide LA an amazing psychological boost.

The Dodgers accomplished what neither the Cardinals in 1987 or the Braves in 1991 could do in the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Silence screaming fans in a very hostile foreign environment. Whatever happens, let's hope they are good crisp games.

For five innings last night the drama of a game seven was priceless. Every pitch, every breath mattered. But when Yasiel Puig homered in the top of sixth off Jeremy Jeffress it was all over except for the countdown.

That's all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it. And also remember to vote on November 6!
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