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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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On The Inevitable Manny Machado Trade (updated) + In Memory of Ken Ravizza

My take on the now-official trade of Manny Machado to the Dodgers is that I hope he realizes the microscope will now be grinding 24/7. (That's not the best metaphor I know but I never was very good in science classes despite attending Bronx HS of Science.)

Some of his last comments to MASNSports.com reporter Roch Kubatko indicated that the enormity of the change was only now beginning to dawn on him. Players are not robots or simply vessels of stats that can be transferred from one team to another as easily as the click on a computer.

Still, the Dodgers offense will likely get an uptick with him hitting in the middle of the lineup. I am sure Dodgers management will deal with the issue of what happens when incumbent shortstop Corey Seager returns from injury next spring. And what about Justin Turner the incumbent third baseman?

I rarely make predictions since I've always loved the baseball adage - "the farther away from the clubhouse the less you know what you are talking about." (A sanitized version of the adage!)

But I did say that the pre-season injury to Justin Turner would be a big blow to the Dodgers and they indeed got off to an awful start until he returned somewhat to form recently. Turner has been a versatile player in past so they'll find a spot for him.

Whether Machado is shortstop or third baseman of future for LA is an intriguing question. Manny will have many suitors as a free agent come November.

As for my Orioles, it remains to be seen if 21-year-old Cuban-born Double A outfielder Yusniel Diaz, the most heralded of the five minor leaguers received from LA, ultimately becomes a core piece of a rebuilt team. I am also curious to see if homegrown outfielders Cedric Mullins and currently injured Austin Hays can make the grade.

I expect another big trade chip to be sent away shortly when closer Zach Britton finds a new home. I think the Indians want him badly because of health issues and free agency looming for fellow left-handed reliever Andrew Miller. But I also think the Orioles would prefer sending Britton to National League.

I still watch the Orioles out of habit and a love that borders on - who am I kidding? -that actually overflows into addiction. They enter post-All-Star-Game play on a two-game winning streak after a 4-4 home stand that featured splitting four games with the hated Yankees (who trail Boston by 4 1/2 games but only 3 in the A-ILC (All-Important Lost Column).

The lineup without the powerful productive Machado batting third could be even more embarrassing than the one WITH Manny that is 41 games under .500. But call me a cockeyed optimist - I think they will be surpass the Mets 1962 debut of 40-120 and even the Tigers 1999 43-119.

The key always remains in baseball pitching. "Without pitching you got nothin'," Sparky Anderson wisely said. And if they are to become the real Orioles again and not the 2018 version I call sadly Woerioles, the starters must step up and not be Five Jokers and No Aces.

Before I close, I want to say goodbye to someone who left us recently, much too early of a heart attack at age 70. KEN RAVIZZA was a pioneering sports psychologist - born in Connecticut, graduate of the renowned physical education program at Springfield College in Massachusetts. He got his doctorate at USC, studying with among others Howard Slusher, a sports philosophy professor who later became a sports agent.

Ken rose to become both a widely published academic author and an applied sports psychologist in great demand by sports teams like Joe Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs and individual competitors like figure skater Gracie Gold.

Some of Ken's aphorisms that are indelibly etched in my mind include:
"Attitude is a decision."
"Never let the pressure of a situation exceed the pleasure you get from it."
"Learning to be comfortable while being uncomfortable" is a big key to success.

That's all for now - always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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