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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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From A to Z: The Tampa Bay Rays Are Making October Baseball Especially Rewarding

There is nothing like the drama of a close baseball game when all the chips are down.  

 

When undrafted, unheralded Tampa Bay infielder Mike Brosseau homered in the 8th inning off Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman this past Friday night Oct 9, it sent the Yankees towards another early October exit, their eleventh in a row since they last won the World Series in 2009.

 
There are some baseball laws that apply even to the outrageously entitled Yankees:  If you hit home runs and very little else and have a thin starting pitching rotation, you are bound to run into October trouble.  

 
The low-budget but multi-talented Rays will certainly be the sentimental favorite in their matchup against the unrepentant sign-stealing Houston Astros, the team everyone wants to hate (especially now that the Yankees are out).

 

They got off to a good start last night (Sunday Oct 11) with another come-from-behind nail-biting 2-1 victory. The RBIs came on a home run from sizzling Cuban defector Randy Arozarena and a rare single by catcher Mike Zunino.

 

From A to Z, the Rays are abundant with great baseball stories.  Arozarena, a mere 25, is in its first season as a Ray. He arrived in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for minor leaguers who have yet to reach the majors (though pitcher Matthew Liberatore is considered a good prospect). 

 

Zunino, 29, came two years ago in a trade with the Seattle Mariners who only have utility outfielder Mallex Smith to show for it so far.  Zunino was an All-American at the University of Florida and played on three College World Series teams.

 

In 2012 he ran the table of college baseball awards - winning the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser trophies and the Johnny Bench award. By 2013 he was in the majors.

 

Talk about having baseball in one's blood! His father Greg met his wife Paola in Italy when he was catching for a Bologna team and she was a catcher on the national softball team.  Greg has since become an area scout for the Marlins and more recently the Reds.

 

Yankee killer Mike Brosseau, 26, is another fascinating story about the vastness of the Rays' scouting net.

 

From Munster, indiana, Brosseau went undrafted out of Oakland University in Detroit, a weak team in the not-exactly-powerhouse Horizon League. He improved each season in the Rays farm system and also spent a winter playing in Perth, Australia. 

 

Kudos to Curtis Granderson, who working for TBS on a post-game panel after Brosseau's dramatic homer, noted Brosseau's lineage. Curtis, the former Tiger-Yankee-Met outfielder, played for the University of Illinois-Chicago Circle in the same conference.

 

Talk about the connection of baseball present to baseball past.  When I heard the name Brosseau, I immediately thought of Eddie Bressoud, the journeyman shortstop who played for my New York Giants after Alvin Dark left in the mid-1950s.  Last I checked, Bressoud

was still alive at 88.  Hope he felt a connection to Brosseau, too.  

 

There's still a lot of baseball left between dangerous and playoff-tested Houston and Tampa Bay. But let's give a salute to the gritty multi-talented Tampa Bay boys and their ability to make its whole far greater than the sum of its parts. 

 

More next time on the National League Championship Series featuring two unbeaten teams  in the playoffs:  Everyone's betting favorite, the Los Angeles Dodgers, winners of eight straight NL West titles but still no World Series victory since 1988. And the Atlanta Braves

who haven't won it all since 1995 and have endured their share of playoff agony.

  

For now, let's be glad we have a heaping helping of October baseball in front of us.  Almost seems like normal which of course it isn't.  But to watch baseball is to dream so here's to more of it. 

 

And always remember:  Take it easy but take it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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