Friday, October 30, 2009

Game Two

Yankees won last night, so not a lot of merriment. Another pitcher’s duel. No complaints about that; pitcher’s duels are often compelling, as every event is magnified, since there’s no expectation of getting another chance later like there might be in an 11-10 game.

AJ Burnett threw first pitch fastballs for strikes to just about every batter. He did this in his first ALCS appearance and beat the Angels. They were ready in his second outing and scored four runs on his first twelve pitches before he adjusted. Did the Phillies’ scouts watch the ALCS? Phillies hitters took Strike One all night when they should have been looking dead red from time they left the on-deck circle.

Is A-Rod a pleasure to watch, or what? Three more strikeouts last night, though he did finally get a ball out of the infield. (Medium-deep fly to left.) Oh-for-eight so far in the Series. Remember the comments about Chase Utley’s two Game One home runs being the first time a left-handed hitter has hit two off a left-handed pitcher since Babe Ruth in 1928? Well, A-Rod made his own move for immortality last night. Only one other player has struck out three times in two consecutive Series games: Jim Lonborg, in 1967. A pitcher. With a .136 lifetime average back in the day when even the American League played Real Baseball. Another hat trick tomorrow and A-Rod’s place in history is secure.

The Game Two Tim McCarver Moment – Jimmy Rollins on first, running with the pitch. Shane Victorino singles to right. Melky Cabrera changes the ball and fires a strike to third to hold Rollins at second. McCarver’s analysis includes a rambling tale of how former Dodger outfielder Ron Fairly told him once the surest way to keep a runner from going first to third is to have the right fielder charge the ball, as his momentum is moving in the direction of the throw. No offence to Ron Fairly, who was a fine player in his day, but Tim needed help to figure that out, and was so impressed at Fairly’s acumen he credited him for the tip? Maybe Fairly bought one of McCarver’s CDs. The only one.

The Game Two Tim McCarver Moment (Honorable Mention) – Now Rollins and Victorino are on second and first, respectively. Chase “Doing Things No Left-Handed Batter Since Babe Ruth Has Done” Utley runs the count to 3-2. McCarver says the runners have to go. They don’t, and Utley hits into a double play. McCarver then goes on to rail about how the runners had to go. Down two runs in the eighth inning, Rivera on the mound, stay out of the double play. Sure there’s the chance of a strike-him-out-throw-him-out double play, but Utley is a contact hitter.

Whoa. Chase Utley is a fine hitter and I’m happy to wash his cars for him after his Game One heroics, but he is not a contact hitter. He struck out 110 times this year. Not Ryan Howard or Jose Hernandez levels, but he ain’t Rod Carew or Richie Ashburn, either. Over his career, Utley strikes out about every fifth at bat. On the other hand, he only hit into five double plays all year, about one every 114 at bats. Which was he more likely to do? Well, that’s why they play the games. I would’ve sent them, too; Rivera doesn’t mess with holding runners. (Most great pitchers don’t. They get the batter out. He’s the one can hurt you.) That doesn’t make Manuel wrong; it just blew up on him.

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