The Week That Was in Baseball: October 7-13, 2013
A Wild Start to the ALCS in Boston • San Jose's 0-2 Count vs. MLB
A Lip Reader Breaks Down Craig Kimbrel's L.A. Rant • R.I.P. Andy Pafko
Not Your Average 1-0 Game
During ALCS Game One, as Detroit pitcher Anibal Sanchez labored through an exhausting sixth inning in which he walked the bases loaded and ran his pitch count well over the 100 mark, it became utterly apparent that the question was not going to be whether he’d be taken out of a no-hitter, but when. The AL ERA leader managed to escape that inning with the no-hitter, shutout and lead intact, but that would be all for him as four Tiger relievers took over and nearly completed the no-no—having it broken up with one out in the ninth when Daniel Nava poked a soft liner into left-center for a single.
Sanchez’s line was one for the ages: Though he threw six hitless frames, he walked six and accumulated 12 strikeouts; no pitcher had ever gone that far with a no-no only to be removed. Four of his K’s came in the first inning alone (Shane Victorino reached first on a strike-three passed ball), a statistic not seen in the postseason since Orvie Overall did it for the Chicago Cubs during their last World Series triumph in 1908; Sanchez’s 12 strikeouts overall made up the majority of the 17 the Red Sox would suffer on the night, the latter number tying a postseason record.
Boston’s lone hit made it the second team to break up a no-hitter in the ninth inning of a postseason game; it previously happened in Game Four of the 1947 World Series when the New York Yankees’ Bill Bevens lost out on his no-no (and the win) to Brooklyn’s Cookie Lavagetto in an equally funky game won by the Dodgers, 3-2.
The Red Sox’ 1-0 loss was their first postseason shutout at Fenway Park going all the way back to Game Five of the 1918 World Series, and it was the first time they had been held to a single hit in the postseason. Finally, leave it to the Red Sox—who take their time at the plate and draw more pitches than any other team—to be participants in the longest 1-0 nine-inning postseason game by time, at three hours and 56 minutes. If there’s been a 1-0 game that’s gone that long in regular season annals, we’ve never heard of it. (If you have, let us know.)
Now That’s Good Pitchin’
ALCS Game Two marked the third straight postseason game in which a Detroit pitcher threw at least five no-hit innings. Before Sanchez in Game One, there was Justin Verlander (6.2 innings) in ALDS Game Five at Oakland, and there was Max Scherzer in the second game at Boston, throwing 5.2 hitless frames (with 13 strikeouts) before bowing to the start of the Red Sox’ comeback. The Tigers had never started three consecutive games with at least five no-hit innings in any year, regular season or otherwise.
The first 44 at-bats for the Red Sox in the ALCS resulted in just one hit—and 26 strikeouts.
Fenway’s Good Luck Charm
It seemed all too appropriate, before ALCS Game Two in which the Red Sox fought back from five runs down for a 6-5 win thanks in large part to David Ortiz’s eighth-inning grand slam, that 2004 comeback sparkplug hero Dave Roberts would be the one to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The Young Guns
Over in the NLCS, the St. Louis Cardinals took the first two games from the Los Angeles Dodgers at Busch Stadium, allowing just two runs in 22 innings—with rookie pitchers accounting for 18.1 of those frames, helping to outduel Dodger starters Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.
The veteran-quality pitching was badly needed for a Cardinal offense that barely helped the team take a 2-0 series lead. In Game Two, the Cardinals only poked out two hits—just the third time in postseason history that a team won with two or fewer hits. (It was last done in the 2001 ALDS Game Three between the Yankees and Oakland A’s—the game made famous by Derek Jeter’s desperate shovel relay to home plate to nail the A’s Jeremy Giambi.)
Elias noted that there’s been 13 Game One affairs in the league championship annals that have gone extra innings; the previous 12 times, the team that won went on to win the series. Advantage, St. Louis—who beat the Dodgers in NLCS Game One, 3-2, in 13 frames.
Still the One (in Oakland)
Justin Verlander may have slipped a notched this season, but don’t tell that to the Oakland A’s. The Detroit ace, demoted to the rotation’s #2 spot for the ALDS in favor of 21-game winner Max Scherzer, blanked the A’s for a total of 15 innings to double his active scoreless inning streak in the postseason against Oakland to 30. That’s the most in major league history against one team, breaking the mark set by Christy Mathewson against the Philadelphia A’s from 1905-11.
This Week’s Evidence That Everyone’s Striking Out
Besides the Red Sox whiffing against Anibal Sanchez and Company in ALCS Game One, the A’s struck out 57 times in the ALDS against the Tigers, setting a major league postseason record for a five-game series. Individually, the A’s Brandon Moss and the Tigers’ Austin Jackson each suffered 13 K’s to set another record in a five-gamer.
Baseball’s Little Nemo
Throughout the 20th Century, the A’s were 16-8 in postseason-clinching games. Since 2000, they’re 1-12.
You’re on Not-so-Candid Camera
It may not be the first rule of owning a major league team, but it should be somewhere on the list: Never sit behind home plate and react on national TV. During ALDS Game Five, Oakland owner Lew Wolff was sitting in the fifth (and last) row of the petite, super-rich section behind home plate—in clear view of a national TV audience watching via the center-field camera. Emotions ranged from despondent (after Josh Reddick swung and missed at a first pitch from Verlander, he painfully covered his head in his hands), curious (in watching a foul ball, he might have wondered: “Is that headed for San Jose?”) and perturbed (watching many of his players striking out).
Who Mixed up the Suitcases?
Numerous people were pointing out that Wolff was wearing an orange sweater (it was actually closer to A’s gold, folks), but what was with Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski wearing a Kelly green tie?
He’s in Your Nightmares…and Your Front Office
Someone with a sense of humor went to the Oakland A’s Wikipedia page after ALDS Game Five and listed Justin Verlander as the owner.
The Victory Wasn’t Sealed—And Neither Were His Lips
Hey, Fredi Gonzalez: Your Braves have a one-run lead going to bottom of the eighth in Los Angeles; if you win, you get a day off before a decisive Game Five back at Atlanta. So, why didn’t you go to the game’s best closer in Craig Kimbrel and look to get a six-out save? Kimbrel apparently wants to know himself, if you believe the word of Evan Brunell, a deaf lip reader hired by Deadspin to decipher a video of a perturbed Kimbrel having a chat in the bullpen as the Braves failed to recover from Juan Uribe’s two-run, go-ahead homer in the eighth off Atlanta reliever David Carpenter.
According to Brunell, Kimbrel said this while TBS cameras caught him from afar in the ninth: “No, I’m mad because I told him, if we’re winning after seven, I want to throw the last f**king two innings.” At upload time, Kimbrel had not publicly responded to verify the expert’s accuracy.
Torture, Dodger Style
Uribe and Brian Wilson, who was the winning pitcher in NLDS Game Four, are both refugees from the world champion 2010 San Francisco Giants. For Bay Area fans, Uribe’s blast against the Braves brought back memories of his decisive solo shot in the final game of the 2010 NLCS at Philadelphia.
Makes You Want to Break Out the 3-D Glasses
While Uribe was being interviewed by TBS after his heroic performance in NLDS Game Four, someone (a Dodger teammate, presumably) doused him with Gatorade and ice—and also got the camera filming the moment, leading to a psychedelic short-out. Like Craig Sager’s suit needed to look any more colorful.
You Need to be a Homer in This Town
Former Braves star Chipper Jones went on radio before the start of the NLDS and predicted that the Dodgers would win four games. He then went out and threw the ceremonial first pitch before Game One as the Braves, who caught wind of what he had to say, turned their backs on him; the team mascot filled in for Brian McCann to catch Jones’ toss. Say this about Jones: His premonition was accurate. The Dodgers won in four.
It wasn’t like Atlanta utility infielder Paul Janish was going to make a big difference in the NLDS against the Dodgers—he made the playoff roster but batted 41 times in 52 regular season appearances—but any chance of being an unlikely postseason hero came crashing down when he broke his nose lifting weights.
It’s That Wacha-macallit Again!
St. Louis rookie pitcher Michael Wacha, who lost a no-hitter with an out to go in his final regular season start, kept the Pirates hitless through the first 7.1 innings in NLDS Game Four before Pedro Alvarez’s solo homer broke up both the no-no and shutout—but not the win, as the Cardinals stayed alive and forced Game Five with a 2-1 victory. Wacha’s no-hit bit was the longest by a rookie in a postseason game; Jeff Tesreau went 5.1 innings before allowing his first knock in Game One of the 1912 World Series for the New York Giants against the Boston Red Sox.
A Man For All Eras
The Bud Selig postseason era has created a virtual rewrite of the record book’s playoff section thanks to additional rounds of postseason play since 1995. As always, quantity has much to do with it as quality. But then there’s Carlos Beltran, who became the all-time postseason home run king this past week when he connected for his 16th longball in NLDS Game Four at Pittsburgh. Yes, Beltran have expanded postseason play to thank for the opportunity to achieve his milestone, but he reached it within 38 games—supplanting Babe Ruth, who actually needed more games (41) to earn the old record of 15. Still, one wonders how many more homers Ruth would have collected had he been given three rounds of playoffs instead of one back in the day.
An RBI a Day Keeps the Criticism Away
The Pirates bowed to the Cardinals in spite of slugger Pedro Alvarez, who ripped three homers and became the first major leaguer to knock in at least one run in each of his first six postseason games. For the Pirates’ sake, they’re hoping Alvarez won’t have to wait another 21 years before his next chance to add to it.
Was it us, or did it seem that ALDS Game Four between Boston and Tampa Bay went on forever? The Red Sox clinched with a 3-1 road win which, at first glance to any outsider, should have been completed in a crisp duration of time. But the game took three hours and 49 minutes to complete; the bottom of the eighth alone took nearly 30 minutes, even though only four Rays players came to bat. (Yes, Game One of the ALCS, a 1-0 game, went ten minutes longer as noted above—but that was entertaining.)
There was plenty of blame to go around for the excessive length: Extended between-innings breaks for national television, 12 pitching changes (eight alone for the Rays), and the mere presence of the Red Sox, whose batters take more time at the plate than any other team. We mean, really, David Ortiz—do you have to spit into your gloves between every pitch? And how many times, Jonny Gomes, do you need to tug on your batting helmet before it feels right?
We’re Guessing the Wooden Bobby Valentines Were Sold Out
For the postseason, the Red Sox are relying on a three-foot wooden Indian as a good-luck charm. Purchased at a smoke shop (of course) in San Francisco, the sculpture might instinctively raise tension within the Native American community as being insensitive—but Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, who bought it, claims to be of Indian heritage. (Also, you’d think wooden Indians would be banned in ultra-liberal San Francisco, but never mind.) Naturally, in current-day Red Sox tradition, the sculpture has grown a lumberjack beard.
Tampa Bay’s lone 5-4 win over the Red Sox in the ALDS featured the Rays taking an eighth-inning lead, losing it in the top of the ninth, then winning it in walk-off fashion on Jose Lobaton’s home run. Only one other postseason game in major league history has seen a similar set of circumstances: Game Seven of the 1960 World Series, climaxed in legendary fashion by Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off blast.
The World’s Luckiest Industry
In 1922, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes led a unanimous opinion for the Supreme Court that gave baseball its antitrust exemption—and 91 years later, MLB continues to kiss the feet of his ghost every day. MLB execs probably give it a much bigger smooch this past week when a Federal judge tossed out a good chunk of San Jose’s lawsuit against baseball, in which the city claimed the antitrust exemption was thwarting an agreement to move the A’s 50 miles south.
In a 26-page ruling, Judge Ronald M. Whyte seemed to reiterate the existence of the antitrust exemption as a hot potato; no one wants to touch it. Whyte admitted that the exemption is “illogical” but said he had no power to do anything about; San Jose could (and may) appeal to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but even if the case somehow found its way back to the Supreme Court, the current justices may echo what the high court said in 1972: Overturning the exemption is Congress’ problem, not ours.
Like we said: It’s a hot potato.
The ruling was not a total defeat for San Jose. Whyte’s ruling allows San Jose to continue with litigation against MLB for “interfering” with the A’s attempts to purchase land in the city with the hopes of building a new ballpark there. How this gets resolved will ultimately determine the level of inclination for MLB to allow the A’s to relocate to San Jose—but even if that comes to fruition, you can bet on a holy fight (and possibly another lawsuit) from the San Francisco Giants, who continue to hold the territorial rights to San Jose and is staunchly opposed to any A’s move to the South Bay.
Back in the spring, New York Yankee catcher Francisco Cervalli denied taking steroids and said he had made contact with PED outlet Biogenesis simply for consultation, nothing else. This past week, his 50-game suspension having elapsed, he came clean. “I talked to my agents, my lawyers and that’s what I said,” Cervelli said. “Let’s stand up and that’s it. I don’t want to keep this soap opera going.”
Cervalli said he took the steroids as a “quick fix” in 2011 to help rebound from recent injuries—and because he was “a little scared” of losing his spot on the roster, stating, “Every year I have to go to spring training and fight for a job.” Finally, Cervalli had this to say: “Sometimes you listen to people who have nothing to lose. That’s dangerous.” We’re curious if one of those “people” was teammate and fellow Biogenesis user Alex Rodriguez, who MLB claims encouraged other players—perhaps Cervalli—to hit up the clinic.
For Your Splendid Splinter
Someone on eBay is selling 60-year-old condoms with Ted Williams’ image on it. According to the description, the Red Sox’ hitting legend apparently was duped into endorsing the product. It’s selling for $99; let’s hope whoever actually uses them will have a better than a .406 chance of protection.
A High, Hard Pink Slip
It was reported that Arizona GM Kevin Towers fired pitching coach Charles Nagy because he wasn’t encouraging his pitchers to get even against hitters and “chew a little rear end” when the Diamondbacks got hit at the plate. Never mind that Arizona participated in the year’s nastiest brawl, against the Dodgers at Los Angeles on June 11—and never mind the fact that Arizona pitchers actually hit more opponents than vice versa.
So Long, Andy Pafko
Sort of like a baseball version of Forrest Gump, Andy Pafko had the knack for being at the right place at the right time—if not always to his advantage. Emerging as a major league force for the wartime Chicago Cubs, he was a member (and MVP candidate) for the 1945 squad that was the last to win a pennant at Wrigley; he had one of the best views of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” as a left fielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951; he was there at the beginning of baseball’s westward expansion as an everyday player for the 1953 Milwaukee Braves; and he had to take a seat at County Stadium a few years later when a young kid named Hank Aaron reduced his role in the outfield.
Pafko certainly contributed during his 17-year stint in the majors, clubbing 213 homers (including a career-high 36 for the 1950 Cubs), twice knocking in 100 runs, appearing in four All-Star Games and four World Series (for three different teams—the Cubs, Dodgers and Braves). The 92-year-old Pafko died this past week of natural causes.
CSN Houston, We Have a Problem
Last month, we relayed a report stating that the Houston Astros—on their way to an abysmal 51-111 record with a payroll slashed to almost nothing—were on target to make a $99 million profit, greatly helped by $80 million in local TV revenues. It now turns out that the Astros have actually received roughly half of that revenue from CSN Houston—for which the Astros have a 46% ownership stake. Making matters worse, CSN Houston just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
You’re asking yourself: How does a team not get paid by a company for which it has a majority stake? Because Comcast, which is a partner in the network, was apparently able to file on behalf of its affiliates. The Astros believe the Chapter 11 filing is a fraudulent, “transparent” attempt to gain control of the network and renegotiate the local TV deal. They’ve also complained that CSN Houston is available to only 40% of the Houston cable market—though the counterpoint is that the Astros, who reportedly have wanted to charge cable outlets a monthly $3.40 fee per subscriber to carry CSN Houston, are their own worst enemy. And trust us on this: Few cable networks are willing to carry CSN Houston when ratings for Astros games have literally dropped to 0.0.
The Mile High Club
The Colorado Rockies are planning to shave off half of Coors Field’s upper deck behind the right field wall to make way for a party area, a component that has become popular at other new ballparks. The rebuilt area will be anchored with a beer joint called the 5280 Craft Bar, which will feature 52 beer taps and a bar measuring 52 feet and 80 inches long (all of which plays off the mile-high theme—you know, one mile, 5,280 feet, get it?).
Perhaps the Rockies avoided calling the new area the Mile High Club, as imagine the disappointment when amorous couples come to Coors to find out there’s no airplanes waiting to take them into the sky.
Weird Graphic of the Week
TBS ran a graphic promoting the upcoming NLCS with a list of games and starting times; Games 5-7 were asterisked at the bottom not with “if necessary” but, instead, “ih ngeguucty.” Apparently this part must have been typed by Ed Harris as he was going deep down the ocean in The Abyss.
He Said What?
“Isn’t it amazing what someone will do when he can’t bunt?”—Dodger announcer Vin Scully, quickly opining on Juan Uribe as he rounded the bases with the go-ahead homer in NLDS Game Four after failing in an attempt to bunt on the pitch before.
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