Disliking Off-Season Inactivity…

Baseball is such a rush. It starts in February when pitchers and catchers report, and then slowly builds over the course of the next eight months, reaching the adrenaline rush of the post-season, capped by the exhilarating World Series. Then, nothing. We can only wait and watch as the Yankees beat writers jump from one potential story to another without yielding much fruit.

Things will pick up in a few weeks as we approach the Winter Meetings, but for now, we just have to sit around wondering when the Yankees will give us an indication who they might be considering for the job to lead the 2018 Yankees.

Without much to really think about, here are some of my random thoughts…

Alex Rodriguez, Just Say No…

I can honestly say that I have no desire to see Alex Rodriguez named as Yankees manager. I do not dispute A-Rod’s baseball knowledge and I know that he’s been a positive influence on the younger players during Spring Training but neither of those attributes qualify him as a Major League manager. This is a man who was suspended an entire year for PED use after he had already been implicated with earlier use of performance-enhancing drugs. I was glad to see A-Rod’s time as an active member of the Yankees end and I have no interest in watching him don the pinstripes again (outside of brief Spring Training appearances).  As it is, I am tired of the daily “J-Rod” updates.  If Alex became the Yankees manager, those daily sightings of Jennifer Lopez and A-Rod would only worsen.  I lived through the Bronx Zoo of the 1970’s.  I am not willing to entertain the thought of The Bronx Zoo, Part II. So count me among those with no interest in seeing A-Rod become manager of the Yankees.

Jake Cave, Member of the 40-Man Roster…

It took awhile and included a detour through Cincinnati, but Jake Cave finally earned a spot on the Yankees 40-Man Roster when he was added on Monday.

Cave was drafted by the Yankees in the 6th Round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, VA.  He was left unprotected when he became Rule 5 eligible after the 2015 season and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.  He started 2016 Spring Training very hot for the Reds but by the end of camp had cooled considerably.  In the end, the Reds opted to keep a 30-year old outfielder (Jordan Pacheco), who was released by the Reds in June 2016, over the then-23 year old Cave. At the time of his return to the Yankees, Reds manager Bryan Price offered the following comments:  “He was and is a terrific young player, and we all saw him as a big-leaguer. There was just some limitations on how much playing time I thought I could get him over the course of this year. My big concern was the history with Donald Lutz and Neftali Soto, guys that have come up and really not played much at a very young age and how they were able to deal with that and when they returned to the minor leagues how they performed afterwards, and I would hate to see that happen to Jake as a guy who really got limited playing time early in the season and how that would have affected his long-term development.”

Cave returned to the Yankees but rather than sulk, he continued to work on his craft.  He was left unprotected again in 2016 but was not selected in that year’s Rule 5 Draft.  His performance in 2017 exceeded expectations as he finished with 20 home runs and 56 RBI’s at AA/AAA combined.  His batting line was .305/.351/.542 with .893 OPS in 103 total games.  His hard work has been acknowledged by the Yankees and he’ll get an opportunity to go to the Major League Camp with the Yankees in February for the first time.

Cave profiles as a fourth outfielder but he is clearly a success story among Yankees prospects.  With guys like Cave and Billy McKinney chomping at the bit, the Yankees need to clear out Jacoby Ellsbury and/or Brett Gardner to make way for the younger guys. I’d hate to see Gardner go but it is Clint Frazier’s time for left field.  Aaron Hicks is a better center fielder than Ellsbury.  So, I’d prefer to see Hicks and Frazier in the starting outfield with Aaron Judge, and guys like Cave and/or McKinney backing them up.

The Yankees also added reliever Nick Rumbelow to the 40-man roster. Rumbelow had Tommy John surgery in 2016 and missed part of the 2017 season with his recovery. After pitching briefly for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, he was lights out for the Triple A-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. In 17 games (covering 29 innings) for the RailRiders, Rumbelow was 5-1 and had a sterling 1.12 ERA with 5 saves. He struck out 30 batters, while walking only 8.  Rumbelow, like Cave, is a success story.  He was released by the Yankees in November 2016 (free to go anywhere like Nathan Eovaldi did when he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays).  Rumbelow opted to re-sign with the Yankees on December 15, 2016 and we’re glad he did.

The Yankees still have a number of Rule 5 decisions to make but these were a couple of easy ones.  I have no doubt the Yankees will be forced to leave quality talent unprotected for this year’s Rule 5 Draft.  GM Brian Cashman, between his managerial interviews and negotiation of a new contract, has his work cut out for him.

Free Agency is Upon Us…

Free Agents became available to talk to other teams on Monday afternoon. Most forecasts show the Yankees to be very limited players in the FA arena as they attempt to avoid MLB’s competitive balance tax and reset future penalties for going above the payroll threshold.  Sadly, the Boston Red Sox were able to do that this year, so they’ll be more aggressive this off-season. During the press conference yesterday to announce new Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Dave Dombrowski, President of Baseball Operations, was asked if the luxury tax would be limitation. He responded, “No, I do not”. The same question was posed to Red Sox owner John Henry and he replied with, “Well, (Dombrowski) answered the question. He said he could go over.”  I would not be surprised to see the Red Sox go hard and heavy after Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.

Most forecasts that I have seen only show the Yankees signing Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani and CC Sabathia. Without too many moves necessary, I’d be very happy to see the Yankees acquire Otani. There is uncertainty with the current dispute in negotiations between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball for a new posting agreement. However, Otani took a step in the positive direction by hiring Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to represent him if he is posted and made available to MLB teams this off-season.

I am not overly excited about the anticipated return of Chase Headley to third base for the 2018 season. The question will be whether Gleyber Torres or Miguel Andujar will be ready. I doubt either one breaks camp as the starter but it could happen sooner rather than later.  Headley runs too hot and cold for me. I’d prefer to see greater consistency out of the position to protect the big bats in the lineup. I’d love to see the return of Todd Frazier, but the timing is not right and the Yankees are not in a position to offer a free agent multiple years at third base. For the short-term, we’ll have to deal with Headley.

Dueling Airwaves…

It was funny yesterday that both Yankees GM Brian Cashman and former Yankees manager Joe Girardi were giving interviews at the same time. It’s tough listening to Girardi as he really sounds like a guy who wanted to be a part of the next great Yankees dynasty. I am surprised that the Washington Nationals didn’t make a run at Girardi with their World Series-caliber roster. But then again, the Nats aren’t known for spending cash on the managerial position and perhaps they were too far down the road with new manager Dave Martinez.

At this point, it appears that Girardi will sit out a year (perhaps taking a broadcasting position) and will emerge as a viable managerial candidate in the 2018 off-season.

The more Cashman talks about communication as a primary reason that Girardi was not re-hired and in particular his relationship with the younger players, it leads me to believe that there are reasons at play that we will never know. Maybe one day when Cashman retires and writes his memoirs.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready for some genuine Yankees news. These quiet days leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings next month are tough. I am getting a little tired of watching Houston Astros show up on Saturday Night Live or Carlos Correa discussing how he decided to propose to his girlfriend immediately after the World Series had ended on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Justin Verlander’s wedding pics in Italy are nice, but I want to know about our guys.  It is time to get the Yankees back in the news.

As always, Go Yankees!

Advertisements

Ready, Set, Go!…

The Hot Stove League Begins Play…

There is always a quietness about the days that follow the World Series unless of course you’re a fan of the World Series champion.  Teams have five days following the conclusion of the World Series to exclusively negotiate with their own free agents.  It’s rare to see much activity and unlike the NFL and other sports, there is not a flurry of immediate activity when the free agents become free to talk to other teams.  So, I guess that puts us in the calm before the storm…the days and weeks leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings next month in Orlando, Florida.  The meetings will be held from Sunday, December 10th through Wednesday, December 13th.  The annual Rule 5 Draft will be held on Thursday, December 14th.

The two biggest opt-out clauses this off-season belonged to Justin Upton of the Los Angeles Angels and Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees.  This week, the Angels announced they had signed Upton to a new 5-year deal, apparently worth $106 million.  Then on Friday night, Masahiro Tanaka announced that he would not opt out of his contract and will remain with the Yankees.  His current contract has three more years, through the 2020 season, at $67 million.

Credit:  Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

As a Yankees fan, the latter situation is more relevant to me.  I am very glad that Tanaka decided to remain in New York.  There had been strong speculation that if Tanaka opted out, the Yankees would not aggressively pursue him.  Three more years at $22 million plus per year is not chump change and it would have been hard for Tanaka to capture more dollars.  Maybe more years but the partial tear of his UCL and the associated risk of eventual Tommy John surgery would have most assuredly scared teams away.  Regardless of the risks, the starting rotation for the Yankees is stronger with Tanaka in it than not.  He did have an inconsistent 2017 regular season and there was a brief stretch that he looked absolutely awful but he rebounded with a strong finish.  He was dominant in the post-season.

So, the front of the Yankees rotation in 2018 will feature Luis Severino, Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery.  There’s a chance the Yankees bring back CC Sabathia on a one-year deal if the two sides can come together on a mutually beneficial contract.  But regardless of what happens with Sabathia, the Yankees have Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield, among others, gnawing at the door for opportunities.  There had been a fear at one time that the 2018 would be a total rotation rebuild situation but now it appears to be a strength before the off-season strategy even begins.

With the Yankees trying to make a very strong effort to get under the salary cap this year and reset the luxury tax penalties, it is unlikely the Yankees will pursue any high-priced free agent talent.  It’s unfortunate that third baseman Todd Frazier will most likely not return, but with another year remaining on Chase Headley’s contract and the near-readiness of prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, there simply is no room for the Toddfather.  Bummer.  He was a great fit for the Yankees.

Credit:  Adam Hunger, USA TODAY Sports

There seems to be stronger speculation this off-season that the Yankees could actually move Jacoby Ellsbury.  They’ll have to eat a good portion of what’s left on his contract but regardless of the cost, this is a move that has to happen.  I do not see the Yankees parting with Brett Gardner, and of course Aaron Judge owns right field after his spectacular season.  So the Yankees have to make room in the outfield for Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier without even considering promising young talent like Billy McKinney or Jake Cave.  The most likely team with interest (assuming the reports are true) are the Seattle Mariners.  The Mariners would allow Ellsbury to return to his native Northwest (he’s from Oregon).  The primary problem for the Mariners would be the heavy financial commitments they have invested in other players, most notably Robinson Cano.  Therefore, the Yankees would probably have to pay a very significant portion of Ellsbury’s contract to move him to Safeco Field.  Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman can figure this one out so that Ellsbury doesn’t become baseball’s highest paid pinch-runner again next year.

Other guys that are vulnerable to potential trades appear to be Chase Headley, Starlin Castro, Austin Romine, and Dellin Betances.  With the disappointing end to his 2017 season, the value for Betances is down which probably enhances the potential for him to stay with the team (why try to sell the four-time All-Star while his value is low) but I don’t think the Yankees would hesitate to include him in a deal if it makes sense for the team.  The Yankees also seem to be at the crossroads for making a decision about who backs up first baseman Greg Bird.  With 40-man roster spots at a premium, it would seem that a choice needs to be made between Tyler Austin and Garrett Cooper.  My preference probably leans toward Austin due to his versatility to play the outfield.

The Yankees lost a valuable prospect last year in the Rule 5 Draft when the San Diego Padres kept catcher Luis Torrens on the MLB roster all season.  I expect this year’s Rule 5 Draft to be equally painful if not more so.  It’s certainly a testament to the strength of the farm system but it is still difficult to see talented young prospects depart.

Credit:  Alex Gallardo, AP

Now that Tanaka has made his decision to stay in the Bronx, the biggest immediate problem facing the Yankees is finding a new manager to replace the dismissed Joe Girardi.  I am surprised the Yankees have not announced a new deal for GM Brian Cashman since his current deal expired at the end of October, but it doesn’t seem like Cash is going anywhere.  Neither the team nor Cashman have tipped their hand to show potential managerial candidates but it does seem like the team is looking at outside alternatives.  The question is how much they’ll prioritize actual managerial experience.  If they want experience, then former Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus seems to be the best possible option.  He was drafted by the Yankees in the 48th Round of the 1987 draft, although he never played for the Major League team.  I can still remember the sense of loss when he was taken by the Colorado Rockies in the November 1992 Expansion Draft.  Nevertheless, he is a Connecticut guy who grew up in close proximity to New York (even if his childhood team was the Boston Red Sox). He was criticized for being out-managed in the 2014 ALDS when the Detroit Tigers lost to the Baltimore Orioles and like Girardi, has a tendency to lean heavily on his veterans. But by all accounts, he is a player-friendly manager (good communicator) and would interact well with the media. For guys who lack managerial (or coaching) experience, Jerry Hairston, Jr seems to stand out.  I also like Mark DeRosa of the MLB Network.  I have no idea who the Yankees will ultimately choose but you have to believe that Cashman had someone in mind when the decision was made to part ways with long-time manager Girardi.

Credit:  Corey Sipkin, NY Daily News

I am ready for the craziness that will ensue over the next six weeks before we settle into the Winter hibernation that precedes the opening of Spring Training camps next February.  The Yankees are a team on the rise and the moves made this off-season will contribute toward the team’s success (or lack thereof) as we move forward.  No pressure, Brian Cashman.  The goal is simple…bring the Yankees’ 28th World Series Championship to New York City now.  Teams like the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim are not going to sit idly by.  The job is to do it better so that we can celebrate on the streets of New York this time next year.

Go Yankees!

Houston Astros, 2017 World Series Champions…

Credit:  Wally Skalij — LA Times

2017 World Series

Astros 5, Dodgers 1…

Astros Win Series, 4-3

In the words of the former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want. Sadly for me and those who were pulling for the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was a very long night. From the second consecutive horrific start by Yu Darvish to Cody Bellinger shattering Aaron Judge’s post-season strikeout record, it was a forgettable night for the Dodger Blue as the Houston Astros claimed their first ever World Series Championship.

Credit:  Robert Gauthier – LA Times

This should have been a special and magical season for the Dodgers. Their start to the season created much talk about surpassing the tremendous accomplishments of the 1998 Yankees, then came the extended losing streak. They rebounded but in the end, they were just another World Series loser. It was a good Dodgers club, but not quite good enough.

As for me, I am kind of tired of the Houston Astros after losing two seven-game series in a row to them…first the Yankees in the ALCS and now the Dodgers in the World Series. Plus, word started popping last night that Yankees third base coach Joe Espada has decided to join the Astros as their new bench coach (replacing Alex Cora who will become the new manager for the Boston Red Sox). I guess it was just adding salt in the wound.

Nevertheless, congratulations to the Astros for the championship! It was a hard-fought win for them and the city of Houston.

The Astros controlled the game from the start. It took three pitches for Houston’s George Springer, leading off the game, to double into the left field corner off Dodgers starter Yu Darvish. Alex Bregman reached base on an error, making it to second on first baseman Cody Bellinger’s throwing error. Bellinger had moved toward second in front of the second baseman in shallow right to scoop up the grounder, but his throw back to first sailed past Darvish. It probably would have been easier for second baseman Logan Forsythe to make that play. 

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

While Bregman advanced to second, Springer scored the game’s first run. Bregman stole third to put himself in prime scoring position.  It played to perfection when Jose Altuve grounded out to first, with Bregman racing home to score the second run for the Astros. Darvish settled down and retired the next two hitters to get out of the inning and finally bring the Dodgers to bat.

The Dodgers looked like they were going to answer the bell in the bottom of the 1st. Chris Taylor led off for the Dodgers with a double to deep right center. Corey Seager struck out swinging, but there was still hope with the heart of the Dodgers batting order coming up. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch when he took a ball off his forearm, the first of four batters that Astros starter Lance McCullers, Jr would plunk. Cody Bellinger struck out for the second out. Yasiel Puig was next and he, like Turner, was hit by a pitch, on the arm, to load the bases. The reinvigorated Joc Pederson came to the plate, flashing a smile, with the chance to bring momentum back to the Dodgers. Unfortunately, he grounded out to second baseman Jose Altuve for the final out.  No runs for the Dodgers. A missed opportunity for them.  In retrospect, one of the game’s key moments.

Yu Darvish was back out on the mound for the 2nd inning but he would not survive.  He started the inning by walking Brian McCann. Marwin Gonzalez doubled to the right field wall, with the slow-footed McCann moving to third. Josh Reddick grounded out to second for the first out. Then, in one of the game’s critical moments, McCullers, who should have been an easy out, hit a slow grounder between first and second. The only play for the Dodgers was to throw out McCullers at first. McCann was able to easily jog (sorry, it is hard to use the word “run” when it comes to the former Yankees catcher) home to pick up an RBI for McCullers. George Springer was next and he put an exclamation point on the Astros’ early performance with a two-run homer high over the center field wall. The Astros led, 5-0. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts came out and pulled Darvish in favor of Brandon Morrow. It may have been the final Dodger appearance for Darvish, a free agent to be. Morrow struck out Alex Bregman to end the inning but using one of your best relievers in the second inning is not exactly a blue print for success.

The Dodgers looked like they had another opportunity in the bottom of the 2nd. Logan Forsythe started things with a single to left. Austin Barnes grounded out to third (great defensive play and throw by third baseman Alex Bregman), but Forsythe was able to advance to second to put himself in scoring position. Kike Hernandez pinch hit for Morrow and was hit by a pitch (ball grazed his shirt but it would have been Ball 4 anyway). Runners at first and second. But it was not the Dodgers’ night. Chris Taylor lined a shot directly to shortstop Carlos Correa and the Astros were able to double Forsythe off second to complete the double play. Again, no runs for the Dodgers and yet another missed opportunity.

Clayton Kershaw took over for the Dodgers in the top of the 3rd inning. Kind of makes you wonder why the Dodgers didn’t go to Kershaw sooner but he did his job, retiring the Astros in order. There was still time for the Dodgers to claw their way back into the game. In the bottom of the inning, Corey Seager led off with a single to center over Jose Altuve’s head. I tried to think of a humorous line about that but I came up short. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch for the second time, this time under his left shoulder blade, and the fourth hit batter by McCullers. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

After McCullers struck out Cody Bellinger, Astros manager A.J. Hinch removed him and brought in Brad Peacock. Yasiel Puig flied out to center but Seager was able to tag and move to third. Two outs for Joc Pederson with a runner just 90 feet away. Pederson went down swinging.  Still no runs for the Dodgers.

Meanwhile, with Kershaw pitching strongly, the Dodgers had their next chance in the 5th. Corey Seager took a one-out walk and moved to second when Justin Turner singled to left. Alex Bregman dove for the ball and knocked it away from Carlos Correa, allowing the ball to roll into left field. The Astros pulled Brad Peacock and brought in Francisco Liriano. Cody Bellinger hit a fielder’s choice to Jose Altuve and the Astros were able to force Turner out at second with Seager moving to third. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

Another pitching change which brought Chris Devenski in to face Yasiel Puig. Devenski won the battle when Puig lined out to first for the final out.

The Astros were able to load the bases in the top of the 6th against Kershaw on only one hit but Kershaw was able to get out of the jam unscathed.

In the bottom of the 6th with Charlie Morton taking over the mound for the Astros, Joc Pederson singled to center…a hit that would have been more useful in his earlier at-bats. Logan Forsythe walked and the Dodgers looked like they might be in business. After Austin Barnes popped out to Carlos Correa in shallow left for the first out, Andre Ethier, pinch-hitting for Kershaw, singled to right on a roller past Jose Altuve, scoring Pederson. Forsythe moved to second.  A home run now, and it would have been a one-run game. Unfortunately, like the earlier innings, the Dodgers couldn’t move the runners. Chris Taylor struck out and Corey Seager grounded out to short. It had seemed like it might be a big inning for the Dodgers but all they had to show for it was a single run. 5-1, Astros.

From there, Morton shut down the Dodgers, retiring the next nine batters in order. When Corey Seager hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve who, in turn, threw the ball to first baseman Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the 9th, the Houston Astros were World Series Champions.  

Credit:  Luis Sinco – LA Times

I am happy for Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. For them, it was good to see the elusive World Series championship come their way.  It might be the final hour for Beltran’s career so if it is the end, he gets to go out the right way.

Credit:  Jason O Watson, Getty Images North America

George Springer was rightfully named the Series MVP.  His five home runs tied a World Series record and he was seemingly at the heart of every big Astros rally in this series.

Credit:  Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG

For as much as I ripped Yuli Gurriel for his offensive gestures directed at Yu Darvish and his subsequent 2018 suspension for same, it was a very nice touch by Gurriel to tip his cap to Darvish when he came to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning.

Credit:  John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

The first pitches for the game were thrown by Dodgers legends Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe, with Steve Garvey and Rick Monday on the receiving ends, respectively. It was a very nice moment for the Dodgers and their fans.

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

Now, the MLB season is over and the Hot Stove League begins. Time for the Yankees to find a new manager and begin preparations for the path that hopefully leads to the 2018 World Series championship.

Odds & Ends…

Now that the World Series has ended, Masahiro Tanaka has three days to decide if he’ll opt out of his contract. So, we’ll know by Saturday where we stand with the right-hander. I am hopeful that either he decides not to opt out or that he and the Yankees are able to come together for an extension. I would prefer to see Tanaka stay.

Credit:  Anthony Causi, New York Post

It looks like the Yankees have found their replacement for former VP of Player Development, Gary Denbo, who recently departed to join Derek Jeter in Miami. Kevin Reese, most recently Director of Professional Scouting for the Yankees, will apparently take Denbo’s former role. There has not been an official announcement yet by the Yankees but it is expected shortly.

The New York Mets did not retain hitting coach Kevin Long when Long’s contract expired so there are rumors that Long could return to his former role as hitting coach for the Yankees. Nothing against Alan Cockrell or Marcus Thames, but I’d like to see Long back in Pinstripes. He is one of the many rumored names for potential Yankees manager. I do not really want to see him as the manager, but as part of the coaching staff, he’d be a great fit.

The coming days should be interesting for the Yankees and the managerial search. I find it very hard to believe that they did not have a specific choice or choices in mind when they made the decision not to retain Joe Girardi. So I don’t buy they are in the process of gathering names. I think they’ll go with an outsider rather than someone with immediate Yankee connections but we’ll see. Things should become more transparent as we move forward.  I would not be at all surprised if the new manager is Jerry Hairston, Jr.  

Credit:  USA TODAY Sports

Have a great Thursday! It was a wonderful season and a successful one for the Pinstripers.  They are only going to get better.  Go Yankees!

Dodging Their Way to Game Seven…

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

2017 World Series 

Dodgers 3, Astros 1

Series tied, 3-3

The Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers, okay I am not quite that old…the Los Angeles Dodgers…forced the first World Series Game 7 in Dodger Stadium history with their win over the Houston Astros in Game 6 on Tuesday night. We’re a week into this World Series and we now stand in the month that Derek Jeter made famous. Who will be the latest November hero?  We’ll find out later today.

The game was expected to be a pitching duel with veteran ace Justin Verlander pitching for the Astros against the resurgent Rich Hill for the Dodger Blue. Unlike the slugfest the broke out between Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw match-up, Verlander-Hill did not disappoint.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

The Dodgers started the game by having former Dodgers greats Tommy Lasorda and Orel Hershiser, champions in 1988, throw out the first pitches. Hershiser is regularly seen by Dodgers fans on SportsNet LA but it was wonderful to see Lasorda on Dodger Stadium turf again. It’s always good to see the legendary Lasorda whenever he makes an appearance. I didn’t love the guy back during those World Series against the Yankees in the late 70’s, but he grew on me over time and I appreciate his role in Dodgers history.

Credit:  Los Angeles Daily News:  John McCoy/SCNG

Once the game began, it was a scoreless affair until George Springer’s solo shot to right into the front row seats with two outs in the top of the 3rd broke the ice. On a team with multiple offensive stars, Springer and teammate Alex Bregman have really stood out for the Astros. If the Astros ultimately win this World Series, there’s no doubt that one or both of these guys will be in the thick of the action.

 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Bregman followed Springer’s homer with a sharply hit ball to short that Corey Seager booted but Seager was able to recover quickly with his throw just beating Bregman to the bag for the final out.

While Verlander was cruising through the early innings, allowing only a meaningless single by Yasiel Puig in the second inning, the Astros finally got to Hill in the top of the fifth. Brian McCann led off the inning with a single to deep right which Yasiel Puig cut off in the corner. Marwin Gonzalez was next and he doubled down the left field line into the corner, moving the huffing and puffing McCann to third. After Hill struck out Josh Reddick and Verlander, Springer was intentionally walked to load the bases. 

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

Much to Hill’s disappointment, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made the call to the bullpen and brought in reliever Brandon Morrow who had imploded during his previous outing in Houston. The day of rest helped for the former Blue Jay. He was able to get Alex Bregman to ground out to short, through the runner’s legs, on the second pitch of the at-bat to end the inning with the bases overflowing with Astros.

The Astros threatened again in the top of the 6th, while Verlander was still pitching a one-hitter at that point. With two outs, Yuli Gurriel singled to center off Morrow. Dave Roberts then made a double switch, bringing in former Pirates closer Tony Watson to replace Morrow and second baseman Chase Utley to replace Logan Forsythe. Watson promptly hit Brian McCann with a pitch in the back of the right arm that I am sure was not part of the plan. Runners at first and second. Fortunately, Marwin Gonzales hit a liner to second, with Chase Utley jumping up for the catch, for the final out. Another missed scoring opportunity for the Astros (bummer for them, for me…not so much). 

In the bottom of the 6th, Austin Barnes led off with a single to left. Chase Utley, batting in the pitcher’s spot thanks to the double switch, was hit by a pitch on his right foot with a bouncer in the dirt. Chris Taylor, who probably makes Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto lose sleep everytime he revisits that trade in his head, came up big…again…when he doubled to right, scoring Barnes and advancing Utley to third. The game was tied.  

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Corey Seager hit a high fly to right that died in front of the wall but it was deep enough to score Utley on the sacrifice. Verlander was able to get Justin Turner to foul out on the first base side and he struck out Cody Bellinger, but the Dodgers had taken their first lead of the game, 2-1.

The Astros made noise again for the third consecutive inning in the top of the 7th. After Tony Watson walked the lead off hitter, Josh Reddick, Dave Roberts took the ball from him and brought in Kenta Maeda to face Evan Gattis, pinch-hitting for Justin Verlander. Gattis hit into a fielder’s choice at short that erased Reddick at second but the Dodgers were unable to turn a double play. Gattis clearly reached first base before the throw but the Dodgers challenged and lost the play at second when they argued unsuccessfully that Reddick had purposely tried to take out Chase Utley (on the appropriately named Chase Utley rule). Mets fans were probably snickering as they recalled the time in the 2015 NLDS when Utley  slid into Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada rather than the base, breaking Tejada’s leg and sending the shortstop’s career on a downward trajectory. Not snickering because of Tejada but because Utley was the victim of an aggressive play. 

Credit:  Pasadena Star-News:  Keith Birmingham/SCNG

George Springer hit a grounder to short but the ball got by Corey Seager and rolled into left field. Gattis moved to second and was replaced by pinch-runner Derek Fisher. Alex Bregman flied out to center, with Fisher tagging and moving to third. It brought Jose Altuve to the plate. Altuve hit a hard grounder to third, but Justin Turner made a great play in throwing the ball to first for the out to end the inning.

Joc Pederson added an insurance run in the bottom of the 7th when he took reliever Joe Musgrove deep with a solo blast to left. There was some initial doubt if he had hit the ball far enough but it carried over the wall much to the excitement of Pederson and his teammates.  

 

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

From there, the Dodgers not to take any chances and brought in ace closer Kenley Jansen for the top of the 8th to get the six-out save. He easily retired the three batters he faced to send the game to the bottom of the inning. The Dodgers had a chance for more runs when they had two on with two outs for Cody Bellinger, but Clay’s son struck out swinging in an extended 9-pitch at bat against Francisco Liriano (who was making his first appearance in the World Series).

Kenley Jansen came back out for the top of the 9th (obviously). Marwin Gonzalez had the first chance to get the Astros back into the game. He popped out to first baseman Bellinger in shallow right. Next up, Josh Reddick. He struck out, swinging and missing the last two pitches. One last man stood between the Dodgers and victory…former Yankees slugger Carlos Beltran. Jansen threw a 94 mph Cutter with the count at 0-2 in favor of the pitcher. Beltran took a big swing  at the high pitch and missed. 

Credit:  Houston Chronicle:  Michael Ciaglo

Game over. Dodgers win!

Credit:  LA Times – Gina Ferazzi

Dodgers Legend and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax was in attendance as a spectator, looking like he could be the Game 7 starter if necessary.  Of course, it’s Los Angeles so there were more than few celebrities in the house, such as former Los Angeles Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

 

Credit:  Houston Chronicle:  Karen Warren

I have no clue who is going to win the World Series, but it comes down to one game. Winner take all. The matchup will feature Lance McCullers, Jr on the mound for the Astros. He’ll face Yu Darvish. If the game was to be the played in Houston, you’d have to like the Astros chances. But we are not at Minute Maid Park anymore. Darvish will have the support of the partisan crowd and Chavez Ravine will be rocking tonight. It should be another World Series classic.

Credit:  Pasadena Star-News:  Keith Birmingham/SCNG

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers (if you didn’t notice already).

Odds & Ends…

It was sad to read the words of Ken Rosenthal’s interview with former Yankees manager Joe Girardi on yesterday’s The Athletic. I refuse to pay a subscription fee to Rosenthal but fortunately the article was available in full. Girardi clearly sounded like a guy who wanted to be a part of the next great Yankees era. I was glad to read that Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner left the door open for Girardi’s eventual return to the organization in some capacity if he so chooses. I personally doubt Girardi returns, but I thought he handled his first interview since the dismissal with style and grace.

Credit:  Getty Images

As expected, Gabe Kapler was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. So the Yankees are the only team without a manager. Unless there is a secret deal already in place (probably), today brings an unsigned general manager too as Brian Cashman’s deal expired last night. I think it’s a given that Cashman will return but I’ll be anxious to get his new contract behind us so that the Yankees can truly begin their off-season strategy and preparation to bring us their 28th World Championship.

Have a great Wednesday! This is it…the final day of Major League Baseball for 2017. Let’s Go Dodgers, but more importantly, Let’s Go Yankees!

Astros Leverage Home-Field Advantage for the Win…

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

2017 World Series

Astros 13, Dodgers 12…

Astros lead Series, 3-2

You certainly do not expect a slugfest to develop for a game that featured frontline aces Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel. That game was as wild as any I have ever seen in the World Series. The YES Network was showing replays of the 2001 World Series yesterday, and Game 4 (a home run by Tino Martinez to tie it and Derek Jeter’s homer to win it) might be the closest to the drama and excitement we saw in the Astros’ big win. 

The win certainly puts the Astros in the driver’s seat as the series will now shift back to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Tuesday night.  

The game started very positively for Dodgers fans. Chris Taylor led off the game with a single to center. Corey Seager struck out, but then Dallas Keuchel walked both Justin Turner anKiké Hernandez to load the bases. Cody Bellinger struck out for the second out and it looked like Keuchel might find a way to emerge unscathed. Logan Forsythe made Southern California sports bars erupt when he singled to left, driving in both Taylor and Turner when the ball booted off the glove of left fielder Marwin Gonzalez.  Hernandez took third. Then, the Dodgers picked up their third run of the inning when Logan Forsythe took off from first too early.  It looked like the Astros would get out of the inning but first baseman Yuli Gurriel’s throw to second was wide which pulled second baseman Jose Altuve away from the bag.  It was just enough for Forsythe to safely slide into second (which the Replay challenge confirmed) and the run scored by Hernandez on the play counted.  

With Kershaw breezing through the first few innings, it appeared that the Dodgers were going to have their way. They picked up another run in the top of the 4th inning. After Bellinger struck out again, Forsythe doubled to deep center with a one-hopper off the wall. Yasiel Puig struck out for the second out but Austin Barnes singled to left, with the ball dropping in front of Marwin Gonzales which brought Forsythe home to score. The Dodgers were up, 4-0, and appeared to be in control of the game. Charlie Culberson subsequently reached on an infield single to shallow right when he beat Jose Altuve’s throw, moving Barnes to second. That was all for Dallas Keuchel as Astros manager A.J. Hinch made the call to the pen and brought in Luke Gregerson. A wild pitch moved Barnes to third but Gregerson struck out Chris Taylor to limit the damage for the Astros. 

In the bottom of the 4th, the craziness ensued. George Springer led off with a walk. Following a fly out to left by Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve reached first on a solid hit to left. Springer moved to second. Carlos Correa smashed a double to left to score Springer. Altuve advanced to third, with Correa sliding into second under the throw (the replay challenge review showed Correa’s heel touched the bag ahead of Charlie Culberson’s tag). Yuli Gurriel then jumped on Kershaw’s first pitch to send it very high over the left field wall for the game-tying three-run homer.  

The Dodgers quickly answered Gurriel’s shot in the top of the 5th. Corey Seager and Justin Turner led off the inning with walks off Astros reliever Collin McHugh. Kiké Herandez had the first opportunity to bring the runners home but he struck out looking (in disbelief at the call). Cody Bellinger was next and he showed the World why he will be the NL’s Rookie of the Year when he blasted a three-run shot to right a few feet above the wall to restore the Dodgers lead at 7-4.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

Unfortunately, Clayton Kershaw did not survive the bottom of the 5th. He got two quick outs when Marwin Gonzalez flied out to left and Brian McCann struck out. But it unraveled from there. George Springer battled Kershaw through eight pitches before working a walk, and then Alex Bregman used a 10-pitch at-bat, down at one point to 1-2, to also walk.  Two outs, two runners and Kershaw was done.  

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Kenta Maeda entered the game and was promptly greeted by a three-run homer to left center by Jose Altuve to tie the game at 7.

Credit:  AP – Charlie Riedel

The Dodgers were able to recapture the lead in the 7th. Brad Peacock was on the mound for the Astros. Justin Turner led off the top of the inning with a double to right center off the top of the wall (bummer, if it had only been a few inches higher). Kiké Hernandez bunted back to the pitcher, but the Astros were able to erase Turner at third with a quick throw from Peacock to third baseman Alex Bregman. Hernandez safe at first. Cody Bellinger’s triple to center, which bounced past George Springer, scored Hernandez. The Dodgers were unable to bring Bellinger home but they had taken a 8-7 lead.   

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought reliever Brandon Morrow into the game for the bottom of the 7th. Morrow has generally been a lockdown pitcher for the Dodgers but not this time. George Springer led off with a massive Aaron Judgian home run to left to tie the game once again. Alex Bregman, swinging on the first pitch, singled to left center and he scored when Jose Altuve doubled to left center over the head of Joc Pederson.  A wild pitch advanced Altuve to third, but it didn’t really matter when Carlos Correa launched a blast over the left field wall while Dodgers manager Dave Roberts could only shake his head. The Astros had their first lead of the game, 11-8. 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Tony Cingrani replaced Morrow to retire the next three batters in order and send the game to the 8th inning.

With Brad Peacock still pitching for the ‘Stros, Joc Pederson hit a one-out double off the top of the wall in left. Chris Taylor was hit by a pitch in the ribs. The Astros pulled Peacock and brought in Will Harris.  Harris promptly gave up a double to left center by Corey Seager. Pederson scored and Taylor moved to third. After Justin Turner flied out to right, Harris was pulled in favor of Chris Devenski. The Dodgers sent Andre Ethier (that’s a name I haven’t written in a very long time) up to pinch hit for Kiké Hernandez.  Ethier grounded out to first to leave Taylor stranded at third.  11-9, Astros.

In the bottom of the 8th and Cingrani still pitching for the Dodgers, Brian McCann went deep with a solo blast to right. The Astros had increased their seemingly safe lead to 12-9.

But the Dodgers weren’t done yet. Cody Bellinger led off the top of the 9th with a walk. Devenski struck out Logan Forsythe for the first out.  Yasiel Puig was up next and his homer to left, which just cleared the wall, made it a one-run game. 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Austin Barnes followed Puig with a double to center.  Joc Pederson grounded out to short, but Barnes advanced to third on the play.  Chris Taylor’s single up the middle scored Barnes and the game was tied yet again.

The Astros had a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the 9th when Yuli Gurriel doubled (very nearly a home run) but they were unable to bring him home so it was off to extra innings with the 12-12 deadlock.

The Dodgers had a runner on base in the top of the 10th when Andre Ethier singled to left with one out, but they were unsuccessful in moving the runner.

It opened the door for the dramatic bottom of the 10th. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, pitching his second inning, retired the first two hitters before hitting Brian McCann with a pitch on the elbow. Next, George Springer walked. The Astros replaced the slow-footed and elbow-hurting McCann at second with pinch-runner Derek Fisher. Alex Bregman, jumping on the first pitch from Jansen, singled to left center well over the shortstop’s head. Fisher raced around third to score the winning run for the Astros ahead of Andre Ethier’s throw to the plate.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

It was a nice touch by the Houston Astros to have former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush on hand for the ceremonial first pitch.  I am not sure how many more times we’ll see the elder Bush in public but it was good to see that he was healthy enough to participate.

Credit:  Pool – Getty Images

A tough loss for the Dodgers but now the series heads back to Los Angeles and away from the raucous Houston crowd. They face an uphill battle but at least they’ll be able to continue the fight on home turf.  

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.

Odds & Ends…

Dave Martinez was one of my favorites, among current coaches, for managerial opportunities. As Joe Maddon’s long-time chief lieutenant, I felt that Martinez was ready to run his own show. I didn’t really expect him to get consideration for the Yankees job with no prior connection to Yankees GM Brian Cashman. So, I was not surprised that word leaked yesterday that Martinez is the new manager for the Washington Nationals, signing a three-year deal. It’s a good hire by the Nats and makes the best of a bad situation after they axed former manager Dusty Baker.

There were also reports yesterday the Philadelphia Phillies are close to naming Gabe Kapler as their manager.  Kapler, currently, Director of Player Development for the Los Angeles Dodgers, does not have managing or coaching experience.  If Kapler gets the job, he’ll beat out Phillies Triple-A manager Dusty Wathan, son of John Wathan, to do it.

As for the Yankees, Mark DeRosa is an intriguing name.  I know that like Kapler (above) or Jerry Hairston, Jr, he does not have any coaching experience.  An Ivy Leaguer (he graduated from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania), DeRosa may not have any past connections with the Yankees or GM Brian Cashman, but he’s a Jersey guy (born in Passaic and raised in Carlstadt).  I respected DeRosa during his playing career and by all accounts he was a great teammate.  He was versatile playing all positions except catcher, pitcher and center field.  Listening and watching DeRosa, 42, on MLB Network shows he is a very  smart, talented guy and he would mesh perfectly with the New York media as well as the team’s core of Baby Bombers.  I know you need more than a New York accent to manage the Yankees, but I could easily get behind DeRosa as a potential manager.  After watching the Nationals and Phillies (apparently) make very inspired choices for their field generals, I would like to see the Yankees do the same.  Nothing against Rob Thomson but he represents the old guard to me.  It’s time for a fresh, new voice of leadership for the Pinstripers as they embark into the dawn of a new era.

Credit:  MLB.com

Have a great Monday! It’s an off day so if there will be baseball news before the end of the World Series, it happens today. Go Yankees!  

The Empire Strikes Back, Dodgers-Style…

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

2017 World Series

Dodgers 6, Astros 2…

Series Tied, 2-2

The Dodgers ensured that the World Series will begin and end in Los Angeles with their victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday night. They may not win but Dodger Stadium will be the site of the next World Series Champions.  

This has been a very good World Series and Saturday’s game certainly added to the collection of classics. Dodgers starter Alex Wood carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. When he gave up a hit, albeit a home run, he was gone and it was time for the Dodgers bullpen. Similarly, Houston’s Charlie Morton picked up where he left off against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS. The former Pirates starter, whom I always viewed…maybe unfairly…as very average, was magnificent with a three-hitter of his own. Neither starter figured in the outcome of the game which was decided in the ninth inning battle of Closers.  

The Dodgers started the game right when Chris Taylor led off with a single to center. Corey Seager struck out and Justin Turner got under a pitch to pop out to short. Then, with Cody Bellinger at bat, Taylor tried to do a delayed steal against catcher Brian McCann. Wrong move. McCann to shortstop Carlos Correa at second easily erased Taylor and ended the inning.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

Wood and Morton battled through the early part of the game in a very good pitching duel. While Wood was still pitching his no-hitter, the Dodgers had their first real chance for runs in the top of the 6th. Austin Barnes, leading off, was hit by a pitch on the right forearm. After Joc Pederson flied out to left, Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez singled into right center field to put runners at the corners. Chris Taylor hit a grounder to third and Barnes broke for home. Third baseman Alex Bregman took the grounder and threw it to Brian McCann to nail Barnes before he could reach safely reach the plate. 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Hernandez moved to second but he would stay there when Corey Seager flied out to left to end the threat with no runs for Blue.  

In the bottom of the 6th, Wood kept his no-no intact for the first two hitters. Marwin Gonzalez grounded out to third (nice recovery by third baseman Justin Turner after knocking down the ball) and Brian McCann struck out. It brought George Springer to the plate. Three successive balls and a strike put Springer in a very favorable hitter’s count. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Wood tried to place an 82 mph curveball over the plate. Springer got all of the ball to send it airmail high over the left field wall.  

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

End of Wood’s no-hitter, end of Wood’s scoreless outing, and end of Wood. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, taking no chances, went to the pen and brought in Brandon Morrow. Morrow finished off Alex Bregman by getting him to ground out to third, but the Astros led, 1-0.

The Dodgers tied the game in the top of the 7th inning. With Charlie Morton still on the mound, Cody Bellinger’s bat woke up (0-for-13 with eight strikeouts) when he rapped a one-out double to deep left into one of those weird angles in Minute Maid Park.  

Credit:  AP – David J Phillip

Astros manager A.J. Hinch came out, removing Morton after a brief talk, and brought in reliever Will Harris. Yasiel Puig flied out to right for the second out to bring former Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe to the plate. Forsythe came up with perhaps the biggest hit of his career when he singled to left center, with Bellinger racing around third to easily score. Austin Barnes hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Forsythe at second, ending the inning, but at least the Dodgers had made it a tie game.

After a quiet 8th inning for both teams, the game moved into the 9th. The Astros brought closer Ken Giles into the game, replacing Chris Devenski. Corey Seager singled to right center, past a diving Jose Altuve, and the Dodgers were in business. Justin Turner worked a walk to put runners at first and second.  Cody Bellinger, with renewed confidence after his hit in the 7th, doubled to  left center to score Seager. Turner held up at third.  Hinch pulled his closer at that point and brought in Joe Musgrove. The Dodgers also replaced Turner at third with Charlie Culberson. After Musgrove struck out Yasiel Puig, Logan Forsythe was intentionally walked to load the bases and create the potential double play opportunity. Austin Barnes lofted a sacrifice fly to right, deep enough to easily score Culberson. The Dodgers were up, 3-1. Next up was Joc Pederson, who struggled during the 2017 regular season including time in the minors. Redemption was delivered in the form of a 408 feet shot to right for a three-run homer.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

The Dodgers had taken a commanding 6-1 lead. Meanwhile, closer Kenley Jansen was continuing to warm in the Dodgers bullpen. Kiké Hernandez flied out to left to send the game to the bottom of the 9th with the Dodgers holding the five-run lead.

Time for Kenley Jansen. Brian McCann had the first shot.  He laid down a bunt on the left side but Carlos Correa reacted quickly and his throw to first beat the slow-footed McCann. George Springer struck out and the Dodgers were just one out away from victory. Alex Bregman had other ideas and his shot to the short wall in left gave the Astros their second run of the game. The last lick (term courtesy of Michael Kay) was made by Jose Altuve who flied out to center to end the game. Dodgers win, 6-2!

It was great to see Cody Bellinger finally erupt. No home runs from the young slugger but his doubles were instrumental in the victory. As the Aaron Judge of the Dodgers, Bellinger is the key for Blue. After the win, Bellinger said, “It’s a beautiful game”. Yes, it is.

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

There were plenty of comments after the game that referred to Astros closer Ken Giles as Houston’s version of Dellin Betances. Ouch. Dellin has some image rehabilitation to do. There’s one way to do that…performance.

After team congratulations on the field, I liked the way Clayton Kershaw, by himself, walked to the pitcher’s mound and looked down toward home plate for a preview of Sunday night. The tall Texan has a chance to put the Dodgers ahead in the World Series tonight on his native Lone Star turf. Whichever team grabs the win today will hold a tremendous advantage when the series resumes on Tuesday in Chavez Ravine.mLike the games before it, it should be an outstanding game and another classic.  

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.

Odds & Ends…

I think it was Ken Rosenthal who mentioned it first, but the hottest name bubbling on the rumor mill yesterday for Yankees manager was Jerry Hairston, Jr. J-Hair has been a Dodgers broadcaster since he retired in 2013. I like Hairston but the lack of managerial experience, or more importantly coaching experience, is troublesome. I’d love to have a guy like Hairston on the coaching staff but I think manager is a bit of a reach at this point.  

It was awesome to see Yankees Legend Mariano Rivera, the greatest Closer of All-Time, at the World Series, along with Trevor Hoffman, as they participated in the Reliever of the Year Awards for Kenley Jansen (NL) and Craig Kimbrel (AL).  

Credit:  AP – David J Phillip

I really didn’t expect Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel to lose time in the World Series for his offensive gestures directed at Dodgers starter Yu Darvish, but I thought the five game suspension with no pay to start the 2018 season was weak. His racial insensitivity was not acceptable and MLB should have made a bigger statement.  

Have a great Sunday! Missing the Pinstripes. Go Yankees!

Astros Win in Sudden Death Overtime…

Credit:  LA Times:  Wally Skalij

2017 World Series

Astros 7, Dodgers 6…

Series tied, 1-1

Wow! The Dodgers may have lost but that was one heck of a game! A low-scoring affair until the Astros tied it at 3 in the top of the 9th inning, the game became a battle of home runs in extra innings with George Springer’s two-run homer in the 11th inning providing the final margin of victory for the ‘Stros.

This was a magical game from the start. The first pitch was “thrown” (I use that term loosely) by legendary former Dodgers announcer Vin Scully with an assist from Fernando Valenzuela. I miss the days of Scully calling Dodger games but it was so incredible to have him on the Dodger Stadium turf. Great call by the Dodgers to have Scully, one of the greatest announcers of all-time if not THE greatest, throw the first pitch. It’s time for Dodgers baseball!  Damn, love that guy. It was so wonderful to hear his voice again. Valenzuela, in relief of Scully (who suffered a “rotator cuff” injury on his attempted throw…wink, wink), threw the pitch to former Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager.

Credit:  LA Times:  Robert Gauthier

With veteran Rich Hill pitching for the Dodgers and former Tigers ace Justin Verlander on the mound for the Astros, the game remained scoreless until the top of the 3rd inning. Josh Reddick hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Chase Utley in shallow right that got away from the former Phillie when the ball bounced off the palm of his glove. No error on the play but Reddick safe at first with a hit. Inexperienced batsman Justin Verlander was next in the obvious bunt situation. His first attempt resulted in a foul fly off the backstop net. He looked like an American Leaguer trying to bat. But then on his second attempt, he laid it down perfectly with a slow roller back to the pitcher. Verlander took five steps in the California heat before giving up for the out, but he did his job pushing Reddick to second. George Springer followed with a single to left to put runners at the corners. Alex Bregman’s single to center scored Reddick and the Astros led 1-0. It may have been an extra-base hit if not for centerfielder Chris Taylor’s hat. The ball went up on the diving Taylor but was re-directed toward left fielder Joc Pederson thanks to the bill of his cap. Hill prevented further damage when he struck out Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa to end the inning. I thought the Dodgers did an excellent job limiting the Astros to only one run in that situation.

The Dodgers tied the game in the bottom of the 5th when Joc Pederson took Verlander deep with a shot over the wall in right field.

Things were looking good for the Dodgers in the bottom of the 6th inning. Chris Taylor took a two-out walk. Corey Seager was next and he belted a Verlander pitch over the left field wall into the first row to give the Dodgers a two run advantage.

Credit:  LA Times:  Gina Ferazzi

Moving into the 8th inning with Dodgers setup man Brandon Morrow on the mound, Alex Bregman led off with a ground-rule double to right. Right fielder Yaiel Puig made a running dive in an attempt to get to the ball but it hit the end of his glove and bounced up into the stands, much to the chagrin of the visibly upset Puig. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decided to take no chances and brought in closer Kenley Jansen. Jansen had only blown one game all season and the Dodgers had a ridiculous stat of 98-0 when leading after eight innings. Jansen got the first batter he faced (Jose Altuve) to ground out to second, but Bregman moved to third. Carlos Correa singled to center on a chopper that got by second baseman Chase Utley, making it a one run game, 3-2. After Yuli Gurriel flied out in foul territory near first base, Jansen got Brian McCann with a huge strikeout to end the inning.  

Normally, a one-run lead at Dodger Stadium in the 9th inning is a guarantee for victory. Unfortunately, Marwin Gonzalez had other ideas. On an 0-2 count while leading off for the Astros, Gonzalez turned on a Jansen cutter (an unusual bad pitch from the All-Star Closer) to deposit it over the wall in left center to tie the game.

Credit:  LA Times: Robert Gauthier

The Astros had the go-ahead run at second when George Springer hit a two-out double down the left field line, but he was left stranded when Alex Bregman grounded out to short.

The Dodgers were unable to score in the bottom of the 9th against Astros closer Ken Giles when they were retired in order. I was really hoping that Cody Bellinger, who made the final out, could have come up huge in that situation but it was not to be. So, off to extra innings we went…

Top of the 10th and Jansen was gone. Dodgers reliever Josh Fields was on the mound in his place. The Astros decided it was time to play Home Run Derby.  Jose Altuve led off with a blast to the front row of the center field stands to give the Astros the lead, 4-3. Carlos Correa said ‘I can do that, only better’ and sent the ball fourteen feet further into the left center field seats. 5-3, Astros.

Ken Giles was still pitching for the Astros in the bottom of the 10th. Yasiel Puig led off with a towering shot to left to make it a one-run game. After Giles struck out Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes, Logan Forsythe drew a walk on a full count. With Enrique “Kike” Hernandez at the plate, a wild pitch by Giles moved Forsythe to second. Hernandez, the hero of the NLCS with three home runs in the final game to send the Dodgers to the World Series, singled to right to score Forsythe. Astros right fielder Josh Reddick made a perfect throw to catcher Brian McCann but Forsythe’s speed was too much as he safely slid into home.  

Credit:  LA Times: Robert Gauthier

The game was tied once again. Hernandez advanced to second on the throw but the Astros made a pitching change to bring in Chris Devenski who retired Chris Taylor on a fly out to center to push the game into the 11th inning.

The Dodgers made another pitching change, bringing in their ninth pitcher of the game…former Yankee Brandon McCarthy. It wasn’t McCarthy’s finest hour (or maybe I should say minutes). Cameron Maybin led off with a single to center, just past the outstretched glove of Corey Seager. He subsequently stole second on a close play at the bag. George Springer handed the Astros another two-run lead when he homered to right center. 7-5, Astros.  

Credit:  LA Times:  Wally Skalij

McCarthy was able to retire the next three Astros to give the Dodgers, as Michael Kay would say, “their last licks”. 

Houston’s Chris Devenski came back out to the mound for the bottom of the 11th. He got the first two hitters when Corey Seager lined out to center and Justin Turner lined out to third. Charlie Culberson, who had just entered the game in the top of the 11th when he took over in left field, homered to left center, making it a one-run game for Yasiel Puig. Trailing by one run with two outs in the bottom of the 11th, it was a huge opportunity for Puig who clearly loves the limelight. Not this day. After battling Devenski, Puig swung and missed on Devenski’s ninth pitch of the at-bat to end the game. Astros win, 7-6.  

Credit:  LA Times: Wally Skalij

I know there is no “overtime” in baseball but that was as close to a hockey shootout as I’ve seen (especially in a World Series game).

The two teams take a break today to travel to Houston for Game 3 on Friday night at Minute Maid Park. The pitching matchup is currently scheduled to feature the Dodgers’ Yu Darvish against the Astros’ Lance McCullers, Jr. For Darvish, it is a homecoming of sorts with the return to Texas.  Although when you are from Dallas, anything from or in Houston sucks. I am sure that the former Texas Ranger will thrive back in the Lone Star state. It should be a fantastic pitcher’s duel, particuarly if McCullers, Jr can pitch as well as he did against the Yankees.  

Credit:  LA Times:  Allen J Schaben

I will be watching with my Dodgers gear in hand…

Editor’s note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.

Odds & Ends…

It is funny watching the daily tweets about Joe Girardi’s appearances at Yankee Stadium. The fact that I know Girardi left the stadium at 1:10 pm yesterday shows how much New York writers are seeking to find stories about whether or not Girardi will return to the Yankees next season. So far, those writers have been disappointed. Girardi may not be giving away any signals of what is on his mind, but at least he’s talking with the team.  I remain hopeful that it leads to a new deal for the long-time manager. Honestly, who is out there that can do a better job than Girardi? I know that we’ve been frustrated with some of his decisions but I seriously doubt that any of us could do a better job. Hopefully Hal Steinbrenner moves quickly to re-sign both Girardi and GM Brian Cashman so that the team can start its off-season strategy to bring the 28th World Championship for the Yankees next season.    

Credit:  NY Post:  Richard Harbus

Saw the pic of Dellin Betances, Aaron Judge and CC Sabathia taking in a Brooklyn Nets game last night. Admittedly, I would have preferred to have seen these guys playing in Los Angeles. Or maybe Judge should have been in a batting cage working on those breaking pitches. Ha!  Next year, guys, next year…

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Have a great Thursday! I wonder what time Girardi will show up at Yankee Stadium today or when he will leave. Go Yankees!