Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And That Happened

Rays 4, Angels 2: Should Angels' fans worry that their team has lost five of six? Maybe. Maybe there's something to that whole notion of "edge" and being tested by a fight for a playoff spot. The Angels are up by around 15 games, and given how poorly the A's are playing and how badly the Rangers' loss of Ian Kinsler is going to hurt them, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that LAA will cruise to the division title by at least that much. I'm sure someone has done this scientifically, but just trolling around, I notice that the last time a team won the division by as many as 15 games -- well, it was two teams given the tie for first between New York and Boston in 2005 -- both of them lost in the division series. Before that you have the 2003 Giants, and they lost in the division series as well. Then you have the 2002 Braves and the 1999 Indians who both, you guessed it, lost in the division series. To find a team that won its division by as many as 15 games who didn't lose in the division series, you have to go to 1998 when the Braves lost in the NLCS, but the Yankees -- God bless em' -- won the World Series. Does it mean anything? Maybe yes, maybe no, but you can bet Angels fans would be happier to see a little more from their team -- a bit of an edge, maybe -- as they play potential playoff opponents.

Blue Jays 2, Yankees 1: The return of Matsui pays no immediate dividends, as A.J. Burnett gives up one run and strikes out 13 Yankees. Not a bad game for Rasner, but when your offense goes as quietly as New York's did last night, that and $59.95 will only get the Yankees a digital cable package with which they can watch better teams play in the playoffs this October.

Phillies 5, Nationals 4: How could the Nats be this bad? Look how awesome they seemed before the season started!

Mets 7, Braves 3: I've more or less gotten cool with the fact that these are basically the 1987 Braves. There are a lot of similarities, actually. They're bad, but not the worst team in the division. As in 1987, they have new uniforms. As in 1987, they had a light hitting centerfielder hit for the cycle. As in 1987, they have an ineffectual Tom Glavine. As in 1987, there is no hope on a day-to-day basis. In light of that, I'm going to try harder to find parallels between the 2008 and 1987 Braves as the season winds down. Today: Jeff Bennett is the 2008 version of Charlie Puleo. Discuss.

Indians 9, Royals 4: Kip Wells has had a hell of a year, hasn't he? His baby daughter had a cancerous tumor removed from her spine. Wells himself had a blood clot that caused him to lose sensation in his right hand which required surgery. When he finally worked his way back, he was DFA'd in favor of Livan "the worst pitcher in baseball" Hernandez, and as soon as he set the suitcase down at home, his wife had another baby. On Monday, he was signed by the Royals and had to leave his new baby and recovering daughter to fly to freakin' Cleveland for some thankless, ERA-inflating mopup duty in this game. Wells has been well compensated over the course of his career, but that doesn't mean that life for someone in his position is easy. Guys like Wells are tough. They work hard. They have to put up with a lot of crap.

Cubs 5, Reds 0: Rich Harden was phenomenal. 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 10 K, 0 BB. He did that in 94 pitches and his manager -- the anti-Yost -- decided to pull him even though he only had a one run lead at the time.

Red Sox 7, Orioles 2: Having a pending divorce case agrees with Jason Varitek, as he hit his second homer in as many games and had an RBI double as well. As mentioned last week, the Orioles greeted their 50 millionth fan during this game. They talked up the notion that "special technology" was going to be able to identify the fan the moment they go through the turnstiles. Why do I have this feeling that one component of the "special technology" was a guy who quickly shook his head "no" if the identified fan was wearing a Sox hat?

Astros 5, Brewers 2: Sometimes you get the ace, sometimes the ace gets you. A day after bubkis against Sabathia, Houston touches Ben Sheets for five runs in six innings, keeping the Astros' delusions of contention alive for at least another couple of days.

Pirates 4, Cardinals 1: Ian Snell pitched well enough (7 IP, 4 H, o ER, 8K) to where he shouldn't have had to depend upon a Cardinals' bullpen implosion for insurance, but I'm sure he was happy to have it all the same.

Twins 13, A's 2: Did Kevin Slowey win this one with his two run-12 strikeout performance, or did Sean Gallagher lose it by giving up 10 runs on 11 hits? It's an age-old philosophical question that will vex the world's greatest minds for centuries, because it twists back around on itself in a seemingly infinite loop.

Tigers 11, Rangers 3: The Rangers' pitching staff strikes again. But you gotta love people from Texas. Descended from kin who tamed a savage land and carved out an existence on the frontier, they're an optimistic lot who just know that no matter how bad it gets, prosperity is right around the corner. Evidence? Witness this nice bit of wish casting about the Rangers' pitching for 2009. OK, it's probably satire, but when your pipe dreams are just as realistic as any guardedly optimistic assessment, why not dream big?

Marlins 6, Giants 0: On a night with many excellent pitching performances, Ricky Nolasco was the best, shutting out the Giants on two hits and striking out 11.

Diamondbacks 7, Padres 6: Adam Dunn has his best game yet as a Diamondback, going 1-3 with a homer, two walks, 2 RBI and 2 runs. Dunn said this game, which was his debut in Phoenix, felt like opening day, and that made him nervous: "Probably Opening Day and the opening day of deer season are about the only times I get butterflies." Deer season. And people think this guy is going to entertain offers from the New York teams?

Rockies 8, Dodgers 3: OC boy Ian Stewart comes home and hits a homer and drives in five runs as his Rockies send the Dodgers a game back of Arizona. Phun Pfact: After this series, the Dodgers have 35 games left, 23 of which will be road games. So far this year, they're nine games over .500 at home, but six under on the road.

White Sox 5, Mariners 0: I read this: "Ken Griffey Jr. hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly against his former team," and my immediate, thought-free reaction was "Griffey played for the Mariners?" Man, it's been a long eight years, hasn't it? And not just as it relates to Griffey's career arc. Hasn't the 21st century absolutely sucked so far, on just about every level? Aside from the births of my children, the spread of wireless broadband, the Buckeyes' national championship, and the new Batman movie, has anything worth a damn happened since the turn of the century? They say the Y2K bug was much ado about nothing. I think it was actually a slow-release neutron bomb of a thing that, rather than catastrophically disrupt society, slowly smothered it with malaise, dread, and disappointment. Thousands of people who are now dead shouldn't be. Griffey should have 850 homers and two or three rings. I should have my flying car. That those things are unrealized has pretty much defined my state of mind for the past several years.


Christopher D. Heer said...

I really wasn't happy when the Cubs hired Pinella, because I thought that the last thing this team needed was some old-school guy. I was pushing for Girardi, because he was young and smart.

Girardi still may have been a better choice, but Pinella has been a pleasant surprise. Sure, he's made some decisions that make me crazy, but if the worst thing he does is continue to bat Soriano leadoff or give at-bats to Mike Fontenot, then I'm fine. After years of Dusty, it's great to see a fragile pitcher lifted before throwing 387 pitches.

Levi Stahl said...

I'm with Christopher: I wasn't stoked by the Piniella hiring, but I was wrong. He's done a good job both years of evaluating the talent he has and maximizing it through careful use.

Oh, and while it's not enough to make the 00s not suck, I'd put MIA's two albums, Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives, and Gary Indiana's Do Everything in the Dark on the good side of the balance. You gotta take the good where you can find it in crappy times.

tHeMARksMiTh said...

Watching the Braves is like ... watching someone get a root canal. You know it's painful, but you still watch because you're curious how they do it.

Vegas Watch said...

"I'm sure someone has done this scientifically, but just trolling around, I notice that the last time a team won the division by as many as 15 games -- well, it was two teams given the tie for first between New York and Boston in 2005 -- both of them lost in the division series."

I have read this three times and I still can't figure it out. How can two teams possibly win the same division by 15 games? Didn't they each "win" the division by 0 games?

Craig Calcaterra said...

Yeah, that was kind of ill-put, eh? I guess my thinking was that they each had a secure playoff spot by a large margin. But you're right, it makes little sense as I wrote it.

That happens too.

Crowhop said...

Not sure of the 1987 team since no one but Andres Thomas was truly terrible at the plate, but 2008 Jeff Francoeur = 1988 Dale Murphy.

RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

The Rangers seventh inning last night was a snap shot of everything they've done wrong this year:
Padilla is on the mound, clinging to a 3-1 lead with 1 out and two men on base. He's done a
serviceable job to this point, but has been helped considerably by three tidy double plays.
Up steps Mark Joyce, who has already homered, and owns the Tiger's only run of the game.
Padilla has him 1-2, but the rookie has the $10 million dollar, 30 year-old veteran earning
every dime of what Tom Hicks pays him. Padilla sets for his fifth or sixth pitch, but does something I've
only seen him do a few times this year- glances over his left shoulder, then steps off the rubber to
process what just came to him from the dugout. He collects himself, sets, regards Laird, rears back and throws
a 93 Mph fastball that's solidly into the strike zone, but a little up, and a little in, and tailing lazily from right to left.
Joyce does what every 6-2, 190 Lb, left-hitting kid does with a pitch like that - he sends it 420 feet into the sixth row of the upper deck of the
Home Run Porch. If I were Ron Washington, I would have pulled him right then and there and he'd be running laps for three days.

Maguro said...

The Cards didn't really have a bullpen implosion last night, more of a Yadier Molina implosion. He really had 3 errors in the 9th inning, just one of which was officially scored an error.

RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

BTW - Rangers pitching really is only half of the story on their 2008 season and preparing for 2009. Take careful note that those lovable guys own the most fielding errors in baseball this year. Last week, the total was around 110, in 120-odd games, and the next team was a distant second. Furthermore, they were evenly peppered all over the field - an impressive team effort. My point is, shave off a third of those errors, and at least six or seven wins bubble up in their place- enough to make contention for the wild-card within striking distance.

Daniel said...

I blogged a little bit about the Angels' latest collapse. Mainly I'm worried about the bullpen. Those guys will be key in October and the whole crew is a comedy of errors right now.

There are a couple guys who need a few days off (Mathis and Kendrick come to mind), but other than that, I think they'll be okay. If anything, I think they may be playing with too much of an edge, if that's even possible with a 15 game lead. I think they're putting too much pressure on themselves (especially Scot Shields) to extend this lead.