We’ve all heard the grumblings throughout the season. The blisters, the spike in home runs, and an overall lack of balls in play are a few of the key pieces of evidence contained in the plaintiff’s dossier.
As the debate rages on, baseball fans have been treated to one of, if not the greatest World Series in history (unless your a pitching purist of course).
Game 2 saw five extra-inning home runs leave the ball park. In World Series history, there have been only 22 extra-inning home runs hit — we saw 22.7% of them in one night!
Last night, game 5, began precisely how the Los Angeles Dodgers would’ve dreamt it would — Clayton Kershaw staked to a four-run cushion, heading to the bottom of the 4th.
What happened instead, was some of the most dramatic and remarkably insane post-season baseball one will EVER see…
Admittedly, I only watched from the 7th inning on. Prior to that, I was sitting in heavy 401 traffic, somewhere between Kingston & Napanee. Radio on, hanging on every word Dan Shulman said, the drama and intensity could be felt through the airwaves. No visuals were needed to appreciate the scene down in Houston.
But man, do I hate traffic!!
4-0 Dodgers…Astros tie it up 4-4 in the bottom of the 4th, all runs charged to Kershaw. Minute Maid Park was ROCKIN’!
Move to the 5th…Cody Bellinger restores the Dodgers’ 3-run lead when his first World Series home-run with two aboard. 7-4 Dodgers, and Minute Maid goes silent.
Not for long…Jose Altuve ties it up in the bottom half with a 3-run tater of his own. All tied up at 7’s. Everyone once again high on Minute Maid OJ.
Through 5 games, this edition of the Fall Classic has delivered 22 home runs (a WS record), 58 runs, 81 hits, and more lead changes than I care to count. Sure, if you’re a pitcher at heart, you may find it to be offensively offensive but for the rest of us…more of the same please!
Bregman’s walk-off single concluded the five hour and seventeen minute game 5 spectacle and put the Dodgers on the brink of elimination heading back home. For skipper Dave Roberts, the challenge awaiting him and his team is Justin Verlander. However, if this series has taught us anything, the presence of an ace on the hill has meant little in terms of how the game will ultimately play out.
The likes of Charlie Morton, Alex Wood, and Rich Hill have, from a numbers standpoint, outperformed Kershaw, Verlander, Keuchel, and most certainly Yu Darvish. Check out the stats below:
This series, much like the alleged juiced balls, has been cruel to starting pitchers. In Game 4, Alex Wood was pulled after giving up his one and only hit, a home run to George Springer in the bottom of the sixth. That’s right, a pitcher carrying a no hitter into the 6th was pulled after a single hit. There’s short leashes, and then there’s whatever Alex Wood was on.
The bullpens have been absolutely abused in this series and last night was supposed to be a breather for relievers with Kershaw and Keuchel on the mound. Keuchel didn’t make it out of the third, and once Kershaw failed to protect the 4-run lead he was handed, Dave Roberts saw no other choice but to pull the best pitcher in baseball in the season’s biggest moment to date.
The third Dodger’s relief pitcher of the evening was Brandon Morrow, pitching for the fifth time in six days — 4 runs later, on only six pitches, Morrow was done (If the Dodgers’ wind up losing this series, the decision to feature an already overtaxed Morrow in game 5 will stick with manager Dave Roberts for the foreseeable future. Thus far, Roberts has chosen to limit the exposure of his starters to Astros power ladened lineup, instead opting to give them a heavy dose of his bullpen. And last night, it REALLY came back to bite him in the a–.)
Morrow, so dominant through 4 appearances got victimized and several relievers later, closer Kenley Jansen suffered a similar fate, although this one gave no room for a rebuttal…
Bregman, facing Jansen for a second straight evening walked up to the plate, knowing he had taken a Jansen slider for a ride the previous evening. Armed with that, the young third baseman geared up for a cutter — and he got one on the very first pitch. Game 5 was in the books.
Now, the series shifts back to Los Angeles and with a day off Monday, both bullpens will get a much needed breather. All hands will be on deck Tuesday, as one team looks to deliver a World Series to a city mere months removed from total devastation, while the other will try and extend the series to a seventh and final game.
As I sit here, writing, still trying to digest what I figuratively feasted on last night, I can’t help but wonder just what possible issue(s) fans could have with this brand of baseball?
Claims that baseballs are ruining the game, causing blisters and flying over stadium walls at an “alarming” rate — For whatever it’s worth, I haven’t read anything about world series pitchers, starters and relievers, complaining about blisters.
Perhaps after watching this exhibition of baseball, the doubters, or “haters” as they are often referred to these days, will see the light. Pitching duels are exciting, suspenseful, dramatic — pick your descriptors.
But THIS has been all of the above as well — and on top of those, it has been downright fun to watch, and I like fun (WHO DOESN’T?!) so in a way, this World Series and season in a more general sense (perhaps aided by baseballs on steroids) has made baseball fun again.
I simply cannot fathom anyone that claims to love baseball seeing it any other way.
Tuesday should be fun.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images