My miscellaneous thoughts on last night’s World Series game, which saw the White Sox go up 3-0 in the series:
- The big debate before the game was whether the roof at Minute Maid Park would be open or closed. Morgan Ensberg said this:
They’re completely overstepping their bounds. If you poll our fans, they definitely want it closed. From the players’ standpoint, that’s part of our advantage. MLB should stick to other matters. It’s ticky tack.
Know what else would be part of the Astros’ advantage, Morgan? If, when you came up with bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game, knowing that all three guys out on the bases got there by walking, knowing that El Duque has thrown 18 pitches and only four strikes, knowing that a walk ends the game, you had the presence of mind to not swing at the very first pitch when it is six inches outside. Has there ever been a 36-homer guy who you would be less likely to want up in a game-winning situation?
- Watching last night’s game, it was more apparent than ever that pitching is what got the Astros where they are, because let’s face it: for a “small ball” team, they sure do suck at playing small ball. What do you do with Willy Taveras at the plate, runners on first and third, one out, bottom of the ninth, tie game? The runner at third was Chris Burke, who has very good speed. The only thing Taveras has ever done consistently all season is bunt. I know a squeeze bunt is never an easy call, but Taveras has shown all year the plate discipline of Vladimir Guerrero, the contact of Rob Deer, and the power of … I can’t even think of another player who has ever had as little power as Taveras. The only way Taveras was going to contribute to this rally was by walking or by laying down a squeeze bunt. Well, he only walked 25 times all season (compared to 103 strikeouts), but Phil Garner chose not to lay down the squeeze. Instead, he let Taveras strike out, which left a base open, which allowed the Sox to walk Lance Berkman, which brought Ensberg up for the aforementioned at-bat. Rally over.
- Then, in the tenth inning, El Duque walks Orlando Palmeiro on four pitches to lead off the inning, ending a night where he threw 28 pitches, 20 of them balls, walked four batters in one inning of work, and didn’t give up a run. Up next for the Astros was Jason Lane. Now, I completely agree with not having a power hitter sacrifice bunt in the early innings of a game, because two or three runs from a homer is nicer than one run from small ball. But in the bottom of the tenth inning, two runs does nothing that one run doesn’t. It was a no-brainer call for Lane to sacrifice Palmeiro over to second with Ausmus, Everett, and Burke coming up. But Garner had Lane swing away, and he popped up to the catcher. Either Phil Garner is an idiot, or Jason Lane is a terrible bunter. I hope Garner is an idiot, because it is absolutely inexcusable that a Major League hitter is unable to lay down a sacrifice bunt.
- Overall, the Astros had seven baserunners from the ninth inning to the eleventh, on six walks and a hit batter. They had the winning run in scoring position in all three innings, including with less than two outs in the ninth and eleventh (and it should have been with less than two outs in the tenth, too, if Lane had bunted). The White Sox had no right to win the game when they were putting that many runners on base with the game on the line; the Astros had even less right to win when they failed to capitalize. What it boiled down to was which team could screw up the least. The White Sox won that battle.
- This has the potential to be the most closely contested World Series sweep ever. It is almost unfathomable that two teams could play so evenly for three games, yet the same team won all three. On one hand, that could be a bright point for the Astros, because that luck could just as easily shift to their side for the next three or four games. More likely, though, is that the Astros’ lack of ability to capitalize on mistakes will come back to haunt them, and the Sox will be celebrating under the open roof later on tonight.
- One thing I do have to give Ensberg credit for: that double play he started in the fourteenth inning was possibly the best I have ever seen. The catch was great, and he was absolutely cat-like in jumping to his feet and firing a strike to Vizcaino at second, who made a good turn to double up Konerko. I honestly believe that if that play had led to an Astros win, instead of being followed up a homer by Geoff Blum, that play would be getting the Graig Nettles/Brooks Robinson treatment.
- Is Ezequiel Astacio human? Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am not talking about that weird scar or growth on the side of his face when I say this: wow, that is one ugly man. The worst part is, it is all self-inflicted ugliness. That hair, that weird facial hair, everything. If he was white, he would fit right in with all the creepy-looking white guys on the White Sox.
- Last point for now: The worst thing about the Astros not capitalizing in the ninth or tenth innings is that Brad Lidge would have scored the win if they had. Lidge pitched 1-1/3 innings, striking out three of the four batters he faced and stranding the inherited go-ahead run at second base in the ninth. It was great to see Lidge bounce back, but it would have done a lot more for him if it had, you know, meant anything. I hope the Astros win a couple games this series, and I hope Lidge gets a couple saves, because he is too good a pitcher to be derailed. There is absolutely no shame in giving up a home run to Albert Pujols, the best hitter in baseball. And without that Pujols homer, the Podsednik jack would be seen for just what it is — a freaky fluke.
I stayed up three hours later than I wanted to last night, just to watch the end of the game. I wish I could say it was worth it, but it wasn’t, and not just because I was rooting for the Astros. There aren’t many things I love more than extra inning baseball, but this game was really a contest of two teams trying to lose. In that respect, the Astros won.