Cubs Wait ‘Till the Midnight Hour

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Saturday, Oct. 8, the 60th anniversary of Don Larsen’s World Series perfecto against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Was it Wilson Pickett  who sang “I’m Gonna Wait ’til the Midnight Hour?”  The Cubs had no choice and neither did their marching legion of fans.  It took an 8th-inning home run by  Javier Baez to give them a 1-0 win in game 1 of their NLDS at Wrigley Field. The Giants leaned on their starter Johnny Cueto because their bull pen has been a shambles of late.  It worked Wednesday night for Madison Bumgarner against a clearly inferior Mets’ lineup.  It worked for Cueto until the home 8th when the defensive-minded Baez unloaded one.  It delighted the multitude  of 42,000 including major Cubs’ fan Bill Murray of “Groundhog Day” and “Ghostbusters” renown. The jovial Murray was clearly seen on TV loving life at Wrigley Field among the north side diehards. John Lester, a 19-game winner in his own right lasted 8 for the home team to get the win, with Aroldis Chapman locking down the save and shooting the Giants’ hopes full of holes.

Considering the time of year and the 8 PM Central Time start of the game, it was a pleasant night for players and fans alike at Wrigley for the fourth and easily best game played yesterday. There hadn’t been a postseason shutout at Wrigley in 32 years.  On a memorable afternoon in 1984 (memorable because of how sick I was) I took some serious medication and listened to the Cubs systematically demolish San Diego 13–0.  Until last night no other postseason game in the land of Wrigley had finished in  a shutout. Tonight, “The Shark,” Jeff Samardzija takes the  hill for the Giants against Kyle Hendricks.   While Hendricks’ name is easier to say and spell, his stuff is as difficult to hit as anybody’s.  He had the game’s lowest ERA at 2.13.

Earlier in the evening, the Dodgers faced the Nationals in game 1 of their NLDS.  In a game where neither starter was on his mettle the Dodgers managed a 4-3 win.  Corey Seager slugged a solo home run in the opening half-inning off Max Scherzer.  Two innings later, Justin Turner took Scherzer downtown with a man aboard. Ahead 4-0 Kershaw gave up 3 runs in the 5 innings he lasted.   By so doing he improved to 3–6 in postseason play. The Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen got 5 outs to lock down the save for Kershaw. The teams meet again in today’s earlier game at 4 PM.  The Dodgers turn to risky Rich Hill against the Nats’ Tanner Roark.  Tanner  needs to be heroic as the Roark in the Eve Dallas mystery books if the Nats are to gain a split of the first two games. While Hill, who the Dodgers got at the trade deadline doesn’t have blistering stuff he is at risk of blisters. Knowing this, his manager has 20-year-old phenom Julio Urias in reserve if Hill’s fingers continue to vex him.

The two NLDS games are the only games being played today.  Both ALDS series resume tomorrow night with the Blue Jays and Indians up 2 games to none in the best 3 out of 5 series. The Indians put up 4 runs after 2 innings  en route to a 6-0 whitewash of the Red Sox. You’d expect a guy named Lonnie Chisenhall to do your taxes.  He taxed the Red Sox’ David Price heavily by drilling a 3-run home run that was hotly contested by Red Sox’ manager John Farrell. In 9 postseason starts, Price is an abismal 0–8. The Indians can’t bask in the glow too long.  Some of them may know that in 1999 the Tribe had a 2 games to None lead heading to Boston and the Red Sox won the next 3 games.  That Red Sox team had a certain Hall of Famer named Pedro Martinez to bank on.  This one has Porcello and Price, both of whom haven’t done well against the 2016 Indians. The home team starter, Corey Kluber was coming off a quad injury and twirled  7 shutout innings against the Sox. This was the elixir the Tribe needed.  Their bull pen had to work from the fifth inning on in game 1 to preserve the win. Kluber and Gene Bearden of the 1948 World Series winning Indians are the only two Tribesmen to throw 7 shutout innings in their first playoff experience.  Bearden did the deed in game 3 of the 1948 World Series when the Indians’ home was the 80,000-seat Municipal Stadium. The Indians will only return to what should still be Jacobs’ Field if they lose games 3 and 4 in Boston.

The day’s earliest game was in Texas, where the Blue Jays grabbed a 2 games to None lead and hit 4 home runs in so doing. The game, a 5-3 Jays’ win featured a pitcher, Francisco Liriano, struck in the head by a liner by Carlos Gomez.  With him unable to continue Roberto Ozuna came in for the save.  He had left the wild card game Tuesday complaining of shoulder pain but showed no effects yesterday as he touched 96 MPH with a couple of pitches. Liriano was taken to the hospital for observation but was medically cleared to return to Toronto where game 3 will be Sunday night.    As for the offense that won game 2 following a 10–1 thrashing of the Rangers in game 1, the Jays’ continued to rely on the long ball.   Troy Tulowizki turned one around with a man aboard in the visiting second inning.  3 innings later a trio of Blue Jays left the lot. Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Edwin Encarnacion crushed solo shots and crushed the hopes of the Rangers  Yu Darvish gave up all 4 home runs.  After a day off today, Toronto hopes to jack a few more off Colby Lewis, the Rangers’ game 3 starter. I’d order a pound of Colby Jack for good luck at the deli if I were a Blue Jays’ batsman. The Jays will hope Aaron Sanchez can wrap things up. He had a 3.0 ERA, best in his league. Here’s where things get interesting.  Monday is Canadian Thanksgiving.  If the Jays win tomorrow, it’s all well and good and they don’t need to play Monday.  However, if they lose and_ the Indians lose, the Jays’ get an early Monday holiday start at 1 PM Eastern following a Sunday night game.  This is not an ideal scenario for player or broadcaster.  I’ve done it and also done 10:30 AM starts in the minors following a night game.  Not the most fun thing I can name. Meantime if the Jays lose and the Indians win, sweeping Boston away that means the Canadian Thanksgiving game can be a night game.

As mentioned earlier, 60 years ago today Don Larsen threw a perfecto at the Brooklyn Dodgers in game 5 of that year’s World Series.  In game 2 he had been pulverized and had to be removed after getting only 4 outs.  While I walked the treadmill this morning I listened to most of the first 4 innings of that game.  The astonishing thing is, even considering the commercial breaks had been edited in the recording I have, the game was in the 4th inning after I walked only 30 minutes.  Can you imagine a 2016 World Series game getting to the 4th inning that quickly?  While the commercial breaks were obviously shorter, both Larsen and his foe Sal Magley threw a pitch, then got the ball from the catcher and whizzed another pitch in the direction of the hitter.  There was none of the prolonged walking around the mound or stepping out of the batter’s box that has become so prevalent in the modern game.  Also when a hitter was retired, the next one got to the plate in jig time, with no walkup music. He  just stepped in and tried his best.  At the point I stopped, neither Larsen nor Magley had allowed a base runner.  What an amazing game that was.  Don Larsen who threw it is one of the few still living 60 years later who were participants.

Former pitcher Mike Morgan is 57  today. Incredibly he lasted a quarter of a century in the game, from 1978 with Oakland to 2002 with the Diamondbacks. The A’s drafted him in round 1 in 1978 right out of high school and brought him to the majors. When all was said and done his record was 141-186. He never lasted more than 3 years with any team. He was an All-Star only once, in 1991 with the Dodgers.  He was on the 2001 Diamondbacks who won the World Series in 7. In his 25 years he played for a dozen of the existing teams. As a Dodger, he faced Dennis Martinez on July 28, 1991. Both were perfect through 5.  Martinez finished with a perfecto, Morgan with a loss. He was on the hill in 1998 when Mark McGwire hit his tainted 61st home run. He pitched in two NLDS games against the Braves not allowing a run. He now owns a business in Ogden, Utah where his workers give guided hunting trips.  He wouldn’t get a mention here, but on june 23, 1994 he was on the mound when my partner Jim Lucas and I got our “cuppa coffee” in the bigs.  We did 3 half-innings of the Cubs-Marlins game that day in Miami.

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