Jays Still on Code Blue, but their Hopes have some Merritt; Cubs down 2 games to 1

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Wednesday, Oct. 19.

The Indians didn’t manage to sweep the Jays yesterday, and have given the Canadian team hope because of their battered rotation. With Carlos Carrasco done for the year, Danny Salazar at best exiled until the World Series and Trevor Bauer gone by his own hand, the Indians turn to a 24-year-old lefty from McKinney, Texas named Ryan Merritt. They need him because the Jays took yesterday’s game 5–1 over ace Corey Kluber working on short rest.   To Merritt’s  credit he won his only decision as a big leaguer in this, his first season in the show. He joined the Tribe as a 16th-round draftee in 2011 from a junior college campus and was not considered a prospect on Draft Day.   He made all of one start and threw all of 11 innings as an Indian at the top of the totem pole. He wasn’t on the roster against Boston and was only added because of Bauer’s idiocy of fooling with a worthless toy at the risk of his gazillion-dollar pitching hand. Merritt hasn’t been sitting idle-he has pitched at AAA for the Columbus Clippers and done well at that, with an 11-8 record with very few walks. That’s vital in a Little League park like Rogers Center. The Jays feast on fastball pitchers the way bullies pick on the handicapped.  Merritt is a finesse pitcher which could make him harder for the Jays to cope with.

The playoffs have brought unknown names to the front-Jim Burton and  Brian Doyle just to name two. The most recent was Matt Moore in 2011.  The Rays had him then, and he had split the year between AA and AAA. He had barely thrown 9 big league innings but had been 12-3 in the minors. With no other man to call for, Joe Madden handed Moore the ball and he threw 7 scoreless innings to defeat  the World Series-bound Rangers in game 1 of the ALDS.  Moore was back in the postseason this year with the Giants.  Merritt may be back in the future, so for him  more than any other player, the sixties quote still holds true:  today is the first day of the rest of his life.

The Cubs looked as bad against Rich Hill last night as they had Sunday against Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers won 6-0 behind Hill, who for the first time looked like he was worth bothering with.  He had pitched poorly his last few outings and been bedeviled by blisters before that, so the smart money was on the Cubs’ making him look foolish.  The smart money got it wrong again, which is how so many poor slobs who bet the favorite end up with broken bones from unpaid gambling debts. Both Yasmani Grandal and Justin Turner homered off Jake Arrieta, who owns a no-hitter pitched on the hallowed ground of Dodger Stadium on August 30, 2015. The way talk show host Jim Rome describes it, the 103-game winning Cubs are “Gripping,” which is his way of saying they’re all trying too hard to be the hero and not  playing the game the way they played it to earn their 103 wins. Chris Bryant was the only Cub to figure out the former  Cubs’ lefty Hill.  He put up two singles, but nobody else put up jack. By his own admission it was the biggest game of Hill’s  career, which dates back 11 years now. The Dodgers were up 1-0 in the 4th when Josh Reddick, the other man they got from Oakland in the Hill deal singled without clearing the infield.  Feeling his oats, he stole second and third as brazenly as  a football player with a befuddled date. Grandal, who had been down two strikes took 3 balls and launched the payoff pitch out of sight. Turner, who homered in the sixth had hit 27 home runs in the regular season, just as Grandal had done.  His shot spelled the end for the Cubs’ starter and the end of any lingering hope in the hearts of Cubs’ fans. Their two biggest bats, Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo continue not to produce.  The 18 scoreless innings in a row by the Cubs is the most in postseason play since 1906.

Here’s the mess the Cubs have gotten themselves into. If they don’t win tonight against another Dodger lefty Julio Urias, they could see Clayton Kershaw tomorrow if the Dodgers decide  to skip the triple dare and go straight for the throat. They would triple dog dare any team to beat Kershaw in a pivotal game. Julio isn’t the scared kid who got hammered by the Mets in his MLB debut in May. He turned 20 on August 12, and while he still can’t legally order a Corona, he put up a 5-2 record with a respectable 3.39 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 77 innings during 18 games, 15 starts with the Dodgers. He also dominated AAA with a 1.10 ERA and a 4-1 record in the Pacific Coast League. When he made his debut against the Mets, he was the youngest Dodger starter since 18-year-old Rex Barney started a game in 1943 for Brooklyn. The Cubs pounded him the one time they saw him, but lately they don’t look like they could pound a pound cake.

Both playoff series continue today.  The Jays host the Indians again at 4 PM Eastern time  with the Indians hoping their bats can support pitcher Merritt and propel them into their  first World Series since 1997 when they were beaten by the Marlins in 7 games.  The Cubs and Dodgers get it on shortly after 8 PM, once again in Los Angeles.  Due to the lateness of this column getting out, I will dispense with any birthdays for today in the hope that some of you may read this before the games begin.


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