“Wait Just a Minute!” This Game Wasn’t Played in Denver

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Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Tuesday, August 28. If you see a final of Angels 10, Rockies 7 and a box score showing a number of bombs, you figure “Big deal, another Coors Canaveral special.” But as the headline said in the words of the great former wrestling announcer Vince McMahon, “Wait Just a Minute!” This one took place at Angel Stadium in Anaheim which is nobody’s nominee for a hitters’ park. Just ask the 1967 All-Stars who squinted through 15 innings to a 2–1 final there when it was still called Anaheim Stadium.
This probably sounds familiar. The Angels had lost 6 in a row coming into the game. The score was 5–3 through 7 innings with the Angels ahead and no sign of this game landing in this forum which is usually reserved for the unusual. Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani had hit home runs earlier in the contest, but those two can launch one out of any park. Ohtani would have more than the 15 he has if he hadn’t injured himself pitching earlier in the year. Memo to this guy-in this country that sort of thing only goes over in high school ball.
In the top of the 8th the game took on a vibe more familiar at Coors Canaveral or the parks in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Cincinnati. Facing former Orioles’ closer Jim Johnson, DJ LeMahieu sent a grand slam over the distant fence to make it 7-5 Rockies. Though a man of 30 and a 7-year major leaguer, DJ hadn’t hit a grand slam until that moment. Even with a batting title to his name and a home park at Coors Canaveral, this was only his 46th career home run. The Rockies are still in a dogfight with the D-Backs and Dodgers to see who will win the NL West, and things looked good considering their demoralized opponent had lost 6 in a row. But on this night the Angels mounted a cavalry charge that would be a credit to their late owner Gene Autry. Republic Pictures, maker of countless westerns during the Depression could have drawn up the plot for the last of the 8th if they did sports movies instead of horse operas. Adam Ottavino started the inning by walking Mike Trout. He then gave up a single to Ohtani and walked Albert Pujols without retiring anybody. The first Angels’ run was driven on by Andrelton Simmons on a scoring fly ball making it 7-6. After another man was retired, Kaleb Cowart walked to reload the bases. This says a lot about the state of the game today. Cowart is a .188 hitter. Walking a .188 hitter makes your average pitching coach prematurely old. While a pitching coach watches helplessly as one of his men walks a .188 hitter, he mumbles to himself “Babe Ruth’s dead,” along with a lot of other expressions too ripe for a family blog. The coach’s meaning is, The pitcher is too timid to trust that his stuff that got him to the majors will retire a .188 hitter. Walking Cowart was the last straw as far as Rockies’ manager Bud Black was concerned. He turned to Seung-Hwan Oh from his bull pen. This man is 36. Under Asian rules he couldn’t come here until most of the fuel was removed from his tank. He did well in 2016 with the Cardinals but has been as undistinguished as a man can be since then and that trend continued last night. He was facing Eric Young JR., the most difficult kind of hitter for a pitcher to get out. He doesn’t swing wildly and get himself out, as is the current trend. Young engaged in an 8-pitch duel with Oh, with Young hitting a 2-run single to center field which put the Angels ahead 8-7. An air-mail throw from Rocckies’ shortstop Trevor Story allowed the last 2 runs to score and sealed the Rockies’ fate.
All season long I’ve written about the wrong-headed rule now in force in the minor leagues. Under this rule, if extra innings are called for, an automatic runner starts on second base to begin every half inning. I have no problem with this rule in girls’ softball where it has been in force for decades. The suits who made the rule figured it would save teams’ pitchers and would prevent minor league games of 20 or more innings. Mostly, your average extra inning game is over now when the visiting team scores in the 10th. Once in a while though we still get one that’s closer to an old-fashioned extra inning game. Last night in class A, in the short-season New York Penn League, the West Virginia Black Bears (Pirates) hosted the Auburn Doubledays (Nationals) before nearly 1200 people. The game was scoreless through 9. Even with a bogus runner on second, neither side scored in the 10th. The visitors from Auburn, New York put up a run in the 11th, but the home team showed rare spirit which belied their 28-41 record. They tied the game in the 11th. Auburn, who are now 36-33 didn’t score in the 12th and no matter that they had a runner on second to start the inning. The home team put up their second run in their half of the 12th sending the crowd home with their second walk-off win in two nights. The Black Bears put up 8 hits against 4 by the visiting Doubledays. I’m not sure if even this format saved pitching. The visitors used 5 pitchers and would have needed more if Angel Guillen hadn’t been able to give them 4 innings of work from the 8th to the 11th. They lost when their next pitcher gave up two walks and a hit. The home team used 4 pitchers and managed that because their starter lasted into the 7th.
With the Cubs at home this week I would have figured their games at Wrigley would be played in daylight. That didn’t happen yesterday and it won’t today, so all MLB games will be under the lights. The Blue Jays send Thomas Pannone into his second MLB start, both against the Orioles so you can’t be blamed if you doubt he has yet faced major league competition. The O’s will start Josh Rogers who they got from the Yankees. Considering how awful Zach Britton has been in the Bronx, if Rogers shows the least shred of competence Yankee fans will howl that he shouldn’t have been traded to get Britton. He turned 24 a month ago and had been a Yankee farm hand since leaving University of Louisville in 2015. Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola have an immediate rematch after their duel last Thursday in Washington which Nola won 2–0. The dark horse contender for the Cy Young award, Jacob DeGrom faces the Cubs tonight at Wrigley. At long last he’s breaking even at 8-8, but he has an ERA north of 7 on the north side of Chicago. The idea of even considering a sub-.500 pitcher for the Cy Young is farcical, so he won’t have much room for error. In St. Louis, the Pirates start Ivan Nova against up-and-coming rookie Jack Flaherty. There’s no rookie pitcher in his class, and the only better rookies are Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna.


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