Monday, October 22, 2007

Time to Go Home

This picture pretty much illustrates how things went for the Indians last night. As you can clearly see, Lofton's hand is on the bag while Dustin Pedroia, with the ball, is actually tagging second base. His eventual tag of Lofton was high, up on Lofton's shoulder, but that didn't stop umpire Brian Gorman, who is clearly in position to make the call, from calling Lofton out.

This was a close series, and in the last three games with their backs to the wall, the Red Sox made more breaks for themselves, got all the close calls and non calls, and took advantage of them. When the Red Sox made mistakes, the Indians failed to capitalize. The Red Sox outpitched the Indians, the Red Sox outhit the Indians, the Red Sox outfielded the Indians, and Major League Baseball out-umpired the Indians.

So, just about everybody's happy. The Magical Mystery Tour of Red Sox Nation keeps chugging along, Fox is going to get high ratings and make a ton of money with a major eastern market squad in the World Series, the Eastern SPorts Network can keep shoving Red Sox Nation down our throats to the exclusion of everything else and Bud Selig and all his Major League Baseball cronies can pretend that everything is hunky dory with the game. If MLB has to run over the Cleveland Indians and their fans to make it all work out for their darlings, well, that's just collaterel damage.

When money is no object, you can buy a team like the Red Sox. They have the best big-game pitcher in the game (Beckett) because they could afford him and Florida could not. They have a future Hall of Famer, and one of the best hitters in major league baseball (Ramirez) because they could afford him and Cleveland could not. They have a core of battle tested players who came up big in the clutch where Cleveland's young squad did not.

The Red Sox proved that they are a better, more opportunistic, more composed team than the Indians, who spent the season being better, more opportunistic, and more composed than every other team they played. I wish I could believe that they beat the Indians fair and square, but I can't even believe that right now given the sorry-ass umpiring in this series. Maybe, after the pain wears off and I am able to be rational again, I'll put the conspiracy theories aside. But that doesn't mean that I have to like them or their fans.

Manny Ramirez is a showboating egomaniac, and has always been one, even when he played for the Indians. Red Sox Nation, now that they finally won their World Series and broke the curse of Babe Ruth, is full of bandwagon fans and now carries the same attitude of entitlement that makes Yankees fans unbearable. Dustin Pedroia (or as RSN likes to call him PedROYa) is a cocky punk. Matsuzaka? $103 million. What else is there to say?

Oh yeah, there is one more thing to say: Go Rockies!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bitter and Nervous

I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to respond to last night's Game 6. I thought about taking the high road and congratulating the Red Sox for coming up clutch , but I decided against it. I've decided to be bitter.

The game was decided in the worst possible way - by the home plate umpire, who seemed bound and determined to do everything that he possibly could to make sure that this series goes to 7 games by squeezing Fausto Carmona at the plate as if he were a tube of toothpaste, and not returning the favor against Curt Schilling.

Dana DeMuth. Remember the name, Tribe fans, because he is the one who took the Indians out of this game. Once his pathetic skullduggery at the plate ensured that the inning kept going and going and going until the Red Sox scored, the game was pretty much over. Carmona not only threw a lot of pitches, but nobody in the park knew what the hell the strike zone was, By the time Carmona left in the third inning, he was pretty well toast. And Rafael Perez couldn't figure out DeMuth's cryptic strike zone either, and he got pummeled.

But it all comes down to the man behind the plate screwing the Indians. Royally. Relentlessly. Until they were hopelessly out of the game, at which point he started calling strikes for Aaron Laffey, probably because he was tired.

Of course, DeMuth was not alone. His counterpart in right field jobbed the Indians out of a home run in the first inning down the right field line.

Tom Hamilton , the Indians' radio play-by-play guy, who is normally a reliable, even-tempreed and even-handed game reporter, was completely mystified by the way Carmona was getting jobbed. If we had been playing a drinking game, and one was required to drink whenever Hamilton said "I don't know where that pitch was," one would have been totally blotto by the the third inning.

Yes, I know that Travis Hafner isn't hitting. For that matter the rest of the Indians' hitters pretty much picked a sucky time to slump together. But the Indians had little chance to recover from Dana DeMuth's handiwork, and if they had, there's no telling what DeMuth and this sad, sad umpring crew would have done to turn the game in Boston's favor again to ensure a seventh game.

Fox should be happy. ESPN should be happy because their darling Sawx have taken it to 7, so they can hammer us with Boston mystique and grit for another day. MLB is probably happy because now we have a game 7 and increased ratings and drama.

If I thought the Indians lost a fair game, it would be one thing. But right now, I feel like my team has been screwed by The Man. And it hurts like hell. And I'm pissed off that there is a Game 7 and nervous as hell, primarily because I am a Cleveland fan, and crushing defeat on the biggest stages (well, and the smallest one, too ) has been all I've ever known.

Seriously, if this is the best umpiring crew that Major League Baseball can run out there, we might as well put electronic sensors on the foul lines, and hook up voice recognition software to the Questec and fire every damned umpire. If these are the best, the rest must be awful beyond imagining.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Not Our Night

Clues it wasn't the Indians' night:

  • Josh Beckett was dealing.
  • CC Sabathia was getting ahead and then nibbling.
  • The bottom of the Sawx lineup showed up.
  • Grady Sizemore made an unchargeable error in the field.
  • Rafael Perez looked awful for the second straight appearance against the Sawx.
  • Tom Mastny, as seems to be the case most times when he pitches with the bases loaded, threw one to the backstop. It was charged as a passed ball, but still...
  • Pronk hit into a double play to let Beckett off the hook in the first inning.

Other observations:

  • If the run that Manny drove in after only getting to first base while admiring his shot (which replays showed was not a home run) had been the last run the Sawx scored, and the Indians had come back to win this game, Manny would be Goat #1 in Boston. As it was, it was just Manny being Manny and he'll get off the hook again.
  • I'm not sure who to side with in the Lofton-Beckett thing. They both acted like spoiled punks.
  • Pronk needs you, badly. He has looked completely overmatched in the last two games. Pronk's Mojo has gone AWOL at a very bad time. Send him your positive thoughts, and keep looking for his Mojo. It's not too late.
  • It will indeed be sweet if the Indians celebrate a World Series berth in Fenway Park.
  • I'm not sure I trust Fox' pitch tracking thing, but they sure seemed to use it on the rare occasions that Beckett got a ball that looked close but never when he got a strike that sure looked like a ball. I'm just sayin'.
  • CC should never have gone back out after he escaped the sixth inning. Either Lewis or Mastny should have started the 7th. Mastny seems to be a better pitcher when he starts an inning.
  • What is that thing around Beckett's neck? As much of a big deal as people have made about Cabrera's necklace, it looks like Beckett is wearing a noose around his neck.

Schilling v Carmona at Fenway Park on Saturday. I have to believe that Carmona won't pitch two bad games in a row, especially now that he's pitched at Fenway once.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What the People Want to Know

I figured when the playoffs started that I would get a surge of hits on this blog, primarily because it focuses on the Indians and casual fans would want to know a little about what the buzz was about the team.

What I did not count on was the fact that what people really want to know about the Cleveland Indians is what Asdrubal Cabrera is wearing around his neck.

Of the hundreds of extra hits I have had on this blog, over 90% are coming by way of Google to a short blurb I rattled off citing the Plain Dealer called "The Truth About Asdrubal Cabrera's Necklace"

People do not want to know about Asdrubal Cabrera's clutch hitting and slick fielding. They want to know about the beads (not pearls, beads) he wears around his neck that his wife made him for good luck.

So this is what I say. The time has come, people for Indians fans to rise up and say, all together, "Fear The Necklace."

That's right. Fear The Necklace. It represents luck united with skill. Shout it from the rooftops. Take your banners to Jacobs Field. Paint it over your doorposts. Fear The Necklace. It's the rally cry that Cleveland needs. Mistake By the Lake? No, we have The Necklace. The Drive? That's history - today, we have The Necklace. Red Right 88? No, Fear the Necklace.

Do you really think that Youk and Pedroia dropped that foul pop on their own accord. Sorry, crimestoppers - it was The Necklace. That liner off Wakefield's glove - The Necklace.

The Indians mid-season turning point? Say it with me - "The Necklace."

The people have spoken. Fear The Necklace.

All He Does is Throw Strikes

Thoughts on the ALCS Game 4:
  • Who knew that Paul Byrd was such a big game pitcher? All he does is throw strike 1, then strike 2, and then make you swing at his pitch. It's Pitching 101, and the old guy can do it through the lineup twice. It's age and treachery overcoming youth and skill. He beat the Yankees, and for 5 innings, confounded the Red Sox. If the Indians had not batted for over a half hour in the bottom of the fifth, allowing Byrd to get cold, I wonder whether Byrd might not have been good for another two innings.
  • The problem with knuckleball pitchers without another good pitch is that they are prone to hang that one knuckleball that gets clobbered. Tim Wakefield hung that one pitch, Casey Blake, Mountain Man, clobbered it, and then the wheels fell off for the Sawx in the bottom of the fifth. Manny Delcarmen didn't help much by giving up a three-run homer to Jhonny Peralta that pretty well sealed the deal.
  • What difference does a stolen base make? I was surprised to see Lofton steal second base with the Tribe up 6-0, because typical baseball etiquette has been that if you are up by that much then stealing is showing the other team up. Lofton scored to make the game 7-0. When the Sawx got their back-to-back-to-back shots in the 6th, the difference between a four-run game and a three-run game meant the Tribe could keep Senor Slow in the game in the 9th because it was not a save situation.
  • You just went back-to-back-to-back out of the yard, Manny Ramirez! Please admire your shot and showboat around the bases for your adoring fans! The fact that you're still down 4 runs should make no difference! You can argue that it's just Manny being Manny, but sometimes, Manny being Manny is actually Manny being a clueless egotistical jerk.
  • I thought the Sawx defense was supposed to be better than the Tribe's. After both Youk and Pedroia managed to muff a foul pop by Asdrubal Cabrera that might have settled the team down in the fifth, Wakefield then muffed one up the box. If they make either of those plays on Cabrera, the game is different. And Youk made a bad error (one he got charged with) on an attempted pickoff play that was lucky not to have hurt the Sawx in the 6th. So far, the Indians and Sawx have only been charged with 1 error.
  • What's that giant sucking sound I hear? No, Ross Perot, it's not NAFTA sucking American jobs south of the border - it's the bottom of the Sawx lineup. Once you get past Lowell, it's pretty much automatic outs until you get back around to Youkilis.
  • In the battle of personal catchers, Shoppach went 1 for 3, plus getting hit by a pitch and scoring a run in the pivotal fifth inning. Mirabelli went 0 for 2 and was pulled for Varitek as soon as possible after Wakefield was lifted.
  • Pronk got the golden sombrero, striking out 4 times in 4 at bats. Mercifully, Cabrera ended the 8th inning by grounding into a fielder's choice before Pronk could take the mucho gigante golden sombrero in his 5th at bat. Pronk seemed overmatched by the knuckleball. He's hitting .200 for the series, with an OPS of .694. And the Indians are up 3 games to 1.
  • Gho Jhonny Gho! Ihf thhe Ihndians whin thhis sheries, Jhonny ihs clhearly the AhLCS MhVP. Jhonny's OhPS - 1.h213.
  • The Tribe's postseason veterans have been getting it done. Lofton - key homer in Game 3. Trot - game winning hit in Game 2. Byrd - winning pitcher Game 4. Joe Knows Closing - Save Game 3, Finished Game 2. Sabathia - well, we'll give him a pass until tomorrow.
  • Which CC shows up tomorrow? Big Game CC of 2007, calmly throwing strikes and unruffled by bad umpiring or facing Johan Santana, or Postseason CC, who is a mess of flop sweat because he can't throw a strike. If CC shows command of the strike zone and command of himself tomorrow, I think the Red Sox go home for good. Even so, I like the pitching matchups for Game 6 and 7 in Boston in case the Indians can't finish it up at home.
  • Dane Cook Must Go.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ken-ny! Ken-ny! Ken-ny!

If you grew up watching Superhost on Channel 43 in Cleveland, or Mystery Science Theatre 3000, then you probably remember the Gamera movies. Gamera was a giant turtle who primarily wanted to be left alone, but occasionally, Gamera was called out of the deeps to save Japan from a mutant monster from outer space and befriend a young boy who is always named Kenny, who helps him to save the day.

The monster threatening Cleveland was Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox paid $51.1 million just to negotiate with him and another $52 million to sign him to a 6-year deal before the season to bring his unhittable gyro ball to Beantown.

In the role of Gamera - Jake Westbrook, sinkerballer who was pummeled his last start against the Yankees. (Note - Indians entire 2007 payroll - around $70 million, up from $61 million before the season started based on the extensions given Pronk and Westbrook).

In the top of Inning 2, it looked like Gamera was in trouble. The evil monsters had loaded the bases with 1 out. But look - it's a pop up! Look! A double play ball! Threat ended!

In the bottom of Inning 2, it was Kenny to the rescue. Kenny Lofton, trusty sidekick, link to the great teams of the '90s, ageless wonder, in his third stint with the Tribe, in his first at bat of the game, with the crowd chanting "Ken-ny! Ken-ny! Ken-ny!" saved the day by socking a two-run home run to right field to put the Tribe up 2-0. The Indians added 2 more in the 5th on a single by Asdrubal Cabrera and an RBI groundout by Pronk to knock Dice-K out of the game.

Westbrook went 6.2 innings and induced three double plays. The only blemish was a two-run homer in the 7th given up to Jason Veritek. The Tribe bullpen locked the game down, with Jensen Lewis rescuing Westbrook in the 7th, Senor Slow getting Youk, Big Papi and Manny 1-2-3 in the 8th and Joe Knows Closing pitching a 1-2-3 ninth.

Maybe I've stretched the metaphor just a little bit with the Gamera thing with Dice-K as a monster threatening Cleveland. To hear the hype, you'd think he was the most important Japanese import since the Honda Accord. At any rate, the Indians beat a pitcher that the Red Sox paid 73% of the Indians 2007 payroll just to negotiate with in the offseason.

Westbrook, on the other hand, has received virtually no respect from the media or fans outside Cleveland, primarily because he's not a flashy strikeout pitcher, and because he's been battling injuries this season. His 6 wins on the season were not impressive. However, between 2004 and 2006, only Johan Santana, Kenny Rogers, and Jon Garland had more victories in the American League than Westbrook's 44.

Other notes about the game:
  • The strike zone was wildly erratic, varying wildly from batter to batter. By the end of the game, it was anybody's guess what a strike was and players on both sides were swinging at balls well off the plate. This guy graded out as one of the 12 best umpires MLB could offer us in the postseason?
  • Trot Nixon started. He went 0-3 with a strikeout. He was replaced by Gutierrez for defensive purposes. Chances are, this is the last we see of Trot Nixon for awhile.
  • Uber-rookie Dustin Pedroia is batting .167 on the series with an OPS of .398. Asdrubal Cabrera is batting .333 with an OPS of .690.
  • As much as I dislike the Fox guys, they are still better than the TBS crew.
  • Westbrook got 15 of 20 outs via ground balls.
  • Ryan Garko made a heck of a stretch on the double play in the second. Who knew the big guy was so flexible?

Tonight, weather permitting: Byrd vs Wakefield, or perhaps Beckett. Francona says that it's going to be Wakefield. Red Sox Nation is crying out for Beckett to start on short rest with the Sawx down 2-1. Tune in around 8:17 Eastern and find out who gets the ball.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Some reasons to love postseason:
  • If anyone had told me before the series started that CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona would both pitch like crap and that the Indians and Sawx would still go back to Cleveland tied 1-1, I would have asked for a swig of whatever they were drinking.
  • Unlikely postseason hero #1 - Tom Mastny. If the Indians win this series, Tom Mastny's 1-2-3 inning against Ortiz, Ramirez and Lowell, will likely have been the turning point. On paper, this should have been disaster. Once the Sawx had to bring in Eric (L'Homme Brulant) Gagne, the game was over. The fact that the Indians torched the last guys out of the Sawx bullpen has to be giving them concern in the Back Bay.
  • Unlikely postseason hero #2 - Christopher Trotman Nixon. After pinchrunning for Pronk in the 8th, Wedge needed another DH in the 11th, and in came Trot Nixon, in his old home park, with the go-ahead run on second base. And he stayed in the game after the Sawx brought in a lefthander to face him. And then, he calmly stroked a single to centerfield where Coco Crisp proceeded to throw weakly to the cutoff man, requiring the cutoff man to make a perfect throw to get Grady Sizemore at the plate. The throw was not perfect. Even though Sizemore got a bad read on the ball and a late jump, he still beat the throw. Anyone in Cleveland still missing Coco?
  • Wasn't Curt Schilling supposed to be The Super Clutch Pitching God with postseason experience who was going to see the Sawx through against the raw rookie Carmona, who was going to crack under the pressure?
  • Think the Sawx would like to have Kason Gabbard back?
  • Come back, Rafael Perez. We need you.
  • Franklin Gutierrez is no longer afraid of the Green Monster.

I don't have anything to say about Game 1 or the first part of Game 2 for the simple reason that I didn't see any of it. Longstanding personal commitments, including singing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Columbus Symphony Chorus and a house full of classmates back in town for our 20th college reunion, kept me from seeing any of that baseball.

The Indians go home having taken the home field advantage from the Sawx. I would be surprised if the series does not go back to Boston for a Game Six, but it is nice to know that a return to Boston is not necessarily foreordained if the Indians can take care of business. I still think it goes seven, but last night's game will at least put a little hitch in the giddyup of the Red Sox Express.

If you're not reading Ryan Garko's postseason blog, you're missing out.

Next up - Westbrook v Matsuzaka at the Jake. Let the sinkers sink and let the gyros gyro!

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Souvenir for Your Yankee Loving Friends

According to this article above in The Scotsman, Rachael Harris, a sculptor from Orkney, has found a way to encase midges in amber resin. I could not find where she is selling them online, but I will keep looking. Next time you're in Orkney, buy a few and give them to your Yankee fan friends to comemmorate the Day of the Midges.

The following links to pictures of midges in amber, but has no relation to Rachael Harris that I could see.


A friend of mine e-mailed this to me at work. I wish I knew who did it so I could give it proper attribution.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

ALCS Preview - Indians vs. Red Sox

It's even. Flip a coin.

Both teams tied for the best record in baseball. Both teams have great starting pitching and solid bullpens. Both teams can score runs and have solid hitters 1 through 9. The differences between these two teams statistically are not that significant.

The only significant advantage that Boston has over the Indians is home field advantage, and they only have that because we threw Sowers and Lee at them to use as pinatas during the season.

How can you not love a Game 1 matchup of Sabathia vs. Beckett? Or a Game 2 matchup of Carmona vs. Schilling?

This should be tense, exciting baseball, and I will be very surprised if either team is able to wrap this up before a Game 7.

At this point, most sportswriters would toss out a bunch of cliches about the team that executes the best will probably win, or give the edge to Boston because they're at home, and will probably be throwing their ace 3 times. Maybe they'd offer a position by position breakdown and assign an edge based on whether Garko or Youkilis is the better first baseman. That's all well and good, but it really doesn't tell us that much.

My take -- the teams are so evenly matched that the team with the most breaks is going to win. The team that gets a surpise homer to wrap around the Pesky Pole. The team whose pitcher gets a ball to stay in Fenway Park because it hits high off the Green Monster and then manages to strand the runner at second. The team whose pitchers get the umpires who call the strike zone more favorable to the way they pitch. The team that bloops one in between three fielders in short right center field. More importantly, there is no way to tell who that team is going to be going in.

The baseball gods are notoriously fickle. If there were a greater disparity of talent, it would be easy to give one team an edge based on talent alone. There isn't. I can't guess which team will be getting those lucky breaks. I hope it's the Indians, but I think that it will make for some of the most compelling baseball we've seen in the postseason since 2004.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Start Spreading the News...

They're leaving today. The Yankees (aka, the Forces of Evil and Darkness in the Baseball Universe - FEDBU) will scatter today, packing their gear and traveling to various parts of the globe where they can spend their offseason counting their cash and pondering how they managed to lose in the ALDS to an allegedly inferior team.

Because, really, everybody knows that they didn't lose to a superior team. The Yankees never lose to a superior team - they just find new ways to beat themselves. Just ask Johnny Damon:

"We got beat in the four games played," Damon said. "Overall, are they the better team? I don't know." Now that's losing with class.

Nevermind that they had their "ace" going against the Indians fourth starter, and their ace left down 2-0 with the bases loaded in the second inning. Chien-Ming Wang, 19-game winner, lost two games in the series.

Nevermind that the Indians outpitched the Yankees best pitchers and outhit the Yankees best hitters in clutch situations.

Nevermind that Captain Clutch, Derek Jeter, in 17 AB, actually hit into so many double plays that he was responsible for 17 outs. He was 3/17 for the series (.176) and hit into 3 douple plays.

Nevermind that Alex Rodriguez, who will be the AL MVP, perhaps unanimously, hit .267 for the series, with 6 strikeouts in 4 games.

Nevermind that their Greatest.Pitcher.Ever (and headhunting punk extraordinaire), never made it out of the third inning in his start. It is worth noting here that Clemens made $19.5 million this year and pitched, including the playoffs, 101.1 innings, for a total cost of $192,497 per inning, or $64,165 per out.

Nevermind that the Indians payroll of $61 million for this year is less than one-third of the Yankees payroll.

Nevermind that the Indians had two players (Lofton, Nixon) on their postseason roster with World Series experiece and three others (Sabathia, Borowski, Byrd) with postseason experience, while the Yankees have been in the postseason each of the past 13 years.

Nevermind that everyone knows that the Indians couldn't possibly win anything with Joe Knows Closing taking the hill in the 9th inning of a close game, especially after he blew a game in Yankees Stadium in early April, 6 months ago.

The Yankees and their fans will always be convinced that the better team did not win and that the Yankees beat themselves instead of losing to a superior team. That's okay. That is what makes them Yankees and Yankee fans.

The Indians, on the other hand, will also be leaving. They're going to Boston to start the American League Championship Series.

And all the Yankees have to show for their season is a boatload of money, a manager that may be fired because he could not beat a team with a payroll 1/3 of his team's -- despite taking his team into postseason for a 13th straight year, a pitching staff that is old and in disarray, the possible loss of the best hitter in baseball, and the decision on whether to exercise expensive options on overpaid players. The Bronx Zoo, indeed.

Start spreading the news. They're leaving today.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Trot Giveth, and the Trot Taketh Away

Game 3 of the Indians-Forces of Evil and Darkness in the Baseball Universe (FEDBU) series is in the books, and the Indians now lead their ALDS series 2 games to 1 after last night's 8-4 FEDBU victory.

Roger Clemens, headhunting punk and future Hall of Famer in the event he ever stays retired, looked like a 45-year-old guy with a bad hammy. Roger was gone two batters into the third inning, with what most likely will be his last major league pitch striking out Victor Martinez. Clemens left on the hook for a 2-0 deficit, including a solo home run to surprise starter Trot Nixon, which was expanded to 3-0 when Jhonny Peralta dhoubled in Travis Hafner, who walked off Clemens to lead off the inning. That was the last really good thing to happen for the Tribe. Philip Hughes relieved Clemens, and after giving up the double to Peralta, pitched 3.2 innings of scoreless relief and kept the FEDBU in the game long enough to get to Westbrook.

Jake Westbrook looked like Jake Westbrook. He got a lot of ground balls, some of which went through and some of which ended up starting double plays. He was leading 3-1 when the roof caved in in the 5th. Peralta misplayed a grounder to the hole into an infield single by A-Rod. Westbrook, who suddenly was not being given the low strike by home plate umpire Ron Kulpa, elevated sinkers to Matsui, Cano and Cabrera, which led to a run scoring and two men on for Johnny Damon. He then elevated a sinker to Damon, who deposited it in the right field stands to give the FEDBU a 5-3 lead.

The FEDBU expanded the lead to 8-3 the following inning off Westbrook and Aaron Fultz, helped out by Trot Nixon allowing a Robinson Cano bases loaded single to skip beneath his glove, clearing the bases. Since the game was pretty much out of reach anyway, Trot was allowed to bat in the 8th inning, and got an RBI double to the gap in left to drive in the Indians last run off uber-phenom Joba "Walks on Water" Chamberlain. Chamberlain seemed human in the 8th, as the Indians managed to get 3 straight hits.

Jensen Lewis struck out the side in the 7th. Joe Knows Closing pitched a scoreless 8th to get some work in and Mariano Rivera slammed the door on the Tribe in the 9th.

So, we now go to Game 4 tonight. The FEDBU will start Wang on 3 days rest, while the Indians will go with Paul Byrd. Both pitchers will have a short leash, and the FEDBU have shot most of their better bullpen bullets by using Hughes and Chamberlain for extended appearances in Game 3 while Betancourt and Perez stayed on the Indians' bench. If Wang performs poorly, Mike Mussina will be available for long relief. Aaron Laffey, a left-handed sinkerballer, will likely be the Indians long guy out if Byrd runs into trouble.

So why did Wedgie start the Trotster? He has an outstanding batting record against Clemens, and his intuition paid off initially. However, Wedge's failure to lift Trot for defensice purposes once Clemens left the game probably cost the team. If Gutierrez is in right field, the FEDBU likely score only one run on Cano's single, and the Indians turn two on Cabrera's ensuing grounder to third. It's still 6-3, but the late innings become much more interesting, with the Tribe bringing the potential go ahead run to the plate in the 8th off Joba "I am the Walrus" Chamberlain.

The good news is that the Indians are still up 2-1, and the FEDBU have to win 2 games while the Indians have to win 1. Is a FEDBU comeback possible? Of course - nearly anything is possible. Is it probable? The odds say no.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Travis Hafner is Lord of the Flies

A pest in baseball is typically one of those annoying players like David Eckstein who seems to bother the opposition. Yesterday, the pests were really pests - midges swarming Jacobs Field in the 8th inning. Forces of Evil and Darkness in the Baseball Universe (FEDBU) uber-phenom Joba Chamberlain got rattled and uncorked two wild pitches - the first of which put the tying run in scoring position, and the second of which scored the tying run from third- and the Indians came from behind to beat the FEDBU 2-1 in 11 innings.

The Indians had many opportunities to put the Yankees away - they were ultimately 2 for 18 with runners in scoring position, but could not do wo until the 11th inning, when Pronk (remember him?) laced a bases-loaded full-count two-out single to right centerfield to score Kenny Lofton with the winning run. They left 14 runners on base. The other hit with RISP was a single by Kenny Lofton in the second, on which Jhonny Peralta was thrown out trying to score from second. It is worth noting that the stas had aligned earlier in the inning to allow Peralta (Slowest.Shortstop.Ever) to steal second off Andy (Best.Balk.Move.That.Never.Gets.Called.Ever) Pettite, and that to expect him to score on a single to shallow center was probably pressing their luck a bit too far. Pettite also threw out Lofton trying to steal third base to end the fifth inning.

It is worth noting that although the FEDBU appeared noticeably disconcerted by the midges, the Indians did not. Fausto Carmona appeared completely oblivious to the midges, and he was spectactular, going 9 complete innings, giving up only 3 hits, walking 2 and striking out 5. Unfortunately, 1 of those hits was a home run by Melky Cabrera (yeah, go figure). He got 18 ground ball outs. His last pitch struck out Alex Rodriguez with the potential winning run on second base. Rafael Perez shut down the FEDBU in the 9th and 10th.

Other heroes for the Tribe include Kenny Lofton, who went 2 for 3 with 2 walks and scored the winning run, and Grady Sizemore, who scored the tying run, tripled, and beat out a high throw to first base after striking out in the 10th to help make Mariano Rivera sweat. Rivera required 38 pitches to make it through two innings of relief after the Indians loaded the bases off of him in the 10th. As a result, the FEDBU were forced to bring in Luis Vizcaino in the 11th, who gave up the winning run.

A few words about Thursday's game while we're here.

Batting practice, baby! 12-3 Tribe. With both pitchers being squeezed by a small strike zone, a more mature Sabathia was able to cope with it, while Chien-Ming Wang was not. After a tired Sabathia worked out of a bases loaded with one out situation in the fifth inning by blowing fastballs by Jorge Posada and getting Hideki Matsui to pop out in what was then a one-run game, a tired Wang allowed a two-run shot to Victor Martinez to make the game 6-3. Then the FEDBU bullpen came in and pitched batting practice, while Perez, Lewis and Betancourt shut the FEDBU down.

So, now the series goes to the Big Apple with the Indians up 2-nil. Sunday's game is Westbrook vs. Clemens, whom the FEDBU have been saving for the playoffs. We'll see if Clemens is still worth $4.5 million per month after not pitching since September 16.

FEDBU fans will whine about how the game should have been stopped because of the midges. Let them. Both teams had to play through the bugs and umpire crew chief Bruce Froemming said after the game that he had no intention of calling the game. Mickey Mantle would have played through the bugs. Joe DiMaggio would have played through the bugs. Yogi Berra would have played through the bugs. Fausto Carmona wasn't bothered by the bugs at all. Man up, FEDBU fans. If you would have played better during the season, you would have won your division and this game would have been in your house. Get over yourselves.