Oct Baseball has Begun and Now it’s All up to Greinke
Playoff edition long form therapy session…
Well, Oct baseball is in the air and already there have been some remarkable games. The Dodgers, of course, have huge issues after Game One’s surprise collapse of Kershaw. I have said – and gotten a lot of heat for it – that while Kershaw owns the regular season, the last feather in his very young cap is showing he can carry that domination over to the post-season. Now whether it’s the Cardinals (I think it is) or just being psyched out from last year’s Game Six flop (also a factor, but coupled with the Cardinals, an even larger one, no doubt), something has made Kershaw an average post-season starter.
Of course his career – albeit with a lot of innings logged already – is just starting, and there’s plenty of time to find his way, it is troubling that a guy who is compared routinely to Koufax and other greats is so shaky when it counts most. What went wrong? Well, the Cardinals just know how to get into the shaggy haired head of his, and they’re also a smart and somewhat dirty team. The good news is the Dodgers showed fight last night (they didn’t last year) when Puig got beaned. And they also scraped and fought back to make it interesting in the last few innings (something they hadn’t done all season). Don’t panic yet, but Greinke is also sporting a post-season ERA over 4, so which Dodgers team comes out today in Game Two? The pussies from last year, the ones who understandably could be demoralized from last night’s drubbing or the team that showed fight vs. Molina? Just a spark of life they showed gives me faith.
I think the Dodgers and underwhelming manager Donnie Baseball have an interesting pickle here. Would you rush Kershaw back on 3 days’ rest, knowing Kershaw has been decimated twice in a row by the Cardinals? Or would you feel safer with another option? That’s a big question, as well as why Donnie and Honeycutt didn’t get out to Kershaw earlier when he was melting down on National television. Donnie said his face looked ok and he said (when he did eventually go out there) that Kershaw claimed he was ok. Note to Donnie and Honeycutt – any sort of competitor is going to say he’s ok – go by what you’re watching. Kershaw’s bombardment and collapse was pretty obvious, so where the Dodgers are in trouble this Oct is having a poor manager at the helm. Of course one could point to Ned Yost, perhaps dumber than Donnie, as someone who lucks by, but I’d say that’s mostly because his team is just so scrappy and fundamentally sound. I don’t think Donnie has that luxury – though he does have “superstar potential.”
Looking around at the other games, I am really impressed with the aforementioned Royals. Hey, squint and you can watch a team in blue and white playing baseball the right away, and think it’s your Dodgers. Defense, speed, pitching, relief pitching, clutch hitting, chemistry, power when needed… is this a Dan Evans designed club? Anyway, I am rooting for the Royals, hope they sweep Anaheim, and give the deserving fans in KC something they haven’t enjoyed in quite a long time. This is the type of team I wish Stan Kasten built. No superstars, no egos, just gamers and baseball players. Take note, baldy Kasten.
I am also impressed with the Orioles, who I’ve long rooted for as another old time team with good fans. Their beating of the Tigers is fun to watch, although somewhat bittersweet knowing how many of their guys have had PED suspicions or busts. Nonetheless, like KC, they play hard and are beating up a powerful Detroit team that thought stars could make up for lack of bullpen. Oct is won with defense and pitching and to skimp on the pen, both in Detroit and LA, is a huge risk. I would prefer a lineup of flame throwing relief pitchers like KC has to mega stars who strike a pose before walking up to home plate to hit. I’m a purist, and if you disagree with my assessment, you’re part of the problem.
I actually hoped the Giants would beat the Nats, which pisses off some of my friends who can’t stand the Giants. Unbiasedly I say the Giants aren’t as good as some of the teams playing now, but they have a track record of winning and Bochy gets a lot out of them when it matters most. The Pittsburgh win isn’t too surprising given the Bucs countered Bumgarner with Volquez (wtf?) but beating the pundits’ darling, Strasburg, was impressive. The reason I want the Giants to win is so the Dodgers (assuming they can get past the Cardinals) don’t have to deal with them. While I am not a fan of Matt Williams and hate Harper, on paper the Nats seem the best team in playoff action. Their 5 starters are crazy good and anyone thinking, well, the Dodgers have Kershaw, Greinke and maybe a healthy Ryu, needs to look at the Nats starters and especially their success since Sept.
Anyway, this is a fun time of year. You can flip from one game to another and tune in to teams you perhaps never watched all year. You can see each pitch matter, each out be meaningful, and you can get swept away in breathtaking baseball. I will leave it that I warned of Kershaw come Oct, and am skeptical he can go back out there on short rest and somehow dominate after getting torched for a bushel full of runs the last two tries against the Cards. I will say the fight and scraping back the blue did was impressive. Where was this fight last year when the Cardinals made a mockery of the Dodgers? I would urge the players to keep up that aggressive approach because the Cardinals will not stop pitching inside. The sign stealing, perhaps, is a problem the coaching staff will have to address, but the dirty shots are something that cannot be tolerated. Pitching inside to power hitters is smart. Sometimes a pitch gets away, and that happens. The Dodgers – not known for being mentally tough – need to take a page from the St. Louis book. Pitch inside to Holliday and Molina. Don’t let the hitters get comfortable in the box. If they balk, fight with them. This is a five game series, each out and each game is huge. The Dodgers have to come out tonight and make the statement they were trying to make last night, before the wheels came off the bus. Make Vin proud, win Game Two.