Knuckleballs

Unpredictable, rare, and occasionally effective…but always entertaining.

LiveBlogging Rangers-Rays V

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I’m not sure that I’m going to be any good at this, but loyal reader DJ IKhan asked me to consider doing a running diary for one of the playoff games.  I figured Game 5 of the Rangers-Rays series would be as good a time as any to try.

5:07 PM PST:  Elvis Andrus leading off and David Price throws four straight fastballs.  He threw 84 fastballs in 107 pitches in Game 1 and Buck Martinez thinks “he needs to improve on his secondary pitches.”  I think he means throw more of them, because Price struggles to locate them and use them as out-pitches.  Price was 74% fastballs this season.

5:09 PM: Andrus drills a ball down the right field line, which Ben Zobrist cuts off.  There needs to be about a 2,000 word article from me this winter about why the Zorilla is so valuable.  Plus his nickname is awesome.

5:11 PM:  Michael Young takes a first-pitch fastball for a strike, then Andrus takes off on the second pitch, Price’s first off-speed pitch of the game.  Young fouled it off, but I wonder if Andrus saw something to make him think it was a breaking ball or if he just got lucky guessing.

5:14 PM:  “Buck, the biggest deterrent to stolen bases is when you throw 97 miles per hour to the plate.”  Or you could not let people on base.  But that’s a good idea too.

5:15 PM:  I can’t look at Ron Washington with a straight face.  Just can’t do it.

5:16 PM:  Young out on a 97 mph fastball after a seven-pitch at-bat.  Price seems sharp, but he is throwing a lot of fastballs to a lot of fastball hitters.

5:18 PM:  Andrus swipes second as Josh Hamilton swings through a fastball.  Speed kills.

5:19 PM:  As soon as the ball was hit by Hamilton after I saw Andrus take off, I was thinking “someone look home.”  Carlos Pena lollygagged the flip and Price lollygagged the catch and Andrus scores from second on a grounder to first.  Speed kills.

5:22 PM:  As good as the Rays are as an organization, it is shockingly terrible that they don’t have a real DH (Dan Johnson, it ain’t).

5:23 PM:  What they do have is a good pair of shortstops, and Jason Bartlett starts with a single to right.  Was hoping for six or seven innings of drama from Cliff Lee tonight; now I’m just going to have be entertaining.  Thanks, Cliff.

5:24 PM:  Lee goes 1-0 on both of the first two hitters.  Something has to be wrong, either the plate is small or the ball is misshaped.

5:25 PM:  Zorilla bunts foul.  I <3 bunts.

5:25 PM:  Just kidding PLEASE SWING.

5:26 PM:  You know what I <3 even less?  Bad bunts that become outs.  Zobrist hits a pop-up to first (Mitch Moreland didn’t catch it so Bartlett is out on the force) and the Rays give away an out.  I learned in Moneyball that giving away outs is not a good way to win baseball games.  Thank you Billy Beane for writing that.

5:27 PM:  1-0 to Carl Crawford as well, but what am I really distracted by right now?  Cliff Lee’s necklace looks like a flash drive.

5:28 PM:  A fielder’s choice by Crawford and a foul out by Evan Longoria (Joey Votto just scoffed) and we’re through one, Rangers 1-0.  Also, 500 words about the first inning? That’s a pace I can’t keep up.

5:31 PM:  After Nelson Cruz strikes out to lead off the second, Ian Kinsler hits a bleeder to center, but…

5:33 PM:  Jeff Francoeur gets Price out of the inning with a double play to shortstop.  Braves and Mets fans, hide your eyes.

5:36 PM:  According to Ron Darling and Buck Martinez, Pena has a low batting average because of the shift employed against him.  “It’s discouraging to look up from that batter’s box and see all the defenders clustered on the right side of the field.”  Wouldn’t it be encouraging to see one side of the field wide open?

5:42 PM:  Pena, B.J. Upton, and Johnson go down quickly and Lee looks sharp.

5:45 PM: A Bengie Molina single to center and a strikeout of Moreland.  Lots of fastballs so far.  His offspeed stuff looks like it’s of the get-me-over-and-keep-hitters-honest variety.  With two strikes, the fastball is Price’s closer.

5:50 PM:  With Molina on first and Andrus at the plate, Ron Washington starts Molina on a 3-2 count.  Not a bad play given how infrequently Andrus strikes out.  “Hard to run Molina 3-2,” say Ron Darling.  But Andrus did strike out.  And Molina takes second without a throw.  Kelly Shoppach didn’t throw since no one was at second, but my dad told me a long time ago, “if no one is at second, that’s their fault.  Throw it.”  Not sure if Joe Maddon is a learned member of the Rich Hennessey School of Baseball.

5:54 PM:  Young flew out to make Molina’s stolen base all for naught.  Doesn’t matter, it allowed me to write “Rich Hennessey School of Baseball” for the first time.

5:56 PM:  Kelly Shoppach starts the third with a chopper to third.  I know he has the “platoon advantage,” but I still think I’d rather have Jaso in there.  P.S. I think Kelly Shoppach sucks.  There, I said it.

6:00 PM:  Bartlett singles to right and Upton hits a 20-foot single, bring the Zorilla to the plate with a chance to tie the game.  Don Orsillo tells us that Zobrist was “an All-Star for the first time last year.”  Oh, like the first time anyone ever heard of Ben Zobrist?

6:02 PM:  Zobrist hits a bleeder to center and we’ve got a tie game.  Hamilton throws toward the first base dugout and there’s runners on second and third.  I love outfield throws that are close; reminds me that these guys are human too (unlike when Matt Diaz puts the ball at Brian McCann’s feet).

6:08 PM:  Lee gets Crawford and Longoria, and that feels like a major missed opportunity to me.  Can’t imagine that the Rays will get too many more chances like that.

6:12 PM:  Hamilton strikes out looking, and I don’t think it’s so much the rust from sitting all of September as much as that he’s still hurt.  Something is clearly a little off.

6:16 PM:  After Vladimir Guerrero pops out to right, Cruz crushes a Price fastball to deep center, and he clearly thought it was out.  The ball bounced away from Upton, was recovered by Crawford, and Cruz still had to motor into second.

6:17 PM:  And just like that, he makes up for it.  Cruz steals third and Shoppach throws the ball closer to the shortstop than to third, rolls into left field, and Cruz scores easily.  2-1 Rangers.

6:21 PM:  After an Kinsler single, Francoeur strikes out.  I’m doing all I can not to make jokes in this space.

6:29 PM:  Cliff Lee strikes out Pena, Upton, and Johnson without breaking a sweat.  I really can’t put into words how easy that looked.  Even when he misses right now, it’s right where he wants it.  By the way, enjoying the Carlos Carrasco-Jason Donald-Lou Marson-Jason Knapp Era in Cleveland.

6:33 PM:  Molina leads off and, feeling spry after that stolen base, tries to bunt for a hit.  Or he grounds out to short.  One of those two things happened, I promise.

6:34 PM:  Joe Maddon says Cliff Lee “is very good.”  Thanks, Joe.  Also, winning this game would be important in order to play again this season and they should score more than their opponent to do that.

6:38 PM:  Andrus smokes a line drive to left, but Young grounds out to second and Price is through 5.  89 pitches, 58 strikes, 6 hits, 6 strikeouts, no walks, 2 runs.  Gotta think he’s got one more in him and then it’s the Balfour-Benoit-Soriano show for the Rays.

6:40 PM:  See comment at 5:56 PM.

6:47 PM:  With two outs, Bartlett doubles to left-center.  Cruz looked like Barry Bonds (he of the eight-hop throw) throwing the ball back into the infield…too soon?

6:50 PM:  Lee’s curveball is filthy, and he gets the Zorilla looking.  End of 5, 2-1 Rangers.  Lee has thrown 76 pitches, 56 for strikes, allowing 5 hits and 1 run while striking out 6.

6:54 PM:  Hamilton files out to start the 6th as Grant Balfour begins to warm.  If it’s a bullpen battle, then the Rays are in good shape.  But if Lee is effective, I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be out there for 120 pitches.

7:00 PM:  After Guerrero singles to center and Cruz singles to shortstop, the Rangers score their third run by running the bases well.  Kinsler hit a ground ball to first, Pena went to second, Price was late covering first (Bartlett clearly held the ball longer), and then protested the call to the first base while holding the ball.  Obviously, he hasn’t seen the end of Major League.  Guerrero rounded third hard and scored, beating Price’s throw to Shoppach.  Lollygaggers, all of them.

7:10 PM:  Lee cruises through the meat of the Rays’ order in the 6th and now it might be time to worry a little if you’re a Rays fan.

7:13 PM:  David Price’s night is over, as he gives way to Balfour.  Final line: 6 innings, 104 pitches, 8 hits, 3 runs (all earned), six strikeouts.  Not bad, not good, just kind of there.

7:16 PM:  Balfour matches Lee in the top of the 7th with just 8 pitches.

7:24 PM:  Upton leads off the seventh with a single and the swipes second on a curveball.  And Lee responds with a strikeout of Willy Aybar because he hates the fans.  It must be why he makes scoring so difficult.

7:26 PM:  Kelly Shoppach is not a great major league hitter; just wanted to reiterate that.  Apparently Rays fans think so too, because that is the loudest boo I’ve heard all series.  Lee is through 6 2/3 with 96 pitches.

7:29 PM:  Lee strikes out Rodriguez, and we’re through 7.  Lee: 7 innings, 100 pitches, 75 strikes, 6 hits, 0 walks, 1 run, 9 strikeouts.  I’d say he’s coming back for the 8th.

7:33 PM:  Joaquin Benoit in for the Rays, and Evan Longoria boots a soft roller to third.  Luckily, he strikes out Josh Hamilton’s corpse.

7:46 PM:  Did you know that Vladimir Guerrero is a career 0.320 hitter? Looking at his numbers, he’s an easy Hall of Famer.  I’ve been messing around on Baseball-Reference throughout this game, and the most amazing thing I’ve come across: Barry Bonds on-base percentage in 2004 was 0.609.  232 walks will do that, 120 of which were intentional walks.  How did I get to that? Guerrero is the active leader with 246.  Back to the game, Vlad makes me look really smart by hitting a tailor-made double play ball to Bartlett.

7:49 PM:  Lee is back for the 8th as the top of the order comes up.  The 15 starts Lee made in the regular season are not why the Rangers got him – this is why.

7:53 PM:  Three easy outs for Lee in 8th on 11 pitches.  111 total – back for the 9th?  I say he starts it, at minimum.

7:56 PM:  Rafael Soriano in for the Rays, and Cruz leads off with a single to center.  The Rays can absolutely not give up another run in the 9th.

7:58 PM  OOPS. 5-1 Rangers after Kinsler hits a two-run no doubter to left.  Maybe Lee can take a seat and get ready for his champagne shower.

8:02 PM:  Soriano gets out machines Francoeur and Molina out, gives up a two-out double to Moreland, and gets Andrus to pop out to Pena.  Too late though, as the Rays need four runs in the 9th off  some combination of Lee and Neftali Feliz.

8:04 PM:  Well, Lee is back for the 9th.  Probably unnecessary but I don’t blame Washington for putting him back out there.

8:08 PM:  A Longoria strikeout and Pena groundout leaves the Rangers one out away from the ALCS.  Bet it doesn’t take Upton long to end this.

8:08 PM:  Got one right! Ron Washington looks ready to party.  Congratulations to the Rangers on the first playoff series win in franchise history.  Lee: 6 hits, 11 strikeouts.

8:11 PM:  It looks like the Rangers are celebrating with soda in the locker room.  If that’s so that Hamilton can join them, that’s awesome.

One more thing before I go:

Cliff Lee in this series: 2-0, 16 innings, 2 earned runs, 21 strikeouts, 0 walks, 11 hits, 2 earned runs.  That’s good.

Cliff Lee in the postseason: 6-0 in 7 starts, 56 2/3 innings, 3 complete games, 54 strikeouts, 6 walks, 38 hits, 12 runs (9 earned), 1.43 ERA, 0.78 WHIP.

Thanks to everyone for reading this mess (to the three of you who made it this far), and let me know if it’s worth doing again.

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Written by Dan Hennessey

October 12, 2010 at 10:17 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. I might be a few days late to this party, but wow, this is awesome. We gotta get this for some more playoff games the rest of the way.

    In baseball history, on 6 occasions has a pitcher won a postseason game while striking out more 10 or more and not allowed a walk. Deacon Phillippe in the first World Series game ever in 1903 and Sterling Hitchcock in 1998. The other 4 times? Cliff Lee, twice this postseason.

    How astronomical is that? In MLB Postseason history, 1,276 games played or 2,552 starts made by pitchers, take away Cliff Lee’s 6 career playoff starts you have 2,546.

    In 2,546, it happened twice, for a nice 0.078%.

    In 6 starts, Lee has done it 4 times!

    Matt

    October 15, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    • This is one of the greatest comments I have ever seen. I want to take credit for finding all of these stats.

      Dan Hennessey

      October 15, 2010 at 12:15 PM

  2. I love the running diary…it feels like I am right next to you watching the game!!

    MikeB

    October 17, 2010 at 8:08 AM


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