Drama loves Dusty Baker
So, the Washington Nationals fought off elimination in game four, despite a whole pile of weird that prefaced Wednesday’s matchup against the Chicago Cubs. Ace starter Stephen Strasburg—Schrodinger’s Cat in this experiment—existed for 24 hours in a state of uncertainty. He was sick with the flu or wasn’t. He’d thrown a bullpen before Tuesday’s rainout of Game 3. Or he’d thrown it on Monday. He wanted to start, but maybe no he really didn’t. Tanner Roark was going to start, but so was Strasburg.
Nothing made sense, and given the weird collapses and misfortune that pockmark manager Dusty Baker’s career, Nationals fans and media were in a bit of a tizzy for 24 hours. As Baker pinned his team’s health issues on moldy old Chicago, Strasburg himself overruled all verdicts offered by dominating the Cubs in a 12 strikeout performance that sends the NLDS to a deciding Game 5 back in Washington. MLB.com put together a brief history of athletes beating the odds in big moments.
Now, Baker really has a tough call to make. Who does he start on Thursday in Game 5? He has Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez both fresh and ready to go. But he also has Max Scherzer, perhaps the best pitcher in baseball, on two days rest. Scherzer threw 98 pitches on Monday, so he’s not going to go out and give you six or seven innings. But are you really going to leave him on the bench in an elimination game?
Scherzer is going to pitch on Thursday, one way or the other, so the obvious thing to do is put him in his normal routine as the starter and then get him out of there before he fades. Go to Gonzalez or Roark and then your relief corps. Use your relievers to finish innings when required. Your starters to start them. Do the right thing, Dusty. Max probably only has a few strong innings to offer, but you need those innings. If you don’t, Max Scherzer may tie you up in the clubhouse and write himself in as the starter.
ESPN is reporting that current Astros’ bench coach, Alex Cora, will be part of the first round of managerial interviews for both the Detroit Tigers and the New York Mets. Apparently, the Philadelphia Phillies are also interested. Either way, they’ll all have to wait until the Astros’ season ends. As for current Astros skipper A.J. Hinch, he knows that Cora isn’t long as his sidekick, expressing certainty that Cora will join the managerial ranks before long.
According to Lynn Henning of the News, recently sacked Boston Red Sox manager, John Farrell, will not be considered for the Tigers’ managerial position. Fine by us. Meanwhile, Fredi Gonzalez and Joe McEwing, among others were reportedly interviewed last week.
The Yankees win
When you break down a team’s numbers for a season, it can be easy to forget that baseball teams are always evolving. Sometimes win-loss records are deceiving. The Indians looked like the best team in the game a few weeks ago. The Yankees were formidable but their young stars were inexperienced. Instead, it was the Yankees who were stronger. Their veteran players really stepped as C.C. Sabathia and Didi Gregorius led them to victory on Wednesday night. The Indians got several big performances in the series, but they didn’t get them from Corey Kluber, Francisco Lindor or Jose Ramirez.
Joe Girardi’s gaffe in failing to challenge a hit-by-pitch call in Game 2 is forgotten. So is the fact that the Yankees’ skipper pushed his luck a bit far with a fading Sabathia in Game 5. All that matters now is the victory, and the chance to pit their young sluggers and electric bullpen against the Houston Astros. Questions about just how much Girardi trusts Dellin Betances, or Chad Green, will be on the table as the ALCS begins.
Of course, being the Yankees, they couldn’t resist kicking the Indians while they’re down. Squandering three elimination games is rough.
Around the horn
Jon Lester, he of the yips, managed to pick off Ryan Zimmermann. Michael Taylor’s grand slam against the Cubs was the deciding blow of Game 4. Paul Sporer at RotoGraphs has his updated 2018 starting pitcher rankings. Jeff Sullivan on the expanding postseason strikezone. Baseball Prospectus gets in depth on the decision to use Justin Verlander in the Astros’ Game 4 triumph.