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October 8, 2013

Playoff Prospectus

ALDS Game Three Recap: Rays 5, Red Sox 4

by Zachary Levine

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My parents aren’t those stereotypical Jewish parents who were going to be disappointed if their kid didn’t turn out to be a doctor or a lawyer. They were pretty low pressure about the whole career thing. In fact, I think they were secretly (or not so secretly) pleased when I decided to go into baseball writing, because let’s face it; they can read my writing and feel like they’re watching their son perform. They couldn’t exactly go watch me perform a tracheotomy, anything you might have seen in the Junior Mint episode be damned.

I still remember the day I told them, too. I was away at college and called on the phone to tell them that I was following my real dream. I was going to write about and analyze baseball. And someday I would be asked to break down in great detail what may have shifted the odds by one or two percent and tell people the important lessons to take away from a game in which…

  • The Rays’ go-ahead run in the eighth inning was set up by two infielders colliding with each other after a play where everybody forgot to cover first base following—and here’s the weird one—a James Loney walk.

  • An American League team decided to give up the designated hitter because it had to take out its right fielder, who had been 0-for-12 on series, with cramping in his legs.

  • This was instead of putting in a player who had been a good enough hitter to be an everyday player as recently as the previous game and deemed a competent enough fielder to start in the outfield for his previous employer as recently as this year.

  • Said player, whom the internet collective was calling for to be benched yesterday, came in later and drove in the game-winning run.

  • The guy everybody did want and whom things like “actual analysis” would probably support, struck out on three pitches with the bases loaded and tried his hand at bunting in a huge spot in the eighth and looked even worse. And his team won.

  • That was the same team that seemed to get totally screwed by two calls on the bases at absolutely crucial times, one of which led to a two-run inning.

  • A two-run inning for a team that had already won the series two days earlier according to its local paper and had a three-run lead, thus making it even more over, I guess?

  • And the only reason it was even close was that the Rays’ pitcher could field his position well enough and the Red Sox struggled with it, which somehow all my pregame analysis and all the other exhaustive looks at every last element of such a momentous game failed to capture.

  • We might have needed to see less of the Red Sox bullpen, though, had Clay Buchholz not had to throw 18 extra pitches because Evan Longoria hit a freakin’ catwalk in a baseball stadium with a popup and then hit a freakin’ catwalk in a baseball stadium with another popup.

  • The Rays essentially won an ALDS game because of a classic NL double-switch in which Jose Lobaton was inserted into the pitcher’s spot.

  • Lobaton hit a game-winning home run.

  • Against Koji Uehara, the best reliever in baseball this year.

  • This went far beyond “can’t predict baseball, Suzyn” to become the rare game that reached the point somewhere in its four bizarre hours of “why bother even analyzing it; I’ll try again tomorrow.”

  • Lawyering would be a nice career, right?

Zachary Levine is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Zachary's other articles. You can contact Zachary by clicking here

Related Content:  Boston Red Sox,  Tampa Bay Rays

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