Ryan Merritt vs. Marco Estrada in Toronto and John Lackey vs. Julio Urias in Los Angeles.
Corey Kluber wasn't at his best on short rest Tuesday, but by going five relatively effective innings he did allow the Indians' bullpen to catch its collective breath a bit after Trevor Bauer's abbreviated, blood-filled Game 3 start. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are both rested and presumably able to combine for at least three innings today, and even Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw had light Game 4 workloads. All of which is good, important news for Cleveland, because Ryan Merritt is making just his second career big-league start after logging a grand total of 11 innings for the Indians. Any left-handed pitcher facing the Blue Jays' righty-packed lineup is in a very tough spot, but what Merritt is being asked to do is on a whole different level.
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Jake Arrieta's season-long issues continued, Yasmani Grandal did his thing, and the Dodgers are up 2-1.
It wasn’t really a bad pitch that Jake Arrieta threw to Yasmani Grandal. He’d certainly thrown worse. When Arrieta cut loose a 3-2 sinker at 93 miles per hour in the bottom of the fourth inning on Tuesday night in Los Angeles, the Dodgers already led the Cubs 1-0, thanks to a hanging slider righteously thwacked for an RBI single by Corey Seager the inning before.
Not unlike a pitcher tipping his pitches, Wil Myers has tipped his approach at the plate.
The ultimate equalizer in the batter vs. pitcher matchup—the one thing that can turn the hardest thing to do in sports into roughly the 37th-hardest thing to do in sports (right behind catching a Brett Favre spiral)—is a pitcher who’s tipping his pitches. Suddenly a deep and nasty repertoire starts to break down--a 95 mph fastball moves in slow motion when a hitter knows it's coming and a hard-biting slider out of the same arm slot is magically easy to spit on.
Many otherwise perfectly capable pitchers have been undone by hitters picking up on their small idiosyncrasies, and although usually ironed out in time, it can take the offender a while to even realize what he’s doing wrong. What about the reverse, though? What about a hitter tipping his ... well, tipping his thought process? Is it possible that a hitter can make some type of repeatable yet barely noticeable movement to cue in the opposition as to what he’s thinking?
Corey Kluber vs. Aaron Sanchez in Toronto and Jake Arrieta vs. Rich Hill in Los Angeles.
Despite having to dip into the bullpen after just 21 pitches and two outs, the Indians rode their relievers to a gutty--perhaps “gory” is a better word--4-2 victory on Monday night. Trevor Bauer left the game in the first inning after his drone-related lacerated pinky turned the game into something out of a Saw movie, but the combined efforts of Dan Otero, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller held the vaunted Jays offense to just two runs. Seriously, at what point do we consider giving the ALCS MVP award to the entire Indians bullpen?
Cleveland refuses to lose, putting Toronto on the brink.
There’s not really a test case that can be done for “postseason magic” and for good reason: postseason magic doesn’t exist. Or, at least, it probably doesn’t exist. It 99.99 percent does not exist. There’s some strange world that it does exist in, according to Infinite Universe Theory, but that world is almost certainly not ours. And even if it were ours, even if that were at all possible, how would we prove it one way or the other? What, in the absence of empirical evidence, could we use to posit the existence or, better, non-existence of postseason magic?
What does StatCast's latest offering tell us about the hitters who launch bombs and the pitchers who serve them up?
The fruit is beginning to ripen on the StatCast vine. Today’s secret word is “barrel.” Not the wooden vessel suitable for storing wine, but a well-struck batted ball. Think, “he barreled that one up.” The nice thing about StatCast is that we now have data on how hard a player actually hit a ball, which solves for one of the great laments of batting stats throughout history. Sometimes you hit the ball dead on the nose and the shortstop makes an amazing catch. The batter did everything right and, for his efforts, he's now 0-for-1. (Worse, the guy after you dinks a little dying quail that just happens to go over the second baseman’s head and gets a hit.)
Notes on Bradley Zimmer, Ryan McBroom, Austin Voth, and more.
Hitter of the Day:
Ryan McBroom, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays (Mesa Solar Sox): 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, K. More like Ryan Mc-Boom, amiright? Eh? Eh? Eh. McBroom was one of just three hitters to cross the 20-homer threshold in the notoriously stingy Florida State League this year. That production’s a good and necessary thing for his big-league aspirations, as his well-below-average speed and outfield instincts leave him pinned to first, where his questionable hit tool makes him a fringier prospect.
After the Indians took the first two games of the series in Cleveland, the Blue Jays turn to Opening Day starter Marcus Stroman to avoid falling behind 3-0. The Indians, meanwhile, will start Trevor Bauer as they look to continue their loss-free postseason.
October baseball makes new heroes every year, but what exactly is a baseball hero?
I’ll admit it: I struggle with the postseason. As undeniable as the drama and the excitement of do-or-die baseball are, and the unforgettable moments that arise from it, I seem to be lacking some genetic predisposition the rest of the world shares toward October. All playoffs are, to some degree, a balance between measuring greatness and maximizing spectacle. The trouble is the sport itself: the unpredictability embedded into the game―the same force that allows even unwatchable teams to win a third of the time―prevents a single championship game or even a dozen from being conclusive. We have to sacrifice that, give up the notion that our champions are fully proven, for the thrill of the playoffs and their heroic moments.
If sports are our ultimate realization of reality television, of unscripted drama, the playoffs are where this theme meets resistance. Thirty years ago Bill James beat back against the narratives that dominated not just the sport itself but how we understood it. But in October, when the stakes are high, those forces return and overwhelm us. Baseball reveals itself to be, at least for one city each year, a perfect story with heroes and happy endings, predestination writ large. But to accept the narrative arc and its climax, we also make a deal, and that deal requires some cognitive dissonance.