Every aspect of Fenway in October was worth soaking in, especially a great ballgame.
Forget the laptop. Forget the notes. Forget the cold, the lateness, the stiffness in your back and legs. Forget the uniforms, white and red, your team's hated rival, a team you grew up loathing. Forget your job, forget the badge around your neck, forget your analysis and predictions, forget everything.
A night in CBP gives an appreciation for the electricity of being there during a race.
About two weeks ago, I got an e-mail from ESPN's Joe Lunardi, the original Bracketologist whose work I eat with a spoon every winter. Joe, a big baseball guy, and I have been talking about getting together for a game now that I'm back in New York, and he wanted to invite me to a Phillies/Braves game at Citizens Bank Park during the last week of the season. I quickly accepted, and with crossed fingers, said, "Maybe it'll even be an important game." Just a couple of days ago, I was holding out similar hope, only it was for the idea that the Braves, rather than the Phillies, would be making news. After all, the Braves had been coming on strong and closed to within three games of the wild card on Tuesday night. A win Wednesday would make Thursday's game an elimination game of sorts.
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Guest writer Alex Belth caught last night's Padres-Mets game, and details Mike Piazza's second game at Shea with the Friars.
It was an uncommonly pleasant night in New York, absolutely ideal for a game in mid-May or June, never mind August. The air was clean, with little to no humidity. A steady breeze swept through the open ballpark for the duration of the evening. There were more Piazza jerseys in the crowd than any other current Met, and the Padres' catcher, rounder in the face since he left New York, received ovations whenever he stepped onto the field. A crowd just shy of 50,000 came to their feet when Piazza led off the second inning. Pedro Martinez dispatched him on four pitches, catching him looking at a beautiful curve ball for strike three--and Piazza was showered with cheers as he returned to the dugout.
But the fun was just starting. Piazza threw the fans for a loop in the bottom of the inning when Endy Chavez reached first base. Two middle-aged men with New York accents straight out of Damon Runyon sat in field box seats down the third base line. One said, "This guy is running here. They can steal all day off Piazza." Sure enough, Chavez took off for second, but to the surprise of nearly every paying customer in the joint, Piazza's throw nailed him by plenty.
Sunday was a wet, cold night filled with unlikely heroes.
The game was played in a steady downpour, though the field remained in good condition as the hard-working grounds crew quickly dried any sign of puddles. The weather didn't appear to be a factor in the game. Well, at least for the players. At times, home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson appeared to have a strike zone based on the dropping temperature. Both halves of the first inning ended with the batters as nothing more than observers.
Jonah Keri catches a pitchers' duel between the two Second City teams in this week's Game of the Week.
Sunday's game was different. Even right off the DL Prior is a constant
threat to completely dominate a game. His opponent, Jon
Garland, entered Sunday's game tied with Dontrelle
Willis for the best record in baseball at 12-2. You can
some of Garland's win barrage to luck, no question--his .253 BABIP, for
one, is well below league average, and when more balls in play start to
fall in for hits, that'll hurt him. His strikeout rate of less than one
every other inning also portends regression, as virtually no pitchers
sustain success over the long haul at that level. Still, there's a lot
be said for terrific control, which is just what Garland has shown this
year. At just over a walk and a half a game, Garland's been among the
stingiest in baseball with the free pass. Even with a good but not
HR rate (11 in 108 IP), that's enough to achieve success. Broadcaster
turned World Series-winning manager turned broadcaster Bob Brenly notes
that "Garland has been the best pitcher in baseball up to this point,"
point contradicted by several
Baseball Prospectus metrics--Roy Halladay and a
dozen others can make a better claim. But Garland's still ranked a
respectable 15th in the majors in Expected
Wins according to BP's brand spankin' new Sortable Stats, 8th if
count only pitchers with 15 starts or fewer.
I was at Safeco Field on Tuesday, watching a fast-moving game that was on pace to wrap up 3-2 Mariners in about two and a half hours, and ended up with one of the longest, craziest games I've ever attended.
I scored this game. I've been working on an article about scoring and finding a good card to match your style, and thought I'd finally settled on one. This game, of course, became the torture-test for a scorecard:
John Patterson and Juan Cruz: good riddance, or highway robbery? The Astros drop another roadblock in Morgan Ensburg's way. Itinerant pitcher Bruce Chen's destiny likely includes fitting for a few more major league uniforms. All this and more in Friday's Transaction Analysis.