There are some things about which baseball players ought not to pop off, when it comes to their former clubs, especially when they’re about to face said clubs in a World Series. Things like .220/.273/.300 slash lines against their former teams. Things like their .258/.307/.335 slash lines when playing for said former teams, not to mention their measly two home runs and nine runs batted in.
If Alex Cora ever needs to remind himself about determination, he has only to look at an at-bat he had as a Dodger against the Cubs 12 May 2004. On that date, at 9:23 Pacific time, in that at-bat, he graduated from utilityman to mini-legend.
With Matt Clement on the mound, Cora looked at ball one up and away. Then it went: called strike. Ball two. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Two-run homer.
Jose Altuve said after Game Six that he expected both the Astros and the Yankees would leave everything on the field in Game Seven of the American League Championship Series. He may have been too polite to say that, except for one Game Six burst, the Yankees may have left everything behind in New York.
This was the game Justin Verlander lived for from the first time he donned an Astros uniform this year. He’s 3-1 with a 1.49 ERA lifetime in postseason elimination games. He pitched a complete game masterpiece in Game Two of this American League Championship Series.
Are the Nationals starting to feel like the worst of George Steinbrenner in the 1980s? Have they started a team trend in which the manager gets fewer chances to bring them to the Promised Land? You might think so now that Dusty Baker has refused a return engagement.
Baker led the Nats to back-to-back National League division series and the Nats never got past either. But letting him walk after this year’s skirmish with the Cubs that ended in a cage match of a comedy of errors just doesn’t seem right.
Oh, well. Cinderella learned the hard way that fairy godmothers have only limited extra dispensations. Joe Hardy learned the harder way that you can fool the devil only once, after you were fool enough to cut a deal with him in the first place.
And if Applegate needed any way to hammer the point home, he couldn’t have chosen better than Clayton Kershaw looking like near-vintage Clayton Kershaw when he needed most to look that way in a postseason game.
Or, turning the Cub bullpen into arsonists.
This was not in the Astros’ plans. Weren’t their starting pitchers, fortified by Justin Verlander’s arrival, supposed to keep these Yankees in check even when the American League Championship Series moved to the south Bronx? Enough that even their rickety bullpen could keep the Baby Bombers in their cribs?
They’re probably thinking now that it’s a bloody good thing they have a) the series home field advantage, and b) Verlander to pitch Game Six back in Houston. They’re probably also hoping Lance McCullers is willing to take the ball on somewhat short rest in a Game Seven if there is a Game Seven.
Cinderella bought one extra day, at minimum, before the coach turns back to a pumpkin. Joe Hardy had Applegate blocked at all gates. A guy who began Wednesday evening having gone 0-for-the-postseason at the plate hit two out.
And nobody had to steal a base with two out in the bottom of the ninth, either. It didn’t get that far in Wrigley Field. If it had, instead of singing “Go, Cubs, Go!” when it ended in the arduous 3-2 Cubs win, Cub Country would have been singing the Rolling Stones’s chestnut, “19th Nervous Breakdown.”
Well, it’s not like it’s unprecedented. But coming back from a 3-0 League Championship Series deficit isn’t necessarily a day at the beach, or even along Lake Michigan. And the Cubs—who now have to channel their inner 2004 Red Sox to do it—know it only too well.
The good news is that the Cubs don’t come into Game Four having to shake off anything even close to the 19-8 blowout the Yankees dropped on those Red Sox in Game Three of their ALCS.
Yankee fans thought they could start to quit worrying about Aaron Judge coming out of a troubling postseason slump when he hit a mistake into the left field seats Monday night to finish the Yankee scoring. That was Game Three. In Game Four, Judge made sure they could. For now, anyway.
Just don’t ask the Leaning Tower of 161st Street how his boyhood dreams of hitting for distance in the south Bronx compares to actually up and doing it.