Monday, October 22, 2018

A Quick Clinic on Situational Hitting

It's been bothering me ever since the Yanks' last inning of the season exactly where I'd seen that before.  Yankees down to the Red Sox by three runs, in a do-or-die playoff situation...

Now I remember:  October 16, 2003.  Game 7 of the ALCS, the game most famous for Ma Boone's walk-off home run, and Mariano's amazing three shutout innings.

But before we could get to that, there was the bottom of the eighth inning.   Let's compare that with the ninth inning of Game 4, ALDS, 2018.

2018:

Red Sox have their closer Craig Kimbrel, in to pitch the ninth with a 4-1 lead.  Kimbrel, statistically, is one of the best closers in baseball, but he's faltered a little down the stretch and now can't find the plate with one of Hedy Lamar's sonar sets.

How do the Yankees respond?

Aaron Judge draws a walk on four pitches.

Didi Gregorius—in perhaps his last at-bat as a Yankee—battles Kimbrel and nudges a single through the right side on a 1-2 count.  Two on, none out.

Giancarlo Stanton strikes out on four pitches, swinging at at least two that are not close to the strike zone.  One out.

Luke Voit draws a walk on four pitches, loading the bases.

Neil Walker is hit by the first pitch he sees, forcing in a run.  4-2, Red Sox.

ICS Sanchez works the count to 3-2 and swinging for the fences every time, hits a long sacrifice fly.  Two out, men on first and second.  4-3 Red Sox.

Gleyber Torres hits a slow groundball to third on a 1-2 pitch, and takes longer to get to first base than the No. 1 train does to get to Time Square with a sick passenger alert and a police action.  Game over.  Red Sox win.

2003:

The Red Sox decide to leave Pedro Martinez in to pitch the 8th, despite the fact that he has thrown 100 pitches and they have a 5-2 lead.  In fairness, though, Pedro has allowed only six hits and one walk while striking out eight, and the only Yankees runs have come on two solo homers by Jason Giambi.

He is also one of the greatest pitchers of all time.

Nick Johnson battles Pedro to a 3-2 count, but pops out to short.  One out.

Derek Jeter hits a double on an 0-2 count to right field.  The ball seems eminently catchable, but sails over the head of Trot Nixon, who is playing too far in (Think Jeter didn't know that?).  Man on second.

Bernie Williams lines a single into center on a 2-2 count.  This ball, too, seems like it will hang up long enough to be caught, but for some reason Johnny Damon is playing very far back (Think Bernie didn't know that?).  Jeter scores.  Man on first.  Red Sox lead, 5-3.

Hideki Matsui, on an 0-2 count, drills a double down the right field line.  Bernie doesn't score only because some idiot reaches out and touches the ball.  Men on second and third.

Jorge Posada, on a 2-2 count, hits a flair into the Bermuda Triangle of centerfield.  Bernie scores, Matsui scores.  Posada hustles to second when nobody covers the bag.  Game tied, 5-5.


At that point, of course, the Sox finally pulled Pedro for a reliever, and got out of the inning—only to lose in the 11th.

In each case, the Yanks got a break:  Pedro was left in way too long, Kimbrel was crazy wild.

But only in one case, did a parade of veteran Yankees hitters stay within themselves and manage to plate the necessary three runs.  Unlike Stanton and Sanchez, nobody in 2003 was up there just trying to wallop one over the fence.  Four different hitters took what Pedro would give them, and—in the words of that original Yankee, Wee Willie Keeler—hit 'em where they ain't.

This is the difference between a team that's just hoping to get lucky—maybe Sanchez's ball sails a little more—and one that is making its luck, and bringing the game to the opponent.






3 comments:

13bit said...

Exactamundo and good night, Mr Calabash.

el duque said...

It still hurts.

Unknown said...

We have idiots. We used to have ballplayers.