Thursday, October 20, 2011

World Series Game 2: Three Good, Three Bad

by Jason Wojciechowski

Sure, let's make this a running thing. Three favorites and three unfavorites from Game Two of the World Series.

Favorites

First. Ian Kinsler was on third in the top of the fourth with Adrian Beltre at the plate. Beltre smashed a hard one hop grounder right at Kinsler, standing, as he is supposed to, in foul territory. Kinsler recoiled and ducked his head to ensure that he would survive to get his World Series share for his family, allowing the ball to glance off his shoulder and deflect harmlessly away.

So I like near-death experiences, right? No: after the play, Kinsler, with the director having gone to the isolation shot on him, gave Adrian Beltre a little Jay-Z brush-the-shoulders-off move. Laugh in the face of the Reaper, Ian Kinsler! Well done.

Second. This is really two plays, but I have to if I want to include all the good stuff from this game. In the bottom of the fourth and the bottom of the fifth, Elvis Andrus made plays on grounders up the middle, flipping to Ian Kinsler for pretty outs each time. In the fourth, Andrus kept his feet and made a toss to Kinsler, who bare-handed the ball, touched second, and threw to first for the double-play all in one smooth motion. He styled it a little, certainly, but I won't begrudge the man providing us all a little aesthetic pleasure in the midst of a tense, hard-fought game.

In the fifth, with two outs, Andrus had to dive to make the stop. From his stomach, he flipped the ball, using just his glove, accurately and on time to Kinsler for the last out of the inning. You see the glove-flip play from time to time, usually in exactly this kind of circumstance, where there isn't time to get up or make the transfer to the throwing hand, but the "throw" rarely ends up as accurate as Andrus managed here.

Third. In the bottom of the seventh, with some Cardinal or other on first and Nick Punto on second, Adrian Beltre fielded a two-out grounder and turned to meet Punto to tag him for the last out. Punto, rather than pausing to force Beltre to make a play or running into the easy out, decided to circumnavigate third base and head for home. He was called out of the baseline by about fifteen feet and the frame ended, but that didn't stop him from continuing all the way to his destination. Just in case the umpire changed his mind? Who knows. But credit Punto for his creative decision to test the umpire's knowledge of the rulebook.

Unfavorites

First. Everything about the Jason Motte / Arthur Rhodes / Josh Hamilton nonsense in the top of the ninth bugged me. To recap: Jason Motte allowed a single, stolen base, and single to start the ninth, leaving runners on second and third (see Second to find out how Elvis Andrus got to second) with nobody out. With the lefty Josh Hamilton coming up, Motte not really hitting his spots, and a slim 1-0 lead, Tony La Russa came to the mound and called for Arthur Rhodes.

Here's the problem: the Cardinals needed strikeouts, Hamilton is gimpy because of a groin problem (resulting in an all-arms swing that has not produced a pretty batting line), and four right-handed batters were due up next. Going for the lefty-lefty matchup and resigning yourself to Lance Lynn against the next couple of hitters instead of Motte strikes me as a poor attempt to get an advantage.

The move didn't work out, of course, as Hamilton hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game (and move Andrus to third) and Michael Young hit one off of Lynn to give Texas the lead. That's irrelevant, though -- the process is what matters, and I think La Russa's process was highly questionable.

That's not even to mention that Arthur Rhodes, facing a guy with an all-arms swing who cannot extend at all, left the first pitch up and well in reach, allowing Hamilton to loft the ball to right field for an easy sacrifice fly. That's not how you execute in that situation, even if you did once face Ted Williams.

Second. Now. How did a single-steal-single result in runners being on second and third in the ninth inning? Because Albert Pujols let a mediocre Jon Jay throw back to the infield skip away from him for no good reason at all. Tim McCarver deserves his own Unfavorite for making a two-minute excuse for Pujols coming back from commercial between innings, but the simple facts are these: Jon Jay threw the ball back to the infield in slightly non-optimal fashion, forcing Pujols to move a few feet to his left to field the ball; Pujols stood still for far too long, apparently misreading the throw and thinking it was coming much closer to him than it actually was; by the time he did start moving, it was too late for him to do anything but wave at the ball in vain; worst of all, Pujols actually tipped the ball with his glove, slowing it down on its way to Yadier Molina at the plate, giving Elvis Andrus the time he needed to make a dash to second base, where he arrived ahead of the throw.

Thus was Andrus in a position to move to third base on Josh Hamilton's fly ball, and thus was Andrus on third for Michael Young to drive home with a fly ball of his own, and thus were the Rangers able to take advantage of a gift and even the series at one game apiece.

Third. I'm pretty short of Unfavorites if I'm mentioning this, but: Michael Young needs a little more fielding practice on the basics at first base. In the bottom of the seventh, with a runner on, Nick Punto hit a fairly hard grounder to Young's right. In normal fielding position, he'd have made this play easily. As it was, though, Young barely moved off the bag with the pitch and thus was not in front of the path of the ball. It deflected off his glove and into right for a single.

It wasn't a horrendous play, but it was a play that I'd expect a professional first baseman who understands the positioning required at first base to make.


That's all! Back Saturday, I'm sure, with more.

2 comments:

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

I'm liking these three favorite and three not favorite things. Great way to sum things up. Keep it going.

Jason Wojciechowski said...

Will do!