A few notes on Game Three, the longest World Series game ever…
*John Thorn's comment: "The Blum is off the 'stros."
*Houston really should have won. The Sox got very little done offensively in 12 of the 14 innings, and the Astros left 15 men on base. I still don’t know quite how Orlando Hernandez escaped that ninth-inning jam, when Houston had Burke on third and Biggio on first with only one out.
I thought it was a tactical mistake on Houston’s part to not have Willy Taveras, who we are constantly reminded is a good bunter, lay down at least one squeeze attempt. Taveras is only in the majors because he’s a littleball guy—bunt, slap, and steal—and while he tried to slap the ball the other way to get the run home, he wasn’t able to hit Hernandez’ outstanding assortment of twisting breaking balls. The Sox saw what Taveras was trying to do and adjusted accordingly, throwing him nothing he could hit.
*Despite using nine pitchers last night, the White Sox’ bullpen is in fairly good shape. Bobby Jenks threw two innings, but Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said after the game that even Jenks could pitch tonight if necessary. Neil Cotts, Cliff Politte, and Luis Vizcaino combined to throw just 33 pitches.
Of a bit more concern are the injuries to Dustin Hermanson (back) and Orlando Hernandez (neck). Hermanson’s back limits his ability to follow through on his delivery, and Hernandez had to come out after walking four men in an inning plus. Tough to say if either one can pitch again in the series.
The biggest X-factor in this game for the Sox was the performance of Damaso Marte. Prior to the series, Gary Gillette and I thought that Marte could come up big if the team would only call on him, and the lefty—the last man in the bullpen—threw 1.2 scoreless innings and would have finished the game if Juan Uribe hadn’t kicked a two-out, last of the 14th ground ball. As it is, Marte got the win, casting off some of his reputation as a choker with a major league performance.
*Morgan Ensberg’s double play in the 14th inning was one of the finest clutch defensive plays I’ve seen. Ensberg doesn’t get a lot of ink for his glovework, but his range is a bit above average and he has decent footwork.
Ensberg’s almost ridiculously open batting stance, which he adopted this year, drew comparisons to that of Andres Galarraga from Buck and McCarver, but Ensberg is different either from Galarraga or Tony Batista, the former Expos and Orioles infielder who spent 2005 in Japan, who also has a freakishly open stance. Ensberg walked 85 times this past season as well as slamming 36 homers, and neither Batista nor Galarraga ever showed that kind of batting eye.
*You know, one of the things that people say (and I’ve been guilty of this) about Japanese players who come to the United States is that they’re well schooled in the fundamentals. Japan is supposed to be famous for its drills and exercises to make sure that players don’t miss signs, make mental mistakes, etc., etc.
But watching Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi this season, and especially in the postseason, I've seen a guy who makes a LOT of mental mistakes. Last night he didn’t tag up on a fly ball despite Astros center fielder Willy Taveras giving
him third base. He’s had other high-profile goofs this postseason, including bad throws on double plays and that neighborhood-play screw-up in the ALCS, and Iguchi also showed this season that despite being touted as a contact hitter, he strikes out an awful lot.
*Fox’ tendency to show faces—celebrity faces, beautiful faces, faces seemingly deep in thought—between every pitch gets more irritating all the time. It’s as if Fox’ directors refuse to show the field when “nothing is going on,” i.e. between pitches.
And, as any baseball fan over the age of seven knows, between pitches is when things are really happening; fielders are moving into position, baserunners are taking their leads, pitchers and catchers are engaging in their wordless dialogue. But as far as Fox is concerned, it’s more important to show close-up shots of fans intently staring at the field rather than allow US, the viewers, to stare intently at the field.
*Was that Shrub sitting with Barbara Bitch, er, Bush, last night? I couldn't tell if that was George's trademark smirk or possibly Jeb's, or someone else's. How about that reaction shot of Barbara when MLB did its short salute to the late Rosa Parks? Does anyone really think Barbara Bush gives a good goddamn about the legacy of Rosa Parks?? What an insult.
One thing you notice about games in Houston is that Astros owner Drayton McLane and the Bushes tend to sit in high-profile, high-visibility, behind-the-plate seats. At Comiskey, Jerry Reinsdorf sits in an owner's box. Take from that what you will, but I'm glad not to have to see the Sox owner every time the center-field camera focuses on home plate. And that nice behind-the-plate seat taken up by a secret service agent assigned to guard Barbara? I'm sure a fan would have loved a chance to sit there.
*While not a generally a fan of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, I have to give them credit for their job last night. Buck was able to retain his level of intensity for what was an extremely LONG broadcast, and McCarver didn’t let loose with a string of inappropriate, hamhanded pseudo-punning references.
McCarver did point out that Jason Lane of the Astros is an oddity in baseball in that he bats righthanded and throws left—not many players do this. McCarver also noted that one of his own former St. Louis teammates, Carl Warwick, was also a BR/TL, and additionally pointed out that Warwick got three pinch-hits in the 1964 World Series.
*Just below the surface of Buck and McCarver’s commentary was a strong level of dissatisfaction with the job done by plate umpire Jerry Layne, whose strike zone was inconsistent, especially during the early innings. Umpires have one of the toughest jobs in sports, but a series of high-profile mistakes in several series this post-season have led to the usual calls for the use of instant replay in “key situations.”
I truly hope that instant replay isn’t adopted, not because “human error” is part of baseball but rather because the use of replay will delay the game and remove fans from the process. Four umpires staring at a TV screen isn’t my idea of fun, and the number of games that are truly lost by “bad calls” isn’t nearly enough to make baseball into hockey or football.
*Phil Garner used to be a real red-ass when he managed the Brewers, ordering his pitchers to knock down hitters, running wild on the bases, and overusing his starters. He’s mellowed a bit since coming to Houston, but last night threw a chair after Ezequiel Astacio allowed Geoff Blum’s 14th inning homer on a 2-0 pitch and engaged in a shouting match with Guillen and White Sox outfielder Carl Everett, both of whom questioned Roy Oswalt’s plunking of Joe Crede in the fifth. Garner losing his cool is totally understandable—it’s the World Series, and his team HAD to have that game—but it does indicate that the Astros may be beat.