Some things to talk about while the offseason slowly creeps up on us all...
1) That game, man
This series is obviously trying to kill every Astros and Dodgers fan it can. During Game 5, I turned the TV off when the Dodgers went up 4-0 with Clayton Kershaw dealing through three. We watched a Stranger Things episode instead.
After Yuli Gurriel’s home run tied it, we were back in, but that roller coaster kept churning. The Astros were up and down and up and down and it was just so exhausting.
Look at this dang win probability graph from last night.
Those first four innings, with Kershaw on the mound and pitching well, that I understand. You can see the inevitability of this series swinging back to L.A. in those innings. Then, things shift and it gets crazy.
But, are you really surprised Houston came back? How many of you watched that huge comeback in Minnesota earlier this year? I was an idiot back then, too, and we went to see a movie instead of watching one of the best comebacks of the season.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a Dodgers fan after last night. I can remember the bad and the good at the same time. Did George Springer misplay that ball in the outfield, leading to an unnecessary run? Sure, but he made up for it on the first pitch of the next inning with the most authoritative Springer Dinger we’ve seen in a while.
Did we all have zero confidence in the bullpen? Absolutely and we’ll explore that more in the next item. The Dodgers probably don’t feel as cozy about Yasiel Puig’s two-run Crawford Boxes special as they could, since the outcome didn’t turn in their favor.
It’s a shame. This has been an outstanding World Series. The Texans’ loss to Seattle was great football game; it’s hard to be mad at the Texans for that (even if fans can find a way). Losing Game 5 after all those dips and peaks would have been crushing.
Instead, the Astros sit a game away from winning it all. Sure, their homegrown ace got rocked, they lost their closer and the rest of their dang bullpen to general incompetence, Collin McHugh AND Brad Peacock got used, but hey, Justin Verlander is on the mound.
Let’s just hope he keeps Astros fans out of a glass case of emotions for one game.
2) I hate relievers
Relievers? Huh. What are they good for? Absolutely nothing.
The thing about relievers is this: they’re terrible. Even the good ones are always lurking on the edge of being awful, awful pitchers who tear out your heart and step on it repeatedly.
Billy Wagner? Blew so many saves. Mariano Rivera? He stunk in 2004. Dennis Eckersley? Kirk Gibson says hello.
If there were one defining tenet of my time at TCB, it’s that relievers are fungible and you should never trust them for more than a year or so.
Except that the concept can fly out the window. When the Astros traded for Ken Giles, it seemed like a great move. He was a fireballing reliever who looked unhittable. He was young to boot. He’d be here a while. Team control outweighed reliever volatility.
And then Giles was horrible for a couple months when he got to Houston. It doesn’t matter that he was quite good, maybe excellent, for a year and a half. He stunk in his first impression in Houston and he’s stunk in the playoffs.
Former All-Star Will Harris has been great since Houston plucked him off waivers from Arizona. I remember heading into his first spring training with the team; the TCB staff wasn’t sure he would make the roster. We knew the Astros front office liked him a lot, but he was an unknown commodity. He’s done fairly well since.
Yet, Harris has had some maddening second-half slumps for the last three years. He was the closer, then he wasn’t. Same with Luke Gregerson. He’s been a great reliever for years now. I bet Astros’ fans would riot if he were brought into a meaningful World Series game.
Even Chris Devenski, owner of the Circle of Death, has been mortal. I blame the Game of Thrones tie-in this summer. Everyone on that show dies. I guess it was Devenski’s turn.
It’s not like the Astros are unique here. Their bullpen has been atrocious and untrustworthy, but the Dodgers have been just as bad. How many times in Games 1 and 2 did you hear Joe Buck gush about how great the Dodgers bullpen has been, which caused you to spontaneously vomit. No? Was that just me?
Yet, there was Brandon Morrow, getting lit up like a sparkler on July 4th. How he stayed in to pitch to four batters is beyond me. Even Kenley Jansen has been beaten twice now. Jansen was as lights-out as any closer in baseball this year.
Maybe it’s the balls. They’re different and weird and causing all these dingers. But maybe it’s because relievers are horrible and should never be trusted. I don’t care how many articles FanGraphs writes about them.
3) This ridiculous lineup
One of the best parts of this year has been how deep the lineup is. On any given night, it could be Marwin hitting a game-winning two-run double, or Yuli smashing a high fastball off the wall. But, it’s just as likely that Springer hits a Dinger, Correa comes up with a big play or Altuve does Altuve things (definition: hitting baseballs very hard and very well).
Or, like last night, the hero could be Alex Bregman. The compensation for Brady Aiken has worked out pretty well, I’d say. The best part of this lineup is how it complements each piece so well. Bregman isn’t a classic power third baseman, but he is an elite guy at putting the bat to the ball. That’s what made his hit last night so special. Did you see where Jansen made that pitch?
Bregman took a cutter that couldn’t have been thrown any better and sent it into left field. The dude is special. With him and Altuve, Houston has two elite contact guys who have some pop. In Correa, they have a pretty well-rounded hitter who does it all, with a little more power than his other two infielders. Springer is the slugger who is making more contact this year than normal. Gattis still mashes the ball well. Yuli sees the ball and hits the ball. Josh Reddick gets on base like a machine, hits for power and keeps his batting average high. Even Jake Marisnick had a good year at the plate.
Every piece fits into the system. This roster isn’t a one-trick pony like they’ve been in the past during this rebuild. They also don’t have many weak spots. McCann isn’t great, but he has 15-homer power. Carlos Beltran hasn’t played much at all in the playoffs, but he did have that clutch game-winning hit against the Red Sox.
Compare that to 2005, when Houston had so many black holes in its lineup. That was the thing about Chris Burke’s home run against Atlanta. It was exciting because it was unexpected. Ditto Ausmus’ home run earlier in that game.
This Houston team doesn’t have that problem. The top four are special, but everyone can do damage. Everyone HAS done damage in this series.
What’s crazy is that the Dodgers have a deep lineup too. I’ve been very impressed with their strike zone discipline. It drives me crazy seeing the umpire miss calls near the plate, but the Dodgers to a man have a great idea of what pitches are in the zone and which they should be swinging at.
Houston’s lineup has just been a bit better through these five World Series games. It’s what has made this series so memorable. These are two great teams trading blows like a prizefight. I love it so much and may end up dead by the end of this series. Send help.