Ask Hal: Frazier’s value no mystery to Baker

Published: Saturday, September 01, 2012 @ 5:27 PM
Updated: Saturday, September 01, 2012 @ 11:22 PM

Question of the week

Q: How could the Dodgers and Red Sox make such a big trade after the trading deadline and wouldn’t somebody have grabbed those guys off the waiver wire? — Pat, Springboro

A: The July 31 trade deadline is a misnomer. Up until July 31 teams can trade players without first putting them on waivers. That doesn’t mean trades can’t be made after July 31. But after that date, players must be put on waivers, which means any team can claim them. If no team claims them, they can be traded. Apparently nobody wanted Boston’s Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez (and don’t forget Nick Punto). If they claimed them they’d have to take their multi-year, very expensive contracts and some probably perceived them as troublemakers because they couldn’t get along with manager Bobby Valentine. Hey, who CAN get along with Valentine?

Hall-of-fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about America’s pastime. If you’d like to tap into that knowledge, send a question to halmccoy1@hotmail.com. For more Ask Hal, log on to DaytonDailyNews.com/reds.

Q: Last weekend I saw the number “11” etched on the field behind second base. Did that bring back memories for you of Roy McMillan, the former slick-fielding Reds shortstop? — Dave, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek

A: Still anti-Barry Larkin, eh? No, it didn’t. Roy McMillan is before even my time and his .243 batting average doesn’t remind me of Larkin’s .295 average. Nor did that “11” remind me of Junior Kennedy, Dann Bilardello or Bob “Beetle” Bailey.

Q: In light of the Scott Rolen-Todd Frazier debate at third base, who is the last veteran player that manager Dusty Baker moved aside to make room for a young, upcoming player? — Mike, Beavercreek

A: In mid-season? None that I can recall because Baker likes to see young players prove themselves before plunking them into the lineup. And does Scott Rolen deserve to lose his job after the way he has played since the All-Star break? Everybody is concerned about Todd Frazier. Fear not. Baker wants to win just as much as any fan and he’ll figure out plentiful playing time for a Rookie of the Year (who’s Bryce Harper, anyway?).

Q: Do you think Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman will be 1-2 in the Cy Young voting? — Stan, Glide, Oregon

A: Highly doubtful. For the Cy Young Award, voters list their top three. That’s it. I don’t see any voter putting two Reds on a three-man ballot. Given a choice, they’ll pick Cueto because he is a starter and does lead the majors in wins. Chapman? He can put on a raincoat, boots and a helmet right now because he will win Fireman of the Year Award that goes to the top relief pitcher.

Q: The assumption is that Scott Rolen will retire after this season. If he does, what are the chances the Reds would hire him as a coach because of his value in character and influence? — Dennis, Centerville

A: Can you coach with a bad back and a bad shoulder? Of course you can, and Rolen, with his low-key approach and extensive knowledge will be a top-shelf asset — for his son’s team. Rolen is a solid family man who drives back and forth between Cincinnati and Jasper, Ind., to live with his family during baseball season. And that’s probably where he’ll be after next year — in the thriving metropolis of Jasper.

Q: Chase Field in Arizona has a path from pitcher’s mound to home plate. How many parks have that and wouldn’t it be a hindrance to bunters? — Karen, Beavercreek, Twp.

A: Being old school and a dinosaur, I remember when a lot of parks had that path and I thought it was rather nifty. Check out old black-and-white film of major-league games and you’ll see it. For some reason, maybe to save on grass seed, teams got away from it and Arizona revived it. As for bunting, if you bunt a ball straight toward the pitcher it is a bad bunt anyway and the path has no effect.

Q: How many games do you think the Big Red Machine would win in Great American Ball Park and how many home runs and RBIs would George Foster have? — Lee, Dayton

A: Since most of those guys are in their 60s now, probably not very many. Foster is 63, but looks in good enough shape to hit a few. If you mean in their prime, well, the current Reds have the best home record in the National League, so I don’t see the BRM doing a whole lot better, although the competition was better back then. As for home runs in GABP, they might have set unfathomable records, and done it without steroids. And they might have carried out a few fans on stretchers after getting conked with home run balls.

Q: What is a Texas Leaguer, a term I used to hear often but don’t much anymore? Thom Brennaman now refers to them as bleeders. — Earl, Tipp City

A: A Texas Leaguer is a bloop hit that plops on the grass just out of reach of an infielder and just in front of an outfielder. Actually, when Brennaman calls a hit a bleeder he is referring to a slow ground ball that barely eludes a diving infielder and trickles into the outfield for a hit. The term Texas Leaguer came into being when Ollie Pickering was called up from the Texas League and had seven straight bloop hits and a writer wrote, “There goes Pickering with another of those Texas Leaguer singles.” Players now refer to them as flares or gork hits.

Q: When judging a team’s offense all emphasis is put on average, home runs and on-base percentage, but shouldn’t more emphasis be put on total extra-base hits? The first-place Reds lead the National League in extra-base hits. — Mark, Columbus

A: I leave numbers to my math-teaching wife, Nadine. The only numbers that concern me are wins and losses, because that determines who goes to the playoffs. How they do it matters not — average, home runs, on-base percentage, extra-base hits, pitching, fielding or the amount of chicken eaten in the clubhouse. Only one thing matters, and that’s wins. Do what you want with how they are acquired.

Q: How many balls does Drew Stubbs get to that Chris Heisey wouldn’t and how many rallies are killed because Stubbs can’t get the bat on the ball? Wayne, Beavercreek

A: Stubbs gets to more balls than Roger Federer. Did you see the two balls in the last week that Heisey tried to catch on a dive and they bounced past him? Defensively, there is no comparison. As for strikeouts, Stubbs whiffs 32 percent of the time and Heisey whiffs 23 percent. It is beyond me why when a team is running away with the division and on pace for 97 wins that fans want manager Dusty Baker to switch his lineup because of their perception that one player might be better than another if he played every day. There is much more to figure into the equation than strikeouts.

Baseball close to ‘McScrooge’ World Series

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 12:50 AM

Baseball is just a pair of losses away from a Scrooge McDuck World Series that would involve the game’s two richest franchises — the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Money talks. Real loud.

After losing the first two games in Houston, the Yankees completed a three-game sweep in New York with a 5-0 victory Wednesday afternoon over the Astros, headlined by the pitching of Masahiro Tanaka.

Just as they did in the American League Division Series when they fell behind two games to none to the Cleveland Indians, the Yankees fell behind the Astros two games to none.

For the Yankees, it appears that’s just where they want to be. Now they return to Houston with a three games to two lead over the Astros, needing just one win to qualify for the World Series.

They face a daunting task, though, in Game 6 because Astros ace Justin Verlander awaits them. Verlander pitched a complete game five-hitter and struck out 13 during a 2-1 victory in Game Two in Houston.

On Wednesday, though, it was the Yankees getting the pitching — Masahiro Tanaka gave up no runs and three hits over seven innings with one walk and eight strikeouts. Tommy Kahnle finished it with two scoreless innings (one hit).

Gary Sanchez had two hits, including a home run and drove in two, Didi Gregorius had two hits and drove in a run and Aaron Judge slammed a double and drove in a run.

MEANWHILE, THE CHICAGO CUBS, down three games to none to the Los Angeles Dodgers, fended off elimination Wednesday night with a 3-2 victory. But the Cubs need to do it three more times in a row to return to the World Series to defend their 2016 championship.

The Cubs were saved by the arm of pitcher Jake Arrieta and the bat of Javier Baez. Arrieta pitched a gut-wrenching 6 2/3 innings and held the Dodgers to one run (a homer by Cody Bellinger).

Second baseman Baez played the first few games of the playoffs more like singer Joan Baez (‘Blowin’ in the Wind’) than a major league baseball player. He was 0 for 20 when Game Four began.

But on Wednesday, batting eighth after he was benched for Game Three, Baez used the outward blowing wind to crunch two home runs.

Catcher Willson Contreras started it all, though, with a home run off LA starter Alex Wood in the second inning that might have shattered a window in the John Hancock Tower if the left field scoreboard hadn’t stopped it. They said it traveled 491 feet and gave the Cubs 1-0 lead.

One out later Baez connected for his first home run to give Arrieta a 2—0 lead. Bellinger drilled his home run to right field in the third to cut the lead to 2-1, then Baez tucked one inside the left field foul pole for his second home run, this one in the fifth to push it back to 3-1.

Arrieta, a free agent-to-be, may have pitched his last game for the Cubs unless the Chicago northsiders can stage a Houdini comeback.

If it was his last, he made it memorable — 6 2/3 innings, one run, three hits, five walks and nine strikeouts. Walks put him in hot water a few times but he was able to toss cold water on all Dodger uprisings.

With two outs in the first he walked Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig singled, but he struck out Andre Ethier.

After Bellinger’s home run in the third, Arrietta walked Yasmani Grandal with one out in the fourth. That problem was alleviated when first baseman Anthony Rizzo started a touch first and throw to second for a tag double play on Chase Utley.

Justin Turner singled to begin the sixth, but Arrieta got a force play at second and then struck out Andre Ethier and Curtis Granderson.

Arrieta walked Grandal to start the seventh and retired the next two. But he walked Chris Taylor to put two on with two outs. Manager Joe Maddon came to get Arrieta as the Wrigley Field mob booed lustily, knowing the failures so far of the Cubs bullpen.

But Brian Duensing coaxed a shallow pop fly to end the threat.

Maddon brought in closer Wade Davis for the eighth, his first appearance in the series. Davis, who blew one save all season, quickly gave up a mammoth home run to Justin Turner, cutting the Cubs lead to 3-2. It was Turners’ third homer of the series, including his three-run walkoff shot in Game Two for a 4-1 LA victory in Dodger Stadium.

Davis didn’t give up a home run all last season, but this year he gave up six home runs during the season, one in the All-Star game, one in the NLDS against Washington and one Wednesday night.

To put the shivers in Cubs fans, Davis then walked Yasiel Puig on a full count after Turner’s home run, putting the tying run on base.

Davis got a pop foul from Andre Ethier and then controversy cropped up. Curtis Granderson struck out, but claimed he fouled the ball. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf checked with the other umpires and Eric Cooper said he fouled it, although replays gave no indication of it.

Maddon argued vociferously and was ejected for the second time in the series. Then, on the next pitch, Granderson struck out anyway.

But Davis walked Grandal to put runners on second and first with two outs. That brought up Chase Utley, 0 for 23 in the playoffs, and Davis pushed that to 0 for 24 with an inning-ending strikeout.

Davis started the ninth by striking out Austin Barnes on three pitches. He quickly went to 0-and-2 on Chris Taylor, then walked him to put the tying run on base.

He fell behind Cody Bellinger 2-and-0, threw a strike, then put happiness in all of Chicago when the Cubs turned a game-ending double play — second baseman Javier Baez to shortstop Addison Russell to first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

For Davis, it was a six-out 47-pitch trip through trepidation, turmoil that ended in tumult for the Cubs. The assignment for the Cubs Thursday night in Game Five is rugged. They will face LA ace Clayton Kershaw while the Cubs cross their fingers with Jose Quintana.

 

 

Dodgers dominate, Cubs on the brink

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 1:03 AM

When the Chicago Cubs win a game at home in Wrigley Field, fans leave the park singing a catchy tune called, “Go Cubs Go.”

They weren’t singing that song Tuesday night. Maybe they should have been singing one of the two tunes sung by huge Cubs fan Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam — “Long Nights” and/or “End of the Road.”

The Cubs, trying to defend last year’s World Series championship, lost Tuesday night to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-1.

That’s three long nights for the Cubs and they are near the end of the road. That’s three straight losses to the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series, one loss away from elimination. Or, in this case, obliteration.

Down three games to none, the Cubs have to win four straight or go home while the Dodgers have four tries to win just one more game to qualify for the World Series.

This one mostly belonged to LA pitcher Yu Darvish, obtained mid-season from the Texas Rangers. Darvish gave up a home run to the second batter he faced, Middletown’s Kyle Schwarber, and that was it. Nothing more. Close the book and stick it on a shelf.

Darvish gave up no more runs, only five more hits and a walk and struck out seven in 6 1/3 innings. Just to rub it in, he drew a bases loaded walk against Carl Edwards Jr., to drive in the Dodgers’ fourth run.

After Schwarber’s home run, the Cubs also received singles from Kris Bryant and Willson Contrera, but Darvish struck out Jon Jay on three pitches.

So three of the six hits off Darvish came in the first inning and the Cubs never threatened again. Darvish faced one hitter in the sevent, struck him out, and left the game after only 81 pitches.

The Cubs 1-0 lead only lasted until the Dodgers came to bat in the top of the second and Andre Ethier, making his first start of the post-season, lined a home run deep into the right field bleachers to tie it, 1-1.

And the tie only lasted until the top of the third when Chris Taylor homered over the center field wall against Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks to make it 2-1.

Another Dodger making his first post-season start, Joc Pederson, led the fifth with a double and scored on Chris Taylor’s triple into the left field corner for a 3-1 LA lead.

Relief pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. was on the mound in the sixth and the first batter, Yasiel Puig reached on third baseman Kris Bryant’s error. Ethier singled and with one out Barnes walked to fill the bases.

But with two outs Edwards was facing pitcher Yu Darvish, who never in his career had batted with the bases loaded and as mostly an American Leaguer had not batted much at all.

Amazingly, with Darvish standing at the plate like a cigar star Native American statue, Edwards threw four straight balls for the walk that forced in the fourth run.

The Cubs bullpen has been nothing but a walk around the park so far in the postseason, issuing 23 walks in eight postseason games.

The Dodgers put salt on this one in the eighth by scoring two runs, the first on a strikeout/passed ball on catcher Willson Contreras and a sacrifice fly.

After Darvish left, the potent and practically peerless bullpen did its thing — no runs the rest of the way. In 11 innings of work in the three games against the Cubs, the LA bullpen has given up no runs and two hits (both in the ninth inning Tuesday) while striking out 12 and walking just one. And the Cubs are 2 for 33 against the Dodgers bullpen.

Meanwhile, over in the American League the New York Yankees, who play in Yankee Stadium like the old Bronx Bombers of the 1960s, won their second straight game at home against the Houston Astros Monday afternoon, to even the ALCS at two games apiece.

The Astros led, 4-0, and the Yankees had no runs and only one hit off starter Lance McCullers Jr. after six innings. But when Aaron Judge homered to open the seventh Houston manager A.J. Hinch removed McCullers.

And the Astros bullpen suffered a meltdown, mostly by closer Ken Giles who came into the game in the eighth when it was 4-4 and gave up two runs three hits and a walk.

Toddfather, CC, the Judge put Astros to sleep

Published: Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 11:36 PM

Those who watched Todd Frazier collect his paychecks from the Cincinnati Reds know that when The Toddfather hit a home run it wasn’t with a classic, baseball card swing like Ken Griffey Jr.

So many time when Frazier hit one out of the park it came with a lunging, one-handed swing with his body bent in half and his posterior protruding toward the third base dugout.

That’s the way it was Monday night in Yankee Stadium when Frazier hit a three-run home run in the second inning off Houston pitcher Charlie Morton.

That three-run poke and a three-run home run in the fourth by Aaron Judge ignited the Yankees toward an 8-1 win, their first after two losses to the Astros in this best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

After an infield hit and a bloop single, both with two outs, Frazier performed his pretzel swing and watched it fly into the short-porch right field seats, Frazier’s first opposite-field home run in Yankee Stadium.

It was no huge shock, although it sent shock waves through Yankee Stadium. Frazier faced Morton many times when Frazier played third base for the Reds and Morton pitched for Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Frazier was 7 for 18 with a pair of homers for his career against Morton, a 14-game winner for the Astros this season.

The Yankees made it 8-0 in the fourth and Frazier was in the middle of that, too. Greg Bird led the inning with a ground rule double to left field.

Morton retired the next two, with Bird moving to third on a fly ball from Aaron Hicks. That brought up Frazier. Knowing their history, Morton pitched around Frazier, also knowing he next hitter was Chase Headley, 0 for 16 in the postseason.

But Headley bounced one up the middle for a run-scoring infield hit and when Morton hit Brett rardner with a pitch to load the bases his night was over.

He was replaced by Will Harris and he threw a wild pitch to let in another run. Then it was time, finally, for Aaron Judge, who had struck out 20 times in the post-season after hitting 52 home runs during the season.

Judge uncoiled on a hanging slider and propelled it into the left field seat, a three-run home run that made the rest of the game inconsequential.

In the fourth inning, when it was only 3-0, the 6-foot-7 Judge ran to the wall, ran hard into the wall, and reached up to snap a home run bid hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge jumped up unharmed while the while wailed in agony.

Blessed with the plethora of runs, 37-year-old Yankees starter CC Sabathia bolted down the high-powered Astros offense. In six innings, the big lefthander held Houston scoreless on three hits with four walks and five strikeouts.

He was the right man at the right time for the Yankees. Sabathia was 9-0 this season when he pitched a game after a New York loss. For the season he was 14-5 with a 3.69 earned run average. So CC is now 10-0 after Yankee losses this season. The last Yankees pitcher to go 10-0 after a team’s loss was Whitey Ford in 1961, the year the Yankees beat the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series four games to one.

CC’s only danger zone was in the third when it was 3-0 and he loaded the bases with two walks and a hit. But with two outs he retired the side on a pop-up to shortstop by ever-dangerous Carlos Correa.

Houston’s run came in the ninth against the Yankee bullpen and it scored on a bases loaded walk to Alex Breman, but then a double play ended it.

It wasn’t long ago that many baseball purists thought Sabathia was finished. From 2013 through 2015 he had three straight losing seasons and was 18-26.

Now he is New York’s money in the back pocket. He pitched the deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians and Yankee manager Joe Girardi has him poised to pitch Game 7, if it gets that far.

Using Lackey lacks sense, Cubs lose

Published: Sunday, October 15, 2017 @ 11:49 PM

Managers continue to change tactics and modus operandi for the postseason from what they did during the regular season that was successful for them.

 

And it continues to explode in their faces.

 

They keep using starting pitchers in relief roles and time and time again it failes.

And it certainly failed Sunday night for Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon in Game Two of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He used starting pitcher John Lackey in relief in Game One, 1 2/3 innings. He used him again Sunday night in Game Two, even though Lackey had never pitched in back-to-back games in his entire career.

Maddon brought Lackey into the ninth inning of a tie game with the winning run on second base. Lackey walked Chris Taylor and then Justin Turner crushed a three-run home run over the center field wall for a 4-1 victory and a two games to none lead for the Dodgers.

“I don’t think I’ve ever hit a walk-off home run at any level of my baseball career,” said Turner.

Turner, the third baseman who resembles Paul Bunyan with his long red hair, his scraggly red beards and his beer barrel muscles.

And it was another former Cincinnati Reds connections. Turner was drafted by the Reds in the seventh round of the 2006 draft. But before he could make the majors, the Reds traded him to Baltimore, along with Ryan Freel, for catcher Ramon Hernandez.

While Maddon fiddled with fate, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts stuck with what pushed him and the Dodgers to where they are — using the same guys out of the bullpen.

Why not? The Dodgers bullpen had retired 27 straight and 41 of the last 42 batters when LA closer Kenly Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo with a pitch with one out in the top of the ninth and the score 1-1.

No problem. Jansen struck out Willson Contreras and retired Albert Almora Jr. on a ground ball to shortstop.

The Cubs scored first when Addison Russell broke a scoreless game in the fifth inning against starter Rich Hill. From that point, the Cubs could have put their bats in the rack and packed their bags for the trip back to Chicago for Game 3.

Cubs starter Jon Lester was not sharp, walking five in 4 2/3 innings and throwing only 55 strikes out of 101 pitches.

But the Dodgers scored only one run and Turner drove that one in, too. It came in the bottom of the fifth. Charlie Culberson, filling in at shortstop for injured Corey Seager, opened the inning with a double.

Lester nearly got out of it by retiring the next two Dodgers, but Turner punched a run-scoring single to right field to tie it, 1-1.

At this point, LA manager Roberts deviated slightly from the way he managed during the season — but he didn’t bring in a starting pitcher.

Even starter Hill had given up only one run and three hits and struck out eight in five innings, using only 79 pitches, Roberts brought in his set-up guy, Brandon Morrow, usually an eighth inning piece.

Morrow, though, was brilliant. He pitched two perfect innings, using only 18 pitches.

Then Roberts brought in right handed Jose Baez and induced a fly to center. Then he brought in left hander Tony Watson to get the final two outs of the inning.

That set it up for closer Jansen for the ninth. And that took it to the bottom of the ninth.

Cubs left hander Brian Duensing started the eighth and LA put two on with one out. Duensing evaded trouble by inducing an inning-ending double play out of Austin Barnes.

Maddon sent Duensing back out for the ninth of the tie game and he walked Yasiel Puig on four pitches. Charlie Culberson bunted Puig to second, but Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer.

With one out needed to close out the inning and send the game into extra innings, Maddon opted to bring in Lackey instead of closer Wade Davis or another bullpen member.

Lackey walked Chris Taylor on a full count and then Turner whacked the second pitch he saw from Lackey over the center field wall, the Dodgers 11 th walkoff win this season by nine different players. Turner had done it twice.

Until Turner’s home run, the Dodgers frustrated themselves by stranding eight runners and going 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

The Cubs, though, couldn’t get base runners. They had only three hits so they only stranded four and were 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position.

And Dodgers pitchers walked only one. Cubs pitchers walked eighth, including the big one by Lackey to Taylor with two outs in the ninth that brought Turner to the plate.

“I just didn’t execute the pitch,” said Lackey. “I’ve faced Turner many times. He is a good hitter. You have to execute the pitch.”

Instead, Turner executed the Cubs.