Those of you who were born before the electronic information age and can still read and write, will recall the word ‘parse’. Parsing or diagramming a sentence were two of the ways that our teachers ensured we would leave school able to communicate, write, count, make change and do those other things necessary to get by in the world before everyone was plugged into a device, or devices, that ruled their lives.
For an example of parsing, take the sentence That game, on Wednesday, had everything. ‘That’ is an adjective modifying the noun ‘game’, which is the subject of the sentence. ‘On’ is a preposition and, with the noun ‘Wednesday’, forms a prepositional phrase and, as such, is set off from the rest of the sentence by commas. ‘Had’ is the past participle form of the verb have and ‘everything’ is a pronoun and object of the verb.
By now you are wondering what this has to do with baseball. Remember that sentence That game, on Wednesday, had everything? Game 2 of the 2017 World Series, between the Dodgers and Astros, (notice the prepositional phrase), is the real subject of that sentence and truly had everything. Since parsing a sentence involves identifying the component parts, I thought I would parse that game.
The Dodgers had won Game 1 of the Series, 3-1, behind their Ace Clayton Kershaw who was just a hair better than the Astros’ Ace Dallas Keuchel. ( Dallas against Clayton sounds like the start or end of a Jeff Foxworthy Red Neck joke, doesn’t it? )
In Game 2, Justin Verlander, arguably the best pitcher in baseball over the last 10 years, who had won eight games in a row, including three in the Playoffs, since being traded to Houston, on August 31st, started against the Dodgers’ 37 year old Rich Hill who had been playing Independent Ball with the Long Island Ducks a little more than two years ago.
You talk about two different styles. Verlander relies on his pin point control and velocity to win, often still throwing in the high nineties after throwing in excess of 100 pitches in a game. Hill has a curve ball that is almost unhittable which he throws from a quirky motion and which he relies upon heavily.
At the end of four innings, the Astros led 1-0, scoring in the third when Reddick singled, was sacrificed to second by Verlander, went to third on a single by Springer and scored on a single by Bregman. Hill had thrown 23 curve balls and the fastest he had thrown his fast ball was 90 miles an hour. Verlander, on the other hand, was routinely hitting 97 and 98 with his fast ball and had thrown 33 of them.
Dodger Manager Dave Roberts, who went to relievers earlier than any other Manager in baseball during the season, removed Hill from the game after just 60 pitches even though he had given up just three hits, one run and struck out seven batters. Roberts didn’t know it at the time, but his early removal of Hill would leave him with an empty bull pen in extra innings. The quick hook was in keeping with a trend begun by Tito Francona in the 2016 Post Season.
Pederson homered for the Dodgers to make it 1-1 in the fifth and Seager hit a two run homer in the sixth to put the Dodgers up 3-1. In the eighth, the Astros came back with one without benefit of a homer when Bregman doubled and Correa singled him in. Still behind 3-2 in the top of the ninth, Gonzalez homered to lead off the inning, tying the score.
In the last of the ninth, Houston’s Closer, Ken Giles, got the Dodgers 1-2-3 and the game went to extra innings and that’s where things really went crazy. The Astros struck first in the top of the tenth with back to back homers by Altuve and Correa to lead off the inning against Josh Fields to put the Astros up 5-3. Fields then gave up a double to Gurriel and was replaced by Tony Cingrani, who was the last reliever left in the Dodger bullpen, and he got out of the inning.
In the Dodger tenth, Yasiel Puig led off with a homer to make it 5-4. Giles got the next two outs but walked Logan Forsythe on a 3-2 pitch to keep the Dodgers alive. Enrique Hernandez then singled to right to drive in Forsythe and it was tied again.
Brandon McCarthy, a starter, came in for the Dodgers to start the eleventh. He gave up a lead off single to Cameron Maybin and Maybin then stole second. George Springer then hit the seventh homer of the game to put the Astros up by two again, 7-5.
To start the bottom of the eleventh, after Chris Devenski got Seager and Turner on sharp line drives, Charlie Culberson hit the eighth homer of the game to left center to make it 7-6 but Devenski struck out Puig to end the game and give the Astros their first win of the Series.
Houston used 16 players, including five pitchers, while the Dodgers used 22, including nine pitchers. Amazingly, the Dodgers scored six runs on just five hits but four of the five were home runs.
The game, which had started at 5:17 Pacific Time, 8:17 Eastern, ended four hours and 19 minutes later, 12:36 a. m. Eastern Time. The crowd of 54,293, at Dodger Stadium, did not seem to mind the length of the game despite the Dodgers losing and there were very few empty seats at the end.
This has been the year of the home run and strikeout, with all time records being set in each category. Many factors have contributed to the emphasis on homers and strikeouts. The expansion of the defensive shift and the proliferation of pitchers capable of throwing near and over 100 miles an hour are the most prominent.
Major League Baseball is concerned that the length of games will contribute to a loss of popularity and attendance. If the trend to emphasis on home runs and strikeouts along with its reduced emphasis on small ball continues, we may be headed toward a future that has even longer periods of boring play with occasional home runs the only excitement for the average fan.
Not every game can have eight homers and the exchange of leads this one provided. While scoring a run on three singles may not be as spectacular as a home run, baseball may find that it’s a better way to keep the fan support it needs to survive.
Let’s hope that today’s Game 5 and whatever follows will give us the kind of thrills Game 2 did to help us get through the three months until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.