The Pittsburgh Pirates were officially eliminated from the postseason on Wednesday night after an 11-1 loss to St Louis .
OK, not exactly “officially.” The Pirates have the second-best record in all of Major League and clinched a postseason berth more than a week ago. But there is a feeling of impending doom hanging over the team because six days from now in the National League wildcard game they will face the unstoppable destroyer of baseball worlds: Jake Arrieta.
After a good start to the season, the 29-year old Cubs ace has put together one of the most dominant second halves in baseball history. Since the start of August, he’s given up four earned runs in 82 1/3 innings. That’s a 0.43 ERA over 11 starts. Not once in that span has he allowed more than two earned runs. In seven of those 11 outings, he didn’t allow a single run. He no-hit the playoff-bound Dodgers at the end of August, and has faced the Pirates three times in the past two months, giving up just nine hits and one earned run in 22 innings. To crush the hopes and dreams of his wildcard foe even more, Arrieta blasted an opposite field home run off the Pirates in his last start against them on Sunday. He didn’t give up a run and he created the only run he needed. Pittsburgh hasn’t face a single man this hellbent on its destruction since Bane.
Somewhere in Baltimore this week there is a man or woman emerging from a two-year coma. He will hear the name “Jake Arrieta” on TV and think: “No way! That guy is still in the majors?” And then he will hear that Arrieta is the greatest pitcher in all of baseball and he will immediately go back into a coma after suffering a brain aneurysm.
Because two years ago, Arrieta was as bad as he is good now. Maybe even more so, as hard as that is to fathom. In nearly 70 games and 63 starts with the Orioles over four years, he had a 5.46 ERA. You know, just 5.03 above his ERA over the past two months. He couldn’t even hold down a rotation spot in an Oriole rotation desperate for arms and Baltimore repeatedly shuttled him back and forth to Triple-A – and he wasn’t even any good there.
Check the timestamp. That tweet is from June of 2013. Just two years ago, Arrieta was a 27-year old pitcher putting up an ERA over 4.00 in the minors. Guys like that are much closer in their careers to becoming gym teachers than lights-out, don’t-even-bother-showing-up, major league aces. In early July of 2013, the Cubs traded Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Cubs for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger and soon after, things finally started to click for him. There was no dramatic overhaul of his motion or life-changing visits to a sports psychologist. Some slight tweaks to his mechanics found Arrieta able to spot his mid-90s fastball better and make his slider dip and turn at varying speeds most any way he wants it to, making and left and right-handed hitters alike look foolish.
So now the Pirates and their ace, Gerrit Cole, face the reality that if they allow a single run next Wednesday, odds are their 96-plus-win season will end after a few hours of “postseason”. While the Pirates themselves, as confident and accomplished athletes, no doubt feel they have a great chance of beating Arrieta, many Pirates fans are either depressed or left grasping at unrelated, random minutiae and irrational hope.
“Hey, Clayton Kershaw is a generational pitcher and he loses a lot in the postseason. Maybe Arrieta will be the same!”
“Remember when the Pirates roughed up Madison Bumgarner late last season and then he dominated them in the wildcard game? The opposite could happen this year with Arrieta!”
“Kris Medlen had a 0.97 ERA in his final 12 starts of 2013, but then he got shelled in the wildcard game. What if Arrieta is the new Medlen?!”
“He’s been pitching great games for months. He’s due for a bad one, right?”
It’s kind of sad. No, it’s just sad. No “kind of.”
But the Pirates’ best hope might be this: If the worst pitcher in all of baseball can miraculously become the best pitcher in just two years, then it’s really true that anything is possible. Maybe even Jake Arrieta losing a baseball game.
“Sometimes, emotions spill over and that’s what happened today. It’s happened for hundreds of years in this game and I think it will continue to happen.” – Jonathan Papelbon, Washington Nationals closer, on fighting teammate Bryce Harper in the dugout on Monday.
Papelbon is not only an expert on baseball’s “code,” but he is also a student of history. A sport called “base-ball” was first referenced in a British publication in 1744, so the game truly has been around for “hundreds” of years. The American Revolution may have come to a head over taxation without representation, but for all we know, the first fractures between America and Great Britain came when the scrappy colonists were outraged by the entitled British failing to run out pop-ups.
– Astros outfielder Marwin Gonzalez hit the 24th home run of his career Tuesday night in a loss to the Mariners. It was also the 24th solo home run of Gonzalez’s career. Yes, every home run in his four-year career has been a solo shot. Amazing. Gonzalez better hope Papelbon doesn’t land on the Astros next year because that sort of selfish home run hitting would not be tolerated.
Johnny Giavotella, 2B, Angels – 7-for-15, 4 RBI
Matt den Dekker, OF, Nationals – 8-for-18, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Rays – 7-for-16, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 SB
Jarrett Parker, OF, Giants – 7-for-17, 5 HR, 9 RBI
Nick Tropeano, P, Angels – 11 innings, 16 strikeouts, 1 win, 0.82 ERA
Adam Conley, P, Marlins – 12 innings, 13 strive completed the signing of Porto defender Chidozie Awaziem.The Nigeria international arrives on a straight 12-month loan.Awaziem becomes the ninth summer signing made by Leganes and was due to undergo his first training session today under coach Maukeouts, 2.25 ERA
Thank you for this important question. If the unwritten rules of baseball were ever published, the answer to this would no doubt be revealed. And at considerable risk of being strangled by a Knight of The Baseball Code for answering your question in print, I will attempt to do so anyway. I am not afraid to put my life on the line for you, my dear readers.
Most would assume that you want to choke up, because the top of the human neck is narrower than the base, allowing you to wrap more of your hands around the neck of the baseball code-breaker. And choking up on the bassing out on the England squad.The centre-back was hoping that he would get a call up to the Three Lions squad by manager Gareth Southgate.However, he was left out for their Euro 2020 qualifiers. And the 26-year-old wants to continue focusing on doint is something gritty baseball players who play the game the right way do. Yet choking up on a neck is wrong. The right way to strangle is to grab the neck at the base and dig your thumbs in hard below the Adam’s apple to cut off the wind pipe. At least that’s the way my Little League coach taught me.
The Phillies have won thof manager Nigel Pearson.The Hornets were nine points adrift at the foot of the table prior to their home game against Manchester United and the goalkeeper has revealed that he feared the worst.”When we had nine points just before the Man United gameree in a row and four of five, including two in a row over the playoff-bound Mets. Are they the best team in baseball as the calendar flips to October? (No.)
There is intrigue left in the Phillies season, however. While the franchise has the most losses in the history of American professional sports, the Phillies haven’t lost 100 games in a season since 1961. If they can close the season 2-2 or better, they’ll keep that streak alive. At the same time, the Phillies stand just two games ahead of the Cincinnati Reds in the race for the worst record in baseball and the No1 overall pick. They really need to get back to losing to clinch. Choose how you end your season wisely, Phillies. Think what Ruben Amaro would do and then do the opposite.
The Cubs clinched their first postseason appearance since 2008 this week (assuming we’re all pretending the play-in game counts as the real postseason). The franchise made the Divisional Series in 2007 and 2008, but got swept both times. The Cubs haven’t won a playoff game since 2003 and the Steve Bartman NLCS. That’s so long ago now that . No ear buds. No smartphone (the iPhone didn’t come out until 2007). No social media. The Bartman incident essentially happened in ancient history. Hopefully Cubs fans can finally get over it and let the guy live his life in peace. I’m sure he’d love to be able to go out in public and buy one of these fancy smartphones we have now.
The New York Post’s Joel Sherman this week who believe A-Rod’s bat speed has slowed down as the season has progressed, but Rodriguez “remains a wily hitter who works counts well and can play to his strengths.” His No1 strength, of course? Wiliness.
The Post also ran a headline this week asking “” I didn’t bother to read the article, but if they meant: “Is Bryce Harper a great player who will spend the majority of his career on the Yankees?”, then I wholeheartedly answer “yes.”
1) I never played baseball at a high level, so I am no expert on the game’s locker room/strangulation culture. What I do know, however, is that if I was a MLB closer like Jonathan Papelbon, I’d probably keep my opinions of my team-mates to myself. Closers are pitchers – – whose entire job is to pitch one single inning AFTER THE REST OF THE TEAM HAS ALREADY TAKEN THE LEAD. If my employment and large income was contingent on everyone else playing well for eight innings every game before I showed up to try to get three outs a few times a week, I’d do everything I could to stay in my lane and hope nobody noticed how unimportant and overpaid I am. I especially wouldn’t call out the best player on my team and the guy whose performance had given me so many save opportunities. I mean, the guy who locked the doors at night at Apple probably never ripped into Steve Jobs for how he did his job, right? Or maybe he did. The tech world may have an uncoded code I don’t know about.
2) Former major league pitcher CJ Nitkowski got a lot of attention this week for his column that gave on the Papelbon-Harper dust-up and featured more than a dozen quotes from current and former major leaguers, all of whom sided with Papelbon. Nitkowski’s piece as advocating for the strangulation of players. Yet I know him to be a thoughtful and intelligent person, and seemingly not the kind of man who would push for mandatory chokings of the non-scrappy. So I contacted Mr Nitkowski and asked him straight out: “Do you support the public strangling of players for not running full speed to first?”
His response, exclusive to the Guardian: “I do not. These kind of things should take place behind closed doors where a player can be properly waterboarded or caned in private. No one is above the hustle.”
So there you go. I think we can all agree with that.
3) And now the dramatic conclusion to : I dug around more and still couldn’t determine if the rules forbid an American League player from being on the lineup card as both a pitcher and the DH, allowing him to stay in the game as a hitter even after being removed from the mound. So I asked ESPN baseball writer David Schoenfield if he knew the answer and he claims that it is not allowed. “You can choose not use the DH – this happened a few times in the 1970s, including twice with Ken Brett (George’s brother) – but you can’t DH the pitcher and let him stay in the game.”
And if you do try to do it? The manager must get waterboarded in the locker room.
4) And since we’re running out of baseball season and time for readers to ask questions, let’s throw in another one this week:
With great feats of consumption, the natural inclination is to think that the larger-bodied are ideal for the task. Someone like Matt Adams or Bartolo Colon. But if you look at the top competitive eaters, none of them are overweight. And Boggs played at a relatively svelte 6ft 2in 190lbs. So I think you want to go with a player who is in shape. There are obviously a lot to choose from in baseball, but just don’t expect Bryce Harper to be the one who pulls this off.
5) Every year since the wildcard was invented, baseball’s more curmudgeonly fans have tsk’d teams for celebrating making the postseason. “You’ve only made the wildcard! You have nothing to celebrate!” these people grunt while eating dinner out of a can in their dimly lit living rooms reeking of cat litter. But I think these people would be the first to say that practice makes perfect, and baseball teams clearly need to practice their celebration fundamentals.
6) The Astros are 8-13 since Taylor Swift performed at Minute Maid Park, falling out of a playoff spot in the process. The Padres are 11-17 since Swift played Petco Park in late August. And the Nationals have gone from first place to fighting each other since Swift performed in their stadium.
It sounds like Taylor Swift has become a major baseball curse. But I’m sorry, the Bambino had one of the best baseball curses of all-time!
7) Fan anthems are almost exclusively horrific. That’s what makes this new St Louis Cardinals anthem remarkable: it’s so awful it has been able to break through and get noticed, like a dirty needle in a rotten haystack.
Congratulations to the Cardinals. You’re the best at baseball AND the best at embarrassing music. That’s two things you’re the best at!
8) Lest we think baseball’s Papelbonian culture is a recent development, behold this note that Phillies manager Pat Moran wrote to Philadelphia fans 100 years ago in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
He references grit with “hustling.” He’s got some traditional sports cliches in there with “a team that goes out there and plays baseball the best it knows how.” But most remarkable of all is this sentence: “Some of these fellows may think that I haven’t a championship ball club, but they have been saying a lot of other things all summer long that they will now have to back water on.” I’m pretty sure this is the first-ever sports instance of “they hate us ‘cause they ain’t us,” but delivered in old timey words. Amazing.
9) You know, maybe Moran’s guts-over-brains viewpoint on baseball is what prompted the infamous “Get A BRAIN! MORANS” sign from this . That has to be it. Cardinals fans know how to spell the right way.
10) It’s October! Playoff baseball is almost here! Who’s pumped to over-analyze every manager move while we try to convince ourselves again that back-to-back playoff participant Ned Yost has no idea at all what he’s doing? Woo! Yes!