MLB: World Series-Boston Red Sox at St. Louis Cardinals

There is nothing like the short series concept of momentum. After each game, you wonder how the winning team could possibly lose a single game. The losers? Doomed. From game to game, the pendulum feels like it swings from one extreme to another. The Cardinals kick the ball around as Boston’s pitching shuts down the offense? Plan the duckboat parade!

The Cardinals mound youth is served in Game Two? The Red Sox are in trouble! The Cardinals dynasty is well under way! The obstruction call? The Red Sox are doomed! Jonny Gomes is awful and doesn’t below in this game! Wait, I can’t even tell any more.

Of course, that is not the case. The World Series is as much in doubt now as it was before the first pitch of Game One. Two games apiece with the Red Sox once again holding home field advantage. The aces and kitchen sinks due to throw again as rotations turn over and the stakes rise. It’s a good time to be a baseball fan, in other words.

Gimmie the drugs, Carlos

Carlos Beltran banged up his ribs but good in Game One of the serious. After leaving that game with a chest contusion, Beltran returned and hasn’t missed a beat, playing in all three subsequent games. Much was made of Beltran’s use of the painkiller Torodal, which allowed him to play through pain.

This created a minor stir but nothing really stuck, which always strikes me as odd. The line between “performance enhancing” and “performance enabling” is about as hazy and arbitrary as this one. But Carlos Beltran is a Warrior and Playoff Hero instead of reprobate who dodged the rules. Because, I guess, what he took was legal – however unsatisfying and oversimplified that feels.

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Going to take a lot of white drugs to erase the feelings plastered all over Carlos Beltran’s face in this moment.

Maness Up

Last week, I wrote about Cardinals reliever Seth Maness. He’s something of a phenom, inducing double plays seemingly at will. It seemed odd that he was able to induce ground balls on pitches thrown to “non-ground ball spots”, specifically in the middle of the strike zone.

Maybe there’s something about the way Maness sequences his pitches that gets hitters off-balance on these seemingly tame offerings. Maybe he can survive in the middle of the strike zone and pitches thrown belt high and above.

Or, conversely, nope. He cannot survive there at all.

In three World Series appearances, Seth Maness has allowed two of his own runs to score. He inherited four runners in those three outings, three of which came around to plate. That isn’t good nor does it help the Cardinals win ball games.

As alluded to in the Maness post, he got away with murder in 2013 when it came to pitches thrown in hittable spots. No longer. Look at the three hits allowed by Maness – a single, double, and home run.

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One of those offerings is a “not bad” pitch. The others were dealt with as pitches in those spots are often handled. As Will Leitch said today, Matheny is an astute guy hanging on to his memories of how Maness helped him in the past. Have to wonder if he’ll get another chance to do it again this series?

The Stranded Series

This is a very peculiar series indeed. Heavy on the drama but light on the quality one might expect of the two best teams in baseball this season. Lots of misplays and lots of situational struggles.

It feels like every time a runner gets to third base with less than two outs, that’s where he finishes the inning. Few big base hits in those situations and few “productive outs”, if that’s your thing.

Turns out those feelings are correct. 19 times this World Series a runner stood at third base with less than two outs. We have seen a grand total of two hits – and both those came in the very first inning of the series.

Two hits, four sac flies, three walks (one intentional) and three ground outs/fielder’s choice type-plays, including one you might have seen a few times that ended Game Three. A .167/.263/.250 line compared to .317/.345/.486 in the regular season.

Unclutch times, friends. Unclutch times. Every single non-Ortiz player on these two teams should be ashamed. Deeply ashamed.

Related!

The clutchiest of times. You must be THIS old to ride this ride.

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Leadership!

The underwhelming Matt Holliday

Matt Holliday is a tough player to figure out. We know what Matt Holliday is – a very good slash elite hitter who isn’t much of a fielder and never really was. He lumbers around the bases quite a bit but puts up really nice offensive numbers. Once considered a Coors Field creation, Holliday’s ongoing production in St. Louis put that to rest very quickly.

It is weird that he isn’t much of a home run hitter, however. And looking for comparable players to Holliday, based on position and productivity, creates a strange list indeed.

I’ve jokingly called Matt Holliday “Corn Fed Manny” in the past but Holliday isn’t quite the hitter of Manny Ramirez. Albert Belle looks like a good match through their age-33 seasons. Vlad Guerrero? Baseball Reference’s player comp machine spits out Magglio Ordonez, which isn’t bad but he’s not quite the same quality of Holliday.

He’s something of a compiler, a reasonably healthy player who puts up .300/.380/.500 a season like clockwork. Doesn’t matter if he hasn’t hit 30 home runs since his left Colorado, those numbers will always play. He’s the kind of player who might slip from the memory a little more easily than other players with worse numbers, but the Cardinals are probably pretty happy with their investment so far.