A Game Six For the Ages

Wow.

That’s all I could muster as it became clear that David Freese‘s flyball to center was leaving the yard. Just wow.

There have been numerous good playoff games and some great World Series games, but what took place Thursday night existed on an entirely different plane. It’s always tough to gauge the historic status of something so recent, but calling Game Six of the 2011 World Series one of the best baseball games in history just feels right.

The World Series is somehow, some way, going to a seventh and final game Friday night after twists and turns galore. For seven innings, the game was defined by missed opportunities and blunders both physical and managerial. After that, the game was defined by the old adage you can’t predict baseball.

In the end, Freese, who tied the game in the ninth with a two-out, two-strike, two-run triple knocked the ball out of the yard in the 11th to seal the deal. However, what transpired over the previous few innings foreshadowed a crazy finish. Freese’s home run wasn’t even shocking. Of course that happened. But various circumstances had to be present for the Cardinals to even have a shot at knotting up the game and winning it in extras. Here are some of Thursday night’s highlights that led to such a wild ending.

Colby Lewis Stays In
Dave Cameron covered this incredibly well in real-time Thursday night after he and I incredulously purveyed to one another our disbelief over Colby Lewis batting in the fifth inning. The Rangers led 4-3 at the time, and had just loaded the bases with two outs. Lewis had thrown well to that point — keeping the Cardinals at bay after surrendering a first-inning blast to Lance Berkman — and was due up after pinch-hitter David Murphy walked. Yorvit Torrealba stood in the on-deck circle, but as Murphy began his trot to first base, Ron Washington called back the backup catcher and instead sent Lewis to the plate.

I implore you to read Dave’s post on the matter, but his research involving relative differences in run expectancy led to the conclusion that allowing Lewis to bat in that circumstance was akin to bringing John Lackey, a 6.30+ ERA pitcher, in the game to protect a one-run lead.

The clear counterargument is that Lewis was throwing well. It wasn’t a “must-win” for the Rangers. Plus, what if Mike Napoli‘s ankle is further impaired and the backup catcher is burnt in an otherwise unnecessary pinch-hitting spot. Well, Lewis was throwing well, but when it gets to the sixth game of the championship, managers should act like there isn’t a tomorrow. The Rangers had a bullpen loaded with solid relievers and starters capable of relieving. In fact, Derek Holland was even warming up as this situation unfolded.

As for Napoli, the Rangers are also carrying Matt Treanor, a better defender than Torrealba to begin with. Somebody should have pinch-hit there. Given the overall context of that plate appearance, there are maybe 3-5 pitchers that should have been left in to bat. Colby Lewis is not one of them.

Ineffective Ogando
Ron Washington has fallen in love with using Alexi Ogando as often as possible, but whether it’s fatigue or general wear and tear, he just isn’t pitching effectively right now. Which made it all the more odd to see him enter a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth, with the Rangers clinging to a one-run lead. Holland previously warmed up. Mike Adams was acquired for high-leverage situations, and in Game Six of the World Series, bases loaded in the sixth inning is that type of situation. Ogando walked Yadier Molina to tie the game at four. Mike Napoli picked Matt Holliday off at third to open up a base, but Ogando promptly walked Nick Punto to re-load them.

Finally, Holland comes in and puts out the fire. Only one game remains in the season, but Alexi Ogando probably shouldn’t pitch in it. The Rangers have too many pitching weapons at their disposal to continue risking situations by using someone who, aside from the results, just doesn’t seem right.

That’s Ballgame – #1
Admit it — you thought the game was probably over after Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back home runs. Hey, I’m in that group as well. The Cardinals had shown a propensity for coming back, but those home runs gave the game an out-of-reach feel. Even with the game tied at four, it felt like the Rangers were winning. Maybe that’s due to their numerous missed opportunities to tack on runs earlier in the game, but the score felt like it was 8-4 Rangers, with those two solo dingers serving as insurance runs. Ian Kinsler‘s RBI single later in the inning sealed the deal, right? Come on, three-run lead in the seventh and Matt Holliday wasn’t even playing anymore?

Even after Holliday’s replacement, Allen Craig, bopped a solo home run, the score was still 7-5 in the eighth inning. It was too little, too late.

Then the ninth inning happened. Neftali Feliz was clearly struggling with command but managed to strike out Ryan Theriot. Pujols doubled and Berkman walked before Craig went down looking. Two outs, first and second, down by two in the bottom of the ninth, with David Freese up.

Nelson Cruz Forgets How to Field
It’s not apples-to-apples at all, but don’t be surprised to see the comparison to Bill Buckner made, especially if the Cardinals win the World Series. Freese launched a fliner to right that initially seemed right in Cruz’s vicinity. He methodically backtracked but completely, and I mean completely, misplayed the ball. Replays showed his glove wasn’t even close to the ball as it landed. It certainly wasn’t a routine play like Buckner’s was, but 90 percent of right fielders make that catch. Cruz didn’t, and both Pujols and Berkman scored to tie the game at seven runs. Freese, the hometown kid, delivered in the biggest plate appearance of his career.

That’s Ballgame – #2
Didn’t matter, because Jason Motte quickly gave up a two-run homer to Josh Hamilton in the top of the tenth. The Cardinals mounted a valiant comeback, but just didn’t have enough left to hold down the fort. Well, at least until they came up to bat.

Darren Oliver was the logical choice to pitch the bottom of the tenth, but a liner from Daniel Descalso and a bloop single from Jon Jay gave the Cardinals life. Because of previous maneuvering, the Cardinals had no pinch-hitters left and the pitchers spot due up. LaRussa sent Edwin Jackson out for Motte… and then, before a pitch was thrown, sent Kyle Lohse in for Jackson. Lohse was clearly bunting, but the mechanics of the wheel play actually hurt the Rangers here.

Lohse’s bunt sailed over the head of a charging Beltre. If Beltre charges a second later, we’re potentially talking about a season-ending triple play. Instead, Lohse successfully sacrifices and the Cards are once again positioned to tie the game.

Theriot grounded out to third, with Beltre allowing Descalso to score. It was now 9-8, with a runner on third, and Beltre wanted to get the sure out. Theriot’s grounder wasn’t the easiest to handle, even though the defensive wizard fielded it cleanly, so a play at home may have been tough.

Scott Feldman, who induced the groundout, intentionally walked Pujols. Berkman followed with an RBI single, once again tying the game. We move onto the 11th!

Beltre’s Decision
Beltre’s decision to throw to first instead of home has come under scrutiny. Replays suggest he had time to throw home and nab Descalso, which would have kept the score at 9-7 and put runners at first and second, with two outs, and Pujols due up. The obvious risk is that Descalso is safe, it’s first and second and one out, with Pujols and Berkman due up. It seemed harmless at the time, but sometimes haters want to hate and look for specific people and events to serve as scapegoats. Beltre didn’t lose this game, plain and simple.

That’s Ballgame – #3 – No, Really This Time
With the score 9-9, Jake Westbrook took the hill to start the 11th. Though Mike Napoli singled, Westbrook was never really in any trouble and got past Cruz, Murphy and German with ease. The Rangers went with Mark Lowe — yep, exactly who you want on the mound with the game on the line.

Lowe quickly fell behind 3-0. Called strike. A foul ball. Suddenly it was a full count in the bottom of the 11th for the guy who dreamed of coming up for the Cardinals in this spot as a kid. Lowe’s next pitch caught all of the plate and Freese tattooed it to straightaway center.

“Freese hits it in the air to center…. we will see you tomorrow night.”

Joe Buck’s call said it all. What a game.




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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

65 Responses to “A Game Six For the Ages”

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  1. Trev says:

    What’s the breakeven on Beltre throwing home? I assume a two run lead w/ runners on the corners and two out is better than a one run lead w/ runner on third and two out – but by how much?

    At what % chance of getting Descalso should Beltre throw home?

    Sorry I don’t have a win expectancy calculator on my phone.

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  2. Scout Finch says:

    I missed something. What am I missing ? Why didn’t Feliz come back out and pitch the 10th. Wasn’t pinched hit for, had thrown 22 pitches, pitching to two no-power lefties. That made me scratch my head.

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    • NRPS says:

      Agreed. Especially with declining options available in the pen, he is still the best option there. My sense from watching the last few innings is that Washington was managing to kind of win game 6 but not screw himself for game 7 (1IP for Feliz, Harrison never warmed up).

      With a 2-run lead, I send Feliz back out and warm up Harrison. I will stake the entire world series on getting 3 outs with those two and giving up less than 2 runs. If Game 7 happens, you scramble (and Holland could probably go after a short relief appearance).

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  3. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    Joe Buck’s call was a shameless rip-off of his father’s.

    In fact, the broadcasting team’s reaction to the game was a lot like being in the room with a guy who’s watching “Animal House” and snickers only once.

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    • Kyle says:

      I hate Joe Buck, but I thought it was a rather beautiful homage.

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      • johnefive says:

        agreed. he wasn’t ripping it off but paying tribute to one of the greatest of all time who would have loved to be there to see that game.

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    • jcalton says:

      I would normally agree, EXCEPT that in the early innings, they talked about game 6′s ending on a HR, and McCarver brought up that call and discussed it with Joe.
      When it’s already been given attribution (albeit 2 hours earlier due to the length of the game) it’s clearly a tribute (or homage, as Kyle prefers).

      Given the prior reference, I thought it was appropriate.

      I used to like Joe Buck (as a Cardinals’ play caller, not MLB or NFL) then hated him on national TV, now I think I’m realizing he’s fine, but his partner just makes me hate anyone standing next to him.
      Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always hated McCarver(‘s announcing), I just used to assign more culpability to Buck as part of that team.

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  4. James says:

    Let’s get the live in-game win probability for Game 7 on the front page!

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  5. Hurtlocker says:

    Wow, just Wow!!! Napoli almost snaps his ankle and stays in the game, at catcher!! Clutch hitting almost every inning, down to the last strike twice!! What a great game and an emotional rollercoaster!! I’m not a fan of the Cardinals or Texas but I’m glad I’m a baseball fan, last night was a dream game!!

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  6. Louis says:

    Great writeup, except for giving Joe Buck credit for anything.

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    • CJ says:

      I don’t like Joe Buck’s works in general, but.. Is it so bad the son re-use the father’s famous call once in a while? Some might call it a homage instead of a rip-off??

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      • bluejaysstatsgeek says:

        Agreed. I’m not a Joe Buck fan, but I agree that it was very appropriate, especially given it was practically the 20th anniversary of Joe’s call. It honoured his father and baseball.

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      • juan pierre's mustache says:

        the homage/ripoff/whatever was fine. the rest of his calls had the level of emotion and interest i would expect if he were calling a game between two teams in the cellar in mid-september.

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  7. Cardsfan says:

    When Theriot grounded out and Descalso scored, Jay stayed at second – he didn’t go to third. Sorry to nitpick.

    Also, 90% of RFs catch Freese’s ball in the 9th? Really? There are 30 teams. Cruz is one guy that missed it, Berkman represents another 3.3% of RFs, Andre Ethier is another 3.3%. You think every other right fielder in baseball catches that?

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    • Scout Finch says:

      Looked like Cruz felt the wall coming at him.

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    • Tony Fernandez says:

      Look at Cruz’s jump on the ball. It seemed like he didn’t start to run until a second or two after the ball was hit.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        That’s not the first ball in the playoffs that Freese has hit oppo that went further than the fielder thought.

        Either Freese’s drives have more carry than average, or the OFs just didn;t get a good early read.

        When an OF “drifts” that’s usually a sign of the ball carrying and carrying (perhaps even due to wind). ML OF’s are generally very good at gauging where the ball will land and make most catches very easily.

        I have not seen a ton of Cruz in the OF, but it’s also possibly that he’s not that good at going back on the ball.

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      • bill says:

        Yeah he basically misplayed that ball in every way one can misplay a ball. Misjudged, mistimed, didn’t even try to play the ball off the wall…

        Even though the ball was hit hard, it was very catchable.

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      • Ender says:

        Corey Hart is certainly capable of completely missing easy fly balls too, he did it a couple times to give away runs to the Cardinals in their series together and he did it multiple times during the regular season.

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    • jcalton says:

      90% of RF don’t make that play, but 90% of right fielders make that play look a lot better when they miss it.

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  8. Teacher says:

    Where was Mike Gonzalez? Why was he not brought in to pitch to Berkman?

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    • Patricio says:

      Exactly. With a player who has an obvious weakness against lefties, why the hell isn’t a lefty in there?

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    • Mitch says:

      right?! sheesh, as many mistakes as TLR has made in this series, Wash was awful last night.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        What? You didn;t see how much he inspired the team with his excitement and love of scoring runs.

        He’s an inspiration. His energy has led the Rangers to consecutive World Series.

        —————————————-

        Somebody REALLY needs to do an article about these tow teams and how their GMs made some moves that REALLY improved the team.

        Currently, the teams are winning despite their managers. But, they are not winning in spite of their GMs, but because of them.

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    • Ian says:

      And Koji Uehara was left off the WS roster entirely in favor of Mark Lowe, who hadn’t pitched since Sep 20 (and is mediocre anyway).

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  9. CircleChange11 says:

    Managing aside, I was AMAZED at how well the batters for both teams did in laying off of low pitches.

    That really hurt Garcia.

    Did anyone notice the patience of the StL hitters? Skip Schumaker working to a 2-0 count until he got a cockshot? Theriot even laid off a few pitches.

    The exception would have been Jon Jay’s first two at bats where he jammed himself swinging at pitches he can’t handle. later on he got a better pitch and better result.

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    • Blackie says:

      ” I was AMAZED at how well the batters for both teams did in laying off of low pitches.”

      Yes, especially once the ump made it clear that he wasn’t calling the low strike. Multiple pitches to the bottom of the strike zone that were ignored, forcing all pitchers to bring the ball up and into the zone. One notable exception was the pitch that “struck out” Pujols looking which was a ball, after the ump failed to call he borderline strike before it.

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  10. John Q says:

    Joe Buck’s Shameless rip-off of his father’s famous call just shows what a pompous nepotistic A-hole he is.

    If his last name wasn’t Buck, he’d be lucky to be working at the sales counter at Enterprise rent a car.

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    • Mitch says:

      so much in this game to discuss and that’s your comment?!

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      That’s a jag-bag comment.

      Almost every baseball fan watching the broadcast knew the significance of that phrase. Why can’t it be a son paying tribute to his dad? Why does he have to be ripping him off?

      Geez, “We’ll See You Tomorrow Night” was on the big screen at the stadium. Along with Go Crazy Folks, it’s part of StL history.

      One of the best game 6′s ever, and you’re upset that a son repeated a famous line from his dad that all of the fans were familiar with.

      Petty.

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      • John Q says:

        jag-bag?? WTF?

        I guess you’re a some kind of Joe Buck fan???

        Buck is horrible and it’s mind-boggling that he’s the #1 sports announcer on fox.

        “paying tribute?” How about coming up with something original instead of poaching one of his father’s most famous lines.

        How exactly is “We’ll see again tomorrow night” part of “Stl. history” when it was in reference to a Twins WS moment???

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      • johnefive says:

        john q, you sir, are an asshat. these comments are unnecessary and irrelevant.

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    • nota bene says:

      That’s just dumb. Feel free to dislike Joe Buck, but come on.

      They had been talking about the Puckett HR in the third inning or so, when it was 2-2 and nobody had any idea what was coming. McCarver mentioned Jack Buck’s call. It was absolutely appropriate.

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      • juan pierre's mustache says:

        yeah i was surprised so many people were upset by this, in my opinion it was one of the least objectionable moments of another generally terrible joe buck night

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      • John Q says:

        How is that dumb??

        I just brought it up because the author brought it up.

        Buck is a smarmy hack who lives off the accomplishments of his father. He’s widely disliked among baseball fans and a majority fans would rather anyone else call the world series rather than Buck.

        You seem to like Buck, or your a Cardinals fan, so be it.

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  11. LT says:

    This may be a dumb question, but why wasn’t obstruction called on the Napoli pick-off of Holliday? I know McCarver mumbled something about “he was diving back in head-first, so you can block his progress,” but a quick googling made me believe that that was malarkey….
    Other thought, if that is legal, why don’t all 1b men do it on pick-off plays?

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    • IvanGrushenko says:

      If you did it routinely runners would start sliding back spikes first, but I suppose that would shorten their leads somewhat

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    • test says:

      One reason you don’t do it all the time at first base is that players would start spiking you, stepping on you, etc…every time until you stopped putting your foot/leg there. Call it a gentleman’s agreement to not even start down that road. Beltre, with his utter indifference to danger (doesn’t wear a cup even after a gruesome-sounding injury a few years ago), laughs at such concerns. I think the fielder is also allowed to be in a “reasonable” position to take the throw, which Beltre was. Borderline by the rules, but never called in practice.

      Holliday’s takeout “slide” was far more obvious, since he didn’t even attempt to reach for the bag, or even slide for that matter. That play is also explicitly an attempt to injure someone on the other team – the euphamism of “take out” means that pretty clearly, although I hadn’t really thought of that before. I’ve seen the automatic out called a few times on that play.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        “take out” doesn;t mean “take him out of the game”, it means “take him out of the play” … as in remove him from the position of being able to complete the double.

        Runners could end middle infielders careers routinely if that were the goal. All they’d need to to do is slide very late the hit em in the knees.

        Infielders have also been known (and taught) to drop down sidearm on their throws and to throw it directly at the logo on the runner’s helmet to “force them to get down earlier” and avoid any take out slide.

        Personally, I would prefer to see the take out slide removed from the game, and just have it to where fielders cannot be between the bag and runner and runners have to slide directly to the bag.

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      • Mitch says:

        I thought the same thing on the Holliday slide at 2B. I wish they would really get that out of the game altogether.

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    • Erik says:

      LT, here’s the rule. You can see that it’s not obstruction if the fielder has the ball or is fielding the ball. Beltre’s act clearly falls under these exceptions. As for why it’s not always done, I think the other commenters have covered that.

      MLB Rule 2:

      OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.

      Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball. For example: an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.

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  12. Sean says:

    It’s a shame. The Rangers have such an arsenal of weapons in that bullpen. They were just poorly utilized in that game.

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  13. Horned Owl says:

    I’m a bit surprised there’s no discussion of issuing an intentional walk to Pujols in order to pitch to Berkman. To me, that move never makes sense with a right-handed pitcher. I’d much rather have Feldman pitch to Pujols than to Berkman.

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    • Sean says:

      I was thinking that too…

      I was just as uncomfortable with Feldman pithcing to Berkman as I was with him pitching to Pujols.

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    • Cardsfan says:

      Putting the winning run on first is pretty dumb, and then not bring in Gonzalez to turn Berkman around = dumber.

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      • Spunky says:

        I don’t understand why they didn’t just walk Berkman. Yes, Craig had hit a homerun, but surely you’d rather pitch to him than Berkman.

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      • LTG says:

        Check the link to the Book above. It is not clearly a mistake to walk Pujols, especially if a lefty were brought in.

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      • Cardsfan says:

        How could it not be a mistake? Berkman is a better hitter as a lefty against a righty than Pujols is, and Pujols is the winning run. Now if he brings in Gonzo and turns Berkman around, I’d have to think about it. But consult The Book? Nevahhhhhh!

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      • Mitch says:

        among Washington’s many mistakes last nite, this was a big one… but on no one has mentioned is why he didn’t send Endy Chavez out to play the OF in the bottom on the 9th inning after PHing in the top of the inning??? He should have been in RF instead of Cruz!

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  14. Justin Bailey says:

    I hate to be the moldy carrot under everyone’s peach cobbler, but I have a hard time thinking of last night’s game as “one of the best baseball games in history,” what with the sloppy play: both teams made errors on routine plays and made some stupid mistakes that weren’t scored as errors (Jay’s throw, Holliday getting picked off, etc.), and relievers from both teams repeatedly melted down in key situations. The game was unbelievably thrilling, but the quality of play was wanting.

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    • Spunky says:

      I think most of the greatest games of all time in any sport have numerous flaws. It’s the balance of the greatness and ineptitude of both teams that made the game amazing.

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      • R. Johnston says:

        The balance in last night’s game was overwhelmingly on the side of ineptitude. A great game can have a blunder or two in it, but it can’t have a half dozen or more screw-ups of the kind that should almost never happen on the major league level.

        A great World Series game can never leave you thinking “how in the world did these two teams get here?”

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      • williams .482 says:

        It seems that this was not the case with you, but I had just about completely forgotten about the drop-fest by the time Freese’s triple was on the ground.

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  15. Hermy says:

    I’ve seen several people mention Holliday’s getting picked off at third in the sloppy play category. How the hell was that play anything but a brilliant play by Napoli and Beltre?

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  16. Sean says:

    Mitch Moreland? I haven’t seen his name mentioned. Surely he could have pinch hit for Lewis with the bases juiced, right?

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  17. bcnmick says:

    there is no

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  18. Mitch says:

    I mentioned it above, but how is Endy Chavez not playing RF in the bottom of the 9th nursing a 2 run lead to close out the game? What the heck is on the roster for??

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    • B N says:

      Agreed. That was blowing the game basically. Cruz is (apparently) not a good outfielder. I mean, you can tell that by the stats, but his non-catch was a great example of it. I don’t understand how one can be playing 10 feet from the warning track and not catch a ball on the warning track. It’s particularly confusing as you see him moving slowly from the get-go, then slowing down once he gets there… huh? Why is he slowing down? Is he under the ball? No he is not, he’s still 10 feet away! And, drop.

      Cruz should have to replay that footage for a week or so, maybe it will encourage him to spend his offseason shagging pop flies.

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      • B N says:

        And Ron Washington should also have to watch that for two weeks, to remind him that you should bring in your defensive replacements when you’re ahead by 2 in the last inning of a clinching WS game.

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