Close Just Isn't Good Enough Anymore
Quite a lot happened Monday night in Texas’ 3-1 victory over Arizona in Game 3 of the World Series — you had some great Rangers defense, an overaggressive Arizona third base coach, another injury to Max Scherzer, a potentially scarier injury to Adolis García, incredible bullpen work all around (except by Aroldis Chapman, who did manage to somehow save himself), etc. It was a tight, low-scoring game with only a few scoring chances for each team.
I imagine there will be quite a contrast in tonight’s game, where the starting pitching matchup is Joe Mantiply vs. Andrew Heaney.
But let’s focus for a moment on a single at-bat last night, bottom of the ninth inning, the Diamondbacks are down two runs, and their number-three hitter, Gabriel Moreno, steps to the plate.
The number-three hitters in this World Series are WILD — they’re both rookies with very little big-league experience. I mean, look at the number-three hitters in Game 3s of World Series past:
1923: HOF Frankie Frisch (Giants) vs. HOF Babe Ruth (Yankees)
1933: HOF Bill Terry (Giants) vs. HOF Heinie Manush (Senators)
1943: HOF Stan Musial (Cardinals) vs. Billy Johnson (Yankees)*
*Obviously, this was when Joe DiMaggio and company were at war.
1953: Hank Bauer (Yankees) vs. HOF Duke Snider (Dodgers)
1963: Tom Tresh (Yankees) vs. Willie Davis (Dodgers)
1973: Sal Bando (Athletics) vs. Rusty Staub (Mets)
1983: HOF Cal Ripken Jr. (Orioles) vs. HOF Mike Schmidt (Phillies)
1993: HOF Paul Molitor (Blue Jays) vs. John Kruk (Phillies)
2003: Jason Giambi (Yankees) vs. HOF Ivan Rodriguez (Marlins)
2013: Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox) vs. Matt Holliday (Cardinals)
And this year, our number-three hitters are the aforementioned Gabriel Moreno, 23 years old, 136 big-league games, eight career home runs vs. Texas’ Evan Carter*, just turned 21, 23 big-league games, five career home runs. It’s just another strange part of a strange World Series.
*Bruce Bochy did switch up the lineup on Monday, swapping No. 3 hitter Carter and the usual cleanup hitter, García, but the point remains.
In any case, it’s Moreno vs. Rangers closer Jose Leclerc, nobody out, the Arizona crowd going wild, the game very much in the balance, the inning still an empty slate promising infinite possibilities. Announcer John Smoltz talks about how a walk is worse than a home run, which it surely isn’t, but you get the idea, Moreno is not the tying run, so it’s up to Leclerc to make him earn his way on base.
Leclerc throws a slider that breaks well out of the zone, perhaps in the hope that Moreno will come out aggressively. Moreno holds back. The count is 1-0.
You will want to keep track of the count.
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