Thursday, October 3, 2013

Liveblogging the AL Wild Card Game

By Kevin Beane

Welcome to the first Slant Pattern that's on location! No, I'm not at the game, but I am at Scotty's Elm Street Saloon in downtown Dallas, Texas, where I will attempt to liveblog the game.

I've done this several times before, but as this is a bar, I'm giving myself the further handicap of not being able to hear the television. If you know me, you know half my shtick is making fun of announcers and commercials. On the plus side, the Rays defeated the Rangers to make it into this game, so I'm not elbow-to-elbow with Ranger fans. They are all at home crying into their Yu Darvish commemorative plastic cups.

These teams are quite evenly matched, and indeed, per Steven Goldman's excellent preview, right down to similar strengths and weaknesses. Both teams come in scorching hot, with the Rays finishing off the season 9-2 and the Indians 10-0 (the Rangers, the third team in the derby, went 7-1). On one hand, the Indians got 9 of those 10 wins over the three worst teams (by record) in the AL, and the Rays won their season series over the Tribe comfortably. On the other hand, the Indians ended the year with a better Pythagorean W-L record (92-70, which was also their actual record, vs the Rays 87-83).

Both teams are starting rookie pitchers who have been surprisingly outstanding. Alex Cobb sports 2.76 ERA, and Danny Salazar's ERA is 3.12. Salazar started the year in AA and didn't even garner a mention in the glut of starting pitchers the Indians went into spring training with.

8:08 PM EST: David DeJesus just sent Michael Bourne back to the warning track with the second pitch of the game, and as a Tribe fan, I'm already nervous.

8:12 PM: Bam, Salazar struck out the last two to lower my blood pressure.

8:20 PM: Indians also go down 1-2-3, but not before the umps tried to gift a call to the Tribe before an umpire conference and a reversal. Exhibit #879 of "no one acknowledges when horrible calls go against your own team, except I do (pats myself on back)."

8:27 PM: No rookie jitters here. Through three half-innings, we have yet to see a baserunner.

8:38 PM: Cobb blinks first as Ryan Raburn doubles to the centerfield wall, but it was a 2-out hit and Asdrubal (how many little kids call him ass-dribble? a lot, I hope) Cabrera can't bring home the bacon.

8:42 PM: So of course Delmon Young homers. 1-0, Rays.

8:48 PM: Salazar gets out of the inning with no further damage, and I have daymares of a 1-0 final.

8:49 PM: Thought I will hate them for the next 2+ hours, I normally like the Rays, and I think they underwent the most successful brand repurposing in brand history. They started out as the Devil Rays, as in the sea creature, and fans naturally called them simply the Rays, so that's all they are now, officially, as in the thing the sun does.

8:55 PM: They just showed a stat which I believe said the Tribe was 38-55 this year against teams with winning records. That sounds about right. You know how some teams play to the level of their opponents? That's not the Indians. They get pasted by better teams and destroy worse teams. If I saw that stat correctly, it makes them 52-15 against teams with losing records.

9:07 PM: This sports bar is playing a lot of country music and I do not approve.

9:10 PM: The bar's lone big screen is occupied by (per request of a customer who got in before me) a early-season NHL matchup between the very-not-local Sabres and Red Wings. I disapprove most vociferously.

9:12 PM: Desmond Jennings with a 2-run double for the Rays. I haz a sad. Activity begins in the Indians bullpen. But at 9:14 he gets out of it. 3-0 Rays going to the bottom of the 4th.

9:18 PM: Someone put "Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads on the jukebox. I approve.

9:24 PM: Carlos Santana doubles with 1 out, bringing up Michael Brantley, who's second in the AL at .375 with RISP. C'monnnnnn...

9:27 PM: Brantley comes through with an infield hit that the Rays are protesting strenuously, including Joe Maddon coming out of the dugout, but replays show was the right call.

9:29 PM: Cobb keeps throwing to first. Brantley hasn't been a serious threat to steal in a couple years. I like this.

9:31 PM: Three pitches, four throws to first. For a guy who has 21 steal attempts all year. Resultantly, he walks the next batter. Bases loaded, 1 out for the Tribe.

9:33 PM: And Ass-dribble grounds into the most depressing double play of my life. The Indians grounded into the fewest double plays in the majors this year.

9:39 PM: Salazar walks the opening batter for the Rays and ... I'm thinking, one more baserunner and Francona has to pull him. Oh look, he is pulling him. I didn't see who was coming in yet, but Indians manager Terry Francona said he'd be willing to use staff ace Justin Masterson in this game, and I think he has to. The bleeding needs to stop, the Rays bullpen isn't that great, and it's only the fifth inning. I know 3-0 is not 7-0, but this game is do or die.

9:41 PM: EDIT: It's actually Marc Rzepcnynski (27 APP, 0.79 ERA. I'll take it).

9:48 PM: EDIT: He just faced one batter, whom he retired, and now Bryan Shaw comes in.

9:53 PM: Yan Gomes, the first Brazilian to play in the bigs, a man who took over for Carlos Santana behind the plate because of his defensive skills, throws out the Rays runner to end the inning. Momentum? Much work, but a climbable mountain for the Tribe, down 3-0 going to the bottom of the fifth.

9:56 PM: And Gomes leads off the bottom of the fifth with a double.

9:59 PM: Lonnie Chisenhall moves Gomes to third with a single. The Tribe must take advantage of this opportunity.

10:04 PM: Bourne strikes out, and Nick Swisher grounds into what would have been a double play if anyone had been covering third. I want to do a lot more cussing than "ass-dribble" right about now.

10:07 PM: Jason Kipnis grounds out. The Indians get runners on the corners with no one out and cannot score. Going to the sixth, 3-0 Rays.

10:14 PM: Shaw retires the Rays 1-2-3 in the sixth, and the cameras continually show Masterson warming up in the bullpen. Can I just say Terry Francona is a great manager? Cobb looks ready to break, and he saves Masterson, the Indians best pitcher, for that point. That is better than what I suggested earlier. Make no mistake though, the Tribe's back is still against the wall.

10:20 PM: I think Santana just got hosed by the third based umpire on a 3-2 pitch where the home plate ump appealed to third. He didn't go around.

10:28 PM: Our old foe Jennings leads off the Rays 7th with a single and Francona brings in Masterson, one hitter too late.

10:35 PM: Masterson lives up to his name, and masterfully strikes out two and grounds out one. Three more innings for the baseball team I love to advance.

10:39 PM: Other baseball news: they just showed a bit piece about how Dan Uggla has been left off the Braves postseason roster ... among qualifying second basemen, he has had the worst BA bar one other player among 2nd baseman in the last ONE HUNDRED YEARS. Good move, Hotlanta.

10:44 PM: Chisenhall, batting .225 on the year, strokes a one-out single with a runner on first and the Indians are in business again. Just before that, they showed a shot of David Price in the Rays in the bullpen. Is there a single player who represents the entire history of the Rays franchise more than Price? No disrespect intended to Evan Longoria, but I submit not.

10:48 PM: With two outs and two on, Maddon finally pulls the plug on Cobb. In this era of over-specialization of pitchers, both managers, I submit, have had slow hooks tonight.

11:00 PM: Masterson allows two singles with nobody out, and oh dear I don't believe the Cleveland Indians are advancing in the 2013 postseason.

11:04 PM: The Tribe gets out of the jam with a double play and a line out. The jukebox plays a live version of "Down Under" by Men at Work. I wrote about that song in a piece about Australian sports in this very space a few years ago. Let this be an omen.

11:17 PM: Mexican avocados are always in season, informs a TBS commercial that will not make a dent on avocado sales. But! The Metallica pinball machine next to the big screen will give you a national weekly high score if you play well enough, it says.

11:26 PM: The jukebox (which must be auto-playing as I am the only person here) is now playing Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" on the jukebox. Quite a departure from Toby Keith anthems of conservatism. In baseball news, Justin Masterson has been yanked. God Save the Indians, Long Live the Indians.

11:41 PM: The Rays add another run. Last chance gas for the Indians, down 4-0 going to the bottom of the ninth. Fernando Rodney, who has been terrible this year, in to pitch for the Rays.

11:48 PM: (expletive)

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