1. While watching the World Series, I also keep an eye on my Twitter feed. I subscribe to Sarah Langs' feed, and others, who post arcane stats, like the number of rotations per minute, the spin rate, on Walker Beuhler's four-seamer or I'll learn that Justin Turner is the first hitter in World Series history to hit a first inning home run in back to back games.
Last night, little over half way through Game 4, Sarah Langs retweeted a post by Sports Illustrated's Sarah Apstein informing us that we hadn't had a lead change in the 2020 World Series so far. I thought this was interesting and I texted this kernel to Cas.
Well, no sooner did I text that fact out, then the Rays' Brandon Lowe, in the bottom of the sixth inning, hit a three run homer with his team behind by two runs and the 2020 World Series' first lead change took place. It would be the first of four lead changes in a game that ended as crazily as I've ever seen.
I won't write every detail of the bottom of the ninth inning, but, basically, here's what happened. With one out, Kevin Kiermaier hit a shattered bat single that barely got over the infield. After Joey Wendle lined out to left, postseason hitting star Randy Arozarena came to the plate and after seven pitches, including two foul balls, was walked by Dodger pitcher Kenley Jansen.
A series of managerial moves I won't detail here meant that the next hitter was Brett Phillips.
Brett Phillips had not been to the plate since Oct. 7. In fact, he wasn't on the Rays' roster in their previous series against the Astros. Over the last 29 days, he'd only batted twice. His career batting average is .202.
Brett Phillips stepped up to the plate and was in trouble right away. He was down in the count one ball and two strikes and hadn't swung his bat. In his career, Kenley Jansen has allowed only a .117 batting average when he's had two strikes on a hitter.
But, somehow, this hitter, Brett Phillips, on the Rays' roster primarily to serve as a pinch runner and a late innings defensive replacement, struck a solid single to center field. Since he had two strikes, the two runners on base were off and running the second Phillips made contact and Kiermaier scored easily, tying the game.
Dodgers' centerfielder Chris Taylor got ahead of himself and seemed to be loading up for a throw before he had secured Phillip's hit and the ball squirted out of his glove.
As Tayor recovered his muff, Randy Arozarena streaked around third base and headed for home. Chris Taylor pegged the ball on a line to cut off man Max Muncy. While Taylor was making his throw, Arozarena stumbled, lost his balance tearing around third base. Muncy turned and fired a bullet to Dodgers' catcher Will Smith who didn't know Arozarena had stumbled.
In his haste to simultaneously catch Muncy's throw and make a swipe tag of the (he thought) oncoming Arozarena, Smith pulled his glove toward the third base line before he was in full possession of Muncy's throw. Like Chris Taylor, he got ahead of himself and the ball ricocheted off his glove and rolled toward the backstop.
Arozarena, by this time, had sprung to his feet and he slid head first into home, scored the winning run, and beat his fists on the plate in celebration.
Brett Philips saw this miracle unfold and he was running around the infield with his arms extended, as if he were an airplane. His team mobbed him. Soon Arozarena got mobbed.
The Rays, in one of the most improbable endings of a World Series game I've ever witnessed, beat the Dodger 8-7 and the World Series is tied at two games a piece.
2. Two things stuck in my mind as I decompressed after the game.
First of all, it's hard for me to gauge exactly what my greatest weakness as an athlete was when I played ball 45-50 years ago, but I'd begin my list with my emotional instability. I was rarely relaxed on either the basketball court or the baseball field or the golf course.
Consequently, I often got ahead of myself, rushed myself, made wild throws in baseball, ran around like a headless chicken on the basketball court, and muffed shot after shot in golf.
When Chris Taylor muffed Phillip's single last night and when Will Smith tried to make a tag before he'd secured Max Muncy's throw, I had a series of flashbacks to similar errors I made. They weren't primarily physical errors, but mental ones caused by my inability to control my excitement, my overwrought desire to perform well, and my deep insecurities about whether I was much of a player at all.
Secondly, I want to understand the contemporary game of baseball better. I know that data and analytics drive a lot of managerial decisions, but I don't always understand what data, say, move the Rays to occasionally employ four outfielders nor am I always sure how the data inform pitching changes, that is, the management of a pitching staff.
Since baseball is played differently than when I was younger, before I decide what I think of the contemporary game, I need to understand it better.
By the way, in addition to wanting to understand the game better, I have come to realize over the last few years that, as a sports fan, I've never, while watching games, inserted myself into the role of manager or coach. I've never had the ability to say at a certain juncture in a game whether I think a manager's or a coach's move was a good one or not. I've always been focused on how things turn out, on the action unfolding. This makes me different than many fans -- whether friends of mine or the people I read online.
Just one quick example: I wasn't thinking last night when Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts pulled Julio Urias whether it was a good move. This morning, I've read a lot of criticism of that move, but it's criticism I'm ill-equipped to level myself. What I'm about to say makes me odd, I know it, but I'm less interested in whether it was a good decision and more interested in why he made it, in what informed his thinking. Was it analytics? Was it something he saw in Urias's body language? In the way his pitches looked? Was it intuition? I don't think I'll ever really know, but maybe with some more reading and listening, I'll come to understand these things better, come to understand contemporary baseball better.
3. I knew I wouldn't make it through the film's ninety minutes, but I enjoyed watching the first half hour of the documentary, The Case of the Three-Sided Dream, and am thinking that I might watch the rest of it after tonight's game. The jazz multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk is the subject of the movie and I learned a lot in just thirty minutes about him as a musician and a philosopher and the impact he had on other musicians.
A limerick by Stu: