Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The #22

THE GAME: Dodgers vs Astros (World Series, Game 1)

It's a little ridiculous how great a matchup this World Series is. Long articles can be (and have been) written about it. So I'll just stick to my five favorite points:

1) These are two truly great teams. Both teams won 100 games in the regular season. Wanna guess how many times that has happened in the 113-year history of the World Series?

Eight.

The last time it happened? 1970.

This isn't one of those years that a team won 80-something games and finished second in their division but then got hot in October and made it to the World Series. These were the best teams in their leagues for most of the season.

2) Spending vs. Tanking. The Dodgers have had the highest payroll in MLB for four seasons in a row. The Astros intentionally sucked for several seasons to stockpile high draft picks, having six losing seasons in a row - including three consecutive 100-loss seasons - from 2009-2014. Which is a better way to build a championship team?

3) Great pitching vs. great hitting. The Dodgers' starters had the best ERA in all of baseball (3.39) during the regular season. In the postseason, their bullpen has an are-you-kidding-me ERA of 0.94. During the regular season, the Astros scored the most runs in baseball and had the highest team batting average (.282). Something has to give.

4) #22. Clayton Kershaw is the best regular-season pitcher I have seen this century. He could retire before this game and be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. But in the postseason he has been mediocre and has a losing record. A great postseason - particularly World Series - performance is the one thing missing from his resume. And he knows it.

I saw an interview with ARod yesterday - and let me tell you, ARod becoming the Wise Old Man of Baseball is not something I saw coming - where he said (I'm paraphrasing) "They used to talk about me failing in the postseason and I pretended like I didn't hear it, but I definitely did, and Clayton does, too.")

5) My own self-esteem. I have been making World Series predictions at the start of the season for my entire adult life. Many times - probably more half the time - I have gotten one team correct. But I have never gotten both correct... until this year.


NOTES ON THE FOOD:
  • The #19 at Langer's is one of my five favorite sandwiches in Los Angeles County. (Several national publications have named it the best sandwich in America.) I considered just going there and buying one this afternoon and writing about it. But then I had two thoughts: 1) Where's the fun in that? And 2) Traffic in Los Angeles sucks every day of the week; I can only guess what it would be like on the afternoon of the Dodgers' first World Series game in 29 years. 
  • So I decided to create a similar sandwich, made up of some of my favorite ingredients from around the Los Angeles area, as an homage to the #19. And name it the #22, as an homage to Clayton Kershaw. 

  • I enjoy the sourdough bread from the "Old Town Baking Company." I've seen it at several farmers markets around the Los Angeles area; until I looked at the label I had no idea it was made in Rancho Cucamonga. That ain't Los Angeles County. Whatever. 
  • I added four slices of Swiss cheese to the two slices of bread. 

  • Schreiner's Fine Sausages, in northern Glendale, makes the best corned beef I've had from a butcher. So I picked up several slices of that.

  • If you grew up in the Southland and you're old enough to remember the last time the Dodgers played in the World Series, you undoubtedly have at least one memory of Bob's Big Boy. Their Thousand Island dressing is my favorite that you can buy in a jar/bottle - to be honest, it's better than most homemade, too - and I prefer it to Russian dressing. A healthy smear went on top of the corned beef. 

  • My favorite cole slaw in Los Angeles is served at Philippe The Original. If you're not familiar with the place, it's just down the hill from Dodger Stadium. I can only imagine how crowded it was today. There was no chance I was going to brave traffic and wait in line to buy cole slaw. (Also, if I had gone, I would have purchased one of my other five favorite sandwiches in the Los Angeles area - Philippe's turkey dip - and that would have ruined my appetite.) 
  • Fortunately, my second-favorite cole slaw around is served at "Moffett's Family Restaurant & Chicken Pie Shoppe." (Yes, every single person I have ever encountered calls it "Moffett's," but I'm including the whole name because it's wonderfully expository.) That's much closer to where I live and I was able to go in and buy a container of cole slaw in less than 60 seconds. 
  • I probably used a little more slaw than necessary, but I do love it so. 

  • On Halloween day in 2004, I met a few friends in a basement bar to watch the Steelers end the Patriots 21-game winning streak. It was an overcast, cool autumn day, pretty much the exact opposite of today. After the game I walked down to Sur la Table and bought a panini press. It remains one of the ten best purchases of my life. I grilled my sandwich for five minutes. 
  • Was it as good as a Langer's #19? No. But it was wonderful, and a perfect sandwich to eat during this game. 

NOTES ON THE GAME:
  • As you have no doubt heard if you're watching the game, it's the hottest World Series game in history. Here's a comparison of the last 6 years: 
  • Vin Scully is in the house! It's understandable that so many fans signed petitions to bring him back to call the World Series... but anyone who thought there was a chance of that happening really doesn't understand Vin at all. The same things that made him the best to ever do the job - his humbleness, his professionalism, etc. - are the same things that would never allow him to take a job away from someone who has been covering the Dodgers all season. As Kevin Costner says in Field of Dreams: "The man's done enough. Leave him alone."
  • Chris Taylor hits the first pitch for a home run. There goes the perfect game.
  • Reddick fails to make a play in the outfield. In his defense, at least the ball didn't fly out of his glove and over the wall, like it did against the Red Sox. 
  • Joe Buck informs us: "The Astros - they're an American League ballclub." I'm glad we cleared that up. (Although, to be fair, there are probably people at ESPN who don't realize they changed leagues four years ago, as they are not an AL East team.)
  • Reddick hits a seeing-eye single for Houston's first hit of the game, bringing up Dallas Keuchel. I wonder how many career at-bats he has. Lemme look. 
  • 35 at-bats in 6 years. And he strikes out bunting the ball foul. Awesome. As I've written before, if you don't like the DH because you think every player should play the field AND bat, I respect that. But don't pretend like it makes for better baseball. 
  • Am I the only person who finds the play button of the "YouTube TV" ad behind home plate to be really fucking annoying?
  • Taylor's first at bat was a home run. In his second at bat, he smokes the ball... right at the shortstop, who turns an inning-ending double play. What a cruel game sometimes. 
  • Kershaw strikes out Altuve on a ball several inches below the zone. It can be a cruel game in lots of ways:  
  • Well, at least we know the ump isn't biased, he's just giving a huge zone tonight. In the next inning, Keuchel gets the strike against Bellinger on the same low-and-away pitch: 

  • Larry King is sitting behind home plate in long sleeves and his trademark suspenders. Isn't he like 100 years old? When you get that old does heat stop bothering you?
  • Kershaw makes it through the top of the 5th with only 6 pitches. We're at the halfway point and it's only taken a little over one hour. 
  • The Dodgers hit into their third double play of the game... and we're only in the fifth inning.
  • Keuchel walked Chris Taylor with two outs and I said to my friend "That was a big mistake; Justin Turner is going to hit a home run." He did. 3-1 Dodgers. 
  • Kershaw is done for the night: 7 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 earned run. That's a damn good line. He's only at 83 pitches; I imagine if the Dodgers didn't have the lead he would pitch one more inning. 
  • Keuchel is done, too. "What a job he did tonight!" gushes Joe Buck. Joe, he gave up 3 earned runs in 6.2 innings, including a walk and homer with two outs last inning that are currently the difference in this game. That's not an awful night, but it's not particularly good. 
  • Morrow and Jansen pitch scoreless 8th and 9ths, respectively, and the game ends 3-1. A great game for Kershaw, and decent game for the Dodgers hitters.
  • 2:28 game time - the shortest World Series game in 25 years.
  • Game 2 is tomorrow - Verlander vs. Rich Hill. It seems silly and redundant to call a World Series game a "huge game" but that's what tomorrow is. If the Dodgers win, they cannot lose this series in Houston, at the very worst they will be returning to Los Angeles next week. But if the Astros win, they will have taken control of the series for the time being.

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