Last night was mostly taken up doing wedding stuff. Namely filling and addressing envelopes. I was on stuffing and licking duty, with the occasional address look-up. But, there was still baseball being played last night, so I was paying some attention.
The Cubs are already starting to get me suckered in. I still don’t think this is a playoff year, but they may be better off than I realize. Yes, blowing a four-run lead is never a good thing, that didn’t make me happy. But it was nice to see the team respond and put up a couple more runs, and maybe even better to see Sean Marshall lock it down in the 9th. There’s a very good argument to be made that Sean Marshall has been the most valuable Cubs pitcher the past few years. He’s filled about every role there is to fill, and done it all pretty well. The shame of all this I can’t watch afternoon games as much any more. Watching the Cubbies play those early afternoon games was a staple of my late high school and college career. I could record them and watch them later, I suppose, but MLB really beefed up Gameday on their website, so I know I’d just ruin the games for myself. Better to let the DVR fill up with episodes of “Baggage” instead.
The Reds are also looking just dominant. Dispatching Houston 8-2 in a game they may as well called in the 2nd, I’m having a hard time finding the holes on this team. I understand the Astros and Brewers aren’t exactly world-beaters, but they have looked awfully good. J.A. Happ really did not. I haven’t watched him all that much, but he sure was moody last night. Jawing with the umpire, walking off the mound before the umpire made his call, etc. He’s young, and I think Houston will be happy in the long run with (essentially) Happ for Oswalt, but that can’t be his usual attitude.
The only hole I can find in Cincinnati is their fan base. Opening Day in Cincy, of course, is still a big deal, even if Selig has robbed us all of one of the best traditions in sports. But Great American Ballpark (which is a very nice stadium, I can tell you first hand) has been half-empty since. They very rarely sold out last year, even as they fought for their first playoff berth (and division crown) since 1995. You are better than that, Cincy. I know it’s cold out and there are quite a few empty seats everywhere in baseball right now. But you can’t have this sort of team and not show up. Not unless you’re in Tampa Bay, and there’s a very real chance they’ll be moving. And you can’t use the excuse that nobody knew how good this team would be. They were this good last year and probably even better this year. In defense of the Reds fans that did show up, it was would be hard to find a more energetic bunch judging by the post game show they would run from the stadium concourse. A very underrated part of watching Reds games, if you ask me.
I did catch the very end of the Cardinals and Pirates, but I couldn’t tell you much of what happened there, other than Ryan Franklin didn’t blow the save like he did Opening Day, and that seemed to really impress the broadcaster. I’m just glad to see Steve Pearce sticking in Pittsburgh, even if I will miss seeing him in Indy.
The game of the night, which I watched the last few innings of, was the Royals hosting the White Sox. The Royals have very quietly put together a 4-1 start, which would be 5-0 if Alex Gordon’s long fly would have been about a yard to the right. There were a couple of interesting plays; I think both in the 12th inning. First was the Web Gem of the Year (so far) from Alcides Escobar. I could go into detail describing it here (and I did in the first version of this post), but then I remembered that I’m not writing for a newspaper here, so I can just show you.
The next play left me very disappointed in Hawk Harrelson. Not exactly a new thing, mind you, but worse than usual.* Brent Lillibridge (which for some reason I always want to call Ryan Lillibridge) drifted a bit too far off second, and the pitcher got him into a run down. Well, not so much a run down as Lillibridge took a few steps back to second before running like hell to third. The ball was flipped to Mike Aviles who was waiting to make the tag at third, which he did before looking back to first to make sure he didn’t get any ideas. (What? The internet? Oh, right. Click here.) The only problem was the third base umpire didn’t think Aviles made the tag. I think it took a second for all parties to figure out Lillibridge was called safe. Aviles was understandably upset and pleaded his case, as did Ned Yost, but then the second base umpire stepped in and ruled Lillibridge out. Replay clearly showed that was the right call. As did full speed, I thought, but I guess I wasn’t standing at third base.
*Maybe one of these days soon I’ll skip my baseball viewing habits and discuss announcers. Hey, I kind of look like Joe Posnanski right now. Nothing against the guy, but I hope the resemblance is only writing deep.
Now, typically in a situation like this, you might do some grumbling as a broadcaster, or even as a fan, but you would typically concede the important thing is they got the right call. But not Hawk Harrelson. Even after a few showings of the replay, Hawk kept harping on how the third base umpire wasn’t screened or anything, so why could the second base umpire overrule him? You would think the obvious answer would be “Because the third base umpire got it wrong.” I wish we would see more of this. It was really pretty disgusting and set me even further against the Southsiders. The Royals did pull out the game, by the way. And good for them.
One quick note to end this. I probably would have watched more baseball last night, but the Blackhawks were in Montreal fighting for their playoff lives. Montreal is also trying to cement their place in the playoffs. And what a game it was. It definitely felt like a playoff game, looked like a playoff game, and I think the NHL could do a lot worse than Chicago and Montreal in the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s not going to happen, but boy it looked good on every level. The hockey was wide open, slick, energetic and extremely entertaining. Montreal (being the Yankees of hockey) has some of the most into it and knowledgeable fans anywhere. Even the uniforms were great.* The Canadiens held on to win in OT, which was disappointing. But it’s hard to be upset after a game like that. I’m officially pumped for the playoffs.
*I kind of like this Posnanski thing. I might do footnotes in the future, though. I don’t want to be too blatant. Anyway, I just wanted to add here that it’s a shame the NHL went to color at home, because the Blackhawks white jersey is so much sharper than the red.