World Series JWIB! A Thriller!
Now THAT was a baseball game. Up to Saturday night, being honest, the World Series had been a whole lot of blah, with each game sparking as many negative thoughts about the game as positive ones. Game 1 felt way too long (because it WAS way too long). Game 2 was sloppy and uncompetitive. Game 3 had its charms but so much of the postgame focus was on Atlanta’s removal of Ian Anderson after five no-hit innings and what that says about baseball today and tomorrow.
I’m telling you, I have a lot to say about baseball today and tomorrow.
I could write a book, I have so much to say about it.
Saturday night felt doomed more or less from the start. There were college football games being played — Ohio State vs. Penn State among them — so the World Series only had part of the stage. Donald Trump was at the game doing the tomahawk chop, and no matter how you feel about him or the chop, you had to know that was going to raise blood pressure across America and overshadow the baseball.
And then Atlanta started this game off by starting our friend Tom Burgess, who is an electrician by day.
OK, right, the Braves didn’t really start Tom, but they did start someone named Dylan Lee, which is the next-best thing. Dylan Lee was a 10th-round pick of the Marlins back in 2016, and he kicked around in the minor leagues for a little while before the team released him before this season. Atlanta picked him up, pitched him in Class AAA Gwinnett, and he was pretty darned good as a lefty specialist, good enough that Atlanta called him up to pitch two innings at the end of the season.
In his first big-league inning, he pitched around a leadoff single by getting the Mets’ Dominic Smith to hit into a double play.
In his second big-league inning, he gave up a triple to Francisco Lindor and a homer to Michael Conforto.
It isn’t often that you can, in full detail, wrap up the entire career of a World Series starter in two sentences.
The Braves were desperate — they really didn’t have anybody to start Game 4 of the World Series and, incredibly, because of the injury to Charlie Morton, they don’t have anybody to start Game 5, either. The fact that the National League pennant winner literally doesn’t have a starting pitcher available for pivotal home games of the World Series does say a lot about how a team wins in 2021.
In any case, the Lee experiment seemed like some sort of ill-conceived reality show — Atlanta management didn’t even tell the poor guy he was starting until he got to the ballpark. I don’t think I was alone in rooting for Lee, desperately hoping for him to make it through the experience, but other than a strikeout of Alex Bregman (who now seems so lost, we might find him on Hydra Island), it did not go well. Lee gave up a groundball single to Jose Altuve, walked Michael Brantley on five pitches and walked Yordan Álvarez on four.
Reliever Kyle Wright was up after two batters. Dylan Lee was out after four batters.
He looked pretty shellshocked by the whole experience.
So, no, this game hardly had the look of a classic. And it’s not like anyone could have expected Kyle Wright to settle things down. Wright does have more big-league experience than Lee, but who doesn’t? He had pitched 76 2/3 major league innings counting the postseason — 6 1/3 of those innings this season.
He had given up seven runs in those 6 1/3 innings if you are scoring at home.
But then, Kyle Wright did something surprising — he got out of the bases-loaded jam by allowing only one run, that on a weak ground ball by Carlos Correa. When he struck out Kyle Tucker to end the frame, I think baseball fans got the feeling something important had happened.
As my friend Tommy Tomlinson wrote on Twitter, “The Atlanta Braves won the first inning 0-1.”
Kyle Wright proceeded to pitch 4 2/3 wild, rocky, precarious and ultimately successful innings against the best lineup in baseball. He gave up two hits and vicious lineout in the second, two walks and a single in the third, a homer in the fourth, and a single, a steal and an intentional walk in the fifth.
But except for the Altuve home run — the 23rd of his postseason career — Kyle Wright did not give up any runs. You will sometimes hear pitchers who pull off escape acts called Houdini, which obviously warms my heart, but to me Kyle Wright’s performance was more like a Magoo, with him somehow navigating falling anvils and high-voltage wires and open manhole covers without ever getting hurt.
And Houston only led 2-0 going into the sixth inning.
Can we talk for a minute about Eddie Rosario? My editor Larry sent this photograph to me during the game.
Right, that is Pablo Sandoval. And that’s the guy Atlanta traded to Cleveland to get Eddie Rosario.*
*Cleveland actually had to throw in $500,00 to complete the deal.
Nobody made much of a thing out of the Rosario deal at the time, for a number of reasons. One, Rosario was injured at the time the deal was made — he had been out for almost a month with a strained oblique, and he wouldn’t be able to play for another month or so. Also, the Braves seemed to be going nowhere — not only did they have a losing record at the time of the deal, they had lost their most electrifying player, Ronald Acuña Jr., three weeks earlier.