NLCS Game 4: Derek Lowe, It’s Time to Shine

I don’t want to linger on this beanball war thing for too long, because I still think far too much of it has been made. That said, I still have to touch on Bill Plaschke’s utterly predictable piece in the LA Times today. I was half kidding yesterday when I said that his article was almost certainly going to be about nothing but how Kuroda picked up the team, but I suppose in retrospect I shouldn’t have been surprised. Plaschke articles are like Mad Libs – simply focus on one topic of debatable importance while ignoring the real story, and make sure that every paragraph is one sentence at most. Anyway, I’m not going to go through the whole thing, because it’s not worth anyone’s time to do so, but a few notes:

So do the Dodgers, who, on a fall evening chilled by the threat of extinction, gathered around his passion and climbed aboard his nerve.

“Gathered around his passion and climbed aboard his nerve”? Bill, are you a sportswriter or a movie producer? This sounds like the tagline to the next awful “generic uplifting story of hope” movie. Seriously, read that sentence again, but use the voice of the “In a world…” guy.

Not shown: Dodgers having put up six runs and basically putting the game out of reach before anything “heroic” Kuroda did.

Restraining hitters while finally retaliating for the pitch that nearly decapitated Manny Ramirez in Game 2,

Shown at right: the pitch that “nearly decapitated Manny Ramirez”, which is obviously so close to his head that he didn’t even have to duck. Or as Joe Buck and Tim McCarver put it on the broadcast, where I clearly just grabbed this screencap from, “That wasn’t even close!” (Buck) and “That was two feet behind him!” (McCarver).

But to make sure Victorino understood him, moments later Kuroda ran over to first base while Victorino was grounding out to first baseman Ryan Howard.

Hey, Ryan Howard got traded to the Dodgers! I know, this is a typo, and not really a huge deal. But come on, Bill. Do I ever make mistakes? Sure. Am I a paid professional with an editor? I am not. How embarrassing.

Afterward, the usually gregarious Victorino refused comment on the incident, while the homecoming Lopes also refused to talk.

Sounds like Victorino’s smarter than we think and just refused to talk to you, Bill, because I certainly saw him on FOX about ten seconds after the final out saying “don’t throw at my head” about fourteen times.

Anyway, enough of discussing the worst writer in Los Angeles sports (I don’t count TJ Simers, since everyone should know by now that nothing he says is to be taken seriously). Game 4! The big story is of course that Derek Lowe is being brought back on three days rest, which would set up the remaining three games to be Chad Billingsley (Game 5), Kuroda (Game 6), and Lowe (Game 7). Due to offdays on Tuesday and Thursday, none of those starts would be on short rest if the series were to make it that far.

Everyone seems to enjoy saying that “sinkerball pitchers are fine to go on short rest, they’re better when they’re tired”, but I don’t know that there’s a whole lot of statistical evidence to back that up. In Lowe’s case, he’s only done it four times in his career, and the numbers are inconclusive, giving up 17 ER in 23 IP. In each of the first three, he went six innings, allowing three, one, and two earned runs respectively – which is fine. But as pointed out by Sons of Steve Garvey today, when he tried it this year against the Angels it didn’t go so well – 10 hits and 7 ER in 5 innings. So we’ll have to see. I think it’s the right move by Torre, because Lowe was without a doubt the best pitcher for LA down the stretch, and he’s been around long enough to not get rattled by the playoffs.

Don’t forget, Lowe wasn’t as bad as you think in Game 1. He was dominant for five innings, had Rafael Furcal throw a ball away in the 6th, and then gave up two homers that A) came off the big-time bats of Chase Utley and Pat Burrell and B) might not have made it out of any other park in the league. So I’m not too worried about him. On the other side, the Phillies throw Joe Blanton. At first glance, his stats aren’t too impressive (4.69 ERA between Oakland and Philadelphia, with a 4.20 Philly-only mark), but he was very good against a dangerous Milwaukee team in the NLDS, striking out 7 and allowing just 1 run in 6 innings. Blanton went twice against the Dodgers in 2008, and just like everyone else on both sides, was good at home (1 ER in 6 IP) and lousy on the road (4 ER in 5 IP). Good thing this one’s in Dodger Stadium!

Also, I really love getting to say this in every game preview: Manny Ramirez owns this pitcher. It’s not quite Moyer-levels of domination, but Manny’s seen Blanton 25 times and put up a line up of .560/.600/.720. Is there anyone he can’t hit? Things I don’t enjoy having to say in every game preview include “Casey Blake cannot hit this guy”, and I really mean it this time. One single in 21 career at-bats? That’s more than “this guy has your number.” That’s “this guy has your number, your car, and your wife.”

Should be a fun one tonight. How many times do you think FOX will show the beanball replays? 25? 80? Buck and McCarver should be plenty pleased with themselves, I’d think.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg