SAN FRANCISCO -- Five thoughts as the four League Division Series swing into high gear ...
Teams just do not win these games -- not when they lose their ace after one hitter and a fire drill breaks out in the bullpen. Indeed, the Reds became the first team to win a National League playoff game while getting just one out from its starting pitcher. It's happened only four times overall, and not since 1998 (Cleveland in the ALDS), 1964 (St. Louis in the World Series), 1925 (Pittsburgh in the World Series) and 1924 (Washington in the World Series).
"You can either use it as an excuse if you don't succeed," said Reds pitching coach Brian Price about Latos' emergency relief appearance, "or you can use it as a reason to succeed."
After Sam LeCure picked up five huge outs to buy time for Latos to get ready, Latos, greeted by the usual boos at AT&T Park, came up big on a night when he showed up at the park prepared only to sit on the bench and watch.
"He likes the negative energy," Price said. "He feeds off it."
The postseason can end quickly for some teams this time of year. The Rangers and Braves are out already and now the Giants, just nine innings in, already face a must-win game in Game 2 tonight. They cannot hope to sweep three games in Cincinnati.
Verlander once again proved he is the best closer among starting pitchers. He plowed his way through 121 pitches and gave up one run -- none after the first hitter. Nobody had thrown that many pitches in an LDS opener in the past nine years. Letting Verlander get through the series without another start would be reminiscent of the Yankees sweeping the Twins in 2009, sparing CC Sabathia of a second LDS start. Instead, Sabathia started three of the Yankees first seven postseason games that year -- and the Yankees won all three of those starts on their way to winning the World Series. Sometimes the LCS can be won or lost by how the LDS plays out.
Verlander puts up extraordinary numbers, but this one may best define his ability to put away teams: After Verlander passed the 100-pitch mark in his regular season starts, batters hit .130 with no home runs while striking out 37 percent of their plate appearances. That, folks, is ridiculous.
There is a long history of outfield umpires butchering plays: Richie Garcia on the Derek Jeter/Jeffrey Maier home run, Phil Cuzzi on the Joe Mauer foul ball "double," Tim Welke getting in the way of Jermaine Dye catching a flyball that opened the door for the great comeback win by the 1996 Yankees, and now Holbrook and the "Outfield Fly" rule.
Holbrook has the rule on his side; in his judgment the ball required only "ordinary effort" by Pete Kozma to be caught. It was not a horrible call. It was a judgment call. But maybe what we should be asking is why he was out there.
I get it: it's 50 percent more postseason paychecks for umpires. I don't have a problem with assigning six umpires to a series. But put two of them in the booth as replay officials. Once you use the Hawkeye-style technology to determine fair or foul, including home runs, we don't need umpires on the foul lines.
Where else could he get a team from the start of spring training? He's not going back to Boston and he's not a fit in Toronto if John Farrell leaves (and that's far from a given). Even if Miami opens up, the Marlins are not paying superstar money to two managers. Colorado may or may not keep Jim Tracy, but the Rockies are just the Indians with a front office Francona doesn't know.
It's a great hire for the Indians and especially for Antonetti, who needs to get this hire right to maintain his job security. What pick could possibly be safer than Francona? It's a great fit: the Indians needed Francona and Francona needed the Indians.