SERIOUS SOURCE FOR THE SERIES
I’ve always considered myself a huge baseball fan, and with the World Series starting tonight between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers, I could easily give you my opinion on the subject. But I decided to go a different route. When you have the phone number to the Oakland A’s pitching coach, you give him a call in situations like this.
Scott Emerson isn’t originally from Richmond County but does live here in the offseason, so I figured who would know about the intricacies of pitcher-hitter matchups (especially involving the Astros) than Scott?
Now, Scott has faced both teams as a coach, although the last time the A’s played the Dodgers was two years ago and the 2017 team is much different from then. But he did personally coach Rich Hill, who is a Dodgers starting pitcher now and will more than likely be counted on in a series destined to go seven games.
First off, however, I had to ask, “How in the heck do you get Jose Altuve out?”
Scott’s answer was simple: never throw him a first-pitch strike. He tells his pitchers to start Altuve out as if the count is already 0-2 because rest assured the scrappy second baseman is going be trying his best to expand the strike zone. With an offensive arsenal of speed, hitting and power, it’s no wonder Altuve may very well become MVP at the end of the year.
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve slides home during the 2017 ALCS. (Photo courtesy of NBC Sports)
I had to ask that besides Altuve, who’s the hardest hitter to get out between the two World Series teams. Scott said there’s a reason why both teams are in the position they’re in right now. Having a deep lineup one through nine is what has the Dodgers and Astros as the only two teams left. For Emerson personally, he knows how deep Houston’s lineup was because this year right fielder JJ Reddick was batting seventh for them, whereas in Oakland he was their number three hitter.
It’s all about how good your pitchers can minimize their mistakes according to a pitching coach in the know.
And what pitcher has been the best at that for the last five or six years? Clayton Kershaw. And although Kershaw hasn’t always pitched his best in the postseason, you can bet a thousand Dodger dogs that he’s going to be counted on in late October. So, I asked Emerson what makes the ace so special on the mound.
The answer: unpredictability in short. He has the ability to throw any pitch in any count according to Scott. Then you mix in Yu Darvish on the LA side and Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel on the Houston side and that’s four top-end starters ready to do battle unpredictably. Not to mention Hill from earlier, a guy Emerson knows very well and knows exactly what his arsenal is: one of the hardest-to-hit curveballs in the league, cross-fire action, changing arm action and a mean fastball.
The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs in the 2017 NLCS. (Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report)
All of this begs the question of who is going to win. Emerson isn’t venturing a guess because the teams are very evenly matched (although he admitted it be nice to have the trophy come back to his division), and he’s not wrong about that. But I’ll take a shot at it.
Astros over the Dodgers in seven.
TRIVIA TIME: This is the first World Series pitting a pair of 100-win teams since 1970. Who played in that Fall Classic? Answer below.
THE FLOOR IS THE BASEMENT
I pull for different teams in different sports but first and foremost, I bleed Carolina blue. And even though UNC is of course more known as a basketball school, it still pains me to see what’s going on in Kenan Stadium.
The Tar Heels are now 1-7 overall and 0-5 in the ACC with their only win coming against Old Dominion. I hoped that even though this past weekend’s game was in Blacksburg, Va., against Virginia Tech, Carolina would still be able to stay within the 14-point betting line that had been set earlier in the week. Well, as we all know now, they weren’t even close.
What’s worse is after the Hokies ripped them apart, Carolina gets the pleasure of welcoming undefeated Miami to Chapel Hill. Unfortunately, I think I already know how that one is going to turn out. Whatever the opposite of a cherry on the sundae is, that’s the fact that they very well may only win one other game this year – versus Western Carolina. They may go from facing Clemson in the ACC championship two years ago to failing to beat anyone in the Power 5.
Yes, UNC lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, including the first quarterback taken in the NFL draft, Mitch Trubisky. And yes, the defense was able to get worse with coordinator Gene Chizik gone.
Oh, well. Basketball season is coming.
TRIVIA ANSWER: The 108-win Baltimore Orioles beat the 102-win Cincinnati Reds in what could have been billed the “Frank Robinson Bowl” in the 1970 World Series in five games.