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Keeping Score: And down the stretch they stumble


Friday, September 29, 2017

Good morning!

Cincinnati native Jim Brosnan titled his pitching memoir “The Long Season,” and two years later penned “Pennant Race” about the Reds’ charge to the 1961 National League flag. The Reds lost in five games to the Yankees under rookie manager Ralph Houk, who had replaced Casey Stengle. The Yankees’ brass said that Stengle had reached the mandatory retirement age in 1960.

“I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again,” said Stengle, who would manage the New York Mets until he was 75.

Brosnan’s books remind me of Boston’s long, slow slog from April 3 when they beat Pittsburgh (Andrew Benintendi hit a three-run blast) to presently watching Eduardo Rodriguez trying to get out of a bases-loaded jam against Houston (he didn’t).

In New York, the resurgent Yankees have their fans feeling jubilant; the fans in Boston are stressed.

If the Red Sox wind up in a playoff game for the AL East title against New York, it would be on the same day and date as Bucky Bleeping Dent’s home run 39 years ago, albeit in Yankee Stadium, and the loser will survive to play another day.

The Red Sox could really, really, use a rest. Mookie Betts has a bad thumb, Andrew Benintendi is bruised from hitting foul balls off his lower body, and Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez both have nagging lower leg injuries.

Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz could also use a break after their shaky outings this week against Toronto. Sale, incidentally, was 0-1 versus Cleveland this year with an 11.70 ERA, but was 3-1 with a 4.05 ERA his last two years with the White Sox.

In the Big Apple, the Yankees are as healthy as they’ve been all season. Infielders Greg Bird and Starlin Castro and outfielder Aaron Hicks have come off the disabled list and are contributing with home runs and home-run saving catches. Brett Gardner, Gary Sanchez and Jacoby Ellsbury are batting over .300 this month, and Aaron Judge has resumed hitting the long ball, including his 50th against Kansas City on Monday to break Mark McGwire’s rookie record.

“This kid Judge is the real deal,” said Shelburne’s Skip Smith, who was working in New York for the YES Network this week. “I watched him blast homers in March and he’s still proving he can put it over the fence. The Yankees are a dangerous team and loaded for a playoff run.”

The road to the World Series is going through Cleveland, a city with a score to settle. The Indians have won 30 of their last 33 games, including the 22-game streak that began against Boston and broke the AL record.

At this writing, leadoff hitter Francisco Lindor had a .339 on base percentage,  Nos. 2 and 3 hitters, Austin Jackson and Jose Ramirez, were both batting .317, and cleanup hitter Juan Encarnacion had 38 home runs, 103 RBIs and was second in the league in on-base percentage.

Cleveland starters Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer are a combined 52-19 and the bullpen is lights-out with middle-reliever Andrew Miller (92 K’s in 61 innings) and closer Cody Allen (29 saves).

Oh, and the Tribe is tied with the Twins for fewest errors (75) this season.

Terry Francona’s ballclub is rightfully favored to bring Cleveland its first World Series title since 1948, when Bob Lemon’s pitching and Larry Doby’s hitting stifled Billy Southworth’s Boston Braves in six games.

First things first, however, and the Indians might have to run the table to edge the Astros out for home field advantage.

Meanwhile, Red Sox manager John Farrell has other things to worry about, like whether he needs to get Chris Sale ready for the Yankees on Monday, or pitch him Sunday on three days’ rest.

Even if they’ve clinched by the time you read this, the Red Sox aren’t exactly roaring into the station like Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder on the Silver Streak.

Anybody up for some chicken wings and beer? 

It’s been tough going for the Turners Falls High School football team this season. The team has endured some lopsided losses, but can take solace knowing there was a time when opponents had no reason for payback. That changed when coach Chris Lapointe and his staff rode into town like Wyatt Earp in Tombstone: “You tell ‘em I’m coming, and hell’s coming with me!” 

Turners is 55-29 under Lapointe, including last week’s 12-0 loss to Greenfield High School. “Looking at the film if we didn’t miss two assignments, I think it’s 0-0 going into the fourth quarter,” said Lapointe. “That, and not getting their two fumbles really hurt.”

The blemish snapped a seven-game winning streak against Greenfield — their longest ever — but set the stage for what will be their 90th Thanksgiving Day reunion on November 23.

 MGM Springfield is advertising “250 job descriptions for 3,000 positions” ranging from from sous chef to pit boss but don’t open a savings account just yet. An MGM Springfield spokesperson said they expected 40 applicants per position.

“We’ve not yet announced an opening date,” said Carole Brennan, “but we remain on schedule to be open around this time next year.”

The facility covers three city blocks and will include a “seasonal skating rink,  luxury cinema and high energy bowing complex.”

High energy bowling is when somebody drops a 15-pound ball on his foot.

Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley indulged in some wonderful repartee on Tuesday after NESN’s camera panned in on Fred Lynn waving to fans in the Legends Suite. “You know Eck, every time we see Freddie it just looks like he’s having a good time in life.”

“Yeah, that bothers me,” said Eckersley, drawing a laugh. “He goes back to San Diego without a care in the world. C’mon.”

The following night, the 5-foot-9 Remy reminisced about being tossed from a game by 6-foot-8 umpire Tim McClelland. “I was arguing with the guy’s belt buckle. I jumped up as high as I could and gave it to him as fast as I could.”

Eckersley commisserated, saying he’d had his share of ejections. “I had problems with everyone. I used to take it personally, like he really wanted to mess with my life. You can’t take it that deep. If I had it to do over again, I would’ve been a lot nicer.”

Remy and Eckersley are a treat in the broadcast booth.

Some more, please.

SQUIBBERS: All was fair in love, war and football when Penn State coach James Franklin called time out to ice Georgia State’s kicker with 11 seconds left and preserve a 56-0 shutout. … Justin Verlander won’t pitch against Boston this weekend. That might be a good thing, because he’s 5-0 for Houston since he was traded from Detroit on Aug. 31. The big right-hander out of Old Dominion is 5-5 lifetime against the Red Sox. …  Knowing the Steelers were 1-12 at Soldier Field in Chicago would’ve been helpful making my “confidence” choice in Mark Durant’s NFL pick ‘em pool. The Bears were 7½-point underdogs and beat Pittsburgh outright. … Sunday’s take-a-knee routine around the NFL put Chris “Mad Dog” Russo over the edge: “Sunday at one o’clock, leave me alone! Let me lose my money in peace. Lions and Giants killed me. Money line.” … Wouldn’t be surprised if Dartmouth grad Brad Ausmus winds up managing the Red Sox someday. … Odell Beckham Jr.’s stupid dog trick wasn’t helpful to the cause now was it? … Three weeks into the season and the L.A. Rams lead the league in points scored and the Patriots lead in points allowed. … With field goals being kicked from record distances, Roger Goodell should consider deflating the footballs.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.