'We just got beat by misfortune today': Dusty Baker's Astros stare down an ALCS deficit
Dusty Baker has lost thousands of baseball games. Some as players. Some as managers. You're part of the trip he chose decades ago - he might believe she chose him and he wouldn't get an argument - and stayed after that.
The casualties came and sometimes they wore white and sometimes gray and sometimes they are on a bleak night in June and sometimes on a glittering October afternoon, like a Monday in San Diego. After a couple of decades, he may have learned to live with the losses, and maybe he hasn't, and it probably depends on how you define "living with". He wanted another shot in those two years in his 70s, so maybe that's a sneak peek. He wasn't going to come back and win them all.
Even so, he thought back to everything that had happened to the team he'd dragged through a diabolical regular season, then watched it reborn in postseason wins against the Minnesota Twins and Oakland A, and suspected it was in this particular case on Monday afternoon: "We just got hit by misfortune today."
The accident has a pretty good roster and since Dusty was a boy.
After 24 hours of browsing the Tampa Bay Rays looking for weaknesses, the Houston Astros have lost two games in the American League Championship Series. The first game they lost by a run. The second time they drove the line through the park barely finding a place that a Rays player wasn't standing, and then when their all-star and former MVP second bassist Jose Altuve made his first throwing mistake of the season. Then his second.
Dusty Baker felt that his Astros played better than the Rays in Game 2, but ran into a number of calamities. (Photo by Alex Trautwig / MLB Photos via Getty Images)
To have come all the way too just to have the season buckle because suddenly his second baseman couldn't fly a baseball 60 feet faster and his first baseman couldn't correct a simple short jump and then two pitches later - with two failures, two Pitches that never had to be thrown - Manuel Margot hit a triple home run. The rays won 4-2.
"I mean, we're very surprised," said Dusty. "It's his first throwing mistake all year. And he had two of them today. You just hope he doesn't get the Yips."
Nobody talks about the Yips unless you've seen some good and bad things, and the Yips are the least of them. Also, nobody talks about the Yips because to say out loud is to give them lungs, breath, and life and try further misfortune. Baker didn't want to pretend no one saw the short, weird mechanic because even if someone had missed them the first time, they would have seen them the second time. By the end of the game, shortstop Carlos Correa had replaced Altuve as Rover briefly on the right in a shift against a left-hander, which Baker said they had trained among themselves.
It happened. It all happened. So said up on the scoreboard. Says so in the series summary. Game 3 also came and the Astros have something to do.
"They invariably come in bunches," said Dusty. “But everything comes in bundles - mistakes, hits, homer, everything. I just told him to rinse it. This guy was great for us. You know you have to flush it and move on. Or it multiplies. I am sure that he will. We played an excellent game. Like I said gosh, we got 11 or 12 hits and I don't know how many men we left on the base - 10 or 11 - but we had chances.
"It's very frustrating because all you hear is 'exit speed' and you know we had a lot of exit speed today. [Joey] Wendle played some great games on third base. We did some line drives on that We end it with [Alex Bregman] hitting a ball to the right. Thought this ball had a chance to get in the gap. Yeah, it's very frustrating. Especially when Lance [McCullers] threw his butt off . He threw better than Charlie Morton or one of those guys over there. Just nothing to show. He was in his A game today. He had it going.… Yeah, it was very frustrating because Charlie Morton wasn't that hot today. I saw it a lot sharper. But damn it, that hurt. You just know that we always hit the ball so we take a few breaks and get a lot of it. "
Dusty sat in the reality of what had come and gone. Another loss to throw on the pile. Another day that he believed could have turned out differently. Maybe even should have. This is the game he has followed over these years, for those thousands of losses, for more wins than that, and it has followed him too.
Towards the end of that day, he was asked if he believed that the baseball gods would vote for Game 2 of the ALCS 2020 once his second baseman became suspicious of his own arm.
"No, I can," he said. "Because I am not one of the gods. And if the gods answered me, it meant that I am no longer here on earth."
Can't have that. He would want to see who played the misfortune next.
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