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Eighth spot heroes

by Matt Smith

MlbHlSqTop billing was given to ‘Doc’ and the ‘Freak’, but it was plain-old eighth spot hitter Cody Ross who stole the show in Philadelphia last night.  The former Marlin took Roy Halladay deep twice as the San Francisco Giants took an early lead in the NLCS with a 4-3 Game One victory.

The eighth spot in the batting order doesn’t typically provide much power.  In the National League, it’s often the landing spot for a team’s least effective hitter, unless Tony La Russa is pulling his ‘pitcher batting eighth’ trick for the Cardinals. 

Not so in last night’s game.  Ross did his damage batting eighth and his opposing number in the Phillies’ lineup, Carlos Ruiz, also hit a home run against one of the elite starters in the game today (Lincecum in Ruiz’s case).

A player’s spot in the batting order can assume a surprising level of importance.  There’s an obvious tactical side to the construction of a lineup that makes a manager want to put his best hitters in certain positions.  Speed and on-base skills for the lead-off hitter, a ‘professional hitter’ in the two spot who can advance the runner or get on base himself, followed by the 3-4-5 heart of the order who  drive home the runs (that’s the theory, at least).

Being in one of those roles therefore bestows an additional element of responsibility and importance.  It’s not just a number, it’s a badge of honour.  Ever player will toe the party line and talk about ‘what’s best for the time’, but no one gives up their lofty batting lineup position lightly. 

Few will forget the fuss that was made when Alex Rodriguez was demoted down to the eighth spot by Joe Torre during the Yankees’ 2006 ALDS against the Detroit Tigers.  Rodriguez was struggling at the plate, but moving him all the way down to the eighth spot was a symbolic move as much as anything.  It was considered a serious slight against Rodriguez, some would say a deliberate slight (an act of humiliation even) by a manager who later saw fit to reveal stories of Rodriguez being called ‘A-Fraud’ by his teammates. 

For Rodriguez, hitting in the eighth spot was a come-down, but we shouldn’t fall into the trap of downplaying the lower-order hitters.  Somebody has to hit there after all and sometimes the lower-order is home to postseason heroes like Cody Ross.

Giants-Phillies resume tonight on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra

Game Two of the NLCS will be broadcast on BBC radio tonight, with first pitch set for 1 a.m.  Jonathan Sanchez and Roy Oswalt are the scheduled starters as the Phillies look to level the series. 

Ryan and Rangers can smile again

I’m sure there were plenty of knowing looks among the crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington when Texas took a 7-1 lead in the fifth inning yesterday.  The phrase ‘once bitten, twice shy’ comes to mind.  Nolan Ryan wouldn’t have been smiling quite so broadly as he was in Game One, that’s for sure.

This time there would be no patented Yankees comeback and the Rangers finally got their first ever postseason home win to level the series 1-1.  The Yankees will still feel they have the advantage heading back home for the next three games, but the Rangers should also enter Yankee Stadium with confidence.   Two games in and this looks a finely balanced series. 

The producer of BBC 5 Live’s MLB coverage, Simon Crosse, has stated that they may be broadcasting one of the games from this series during next week.  Further details will be provided when available.

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1 comment

BaseballGB » Wednesday Night Baseball on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra October 20, 2010 - 7:56 pm

[…] and now stand on the brink of making their first ever World Series. Bengie Molina, another eighth spot hitter please note, came through in Game Four with a three-run homer as the Rangers turned a 1-0 series […]

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