ANAHEIM, Calif. — Didi Gregorius listened this week as a reporter asked him how he’s maintained such an impressive tear.
The slugging shortstop and social media voice of the New York Yankees flashed one of his widest grins — and spoke before the reporter could finish.
“So same question as yesterday,” he said, still smiling.
Yes, it was the same question as yesterday, and the day before that … and the day before that, too.
The question keeps coming because Gregorius keeps hitting. A year after a World Baseball Classic injury forced him to miss nearly all of the opening month of the season, a healthy Gregorius leads the majors in RBIs (29) and OPS (1.245), is second in batting average (.354) and trails only Mike Trout in both home runs (9) and WAR (2.1).
In other words (and symbols) he’s: #lit, #flames, #onfire, 🔥, 💯.
As the Yankees open a key 13-game stretch Friday against the Angels, Astros, Indians and Red Sox, Gregorius has been scorching at the plate. His team has caught fire, too — winning six in a row and 10 of its past 13 — and all the W’s have kept Gregorius busy on Twitter. Minutes after each victory, Sir Didi spreads the news with a game recap … packed with the universal language of emojis.
#StartSpreadingTheNews yankees win Great start by Tanaka⏱ going 6+ innings … 🍼 with his first major league hit… 👹 with solo homerun 🌋 with a solo homerun and 🚓 with a 2run homer .. 🔥🔥bullpen🔥🔥 all around great game … WHAT A GAME!!
— Sir Didi Gregorius (@DidiG18) April 24, 2018
One emoji you won’t see in those colorful recaps? The crossing-sword symbol that represents the Netherlands-born ballplayer — knighted after playing on the Dutch team that won the 2011 Baseball World Cup title. No matter how much Gregorius might have factored in a victory, he said he has no plans to refer to himself. The only emojis he uses are for his teammates.
“It’s the team,” Gregorius said. “If the team is playing good, I’m doing good. If the team is not doing good, then I’m not doing good. That’s how I look at it.”
Fans have eaten up the celebratory tweets, and the organization has, too.
As part of their in-stadium preview before the first pitch of games that follow wins, the Yankees post the Gregorius recap on the video board — often forcing the team to fill in the blanks.
“You have to make a point by saying, ‘Hey, Didi is not there, and he’s not there for a reason,’” Yankees On Demand pregame host Justin Shackil said. “You’re obviously including what he said in the tweet, but you’ve got to give him props, as well. Because there’s been too many games now where he’s been right in the middle of the victory.”
This week alone, Gregorius has stroked two first-inning RBIs, hit a game-tying homer and launched a late grand slam to extend a hitting streak in his final at-bat.
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He’s also the first Yankee since Babe Ruth in 1921 to hit .321 or better and have at least nine homers and 29 RBIs through his first 23 games of a season.
“The biggest thing is to just get some runners on when Didi’s hitting,” Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge said, laughing. “That’s the only thing we need to do.”
Manager Aaron Boone attributes the 28-year-old Gregorius’ early success to growing experience.
“We’re continuing to see the evolution of a really good player that I think takes a lot of pride in his craft and, at 28 years old, is kind of just entering those prime years,” Boone said. “This is a guy that has a great plan when he goes up to the plate.
“To see him come here [from Arizona via a three-team trade in 2014] and get better and better and better each and every year … in a way, I’m not surprised.”
Gregorius examines reporters’ questions almost as carefully as he studies opposing pitchers. When he was asked what emojis he’d use to assess the start of his season, he thought for a moment, then declined. Team first.
“If you guys want to do that, you can do that. I’m not going to tell you guys to not do that,” he said.
Well, since he gave us his permission:
Asked⚔️this week to give me a🤚for a🔥🔥🔥story on his emoji use. He said🙅🏾♂️. When I asked about his🔥🔥🔥April🔥🔥🔥, did what he always does: left⚔️out of it, instead praised🤡👨🏽⚖️🌋🐙👹🚓🍼for getting on around him, &🎅🏾👦🏾⏱🦃☀️🔥bullpen🔥for pitching well
— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) April 27, 2018
Gregorius spent more than three weeks on the disabled list at the start of last season, rehabbing from a sprained right shoulder he suffered while playing for the Netherlands in the WBC.
As soon as Gregorius was cleared to return — a year ago Saturday — he went on a stretch similar to the one he’s been on this season. Through his first 24 games last season, Gregorius batted .330 with an .833 OPS and 11 multihit games. The only difference? His power numbers. He kicked off 2017 with a more modest three homers and 17 RBIs.
“I was feeling good when I finally got my chance to get back,” Gregorius said. “From then, I just tried to get on base for the guys.”
Lately, he’s done a lot more than that.
Gregorius’ defense — highlighted by plays like his charging, barehanded grab to nail the Twins’ Eduardo Escobar on a bang-bang play to end Wednesday night’s game — has had his teammates singing his praises. So have his heady baseball instincts, also on display this week against Minnesota, when he dropped down a push bunt for single against the shift.
He’s certainly helped fans turn the page after saying goodbye to the guy who played shortstop in the Bronx before him.
“What he’s done in taking over for arguably one of the best shortstops to ever play — and we don’t even bring him [Derek Jeter] up anymore because Didi has been that good — you’ve got to give him a lot of credit in what he’s been able to do taking over in that spot,” veteran Yankees lefty CC Sabathia said.
“He’s the anchor of our team.”
Maybe Gregorius deserves two emojis.
Best things I’ve learned on Yanks beat came from⚓️⚔️:
— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) April 27, 2018
World Series Daily — Get ready for Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw vs. Tampa Bay Rays’ Tyler Glasnow in Game 1
After all the oddities of the MLB regular season and postseason, the 2020 World Series pits baseball’s top two teams against each other, which itself is something that doesn’t happen every year. And while we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the Dodgers playing for the world championship, this is the first Fall Classic for the Rays since 2008 and only the second in franchise history.
Here’s what you need to know for the World Series opener Tuesday night, including a look at the Game 1 pitching matchup, predictions, odds and other key numbers, and more.
What’s on tap
For just the fourth time since the wild card was added in 1995, we get a World Series featuring the teams with the best record in each league: The others were Braves over Indians in 1995, Yankees over Braves in 1999 and Red Sox over Cardinals in 2013. For the third time in four years, we also get Clayton Kershaw starting Game 1. In 2017, he allowed one run with 11 strikeouts against the Astros, and in 2018, on a cold night in Boston, he allowed five runs. One thing that’s different this year: Kershaw isn’t the best player on his team; he might not even be the best pitcher. He just has to be a contributor.
“I think every year is different. Obviously postseason you have that experience to draw on so just trying to learn from that as best you can. But at the same time every year is different, every team is different, the Rays are a different team than the Astros and the Red Sox. So I’m going to prepare like I always do and be as ready as I can be and excited about another opportunity to get it done.” Kershaw said Monday.
He doesn’t have to pitch great, but a solid effort of five or six innings would be a huge emotional lift — not just for him, but for the entire team. This isn’t the Kershaw of a few years ago, of course, but he did increase his fastball velocity this season, to 91.6 mph. Still, he continues to throw his fastball less often and his slider and curveball more often. In 2016, he threw his fastball 50% of the time; it was down to 41% this year. It will be interesting to see how manager Dave Roberts deploys his Dodgers bullpen. The pen has a 3.40 ERA in the postseason, but that includes 11 innings with no earned runs from Julio Urias. Take him out and the ERA jumps to 4.23. Blake Treinen pitched in the final three games of the National League Championship Series, so even though he had an off day on Monday, he’s probably the reliever Roberts would like to avoid.
For the Rays, hard-throwing Tyler Glasnow gets the start Tuesday. He’s basically a two-pitch guy with an upper-90s fastball and wipeout curve. Including the postseason, he’s averaged 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings, so he can dominate when he’s locating the heater. He’s had issues with the home run, however, allowing six in 19⅓ innings in the postseason. The Dodgers, of course, are very good at hitting home runs, leading the majors in the regular season and swatting 16 in the NLCS, tying the record for home runs in one series. Glasnow has allowed a much higher slugging percentage to right-handed batters (.497) than lefties (.328). Rays manager Kevin Cash was fairly careful in not overextending his top relievers in the American League Championship Series, but with the traditional two off days back on the schedule, he will probably be short term in his thinking and go pedal to the metal with Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo and Peter Fairbanks.
Ultimately, the Rays will need somebody beside Randy Arozarena and Manuel Margot to step up. Willy Adames (.132 in the postseason) and Brandon Lowe (.115) combined for 22 home runs in the regular season, but have just one in 90 at-bats in the playoffs. They need more from those two, especially if Arozarena doesn’t stay on his incredible hot streak. — David Schoenfield
Running World Series odds
Dodgers 69.8%; Rays 30.2%
Game 1 predictions
David Schoenfield: Kershaw goes six solid innings, taking advantage of the strikeout-prone Rays to rack up 10 K’s. The Dodgers hit a couple of home runs off Glasnow, then tack on a couple more runs against the second tier of the Tampa Bay relievers. Dodgers 5, Rays 1.
Jesse Rogers: Game 1 is where Kershaw (finally?) shines in the postseason. That could be for a shorter-than-desired outing if his back starts acting up, but all signs point to him being healthy. Or at least healthy enough to mow down the Rays. And remember, Tampa Bay was just a .500 team in the regular season against left-handed starters. Kershaw has had a whole postseason of games to watch Arozarena on video, so he won’t let the rookie beat him, and the Rays — at least against lefties — aren’t deep enough. At least on paper. Whatever advantage Tampa Bay had with an extra day off is mitigated by having to fly across two time zones and play in a new ballpark for the first time. Glasnow says it’s not the mound he’ll have to get used to but perhaps the sightline to the catcher or behind him. It probably won’t be a big deal, but the slightest edge can make the difference. L.A. wins a low-scoring game. Dodgers 3, Rays 1.
Alden Gonzalez: The Dodgers are still on a high from their intense Game 7 on Sunday night, their third consecutive win to eliminate the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, and the guess here is that they’ll ride that momentum to a strong offensive showing in Game 1. Kershaw gets a lot of flak for his postseason shortcomings, but for one night, at least, he’ll pitch deep into the game and give a tired bullpen a needed break. Dodgers 7, Rays 2.
Stat of the day
Based on their LCS rosters, the Dodgers come into the World Series with 700 games of playoff experience compared to just 284 for the Rays. According to research by the Elias Sports Bureau, that 416-game difference is the largest disparity between World Series opponents since the Yankees and Marlins had a 418-game gap in 2003. The 2001 Yankees’ 546-game difference against the Diamondbacks is the all-time greatest.
Social media post of the day
— MLB (@MLB) October 20, 2020
Best moment of the MLB playoffs to date
Cody Bellinger managed to one-up … Cody Bellinger. The Dodgers outfielder has held this crown since he robbed Fernando Tatis Jr. of a home run in a thrilling Padres-Dodgers NL Division Series Game 2, but his NLCS-deciding Game 7 home run to put Los Angeles in the 2020 World Series was just enough to take over the top spot.
CODY BELLINGER GIVES THE DODGERS THE LEAD 💥
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 19, 2020
The running MLB playoffs MVP
Randy Arozarena has gone from an unknown outfielder to this October’s breakout star. Going into the playoffs, you might have been asking, “Who is this guy?” But the Rays’ trade for him has been a huge factor in their postseason run. And while his MLB-high seven long balls have made a big impression, Arozarena also leads all hitters in the postseason with 47 total bases (and is leading in hits and runs). Also, he has been flashing some leather in the outfield and some sweet celebration dance moves on the field.
Ex-Astros GM Jeff Luhnow again denies role in Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal
Former Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow once again denied in an interview that aired on Monday that he knew about the team’s sign stealing in in 2017 and ’18, and said individuals who were involved with the scandal are still working for the club.
Luhnow, in his first public comments since being fired in January, told Houston TV station KPRC he got access to 22,000 text messages from Astros video room personnel after he was fired because of the scandal. He says the messages clearly show the scope of the cheating and exonerate him from wrongdoing.
“It’s pretty clear who was involved in the video decoding scheme, when it started, how often it happened, and basically when it ended. And it’s also pretty clear who was not involved,” Luhnow said. “And I don’t know why that information, that evidence, wasn’t discussed in the ruling, wasn’t used. The people who were involved that didn’t leave naturally to go to other teams are all still employed by the Astros.
“In fact, one of the people who was intimately involved, I had demoted from a position in the clubhouse to a position somewhere else, and after I was fired he was promoted back into the clubhouse. So none of those people faced any repercussions. They weren’t discussed in the report, but the evidence is all there that they were involved.”
Luhnow said the texts were part of Major League Baseball’s investigation into the cheating and that the Astros had access to them as well.
A league investigation confirmed the Astros had cheated by using a camera-based, sign-stealing system during the regular season and playoffs of their World Series-winning 2017 season and during part of the 2018 regular season.
MLB announced its discipline of the Astros in January, suspending Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for the entire 2020 season while stripping the organization of four draft picks and levying a $5 million fine. Luhnow and Hinch were fired by owner Jim Crane shortly after the league’s punishment was announced. In January, Luhnow first denied any wrongdoing in a statement.
Luhnow also told KPRC-TV that he met with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred at the league’s offices in New York after receiving a letter detailing the accusations against him. Luhnow said he presented to Manfred a lengthy binder containing emails, documents and testimony to counter the allegations. Luhnow also said he asked Manfred if a lie detector test could be administered on him.
“He turned down my offer to do a polygraph test. I don’t know how much of the 150-page binder he read, but none of it made its way into the final report, so frankly, he had his mind made up,” Luhnow said. “He was going to punish me. There was nowhere else to go. He was going to punish AJ [Hinch] as well, and AJ admitted that he knew.”
Luhnow added: “They found something that they believe is evidence. It’s not. I refuted it very quickly and thoroughly, but it was enough for them to feel good about suspending me.”
Los Angeles Dodgers tab Clayton Kershaw to start Game 1 of World Series
ARLINGTON, Texas — Clayton Kershaw, who avoided an emergency relief appearance over the last two games of the just-completed National League Championship Series, will start Game 1 of the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced on Monday.
Kershaw, who will be making his fifth career World Series start, will oppose Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow on Tuesday (first pitch from Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, is 7:09 p.m. CT).
Kershaw was originally scratched from Game 2 of the NLCS because of back spasms but recovered in time to start Thursday’s Game 4, allowing one run through the first five innings before running into trouble in the sixth. The 32-year-old left-hander made himself available out of the bullpen for Games 6 and 7, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts wanted to avoid using Kershaw in hopes of saving him for a potential World Series opener.
Kershaw finished the regular season with a 2.16 ERA, 62 strikeouts and only eight walks in 58 1/3 innings and experienced a slight uptick in fastball velocity. Glasnow, 27, went 5-1 with a 4.08 ERA in 11regular-season starts and has allowed eight runs in 13 1/3 innings over his last three postseason appearances.
Glasnow will take the ball on five days’ rest and will be followed by lefty Blake Snell in Game 2. The Dodgers seem a little more uncertain about Game 2 because Walker Buehler can only make that start on three days’ rest. Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias, all of whom were used in Sunday’s Game 7, are their other three starters.
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