THE FRONT ROW with MARK NELKE: How to kill all that time between pitches

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Attending a baseball game in person is one thing.

There's plenty to do between pitches — take a bite of your hot dog, check out the scenery behind the outfield fence, check out the scenery in the stands. Maybe even — egad! — check scores of other games on your phone.

Finally, here comes the next pitch.

But watching a baseball game on TV, particularly a playoff baseball game ... well, it's a good way to get some chores done around the house, and still not miss much action.

 

IT USED to be that just the Red Sox and Yankees could turn a nine-inning game into a four-hour slog.

Each game — and each pitch — seemed to be magnified when those teams played. Throw a pitch in the wrong place, and it will likely get whacked — changing the game, the series, perhaps the season.

Now every game is like that.

So pitchers, particularly relievers, nibble, trying to get hitters to “chase.” They throw pitches just off the strike zone, trying to tempt the batter. The pitchers with a lot of movement can throw a pitch that starts out as a strike, but moves so much it either hits the ground or dives way out of the strike zone.

“Good take” is the new popular phrase used by analysts, when a hitter lays off a pitch out of the zone that the pitcher was trying to get a batter to “chase.”

Yes, it has come to that ... “Good take!”

Unless you're the Dodgers, of course. In L.A., the same guys who celebrate their Hollywood homers during the regular season flail and miss miserably at pitches out of the strike zone in the playoffs.

Consider, in their latest excruciating playoff loss — in 10 innings in Game 5 of the NLDS on Wednesday night against the NatSpos, the Washington Nationals who are the former Montreal Expos — the Dodgers didn't even come close to scoring a run over the last 3 1/2 hours of the game, aside from an opposite-field fly ball to the warning track in the ninth.

And that's not even bringing up the L.A. manager's curious use of his bullpen.

 

HOWEVER, NOT all batters, particularly in the playoffs, simply get themselves out like the Dodgers do. So most relievers have to nibble, because if they could just throw it by hitters like Bob Gibson used to, they wouldn't be relievers, trusted to only face a few batters.

As the wise philosopher Robb Akey, the former Idaho football coach, used to tell us all the time, “Your starters are your starters for a reason.”

And the rest of them come on in the fifth or sixth or seventh or eighth inning, trying to get the game to the closer.

So we watch ... and wait.

The first pitch is just off the plate. Ball One.

The pitcher adjusts himself.

The batter adjusts himself.

The director shows closeups of both.

The pitcher looks in for the sign.

The director cuts to shots of one manager, then the other.

The catcher gives the sign.

The director cuts to tight shots of fans in the stands.

The pitcher throws one just off the plate again, but closer.

“Strike one,” the sympathetic ump declares.

And on and on.

Pretty soon the director has run out of fans to cut to, and the reliever has reached his pitch limit, and the next guy comes in.

Meanwhile, the viewer has finished another episode of M*A*S*H on the other screen.

 

LAST WEEK, during a tense moment late in a playoff game, I took a casual stroll to the other end of the building, where the restrooms were, and when I came back ... THE COUNT HAD NOT CHANGED!

The next day, I mowed the lawn — front and back — and I swear I did not miss an inning. The same turned-up crowd noise I heard when I walked outside was the same turned-up crowd noise I heard when I returned.

Loads of laundry were accomplished, with nary a pitch missed.

I went out and got the mail, picking up stray pinecones on the way back to the house.

The Pac-12 Networks do few things right — not finding a way to get their product on DirecTV topping the list. But one smart creation the networks had was “Pac-12 Football in 60,” an edited-down version of the previous week's games into a 60-minute format. No milling around between plays — just snaps, and more snaps.

That might be the best way to watch baseball on TV — particularly playoff baseball. (https://www.attplans.com/)

 

ALL THAT said, congrats to the NatSpos. When it mattered, their better hitters did something with the rare good pitches that they saw, and deposited them over the fence.

That has allowed the folks from D.C. to face the formerly classy Cardinals and their potty mouthed manager in the NLCS. Google Mike Shildt's rant on Wednesday — after the Cardinals needed just the top of the first to eliminate the Braves in their NLDS, but according to baseball rules, the Braves had to stick around for another 8 1/2 innings of agony before they could leave.

Maybe he'll rile up the NatSpos in a similar manner, and incite a beanball war.

That might be fun to watch.

But if they do, hopefully they do it quickly.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter@CdAPressSports.

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