Stranded for Another Year

Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers faced an early five-run deficit in Game 7 of the World Series. They lost 5-1, but not without chances–they left a staggering total of 10 runners stranded on base.

An astonishing 104-win regular season led to a fifth consecutive National League West Division Championship for the Los Angeles Dodgers. They proceeded bulldoze the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS. They dethroned the defending champion Chicago Cubs within five games in the NLCS to secure their first pennant in 29 years. The road to the World Series might have looked easy for the Dodgers but it was evident that the entire team was simply firing on all cylinders. Manager Dave Roberts had all the components and assembled them strategically for a mean, blue winning machine. Arguably, there was no other team more deserving than the Dodgers to represent the National League in the World Series. It was only fitting that their counterpart was truly the best of the American League, as well.

There were only three teams that eclipsed the 100-win mark in the regular season; the other two being the Cleveland Indians (102 wins) and the Houston Astros (101 wins). Cleveland once steamrolled through a 22-game winning streak for most of September but was sent to an early elimination by the New York Yankees in the Division Series. Houston meanwhile, quickly dispatched of the Boston Red Sox. In the ALCS, the Astros erased a 3-2 series advantage from the resilient Yankees to claim the American League pennant in seven hard-fought games.

The date was then set for the World Series, with the first two games in Los Angeles. One team was well-rested and had lots of practice time while the other was slightly more fatigued and battle-hardened. Two of the best teams during the regular season had finally met each other, setting the stage (in Hollywood, no less) for a titanic match-up.

The first six games were fought tooth-and-nail between the two teams. Game 2 was crazy. Game 5 was manic. In both of those clashes, the Astros emerged victorious. Game 6 saw the series move back to Dodger Stadium for the potential final two games. On the brink of elimination, the Dodgers stared down Astros ace pitcher Justin Verlander on the mound. Verlander blinked first. The win infused new life to the Dodgers, as they waited to bring home one final win the following night.

I may be repeating a cliche, but in American sports, there’s nothing bigger than Game Seven. Winner-take-all. Do or die. A blockbuster of a Fall Classic was about to culminate in Hollywood. The script that had written itself through the first six games was already unimaginable.

The Game 7 pitching match-up was similar to that from Game 3—Yu Darvish for the Dodgers and Lance McCullers Jr. for the Astros. Darvish struggled mightily in a short outing in Game 3 but this time around, at least he has more relief pitching available for backup, including Clayton Kershaw. The same can be said for the Astros but McCullers pitched decently in Game 3. I felt confident that the Dodgers had the advantage in terms of pitching, provided that the offense can duly recover any squandered lead.

In the first inning, Darvish quickly gave up two runs to the Astros, who started with a frenetic aggression. Moving on to the bottom half with an immediate deficit, the Dodgers managed to load the bases but failed to score a run despite Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig getting hit by pitches from McCullers.

Darvish continued to struggle in the second inning, giving up another run before the dagger came with two outs. George Springer launched a two-run home run, his record-tying fifth of the series, to give the Astros a 5-0 lead. Just like in his previous start, Darvish was pulled after only 1.2 innings. Brandon Morrow took over to end the inning without further damage. For the rest of the game, Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, and Alex Wood combined to shut down the Astros lineup. Not bad, right?

The problem was that the Dodgers lineup was likewise shut down. Heading to the bottom of the second inning trailing by five, the Dodgers offense had all night–eight half innings, to be exact–to at least erase the deficit but they couldn’t. The Astros pitchers stepped up and the Dodgers had no answer, save for a solitary run batted in by Andre Ethier in the sixth inning. Contrary to my expectations, the Dodgers offense looked impotent. Rookie sensation Cody Bellinger struck out three times in four at-bats, again looking completely helpless against McCullers’ curveball. NLCS co-MVP Justin Turner’s bat remained cold at the plate. Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson were held at bay. The once dingy Astros bullpen was stable when it mattered most.

McCullers lasted 2.1 innings and was relieved from the mound by Brad Peacock, who recorded the next six outs, followed by Francisco Liriano and Chris Devenski for one out each, completing the first five innings. In the sixth inning, the Astros turned to Charlie Morton, the Game 4 starter, to continue the good work. Suffice it to say that Morton was on fire, despite being the one to give up the lone Dodgers run. He worked the final four innings for the Astros, getting better as the night progressed. Dodger bats were completely neutralized, and some were even pulverized, quite literally. For the final out, Morton got Corey Seager to hit a groundball into a defensive shift in shallow right field to end the game.

The Houston Astros are World Series champions for the first time in their franchise’s history.

While there’s no shame in the Dodgers losing against an equally tremendous opponent that they stretched to its limits through seven games, I just couldn’t help but feel slight disappointment that the Boys in Blue played arguably their worst game of this year’s postseason. The two most glaring statistics for the Dodgers were: (a) 10 runners left stranded on base, (b) 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position. Stranding baserunners, combined with not getting hits in clutch situations, has been a familiar way to see the Dodgers lose. I’ve seen it through the years. And this had to happen in Game Seven of the World Series. It’s incredibly frustrating that it all fell apart at just the most inopportune time.

The Dodgers made it to baseball’s biggest stage with all the right pieces to the puzzle. They had a full deck of cards to finally win a World Series title for the first time in 29 years. This year may not have finished in complete triumph (I started believing in a championship win as early as June and I’m sure other fans felt the same), I still have confidence that they are perennial contenders in the playoffs, considering what the future holds.

Dave Roberts has shown trustworthy competence in just his first two years as manager. Yasiel Puig, “the wild horse”, has found plate discipline. Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager, the franchise cornerstones, will also mature over the years. Clayton Kershaw will remain one of the best in the business, as will Kenley Jansen in closing out games. Joc Pederson picked no better time to reemerge than in the World Series. Chris Taylor and Justin Turner, the MVPs of the NLCS, will still be important veterans in the lineup. Julio Urias, not a teenager anymore, will return and should be ready next season. I could go on with some more names: Rich Hill, Kike Hernandez, Austin Barnes, Logan Forsythe, Brandon Morrow. All the pieces of this team clicked with the entire roster moving like clockwork. Sadly, they just couldn’t seal the deal.

If this was the Dodgers’ winning formula, the Astros (I wouldn’t necessarily label them the “antidote”) simply had the more effective formula that got the job done. Look no further than the top of their lineup: George Springer (the World Series MVP), Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa. Even Yuli Gurriel, who I hope has sincerely learned to avoid making racist gestures, is actually a decent hitter in the fifth spot. Their pitching staff has young arms, spearheaded by former Cy Young Award-winner Dallas Keuchel. And if Justin Verlander decides to sign a new deal with them, they are downright dangerous. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they follow one World Series appearance with another. Given the state of the Dodgers, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to predict next year’s Fall Classic to be a rematch.

game 7 huddle
#ThisTeam Credit: Official LA Dodgers Instagram account

I don’t really know what roster moves the Dodgers will make this offseason but I sure hope to see many familiar faces come Opening Day next spring. There’s a lot of talent in this team that can set up together to mount another campaign towards glory. The 2018 season is five months away. “Next year,” is once again a familiar phrase among those on the field and those cheering them on, myself included.

Because I rarely go out of my way to watch regular season games, I always look forward to October as the month of the year to watch a whole load of good quality baseball. Playoff baseball has this uncanny magic to it, a harbinger of some amazing moments. This year, I was once again reminded of the fascinating unpredictability of baseball and why I love to watch it. It has been a thrilling ride through the playoffs and the World Series with this Dodgers team. To commemorate this run, I plan to order the Dodgers on-field hat with the World Series logo. Even in a losing effort, I’m still proud of the way the Boys in Blue played. At times over the past month, I’ve reflected on how or why I’ve become so devoted to a baseball team in the other side of the world, yet I could offer no certain explanation.


What I Talk About When I Talk About Writing

Based on the title, you could guess that I’m a fan of Haruki Murakami. Here, I attempt to write about why I write and why I started this blog. I actually wrote this within the first month of starting my blog and only got to edit and proofread this a couple months later. I’d consider this a delayed publish, so without further ado, my own personal essay on writing:

It helps to write about something you’re passionate about. I remember incorporating sports into some of my papers in school and feeling very proud about my work once I’ve finished. More so, I receive fairly favorable feedback and grades from my professors and I’ve made myself some bit of a platform, a stepping stone with those, thus I’ve decided to go out and keep writing even outside of school requirements. I feel I have a way with words, being the introspective and bookworm that I am. One’s reading feeds one’s writing, I believe. I like to read books, with a particular interest in works by Japanese authors such as my personal favorite, Haruki Murakami, who I identify as my true inspiration for writing. Now I’m venturing into putting my thoughts in writing, organizing them in a manner similar to the style of some of the authors I admire, and taking these thoughts and opinions to a fairly public space by way of a blog. Normally, I’m a very quiet, bashful person who leads a private life, so it really is a venture for me to write a blog and share my thoughts through it.

By writing, I get to accomplish a couple of my objectives, one is to improve and develop through practice my flow and craft with words and another is to exercise my thought process. It takes me a while to organize my thoughts and construct ideas, which is why I find it more comfortable to convey my thoughts in writing than in speaking. I don’t feel like I’m an effective speaker as I usually jumble up words and phrases when I speak. A friend once told me about how he feels that “his mouth works faster than his brain,” saying that it might be the reason why sometimes he ends up blurting out something random. I offered that my problem might be the opposite of his, whereby I think “my brain works faster than my mouth.” I thought it might be an accurate assessment. More often than not, whenever I deliver a presentation or speak in front of a class, the reason for my stuttering and jumbling up words is that my brain seems to race against my mouth, always thinking two ideas ahead of what I say. My thought process might be too fast for my speaking ability and that’s why writing helps slow things down for me to form ideas, theses, and opinions in an organized manner, bringing forth the coherence I lose in my speaking.

In a way, I see writing as a kind of therapy for me. Through the process of writing, the end-product is a written picture, a snapshot, an overview of the thoughts that once lay dormant in my mind, brought forth in a more sensible form. Instead of letting my thoughts run stale and unshared in mind, writing them down in a way immortalizes them. If I want to revisit some of my ideas and memories, I can go look for a written account and I could easily refresh my imagination, I could transport myself back to the thought process I once had. No thought, no memory is left forgotten for they are preserved in the form of words.

Now that I’ve enumerated the benefits of writing, at least for me, I’ll now share what motivates me to write. As I mentioned in my introduction, I could call myself a bookworm because I always try reading at least one book when I have time to do it. I’m not the prolific reader type who could devour books one right after another, reaching up to a hundred books read in a year. I’m a normal, relaxed kind of reader. On a good year, I could only finish up to twenty or thirty books. I read mostly novels, although I have read and finished from cover to cover a couple of history books (one on China and another on Korea), as well as Haruki Murakami’s non-fiction work, Underground, and his memoir (more on that later). As far as non-fiction is concerned, that’s about it for me, as all of the other books I have read are fiction.

One might ask me why I don’t write stories even though I read a lot of fiction. The thing is, my creative writing capabilities have yet to be tapped and I wish I could improve on this. I may have the skill to write but as imaginative as I think I am, I just couldn’t properly cook up a nicely connected and coherent story with engaging conflict. I usually write based on what I experience and I’m thinking that if I’m going to be a novelist, I need to gain more life experiences. Perhaps I need to save up money to do some more traveling, as I find that as an effective way to experience the world and broaden one’s bank of inspirations in the form of memories. One day I wish I could emulate the works of authors I admire but as of now, I could only practice. Maybe a good story will come to me one day and I would start writing novels. As Murakami recounts in his memoir, he was close to thirty years old when he attended a baseball game and while sitting in the outfield, it just suddenly came to him that he’d write stories and be a novelist. When I attended the F1 Singapore Grand Prix this year, I remembered this and thought I could find inspiration in a similar manner as the author as I sat high up in the grandstand, peacefully watching cars during a practice session. So far, no inspiration has gotten to me yet; perhaps I should attend more Formula One grand prix events and sit in a grandstand until a story idea taps me on the shoulder and tells me to write it all down.

Anyway, while I work on my craft to be a budding novelist, it’s blogger for me right now. As seen in this blog, I write about Formula One racing but I don’t want to limit myself to only one topic. I want to see this blog as, aside from a collection of my opinions on various F1-related issues, also a collection of essays, if you will. I wrote about my Singapore Grand Prix experience in the style of a memoir (at least I think I did). Unpublished in this blog however, I also wrote about my previous two-week visit to Singapore last March to April, also this year, but I’ve kept that private. This fascination with memoir-style writing stemmed when I started reading Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. I started it in the morning, finished a few chapters and by the afternoon, I just felt the urge to write. Immediately, I thought about writing a narrative of my Singapore vacation, which was still quite fresh in my mind at that time. So I opened up my laptop and started typing away. I barely glanced away from the screen, writing and writing until the sun set and my room grew dark—I had to dial my focus down just to turn the light on. Murakami writes novels from the perspective of his main characters so that alone makes his works read like memoirs, except that, being works of fiction, crazier and more outrageous things tend to happen to the protagonist-slash-narrator and disrupts his monotonous, boring life. Moreover, ever since I started reading Murakami’s works a couple of years ago, I have sensed a certain deadpan voice to the way his protagonists narrate. I see it in the very simple way he constructs short, precise sentences to describe objects and places, as well as feelings and emotions. The Murakami brand of writing, in my opinion, is straightforward and efficient, no wasted words or energy, which I’ve embraced, seeing that it suits my own deadpan and quiet personality. In my writing, I have since tried to emulate his style. I wish Murakami could narrate my life story but I have to be careful what I wish for—one day, Super-Frog would probably come up to me and tell me to accompany him to do battle against a giant worm responsible for earthquakes in Tokyo*.

*This is a reference to Murakami’s short story Super-Frog Saves Tokyo found in After the Quake.

My desire for writing was further fed when I read Murakami’s memoir What I Talk about When I Talk About Running. I found here the same voice that I’ve read in his novels except that this time, he talks about his own life, particularly his longstanding passion for running. The author magnificently takes the reader, in quite a phenomenological manner, through all the pain and the emotional rollercoaster of running by himself the marathon distance from Athens to Marathon in Greece, and running an ultra-marathon (100 kilometer distance) in Hokkaido. His narrative style in his memoir is so easy to digest that it can really inspire me to do something similar with my own life story. Evidently, writing about one’s passion brings forth highly inspired, beautiful writing. Right now, although not a perfect analogy, I thought I could give it a shot that what running is to Murakami, Formula One racing is to me.

Hence, I write about Formula One, in general. It’s the sport that I’ve loved ever since I was a young kid. I make sure to watch every race live on television and I haven’t missed a race in years. Over time, I began to engage more with the sport. I started to follow news stories to learn about issues and listened intently on commentary to pick up talking points, which is why I pay close attention even if it’s just a free practice session. Eventually, I started to develop opinions on the various issues of the sport and felt like maybe it’s worth to give my two cents on some topics such as driver performance and the like. I thought that starting a blog as an “arm-chair pundit” would be a good way to keep up with the sport I’m passionate about and at the same time develop my writing skills.

Writing about my Singapore Grand Prix experience was a good exercise in memoir-writing. I thank Murakami prose and narrative style for being the standard I wish to attain in my efforts. I wanted to write about being a trackside spectator in a Formula One race in the same way as Murakami wrote about running. As I write this, I have yet to finish my account of the grand prix spectacle but when I do finish it, I hope I would be proud of my effort to emulate my favorite author. More so, I want to be able to look back and relive the memory through my own written account*.

*I have already finished it: 2015 Singapore Grand Prix collection

I’ll continue writing and gain confidence in sharing my works. With time and practice, eventually, I could develop writing creativity and venture into writing fiction. Until then, I’m hoping I’ll keep finding inspiration to write and satisfy the purpose of my writing, which is to preserve the thoughts, ideas, and memories that wish to occupy spaces other than my mind; thoughts and memories that speak to be immortalized in the form of words.

Raceday – Day 3 at the Singapore Grand Prix


Sunday was the day of the main race, the action set to start at eight o’clock that evening. The Singapore Grand Prix is officially the flagship Formula One Night Race, although the races in Abu Dhabi and more recently Bahrain are also held under a night sky.

Factoring in the tight and twisty nature of the Marina Bay Street Circuit, a lap around it took well over 100 seconds to complete. Even though it is one of the longest lap times among all F1 tracks, the circuit isn’t all that lengthy—only a little upwards of five kilometers. Given that the race has always been set for 61 laps, the Singapore Grand Prix is actually the longest race on the F1 calendar in terms of time, easily reaching a full two hours on most occasions. With all that racing, we’re really getting our money’s worth for our tickets.  Continue reading “Raceday – Day 3 at the Singapore Grand Prix”

Raffles Avenue Rush Hour – Day 2 at the Singapore Grand Prix

Stationing myself trackside at Raffles Avenue, I hear the approach of cars as they exit Turn 14, the crescendo of the V6 engines rushing towards me. A white car quickly approaches, the driver’s helmet predominantly dark blue—it’s the Williams of Valtteri Bottas. I follow him with my eyes as he zooms past me from my right at roughly 220 km/h and disappears to my left into the Turn 15 kink before braking for Turn 16. An identical white car follows. The green helmet indicates that it’s Felipe Massa, Bottas’s teammate. Next comes a car with a striking blue livery with an equally striking orange helmet—young Felipe Nasr in his Sauber. One by one, lap after lap, I focus on each car that passes, identifying each driver through his helmet design. Standing so close to the track, I could almost peer in through their helmet visors and catch a glimpse of the concentration of a Formula One driver’s eyes. Each driver is so well-concealed in his car that it’s easy to forget that these high-speed machines are all under human influence. Only the crash helmet that blends in quite seamlessly and barely sticks out of each car’s cockpit is the only evidence for such.

Driving a Formula One car is truly comparable to taming a wild animal. The cars are beasts roaring around the streets of Singapore in the night. One would completely understand that it takes a special kind of strength and athleticism to handle the forces of turning, accelerating, and braking in these cars. I picture the power struggle that goes on between driver and machine: The driver manhandles the car, the car manhandles the driver. I mentally strap myself to a seat in an F1 cockpit and imagine how I would fare if I had the chance to tame such beasts, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to put such a powerful car under the control of my mere hands and feet. I think it would be the car itself that would take me out for a ride, rather than me taking the car for a drive.  Continue reading “Raffles Avenue Rush Hour – Day 2 at the Singapore Grand Prix”

Friday Night Lights – Day 1 at the Singapore Grand Prix

I intended my review of the Singapore Grand Prix to be the inaugural post for my blog, but because I finished my review of the race in Japan before I even started on this one, I decided to defer this and post in installments.  This is my first time in live attendance to a Formula One race weekend. I’ve opted to dedicate one post per day of the Grand Prix weekend so Part 1 is essentially Friday evening where I watched the first two free practice sessions.  Continue reading “Friday Night Lights – Day 1 at the Singapore Grand Prix”