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Giants’ Alex Wood excited to face former Dodgers teammates in Game 3
The 30-year-old left-hander is the only San Francisco pitcher who came into this month with postseason starting experience. He’ll oppose Max Scherzer on Monday night.
LOS ANGELES — In spring training last year, Alex Wood frequently bumped elbows in the Dodgers’ clubhouse with David Price and Clayton Kershaw. Until the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the season, Price and Kershaw were two-fifths of the team’s starting rotation. Their track record of success includes four Cy Young Awards. Their reputation preceded them.
“Just for guys to be at that level for that long is truly remarkable in this game,” Wood said Sunday. “You just don’t see that.”
Wood, who will start Game 3 of the National League Division Series for the San Francisco Giants on Monday night, is not nearly as decorated as his former teammates. But the 30-year-old left-hander has a similarly enviable quality among his teammates in the Giants’ starting rotation: postseason experience.
On an NLDS roster without veteran Johnny Cueto, Wood’s two career playoff starts are two more than any other Giant. All but two of his 20 postseason appearances came with the Dodgers, for whom he pitched from 2015-18, then again last season after an interregnum in Cincinnati. Wood pitched two scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ championship-clinching Game 6 win in last year’s World Series.
“I’m fortunate to have been in the postseason a lot,” said Wood, who will start opposite three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer on Monday. “Every year’s different but there’s nothing better than this time of year. You really get to test yourself, separate the boys from the men. So I’m excited for another opportunity to play in the postseason and contribute to a really good ballclub.”
Before he flew into Los Angeles, Wood spent his Sunday morning at Oracle Park in San Francisco. Manager Gabe Kapler said Wood threw on the field alongside bullpen coach Craig Albernaz and pitching coach Andrew Bailey. Wood then continued to the team’s training garage, in the former players’ parking lot beyond left field, for what Kapler called “light” machine sprint work.
The 30-year-old left-hander is setting an example that Kapler hopes his team’s younger pitchers will emulate – the same example Wood once followed as a Dodger.
“The preparation is second to none,” Kapler said. “He’s thinking about a game four, five, six days out or more.”
A game against the Dodgers surely falls into the category of “or more.” Wood regularly messages his friends on the other side, but he’s limited himself this week to exchanging fantasy football advice.
On the field, the mutual familiarity with Wood could play to the advantage of either side.
For his part, Wood likes his chances.
“I think he feels he’s always the best option,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Wood, “which as Major League ballplayers, that’s a good thing.”
The Dodgers will be facing a left-handed starting pitcher (Alex Wood) for the first time this postseason, prompting Roberts to change up his lineup.
Albert Pujols will start at first base (the third different player to start there for the Dodgers in this postseason). Chris Taylor will be in center field and AJ Pollock in left. Shortstop Corey Seager will be the only left-handed hitter in the starting lineup against Wood.
This will be Pujols’ first postseason start since the Angels were swept in three games by the Kansas City Royals in a 2014 American League Division Series. Pujols started 74 postseason games for the St. Louis Cardinals, who made the postseason in nine of Pujols’ 11 seasons with them.
“Albert is obviously one of the greatest hitters that ever lived,” Kapler said, “and when you have the true outliers of the outliers, they tend to defy age.”
The 41-year-old Pujols will become the oldest player to start a postseason game for the Dodgers and the oldest player to start a postseason game at a position other than pitcher or DH since Julio Franco started at first base for the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of their 2005 NLDS against the Houston Astros. Franco was 47 at the time.
Cody Bellinger will be on the bench to start the game, but he will almost certainly be used as a defensive replacement at some point in the game.
“It’s more of the mindset of giving us the best chance to get a lead, beat the starter, and we can pivot out of some things,” Roberts said. “But I think that’s kind of my mindset.”
Wood has been a fairly “neutral” pitcher throughout his career. Right-handed batters have hit .248 with a .701 OPS against him while lefties have hit .250 with a .631 OPS.
Roberts reiterated again Sunday what he told reporters before Game 2 in San Francisco – the Dodgers’ starting pitcher for Game 4 is very much undecided.
“We don’t know,” he said Sunday. “I think right now where our head is at is deploy anyone and everyone to win tomorrow night.”
Roberts has acknowledged right-hander Tony Gonsolin is a candidate to start Game 4. But the Dodgers also might go with an “opener” against a Giants team that relies heavily on platooning at multiple positions.
Kapler also said Sunday that he has not decided who will start Game 4 for his team.
Top streamer under fire for Palestinian video game calling to ‘eliminate Zionist soldiers’
The Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque drew calls to boycott the streaming site, but the Palestinian-Brazilian developer stood firm amid criticism: ‘There are no Jewish, Israeli civilians for the player to attack’
The game, entitled Fursan al-Aqsa: The Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque was developed by independent Brazilian-Palestinian programmer Nidal Nijm and uploaded to Steam, where it is slated to go on sale starting December.
According to its promotional materials, it showcases “the bravery of the Palestinian resistance” and includes missions such as infiltrating an Israeli Army installation in order to “destroy the mainframe computers which control the Launch System, sabotage the Iron Dome, eliminate all Zionist Soldiers and escape.”
“You brave hero! Get your knife and seek your revenge. The blood of the oppressed is calling you. Resistance is not terrorism,” one promotional video exhorted, calling on viewers to “join the resistance” on Windows, Xbox, and Playstation.
Pre-release gameplay footage shows masked Palestinian militants stabbing and shooting Israeli servicemen as well shooting rocket-propelled grenades and blowing up soldiers with grenades near the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Luc Bernard, a Jewish game developer who created Imagination Is the Only Escape, a controversial Holocaust-themed game set in France, panned Nijm’s game, stating that while games should engage with “ongoing real world issues, [it] should not encourage violence.”
“As video game creators we are the biggest pillar of the entertainment industry, so we are responsible for what could inspire real world violence. And I don’t think this is the right kind of video game companies should be promoting,” he said.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an antisemitism watchdog group, called for the boycotting Steam, the world’s largest online market for video games, after it revealed it was planning on offering the game.
“There is no question that this game glorifies Palestinian terror against Jews and is not a neutral exercise,” Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, said in an interview.
“This is something that praises and glorifies the worst type of terror and basically promotes a result which would cost hundreds of thousands of people their lives,” he said, adding that if Steam is “not willing to take it off then they should be boycotted.”
Nijm disagreed with such criticism, saying in an interview that he was not antisemitic. Instead, he explained that he had “decided to create this game of mine to show that Arabs are not terrorists.”
Stating that he is the son of a former Fatah fighter, Nijm explained that he wanted to show people in the west that “the armed struggle of the Palestinian people is not terrorism, as shown in video games, where the USA Soldiers are the heroes and the Arabs are the enemies and terrorists.”
“I want to make it very clear, that in this game there are no Jewish, Israeli civilians for the player to attack. In addition, all scenarios/missions take place in military areas, such as army bases, bunkers, military fields, etc.”
In 2018, Steam’s parent company Valve gave up on most content moderation, explaining in a blog post that it had “decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.”
“So what does this mean? It means that the Steam Store is going to contain something that you hate, and don’t think should exist,” the company explained at the time.
Valve did not reply to a request for comment regarding Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
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