HOUSTON — Dusty Baker lived a modern manager’s nightmare on Friday night: Conducting a live TV interview while the opposition dealt his club a crushing blow.
The Houston Astros manager, never a dull conversationalist, was live on Fox when Boston’s Kiké Hernandez crushed a game-tying home run in the top of the third inning. Baker let slip what he considered a mild expletive – “Oh lord” – almost as the ball left Hernandez's bat and soared into the Minute Maid Park seats.
He had a bad vibe about going on national television at such a crucial juncture in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
“I blame Fox for that,” Baker said after his team rallied for a 5-4 victory to claim a 1-0 ALCS lead.
"Because invariably," Baker continued, "when you are doing it live something usually always happens. My mom is watching the game, so – really, I think I said
'oh, God.' "
Despite the stakes, Baker, 72, managed to stay calm after Framber Valdez gave up the home run and produced a compelling call-and-response with Fox play-by-play man Joe Buck.
"This ball is up, and out!" Buck said.
"Yeah, way out," Baker responded.
Buck: "And this game is tied!"
Baker: "He hung a breaking ball, and he usually doesn't do that."
Buck: "And Kiké Hernandez is having the week of his life!"
Baker: "I don't know about the week of his life, but he's had a pretty good first three innings."
Hernandez would add another long home run later, but the Astros hung on for a 5-4 victory – the series lead in hand and Baker's dignity very much intact, despite an unscripted moment turning against him.
"Yeah, it's not a good feeling," says Baker, "when you know you're live on air and you see that ball leaving the ballpark."