Tagged: Playoffs

Tigers rule ALCS

Congratulations to the Detroit Tigers for winning the American League Pennant. The Tigers are definitely a worthy champion knocking off New York and Oakland to reach their first World Series since 1984. I have a co-worker who is from Michigan and is a huge Tigers fan. He went to Game 3 and was excited all week about going to the game.  Great stuff, great celebration.  Well deserved.

The Tigers overmatched Oakland in every aspect of the game during the series.  The Tigers Game 4 victory was a great example of how the Tigers got to where they are today-solid starting pitching, effective late-inning relief and a knack for timely hitting, namely the home run. Magglio Ordonez tied the game in the sixth on an inside breaking ball.  Needless to say, I was shocked to see Street try to sneak an inside pitch past Ordonez in the ninth. Ordonez drove a 1-0 fastball over the left field wall to set Motown in a frenzy.  Those pennant-ending home runs are always cool.

Jeremy Bonderman showed a ton of poise bouncing back after a rough first inning. Credit Bonderman for persevering down

3-0 after fourth

inning.  Detroit pitching silenced Frank Thomas as the Big Hurt went 0 for 13 in the series.  Detroit’s starting four could be the difference in the World Series. The Cards have a quality ace and two average starters. The Mets, well, are hanging on by a pitching thread. I’ve heard they’ve called Tom Seaver and Ron Darling.

Milton Bradley had one heck of a series batting .500 and single-handedly keeping the A’s offense afloat. Say what you want about Bradley but he deserved props for playing through that quad injury Saturday.

How much was Justin Duchscherer missed during Game 2 and Game 4 of the ALCS? So much so that Ken Macha had to bring in closer

Huston Street

in the 7th inning of Game 4.  I’ve stated in earlier columns, I don’t like how Street has been used this year. He’s had two trips to the DL and endured 10 blown saves. Sophomore Jinx? Maybe. Hitters figuring him out? Possibly. Sure, Street was the AL Rookie of the Year last year and he finished with more than 30 saves.  I just don’t like how many opportunities he’s had coming into the eighth inning. Duchscherer is a top-notch set-up guy who was great in the closer’s role when Street got hurt. Street is not a 2-inning closer yet in his career but he’s already being pushed like one. Macha seemed to be big on having him work three or four days in a row, which I think has contributed to some of his injury troubles. I hope the Oakland coaching staff doesn’t let Street do too many of these save opps starting in the eighth inning next year. I know Street said he wasn’t tired in the ninth of Game 4 but leaving your closer in from the seventh inning on in his longest outing of the year is a risky play….and one I knew would end badly.

Random Thoughts:

Could San Diego be Bochy-free next year? I don’t see it happening.

Alfonso Soriano. He said all the right things after the blowup in spring training. He worked the pr angles perfectly. He gave people hope that he would remain a National. Ha, ha, ha. He’s testing the free agent waters for sure.  The Nats can deny the recent reports all they want but I think there’s some truth in those reports. I think Soriano’s asking price is too high for Washington. Wait until free agency begins. If he re-signs, I’ll be shocked.  I think this was in the cards the whole time. I think his people got in his ear and said “play it cool, play the outfield and focus on having a big year and you’ll be rewarded.”

Game 1 to the Tigers

Just when Oakland pitcher Barry Zito was about to breeze through the Detroit Tigers lineup, there was a little surprise waiting for him in the No. 9 spot

Brandon Inge isn’t your typical American League 9th hitter, a spot usually reserved for the weakest offensive player.

However, the Tigers lineup top to bottom features home run hitters and Inge is no exception with his 27 home runs and 83 RBI, both career highs, this season.

Tuesday night in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, Inge rebounded from a 2 for 15 American League Division Series in grand fashion.

Inge, who came in 3 for 24 lifetime against Zito, smashed a two-out home run to left in the third inning. Zito had retired eight in a row to start the game. With one swing of the bat, Inge’s solo home run broke a scoreless game and jumpstarted the Tigers offense which put up five runs in the third and fourth inning chasing Zito and drawing first blood in the series with a 5-1 victory.

Inge went 3 for 3 with walk. His RBI double in the second scoring Marcus Thames. Inge came across on Placido Polanco’s single for a 5-0 Detroit lead.

Oakland led the majors grounding into 173 double plays this season, a trend that definitely continued against the Tigers.

The A’s grounded into an LCS-record four double plays against the Tigers, three of which came in the first five innings.

Oakland’s offense is known for its lack of speed on the bases, a liability exposed Tuesday night. The A’s also matched an LCS record by going 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position.

Defensively, the absence of second baseman Mark Ellis was greatly missed especially in the fourth inning.  On a potential double play ball, second baseman D’Angelo Jimenez threw wide of first allowing Marcus Thames to advance to second.  Thames later scored, one of three runs in the inning.

Gum time, jam time, it’s all the same for Nate Robertson

Robertson pitched five effective innings for the Tigers; although he allowed baserunners in every inning. Still, Robertson used the double play ball to his advantage. Then there was the fourth inning that described the whole night in a nutshell. Frank Thomas walks, moves to third on Jay Payton’s double. Robertson shut the A’s down striking out the side, Eric Chavez on a slider, Nick Swisher on a fastball outside the strike zone, and caught Marco Scutaro looking at an inside fastball.

Robertson, who lost to New York in Game 1 of the ALDS, didn’t allow a run and received great defense throughout the night. Robertson’s night ended when Craig Monroe made a diving catch in left off a Milton Bradley’s liner that would’ve scored D’Angelo Jimenez.

Analysis:  Inge’s home run turned Zito into a different pitcher and the Tigers into a different club in the third and fourth innings. They hit the low pitch quite well off of Zito. The third inning also showed a trait the Tigers aren’t known for-drawing walks. Polanco and Sean Casey drew passes to load the bases setting up Magglio Ordonez’ infield single scoring Curtis Granderson.  As a road team, Detroit did the best thing by staking out a 5-run lead making the crowd a non-factor. The Tigers received contributions from practically the entire lineup, one of their strengths, as every starter in the lineup reached base.

To get a strong effort from Robertson has to relax the rest of the staff.  Going into Game 1, the Robertson-Zito matchup was an even one. With Robertson’s win, the Tigers have dangerous trio of Verlander-Rogers-Bonderman in the next three starts.

Padre-free NLCS

Not in writing mode today.  Will do my best!

San Diego deserved to lose. No home runs in the playoffs and a total inability to hit in crucial situations (2 for 32 with runners in scoring position).   They scored in only three of 28 innings. Their top-tier NL pitching staff didn’t pitch well enough to make up for the Padres awful offense.

Tip of the hat to the Cardinals for winning the NLDS series. 

The Padres didn’t adjust well to Adam Wainwright’s knee-buckling curveball especially since he seemed to use it as his out pitch in Game 4.  Credit Wainwright, and the rest of the Cardinals bullpen, which didn’t allow a run in the NLDS, for their great work.

The Padres had momentum going into Game 4. Early in that game, San Diego scored twice off Carpenter, an encouraging sign. Still, the Padres coming away with just two runs is quite disappointing.  A four-spot or more would’ve given San Diego a world of confidence and silenced the Cardinals fans. Carpenter did a great job of bouncing back and putting forth seven plus innings of great work. 

St. Louis second baseman Ronnie Belliard  put together one heck of a series. He went 6 for 13 and was rock-solid in the field. His amazing stop and twirl throw to Pujols with the bases loaded in the seventh inning of Game 1 squashed a Padres rally and kept the Cardinals lead at 5-1.  Belliard’s two-run single in the bottom of the first in Game 4 tied the game. More importantly, it gave Carpenter the sense of a tie game again. In the crucial sixth, Belliard was hit by a Meredith pitch and scored on David Eckstein’s perfect suicide squeeze.

LaRussa still has not lost a postseason series when his team is up 2 games to none (11-0).

Early Sunday Comment

The Detroit Tigers celebration might have been one of the most enjoyable I’ve seen in a long time.  I can’t recall a time when the players came out and celebrated with the crowd in such a manner.  Sean Casey spraying the champagne into the crowd had me smiling and laughing. Kenny Rogers pouring the champagne on the officer worried me for a second but I’m glad the man in blue took it in stride.  This is one of the many reasons I love watching baseball in October. The emotion, the happiness and the joy of such an accomplishment is awesome. Kudos to the Tigers.

Bad Joke of the Day: Detroit and Oakland meet for the first time in the playoffs since the 72 ALCS.  To honor the occasion, Lerrin LeGrow will throw out the first pitch and Bert Campaneris will throw out the first bat!

Quick Nationals note:  I don’t think Piniella or Girardi will get the job. My pick would be Tony Pena, who cut his managerial teeth in Kansas City so you know he has patience with young talent and can work with a team that has limited resources. Heck, he guided the Royals to a winning record three years ago.  I think his Yankees gig is over and he will come back into the coaching ranks.  I just get the feeling Girardi is going to end up with the Cubs.  I know PIniella is friends with Jim Bowden. Who isn’t? I don’t think Nats job is an attractive one for Piniella. The Nationals shouldn’t be in contending until 09. I think Piniella would be better suited for a team that has a chance to win in 07 or even 08.  That’s just my two cents.   

I’ll be ready for Game 4 tonight. I thought is was on but it’ll be on Fox (I just found this out a short time ago).  The Padres offense needs to come alive tonight. I like Adrian Gonzalez in the five hole but they need a better No. 2 hitter tonight even at the risk of weakening the lower half of the lineup.  If St. Louis loses tonight, the second guessing of La Russa using Carpenter will be intense. We’ll see. 

Need a Friar Miracle!

Oh No, Padres down 2-0!

A whole lot of zeros for the San Diego Padres right now. They’re down 0-2 to St. Louis in the series and 0 and 8 lifetime in the playoffs against the Redbirds. They’re 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position in the two games.

The only positive zeros for San Diego have come from the bullpen which hasn’t had a lead to hold yet. The Padres relievers haven’t allowed a run in the divisional series. Cla Meredith, Clay Hensley and Scott Linebrink combined to toss four innings of scoreless relief Thursday. Too bad St. Louis’ pitching has been lights out. In Game 2, it was Jeff Weaver’s turn to throw five scoreless allowing just two hits. The Cards reliever finished the final four innings allowing just two hits. Tyler Johnson and Adam Wainwright came through with their second straight strong showing this postseason. Jason Isringwho?

All isn’t zeroes for the Padres. They’ve scored one run in 18 innings. Before the playoffs, the series most picked to go three was the Tigers-Yankees, I just saw the Tigers bandwagon roll by, it has some passengers. 

David Wells might have pitched his final game the way this keeps up. Wells held the Cards to 2 runs on seven hits in five innings. But considering the Padres anemic offense so far, two runs is too much. I get the feeling the Padres offensive woes, regular season and playoffs, might have to be addressed in the offseason.

San Diego’s lineup today had Todd Walker third and Adrian Gonzalez fourth. Ugh! Why isn’t Giles batting third? Gonzalez went 1 for 3 after a 0 for 4 game 1 outing but that one didn’t mean much. Walker in the third spot did nothing for the Padres offense going 0 for 2 before being lifted for Josh Barfield, who smacked a seventh inning double. San Diego starters were 2 for 26. As in Game One, San Diego did a poor job protecting the plate with two strikes evident in their nine strikeouts including Roberts and Giles back-to-back strikeouts looking in the eighth.

Guess who did the damage for St. Louis?  No surprise here. Albert Pujols broke the scoreless deadlock with a single to left and scored the team’s 2nd run. Pujols also got out of a potential rally-ending rundown by beating San Diego shortstop Geoff Blum to the bag at second. If you’re San Diego, the inability to execute a rundown is simply frustrating.

Mike Piazza made an appearance as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. His time was brief lining out to right on the first pitch. Not only did Piazza’s impatience end the threat, it forced manager Bruce Bochy to use his best offensive threat before the ninth inning. Not good!

As an A’s fan growing up, I know any Tony LaRussa managed team that has a 2-0 lead in the series is almost impossible to beat. In fact, I did a little research. In series when LaRussa’s teams have had a 2-0 series lead, those teams have gone on to win every series (10-0 to be exact).

For the Padres Saturday, no pressure on Chris Young now is there? Thankfully, it’s a road game for Young where he his best. San Diego will take any statistical bright side there is. Young’s road record during the regular season (6-0) pales in comparison to the  following stat. Nineteen times in the playoffs, a road team has taken a 2-0 lead. Only once did that team fail to win the series-2001 Oakland A’s.

Keys for San Diego: Gee, I’m going to take a guess here!  Get some men on base, drive in some runs, get some clutch hits and try not to strike out too much. Here’s another stretch-get a great outing from Chris Young. How about one more obvious one: no brain-lock plays.

Day 2 of the playoffs

Just some random thoughts and stuff today

1) Could I hear about the Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux angle one more time? Yes, I know they’re the veteran pitchers on playoff teams who used to pitch for the Braves. Yes, this might be their last run at another World Series. What baseball fan doesn’t know this?  Let me guess, they’ll both be Hall-of-Famers one day, too.  Chicks dig the veteran pitchers! While I’m at it, l still can’t believe how many more former Red Sox players I found out are in the playoffs.  It’s like one out of three or something I swear!

2) The Yankees finally found someone they can’t beat…..Mother Nature.  That’s probably the only Yankee comment I’ll make for the entire playoffs. When there’s 15-20 other bloggers on mlb doing the same thing for the Yanks, one non-Yankee blogger doesn’t fit in. Speaking of my team of choice

3) San Diego. Geez, Bochy is getting lit up for the Bellhorn at-bat as well as keeping Termel Sledge off the playoff roster. Bochy needs his Padres to even up the series or the heat is just going to get worse.  San Diego has lost seven straight playoff games to the Cardinals. Heck, the Padres should just try to win its first playoff game of the 21st century.  The more I think about it, the more that Piazza missed foul pop-up looms large. Still, the Padres offense not coming through with runners on base didn’t help either.

4) Minnesota is sure kicking themselves now for not going after Frank Thomas a little harder, eh, during the winter!  Has anyone seen how bad the Twins’ dh’s have done this year? I think it’s like .260 with 8 HR, 50 RBI or something.  Oakland has had a little problem with the knockout punch not winning a series since the 1990 ALCS I think!  Who would have predicted that the A’s would take the first two at the Baggydome and come to Oakland up 2-0.

Padres drop Game 1

Not a great start for the Padres. That’s an understatement!

Jake Peavy looked good for the first three innings. The last 2 1/3 innings were quite different. For the second straight posteason start, Peavy failed to come through in a divisional playoff series against St. Louis taking the loss again.

As I stated in my preview column, Peavy needed to give the Padres seven solid innings. He didn’t make it out of the sixth inning.  Luckily, the Padres combination of Rudy Seanez and Chan Ho Park held the Cardinals scoreless in the last 3 2/3 innings.
Peavy’s first and biggest mistake came in the fourth against St. Louis’ Albert Pujols.

Pujols caught a huge break in the at-bat when Mike Piazza could not catch a foul pop-up that certainly would’ve changed the tide of the game. Pujols ended the at-bat by smashing a pitch over the center field fence for a two-run home run and a 2-0 lead.

The Cards added one other run in the inning and single runs in the fifth and sixth innings en route to a 5-2 victory. Peavy finished went 5 1/3 allowing 11 hits and five runs walking one but striking out only two.

Pujols’ homer changed the game and took the Petco Park crowd out of it for a while. While Pujols definitely contributed to the victory, his teammates had a hand as well at the plate. Every starter except David Eckstein had a hit on the day, even starting pitcher Chris Carpenter.  Second baseman Ron Belliard had an outstanding game at the plate with two hits and a walk. However, people will talk about his play to end the seventh inning which might be one of the best defensive plays of the year.  With the bases loaded, two outs and a 5-1 Cardinals lead, Todd Walker, not the fleetest of foot, sent a ground ball that seemed headed for the outfield and a two-run single. However, Belliard snagged the grounder in shallow right field, turned and threw off balance to first to get Walker ending the rally.

Carpenter was effective but not overpowering in collecting seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings of work. He used a good fastball and a sharp curve to his advantage to get out key spots.  Tyler Johnson and Adam Wainwright finished up with 1 1/3 innings of scoreless ball each.

San Diego batters had some success working Carpenter’s pitch count later in the game; although, Carpenter did have a 5-pitch second inning. He finished with 105 pitches, scattering five hits, walking one.

San Diego’s offense mostly came from the bat of leadoff man Dave Roberts, who went 3 for 4 and score the Padres’ lone run. Brian Giles, batting second, added two hits and delivered a sacrifice fly in the sixth scoring Roberts.  The Padres were quite the disappointment in the 3-9 spots going a combined 1 for 24 and 10 strikeouts.

My friend Steve told me today that there are 11 former Red Sox on the Padres. The Boston Red Sox of the West? One of those was Mark Bellhorn, Mr All or Nothing. Bellhorn pinch hit in the seventh with the bases loaded and one out but struck out.

The Padres are going to start David Wells in game 2 against St. Louis’ Jeff Weaver. I like starting Chris Young for Game 3 on the road where he’s been unbeaten this season. I think Wells will be ready for Game 2. I think in this case Bochy was wise to go with the veteran instead of the younger Young, who has never pitched in the postseason.  Offensively, I think the Padres should reshulffle the lineup to put a little more speed at the top third of the order. Giles would be a good No. 3 hitter for this series. Roberts can get on base. Cameron had a strong September and a veteran like him in the 2-hole could spark the offense.

I was thinking Roberts, Cameron, Giles, Piazza then move Gonzalez, who went 0 for 4 including two strikeouts, to fifth. I have a bad feeling that leaving Gonzalez third in the series isn’t going to pay off well. The Padres need to come out aggressive Thursday afternoon but if they are to stand a chance, the 3-8 spots have to do something better than Game One’s disappointing performance

I was pleased to see Seanez and Park get some mop-up work giving Meredith, Linebrink, and Embree another additional day to rest especially after going full-tilt the last week or so of the season.