Interesting start we’ve had to the season. A couple of ninth-inning rallies by home teams, a couple of 11-inning games won by road teams…I caught the end of Diamondbacks-Rockies, because I can’t resist an extra-inning game. Heard the Rockies announcers refer to Ian Kennedy as having a “Vulcan changeup”, which actually makes perfect sense but still sounded hilarious. As usual, I kept a scorecard for the Sox’ opener, ugly as it was. Let’s rate the debuts of their newcomers, huh?
Adrian Gonzalez (2-for-4, 3 RBI): A. Drove in three of the first four runs, played good defense at first, and even his outs weren’t horrible.
Matt Albers (1.0 IP, 0 H, 1 BB): B+: First man out of the pen when Lester couldn’t get through the sixth, he came in with two on and one out and managed to strand all the inherited runners, then got the first out of the seventh. Don and Jerry were saying that he’s a guy who can go multiple innings if needed. Better still, all three outs came on ground balls. I like a guy who can come into a tight spot and induce a double play as well as eat up innings.
Dan Wheeler (0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB): C: Long outs are not inspiring. Wheeler faced only two batters and retired them both, but doesn’t exactly get much confidence.
Dennys Reyes (0.0 IP, 0 H, 1 BB): F: Apparently he’s the new lefty specialist, brought into today’s game to neutralize Josh Hamilton. And neutralize him Reyes did: Hamilton walked on four pitches. S***, I could do that.
Carl Crawford: (0-for-4, 3 K): F-: Apparently, Crawford is horrible against lefties. Have the Red Sox really been without a decent lefty for so many years? Because it seems like he always killed us. Four plate appearances, and no results. A single in any one of them would have gotten him his first RBI in a Sox uniform as Jacoby Ellsbury was in scoring position all four times–even a long fly ball would have done it on the first two, with Jacoby at third with only one out. Nothing. Anyway, Streak for the Cash decided to do a prop on the result of Crawford’s first at-bat–the usual “Hit, Walk, or Strikeout” vs. “Any Other Result”. Not realizing that Crawford was in a bad situation with the matchup with Wilson, I went the optimistic route and chose the former. It was the only at-bat in which Crawford didn’t strike out, instead hitting a weak liner to short. Crawford, you even fail at failing.
There’s a reason that my blog has the general MLB background even though I’m quite admittedly a Red Sox fan first and foremost, and that’s because I’m also a huge fan of the game in general. If there’s a game on, I’ll watch it/listen to it. And on weekdays that don’t usually serve as a get-away day–Tuesdays and Fridays most notably, but Mondays could serve as well–only one team could provide those much-needed afternoon games: The Chicago Cubs. As a result of them frequently having a timeslot all to themselves, I probably heard more of the Cubs’ radio team than any other except for the Red Sox’ and maybe the Yankees’ (because if my own team wasn’t playing, I’d gladly check in on their rivals, and also because the New York teams were the only ones I could hear without XM). The Cubs’ former All-Star third baseman, Ron Santo, was often called out as the epitome of homer announcers, but I never really had a problem with it, and besides…former All-Star Cubs third baseman. He was a former player, unlike many radio announcers (for some reason, it seems as though former players are more common on television broadcast teams than on radio teams), so he had a bit more of a right to think of the Cubbies as “we”. Santo passed away yesterday at the age of 70 from complications of bladder cancer. Cubs broadcasts won’t be the same without him.
Is there something we’re not hearing here? I was listening to the postgame interviews, and when Buster Posey was asked about Edgar Renteria, he mentioned how Edgar had been sitting on the bench for like four months or so and then he hit these two clutch home runs and he’s going out on top, and I was like, “Wait, did Renteria announce that this would be his last season, or did Posey just break a story? Or did he just misspeak and implied something that wasn’t true?” Edgar had a walkoff hit in Game 7 for the 1997 Marlins, his second season in the majors, and his three-run homer provided the Giants’ only runs in the clincher here. Two seasons, 13 years apart, and two Series-winning hits. In between, he made the final out of the World Series in the Cardinals’ loss in 2004–the second time he had the final at-bat. Renteria was named the World Series MVP. He joins a trio of Yankee greats as the only players with Series-winning RBI in two separate World Series: Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Berra. If this was his last at-bat–and the Giants went down quickly for him, only sending up one batter over the minimum after the two-out home run in the seventh to keep him from getting another at-bat–it’s been a great career. He might have been a disappointment whenever he went over to the AL, but I’m happy for him nonetheless.
(Note: He’s still a bit young to be retiring–only 34 in spite of the length of his career. Renteria debuted at the age of 19.)
Seeing as how this is their 49th trip to the postseason, it should come as little surprise that there are only six franchises (besides themselves) that the Yankees have never played in the postseason–if, of course, you’re not surprised that there are even that many. Recent history, however, suggests that they’ll soon be seeing one of those six; namely, the Tampa Bay Rays.
I’m sure you all know that only one team has forced a Game 7 after trailing a best-of-7 series 3 games to 0, and that that team, the 2004 Boston Red Sox, won Game 7. But what about teams that have rallied from a 2-0 hole to force Game 5 in a best-of-5 series, such as the Rays have done this year? The Rays are the eleventh such team. The first four, interestingly enough, all involved strike-shortened seasons. In 1972, a very brief strike took out the first week or so of the season, and because it was so little (or should that be “despite the fact that it was so little”?), it was decided that they’d just forget about the games that were missed, and if teams didn’t all play the same number of games, then so be it. Some teams played as few as 153 games, others as many as 156. Stupidly, this actually had an effect on the postseason, as Detroit ended up winning the AL East by just half a game. Once there, the Tigers fell into an 0-2 hole against Oakland, only to rally back to force Game 5. They lost. The next strike, of course, was 1981, and unlike the brief strike in 1972 or the one that spanned the 1994 and 1995 seasons, the ’81 strike was in the middle of the season. This led to a “split season” format similar to what they use in the minor leagues, culminating in the first ever LDS, albeit in a more literal sense as these teams were actually playing for the title of Division Champion. The Expos, Astros, Yankees, and Athletics all jumped out to 2-0 leads, but only the A’s finished the sweep, and on October 11, three Game 5s were played. New York and Montreal managed to turn back their opponents, the Brewers and Phillies respectively, but the Astros weren’t so lucky, losing to the Dodgers. It was this last one that started a trend. The remaining six teams to force Game 5 after trailing 2-0–the 1982 Brewers, 1984 Padres, 1995 Mariners, 1999 Red Sox, 2001 Yankees, and 2003 Red Sox–all won Game 5. Don’t be surprised if the Rays win tonight.
What is with this postseason? Day 1, Roy Halladay no-hits the Reds. Day 2, Tim Lincecum two-hits the Braves and C.J. Wilson does the same to the Rays (oddly, both gave up leadoff hits in the first inning; Wilson also got help from the Rangers bullpen, although both hits were his).Yesterday, Jonathan Sanchez no-hit the Braves for 5.1, and today, Derek Lowe did the same to the Giants before Cody Ross broke it up with a game-tying solo home run; Brian McCann put the Braves back on top in the bottom of the sixth with a leadoff solo homer. No-hit bids are just going like crazy this October!
Jeffrey Maier actually reached over the fence to help guide a Derek Jeter fly ball out of the reach of Orioles right fielder Tony Tarrasco into the stands for a postseason home run, whereas Steve Bartman was neither seated in fair territory nor reaching over the fence when he interfered with Cubs left fielder Moises Alou on a fly ball off the bat of Luis Castillo. 7 years after Bartman and twice as long since Maier, the Reds–which like those 2003 Cubs are managed by Dusty Baker–were victimized by a hybrid of the two. Like Bartman, the fan that prevented centerfielder Drew Stubbs from potentially making what would admittedly be an amazing play did not reach over the fence at Great American Ballpark to do so–and as you might guess from Stubbs’s position, the result was a Chase Utley home run, just like the Maier incident. Granted, this is probably a moot point since the Phillies’ pitching has been outstanding pretty much all series long aside from a rough first inning or two by Oswalt. But that’s a heartbreaker.
Elsewhere, another pitcher with a regular-season no-hitter on his career resume made a decent bid at providing the seventh official one of 2010. Jonathan Sanchez, who in July 2009 pitched a game in which the only baserunner reached on an eighth-inning error by Juan Uribe, no-hit the Braves through 5.1 before Tim Hudson broke it up with a single. Yes, the opposing pitcher. Amazingly, despite their low hit total for the game, the Braves actually managed to take the lead at one point, courtesy of an eighth-inning pinch-hit homer by modern-day Lonnie Smith Eric Hinske. (You remember Smith, right? Won a World Series ring in his rookie year with the 1980 Phillies, then picked up another with the ’82 Cardinals, a third with the ’85 Royals, then played in two more with the Braves in ’91 and ’92). The Giants struck right back with a pair of two-out runs in the top of the ninth, the latter scoring on Brooks Conrad’s third error of the game (his first error brought in the Giants’ first run). The 3-2 win gives the Giants a 2-1 advantage in the series.
Been on an archive binge again, and I decided to look at my predictions and early impressions posts. First, the good. In the AL East, I predicted that the Yankees and Rays would be in the division race until the final week of the season and that one of them would be the wild card. However, I failed to predict that the other would win the division, although in all fairness, it was impossible to predict the number of injuries Boston would have and they still weren’t mathematically eliminated until Game 157, so I think I did fairly well. Only problem was the order of the bottom two in the division, but a lot of people made that error. Also, the NL East. Perfect. The Phillies were division champions, the Braves were second and were the wild card, the Marlins and Mets were almost in a dead heat for third, and the Nationals are both in last place and only picking 6th or 7th in the 2011 draft. NL Central wasn’t horrible, either. I had the Pirates as the worst team in baseball, which they were, and I had the Astros fifth and the Brewers fourth–they were actually fourth and third, but only 1 and 2 games ahead of the fifth-place team, respectively. I said the Reds would “make some noise”, and they exceeded my expectations, winning the division handily. My only real mistake was expecting the Cubs (the aforementioned 5th-place team) to be good.
Not so good: The AL Central, AL West, and NL West. The Central I called a “three-team race”, and while I did correctly pick the top three teams, it wasn’t very close at all as the division was the first to be clinched, and furthermore the team I picked to win it finished a distant third and was more or less out of contention in August. The AL West I called a “mystery”, and didn’t really say much explicitly until we got to the playoff predictions, which revealed that despite my faint praise, I had picked the Mariners to come out of that jumble. The Mariners went on to lose 101 games and set new records for offensive futility, as well as revealing that Don Wakamatsu had a case of “John Gibbons Syndrome”. Ouch. The NL West, I called a “four-team race”, making cases for the four teams in question and failing to actually pick a winner, saying that “all I’m willing to predict is that the Padres will finish in last place.” The Padres entered the final day of the season tied with the Braves for the wild card lead and just 1 game behind the Giants, whom they were playing, for the NL West title, and furthermore if they won and the Braves lost, the Pads had the tiebreaker to get the division title and relegate the Giants to wild card status. They ended up losing and the Braves won, denying them a chance to play a 163rd game (not that that went particularly well for them in 2007), but still, bad. And Arizona’s collapse last year wasn’t a fluke, as they turned in the third-worst record in the majors. Yeah, you can blame part of that on the fact that their longtime ace was out for the entire year (remember him?), but it also became obvious that their rotation had never been more than two deep and they had no bullpen. In other words, they’re the pre-Nolan Ryan-era Texas Rangers. (Ryan’s time with the Rangers as an executive, not as a player.) And when their other best pitcher got off to a bad start as well, it was a ticket to last place. The “other best pitcher” then got traded mid-season.
Also, as the “early impressions” blog suggested, the Giants, who beat out the Padres for the division, appeared to have been my choice for #4. Another conclusion that can be reached from early impressions: I said this early order for the AL West was “almost exactly counter to my expectations”, with Mariners over Angels being the only thing I had right:
Thus, my prediction would have been:
Now look at the actual final standings:
That means that, once again, only one out of a possible six relative positions was as I expected, in this case, Rangers ahead of A’s. It’s really hard to screw up that badly.