MLB Notebook: Playoff Baseball
The days are getting shorter and colder as we head into the month of October. But at the same time, things are heating up immensely in major league baseball because it’s playoff time to see who will take home the title of World Series Champions. Already we have seen teams have fallen or enter their most desperate hour while other teams are getting on a hot streak that could possible carry them all the way to the World Series.
The good news is that the first round of wild card games still occurred on schedule and did not face any sort of weather inclement. The bad news is that if you were either Billy Beane or a Pittsburgh Pirate fan, you wished the weather delayed the game.
During this past trade deadline, Billy Beane made a big splash by trading OF Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for OF Johnny Gomes and the Red Sox top pitcher, SP Jon Lester. The plan was to slot in Lester in a top-notch rotation that included the likes of stellar young pitchers like Sonny Gray, Jeff Samardzija, and Scott Kazmir. Based off of Lester’s postseason stats (a 6-4 record with a 2.11 ERA, 73 strikeouts, a 1.043 WHIP, an averaging 1 walk per 3.651 innings in 13 postseason games), this trade was a sure to benefit the A’s come postseason.
But instead the Athletics found themselves in familiar territory of being bounced out early. This time it was at the hands of the up-and-coming Kansas City Royals. It took the Royals 12 innings to knockout the once-favored A’s 9-8 in the first wildcard game. This included coming back from a 7-3 deficit in the 8th and 9th innings to send the game into extra innings. Lester, the man the A’s bet their house money on, finished the game with 7.1 IP, giving up 8 hits, 5 runs (all earned), walking 2, and striking out 5. Three of those runs he gave up were in the 8th inning as the Royals made it 7-6 at that point before tying it up in the bottom of the 9th.
Then fast forward to the next evening in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The San Francisco Giants came into the Steel City do battle with the home time Pirates and their noisy crowd. However the Giants ended up blanketing the Pirates 8-0 in a dominating performance. Giants’ starting pitcher, Madison Bumgarner, ended up pitching the entire game. It seemed he channeled his postseason ace talents as he limited the Pirates to just 4 hits and shut them out on the scoreboard while striking out 10 batters.
On the offensive side, it seemed to be the ‘Brandon Show’ with SS Brandon Crawford and 1B Brandon Pelt. Between the two players, they went 3-for-8 with 7 RBIs (including a grand slam by Crawford in the top of the 4th inning that opened things up for the Giants). The Pirates faithful could only watch as their team, which had lost a season battle between the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Central Divisional title last week, crumble and blow away like leaves on a windy day in autumn.
So after a mad scramble to stay alive and make it into the postseason, both the Athletics and Pirates made their early leave. However between the two teams, the Athletics will have to face bigger offseason problems as it seems like the ways of ‘Moneyball’ are slowly wearing out their welcome in Oakland.
To Take or Not to Take
Let’s be honest. The Detroit Tiger first baseman is arguable one of the most dominating hitters in the past couple of years. This past offseason, Cabrera inked a new 8 year/$248-million contract with the Tigers that kicks in 2016. Currently he’s still locked in with the team with a 8 year/$152.3 million contract that expires after 2015. So Cabrera is still set to make $22-million for 2014, including a playoff bonus of +$300k depending how far his team went.
However this past Wednesday, it came out that Cabrera would turn down his playoff bonus. The reason why was he rather “just want the ring,” meaning that he was more focused on winning a second world series ring to go along with his 2003 ring that he won with the Florida Marlins. Many were split on how to react to this ‘revelation’ of Cabrera. Some thought he was being noble, focusing on the bigger picture. Others thought he was thumbing his nose at ‘chump change.’ Then finally, there were some who figured that what Cabrera said could have been ‘mistranslated’ by some eager media person looking for a big scoop.
But then the following Thursday, multiple sources came out to report that Cabrera will in fact sign the paper work to be able to receive his playoff bonus money. It turns out that the Detroit slugger was ‘only joking’ with his teammates about not taking the bonus money. When asked about it before Game 1 of the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles, Cabrera was mum and declined to make any comments on the matter. Sometimes it's best not to just say anything at all in the first place, jokingly or not.
Division Series Recap
With the Wildcard out of the way, the next few games in line are the Divisional Series. For a couple of teams, the battle have just begun. For others, time is running out. Here are the series that are going on right now:
Kansas City Royals vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
It seems that the Royals are slowly becoming the Cinderella team of the postseason. After knocking out the Athletics in the wildcard, they were set to face the AL West Divisional Title winners, the Angels. On paper, it looks like it would be a sweep for the Angels because of their star power (Pujols, Trout, and Weaver). But instead, it’s the Angels who are clawing to stay alive as they are down 2-0 to the red hot Royals. The worst part is that the Royals won the first two games in Anaheim where both games were won in extra innings. So now the Angels will be traveling to Kansas City where you know the fans will be screaming and cheering as loud as they can.
Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles
Whether Miguel Cabrera turned the money down or not is irrelevant at this point. What’s relevant is the fact that the Tigers are down 2-0 to the Baltimore Orioles. Orioles took Game 1 by a score of 12-3 and then came back from a 6-3 deficit in the bottom of the 8th inning to score 4 runs and take Game 2 7-6. Now as the series heads to Detroit, the Tigers will definitely be in Survival Mode and do whatever it takes to keep the series going. However with all the big bats that Detroit has, it just seems like the Orioles have something to counter that.
San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals
If there are fans out there who love pitching duels, this will be the series for them. Runs will be at a premium in this one as seen in Game 1 where the Giants won 3-2. Giants SP Jake Peavy out dueled Nationals SP Steven Strausburg in that one as the red hot Giants look to take Game 2 this Saturday in Washington DC. They will send SP Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57 ERA) to the mound. However he will be opposed by Nationals SP Jordan Zimmerman (14-5, 2.66), who threw a no-hitter in his last outing against the Miami Marlins in the final game of the season.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
If there was a must-see series, this is the one. Both teams have top hitting talent behind the plate (3B Matt Carpenter, OF Matt Holliday, SS Jhonny Peralta, 1B Matt Adams for the Cardinals and CF Yasiel Puig, 1B Adrian Gonzales, OF Matt Kemp, OF Carl Crawford, and SS Hanley Ramirez for the Dodgers). Not to mention that they have a pitching staff loaded with strong, reliable arms that could be an ace on any other staff (Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, and Mike Wacha for Cardinals and Clayton Kershaw, Zach Grienke, and Hyun-jin Ryu for the Dodgers).
Already the Cardinals took Game 1 at Dodgers Stadium in a 10-9 W that had 26 hits, 5 HR, and 19 RBIs combined. Plus tempers were flaring between the two teams after Wainwright had hit Puig in the bottom of the 3rd inning, which led to Gonzalez and Cardinals C Yadier Molina, jawing at one another, which then led to benches clearing. Ironically enough, Puig just gave Wainwright the old ‘no hard feelings’ pat on the back afterwards since Wainwright did not intentionally try to hit the Dodger’s centerfielder.
Game 2 of this hot series will be on Saturday late at night. It'll have Lance Lynn (15-10, 2.74 ERA) taking the mound for the Cardinals against Zach Grienke (17-8, 2.71 ERA) of the Dodgers.
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