Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Postseason Thoughts: October 20

I thought I’d check in with some thoughts and observations now that we're in the middle of the LCS games:

NLCS: Dodgers-Phillies

Man, oh, man did last night suck (especially since I had to get up at six in the morning). With the exception of Game 2 (the one game I did not see in this series), the Phillies just seem to own Dodger pitching. The Dodgers are supposed to be the ones with the good bullpen, and yet the Phillies are pummeling Dodger relievers while the Dodgers have hardly touched the guys in the Phillies’ ‘pen (Admittedly, it’s hard for a team to “get to” the other team’s bullpen when the starter is going seven or eight innings). It seemed like they’d gotten the problem solved last night. There was timely hitting, decent starting pitching, and effective (albeit sometimes scary) relief work. The Dodgers got to within one out of guaranteeing a trip back to Dodger Stadium. They had their hard-throwing closer Jonathan Broxton on the hill (Broxton throws his SLIDER at 93 mph. Most guys can’t even throw their fastball that hard). However, struggling closers have been a theme of this postseason (along with crappy umpiring). Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Franklin, Houston Street, and Brian Fuentes all have had issues and blown saves (extremely costly for the first three on that list). It was apparently Broxton’s turn (which leaves Brad Lidge and Mariano Rivera as the only two closers who haven’t blown a save yet this postseason…perhaps not coincidentally, these guys pitch for the two teams who are in the best position to advance). He got Raul Ibañez easily enough for the first out. Then Matt Stairs came to pinch-hit. I remembered that he hit a crushing home run against the Dodgers in last year’s NLCS. I had forgotten that he hit it off of Broxton. Apparently Broxton hadn’t forgotten. He walked Stairs on four pitches. Then Carlos Ruiz (who is to the Dodgers what the combination of Nick Punto and Joe Crede are to the Tigers) got hit by a pitch. Now, I haven’t seen Broxton pitch a lot. I saw a fair few Dodgers games during the regular season, but I would usually fall asleep before they reached the ninth inning. At this point, it looked like a typical Fernando Rodney save. However, Rodney would’ve proceeded to get a double play ball and get out of it by a thread (you know he would have). Broxton is a great closer, but apparently he can’t duplicate Rodney’s ability to get out of jams. At least, he couldn’t last night. It looked like he was going to. He got Greg Dobbs to line out softly to third. But Jimmy Rollins ended all of that (though how Ruiz, a catcher, scored from first with the arms the Dodgers have in the outfield and the bandbox that is Citizen’s Bank Park is beyond me). And now the Dodgers are REALLY up against the wall. And the crazy thing is that they’re going to have to rely on Vicente Padilla to get this series back to Dodger Stadium (the crazier thing is that Padilla’s actually been their best starter so far in the postseason). At the same time, they’re going to have to find a way to get to Cole Hamels again. By the way, if you want to know more details about the “struggling closer” trend, Eric Stephen over at TrueBlueLA has a nice article on it.

ALCS: Yankees-Angels

With the NLCS going the way it’s going, there is now no doubt in my mind that I want the Yankees to win this series. I don’t want the Phillies to win the World Series (since it’s looking increasingly likely that they’ll get there), and I believe the Yankees have a better shot of beating them than the Angels do. Still, I want to get in as much baseball as possible before it all ends, so at the same time, I do want this series to go the full seven games (I also want the NLCS to go seven games, but that desire has been created out of necessity). This thought has also occurred to me: If the Tigers had made the postseason and they’d somehow been able to get past the Yankees, given how the Angels have played in this series, I honestly believe the Tigers would have had a really good chance at winning the ALCS (If the Angels were hitting the way they did in the regular season, I would not have been so confident in making that statement). The Yankees have displayed some very strong pitching from both the starters and the bullpen, but the Angels essentially gave the first two games to them through a combination of stranding runners and making a bunch of errors. Unlike in Denver, where hats with earflaps were in vogue, there was more of a mix of hats with earflaps and those silly hoods that will always make Tiger fans think of Polanco. Seriously, it took until last night’s game (in Anaheim) before I was able to see Robinson Cano’s face for the first time in this series. As I said, I didn’t particularly want to see the Yankees lose Game 3, but if it’s gonna go seven games like I want it to, they have to lose sometime. Plus, I like seeing Tim McCarver look like an idiot. He was adamant that Reggie Willits should pinch-run for Jeff Mathis in the tenth. He would not shut up about it (It turned out to be moot, since Mathis was erased on a force at home that would’ve erased any runner). As it turns out, Mathis delivered the game-winning hit (and maybe with the help of some over-managing on Joe Girardi’s part, from all the pitching changes to giving up the DH to get Johnny Damon out of the outfield, which meant he had to pinch-hit for Mariano Rivera in the bottom half of the inning). By the way, did Jerry Hairston, Jr. ever get up after crashing into the wall? The whole time the Angels were celebrating around home plate, he was lying on the warning track. One thing that should be noted is that the Yankees have not gotten a hit with a runner in scoring position since Derek Jeter’s RBI single in the sixth inning of Game 1. They were 0-for-8 in Game 2 with RISP, and they were 0-for-8 again yesterday (all their runs came via four solo home runs). Nobody’s talking about this right now because the Yankees still have the advantage, but if the Angels should win tonight or (and this is unlikely) pull ahead with a win in Game 5, it’ll get noticed. You heard it here first, folks.

By the way, it should be noted that the television broadcasters utilized by Fox and by TBS are awful. I KNOW there are some good baseball announcers out there somewhere, and that once upon a time, they were used in nationally televised games. Also, I apologize for the weird formatting. I had to use Firefox to post this (and the combination of Firefox and Blogger can get ornery), as Internet Explorer won’t even load.

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