Certainly been a fun weekend for the MLB. Well, not for this little guy above, but hey, life goes on. With Alabama Shakes’s “Boys & Girls” on the stereo, I’m gonna dive in to the postseason thus far.
Wildcard Friday gave us as much excitement as we could’ve wanted. The Cardinals-Braves game played out like a daytime drama, complete with broken hearts, miscommunication and people throwing ketchup bottles into the outfield. The majority of Braves nation wants to stake this loss on a controversial infield fly rule in the seventh inning. After Andrelton Simmons popped up to shallow left with one out and two on, Redbird shortstop Pete Kozma got under the ball and waved off the outfielder Matt Holliday. Kozma, at the last second, flinched and pulled off the ball, letting it fall to the ground. The left field umpire raised his hand to indicate the infield fly rule and then the Atlanta fans proceeded to confirm every stereotype of redneck sports fans, littering the outfield with debris from beer bottles to baseballs. I’ve heard plenty of responses to the Atlanta protest, but I don’t believe it requires any further analysis beyond reading the infield fly rule. Rule 2.00 from the handbook says that infield fly can be attributed to “any fair, fly ball that can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort.” Kozma was in the outfield, yes, but that was a play routinely made by short stops, and thus, it stands. Atlanta fans should take Chipper’s advice and focus on their efforts in the field – or lack thereof. The Cardinals went on to hold on to the final score of 6-2, securing them a bid in the NLDS versus the league best Nationals.
The Orioles and Rangers were determined to make this postseason exciting. Theirs was a true “Game 163,” both teams with the same record, winner moves on. Joe Saunders for the Orioles willed his team to a win, really, holding Texas to one run in the first, and nothing more over 5 2/3. The story here was the three and four hitters for Texas. Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre went a combined 0-8 against the O’s pitching staff Friday. I can’t speak to what’s going on with Beltre, everyone has a bad game here and there, but as for Hamilton… Well, I think it’s evident that Josh doesn’t want to be in Texas anymore. I’ll speak more to this on a piece Jamie and I are working on for later in the week, but, it’s a really tough situation. For the fans, for Josh, for everyone. But he showed towards the end of the season that he had no interest in getting re-signed by the Rangers, which is convenient because it appears the Ranger’s hold a similar sentiment. So, a couple of Nate McLouth RBIs later, the Orioles are going to New York. Or, rather, the Yankees are coming to Baltimore. For home field advantage? Does anyone have Joe Torre’s phone number? I have some questions. They should’ve re-seeded.
On Saturday we saw the first two games of the Division Series – Oakland at Detroit and Cincinnati at San Francisco. We’ll take a break from Wild Card and look at these series. As a Cardinals fan, its hard for me to write about Cincinnati without foaming at the mouth, but I’ll go ahead and try to get that out of the way. The Reds are good. They’re so good. Only Washington has a better rotation than them, and their lineup is full of guys hitting outside their minds. If you’d told me that Ryan Ludwick would be carrying a team in the playoffs in 2012, I would have laughed in your face. Shows how much I know. I don’t see Cincinnati losing a game to San Francisco, as they play back in Cincy on Tuesday. The Wizard, Homer Bailey, takes the mound, and the Giants don’t have the bats to answer. Despite having the NL MVP – Posey has my vote, at least – the Giants just aren’t deep enough to keep pace with the Reds, and that’ll be confirmed as the NL Central champs cruise into the NLCS.
Oakland at Detroit is a series that frustrates me because of the league’s tinkering with the home field advantage. Here you have a team like Oakland, who won their division, has a better record than Detroit, who gets penalized by having to fly out to Detroit to play two games of a five game series before they even see their own field. And against the Tigers, it was almost certain they’d lose these two against Verlander and Fister. It’s just crazy that Oakland will be robbed of homefield when they lose this series in two in Oakland. The new playoff system needs some tinkering, for sure, and the A’s are the poster child for it. A winner of a competitive division should have the advantage over a mediocre team who won a mediocre division with a worse record. That’s just silly. The A’s still have some fight in them, but with Scherzer and Verlander projected to pitch Games 4 and 5, it’ll take some serious effort to win this series.
I want to go into a rant about the Cardinals here. I want to criticize their ridiculous left on base numbers, their pitching changes, their efforts, but I won’t. The take away from Game One of this series is that the Nationals are a solid team, all nine innings, and it takes near perfection to beat them. The Cardinals only had three hits against Gio, and they scored their only two runs before they got their first hit. The Nationals are young, in a playoff sense, and experience does matter, but guys playing this solid nine innings ball with shut down relievers are going to be hard to beat in a series. Ok, I’m gonna lose it – if I hear ONE MORE Cardinals player/fan/blogger complain about the shadows at Busch Stadium after a loss, I’m gonna break something. It’s ridiculous for grown men to be complaining about a perceived disadvantage that – if it exists – AFFECTS BOTH TEAMS. It’s just silly. The Cardinals need to drive runs home, not complain about conditions they’ve had to deal with all season. That kind of “extenuating circumstance” mentality is not one that wins championships.
Finally, we come to the series I may know the least about – the Yankees and the Orioles. I want to do the cliche thing here and cite the season series at 10-9 in favor of the Yankees. (Well 11-9 after last night). Last night showed us that CC Sabathia is not to be forgotten. I read on Twitter somewhere that his was the longest start in the playoffs since Catfish Hunter. The real question of this series focuses on the Yankees more than Baltimore. Because the O’s do not lose close games, there is immense pressure on the Yankees to hit and hit well, especially early on. They blew up late, which is uncharacteristic of the Orioles’ bullpen, and the Yankees can’t count on that all postseason. I think ultimately, experience triumphs here, but you never know with Buck and His Scrappy Showalters.
Coming up today we have Washington at St. Louis (Zimmerman v Garcia). The Cardinals are looking to rebound down 1-0 against a pitcher that they’ve lit up this season (11 ER in 10 IP). New York goes to Baltimore and Pettite takes the mound against Chen. That sentence just warms my heart. It’s beautiful.
Anyway, stay here with the DSR and we’ll keep you posted with reactions and analysis. Follow Jamie @TheDSportsRant and me @spfleming.