Monday, October 12, 2009

Weekend In Review

Well, I gave my opinion on each of the four Division Series last week, and so far, I have been right on two of three of them (though I was off in the games).

By 10:30 last night, we had three division series in the books. Each series being a sweep.

The first series to wrap up was the Dodgers and Cardinals on Saturday night, in which the Dodgers swept the Cardinals with ease.

I am sure that I am not alone in saying that this greatly surprised me. However, Joe Torre and his squad managed to do it again.

While the celebration on Saturday night was kept to a minimum, the Los Angeles took care of St. Louis in impressive fashion.

The Dodgers barely gave the Cards a chance to breath during Games One and Three, taking early leads. And, aided by a huge Matt Holliday error, were able to come back to snatch Game Two in the bottom of the ninth inning due in large part to the clutch performances of role players Ronnie Belliard and Mark Loretta.

While St. Louis got two above-average performances from Cy Young candidates Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in their respective starts, the lack of pop in the Cardinal lineup was badly exposed.

Joe Torre made it a point that he would pitch around Albert Pujols at the beginning of the series. However, Matt Holliday made the decision to do so that much easier by hitting just .167 while batting behind the Cardinal first baseman.
The rest of the Cardinal lineup managed to hit .272 overall, which is not terrible. Yet, they were unable come up with the big hit at the right time, which should reiterate the point to the Cardinal front office: Albert Pujols simply cannot do everything!

In addition, while Holliday's previously mentioned dropped fly ball in left field would be inexcusable for a high school athlete, nevermind a major league player, what was also inexcusable was closer Ryan Franklin's inability to shake off the play and continue to do his job.
Great closers are able to put everything else out of their mind and focus on the task at hand. Franklin could not do this, further providing evidence for why he should be considered both a failed starter and closer.

Meanwhile, on a Sunday afternoon in New England, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were busy doing something that they had never done in their history: beat the Boston Red Sox in the playoffs.

I was stunned to see Boston, whose 56-25 record at home in 2009 was good for second in baseball, actually drop a playoff game to the Angels in Fenway Park, nevermind lose a series there.

However, victory in Fenway did not come easy to Los Angeles.

After starters John Lackey and Jered Weaver utterly dominated the Sox in Games One and Two, Los Angeles new-comer Scott Kazmir struggled, giving up five runs over six innings.

However, with a 5-4 lead and on the brink of elimination, Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon came in during the eighth inning to close the game out.

After Boston added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning to push the score to 6-4, Papelbon promptly served up three runs to the Angels in the top of the ninth. The "key" at bat being Angel right fielder Bobby Abreu's double off the Green Monster to make the score 6-5.

Boston went quietly to follow up, failing to put a runner on in the bottom of the ninth, thus handing the series over to Los Angeles.

Later that night, in Minnesota, the Twins lost to the Yankees in what could be considered one of the most unlucky playoff series in the history of baseball.
Minnesota had two glaring weaknesses in this series. Firstly, failing to score with runners in scoring position became a bit of a trend for the club, exemplified by the 17 runners left on base during Friday night's heart-breaking Game Two loss.

Secondly, Twin closer Joe Nathan, easily one of the top five best closers in the league, was unable to resemble the dominant force that we have all grown so accustomed to seeing.

During Nathan's lone appearance in the series, he gave up a game tying two-run homer to Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game Two which would send the game into extra innings.

And while Mark Teixeira's walk-off home run won the game for New York, the play of the game that will forever live in infamy was catcher Joe Mauer's "foul ball" called by third base umpire Phil Cuzzi. In actuality, the ball should have been a ground-rule double that, in all likelihood, would have allowed Mauer to score on a base hit later on in the inning.
However, that just seemed to be the way things went for the Twins this past week.

In addition to the atrocious call on Friday night, the Twin base-running was absolutely putrid, as a handful of rallies were killed by a dumb move on the base-path.
Finally, the Cinderella story has come to an end.

The one series still being played features the Colorado Rockies and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Philadelphia leads that series 2-1, with Game Four coming tonight at 6:07.

I should be back with an Championship Series preview similar to my Division Series one once the remaining series is decided.

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