Saturday, October 4, 2014

Friday Night Fights; From Beltway to SoCal

Since 9 am pacific time till 10:30 pm pacific time (13 1/2 hours) I have been glued to my television set, and it wasn't for football, breaking news concerning tragedy and despair. No, it involved something much more enthralling, Major League Baseball in it's grandest form. This Friday October 3rd 2014 was probably one of the best days of baseball I can remember, or is it just because this is how the postseason is every single year? I don't know but today was no exception to that idea of how unbelievable today was. We had fights, game winners, intensity, comebacks, and best of all PURE LIVE DRAMA! Yes, drama and baseball in the same sentence! So feast your eyes upon the blog, and enjoy reading everything you missed for this was an unbelievable day 4 in the postseason.

For what now feels like a week ago that was only this morning, Detroit and Baltimore played their second game of their layout of the ALDS. For what will look like an epic collapse for the entire city of Detroit will look like sweet, sweet revenge for one Delmon Young. A guy who spent a great season in 2011 and then got shipped off for battery parts in Philly, finally got to take a real shot at the team who he thought would give him a real chance to shine.

Early in this game, it took both teams a while to heat up and then the 3rd inning we finally saw some offense. The big second basemen Schoop hit a 2 out single and Nick Markakis hit a questionable 2 run homerun that looked as though it should have been a double. Tigers fans will blame it on the home crowd favoring of the umpires for years to come, but it seriously looked like the Tiger fans had room to gripe as it looked like it bounced off of the fence. Yes! It was difficult to see, but on a couple of angles they had, it looked like it never went over the fence. This homerun was so early in the game that people eventually forgot about it, but it did make a big difference in the end.

Well, Detroit didn’t give two rat’s behinds as they responded in the next half inning (top of the 4th) and scored 5 runs to make it 5-2 Detroit. Miguel Cabrera was heated in this inning as J.D. Martinez hit a 3 run bomb to make it 4-2, Miggy decided to jabber at the Baltimore crowd while he was on base, that’s never a good idea when you are on the road. Soon after J.D. hit the homerun, Nick Castellanos hit a solo shot of his own to solidify Miggy’s trash talking ideations towards the Baltimore crowd. Could any of them hear/understand him? Probably not, but it’s a Triple Crown winner yelling his statements, surely they were important.

The Orioles answered in the 4th with a J.J. Hardy 2 out single to cut the score 5-3, and at this point the Orioles needed to bank on their bullpen to carry them through to get the W. The Orioles also had multiple chances to add to the score as in the 5th inning they failed, along with the 6th inning they also couldn’t put a run together, and then the 8th inning came once again.

This time, the Tigers seemed to put the nail in the coffin as Victor Martinez hit’s an RBI double that almost got the Tigers two runs but Miggy got thrown out at the plate. Still, it’s a 6-3 ballgame for the Tigers, and if their pitching could hold the lead, they could steal a game in Baltimore and head back to Detroit with home field advantage in virtually a 3 game series. All they needed was 6 outs, but if you remember Thursday night’s 8th inning, this just became another chapter in this ALDS that seemed to rewrite itself for the implosion of the Tigers. Up 3 in the bottom of the 8th Adam Jones gets plunked by a pitch, Cruz gets a ball past the infield to get on base, and the gritty gutty Orioles were at it again as Pierce rips an RBI single to put a run across the board. 6-4. Then J.J. Hardy works a walk from the new incoming pitcher Soria who recently had been known for his struggles. Then came up the former Tiger who again proved his worth in the 2011 postseason with clutch hit after clutch hit and he now 3 years later, he gets the chance to prove it once again in a pinch hit situation in the Bottom of the 8th with the bases loaded down 2 runs. He rips it down the line, the crowd going absolutely bananas, as all three runners get across home plate to take a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the 8th!!! Yes it wasn’t an implosion like Game 1 for the Tigers, but the chapter may as well have been just as gut wrenching as a former face hit the decisive blow in Game 2. I can’t describe to you how incredible the atmosphere sounded from the television and knowing that it was a TBS broadcast where they filter the sound, you knew the place was absolutely bumpin’. Zach Britton came in for the 9th, shut it down, and the Orioles will pack up their bags run to Detriot with a 2-0 series lead in a best of 5, and try to finish off this team who has the best hitter in the game who can’t keep his mouth shut. On to Detroit they go.

Let’s stay in the Beltway shall we? Except this time we’ll head back to the Nation’s Capital where we breakdown Game 1 of the NLDS of the 2 time champion San Francisco Giants and the fiery Washington Nationals. The only funny thing is, nobody was more fiery than the Giants starting pitcher on this day. That man was Jake Peavy. If you poured gasoline on this guy on this day, Obama would have had to call national security that’s how hot Peavy was. The best part too? He held a no hitter against one of the best offensive teams in the game up until the 5th inning.

Strasburg was absolutely fabulous as well. The only time he gave up runs was when the Giants found a way to manufacture them and the grittiest of ways. In the top of the 3rd, Panik hit an RBI single after the Giants had sacrificed a man to second, the Nationals then had a pass ball that moved the runners up to 2nd and 3rd, then Panik made it 1-0. Then came the top of the 4th, where Hunter pence hustled  out a potential double play and was safe at first base, he steals second base, then Brandon Belt scores Pence on an RBI single making it 2-0 Giants.

After the Nationals broke through with their first hit in the 5th inning off of Jake Peavy on a Bryce Harper infield single, they threatened with the bases loaded in the 6th inning but couldn’t score. Then the Giants again get a huge triple in 7th by Joe Panik, and Buster Posey knocks him in for an RBI single making it 3-0 San Francisco Giants in the Nation’s Capital.

That was what really put Bryce Harper over the edge, because in the next half inning (after an amazing rendition of God Bless America), he hit a ball in the third deck. This reignited the entire crowd as the National fans got right back into the flow of the game. Two batters later, Asdrubal Cabrera decided to stamp another letter to the fans with another solo shot making it 3-2 Giants. They crept back into it and they did it against the future closer, 100+ MPH throwing, lighting rod pitcher of Hunter Strickland. He was pulled after the second homerun. I’m sure the fear was strong with San Francisco after those two moon shots.

The bottom of the 8th was another frightening inning as Sergio Romo almost cost the game again, but he managed to get out of a situation leaving 2 men on base where the Nationals again found themselves short of the runs they needed. They didn’t have another chance to win, and the Giants sealed it in the 9th. This was one of those 4 hour, intensified, magnifying games that felt as though each run was a touchdown in football. If you saw the game, you know exactly what I mean. The Giants win Game 1, 3-2 and now lead the series 1-0 and they will play again Saturday.

You want to talk about where the real matchup was this Friday? That’s right, Los Angeles California where two of the best teams in baseball were hosting playoff games. SoCal was soaking in the hot night and the pitching matchup out in the National League, was just itching for a showdown like no other, but who would have thought it would have ended the way it did.

Dodgers. Cardinals. Wainwright. Kershaw. Popcorn. Ready.

Need I say anything else?

Both these teams are the rematch of the 2013 NLCS and bad blood had been rejuvenated between the two after what happened to Hanley Ramirez last postseason when he had his ribs shattered on an inside fastball. The pitching matchup wasn’t too bad either.

I think coming into this game looking at a 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 game would have been expected, but right out of the gate Randal Grichuk didn’t want a pitcher’s duel as he brought Clayton Kershaw back to earth on a solo blast in the 1st inning to give the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead. It also didn’t help that the Dodgers couldn’t get anything going on offense against Adam Wainwright in the first couple innings and left a total of 4 men on base. Then came the brawl.

Well, it was more of a pushing match that ended in a benches clearing scuffle, but fists were on the verge of being thrown. In the bottom of the 3rd, Yasiel Puig got plunked pretty good and that set off Adrian Gonzalez to get in the face of Yadier Molina and both had to be separated by the home plate umpire. The benches cleared, players and coaches cooled down and everything got back to normal rather quickly, but it was definitely a spark that the Dodgers needed.

The Dodgers then proceed to score two 2 out runs to get the lead back at 2-1 in the bottom of the 3rd. Which is all that Clayton Kershaw needed. He fanned all three batters in the 4th, the Dodgers added two more 2 out runs in the 4th to make it 4-1, and Kershaw shut down the 5th as well. AJ Ellis, the Dodgers number 8 hitter on this day, hit a 2 run bomb to then give Kershaw a 6-1 lead heading into the top of the 6th. Mind you, Kershaw is 111-2 when given this kind of lead in his career and knowing the kind of year he has had, it’s over.

Kershaw cruises to get the first two outs in the 6th until Matt Carpenter hits a solo shot to make it 6-2 Dodgers. Still, only two runs allowed on only two homeruns, Kershaw is cruising, and Adrian Gonzalez made an incredible catch on a foul ball to rejuvenate the Dodgers heading into the bottom of the 6th. The Dodgers didn’t respond with any runs, but Kershaw was in the driver seat to get the Dodgers Game 1 of this division series. Then came the top of the 7th inning.

So many questions, so many angles, so many different perspectives to pick from, but I can tell you this much, this is just what the Cardinals do. Matt Holliday gets a base hit, then Peralta, then Molina, then Adams knocks in Holliday to make it 6-3 Dodgers. 4 straight hits and now the bases are loaded. Pete Kozma strikes out, and then Jon Jay gets an RBI base hit to make it 6-4 and Kershaw still has the bases loaded. Mattingly goes out to the mound decides to keep Kershaw in (because duh, it’s Clayton freaking Kershaw) and have him try to finish out the inning. Kershaw K’s Taveras for the second out in the inning, then there’s that bad man in Matt Carpenter. What does he do? Breaks the spirit of the Dodgers and hits a bases clearing, two out, 3-run double to give the Cardinals a 7-6 lead. Kershaw is then pulled, and his replacement walks the man who hit the first home run of the game in Randal Grichuk, gets walked and Matt Holliday (who led off the inning with a single) hit’s a towering 3 run bomb that gives the Cardinals a 10-6 lead… WHAT! CLAYTON KERSHAW?! Now he has the chants of Clayton Manning with the way he performed in that 7th inning! A 7 run 7th inning and the Cardinals were 5 for 7 with 8 RBI’s when there was a guy on second base facing Kershaw. Can you say tipping your pitches? Oh yeah. It was clear as day.

Another crazy stat, Clayton Kershaw is the only pitcher in MLB history to give up 7+ runs in consecutive postseason starts (both of which were to the St. Louis Cardinals). Again, mind boggling considering this is the same man being considered with the likes of Bob Gipson in winning the Cy Young & MVP Awards for this upcoming November. Baseball, it’s a crazy game for a reason.

The Dodgers couldn’t respond in their half of the 7th, but they did find some magic in the bottom of the 8th. Puig finds a way to get on with a walk, and Adrian Gonzalez hits a 2 run bomb to make it a 10-8 ballgame as they chipped away to get that much closer to the Cardinals. Then came the bottom of the 9th where the last ups for the Dodgers were that close. A.J. Ellis got his 4th hit to keep the Dodgers hopes hanging by a thread, and then Andre Eithier came on to pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot and he hits a double that puts Ellis on 3rd Base. Two on, men on 2nd and 3rd base with 1 out and Dee Gordon all he needs his a base hit to tie it. He grounds out, but gets Ellis to score making it 10-9 Cardinals with 2 outs in the inning, the tying run on 2nd base and Yasiel Puig is up at the plate with one out left in the ballgame. He could tie it, he could win it, or he could lose it. Unfortunately, he struck out swinging and the Cardinals took Game 1 of this best of 5 NLDS with a 10-9 win in Los Angeles.

This game was by far game of the day, but considering the prior two games, it really was just the icing on the cake. Nobody expected Wainwright to be taken out before the 5th, nobody expected Kershaw to blow it in the 7th, this game was easily the most unexpected game I can remember in a very long time. It isn’t the best game I’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely one of the most exciting. The funniest thing too, is that there was one more game to be played on this already crazy Friday in Postseason Baseball.

The Angels and Royals were already zipping along with their two young studs all the way up until about the 5th inning when the action started to occur. This was the first game in postseason history where two rookie starting pitchers were facing one another and by the looks of it, it won’t be the last time these two see each other again. Other than the 2nd inning, where Eric Hosmer got to second base on an error by the right fielder and Alex Gordon knocked him in to make it 1-0 Royals early, it was a back and forth pitcher’s duel all night long.

Josh Hamilton drilled Salvador Perez in the head on his follow through by accident and the training staff had to come out and do concussion tests on Perez to see if he was ok. Ultimately he was fine and stayed in, but it would have been a huge blow for Kansas City if he had to leave the game. But, the bottom of the 6th is where the Angels would ultimately respond as Albert Pujols put himself in playoff lore once again as he got a two out, opposite field, base hit to knock in the tying run (Calhoun) to score making it a 1-1 tie.

The game moved quickly into the 8th where the Angels nearly won the game and the Royals made an amazing double play to kill the momentum of the Angels. C.J. Cron hit’s a leadoff double and gets a pinch runner in Collin Cowgill. Chris Ianetta hits a fly ball to Jarrod Dyson (who had just entered the ball game for defensive purposes) and Collin Cowgill decides to tag up and go to third. Jarrod Dyson throws an absolute pea shot to third and throws out Cowgill by half a step making that an F8-5 double play. 2 outs, bottom of the 8th, now with nobody on base. The definition of an inning killer, but Kansas City still couldn’t capitalize as they left 2 men on base in the top of the 9th.

The game ultimately goes to extra-innings and it’s the first time a team (Kansas City Royals) has played in 3 straight extra-inning games in postseason history. Huston Street (who worked the 9th inning) came in and worked the 10th inning as well, it was the first time he had worked more than 1 inning since 2011. He made it through. The Angels again got a runner on in the bottom of the tenth but an amazing double play got the Royals to the 11th. That’s where the magic happened again.

Lorenzo Cain beats out an infield single, and Eric Hosmer decides to rain down a towering 2 run bomb to give the Royals a 3-1 lead in the top of the 11th. The Royals then decide to add on and the man who got hit in the head earlier punched a base hit to get the man Jerrod Dyson (who made that spectacular throw in the 8th) over for a score to make it 4-1 Royals in the 11th. They went to the bottom of the 11th and one solid question came up as Greg Holland ended the ballgame giving the Royals a 2-0 series lead, and the first team in MLB history to win three straight extra-inning games. Where is Mike Trout?

This guy is 0-fer in his postseason debut thus far and he’s supposed to take over as the new face of the game. The prior face of the game was this guy in Derek Jeter (I don’t know if you’ve heard of him) but he was known to be clutch in the postseason from his first full year in the league in 1996. Mike Trout can’t even buy a hit and looks like a complete scrub at the plate right now. Outside of that, the Angels aren’t playing that bad of ball, it’s just the Royals are that magical right now.

There were three 4 hour games today. The last time I checked, nobody cared, and today was absolutely one of the best days of baseball I can remember in quite some time when it included a 4 game schedule of all day baseball from 9 am pacific time to 10:30 pm pacific time. Crazy baseball, you gotta love it!

I’ll see you tomorrow night!

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