World Series Game 7 – Live Blog

11:30pm

So the team that was 10.5 games out of the Wild Card in late August, who had to beat the team with the best regular season record in the NLCS, who were down to their last strike 2 times in Game 6 – have somehow survived all of that to win the World Series.  Texas, on the other hand, join the 1986 Red Sox in infamy – who have lost two straight World Series and must fear being the new Buffalo Bills – who lost four straight Superbowls in the early 90s.  Baseball is now over for 6 months – thanks to all who read along tonight – congratulations all St. Louis Cardinals fans.

11:22pm

Last night’s game 6 proved that you cannot rest until the final out has been achieved, so the Cardinals will not be thinking they have won it before they record three more outs.  Jason Motte is the man charged with getting those outs – the hard throwing right handed closes for St. Louis.  He gets Nelson Cruz to fly out to center field – two outs away.  Mike Napoli is the next batter, meanwhile Fox show Nolan Ryan looking very glum, which would be more entertaining if this was in Texas and former President Bush 43 was alongside him.  Napoli grounds out to third base and Texas, like St. Louis were twice last night, are down to their final out.  David Murphy is the man with the Rangers’ whole season in his hands – he flies out to left field and it’s game over,  World Series over – the St. Louis Cardinals are the 2011 World Series Champions!

11:15pm

Bottom of the 8th – Nick Punto pinch hits in the pitcher’s spot, with Motet getting ready to enter the game in the 9th for the Cardinals, but flies out to center for the first out.  Theriot makes it and 0 for 5 night for himself with a strike out looking, and Craig comes up – if he gets on base Pujols will have another at bat – we have to wait to find out as Gonzalez injured himself on a pitch and so is pulled out of the game for Alexi Ogando to come in.  He gets that rarest of lines – 1 pitch thrown, 1 strike out – end of the inning.

11:04pm

Top of the 8th – Lynn is in to pitch for the Cardinals and wastes no time as he gets Hamilton to ground out, followed by Young popping out to Pujols, then strikes out Beltre for a 1-2-3 inning.

10:56pm

Bottom of the 7th – the Cardinals have Pujols, Berkman and Freese due up this inning, so will be looking to pad their 5-2 lead, needing just six outs for their 11th World Series Championship – the most in the National League and second only to the

Allen Craig robs Nelson Cruz of a home run, Game 7 2011 World Series
Allen Craig robs Nelson Cruz of a home run, Game 7 2011 World Series

Yankees (who have 27) in all of baseball.  If they do win, I think it will be between Berkman and Freese for the series MVP – with my vote going to the home town boy, David Freese.  This time, it really could be Pujols last at bat as a Cardinal, and he is facing Mike Adams who is in to pitch for the Texas Rangers – and he ruins this potentially storybook ending by striking him out.  Pujols has had 11 fantastic seasons with the Cardinals – his stats read: .328 average, 445 Home Runs, 3 MVPs, a World Series victory in 2006, with another one potentially on the way tonight.  Back to the game and Berkman somehow has an infield hit, despite looking older and more portly than someone you would expect to be able to beat out a soft grounder to short.  Freese is up next, and he walks to give two on with one out.  Molina smacks one up the middle and scores Berkman from second with an RBI single.  Texas 2, St. Louis 6.  Furcal bats next for St. Louis – he grounds out to first, moving the runners to second and third.  That’s the end of Adams’s night, as Washington calls Michael Gonzalez in from the bullpen to face Schumaker – and he strikes him out to end the 7th inning.

10:33pm

Three innings to go of the 2011 season – unless Texas can come back and force extra frames.  Quick predictions for some of the bigger stories of the offseason: CC Sabbathia will opt out of his contract, but re-sign with the Yankees for more years and more money.  Pujols will sign with either the Cubs or the Red Sox, who seem to collect first basemen.  In this game, Carpenter gives up a ground rule double to Murphy to lead off the 7th, which is enough to get La Russa to jump out of the dugout and call for the former Rangers pitcher, Arthur Rhodes, out of the bullpen.  Good performance by Carpenter – he’s in line for the win if the Cardinals stay in the lead for 9 more outs.  Torrealba is the first batter Rhodes will face, pinch hitting for CJ Wilson – he flies out to center field for the first out of the seventh inning.  Turns out that’s all Rhodes will be doing as St. Louis go back to the bullpen to call on Octavio Dotel, who will face Kinsler – the Rangers lead off man who has not been retired yet tonight.  That changes now though, as Dotel strikes him out swinging for the second out.  Elvis Andrus is up next, and he hits a 3-1 pitch to the center fielder to end the inning.

10:17pm

Bottom of the 6th – turns out I may have been premature in talking up Carpenter’s performance, he stays in the game to bat and

Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter - strong through 6 thus far

grounds out to second base – but that means he will be coming out to at least start the 7th inning.  Theriot’s futile night at the plate continues as he moves to 0 for 4 with a fly ball to the center fielder for the second out and then Craig strikes out to end the inning.  Texas 2, St. Louis 5

10:08pm

I just found out that the guy who sung the National Anthem actually was on American Idol, which I did not know when I made my Simon Cowell jibe (7:55pm) – I guess he just had that aura.  Top of the 6th – probably Carpenter’s last inning as he would be due up first in the bottom of the inning.  He gets Beltre on a groundball back to the pitcher for the first out, then sees Cruz rip one deep to left field: it is high, it is far, it is…CAUGHT! Craig reaches up above the fence and snares the ball to take a home run away from Cruz – fantastic fielding – two outs.  A fly ball to right field from Napoli ends the inning – and Carpenter has recovered from a rocky first inning to give a quality start – 6IPs, 5H, 2ER, 2BB 5K.

10:01pm

Bottom of the fifth – Feldman is in to pitch for the Rangers and, for the third time tonight, Theriot leads off the inning – this one is no better than the first two as he grounds out to move to 0 for 3.  Craig, who homered last time up, as well as in game 6, is up next and he walks to give Pujols one on with one out in the inning.  St. Louis’s star first baseman is hit with an inside pitch by Feldman; so now the left-handed Berkman is up, and he has two men on base ahead of him.  Lance Berkman grounds out to first, who tosses the ball to Feldman for the second out – the runners advanced to second and third.  The Rangers want nothing to do with David Freese and issue him an intentional walk to load the bases – they will take their chances against Yadier Molina instead.  After 3 straight balls, Feldman gets the count full to 3-2, but the strategy of intentionally walking Freese backfires as the next pitch is outside and it’s a bases loaded walk.  Texas 2, St. Louis 4 – and that is it for Feldman as Ron Washington calls for CJ Wilson to come in from the bullpen to face Furcal with the bases still loaded. With his very first pitch, Wilson hits Furcal to force in another run.  Texas 2, St. Louis 5.  So this inning has been Single, Hit by Pitch, Ground Out, Intentional Walk, Walk, Hit by Pitch – two runs scored on one hit.  That’s the amount of the damage though, as Wilson strikes out Schumaker to end the inning.

9:38pm

Is it just me, or are the ad breaks a couple of minutes longer than usual for this game? Top of the fifth – Kinsler hits a single, he’s now 2 for 2 with a walk tonight.  There is a game of cat and mouse going on as the runner is looking to try and steal, the batter, Andrus, is showing bunt and Carpenter is throwing to first.  The mouse (?) wins as Andrus lays down a good bunt to advance Kinsler to second, bringing Hamilton to the plate with one on and one out – he hits one up and behind third base, which Freese reaches into the Texas dugout to catch for the second out.  Carpenter then strikes out Michael Young and is now eligible to be the pitcher of record, having got through 5. Texas 2, St. Louis 3

9:26pm

Bottom of the fourth – that man David Freese is up first, but the Rangers get the better of him this time around as he grounds out.  Molina then rips a single to center field, followed by Furcal hitting one to right field – setting the Cardinals up with runners on first and second with one out.  Schumaker is up next, last time around he grounded into a double play, this time he accounts for just one out as he hits a ground ball to first, advancing the runners to second and third.  The pitcher, Carpenter is up next though – so Texas will be confident of getting out of this inning with no runs added to the Cardinals’ lead – and they do as Carpenter flies out to right.  Four innings completed: Texas 2, St. Louis 3.

9:12pm

Top of the fourth – Carpenter strikes out Napoli with three straight curve balls, then gets Murphy to ground out to Pujols at first. Matt Harrison is staying in the game, despite CJ Wilson still warming up in the Texas bullpen, and he strikes out to end the inning.

Craig's third inning home run gives the Cardinals a 3-2 lead

9:05pm

Bottom of the third – Theriot leads off and flies out to right field for the first out, which brings up Allen Craig.  He works the count full and then hits one deep to right field…it is high, it is far, it is…GONE! Texas 2, St. Louis 3.  Pujols is the next batter – on a 1-2 pitch he hits a foul ball behind first base which Michael Young gets a glove on but does not catch – but grounds out to third on the next pitch and there are two outs.  Lance Berkman hits a ball sharply to the right of the first baseman, but Young dives and catches it to end the inning.

8:55pm

Top of the third – I was a little surprised the Cardinals manager, Tony La Russa, left Carpenter in to bat in the last half inning, given that he seems to have nowhere near his best stuff tonight.  Carpenter gets Josh Hamilton to ground out to Shortstop, strikes out Michael Young in an attempt to prove me wrong, but then hits Beltre with a pitch to put him on first – before a fly ball to left by Cruz, ends the inning.

8:47pm

Bottom of the second and Furcal, who has been really struggling at the plate this postseason, is up first for the Cardinals, and he hits a single, but that is quickly wiped out as Schumaker grounds into a double play.  Carpenter is up next and he strikes out on three pitches – after two, it’s all square at 2-2.

8:41pm

Top of the second – Mike Napoli is up first for the Rangers, who would probably be the MVP of the World Series should Texas win (something Joe Buck then says just after I typed it – making me consider deleting it, but oh well).  He singles to left field – up next: David Murphy who attempts to bunt, but Carpenter fires to second to get Napoli and there is one out, with still a man on first base.  The pitcher’s spot is up next so Harrison is at the plate and he is showing bunt to try to advance the runner – and he does exactly that.  So Murphy is on second base and there are now two outs; Kinsler up for the Rangers who walks on four pitchers – it really looks like Carpenter is struggling with command, pitching on short rest for just the second time in his career (the first time was in the ALDS against the Phillies earlier this post-season, and he did not last long that night).  Molina tries to throw out Kinsler at first base, and would have done if Pujols had managed to catch the ball – but no harm is done as Andrus grounds out to the pitcher for the third out.

8:29pm

Bottom of the first, Matt Harrison pitching for the Rangers.  Theriot grounds out to second base for the first out, followed by Allen Craig flying out to center field.  That brings up Albert Pujols, probably playing his final game for St. Louis, as he is a free agent after today’s game and will then sign for the Yankees who will spend Spring Training teaching him to play right field (well, I can dream).  Harrison does not give him anything near a strike and Pujols is on first with a four pitch walk, but now he has to face Lance Berkman, who has been the best Cardinals hitter this series.  Unable to find his location, Harrison walks Berkman too, giving last night’s hero, hometown boy David Freese, an opportunity with two men on base and two outs. Once again, Freese comes through big and hits a game-tying two run double to center field on a full count.  Texas 2, St. Louis 2.  The Rangers are not wasting any time and have CJ Wilson warming up in the bullpen, unsure if Harrison is going to be effective tonight.  He will not be needed in the first inning however, as Molina drives one deep but Hamilton catches it on the warning track for the third out.

8:15pm

And we’re off.  Top of the first, Chris Carpenter (pitching on three days’ rest) on the mound for the Cardinals.  The leadoff batter, Ian Kinsler, gets on with a hard hit single to left field – he is quickly taken care of though as he is picked off trying to steal second and there is one out.  Carpenter has control issues, it seems, and the next batter, Elvis Andrus, draws a walk – giving Josh Hamilton an opportunity to do some damage with a runner on base.  He does exactly that, an RBI double scores Andrus from first – Texas 1, St. Louis 0.  That brings us our first shot of a super-excited Ron Washington celebrating the run – and he immediately gets to celebrate another one as Michal Young hits another RBI double to score Hamilton from second base.  Texas 2, St. Louis 0.  Carpenter strikes out Beltre on three pitches for the second out of the inning – but there is a chance the Rangers batters have figured him out, given this is the third time they’re facing him in the last 10 days.  He gets out of the inning with no further damage as he gets Cruz to ground out to third base.

8:00pm

The most cringeworthy pre-game ceremony of this post-season goes to the Texas Rangers who, before their first game against

So...you're single now right?

the Rays in the ALDS, brought out the son and widow of the guy Josh Hamilton killed by underthrowing a foul ball  who tragically fell to his death trying to catch a foul ball, for the first pitch – which the boy threw to Hamilton.  It seemed emotionally manipulative at the time and must have been hard for the kid and his mother.

7:55pm

The National Anthem is sung by Chris Daughtry – who I have never heard of but has apparently been nominated for a Grammy – he really belts it out and I think Simon Cowell will put him through to the next round.

7:47pm 

I’m a huge Packers fan and love Aaron Rodgers – but that State Farm commercial is on the precipice of becoming the most overplayed and annoying thing on television.

7:40pm

AJ Pierzynski is one of the analysts on Fox tonight and he somehow manages to combine really interesting comments with dull delivery and shows absolutely zero charisma.  He looks like he is reading an auto-cue but I think he is actually ad libbing. Complete contrast is Rangers manager Ron Washington, who wears his heart on his sleeve and celebrates every run he scores like a little kid – jumping up and down.  If I did not want Texas to win (for reasons stated here), I would enjoy seeing him if the Rangers won it all.

7:10pm

In order to see updates you will need to manually refresh the page by hitting F5 or refresh (sorry it’s not auto!). Lineups are in:

Texas (No DH as game is in National League stadium)

1. Kinsler 2B

2. Andrus SS

3. Hamilton CF

4. Young 1B

5. Beltre 3B

6. Cruz RF

7. Napoli C

8. Murphy LF

9. Harrison P

St. Louis 

1. Theriot 2B

2. Craig LF

3. Pujols 1B

4. Berkman RF

5. Freese 3B

6. Molina C

7. Furcal SS

8. Schumaker CF

9. Carpenter P

3:00pm

I’ll be covering the winner-takes-all Game 7 of the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers – first pitch is scheduled for 8pm ET tonight.  If you have a comment or question relating to the game, send an e-mail to politicalfootballs@gmail.com

The fact that this game is even happening is because of the never-say-die attitude the Cardinals once again showed in Game 6. Tonight’s pitching matchup is likely to be between Matt Harrison of the Rangers – who started game 3, which Texas lost 16-7 – and Chris Carpenter for St. Louis – he pitched 7 innings in game 5, giving up 2 runs for a no decision in a Cardinals 4-2 loss.  There has been no official announcement from St. Louis that Carpenter will be starting, Edwin Jackson and Kyle Lohse are also possible, though neither have been impressive in this postseason.  The Cardinals will also be without left fielder Matt Holliday, who injured his hand diving back to third base when he was picked off in the 6th inning last night.  Texas will be trying to fight off the doubts that will come from having twice been one strike away from winning the World Series in game 6, only to end up being forced into a game 7.  The Red Sox in 1986 and the Cubs in 2003 can pay testament to how difficult it is to come back from a rough game 6 loss – plus Texas main offensive threat, Josh Hamilton, has been struggling with a groin injury, although that did not prevent him hitting a two run home run in the 10th last night which should have finished off the Cardinals for good.

While the game might not be as dramatic as last night’s, someone will win the World Series tonight – join me to find out if that will be Texas or St. Louis.

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World Series Game 6 – Baseball Gone Mad

The final day of the regular season (covered here), was one wild night with the fates of four different teams in the balance – game 6 of the 2011 World Series matched it for drama, as the Texas Rangers tried to win it all for the first time in their 50 year history, and the St. Louis Cardinals battled to stay alive and take it to Game 7.

All night, the two teams had been going back and forth on the scoreboard – the Rangers took the lead in the top of the 1st 1-0, only to see Lance Berkman hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the inning – 2-1 Cardinals.  Texas then leveled the score in the 2nd and took the lead 3-2 in the 4th, before St. Louis tied it up in the bottom half of that inning.  Michael Young doubled in a run in the 5th to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead – only to see the tying run walked in for the Cardinals with the bases loaded in the 6th.  In the 7th, it looked as though Texas had taken control of the game – Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back home runs, followed by Kinsler adding an RBI single for a 7-4 Rangers lead.  Craig gave the Cardinals some hope in the 8th as he went deep to bring the deficit to 7-5 – but St. Louis went to the bottom of the 9th needing two runs to keep the World Series alive.

That is where the drama really started.  Ryan Theriot led off, but struck out swinging, which brought up Albert Pujols- St. Louis’s star first baseman who is a free agent after this season and thus it could have been his final at bat as a Cardinals

Hometown boy David Freese came through for the St. Louis Cardinals

player.  Pujols hit a double and then Berkman drew a walk, meaning that the Cardinals had the tying runs on base.  Craig then struck out, leaving St. Louis with just one more out to save the series – the batter it all came down to was David Freese, who grew up in the city and supported the Cardinals.  In this made-for-a-movie type script, Freese had two strikes on him, down to his last one, then hit a two run, game-tying triple just over Nelson Cruz’s head in right field.  Somehow, the game was going to extra innings.

Busch Stadium was buzzing, the crowd was hyped up – but then, in the top of the 10th inning, Josh Hamilton followed up Elvis Andrus’ single with a two-run shot to deep right, giving Texas a 9-7 lead and leaving the Cardinals on the precipice once again.  However, this is a team that came from 10.5 games back in the Wild Card race to snatch the playoff place from the Braves on the final day of the regular season, they just do not know when they are beaten.  Descalso and Jay hit back to back singles to lead off the inning and then Lohse bunted them over, leaving St. Louis with runners on second and third with one out.  Ryan Theriot grounded out, but got in the run from third to leave the Cardinals down one run, two outs with a man on second base.  The Rangers then chose to walk Albert Pujols, a right-handed batter, with a right-handed pitcher on the mound, in order to face left-handed Lance Berkman instead.  Considering Pujols only had one hit outside of game 3 in this series (when he smashed three home runs and had 5 hits in total), whereas Berkman had been the Cardinals danger man all season – as well as the unfavourable righty/lefty matchup – the decision seemed flawed at the time.  It proved to be so, as Berkman drove in the tying run and took the game to the 11th inning.

Jake Westbrook pitched in the top of the inning for St. Louis who gave up just one single to Mike Napoli and no runs.  To lead off the bottom of the 11th, hometown boy David Freese was back up for the Cardinals.  Unsatisfied with his already storybook night, he hit a walk off home run to center to force a game 7, and send Busch Stadium into a frenzy.  Having been down to their final strike in both the 9th and 10th innings, St. Louis somehow found a way to win and keep this very entertaining World Series alive for one more night.

Texas will have to try to recover from having been so close to winning it all and then missing out – Boston failed in a similar situation in 1986 when they lost game 6 after Bob Stanley’s wild pitch tied the game in the bottom of the 10th, followed by Mookie Wilson’s grounder to first which infamously went through Bill Buckner’s legs to end the game.  The Cubs lost game 6 of the NLCS to the Marlins in 2003 after being 5 outs away from the World Series, before their own fan Steve Bartman robbed Moses Alou of an out by going for a foul ball – which was partly to blame for the resulting Florida 8 run rally in that same inning (Chicago Shortstop Alex Gonzalez also booted a double play ball which could have prevented it, but Bartman took all of the criticism).  Of course in game 7, the Cubs lost and the Marlins went on to beat the Yankees in the World Series, Chicago still has not won one since 1908.

As for the Cardinals, the never-say-die attitude this club has shown has brought them to a winner-takes-all showdown on Friday night.  In the 2001 World Series, the Yankees came from 2 runs down, 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th on 2 consecutive nights – St. Louis tonight survived down to their last out, their last strike, in two consecutive innings.  Can they go on to win game 7, which the Yankees failed to do that year?  I will be live-blogging the game from around 8pm ET – join me to find out.

World Series Preview

The World Series has arrived – Game 1 is Wednesday night with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05pm – with a seven game

Busch Stadium, St. Louis

contest between the St. Louis Cardinals, playing at home in the opener, and the Texas Rangers.  The Rangers are back in the Fall Classic for the second straight year, becoming the first repeat American League pennant winners since the New York Yankees won four in a row between 1998-2001 – but have zero World Series titles in their 40 year history.  In contrast, the St. Louis Cardinals have won it all 10 times, most recently in 2006.  Having been 10.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the National League Wild Card in late August, beaten the pitching rich Phillies in the Divisional Series, before knocking out the team with the best home record in baseball this year – the Brewers – by winning twice in their stadium, the Cardinals have every right to believe they are the team of destiny this season.

The biggest issue for most fans is figuring out who to root for in this series, as they are not among the bigger markets in baseball.  Neither of the two teams would have been first choice for the television networks, who would have been hoping for clubs with biggest fan-bases to make the World Series (something like Phillies vs Yankees/Red Sox).  So who will I be supporting for the next 4 to 7 games? Given that I have no natural like nor dislike for either team, other than the animosity I gained for the Rangers in last year’s ALCS, much of which was for the since departed Cliff Lee, I am going to have to rely on other deciding factors.

State Nicknames & Slogans – The “Lone Star State” taking on the “Show Me” state…Hardly inspiring nicknames for either side – this is no exactly “Live Free or Die” – but then New Hampshire does not have a professional baseball team.  This would almost be a draw, but for the “Don’t mess with Texas” moniker that has become synonymous with that state, which gives this one to Missouri. Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 1

Presidents – Just looking at the Presidents who were born in the respective states, there is Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson for Texas, Harry S Truman for Missouri (note, that’s Harry S Truman, not Harry S. Truman, his middle name was just “S”, it does not stand for anything…some free Presidential Pedantry in a piece about baseball).  Based solely on those three, the Rangers would be getting a point – two solid Presidents against the guy who ordered atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  But the first person you think of when you consider Texas is of course President George W. Bush – indeed he owned the Rangers for a time and was first elected to office as Governor of the State – so can his actions (and inactions) outweigh the devastation and death caused by two nuclear weapons being used for the only time in war?  Of course they can.  Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 2

Slavery – Neither state can be proud of its history here – the Missouri Compromise enabled that territory to continue slavery, while Texas  seceded from the union to protect this inhumane, immoral act and now the Texas Board of Education has tried to rebrand the whole practice as the “Atlantic Triangular Trade”. Neither side wins this one – both lose a point.Texas Rangers -1, St. Louis Cardinals 1

Managers – Back to baseball matters: Cardinals manager, Tony La Russa, is clearly a very talented tactician and understands the game better than almost everyone else – but he still is not very likeable.  By contrast, Ron Washington is so lively and enthusiastic during every game that you cannot help but enjoy seeing him celebrate.  He also does not have an incredibly distracting dye job on his hair, which La Russa does. Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 1

Miscellanea – The Texas Rangers were at the centre of one of the saddest moments in the baseball season – when a man died at one of their games trying to catch a ball thrown by Josh Hamilton, to give to his son.  Unfortunately, they chose to remember this in their first playoff game against the Rays in the ALDS by having the boy and his mother come out to throw the first pitch to Hamilton – while I am sure the Rangers meant well, it came across as emotionally exploitative and I fear the effect it would have had on such a young kid, not to mention the widow.  Also, during game 1 of last season’s World Series, I was out bowling in Manhattan and in the lane next to us was a guy wearing a brand new Texas Rangers hat – missing his supposedly favourite team in their first ever appearance in the Fall Classic in order to knock over some pins.  For the Cardinals, their best player’s name is pronounced “Poo Holes” and they have a nice arch to look at during the game. Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 2

Predictions – For the whole postseason, I have got a record of one prediction right to five wrong.  The only correct guess I have made was the St. Louis Cardinals knocking out the Milwaukee Brewers, reason enough for me to back them one more time.  Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 3 – The Prediction – Cardinals in 6

Baseball – ALCS/NLCS Preview

If you are going to predict sporting events, you either need to get them spot on, or completely wrong – there is no fun in being as accurate as a coin toss and getting 50% right- as I have been thus far in my NFL picks (32 and 32 against the spread going into Week 5).  Luckily, I was nowhere near being average with my picks for the divisional series of the MLB playoffs.  As you can see here, I made the following prognostications:

Phillies over Cardinals in 3 – Actual Result – Cardinals in 5

Diamondbacks over Brewers in 5 – Actual Result – Brewers in 5

Rays over Rangers in 5 – Actual Result – Rangers in 4

Yankees over Tigers in 4 – Actual Result – Tigers in 5

A big OH for four, making me about as useful as A-Rod in October, and 39% less accurate than Punxsutawney Phil .  One small caveat, I did state in the preview for the Yankees/Tigers series that my head was saying Detroit but my heart was picking

Phil predicts it will be an early winter for the Yankees

New York.  I could also try and fall back on the pre-season predictions of virtually all of the major baseball writers who projected a World Series between the Phillies and the Red Sox – the former falling at the first hurdle in October, the latter suffering the biggest collapse in baseball history. (Note that every single pundit picked at least one of Philadelphia or Boston to make the World Series, if not both) But I digress, I could not have been more wrong, so now it is time to let you know who will miss out on making the World Series when they are cursed by my predictions.

ALCS

Detroit Tigers vs Texas Rangers (Rangers have home-field advantage)

This really is a hard one to call, the two teams regular season records were separated by a single game – the Rangers winning 96 to the Tigers 95 – but Detroit did win 6 out of the 9 times they played against each other this year.  Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander is without doubt the best player in this series and, as manager Jim Leyland held off bringing him in to game 5 against the Yankees, he will be available to potentially pitch three times against Texas.  Unlike last year, when they had Cliff Lee to take them all the way to the World Series, the Rangers do not have an ace pitcher this year.  What they do have is a balanced lineup and have been playing consistently well all year – plus they took care of the rampant Tampa Bay Rays in their ALDS matchup.  In the Tigers favour, their closer, Jose Valverde, has not blown a save all season and the team has not lost a game in which they have led after the 7th inning all season – with Joaquin Benoit as the setup man in the 8th before Valverde takes over to finish the job.  Because of this ability to shorten the game by 6 outs , I’m picking Detroit to make their first World Series since 2006 – when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in 5.

Prediction – Detroit in 6

NLCS

St. Louis Cardinals vs Milwaukee Brewers (Brewers have home-field advantange)

On August 26th, the Cardinals were 10.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the battle for the National League Wild Card – now they are four wins away from returning to the World Series, 5 years after they last won it all.  In Pujols, Berkman and Holliday, St. Louis has a formidable middle of the order that will be difficult for the Milwaukee pitchers to navigate.  Their hero in the deciding game against the Phillies, Chris Carpenter – who pitched a complete game shutout for the win – will not be available until Game 3 this time around, meaning Jamie Garcia (13-7, 3.56 ERA during the regular season) will probably get the ball for the series opener.  The Brewers also used their number 1 starter, Yovani Gallardo, in the series clincher against the Diamondbacks on Friday night, so it will fall to Zack Greinke to try to get Milwaukee off to a winning start at home.  In Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, the Brewers also have formidable 3-4 hitters and this matchup may come down to who takes care of business in front of their own fans.  After knocking out the Phillies – who had a starting pitching staff including Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, not to mention the best regular season record in all of baseball this year – I cannot pick against the Cardinals.

Prediction – Cardinals in 5

Yankees vs Tigers – Game 5 Live blog

11:42pm

Bottom 9th – Granderson up to lead off the inning, and he fouls the first pitch off; takes a ball outside to even the count at 1-1 and another low to move ahead 2-1.  A called strike makes it 2-2 – I’m not sure I have been this nervous with a Tigers pitcher on

Deja vu - the Yankees 2010 season ended with an A-Rod strike out

the mound in the 9th inning at Yankee Stadium since Billy Chapel’s perfect game…meanwhile Granderson flies out and the Yankees have 2 outs left to save their season.  Cano swings at the first pitch, but the ball safely lands in Austin Jackson’s glove and we have 2 down.  Alex Rodriguez is the batter faced with keeping the season alive and he is quickly down 0-2 and it’s down to the final strike.  He swings and misses and that’s it, the Tigers win and will face the Rangers in the ALCS.  The Yankees season ends earlier than hoped for – and only 8 days later than Boston’s.

11:35pm

So the Yankees season comes down to this, the bottom of the 9th in Game 5 of the ALCS, down 1 run.  I am trying to invoke the spirit of 2001, when they came back from 2 runs down, 2 outs in the 9th, in back-to-back games of the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

11:33pm

Top 9th – The greatest closer in baseball history is in for a non-close situation, Mariano Rivera, who needs 5 pitches to get through a perfect 9th. In the bottom of the inning the Yankees have Granderson, Cano and Rodriguez due up to face Detroit closer Valverde, who has been perfect this season, converting all of 49 of his save opportunities

11:26pm

Bottom 7th – This season, the Detroit Tigers were 79-0 in games they led after the 7th inning…bollocks.  The TBS commentator points out this could be Jorge Posada’s last at bat as a Yankee – hopefully he will have plenty more in the ALCS and World Series to come though.  In a rare show of speed, he nearly beats out an infield grounder, but he does not so there is one out.  Russell Martin is up next, who has looked very uncomfortable at the plate tonight, this series, and basically since April when he was crushing the ball.  He swings at pitch that is down low and way outside to fall behind 0-2, before finally showing some patience to get it all the way back to a full count – but then strikes out looking – backing up a text I just sent to a fellow Yankees fan that next season Jesus Montero should be the full time catcher.  Gardner then hits one in the gap to left field for a two out single – on the first pitch to Jeter, the runner takes off from first but the Yankees captain crushes the ball, it goes high, far and…is caught at the wall to end the inning.  We head to the 9th; Detroit 3 New York 2

11:15pm

David Robertson is in to pitch the 8th inning for the Yankees, their 6th pitcher of the night.  Robertson gets Cabrera to strike out and then retires Martinez on a pop-up to the catcher and Brandon Inge on a ground-out to shortstop – inning over.

11:05pm

Swisher is 3-11 lifetime against Benoit, but all 3 of those hits have been home runs, and all have come in his last 6 at bats against the Tigers’ pitcher.  Great eye from Nick Swisher to leave a pitch just outside, to even the count at 2-2 – but then chases one high and outside and he strikes out to end the inning.

11:02pm

Cano taps one back to the mound, but a kind bounce takes it away from Benoit and the bases are loaded with Alex Rodriguez coming up next.  The tension is getting to everyone, Detroit manager Jim Leyland is shown popping some sunflower seeds in to chew on – when did they stop him chain smoking in the dugout? After much delaying, Benoit gets around to throwing some pitches, and he gets ahead of Mr. April 1-2, who then strikes out swinging.  Teixeira watches five straight pitches out of the zone, the fourth was called a strike erroneously, but that’s enough to walk and force in a run.  Detroit 3 New York 2 – bases still loaded – Swisher up.

10:52pm

Bottom 7th – the start of the inning is delayed as Tigers’ left fielder Delmon Young is forced to leave with an injury, he is replaced by Ryan Rayburn.  Gardner leads off for the Yankees, who have 9 outs left to try and turn this around and force a rematch of last season’s ALCS versus Detroit.  Scherzer is all over the place and yet works back from a 3-0 count to strike out Gardner – the Yankees left fielder doing that frustrating thing of not swinging at the 3-0 pitch even when it is a fastball down the middle.  Jeter is up next, 0-3 tonight but he breaks out of that with an infield single – forcing Detroit manager to pull Scherzer for setup man Joaquin Benoit with Curtis Granderson on deck.  During the commerical break we are reminded how awesome guacamole, and by extension avocados, are.  We are then forced to watch new pitcher remove a BandAid from his cheek, apparently at the request of Yankees manager Joe Giradi.  The reasoning behind him asking for it to be taken off may be questionable, but the decision by TBS to show it being pulled off in close-up and high definition, is completely indefensible. When play resumes, Granderson singles to right and the Yankees have two on with just one out.

10:33pm

Soriano works a 1-2-3 inning in the 7th, meanwhile Suman asks if I agree with ESPN’s gamecast which suggests the Tigers have a 69% chance of winning from this point.  If 2001 taught me anything in post-season baseball, it is never count out the Yankees until the final out.

10:25pm

After a brief adjournment, in the shape of me putting my four-month old to bed, the sixth inning is uneventful with neither side adding to their run totals.  Soriano now pitching for the Yankees, Scherzer for the Tigers

10:02pm

Bottom 5th – The Tigers have brought in Brandon Inge at third base, Don Kelly moving to right field to replace Magglio Ordonez  – a defensively minded move.  Jeter grounds out for the first out of the inning, followed quickly by Granderson who flies out to left.  Up next is Robinson Cano who hits one high, it is far, it is…GONE! Home Run New York Yankees and they are on the board, Detroit 3 New York 1.  A-Rod grounds out to end the inning

9:55pm

Top 5th – As predicted (see 9:12pm) CC is in to pitch in the 5th inning, but does not start well and gives up a full count double to

CC pitches for the third time this series

leadoff hitter Austin Jackson.  Kelly then makes Sabbathia work before striking out and then Delmon Young follows suit, two away.  The Yankees then intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera, preferring to face Victor Martinez instead.  The strategy backfires though as Martinez hits a single which centre fielder Curtis Granderson bobbles, allowing Jackson to score easily from second base: Detroit 3 New York 0.  CC strikes out Ordonez to end the inning, but the Yankees really need to put some runs on the board in the bottom half of this inning.

9:39pm

Bottom 4th – Alex Rodriguez – just 2-13 in this series – works a leadoff walk to start the inning, followed by Tex flying out. Swisher then hits a single to give the Yankees 2 runners on with 1 out, with Jorge Posada coming to the plate.  The long serving Yankees catcher turned DH makes Fister work before smacking a single to centre to load the bases.  Still just one out and Russell Martin is up next – who pops up for the second out.  Brett Gardner now has the responsibility of making this rally count for something, the bases still loaded but two men down.  Gardner works the count to 3-2, fouls one back before popping out to third base – it remains Detroit 2 New York 0

9:18pm

Avila hits a single to right off Logan’s first pitch to give the Tigers two men on with just one out in the fourth inning.  Supposed left-handed specialist Boone Logan then gets right handed Peralta to fly out to Swisher in right field, before striking out the switch-hitting Santiago.

9:12pm

Top 4th – Jas asks if we are likely to see CC tonight (again you can post comments below, or e-mail politicalfootballs@gmail.com) – if it stays close I expect either the 5th of 6th inning would be made for the big man – with the 7th, 8th and 9th likely to be the tried and tested formula of Soriano, Robertson and Rivera.  For now, Phil Hughes is still on the mound and he gets Victor Martinez to pop up to catcher Russell Martin before Ordonez hits a single to right.  Giradi has seen enough and calls for lefty specialist Boone Logan to come in to face Avila, Phil Hughes trudges off – his night, and possibly season, finished

9:06pm

…Granderson walks on a 3-2 pitch, giving Robinson Cano an opportunity with two runners on and two outs.  Cano fouls back a couple of pitches on a 2-2 count, while TBS shows us Spike Lee screaming his encouragement from the stands, but the second baseman ends up flying out to centre.

8:59pm

Bottom 3rd – Russell Martin leads off the inning, but grounds out to third baseman Don Kelly, followed by Brett Gardner hitting an 0-2 pitch to centre field for a single.  Fister holds Gardner close at first and at the same time strikes out Derek Jeter for the second out.  Could really use a home run from Curtis Granderson right now who led the Yankees with 41 in the regular season…

8:50pm

Top 3rd – the shortest leash for Nova – Hughes is in to pitch the top of the 3rd inning for New York.  The man YES play-by-play guy, Michael Kay, insists on calling Phil Yooose – strikes out Jackson and Kelly before giving up a long single to Delmon Young which bounces off the right field wall, but the next batter, Miguel Cabrera, grounds out to shortstop Derek Jeter and the inning is over.

8:41pm

Bottom 2nd – Alex Rodriguez is called out on strikes on a pitch that looks outside, but TBS’s graphic shows it’s right on the corner.  Mark Teixeira is up next and smacks a ground rule double to deep right, giving the Yankees their first hit of the night, but that is followed by Swisher grounding out to short to leave the Yankees with two outs.  Jorge Posada, who coming into tonight’s game is hitting .400 in this series with 4 walks and was also hit by a pitch, strikes out looking to end the inning.

8:30pm

Top 2nd – The commentators tell us that Nova didn’t give up a home run in the first inning during the regular season…which I guess is meant to make us Yankees fans feel better that he gave up 2 tonight?  I’m not sure how many doubles he gave up in the second, but Ordonez, who’d fought off several pitches, hits one to left field.  The Yankees already have Phil Hughes getting ready in the bullpen – Nova understandably on a very short leash in this win-or-go-home game.  Avila grounds out to second base, advancing the runner to third with only one out.  Jhonny Peralta is up next, a man who does not even know how to spell his own first name, and he grounds out to Alex Rodriguez at third, who can hold Ordonez before throwing to Teixeira for the out at first, two away.  Ramon Santiago, Detroit’s second baseman works the count full to 3-2, fights off a fastball away before striking out on a fastball inside.  Good work from Nova to survive the leadoff double – still Tigers up 2-0

8:19pm

Bottom 1st – Jeter hits a sharp ball down the first base line but is robbed of a double by an athletic play by Miguel Cabrera who gets to the bag before the Yankees captain for the first out.  Granderson strikes out on three pitches, followed by Cano grounding out to short – three up, three down for New York.

8:14pm

Top 1st – Nova gets former Yankee Austin Jackson to strike out swinging, but then gives up back to back home runs to Don Kelly and Delmon Young…this does not look good.  Cabrera strikes out followed by Victor Martinez grounding out to Robinson Cano to end the inning, but the damage has been done. Detroit 2 New York 0

8pm

Game time! My accompanying beer of choice for the night: Brooklyn Lager

7:10pm

Two things – this page will not auto-refresh, so you’ll need to hit F5 or reload to get updates – and answer tonight’s poll question – who wins?

6:45pm

Lineups

Detroit

1. CF A. Jackson

2. 3B D. Kelly

3. LF D. Young

4. 1B M. Cabrera

5. DH V. Martinez

6. RF M. Ordonez

7. C A. Avila

8. SS J. Peralta

9. 2B R. Santiago

Pitcher – D. Fister

New York

1. SS D. Jeter

2. CF C. Granderson

3. 2B R. Cano

4. 3B A. Rodriguez

5. 1B M. Teixeira

6. RF N. Swisher

7. DH J. Posada

8. C R. Martin

9. LF B. Gardner

Pitcher – I. Nova

2:45pm

I’ll be covering the crucial winner-takes-all game 5 of the ALDS between the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees – first pitch is scheduled for 8pm ET tonight.  If you have a comment or question relating to the game, send an e-mail to politicalfootballs@gmail.com

The pitching matchup tonight is a repeat of the non-starters of game 1: Ivan Nova and Doug Fister came in as relief pitchers in

Yankees Rookie Ivan Nova gets the ball for Game 5

the second inning for CC Sabbathia and Justin Verlander respectively, after the series opener had a rain delay of 23 hours.  Nova had a great second half to the year, despite having been briefly sent back down to the minor leagues in July, and has become their de facto ace, with CC having struggled since the end of August.  Meanwhile, Fister was with Seattle until a mid-season trade rescued him from there – his 3-12 record improved to 11-13 after his move to the Tigers.  An ERA (Earned Run Average) of under 3 shows that his problem was run support with the Mariners, rather than his own performance, nevertheless Fister did lose his only start against the Yankees during the regular season, and took the loss in Game 1.

Baseball’s Wild Night and Playoff Predictions

If there has been a more exciting night in baseball history, I would love to have witnessed it.  Last night had it all: comebacks, rain delays, blown saves, clutch hits, celebrations, devastation.  The night started with 4 teams vying for 2 wild card spots and the possibility of everyone having to come back to play game 163 today.  It ended with the playoff schedule set and the culmination of the two biggest September collapses in baseball history.

Before a pitch was thrown on Wednesday, the Cardinals and the Braves were tied in the race for the National League Wild Card, the Red Sox and the Rays also had matching records and were competing for the last playoff spot in the American League.  St. Louis took care of business against the Houston Astros and were 5 runs up in the first inning, their victory meaning their worst case scenario was a one game playoff against Atlanta if the Braves also won.  However, the other three games involving the contenders had much more drama than that one in Texas.  This is how things changed throughout the evening:

Through 7 innings:

The Braves were 3-2 up against the Phillies – 6 outs from getting to the playoff game with St. Louis

Boston and Atlanta playoff-bound...oh

The Rays were trailing the Yankees 7-0 and needing some help from Baltimore

The Orioles and the Red Sox were in a rain delay – one that did not look like it would subside – prior to the bottom of the 7th inning with Boston up 3-2.  If they were unable to retake the field – the game would be awarded to the Red Sox

As it stood: Braves/Cardinals to play game 163; Red Sox in playoffs, Rays out

Through 8 innings:

The Tampa Bay Rays rallied against the Yankees and brought the score back to 7-6, the highlight being Evan Longoria’s 3 run home-run.

The Red Sox and the Orioles managed to get back on the field when the rain finally stopped.  Boston pitcher Alfredo Aceves got out of trouble in the 7th after hitting two Baltimore players with pitches, before Daniel Bard worked a perfect 8th.

The Phillies loaded the bases against Atlanta but failed to tie the game when Raul Ibanez struck out.

As it stood: Braves/Cardinals to play game 163; Red Sox in playoffs, Rays out

Two outs in the 9th inning:

The Phillies tied the game with the Braves with a sacrifice fly by Chase Utley which recorded the second out and scored the runner from 3rd, sending the game to extra innings.

The Rays were down to their last out, trailing the Yankees 7-6, with nobody on base

The Red Sox were one out away from guaranteeing at least a playoff game – the Orioles had nobody on base.

As it stood: Braves had to win in extra innings to force game 163; Red Sox in playoffs Rays out

Despite their precarious position, the Rays were not done.  Pinch-hitter Dan Johnson hit a two-out solo home run over the right field wall to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th and sent the game to extra innings.  In the bottom of the 12th, the crowd (if you can call it that – attendance for a do-or-die game was shockingly low at Tropicana Field) started to get boisterous. Word had filtered through from Baltimore  (the game there was still in the bottom of the 9th due to the rain delay) that the Orioles were rallying.  One out away from closing out the game, Boston’s Jonathan Papelborn gave up back-to-back doubles that tied the game; followed by a single that landed just in front of Carl Crawford and scored Reimold from second to end the game and leave the Red Sox fans for once praying for a Yankees victory.  When the final score was flashed on the board in Tampa, the cheers grew and Evan Longoria had to step out as he waited to bat.  Two pitches later, he hit a line drive shot that cleared the left field wall to give the Rays a walk off win and remove all need for a playoff.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Philadelphia took the lead in the top of the 13th, leaving the Braves on the brink of elimination – a fact that was confirmed when a double play in the bottom of the inning ended the game.  An incredible night of baseball, ending a dramatic September which resulted in:

  • Boston and Atlanta being eliminated, Tampa and St. Louis making the playoffs
  • The Red Sox giving up a 9 game lead over the Rays in September to be eliminated on the final day, the biggest ever collapse in baseball history. (Can we stop talking about the ALCS in 2004 now? Please?)
  • The Braves giving up an 8.5 game lead over the Cardinals in September, the join second biggest ever collapse in baseball history (with the 1964 Phillies)
  • This article getting even funnier than it had been already.  New England Sports Network wondered before the season if this year’s Red Sox team would overtake the 1927 Yankees as the greatest in history, instead they have more in common with the 2007 New York Mets – who lost 12 of their last 17 games to throw away a 7 game lead over the Phillies and miss the playoffs.
Playoff Predictions
For a change, it will be hard for October to match the drama of September as the playoffs started early for a lot of clubs.  Here’s a breakdown of how I see the divisional matchups
Phillies vs Cardinals:  Look out for the team that is on a roll going into October – the 2007 Rockies got hot in September and it carried over to the playoffs and saw them make the World Series – so the Cardinals will not be an easy out for the Phillies. However, with ace pitchers Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels set to start for Philadelphia in the first three games, I think St. Louis will be lucky to win even one game.  Prediction: Phillies in 3
Brewers vs Diamondbacks: This should be a very even matchup – Arizona won the regular season series between them by 4 games to 3 and probably have the best starting pitcher in Iain Kennedy.  However, the Brewers have a strong line-up and great 3/4 hitters in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.  I can see this one going the distance. Prediction: Diamondbacks in 5
Yankees vs Tigers: While New York was throwing away a 7 run lead against Tampa, everyone was focusing on Boston – but the Yankees lost their last 4 regular season games and now face this year’s probable AL Cy Young winner in Justin Verlander for game 1.  If pitching wins in October, then the Yankees are in trouble as they start rookie Ivan Nova in game 2, their ace CC has had a poor month of September, and beyond that nobody knows who will start game 3 – none of the candidates, Garcia, Colon or Burnett, instill much confidence in their own fans.  I hate to say it, but I think the Yankees will come unstuck and will make an early October exit.  However, I still cannot pick against them so I will predict against my head and with my heart.  Prediction: Yankees in 4
Rangers vs Rays: Unlike the Phillies, I do not see Texas having the rotation to stop a team that is on a fantastic run and I think Tampa will make it to the ALCS.  The Rays have stronger pitching, at least as good a lineup, and not having home-field advantage will not mean too much to a team that does not attract many fans anyway.  Prediction: Rays in 5

This week in: Baseball – Wild Card Mania

As was covered here, September had looked like it was going to be a quiet baseball month, with almost all of the playoff places already decided – only the AL West seemed like it was still a race between the Angels and the Rangers.  The Atlanta Braves have gone 9-16 in September and seen the Cardinals pull within 1 game of them for the Wild Card, having started the month 8 back.  The Boston Red Sox have been even more generous, returning all of the 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays they enjoyed as recently as September 3rd.

All four teams have two games left to play against divisional rivals – the Braves face the juggernaut Phillies, who won their

Swing and a miss

100th game of the season on Monday night; while the Cardinals face the Houston Astros, who are just playing to spoil now. In the American League East, the Orioles look to continue to frustrate the Red Sox, having beaten them in 4 of the 5 games they have played in the last week.  There is bad blood between the two teams this season also, with one of their games in July descending into a brawl, after Boston’s David Ortiz felt that the Orioles’ Kevin Gregg had been throwing at him on two straight pitches.  Meanwhile, the Rays host the Yankees, who have already guaranteed themselves home-field advantage for the ALDS and ALCS (should they make it that far).  With New York now likely to face Detroit in the divisional series, which starts on Friday, their focus will be on getting their line up and pitching rotation set.  The Tigers will be able to start ace pitcher Justin Verlander in 2 of the 5 games and so the Yankees will be holding CC Sabbathia back to face him, rather than him going for his 20th win of the year in either of the remaining regular season games against the Tampa Bay Rays.

There is also a question about whether or not the Yankees would want to go all out to win and thus help their rivals, Boston, in the process.  The last time the two teams faced off in a playoff series was the 2004 ALCS when New York collapsed – having being up 3-0, only to lose the last four games.  Though the Red Sox have been struggling throughout September, once the playoffs start then anything is possible and they will still be a dangerous team to face.  In 2000, the Yankees themselves ended the season by winning only 3 of their final 18 games, but that did not stop them once October came around and they went on to win the World Series.  At the same time, the Rays are on a roll and if they complete their comeback and make the playoffs, then they will be a have a lot of belief and will be a tough team to knockout.  New York will not worry about who joins them in the playoffs and, while they will be resting their veterans and holding back their best pitchers, the players who do go out their will just be playing to win.

With the playoffs starting this weekend and four teams already playing “win-or-go-home” type games, it should be an exciting week in baseball.  With any luck, at least one of the two races will be tied after Wednesday’s games and there will be a Game 163 – a one-off, winner takes all matchup for the Wild Card.

This week in: Baseball

At the beginning of September, there seemed to be only one playoff spot up for grabs, the race for October being a mere saunter in every division except for the AL West.  The standings before play on 9/1 were thus:

AL                                                                                               

East – Red Sox 1.5 games up on Yankees

Central – Tigers 5.5 games up on Indians

West – Rangers 3.5 games up on Angels

Wild Card – Yankees 7.5 games up on Rays

NL

East – Phillies 7.5 games up on Braves

Central – Brewers 8.5 games up on Cardinals

West- Diamondbacks 6 games up on Giants

Wild Card – Braves 8.5 games up on Cardinals

Fast-forward less than 2 weeks and, though most of the races continue to look decided, the AL Wild Card is suddenly up for grabs. In the AL East, the Yankees have made up 5 games on the Red Sox in the month of September and are now 3.5 up

Lackey just found out his ERA is higher than AJ Burnett's

with 17 left to play.  This has not been because New York has been playing unbelievable baseball – they themselves just snapped a four game losing streak – rather it’s a result of a faltering Boston team who, having posted a 2-9 record so far this month, are now only 3 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays for the Wild Card.  This is a team who were being written in as the Phillies opponents for the World Series prior to the season began, and whom the jingoistic New England press were lauding as being able to surpass the 1927 Yankees as the greatest in history, merely making 100 wins was a foregone conclusion.  (Spoiler alert – unless Boston ends the season by winning 15 games out of 16, they’re not going to make it to 100 wins)

A look at the statistics makes it clear were the Red Sox problems lie:

Team Rankings (All of MLB)

Batting

Runs – 1st; Batting Average – 1st; On Base – 1st; Slugging Percentage – 1st

Pitching

ERA – 19th; Quality Starts – 26th; WHIP – 11th; BAA – 6th

While there have been problems all season long with the Red Sox pitching, September has seen the issues get deeper.  The rap sheet is as follows: 73 runs given up in 11 games; an injury to Josh Beckett; and projected closer of the future, Daniel Bard, taking the loss in 4 of the 9 defeats this month.  Meanwhile, 45 year old Knuckleball pitcher, Tim Wakefield, has been stuck on 199 career wins, unable to get 200 in any of his last 5 starts.

With a four game series coming up at Fenway Park against the Rays next weekend, Boston needs to get back to their winning ways, and fast.  If they manage a split with Tampa Bay, then they still need to look out for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, currently only 5 games back of the Red Sox, and with winnable series against the A’s and Orioles this week.

Elsewhere this week, with most of the playoff spots decided, an emphasis will be put on individual milestones being reached for both this season, and overall in players’ careers:
  • Yankees legendary closer Mariano Rivera has 599 career saves after picking up his 40th for the year on Sunday in a 6-5 NY win over the Angels.  As well as 1 more taking him to 600, 2 more saves sees Mo tie Trevor Hoffman for first on the all time career saves list.  Rivera’s teammate, Curtis Granderson, goes into the week looking for his 40th Home Run of the season.  The center fielder’s previous season high was 30 back in 2009 with Detroit.  (This week: NYY @ Seattle x3, @ Toronto x3)
  • Also in pinstripes, pitcher CC Sabbathia looks to become the first Yankees pitcher to record back-to-back 20 win seasons since Tommy John (he of the famous surgery) did it back in 1979/80.  (CC Scheduled start: 9/17 @ Toronto)
  • For the Detroit Tigers, Justin Verlander continues his quest to become the first pitcher to win both the Cy Young and MVP since Roger Clemens did it for Boston in 1986.  With a league leading 22 wins, the joint lowest ERA in the AL and the most strikeouts, Verlander looks a certainty for the Cy Young, and with Detroit playing .500 baseball when anyone else pitches, strong starts for the rest of the regular season might persuade the voters to make a pitcher MVP once again.  (Verlander scheduled starts: 9/13 @ White Sox; 9/18 @ Oakland)
  • Adrian Beltre hit his 300th career home run on Sunday (along with his 301st for good measure), next up for that milestone is Carlos Beltran who sits on 297 all time.  However, personal glory will only be worth so much – since Beltran joined the Giants from the Mets, they have dropped out of 1st and look likely to miss the opportunity to defend last year’s World Series win this October. (SF: San Diego x3, @ Colorado x4)
  • The AL Batting Title is turning into a two horse race between Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez (.339) and the 2005 Batting Champion from Texas, Michael Young (.334).  With both of their teams in playoff races, they will be looking for the hits to keep on coming in the next few weeks. (Boston: Toronto x2, Tampa Bay x4) (Texas: Cleveland x3, @ Seattle x3)
  • And finally, old man Wakefield gets his 6th chance at number 200, in Boston’s next game against the Blue Jays on Tuesday September 13th.  A win for him might just be the catalyst to see the Red Sox into October – as a Yankees fan, I sincerely hope not.