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

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.