Peralta walks to start the third. Note crawls across bottom of screen--Ron Villone takes Roger Clemens spot on Yankees Division Series roster. Clemens now ineligible for ALCS if Yankees advance. Gutierrez strikes out. Two outs with one on. Yankee ABs more interesting as Indians hold lead. Mussina pitches so slow it's hard to stay with him. Mussina strikes out Blake to end the 3rd.
A-Rod takes strike three to start the Yankee third--thinking too much. Posada doubles off the right centerfield wall. Matsui grounds to first. Victor Martinez handles. Posada to third. Cano next. Jeter and A-Rod only righties in Yankee lineup. Deep fly to center for 3rd out.
Bases loaded and one out for Indians in the 4th. Victor Martinez up. Critical AB. Big span between grand slam and double play. He's 2-20 vs. Mussina. 19 DP grounders for Martinez in regular season. Base hit in hole between short and third. Two runs score. Indians stretch lead to 6-1. Pitch out of the strike zone outside. Good job by Martinez to poke into the hole. Key early hit in inning--double by catcher Shoppach. Wasn't sure how to spell his name. Yankee fans looking tense. Now, the DP grounder from Peralta--3rd to first. One batter too late.
Byrd reminds me of Livan Hernandez--not sure how he gets it done, but here he is with a 6-1 lead. Damon pops out to right. Two outs and one on. Jeter lines to Blake at third. Things beginning to look a little desperate for the Yankees. They'll only get one or two more cracks at Byrd before the bullpen comes in.
As predicted by Tony Gwynn, Yankees change their approach in 5th, swinging earlier in the count. They get a single by A-Rod and a line out to second, but Byrd survives and becomes eligible for the win.
Indians go down vs. Villone in 6th. Cano leads off 6th vs. Byrd with a homer. 6-2. Last pitch for Byrd..
New pitcher is lefty Rafael Perez. Gets Cabrera on a grounder to third. Duncan hits for Mientkiewicz. Base hit to center. Damon singles to right. Duncan to third. Jeter next. Two hits and a line out so far. 2-1 to Jeter. Yankee crowd really loud now. One hopper to second--easy DP! 6-2 with 9 outs to go.
Kyle Farnsworth pitching for Yankees. Peralta gets a one out single--lots of hits for him. Slow pace of game discourages effective blogging. I find myself checking out other websites. Strike out ends the 7th.
Yankees have two runs from 10 hits and 2 walks. One of the runs came on a solo HR by Cano, so the other 11 baserunners have produced just one run.
Very lengthy version of God Bless America (including the seldom-sung intro) by Ronan Tynon (opera singer, I presume).
The countdown begins. Perez pitching to Abreu. Righthander Betancourt up in bullpen. Check swing foul. 0-2. Swing and miss on slow curve. Eight outs to go.
A-Rod up now. Interesting thought that this might be his last AB as a Yankee. Unlikely since it will only take a baserunner or two to bring him back up in the 9th. Count is 2-2. Home run to left by Rodriguez! 6-3. Curve ball in middle of strike zone. Posada next. Grounder to third. Two outs. Count 3-1 to Matsui. Missed wide. Ball four. Cano next. Already has a homer. Gotta stay with lefty here. Pitching coach to mound for Indians. 3 hours and 15 minutes--game already in the 7th. 2-0 count to Cano. Good patience. One hopper to Martinez at first. Six outs left. 6-3 Tribe.
Betancourt mows the Yankees down in the 8th. Very scary stats on this guy. Sub 2 ERA. 9 walks and 80 Ks in 80 IP.
First two batters reach for Indians in the 9th. Lofton up, but not bunting--surprise to all. Count is 2-1. Slow hit ball to short. Force at second. Runner goes to third. Lofton may try to steal 2nd. Gutierrez up. Count 0-2. Slow Victor Martinez on at 3rd. Rivera needs a strikeout. Gets the latter. Two outs. Blake next. Pops first pitch foul. Fly ball to deep left. Damon tracks it down at the warning track to save 2 runs.
Only three outs left for the Yankees. Jeter, Abreu and Rodriguez will bat against Joe Borowski. Indians sticking to their relief rotation despite obvious talent of Betancourt. Along with 45 saves, Borowski carries 5.07 ERA. First pitch to Jeter is high. Strike on outside corner, 1-1. Pop up in infield. Two outs to go. Cabrera handles. 0-1 to Abreu. Fastball away, 1-1. Changeup inside 2-1. Home run in upper deck in right. 6-4 Cleveland. Third Yankee solo HR of night. Looked like Abreu of 2005 HR Derby fame. A-Rod next. He swings and misses. 0-1. Just one baserunner brings tying run to plate. Swing again, 0-2. Up and in, 1-2. Curve outside, 2-2. Can of corn fly ball to right. Two outs down. One out to go. Got A-Rod to reach for that pitch. Posada next. Fastball down the middle, strike one. Long drive to right--foul by a few feet. Yikes. 0-2. Swing and a miss on curve. Indians win 6-4! Yankees sit and stare from dugout. Watch for an all-new post on the League Championship Series, which start with the Rockies and Diamondbacks at Phoenix. Joe Torre very reflective in post-game interview.
I missed much of the first half of the football game while in church and running an errand. The score was 6-6 at halftime. The TV announcers commented that not much had changed for the Saints as their offense continued its season-long struggles. I had to differ, considering that the Saints didn't go into the locker room down three touchdowns.
The Saints just engineered a 93-yard drive from 4-yard line to 3-yard line, only to have a field goal attempt blocked. The Panthers remain within a touchdown at 13-6 and start their own drive. 8:30 remains in the game.
Cabrera is hitter for Indians. I don't know much about him. He flies to deep center.
Red Sox at Angels - Curt Schilling (9-8, 3.87 ERA) vs. Jared Weaver (13-7, 3.91) A fabulous postseason record (10-2, 2.06 ERA with 2 shutouts) is a big part of Schilling's Hall of Fame resume. This year in his 2oth season, the 40-year old righthander was plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness, but still posted a sub-4.00 ERA and .500+ record, and can't be dismissed. Weaver is the brother of 2006 World Series star Jeff Weaver. Maybe this will help his mojo. I think that the Angels crowd will inspire their heroes to a better offensive game and that Curt will struggle through 5 or 6 innings, and that there'll be a Game Four in Anaheim.
The good news comes first as LSU Tiger running back Jacob Hester scores the game-winning touchdown in a 28-24 win over the Florida Gators in Baton Rouge. (Doug Benc/Getty Images)
The Cubs send Rich Hill (11-8, 3.92 ERA) to the Wrigley Field mound against veteran Livan Hernandez (11-11, 4.93 ERA) for the Diamondbacks. Though Hernandez is a playoff veteran of sorts (10 starts with the Marlins and the Giants) and burst on the scene ten years ago with two wins in the 1997 World Series, he was treated very rudely in his last two postseason starts, posting a 14.29 ERA against the Angels in the 2002 World Series. In an un-Diamondbacklike season pitching line, he's given up 247 hits (including 34 homers) and 79 walks in 204 innings, striking out just 90 in the process. The Cubs should be less embarrassed if Livan hits a home run (he has a .232 career batting average with 9 home runs (and 6 walks)), than if he pitches a low-run game in this do-or-die situation. Lefty Hill was much more effective in his 32 starts, giving up just 170 hits and 63 walks in 195 innings while striking out 183 batters. Lefties have a frigid 562 OPS in 152 ABs vs. Hill--impressive, but not a huge issue as the D-Backs feature a mostly right-handed lineup.
The fight between Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett (subsequently shipped to San Diego) and Lou Piniella's on-field tirade gets lots of play as key moments in the Cubs turnaround. Maybe Lou should throw a fit in the clubhouse or arrange for Zambrano to sock Jason Kendall (I wouldn't have him hit young catcher Geovany Soto, who seems much more valuable to the club.)
The rest of the game doesn't merit much more space. The D-Backs added two more runs, the second on another homer by Stephen Drew, who would have been the Series MVP if there was such an award. The Cubs got the occasional baserunner, which the D-Backs erased with a double play. Final score, Arizona 5 - Chicago 1. The Diamondbacks advance to the National League Championship Series. Kudos to the restaurant down the street for switching one of the bar TVs from football to baseball at our request.
The next sad story for the Phils is that their ace, Cole Hamels, says he won't pitch in Game Four. He wants to pitch on full rest in a Game Five in Philadelphia. In the long-term, this is probably in the Phillies' best interest to protect their most valuable arm, but it almost certainly decreases the chance of there even being a Game Five. Also, I thought this was the manager's decision and I'm surprised to see Hamels make such a statement.
In Denver, the Phils and Rockies completed one inning before a power failure knocked out the lights. They're playing again. The Rockies have two on and two out in the second. The Phillies first wasn't too encouraging as both Jimmy Rollins and Aaron Rowand struck out on bad balls, Rowand with runners on first and third. Jamie Moyer appears to have survived the first two innings without damage.
Big pass interference call puts LSU 1st and goal at the 5 yard line. They need a touchdown. A fake field goal extended their drive. Keiland Williams scores on a 5-yard run--misdirection handoff to the fullback and pitch back to the left. First possession of second half puts Tigers back in the game. Score now 17-14 Gators.
Back to baseball. Kaz Matsui reaches to lead off the Rockies third. Lots of pickoff throws draw boos from the usually jovial Rockies' fans.
Wow--Stanford beats Southern Cal, 24-23 on a last second touchdown pass! NCAA is running out of undefeated football teams. Gators are moving the ball again. They move across midfield quickly on the next series. Next play is a 37-yard pass to uncovered tight end Ingram. Gators lead 24-14.
Moyer pitching to Holliday in the Rockies' third. Tulowitzki on first with one out. Count is 3-2. Strike 'em out, throw 'em out--double play! Scoreless game going into the 4th.
Tigers moving the ball out near their own 40. Need to keep up the offensive pace. First down on a pass across midfield. Third down pass is knocked down at the line. Tiger punt coming up. Punt goes into end zone.
Jimenez pitching to Ryan Howard with one out in the Phillies fourth. He takes strike three.
Gators out to the 43 after the punt. Gators fumble and LSU recovers! Tiger ball near midfield.
Nothing for Phillies in the fourth. Howard makes nice play at first for the first out of the Rockies fourth.
Third quarter over. Florida 24, LSU 14.
Back to Denver. Jamie Moyer doing a great job. No runs and only three hits by the Rockies through four innings.
Ryan Perilloux in at QB for LSU. He and Keiland Williams combine for 20+ on an option play. Matt Flynn back in to throw a screen pass. Gain of 1. Flynn keeps for another yard. Option pitch from Perilloux to Williams gains about 5. Field goal attempt likely.
Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz walks with one out in the fifth in Denver. Nunez up next. A glove man. Phils have 14 hits and 23 strikeouts in the series. Double play grounder. Ugh!
Tigers line up for a field goal attempt. Hooked left, no good. LSU penalty for holding is declined. Kicked looked okay off the foot, but steadily moved left.
Commercials in Denver and Baton Rouge. The Miller High Life guy is on both channels. Miller is walking a fine line in this campaign, as their beer called "High Life" is removed from establishments that charge too much for their other products (and presumably Miller High Life too).
Tebow's pass is blocked and picked off by a defensive lineman. Great opportunity for the Tigers, who didn't capitalize on the last turnover. The pass hit the intended receiver in the helmet.
Speedster Trindon Holliday goes to the 10 on a reverse. He's run 10.02 in the 100 meter dash. Incomplete pass next. K. Williams to the three. LSU can make another first down near the one. Williams gets stood up and driven back. Tough call now. Fourth and four. Flynn lines up at QB. Flynn rolls out and throws to #2, Demetrius Byrd for a touchdown. 24-20. Point after is good. 24-21.
Runner on 2nd with 2 outs in Denver. Moyer pitching to Matsui. He triples under Pat Burrell's glove in left. 1-0, Colorado. Tulowitzki next. Phillies need an out here. Offense already pressing and now we're behind. He grounds to short.
Kickoff return being challenged by LSU. Return man did or didn't go out of bounds. Field officials allowed his run. Replay officials send the ball back to the 14-yard line. Whew! LSU preserves their last timeout.
Third and four for the Gators. Pass broken up by #27. Gators will punt. Tigers take over on their own 40 with 9:21 left.
Rollins reaches and steals second to get in scoring position with one out. Utley up. Philly baserunners sparse tonight. 3-1 to Utley. Tigers pick up three on a run. Tigers called for pass interference on next play. Utley walks. Two on for Phils. Second and 18 for Tigers. Burrell up for Phils. Holliday gains two for Tigers. Flynn scrambles--gets within a yard or two. Burrell flies to left. Howard next. Tigers going for it on fourth down. Hester worms forward for the first down. First and 10 for the Tigers at midfield. Perilloux in at QB. Gains nothing. Howard grounds to second. Phils out in 6th. Tiger pass to Dickson for first down at Gator 35. No gain on next run. Phils have ONE hit through six innings. Hester runs up the middle to the 15 yard line. Three yard gain for Hester. 99 yard rushing for Hester. Perilloux in at QB. Nice run by Perilloux. Third and one. Option pitch to Hester--still short. Fourth down. One to go. Wow. No FG attempt. Hester gets close. Game on the line with the measurement. First and goal from the 5. Miles eschews tying FG to go for the win. Flynn throws out of the back of the end zone. Hester gets two. Third and goal from three. Florida calls time at 1:14. Hawpe up with man on 2nd and 2 outs in sixth. 2-0 might be too much. Hester runs up the middle for the score! 27-24, Tigers! TD call being reviewed. Hawpe strikes out. Call stands! Great job--unbelievable job by Moyer, and by Jacob Hester for LSU. David drives PAT through. Still 1:09 to go.
Rowand grounds to third to lead off the 7th. Shane next. Home run for Victorino!! An 0-2 pitch. Shane was the hero of the rain delay in Denver earlier this season when he helped pull the tarp off the grounds crew.
Gators take ball at 20 with 1:09 left. Seven yard pass completion. Tebow throws one away to stop the clock. Glenn Dorsey chases Tebow. Third and 3 with :37 left. Broken up, but penalty will be called. 0:31 left. First down. Looked like both players were going for the ball. Thrown out of bounds. Second and 10; 0:26 left. Dorsey chases Tebow--he has to throw it away. Ruiz follows Shane with a single. New pitcher for Rockies. Gator guard hurt. Comes off. Third down. Tebow runs for 20 and out of bounds with 0:12 left. Time out Gators. Dobbs pinch hits for Nunez. Herges pitching for Rockies. Intentional grounding on Gators. Tebow throws away as being tackled. Ball on LSU 47. Tigers defending the end zone. Tebow launches pass to end zone. Tigers #21 knocks it down! LSU wins, 28-24!
Dobbs grounded out to second. Iguchi hit for Moyer and popped up. On to the Rockies 7th.
Not quite the expected game at Coors Field, even with the humidor. Both Moyer and Jimenez pitched beautifully. Tom Gordon is first out of bullpen for Phils. Dobbs takes over for Nunez at first. Spilborghs is first Rockie batter. Count is 1-2. Ugly 7.52 ERA for Gordon, but he's had a good career. Spent much of 2007 on DL. Spilborghs waves and misses at a fastball for strike three. Chased a high pitch. Torrealba next. He scored on Matsui's triple. Line shot up the middle. Sent the fastball back where it came from. Next hitter is PH Seth Smith. Lefty hitter. Count is 2-0. Fastball catches outside corner, 2-1. Just missed, 3-1. Curve over, 3-2. Grounder to second. Two outs, Torrealba advances to second. The dreaded Matsui bats next. First base open, but Tulowitzki is no bargain. Phils take the deal--walk Kaz to pitch to Troy. Rockies fans in a frenzy. First pitch fouled off. Same pitch, same result. 0-2. Ruiz and Gordon check signals. Fastball high and outside, 1-2. Fastball inside--swing and miss!
Phils bat in 8th. Top of order. Normally good news, but 0-6 tonite. I said that15 Rollins and Utley would figure out a way. Maybe they'll do it now. Fuentes takes over pitching for Rockies. Rollins bats righty. 0-2 as Rollins is out in front of off-speed pitch. Swinging strike three. Last one was a foot outside. Swing and miss by Utley. He has two walks. Easy fly to left. Two outs. Pat the Bat. Maybe our best chance. 1-1. Changeup low, 2-1. 400 foot foul ball to left. 15 ft. foul. Strike out on fastball. The tension mounts.
Holliday, Helton and Atkins in the 8th against Gordon. 1-1 on Holliday. Fouled back, 1-2. Gordon throwing well. 94 on that one--outside corner. Curve ball skied to right--one out. That's it for Gordon. Good job. JC Romero on to pitch to Helton. Werth replaces Burrell in left. He was great for Phils since coming over from the Red Sox. Broken bat liner foul. 0-1. Another easy fly to Victorino. Romero stays for Atkins. Curve misses away. Next one down and in. 2-0. Atkins singles in front of Werth in left. Safe play by Werth. Hawpe next. Strike one. Curve outside 1-1. Fastball misses away, 2-1. Grounded foul, 2-2. Hawpe singles off Utley's glove. Atkins motors to third. Jeff Baker to pinch hit for Fuentes. Rockies' fans waving their brooms. Changeup away, 1-0. Ground ball hit to right. Rockies take 2-1 lead. Yuk. Corpas looms. Myers to replace Romero to stop it here. Torrealba next. Runners on first and second. Fastball outside. Curve wide, 0-2. Myers was Phillies Opening Day starter. Got bombed and went to bullpen. Spent some time on DL. Two curves bring count even at 2-2. One run and three hits is not a winning line score. Torrealba nubs one back to Myers. On to the 9th.
Corpas enters to face Howard, Rowand and Victorino, all of whom can reach the seats. Howard scales fastball foul to left. Fastball away, 1-1. Another, 2-1. Cubs and Phillies have same series story--no offense. Fouled off, 2-2. Called strike three. Must be hard to pick up that slider. Now Rowand. Slider for strike one. Cued down first base line--stays far and Helton tags Rowand out. Shane is last hope. Swing, strike one. Fouled down third base line. Down to last strike. Grounder to second. Rockies advance to face D-Backs in NLCS. What happened to our team?? Inexperience and anxiousness clearly hurt as the team lost its patience at the plate and began swinging at bad pitches, starting with Jimmy Rollins leading off the game. Still it was a great stretch run and one more playoff series than we've had in the preceding 13 years.
If you made it this far, thanks! And let me know what you think of my simulblogging of the Phils-Rockies and LSU-Florida games. It's nice that one of them came to a good end.
The rest of the Indians-Yankees game you couldn't make up. A swarm of tiny mosquito-like insects called midges rose from Lake Erie and descended upon the game in Jacobs Field. There's no truth to the rumor (as far as I know) that the Indians practiced in midge-infested surroundings to prepare for the unlikely occurrence, having clinched early enough to work on all the possible postseason angles.
"The difference in his performance was striking. Chamberlain, after needing only five pitches to escape a one-out, two-on jam in the seventh, hit a batter, walked two and threw two wild pitches in the eighth. Grady Sizemore, after drawing a four-pitch leadoff walk, scored the tying run on the second wild pitch.
In 24 innings during the regular season, Chamberlain threw just one wild pitch and hit only one batter — and the latter, as the Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis would attest, probably was on purpose.
It was the bugs. It had to be the bugs.
Nothing else rattles the kid."
I'm home now watching the tied Angels-Red Sox game. Dice-K couldn't get thru the fifth, but as usual, the Red Sox relief work has been excellent. Halos' starter Escobar made it a little further, but as they play the eighth, the Angels are using their third pitcher.
The Sox bat in the bottom of the ninth against Justin Speier of the Angels. I think there's a Speier that pitches for either the D-Backs or Rockies. Will have to do some research if I get a chance. Pedroia up now with Lugo on first after a single to left. Hit-and-run grounder to short moves Lugo to second, and brings the mighty K-Rod, Francisco Rodriguez, out of the Angels bullpen. K-Rod burst on the scene during the 2002 postseason as a 20-year old closer.
Youkilis faces Rodriguez. A snap throw to second almost nabs Lugo. With his bald dome and full beard, Youkilis looks like one of the Smith Brothers of cough drop fame. "The Greek God of Walks" fans on a splitter in the dirt. He's mad. I don't know who coined that nickname (Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan used it liberally in their 2004 book, "Faithful."), but it's one of my favorites--certainly better than the plethora of initial or name abbreviation-based nicknames (A-Rod, LT, Dice-K, among other)). Ortiz walks (maybe intentionally, I wasn't watching--it was intentional), bring Manny to the plate. Bostonians breathing in unison now with each pitch. He blasts a fastball into the Coke bottles above the Monster (actually the ball sailed into the street behind the stadium). 3-run walkoff homer! Sox win, 6-3 and the party begins at home plate. There's only one Manny, though it's surprising to learn that this was his first walkoff HR as a Red Sox. I'll have to wait until a picture of the swing is posted on the web to sign off tonite.
October 5 Preview - The Diamondbacks cruised to their second win over the Cubs Thursday night, holding the 8-4 lead they had when I went to bed after midnight. All three games lasted 3+ hours yesterday.
The Phillies and Cubs get a day to lick their wounds before battling for survival in Denver and Chicago respectively. The American League series each play a second game on Friday.
Angels at Red Sox - Kelvim Escobar vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka - (glad I looked up that spelling, and Kelvim for that matter) - This matchup of Venezuela vs. Japan is a delightful example of how major league baseball has become an international game over the last 20 years. A 10-year veteran, Escobar had a career year at 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA. "Dice-K", winner of the final game of the World Baseball Classic in 2006, was the biggest international story of the last off-season as the Red Sox paid his Japanese team over $50MM just for the right to negotiate a contract. Matsuzaka got another $50MM or so. His pitching was durable (32 starts and 200+ innings--probably a break for him vs. his Japanese workload), but at 15-12 and a 4.40 ERA, not quite as dominating as the Sox hoped. In the tradition of Japanese pitching pioneer Hideki Nomo, "Dice-K" throws a variety of pitches, including a changeup screwball known as the "atomic ball", using an almost equal variety of deliveries. This is a critical game for both teams as the Angels don't want to dig an 0-2 hole, and the Sox don't want to go to Anaheim with a chance of being swept out of the series.
Yankees at Indians - Andy Pettitte vs. Fausto Carmona - 200+ career game winner (and born in Baton Rouge), Pettitte is one of the best and most experienced postseason pitchers in the game (34 postseason starts and a 14-9 record). His last start of the season, however, was a bomb--nine runs allowed in five innings--ominous as he takes on the rampaging Indians' offense. 23-year old Carmona was a washout as a Indians' reliever in 2006 (1-10). His experimental move to the rotation was a big reason the Indians dominated the AL Central as he posted a 19-8 record and 3.06 ERA. "Fausto" is also one of the best names in the game. Perhaps he made a deal with a nefarious someone in the offseason to improve his pitching?
Batter Up - Rockies, Indians and D-Backs Batter Phils, Yanks and Cubs in Division Series Action on October 4
October 4 Preview - Rockies at Phillies - Franklin Morales vs. Kyle Kendrick - Two rookie pitchers square off in a must-win game for Philadelphia. Kendrick started the season in AA ball. He came up for a spot start and stayed for the season, amassing a 10-4 record and 3.87 ERA in 121 innings. He has excellent control--only 25 walks. Morales is a hard-throwing righthander who made eight late-season starts for the Rockies. He's just 21-years old. He only pitched 39 innings in the eight starts, so the Rockies had been bringing him along slowly, until now. Obviously, the vaunted Phillies offense will need to improve greatly to prevent going to Colorado down 0-2.
I wish I had as good news about the game. Kyle Kendrick labored through two outs in the fourth, turning the game over to namesake Kyle Lohse with the bases loaded. Lohse promptly served up a game-changing grand slam home run to the uber-powerful Kaz Matsui. The Phils went down quietly in their half of the fourth against the Rockies' second pitcher Josh Fogg, who has slipped some in their rotation. Lohse settled down to pitch a 1-2-3 fifth. It's up to the Phillies offense to put their team back in the series.
Watching TBS coverage at home now. Play-by-play guy is Don Orsillo, not Ron. Pinch hitter Michael Bourn tries to bunt for a hit, but eventually grounds to second. Rollins hits a slow roller up the middle that Tulowitzki takes care of. Maybe Chase can get something started. We're dead meat if he and Howard don't contribute. Howard reached on his last AB, but got picked off first. Don't ask me how that happened. I don't think he had a SB attempt all year. Full count to Utley. He's not getting good swings, but at least he's more patient. Good swing at a low pitch, line drive to center--base hit. Burrell next.
There probably aren't many postseason comebacks in the books the likes that this one will have to be. Ruiz faces Speier. He grounds to short. The Rockies might be able to rest their best relievers, despite going to the pen in the fourth inning. Victorino up as PH now. I like him better as a lefty batter. He singles to right. Rollins next. Matsui has 2B, 3B, and HR--just a single short of the cycle. Victorino running on first pitch, but Rollins fouls it back. No one covering second for Rockies. Guess they're not too worried about losing the game to stolen bases. Now Shane steals second on a pitchout--again no one is there to take the throw, which sails into center allowing Victorino to take third. Rollins dribbles a ball to first. Out number two, but Shane scores easily. Now 10-5. Four of five Phillie RBIs for Rollins. Utley next. Maybe last batter for Speier in any event. Utley hooks a drive just foul off the wall in right. Holliday collects Utley pop fly to left for the third out.
Alfonseca (Antonio, not Alfonso as I wrote earlier) is on to mop up. Matsui goes for the cycle. A great chance for him. Fly ball to center. Tulowitzki swats a high pitch down the left field line for a double. Holliday hits a screamer that Rollins leaps for and spears. On to the 8th.
Manny Corpas back for the Rocks. Hard stuff with sinking action. 19 saves in 20 chances for Corpas as closer this year. Grounder to third. Now, three outs left.
Bad stat for Phils' prospects. 20 of 21 teams who lost first two at home have lost the series. Coste pinch hits and lines to center. Rollins next with best offensive day for Phils--he grounds to second. Utley is last chance. Some fans on feet, but very glum. Utley singles to left center. At least our big hitters are finding their strokes. Now Burrell. Line drive base hit over short. Howard up--takes slider for strike. Count now 2-1. Some towel waving. Good changeup--low and 77 mph. 2-2. Takes strike three. Game over. Ouch!
Yankees/Indians Game One and Cubs/Diamondbacks (Game Two) Preview coming later this afternoon. I'm fully operational on my laptop--even posted a little of this in my daughter's doctor's office this morning.
Yankees at Indians - Wang vs. Sabathia - These are two of the AL's top winning pitchers. The 290 lb. Sabathia is probably the favorite for the AL Cy Young Award. Wang is a durable sinkerballer who at times has benefitted from the Yankees high-scoring offense. There are a lot of jobs on the line depending on how the Yankees do in this series. Still, even if they lose tonite, they've got postseason ace Andy Pettitte tomorrow and then two games at home.
I hinted that the Indians might win Game One. They sure did, drubbing the Yankees 12-3 with a relentless attack that included almost too many homers to count (actually four along with four doubles). The Yankees got off to a good start with a leadoff homer by Johnny Damon, and touched Sabathia for 4 hits and 6 walks in 5 innings. Sabathia got his last out with the bases loaded in the top of the fifth to preserve a 4-3 lead. The Indians exploded for five runs in the bottom of the frame to put the game away. Chien Mien Wang sinkerballs didn't sink as he was battered for 9 hits and 8 earned runs in 4.2 innings. The pressure's on veteran Yankee lefty Andy Pettitte to win Game Two.
Cubs at Diamondbacks - Ted Lilly vs. Doug Davis - once again a game started before I could write my preview. Actually I was depressed about the Phillies game and spent most of the evenings working with photos and music on the Netstalker. I would have told you that Lilly and Davis are very similar pitchers, with Lilly having the better year. He was a great pickup for the Cubs in light of ongoing injuries to their erstwhile aces, Kerry Wood and Mark Pryor.
So far they've pitched similarly, with Davis doing slightly better through 2 innings--he gave up a 2-run homer to Cubs' rookie catcher Geovany Soto. Lilly just slammed his glove to the ground in disgust after giving up a 3-run home run to Chris Young on a hideous 0-2 pitch, erasing the Cubs short-lived lead and then some. Eric Byrnes followed two batters later with an RBI triple that just missed going out. There may be more fireworks to come tonite in the dry desert air.
The Cubs pick up their defense in the third with a spectacular double play by Theriot and DeRosa. Theriot backhanded a ball in the hole, spun and threw to DeRosa in one motion. DeRosa speared the low throw and completed a sidearm relay just in time to double batter Chris Snyder. Derrek Lee contributed a long stretch of his 6'6" body.
The Snakes keep striking. After a couple more hits by the dreaded Augie Ojeda and a squeeze bunt, the Diamondbacks lead 8-2 in the 5th. I don't think I'll wait this one out.
Program Note: The Yankees-Indians game started while Phillies and Rockies play past the 3-1/2 hour mark. They move it to TNT for the duration of the conflict. Same thing happens as Yankees-Indians slugfest overlaps start of Cubs-Diamondbacks.
Red Sox, Rockies and Diamondbacks Pitch Wins in Division Series Openers on October 3
Rockies' manager Clint Hurdle congratulates Jeff Francis after a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game One of a National League Division Series. (Jim McIsaac - Getty Images)
Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies - Let the scoring onslaught begin in this battle between the unexpected NL East champs and the equally unexpected wild card team. Both teams were at least 6 games out of first place midway through September. The Phillies won 13 of their last 17 games to overhaul the slumping New York Mets, who won only 5 of their last 17 games to fall not only out of first in NL East, a position they'd held for much of the season, but straight through the wild card position as well. The Rockies won an even more improbable 14 of their last fifteen games to first tie with the San Diego Padres for the wild card position, and then beat them, 9-8 in 13 innings, in a scintillating 163rd game of the regular season. As the division champs, the Phillies get to start at home and play the fifth game if needed back in Philadelphia. The postseason apprearances are the Phillies' first since their 1993 loss to Toronto in the World Series, and the Rockies' first since a wild card appearance in 1995, in only their third season as a major league team.
All signals point to a high scoring series. The Phillies had the highest-scoring offense and one of the worst pitching staffs in the National League. The Rockies weren't quite as extreme in either ranking, but still featured offense over pitching, with powerful outfielder Matt Holliday leading the way. Holliday led the National League with a .340 batting average and drove in a league-leading 137 runs. Citizens Bank Park (the Cit? I've seen it abbreviated as CBP) in Philly and Coors Field in Denver are among the most hitting-friendly baseball stadiums in the country. In fact, Coors Field, which at about a mile above sea level was for many years notorious as a burial ground for pitchers, recently began storing the game baseballs in a humidor to dampen the offensive parade.
The Rockies - As mentioned, left fielder Holliday leads the league in a few categories. He leads the Rockies in nearly every offensive category--AB, R, H, 2B, 3B (tie), HR, RBI, total bases, batting average, slugging percentage and an OPS of 1012. He's ably supported by four other strong hitters--veteran 1B Todd Helton (928 OPS; 117 BB), RF Brad Hawpe (116 RBI), 3B Garrett Atkins (25 HRs), and rookie SS sensation Troy Tulowitzki (29 HR, 293 total bases). 2B Kaz Matsui and OF Willy Taveras provide some speed. Catcher Yorvit Torrealba rounds out the regular starting lineup. Ryan Spillborghs gets significant playing time in CF.
On the mound, the best ERAs on the Rockies were posted by their relieves--righthanded closer Manny Corpas at 2.08 with 19 saves; lefty Brian Fuentes at 3.06 with 20 saves, though Fuentes blew four straight save opportunities in midseason. Matt Herges, a hero of the Rockies' game 163 win over the Padres, has a beautiful 1.01 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning) ratio.
Rockies' manager Clint Hurdle has had an exciting time choosing starting pitchers. By far his most dependable has been righthander (actually lefthander--this proved important in Game One--so much for my advance scouting career) Jeff Francis, who posted a 17-9 record with a 4.22 ERA. Second starter Josh Fogg, who was touched by Padres 1B Adrian Gonzalez for a grand slam, won 10 and lost 9 with a 4.94 ERA. Aaron Cook was the third starter, but I read that he won't be available against the Phillies. Jeff Hirsh was 5-7 with a 4.81 ERA in 112 innings. The remaining Rockie innings are spread over an impressively large cast of pitchers, including even Byung Yung Kim, who threw in three games for the Rockies before moving on to the Marlins.
Program and Technical Notes - This post is the first to be made from my new Dell Inspiron 1721 notebook computer. It's also being written after a night when I didn't get much sleep. I will call it a night and try to at least finish the Phillies part of this preview in the morning.
October 3, 7 a.m. - It's Game Day! But in midweek and midafternoon, when I'll be at either work or physical therapy. There's a TV in the waiting area at the physical therapy clinic. I'll arrive early for my 2:30 appointment so I can catch the start of the game at 2.
Even without work and medical obstructions, it's hard to follow major league baseball in Louisiana. I can't imagine that what passes for a sports radio station will interrupt it's 24/7 discussion of college football (LSU is #1 in the AP poll this week) to cover a baseball game, but I'll check anyway.
Supporting their three superstars is an able cast led by CF Aaron Rowand. Rowand came to the club from the 2005 World Champion Chicago White Sox. Like Utley, he's a guy who somehow gets his uniform dirty every day. His most famous play with the Phillies came in 2006 when he caught a long drive to CF while hitting the wall with his face. LF Pat Burrell has been with the Phils since he came out of the University of Miami as an all-American. He has a beautiful swing, but bad feet and modest defensive skills, along with a propensity for strikeouts. The less-than-forgiving Phillies fans have ridden him, particularly during the first half of 2007 when he hit just above .200. A strong 2nd half allowed "Pat the Bat" to finish the season with 30 HRs, 117 walks, and 90+ RBIs. Other OFs are speedy switch hitter Shane Victorino, the "Flyin' Hawaiian", and journeyman Jayson Werth, who rescued a fading career with a strong second half that featured a club-record streak of nine consecutive hits.
Third base has been shared among journeyman Greg Dobbs (who also backs up Howard at 1B), free agent Wes Helms, and 2006 holdovers Abraham O. Nunez and Chris Coste, whose 2006 campaign as a 33-year old rookie was a great story. Nunez can field, but not hit; Helms has an occasional decent AB against a lefty pitcher, and Coste pinch hits and catches along with the odd inning or game at third. Dobbs has gotten the most time at the position that the Phils have struggled to fill since Scott Rolen left for St. Louis.
Rod Barajas was acquired from Arizona to be the #1 catcher, but he young Carlos Ruiz claimed the job early in the year. Barajas plays very little, but might play more in the first series as Ruiz recovers from a bruised hand.
On the mound, the Phils are led by Game One starter Cole Hamels. Young Hamels is a changeup specialist. When his pitches are working he can strike out gobs of batters. When it's not, those same batters hit long home runs. With a 15-5 record, Hamels had more of the former kind of starts this year. Also in the rotation are 44-year old Jamie Moyer (a Delaware Valley native), rookie Kyle Kendrick and midseason acquisition Kyle Lohse, who will also serve in the bullpen if the Phils decide to pitch Hamels on short rest.
At the end of a sometimes disastrous and injury-plagued season, the Phils put together a reasonably effective bullpen. Closer Brett Myers was the Phillies ace starter, but came to the pen out of need. The set up man is veteran Tom Gordon, who either strikes 'em out or gives up long balls. Lefty JC Romero came over from the Red Sox in midseason and has been a revelation with a sub 2.00 ERA. Middle reliever Geoff Geary has been dependable for a couple of years. He comes into the 2007 postseason with a sore elbow and won't be available until the ALCS. Elder statesmen Jose Mesa (a former Phillies closer) and Alfonso Alfonseca sop up innings in blowouts and extra inning games.
Here's a great recap of the Phillies amazing 2007 season.
Back-to-back home runs by Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell in the fifth gave the Phillies hope, but Holliday stretched the Rockies' lead to two in the eighth with a homer of his own. Rockies' closer Manny Corpas ended the game 1-2-3 in the ninth with a another strikeout of Ryan Howard (albeit on a questionable call), a jam shot grounder to second by Rowand and an easy fly ball to center by Burrell.
More Program Notes - I saw almost none of this game while in physical therapy--just the first inning and the last three outs, really. I got enough updates along the way to have hope, but not too much.
I also want to register my objection to the title Division Series - finding two survivors from three divisions hardly qualifies as identifying division champions, a process that was completed in 162 regular season games. League Semifinal Series is more accurate and seemingly no less acronym-friendly. ALDS reminds me of the abbreviation for Lou Gehrig's Disease, ALS. Perhaps there's a concern that Americal League Semifinal Series (ALSS) would be further shortened to American Semifinal Series (ASS).
Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks - Carlos Zambrano vs. Brandon Webb - both clubs send their ace to the mound. Zambrano is among the game's most talented and emotional pitchers. He also loves to swing the bat. Webb put together a 40-inning scoreless streak in mid-year. The Cubs have players you probably know--LF Alfonso Soriano, a big free agent signing, 1B Derreck Lee and 3B Aramis Ramirez. They also have the LSU connection of SS Ryan Theriot and 2B Mike Fontenot. I had to do research on the Diamondbacks earlier in the year. I'd still have trouble naming their starting lineup. The team had the strange distinction of having the NL's best record while being outscored on the season. Reliever Jose Valverde is a lockdown closer. Of course, the Cubs have their own story--having been out of the World Series for the last 62 years, and without a world championship since 1908, ten years longer than the Red Sox famous drought that ended in 2004.
D-Back Minuses - 1) Youthful inexperience; 2) Pressure to sweep first two at home; 3) Risk of losing first game to Zambrano; 5) That "run differential" thing - are D-Backs really a .500 team in disguise?
Cubs Minuses - 1) Pressure of history; 2) weak at catcher and CF; 3) shaky relief pitching; 4) pressure of history
Gut Pick - Diamondbacks
Game One Update - Pitching is again dominating in Day One's third game. Both Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs and Brandon Webb of the D-Backs have shutouts working through three. The Snakes got a man to third in the first, but Zambrano stranded him there.
As the Cubs try to catch up, they get a break as Reynolds air mails Theriot grounder into the stands. With Theriot on second, Zambrano hits a liner than SS Drew jumps and spears, Soriano hits a liner right at the CF, and Tony Clark dives to smother Jacques Jones' grounder and get the out at first.
Another Brandon (Lyons) takes over pitching for the D-Backs in the 8th. Salazar takes in a fly ball to right and a liner off the bat of Jacque Jones. Derrek Lee grounds slowly to third, where 3B Reynolds makes a nice one-hand pickup and throw. Next challenge for the Cubs is to hit the relatively unhittable closer Valverde in the 9th.
Program Note - TBS has a strike zone monitor in use tonight (I'll watch to get their name for this toy--Pitchtrax). Dick Stockton, better known for football and basketball play-by-play and Ron Darling, former Mets' pitcher and current color analyst for the Mets' broadcasts, are calling the action. Darling found himself unexpectedly in need of work.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (LAA) at Boston Red Sox - John Lackey vs. Josh Beckett - Both pitchers can make a strong case for the AL Cy Young Award. Boston features patient hitters who work for walks and three-run homers. LAA (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim--I don't get it either) swings away and runs the bases. It should be a fun series.
Game One Update - Well, I didn't quite make it--it took awhile to get the new notebook operating on the wireless network, but despite the Red Sox and Josh Beckett's dominating 4-0 win over the Angels tonight, I'll stick with my prediction (published elsewhere) that the Angels will prevail by beating Dice-K and Schilling in the next two games. Admittedly, I might be handicapped by my ignorance. I didn't know that Vladimir Guerrero was limited to DH duty and that supersub Reggie Willetts would be in the LAA starting lineup. Shame on me--should have read the 12 pages of pre-game coverage in the Boston Globe.
Gut Prediction - Indians - based only on a continuation of Alex Rodriguez's dismal postseason performances bringing down the whole Yankee team.