In case you missed any of yesterday’s mind-boggling action I offer you two things. First, my condolences, because you missed one of the best days of baseball in recent memory. Second, I offer you a quick set of links explaining to you how incredible it was:
- The A’s rallied for three in the ninth, shocking the Tigers, who were three outs from advancing to the ALCS;
- Raul Ibanez was a human wrecking ball, destroying baseballs and, possibly, destroying both the Orioles morale and Alex Rodriguez’s legend;
- The Giants used two pitchers that have three Cy Young Awards between them in unusual ways: Barry Zito as a short starter and Tim Lincecum in relief, but won the game by bashing the heck out of the ball anyway, forcing a Game 5 in Cincinnati; and
- The Cardinals reminded everyone that Nattitude is no match for a highly experienced playoff pitcher and set the stage for an awful lot of misguided Stephen Strasburg columns.
But that was yesterday. Today we strap in for another twelve amazing hours of baseball, complete with two certain elimination games and two potential elimination games. And they break down like this:
Giants vs. Reds, 1:07 PM, TBS: Matt Cain vs. Mat Latos for the right to advance to the NLCS. The Reds are at home, but home field has meant nothing in this series. Perhaps more meaningful: the Reds have beaten up Matt Cain pretty well this year, with the Giants ace going 0-3 with a 5.50 ERA and six homers in 18 innings against the Reds in 2012. Meanwhile, Latos was 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in two starts against the Giants. The Reds have mostly outplayed the Giants and have certainly outhit them over the four games in this series, but the Giants have shown tremendous resolve. This is a tossup.
Cardinals vs. Nationals, 4:07 PM, TBS: Kyle Lohse against a man in Ross Detwiler who wouldn’t be in this postseason rotation if not for the shutdown of Stephen Strasburg. But the talk of the woulda, coulda, shouldas of the pitching staff will have to wait for the winter. Right now the Nationals need to figure out how to hit again, because their lack of offense these past two games has killed them every bit as much as their poor pitching. As for the Cardinals: we’re now on two straight years of no one really taking them seriously as a playoff team. Last year, that made some sense. This year, as the defending World Series champs, far less sense. It’s almost as if these guys are showing us that playoff experience makes a difference.
Orioles vs. Yankees, 7:37 PM, TBS: How do you get up off the mat after sustaining the gut punch that was Raul Ibanez’s ninth inning home run and the knockout punch that was his 12th inning bomb? If you’re the Orioles you try to shake it off and tell yourself that, contrary to all of the stuff going on in front of you, there is no such thing as Yankee Mystique and Aura. Probably. You also hope that the not-so-good version of Phil Hughes shows up for the Yankees and the good version of Joe Saunders shows up for you. Because really, these are two guys who are each capable of a short outing, and we should not expect another tense matchup like we saw with Kuroda and Gonzalez yesterday. Yesterday’s blasts notwithstanding, the O’s have the better bullpen and this is a game in which they’ll likely need it again. For the Yankees, after pulling A-Rod for a hero pinch hitter, and after all of his struggles, what do you do with your $250,000,000 man?
Tigers vs. Athletics, 9:37 PM, TNT: OK, Tigers, get off the ground. Shake it off. I realize that your heart attack-inducing closer coughed up a two run lead when you were three outs from winning the series, but that’s the past and the future is brighter. Why? Because over there in that hangar you have a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II in the form of Justin Verlander, warmed up and ready to fire missiles against Oakland A’s hitters who, yesterday’s rally notwithstanding, have not been all that hot. If you’re a betting man, you take the otherworldly ace over the possibility of improbable comebacks and walkoff wins every time. The only question is, after yesterday’s Jose Valverde meltdown, what on Earth does Jim Leyland do if he gets to the ninth inning with a lead? My suggestion: set Verlander’s pitch count at approximately 195.
Strap in, baseball fans. Turn your TV on at 1PM Eastern and don’t touch that dial. And while you’re watching, have your computer, tablet or smartphone with you locked in to HardballTalk, because we’re gonna have this stuff covered like nobody’s business.