The Cards and Giants are beating each others’ brains out up until less than 48 hours before the World Series starts. Heck, if it rains tonight, maybe to within 24 hours. As Buster Olney says, this has to be good for the Tigers, right?
For the Detroit Tigers, the drawn-out series between the Cards and Giants is all good, because the rotations of the NL teams will be left in a jumble, the bullpens taxed. The Tigers are lined up and all ready to go with Justin Verlander, et al.
Except the last time they were in the World Series it was set up very much like this. Detroit dispatched the Athletics in the 2006 ALCS in four games, with the last one being on October 14. The Mets and Cardinals, in contrast, played a seven game series that ended on October 19. The World Series began two days later, with the Tigers having had a full week to rest bodies and set up the rotation, with the Cardinals in a putative “jumble.” And the Cardinals ended up winning that series in five games.
It’s quite possible that, yes, whoever comes out of the NLCS will be jumbled. And I imagine that after 2006 the Tigers learned some lessons about how to spend a long layoff (thus the scrimmages they’ve been playing against minor leaguers and such). But if history shows us anything it’s that we can’t really predict how layoffs and frantic run-ups to a series will play out.
James Paxton of the Mariners is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA, 39 strikeouts and only six walks in 32.1 innings of work over five starts. Last night he shut the Tigers down, tossing seven shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only four hits. With Felix Hernandez looking less than king-like lately, Paxton is asserting himself as the new ace of the Seattle staff.
And now the tall Canadian native has a nickname to match his ace-like status:
“Pax was really outstanding and we certainly needed it,” manager Scott Servais said of the Canadian southpaw. “Big Maple is what he was nicknamed tonight and I kind of like that. He was awesome.”
“Big Maple” is a fantastic nickname. That’s the sort of nickname guys used to get back when nicknames were great. Before managers just put “y” at the end of dudes’ names and before the “First Initial-First Three Letters of The Last Name” convention took hold in the wake of A-Rod.
“Big Maple.” That makes me smile. I’m gonna be smiling all dang day because of that.
I mentioned this in the recaps this morning, but I think it deserves it’s own special place. Get what went down in the second inning of last night’s Rays-O’s game:
Ryan Flaherty was on first with Seth Smith up to bat. Smith hit a single to center. Flaherty, who was running with the pitch, was making for third base. All-world defender Kevin Kiermaier tried to gun him down but threw wildly to third, causing Flaherty to break for home.
Pitcher Alex Cobb had the play backed up, however! He got the ball near the dugout. Flaherty scampered back to third and Cobb tried to throw him out. The ball hit Flaherty’s helmet, richocheting into left field, allowing both Flaherty and Smith — who had stopped at first and then stopped at second, like a kid at tee ball or something — to come around and score.
I still think the Rays walking home the winning run on four pitches in the 11th inning was worse, but this looked worse.
Oh well: the Rays get the day off today and tomorrow, of course, is another day.