Tag: playoffs


Pitchers’ duel turns into a laugher as Giants take 2-0 lead


You wouldn’t know it by the lopsided 9-0 final score, but Game 2 of the World Series was actually an outstanding pitchers’ duel for six-and-half innings Thursday night. Seriously.

Matt Cain extended his postseason scoreless streak to 21.1 innings with his third straight gem and C.J. Wilson nearly matched him pitch for pitch before exiting with a blister on his left middle finger. At that point Edgar Renteria had produced the game’s only run by homering off Wilson as the latest unlikely source of offense for the Giants’ grind-it-out lineup.

And then Texas’ bullpen imploded, allowing seven runs in the eighth inning, all of them with two outs.

This bullpen mess was different than Game 1 of the ALCS because the Rangers were already down by the time the musical relievers started, but just like he did against the Yankees manager Ron Washington let the game slip away in the eighth inning while using just about every pitcher in the bullpen except his best guy, closer Neftali Feliz.

Feliz sat by as Derek Holland came into a 2-0 game and walked three straight batters, forcing in the Giants’ third run. And when Washington mercifully removed Holland from the game to bring in a fresh arm it was Mark Lowe, who missed nearly the entire season with a back injury and was only added to the World Series roster after sitting out the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Lowe promptly followed Holland’s lead by walking in the Giants’ fourth run, gave up a single to make it 6-0, and then gave way to another reliever, rookie Michael Kirkman, who allowed back-to-back extra-base hits to make it 9-0. And all because Washington held back his best reliever–who hadn’t worked in six days and gets another day off Friday–for a “save” situation that never arrived.

Would the Rangers have been able to rally for two runs off Giants closer Brian Wilson? Probably not, but that comeback was at least within the realm of possibility had Feliz wriggled out trouble rather than the no-name trio of Holland, Lowe, and Kirkman turning the game into a blowout.

We’ll never know how things would have turned out had San Francisco taken a two-run lead into the ninth inning, but here’s what we do know: Texas is in an 0-2 hole and the last 13 teams to lose the first two games on the road have gone on to lose the World Series. They’ll have to win at least two of three in Texas to send things back to AT&T Park … where the Rangers are now 0-11 all time.

Somewhat lost in Cain’s brilliance and Washington’s bullpen mismanagement is that the Giants have now scored 20 runs in two games, which is remarkable for a team that ranked 17th in runs per game during the regular season. They now have nine wins this postseason and in seven of those games they faced a pitcher who ranked among MLB’s top 27 in ERA with a mark of 3.35 or lower: Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt (twice), Tim Hudson, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and now C.J. Wilson.

Game 3 opponent Colby Lewis wasn’t among those ERA leaders, but he’ll provide another very tough test for the Giants’ offense after shutting down the Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS. San Francisco will counter with Jonathan Sanchez, whose 3.07 ERA put him in that top-27, but the control-challenged southpaw lasted just two innings against the Phillies in Game 6 of the NLCS after back-to-back strong starts to begin the playoffs.

For the Rangers to get back into the series they simply need Lewis to come up big again, but for the Rangers to win the series they’ll also need Washington to cease being dramatically out-managed by Bruce Bochy.

Andy Pettitte pitched through back and leg injuries in playoffs

Andy Pettitte

Joe Girardi and the Yankees moved Andy Pettitte to Game 3 of the ALCS after starting him in Game 2 of the ALDS, and today the manager revealed why: Pettitte was struggling with back and hamstring injuries and they wanted to give him as much time as possible to recover.

Girardi explained that Pettitte pitched through discomfort in Game 2 of the ALDS–which makes his seven innings of two-run ball against the Twins even more impressive–and then had to cut short a bullpen session in preparation for potentially starting Game 5 of the ALDS.

In fact, according to Girardi there’s a chance Pettitte wouldn’t have been able to make his scheduled start versus Minnesota had the first-round series gone five games. Instead the Yankees swept the three-game series and Pettitte got 11 days to rest before starting Game 3 of the ALCS against the Rangers.

He tossed seven innings of two-run ball in that start as well, but took the loss because Cliff Lee shut down the Yankees’ lineup.

Ryan Howard was hardly the Phillies’ biggest problem

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard struck out a ton in the playoffs, including watching a called third strike to end Philadelphia’s season in a spot where just about everyone can agree that he should have swung, but the increasingly repeated notion that he’s primarily to blame for the NLCS loss to the Giants seems to be ignoring one very crucial point:

Ryan Howard had the Phillies’ highest OPS in the playoffs and hit .318 with a .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage in the NLCS.

If his hitting .303/.395/.424 in the playoffs supposedly sunk the Phillies, then what about Chase Utley hitting .212/.325/.333 with some ugly defense at second base? Or how about “table-setters” Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco combining to go 14-for-66 (.212) with a .570 OPS so that Howard rarely had anyone on base to actually drive in? Or what about Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez going 14-for-65 (.215) with a .550 OPS behind him?

Howard had a .303 batting average in the playoffs and no one else on the entire team had a batting average above .230. Howard had an .819 OPS in the playoffs and no one else on the entire team had an OPS above .760. Or, put another way: Howard hit .303 overall in the playoffs, including .318 in the NLCS, while the rest of the Phillies’ lineup combined to hit .203 in the playoffs overall and .202 in the NLCS.

Should he have swung at that 3-2 slider from Brian Wilson? Absolutely. Is he primarily responsible for the Phillies missing out on their third straight World Series? Not even close, unless you don’t mind ignoring facts to support your Howard-bashing argument. Sadly, it seems like an awful lot of Phillies fans and media members are all too happy to do just that.

ALCS Game 6: Yankees lineup versus Colby Lewis

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Here’s the Yankees’ lineup for Game 6 of the ALCS tonight against Colby Lewis:

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Curtis Granderson, CF
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Lance Berkman, 1B
6. Nick Swisher, RF
7. Jorge Posada, C
8. Marcus Thames, DH
9. Brett Gardner, LF

Berkman moves up in the lineup, but the bigger surprise is Thames drawing a rare start against a right-handed pitcher. How rare? Well, he’s started a grand total of one game versus a righty since September 1 and that came on the final day of the season when the Yankees had nothing to play for.

Thames hit well versus righties overall this season, but the sample size was all of 95 plate appearances and for his career he’s batted just .236 with a .296 on-base percentage off righties, albeit with a ton of power and a solid .480 slugging percentage. Of course, with Mark Teixeira out the Yankees don’t have a whole lot of other options.