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Where has the Managerial Mojo Gone? LaRussa Manages the Worst Inning of his Career as Rangers go up 3 games to 2

Tony LaRussa must have the Mad Cow. The future Hall of Fame manager who renowned for micromanaging games inning by inning seems to have lost his managerial mojo and isn’t admitting it.  Now the Texas Rangers who have played excellent baseball are one game from winning their first World Series.

The first thing that mystified me were the unexplainable steal attempts and mix ups on the base paths that killed the Cardinals chances of blowing open the game. One of the most puzzling plays was when in the 7th inning Pujols called a hit and run with Allen Craig on first and Alexi Ogando pitching him carefully. Pujols did not swing at a high pitch that was way out of the strike zone and Craig was caught stealing.  Ron Washington then had Ogando intentionally walk Pujols to get the Matt Holliday who has been in a World Series funk, hitting just .167.  Holliday singled and Lance Berkman was intentionally walked to load the bases but David Freese flew out to center to end the inning.   In the 9th with Neftali Feliz pitching and Pujols at bat with no outs Craig ran as Pujols struck out swinging and was thrown out at second to complete a double play.  The Cardinals left 12 men on base including 8 in scoring position and as the game progressed I knew that the Cardinals were going to find a way to lose the game. It didn’t matter how well Chris Carpenter pitched or how well their defense played as the game moved on I knew that the blown scoring attempts were going to doom the Redbirds Monday night.

But the real mystery was the 8th inning.   With the game tied and one out with Michael Young on second base LaRussa had ace set up man Octavio Dotel intentionally walk Nelson Cruz.  He then sent in left hander Marc Rzepczynski to face David Murphy.  I guess that the idea was to set up a double play but Murphy hit an infield single sending which loaded the bases with Mike Napoli coming to the plate.

Napoli has been hotter than exploding napalm during the post season and has been feasting on left handed pitching.  And this is where the game gets even weirder.  With Napoli coming to the plate one would expect to have LaRussa send a right handed pitcher to the mound, someone like Jason Motte.  But no right hander emerged in fact none were even warming up.  This forced Rzepczynski to have to face Napoli who hit a double into the gap in right center field scoring two runs and giving the Cardinals their first lead of the night. Rzepczynski stayed in the game and struck out Mitch Moreland to get the second out.  With the horses out of the barn a right hander came in but it was not Motte, it was Lance Lynn who was only supposed to pitch in an emergency situation.  LaRussa had Lynn intentionally walk Ian Kinsler to get Motte some warm up time.  Motte finally entered the game and struck out Elvis Andrus to end the inning.

LaRussa said after the game that he had wanted Rzepczynski and Motte up but Bullpen Coach Derek Lilliquist said that he did not understand LaRussa due to the crowd noise.  When LaRussa called to get Motte up Lilliquist claimed that he misunderstood and sent up Lynn who was not supposed to pitch.  To make matters worse, Dotel said that he was surprised that he was not allowed to pitch to Nelson Cruz.

With all that said and all the second guessing and the convoluted explanations aside the Cardinals did not put runners across the plate.  They should have won the game going away. The single off Rzepczynski in the 8th took an angle that he did not seem to anticipate and it could have been a double play ball and there would have been no “Bullpengate.”

Game 6 is scheduled for Wednesday night inSt Louis.  However rain is in the forecast and there is a possibility that it could be postponed. Colby Lewis will get the start for the Rangers and Jaime Garcia for the Cardinals. Both pitched well in game 2 and the Cardinals have the advantage of playing at home and by National League rules which means with no Designated Hitter that Texas will have one less big bat in the lineup.  This will be a game of bullpens and pinch hitters; I don’t expect either pitcher to go 7-8 innings as happened in games 4 and 5 in Texas.  However the Cardinals have to win both games and Texas has not lost two games in a row in a month and a half, but this is where the Cardinals play their best ball and of the 10 World Series titles the Cardinals have won in their illustrious history they were down 3 games to 2 in three of them.  I still think it goes 7 games but the Cardinals and LaRussa have to get their grove back on.  If not their miracle season will become a memorable footnote in MLB history.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Shutdown! Derek Holland Silences Cardinals Rangers tie Series

Derek Holland (Getty Images)

I said yesterday that in order to win game four a pitcher had to shut down the opposition.  Derek Holland who was solid in the regular season but struggled in the post season pitched a great game and was backed by strong defense.Hollandpitched 8.1 innings allowing just two hits while striking out 7 and walking 2 Cardinals as the Rangers evened their series defeating the Cardinals 4-0.

The game was close as Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson left the game in the top of the 6th inning with two runners aboard and the Rangers leading 1-0. Jackson had allowed three scattered hits but had given up 7 walks, the final two in the top of the 6th leading Tony LaRussa to pull him in favor of Mitchell Boggs who gave up a 3 run home run to Mike Napoli on his first pitch.  Holland on the other hand maintained his control, poise and kept the big right handed bats of the Cardinals silent by pitching aggressively on the inside portion of the plate. Albert Pujols who had set a World Series record on Saturday night went 0-4 and both Cardinals hits came from Lance Berkman who doubled and singled.  Neftali Feliz got the final two outs for the Rangers securing the win.

The Cardinals had no runs on 4 hits and committed no errors leaving four men on base. The Rangers had 4 runs on 6 hits with no errors and left 8 runners on base. Hollandgot the win andJacksonthe loss.

Tonight the Cardinals will send Chris Carpenter to the mound. Carpenter the victor in game one is probably the best pitcher in the series and I expect a strong outing from him especially if he mixes his devastating curve ball with his other pitches.  He will face Rangers ace C J Wilson who was 16-7 with a 2.93 ERA in the regular season but is 0-3 in four starts during the post season.  He has pitched 21.1 innings giving up 19 runs 17 of which were earned on 25 hits 6 of which were home runs and has walked 14 while striking out 21.  His post season ERA is 7.17.  In order to win the Rangers will have to get to Carpenter early and play thatWilsonhas a good start.  The Cardinals after having been shut down on Sunday night are certainly going to be out for blood with Wilson on the mound. If Wilson falters expect Ron Washington to pull him early.

One lineup change for the Cardinals is that Jon Jay will not start tonight and is being replaced in center field by Skip Schumaker who hit .283 in the regular season.

We’ll see what happens tonight.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Cardinals take Game One 3-2: Defense and Pitching Key to Win

Chris Carpenter’s diving put out of Elvis Andrus in the 1st inning set the tone for the game (Reuters)

The game was decided in the top of the 1st inning. Cardinals’ starter Chris Carpenter gave up a fluke leadoff single to Ian Kinsler that was deflected off the glove of third baseman David Freese.  The speedy Kinsler attempted to steal with Elvis Andrus at bat and was gunned down at second by Yadier Molina.  Andrus hit a grounder that Albert Pujols had to go deep to get and his throw was far in front of Carpenter who was racing to cover first.  Carpenter dove to catch the ball and slid into the bag slapping it with his right hand to make the put out.  The play electrified the crowd and at that point I was confident that the pluck and determined Cardinals would win this game.

The game was dominated by pitching and defense, a far cry from the LCS when both the Rangers and Cardinals hammered their opponents.  The Cardinals struck first in the bottom of the 4th inning when Rangers’ starter C J Wilson hit Albert Pujols to lead off the inning and gave up a double to Matt Holliday and a single to Lance Berkman which scored Pujols and Holliday to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.  That lead would only last a third of an inning when Carpenter gave up a single to Adrian Beltre and then struck out Nelson Cruz.  He then gave up a home run to Mike Napoli which tied the game.

The Cardinals scored again in the bottom of the 6th inning when Freese doubled off of Wilson and advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch.Wilson stuck out Molina for the second out but then walked Nick Punto.  That was it for Wilson who was relieved by Alexi Ogando who gave up a single to pinch hitter Allen Craig that scored Freese to give the Cardinals the lead.  Freese’s hit gave him the record for consecutive games with a hit his 11th of this post season.

Allen Craig singled the go ahead run off of  Alexi Ogando in the bottom of the 6th inning

The Cardinals then used 5 relief pitchers to shut down the Rangers. The Rangers threatened in the top of the 7th getting men on first and second with one out.  Tony LaRussa  brought Marc Rzepczynski into the game to relieve Fernado Salas who had come on after Carpenter left the game.  Rzepczynski struck out pinch hitters Craig Gentry and Esteban German to end the threat and the inning.  Octavio Dotel relieved Rzepczynski in the 8th getting Kinsler and Andrus and LaRussa was back out to the mound to bring in 40 year old left hander Arthur Rhodes to face Josh Hamilton and LaRussa was right again as Hamilton flied out to center to end the inning.

This set the plate for the non-closer closer Jason Motte who put down Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz in order to close out the inning and get the save.

The game demonstrated the craftiness of LaRussa who found the right combination of pitchers and hitters to get the win.  It was a very close game and LaRussa and his Cardinals scraped out the win against a very strong Rangers team.

The Rangers had 2 runs on 6 hits with no errors and the Cardinals 3 runs on 6 hits with no errors.  Carpenter got the win and Motte the save while C J Wilson continued to have a rough post season taking the loss.

On Thursday Colby Lewis 14-10 4.40 ERA will face Jaime Garcia 13-7 3.56 ERA at Busch Stadium in game two.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Cardinals in Seven: Padre Steve’s World Series Pick

Last Year I made picks for both the MLB Playoff series and the World Series that were very accurate. See the 2010 MLB Post Season Page link at the top of this page.  I try to look at all the stats in the regular and post season to make my picks.  This year I did not get around to picking winners for the Division or League Championship Series.  I plan on providing analysis of each game during the World  series.  Of course I could be wrong, but this is my pick.   

 

This is a really interesting World Series that I really believe will go the full seven games. I am picking the Cardinals but not because I think that they are the “better” team in the context of this season.  I think that in a 7 game series that Tony LaRussa will do just enough to beat the Rangers.  The majority of baseball commentators are predicting that the Rangers will win this in 6 or 7 games. If they were playing the Brewers, Diamondbacks or Phillies I would pick them in a New York minute. But they are playing a team that at the end of August was 10.5 games out of the Wild Card race in the National League and handily defeat teams in the NLDS and NLCS that were on paper better than them.

I believe that the Texas Rangers are the better team and I actually kind of want them to win the Series because I like Nolan Ryan, Ron Washington and would like to see the Rangers win their first World Series. Over the course of this year’s 162 game season I don’t think that there was a better team in baseball.  They have decent starting pitching, a great bullpen and hit the hell out of ball.  They have made mincemeat of some of the best pitchers in the league.  Ron Washington is one of my favorite managers, he is smart and really has shaped this team into the machine that they are.  They are at or near the top in almost every offensive category including stolen bases.  They have a better record than the Cardinals and the two teams pitching staffs have similar records and statistics for the season.  The Rangers held off a late season rush by the Los Angeles Angels and took the AL West for the second time in as many years.  They eliminated the Tampa Bay Rays in 4 games chewing up a very good Rays pitching staff and proceeded take down the Tigers in 6 games to reach the World Series for the second strait year.  Ron Washington is turning into a great manager who has proven that he can manage the game and inspire his players at the same time.

However the Wild Card so to speak is the “Wild Card” in this series. The Cardinals took advantage by the epic collapse of the Atlanta Braves in September and won the NL Wild Card on the last day of the season.  They then had to face the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS.  The Phillies had the best record in the National League but had fallen victim to the Red Birds 6 of 9 times during the regular season 3 of which came in September.  They dispatched the Phillies in 5 games after being down 2-1 in the series.  Then they went to their division rivals and NL Central Champion Milwaukee Brewers. They took the Brewers with whom they evenly split their 18 regular season games in 6 games.

These are both great teams with a lot of character and talent.  When one looks up and down the roster they are filled with great hitters.  The Rangers have the edge in overall quality but the Cardinals are also very good and had the best team hitting in the Division and League Championship Series.  Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Jon Jay and Matt Holiday highlight a line up that hit for a .274 batting average, .341 On Base Percentage and .425 Slugging Percentage in the regular season and produced 762 runs. The Rangers roster includes Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz.  The Rangers hit a Major League leading team batting average of .283 On Base Percentage of .341 a .460 Slugging Percentage and which produced a MLB high 855 runs.

However the playoffs have been another story. The Cardinals led all the playoff teams in batting average (.288) and runs (111) while having .345 OBP and .448 SLG percentages.  The Rangers hitters were not as dominant in the playoffs hitting for a .259 team batting average producing 90 runs and achieving a .330 OBP and .434 SLG.  They were still potent especially Nelson Cruz the ALCS MVP who hit .364 with six homers and 13 RBIs.

The pitching performance of the two teams in the regular season was quite similar the Cardinals had a slightly better team ERA of 2.74 versus the Rangers 2.79 but LaRussa is unorthodox in his use of his bullpen when has performed magnificently.  Game one will feature the two teams’ workhorses, Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals and C J Wilson for the Rangers.  The bullpens are both excellent and the Rangers feature Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando.  Ogando has been particularly good and as a former starter can pitch in extended or short relief.  The Cardinals bullpen features Jason Motte and Octavio Dotel who have been excellent in the playoffs.

The hitters will challenge the pitchers of both teams and the starters will need to perform to protect their bullpens.  LaRussa will use his bullpen in ways that cannot be anticipated and the Rangers could face any pitcher in any situation.

The reason that I am picking the Cardinals is the fact that they have done so much that they were not expected to do this season. They overcame a lot to get to this point. The Rangers were expected by many to be here again, especially after the Red Sox collapsed in September and did not make the playoffs.  The key for me is Tony LaRussa and his ability to manage a game inning by inning batter by batter in order to deny the opposing team the opportunity to score runs in any single inning particularly “the last three innings of the game.”  LaRussa manages the details of a game probably better than anyone in baseball and though many criticize his “micromanagement” it certainly has worked.  Provided nothing really unexpected happens LaRussa will pass the great John McGraw on the all time managerial win list sometime during the 2012 season. None of this is to be disrespectful of Ron Washington, he too is an excellent manager and the Rangers would not be where they are without him.  Likewise the Cardinals have home field advantage and Busch Stadium is a pitchers park which plays well with how LaRussa uses his bullpen and bench.

The Rangers are an amazing team and I do think that they are the better team and really want to win this, but there is something about this 2011 Cardinals team.  Since the end of August they have played every day with their season on the line and risen to the occasion.  Besides they have the Rally Squirrel…. How can they lose?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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UNBELIEVABLE! Braves and Red Sox Collapse Complete! Rays and Cardinals win Wild Cards, Orioles sink Red Sox with 2 Outs in Bottom of the 9th as Longoria hits walk off against Yankees

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon reacts to the Orioles scoring the winning run (Getty Images)

What an amazing and unlikely end to the regular season. The Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox who appeared to have their respective Wild Card berths cinched on September 1st had their seasons end tonight in the most unexpected and unlikely ways.  Both the Braves and the Sox had what seemed to be insurmountable leads as August drew to a close.

“It’s like living out a bad dream. You never expect this to happen to you.” Chipper Jones

Matt Holiday and Chris Carpenter celebrate the Cardinal’s Wild Card win

The Braves were up by 10 ½ games over the Cardinals on August 26th and had an 8 ½ game lead on September 6th and slipped into a tie on Tuesday against a resurgent Cardinals team.  The Cardinals defeated the Houston Astros 7-0 behind a two hit performance by Chris Carpenter earlier in the evening putting all the pressure on the Braves to try to force a one game playoff to decide the Wild Card.  The Braves looked like they would force the playoff and had a 3-2 lead with one out in the top of the 9th against the Phillies.   With one out and their ace closer Craig Kimbrel saw it slip away as Chase Utley hit a sacrifice fly to score pinch runner Pete Orr to tie the game.  The Braves could not score a go ahead run and in the top of the 13th the Phillies put the final nail in the Braves coffin as with 2 outs in the top of the 13th when Hunter Pence singled to score Brian Schneider to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead.  The Braves could not score in the bottom of the 13th completing a most amazing collapse.  Kimbrel said after the game “It was tough to be so close and then have the feeling like it was falling out of your hands, and that’s the feeling I have now.”   One has to feel for Kimbrel and other Braves relievers who have endured a punishing season and faltered down the stretch due to a starting rotation which struggled in their performance and due to injuries to young pitchers Jair Jurgens and Tommy Hansen.

A stunned Braves bench after their loss to the Phillies

For the Braves it was an epic collapse but the Tony LaRussa’s Cardinals after having been written off by every expert managed to catch the Braves and steal the Wild Card berth.

While the National League decision was exciting it paled in comparison to what happened in the American League East on Wednesday night. The Rays appeared to be done early as starter avid Price was hit hard by the Yankees especially by Mark Teixeira who hammed a grand slam home run in the top of the 2nd off Price inning to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead and a solo shot against Price in the top of the 4th. When the Yankees finished their at bat in the top of the 8th they had a 7-0 lead.  It looked like the Rays were done unless the Orioles could come from behind to defeat the Red Sox and force a playoff.  As their fans began to leave Tropicana Field the Rays scored 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th and then tied the game with a two out home run by Dan Johnson in the bottom of the 9th.  The game went into extra innings and as the Rays battled the Yankees an even more remarkable story was developing in Baltimore.

Evan Longoria raises his arms in triumph after his walk off home run against the Yankees (Getty Images)

The Red Sox had led the Orioles for most of the game and had not lost a game all season when leading in the 9th inning.  They were 76-0 in this situation.  A rain delay pushed the game toward themidnight hour and when it resumed the Red Sox seemed to be ready to put the Orioles away.

Robert Andino hits a walk off single to score Nolan Reimold against Jonathan Papelbon

With a 3-2 lead the Sox sent their vaunted closer Jonathan Papelbon into the game. After retiring Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds on strikes Chris Davis doubled and the O’s sent in Kyle Hudson to run for Davis.  Papelbon worked a 2-2 count against Nolan Reimold who hit a ground rule double to scoreHudson.  This brought up Red Sox nemesis Robert Andino who hit a walk off single to score Reimold stunning the Red Sox Nation in an unbelievable finish, but the Red Sox had life if the Yankees could put away the Rays in Tampa, but that hope would be dashed three minutes later.

As the Orioles drove the stake into the heart of the Red Sox Nation Yankees reliever Scott Proctor retired B. J. Upton on strikes.  This brought Evan Longoria to the plate. Longoria had hit a 3 run homer in the Rays 6 run 8th inning and took Proctor’s pitch and hammered it down the left field line where it ended up in the stands.  It was only the second time that a walk off home run put a team into the playoffs, the last was Bobby Thompson’s “shot heard around the world” in 1951.

Orioles celebrate. After a rough season they turned into winners in September and ended the Red Sox playoff hopes

It was an amazing finish that was unimaginable and thrilling to behold.  For the Orioles it was their World Series. They have been dominated by the Red Sox for years and going into September had won just 3 games against the Sox all season.  Then in September the Orioles began to win.  They split 4 games with the Yankees, took 2 of 3 from the Rays, 3 of 4 from the Red Sox at Fenway, 2 of 3 from the Angles and split a four game series against the Tigers.  After the 4 games in Boston the Orioles hosted 3 games against the Red Sox at Camden Yards.  They won the first, lost the second and stunned the Red Sox on Wednesday night.

As the bell tolled midnight on the east coast the unthinkable had happened.  Two epic collapses, two remarkable comebacks and an underdog Orioles team that rose to the occasion to beat the Red Sox 5 of 7 games in September.  No one could have scripted the end to this regular season and one can expect that the playoffs will be equally exciting.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Two Tied Wild Card Races: Who would have Thunk It?

Carpenter (Sports Illustrated Photo) or Hudson (AP Photo) 

“The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Earl Weaver

What a night for baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals came back to defeat the Astros after falling behind 5-0 and the Boston Red Sox narrowly held off the Baltimore Orioles 8-7 after leading by scores of 5-1 and 7-3.  The Atlanta Braves fell again to the Philadelphia Phillies to allow the Cardinals to tie them for the Wild Card lead.  With the Tampa Bay Rays coming from behind to defeat the Yankees and turning a triple pay in the process the Rays and the Sox remain knotted for the AL Wild Card.  The hopes of four teams are on the shoulders of four men. John Lester, David Price, Chris Carpenter and Tim Hudson.

Price (Getty Images) or Lester (AP Photo)?

The cool thing about this is that the races have come down to the last day of the season and these is the real possibility that both could remain tied and force not one but two one game playoffs to make the post season.  This has never happened.  There have been one-game playoffs to enter the post season before but never two of them in the same season.  If by some chance the Brave and Cardinals end up tied they will have to face each other in a playoff and the same is true for the Rays and Red Sox.  Does it get any better than that?  As a baseball fan I think not.

The Cardinals will start Chris Carpenter who is 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA in September against the Astros.  The Astos will start veteran Brett Myers who is 7-13 with a 4.31 ERA for the season but has been great in September with a 4-0 record and an ERA of 1.58.  The question is will the Cardinals be able to take this all the way home? The stumbling Braves will send Tim Hudson up against the Phillies. Hudsonis 3-2 with a 4.02 ERA in September and lost in his last outing against the Phillies.  Philadelphiawill start Joe Blanton 1-2 5.03 ERA who spend most May and all of June July and August on the DL.

The American League race has Boston’s John Lester who is 1-3 in September with a 6.07 ERA facing Baltimore’s Alfredo Simon who has had a miserable September.  The question in this contest is whose bats will show up big?  Down inTampathe Rays will start their ace David Price 12-13 3.35 ERA who has a 0-2 record in 5 starts with a 3.08 ERA in September.  The Yankees have not announced a starter for Wednesday’s finale.  The question here is can the Rays nail down one last game?

In the end it comes down to four starters for the four teams vying for the Wild Card. John Lester, David Price, Tim Hudson and Chris Carpenter.  Four men, four teams, two playoff berths.

This will be an amazing finish to the regular season.  Who would have bet on this on September 1st? Not me, but I am not unhappy.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Bring Out the Brooms: Dodgers, Angels, Yankees and Phillies Advance to League Championship Series

So far the MLB playoffs have not disappointed unless you are a Cardinals, Twins, Red Sox or Rockies fan.  There was a lot of drama, great play, and miraculous comebacks and for the shear sake of humanity some bad calls by some of the umpires.  But that’s why baseball is so much better than football; it is human and not clouded by the artificial attempt to impose “fairness” by reviewing up to 12 plays a game at the request of coaches and more for “mandatory” reviews.   These four series plus the one game

The human drama of baseball was played out before our eyes. The stories were amazing and every game had stories within the story of players and teams doing amazing.  As my readers know I made predictions about the divisional series over at https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/padre-steve%E2%80%99s-mlb-divisional-playoff-picks/ So far with the exception of the Cardinals being swept by the Evil Dodgers, the divisional series went pretty much as I expected as to the winners though I did not expect all of the sweeps.  I gave the Twins one game and thought the Angels and Red Sox would go five with the Angels winning.  The Phillies and Rockies series went very much as I expected and the Rockies almost brought in back to Philly.

In this Divisional series six games were decided by one run.   Five games were decided in the 9th inning or extra innings. Six games were comeback wins where the winning team gained the lead in the 7th inning or later. With a few exceptions the games were close even late in the game.  There were a number of plays that the umpires blew the call on, sometimes badly, oh well, humanity strikes again.  That is no reason to implement the insanity of the NFL’s replay policies or anything like them.

Let’s go back to my picks. I picked the Cardinals in four over the Dodgers.  The Cardinals, who were not even picked for the playoffs dominated the NL Central but Tony La Russa, one of the outstanding managers in the game has a way of making things work.  My expectation was that Chris Carpenter and Jonathan Wainwright would shut the Dodgers down at Chavez Ravine and then go back to St Louis where their hitters had been awesome throughout the season.  Their major weakness was their bullpen. A lot broadcasters and experts predicted a Cardinals sweep.  Having seen the Dodgers perform miracles in past playoff series, including in 1981 and 1987 I did have a sense of unease in picking the Cardinals, but I went with logic and this time it failed.  The Cardinals pitching was shaky and their hitting died. The turning point was in game two where with two outs that the Cardinals up 2-1 Matt Halliday lost a fly ball in the lights allowing a runner and the Dodgers then finished them off.  I think that it was a finish that could only happen with the Dodgers in the playoffs. I owe my Dodger fan nephew Joe a beer the next time I get to San Diego as I promised in my prediction of the Cardinals lost.  What is more interesting now for the Cardinals is what happens in the off season as Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan’s contracts expire at the end of the month.  If I had my choice Billy Beane would bring him back to Oakland a move which would be good for him as La Russa has many connections and business interests in the bay area.

The Angels and Red Sox were a tough call.  I picked the Angels in five because the Red Sox have not been the same team as they were the past few seasons. Some of their key players are showing the signs of age and losing a step or two. Additionally their starting pitching staff was inconsistent during the season and had some key injuries.  I also picked the Angels because they are a better team than they have been the past few years and there was the “X” factor of Angels’ pitcher Nick Adenhart killed after his first start in the second game of the season. The amount of unity on the team was something that I have not seen in a long time.  In their sweep of the Red Sox the Angels pitchers shut the Red Sox down until game three when Boston made a got out to an early lead which they reinforced in the bottom of the 8th.   What was surprising was the manner in which the Red Sox lost.  Jonathan Papelbon gave up not only his first ever run in the playoffs but blew the save and got the loss.  Previous to this he had pitched 27 innings of shutout playoff baseball.  The Red Sox have some decisions to make during the off season to see if they can get their edge back.

The Twins and Yankees series was the classic “David versus Goliath” story.  The Twins came from nowhere to overtake a Tigers team that faltered at the end winning the one game playoff at the Metro Dome.  The Yankees played all year with a chip on their shoulder and won 103 games, the best in the Majors.  They had an attitude and played all year as a team, they had very few injuries and every part of the team was strong.  The Yankees have played all year like they wanted to win the whole thing. I didn’t think that the Twins had a chance; they had lost all seven games to the Yankees including three in a row at Yankee Stadium on walk off hits.  The Yankees clubbed the Twins in game one and C.C. Sabathia got his first playoff win and like Rodriguez shook off the demons of playoffs past. In game two the Yankees had to come back to beat them as usually reliable closer Joe Nathan blew the save when Alex Rodriguez hit a two run homer in the bottom of the 9th.  Mark Teixeira hit a walk off shot in the bottom of the 11th.  I thought that the Twins might win one in the twisted hell of the Metro Dome, but the Yankees came back to win there with Alex Rodriguez Jorge Posada teamed up in the 7th with single homers off former Yankee Carl Pavano and Mariano Rivera closed out the game.  Throughout the series Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and a host of other Yankees played solid baseball getting the key hits and making the key plays to win the series. The Twins had a remarkable season but were simply outmatched by the power, pitching and speed of the Yankees.  Even so the final two games were dramatic as the Twins led by Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer played a great series.

The defending World Series Champion Phillies and amazing Rockies series was great.  I expect the teams to go to five games with the Phillies winning at home in game five.  The Phillies won game one in a walk, but the Rockies showed great character and surprised the Phillies in game two.  Game three had one of those only in Denver moments when it was postponed due to winter weather and snow.  Why the heck the Rockies wouldn’t have built Coors Light Field with a retractable dome like Milwaukee beats the hell out of me. The game was made up Saturday and the Phillies won a nail biter in which the lead changed often and the Phillies winning on a Ryan Howard sacrifice fly.  Game four tonight looked like the Rockies had the Phillies reeling when in the bottom of the 8th they scored three runs to go up 4-2.  The Phillies came back as Ryan Howard had a 2 RBI double with 2 outs in the top of the 9th and was driven in by Jaysen Werth for the winning run.  Beleaguered Phillies closer Brad Lidge saved both game 3 and 4, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley and big Ryan Howard were all clutch hitters for the Phillies.  The acquisition of Cliff Lee by the Phillies

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