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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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Giants Defeat Phillies in 9th 6-5 go up 3-1 in NLCS as Posey and the Panda have big nights

Aubrey Huff raises his arms after he scores the winning run in Game 4 of the NLCS (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The San Francisco Giants keep finding ways to win and of befuddling the experts in their NLCS matchup with the Philadelphia Phillies.  With most experts picking the Phillies to win this series in five or six games no matter what happens it will go seven.  Tonight in front of a wild crowd of Giants fans decked out in orange and black, wearing “fear the beard” beards, panda heads and any number of unusual outfits the Giants defeated the Phillies 6-5 beating Roy Oswalt in the bottom of the 9th to do it.

Buster Posey Tags out Carlos Ruiz in the 5th inning  (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Giants got the first run on the board in the bottom of the 1st inning when Freddy Sanchez singled and then advanced to second and then third on wild pitches by Phillies starter Joe Blanton. With Sanchez on third base Buster Posey singled to get his first RBI of the night.  The Giants added to their lead in the bottom of the 3rd inning when with 2 outs Aubrey Huff singled and scored on a deep double by Buster Posey. 

Pablo the “Panda” Sandoval connects for a 2 RBI double (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Madison Bumgarner was solid through four innings striking out 6 Phillies batters and only giving up 2 hits but lost his edge in the 5th inning.  The rookie gave up 4 singles one of which by Shane Victorino scored Ben Francisco to put the Phillies on the board but a tremendous throw from center fielder Aaron Rowland cut down Carlos Ruiz at the plate with Posey making a great play to block the plate and hold onto the ball in the collision with Ruiz.  This turned out to be a big play which kept the Phillies from a second run on the play and giving the Giants a badly needed out.  Chase Utley singled to put runners at first and second and brought Manager Bruce Bochy to the mound to lift Bumgarner in favor of Santiago Casilla. Casilla then gave up a double to Placido Polanco which scored both Victorino and Utley.  Casilla then intentionally walked Ryan Howard and hit Jayson Werth with a pitch to load the bases. Casilla then tossed a wild pitch which scored Polanco to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead. 

Andres Torres walked to lead off the Giants half of the 5th inning and advanced to 2nd base on a ground out by Edgar Renteria. He then scored when Aubrey Huff singled to end the 5th inning with the score the Phillies 4 and the Giants 3. Casilla retired the Phillies in order in the 6th and in the bottom half of the inning the Giants went back to work.  Pat Burrell led off with a walk and was followed by Phillies killer Cody Ross who smacked an inside fastball into the left field corner to put runners on second and third. This brought Pablo the “Panda” Sandoval to the plate. Sandoval who had been benched at the beginning of the series has been in a slump but in this at bat he took a Chad Durbin pitch to deep center for a double which scored both Burrell and Ross and give the Giants a 5-4 lead going into the 7th inning.

Javier Lopez came in and put the Phillies down in order in the 7th and the Giants loaded the bases in the bottom of the 7th with one out but Sandoval hit into an inning ending double play.  In the top of the 8th inning Lopez gave up a double to Ryan Howard to lead off the inning and was pulled in favor of Sergio Romo one of the Giants’ “black beards.” Romo gave up a double to Jayson Werth to tie the game before retiring Jimmy Rollins on a pop up and Ben Francisco and Carlos Ruiz on consecutive strike outs using just six pitches to do it. 

Fear the Beard: Brian Wilson shuts down the Phillies to collect the win  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

With the score tied in the 9th inning the Giants brought closer Brian Wilson into the game. Wilson who has 4 saves in 6 playoff appearances got pinch hitter Ross Gload on a ground out to shortstop Juan Uribe who made an outstanding effort to get the out. He then struck out Shane Victorino and put Chase Utley out on a line drive to left field.  The tension mounted as the Phillies had closer Brad Lidge and starter Roy Oswalt warming up in the bullpen. As the Phillies half of the 9th ended it was Oswalt who got the call going on 2 days rest following his start in game two against the Giants.  Freddy Sanchez lined out to right for the first out which brought Aubrey Huff to the plate. Huff singled and then advanced to 3rd base on a single by Buster Posey which could have scored Huff had Jayson Werth not made a tremendous defensive play to keep the ball from going to the wall. This brought an unlikely hero to the plate. Juan Uribe playing with an injured hand was able to hit a medium depth fly ball to left which scored Huff from third to give the Giants a 6-5 win and a 3-1 lead in the NLCS.

 

Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz sits in stunned silence as the Giants celebrate (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Giants made a great team effort to win this game, the first game since September where they scored more than 4 runs.  Timely hitting by Buster Posey who went 4-5 with 2 RBIs, Pablo Sandoval with his 2 RBI double and Aubrey Huff who went 3-5 with an RBI helped push the Giants over the top in this see-saw game.  Brian Wilson got the win in relief and Roy Oswalt the loss in a rare relief appearance.  The teams meet for game five on Thursday with a battle of the aces on the offing as Roy “Doc” Hallady goes up against Tim Lincecum in what could be the deciding game of the series.  Giants fans accustomed to “Tortureball” need to break out their Xanax for this one which could be an epic playoff game with two of the best pitchers in baseball going against each other in a game that could send Halladay and the Phillies home until the spring.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Cain is Able: Matt Cain and Giants down Phillies 3-0 Take NLCS Lead

Cain is Able: Matt Cain shuts down Phillies to win NLCS Game Three

Expert after expert picked Phillies ace Cole Hamels to master the San Francisco Giants while giving faint praise to Giants starter Matt Cain in game three of the NLCS at AT&T Park this afternoon. It seems that no matter what the Giants do to win they can get no respect from the baseball media establishment. First it was that they would finish no better than 4th or if they were lucky 3rd in the NL West. Then while some predicted them to defeat the Braves in 4 or 5 games is was almost a derisive pick figuring that even if the Giants got by the Braves that they would be no match for the mighty Phillies. Well that sports fans changed today as the great hope of the established sports media Cole Hamels and the vaunted Phillies lineup fell to the underdog, no name San Francisco Giants in a three hit shutout.

Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross  celebrate in the 4th inning. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The heroes for the Giants were predicable first there was Matt Cain who was given faint praise before the game by every commentator that I listened to. Cain pitched 7 innings giving up just 2 hits and no runs pitching out of a couple of tight jams that might have sent another pitcher scurrying for cover. When Cain was done Javier Lopez and Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson came in to shut down the Phillies. On the offensive side of the house it was Hamels’ nemesis Cody Ross who with two outs in the bottom of the 4th inning singled to drive in Edgar Renteria. Ross was followed by Aubrey Huff who also had an RBI single to give the Giants a 2-0 lead against a pitcher that the experts said would shut them down. The Giants got another run in the bottom of the 5th inning when Aaron Rowland doubled and then scored from second with two outs on a fielding error by Chase Utley. 

Brain Wilson gets his 4th save of the post season (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

After that it was the Giants pitching, Cain, Lopez and Wilson that shut the Phillies down.  The middle of the Phillies order had 2 hits a single by Ryan Howard and another by Jimmy Rollins. The Giants staff struck out 7 Phillies and walked three with Cain hitting two batters.  Hamels gave up just 5 hits but surrendered runs with 2 outs in the 4th and 5th innings. 

The Giants now have a 2-1 series lead with rookie Madison Bumgarner facing Joe Blanton in game four of the series Wednesday night. Blanton has not pitched since September having been left off the NLDS roster by Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel.  There is talk that Manuel may move Roy Halladay up in the rotation on short rest but as of this moment Blanton is the scheduled starter for the Phillies.  The Giants now have a psychological advantage over the Phillies as they know that they can beat Halladay who has not beaten the Giants this season and has a career worst record against them as opposed to any other team.  If the Giants win tomorrow over Blanton then it will come down to a duel between Halladay and Tim Lincecum who has proven that he can handle the Phillies.  

Matt Cain has to be feeling good as in 14 innings of playoff baseball this year he has yet to allow an earned run.  The Giants have made this series very interesting and I expect them to continue to surprise the Phillies and the baseball media establishment in the days ahead. I predicted this series to go to seven with the Giants taking it but I could be wrong, it might go just 5 or 6 games.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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