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Giants Down Tigers: Take 3-0 Lead in Series

Hunter Pence Scores in Game 3 (SF Chronicle- Lance Iverson)

This was not the way anyone thought that this series would go. Detroit’s hitters would feast on Giants pitching that had not been as dominant as it has in years past and the weak hitting Giants would knuckled under beneath the Tigers’ starting pitching.

Barry Zito (AP Photo: David J Phillip) 

The Freak in Relief: Tim Lincecum (Getty Images: Doug Pensinger)

Sergio Romo (USA Today Photo: Kelley L Cox)

Madison Bumgarner (Sacramento Bee Photo)

The Journeyman: Ryan Vogelsong 15 Teams in 14 Years (SF Chronicle- Lance Iverson)

No one expected that the Giants would score 8 runs in game, plastering Justin Verlander or that Barry Zito would dominate. Nor did anyone think that Madison Bumgarner who had struggled in the playoffs would do the same. Then there was Tim Lincecum coming out of the bullpen to dominate the mid to late innings when needed, finally Ryan Vogelsong pitched his way out of trouble on a number of occasions to get the win in Game 3. No one expected that the Tigers could not beat a Giants team that only scored 2 runs each in Game 2 and Game 3, but they were shut out in those games. The Giants have held the Tigers to just 7 hits in the last 18 innings and just one extra base hit, that in the first inning of Game 2. Sergio Romo has come into his own in the closer role getting saves in each of the last two games.

The Panda, Pablo Sandoval Goes Deep in Game One (AP Photo: David J Phillip)

The Giants pitching has been superb but then there is the Panda. Pablo Sandoval who is hitting .636 with three home runs in the World Series and has 23 hits in the post season including 6 home runs and 5 doubles and 13 RBI. Other Giants have come up when they needed to in clutch situations but the Panda has been outstanding at the plate and at 3rd base.

Gregor Blanco (AP Photo)

Buster Posey Tags out Prince Fielder on a key play in the 2nd inning of Game 2 (AP Photo David J Phillip)

Then there are the fundamentals. Defense, small ball and base running. The Giants have done both well, only one error in the first three games that almost was an out. Gregor Blanco in Left Field has had an amazing defensive series robbing Detroit hitters of what looked to be sure hits at key junctures.

So the Giants now stand one victory away from their second World Series title since 2010.  No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the World Series. Yes anything can happen in baseball and the Tigers are an excellent team, but right now they seem totally out of sync at the plate and could not support excellent outings by Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez.

Sunday Matt Cain will face Max Scherzer in Game 4. Cain won Game 5 in the NLDS against the Reds and Game 7 against the Cardinals in the NLCS. The possibility of a sweep looms large, something that if it does happen that no one saw coming.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Swept: Detroit Pitchers Dominate as Tigers Send Yankees Home

Tigers Celebrate (Photo Tim Fuller- USA Today Sports)

The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.” Earl Weaver

Murderers Row went down with a whimper in the American League Championship Series. The mighty New York Yankees who dominated with their bats during the regular season struggled during the entire post season, hitting just .200 in 9 games against the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers. If it was not for some last inning heroics by Raul Ibanez in Game Three of the ALDS against Baltimore the Yankees might have watched the ALCS from home. However they squeaked by the Orioles in a very tight series but then ran up against the fearsome starting pitching of the Detroit Tigers.

Detroit’s starting rotation of Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer allowed just 2 on runs in 27.1 innings of work while striking out 25 Yankee batters. Overall the Tigers outscored the Yankees 19-6 in the series and the Yankees never led in any game. Overall the Tigers held the Yankee offense to just 6 runs on 22 hits in the series. Tigers pitchers struck out 39 Yankees and limited the Yankees to a .152 team batting average and 3 home runs, 2 of which came in the 9th inning of game one against closer Jose Valverde.

At best the Yankees offense could charitably be described as pathetic and nothing like their regular season performance. Of their regulars only Ichiro Suzuki had a decent series. He hit .353 with a home run but the rest of the line up which struggled against the Orioles completely fell apart against the Tigers. Nick Swisher hit just .250, Mark Teixeira .200, Russell Martin, .143, Alex Rodriguez .111, Robinson Cano .052 and Curtiss Granderson .000. Derek Jeter, the Captain of the Yankees went down with a broken ankle in 12th inning of game 1 hitting 1-5 for a .200 average.

The Tigers will now go on to face the winner of the NLCS either the St Louis Cardinals or if they can come back from a 3-1 deficit the San Francisco Giants. The Yankees will go home with a lot more questions than answers. They are showing their age and in light of the poor playoff performance of their hitters I expect big changes will be coming. I expect that a lot of the Yankees problem was their age. Unlike past seasons where they have been able to rest players during the last couple of weeks of the year they were in a dogfight with the Orioles and did not clinch the division until the last day of the season. The long 162 game schedule takes a toll on older players, especially if there is no chance to rest them.

Big questions will have to be answered. How will Derek Jeter recover from his surgery? How effective will closer Mariano Rivera be after a year off after being injured in warmups early in the year? What will the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez do with the remaining years of his 10 year contract with its no trade clause? What will become of players like Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Eric Chavez and Curtiss Granderson?

Robinson Cano leaves the Dugout after Game 4 (AP Photo-Paul Sancya)

In addition to hitting the Yankees pitching staff is also showing age and had to be bailed out many times in the regular season by great hitting.

Yes the Yankees have a lot of money to throw at problems but it has been a long time since they have had to deal with the possibility of wholesale changes to their line up. This should make the American League East a very interesting race in 2013 since the Red Sox will also be rebuilding after a disastrous season. The issues that the Yankees and Red Sox are facing are large and 2013 AL East could come down to a race between the Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Tigers who were the overwhelming favorites to win the AL Central before the season struggled but came on strong in the last month of the season to overtake the surprising Chicago White Sox. Their surge was very timely, it allowed the to defeat the Oakland Athletics in 5 games and then send the Yankees home in a most convincing manner.

Congratulations to the American League Champion Detroit Tigers.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Omen: Jeter’s Injury Foretells the Future as Yankees Fall to 0-2 to Tigers in ALCS

Before the times of change, still is it so: 
By a divine instinct men’s minds mistrust 
Ensuing dangers; as by proof, we see 
The waters swell before a boisterous storm

William Shakespeare Richard III

Baseball people are tremendously superstitious. Sometimes events, miscues, injuries bad calls and bad luck are of more significance than they would be if they didn’t happen when they did. Cubs fans can attest to this as can the generations of Red Sox, White Sox and Giants fans who endured one shocking disappointment after another as they languished between World Series Championships.

Derek Jeter is the face of the Yankees. He has been a staple of the team and been their as they won championship after championship and his steady play and leadership have been a part of the great success enjoyed by the Yankees. He has played through injuries and never missed a post season game until tonight.

The Yankees may have become the latest team to see things slip away and legends pass. In the space of less than a day the New York Yankees went from looking like they would pull off another late game miracle thanks to the clutch hitting of Raul Ibanez to being down two games to none in the ALCS.

On Saturday the Detroit Tigers appeared to be sailing to an easy win when the Yankees got to closer Jose Valverde in the bottom of the 9th. Up 4-0 the Yankees scored 4 runs including a game tying 2 run home run by veteran Raul Ibanez who seems to have made hitting dramatic late game home runs a new habit.

But in the top of the 12th inning, as the Tigers rallied for what would be a winning lead, Derek Jeter, “The Captain” who had played in spite of injury for much of the past month broke his ankle on a freak play attempting to field a ground ball.

It was a devastating loss for the Yankees, not so much the game but Jeter’s injury. Jeter was one of the few Yankee regulars beside Ichiro Suzuki who have had any offensive punch during the post season. Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, Curtiss Granderson and Robinson Cano have had nightmarish post-seasons.

The Tigers won game one 6-4 and shut out the Yankees 3-0 today to take the 2 game lead in the series. The Tigers were leading 1-0 in the 8th when they benefited from a blown call at second base when Nick Swisher threw behind Omar Infante who gone too far off the base. Cano applied the tag but Infante was called safe. Yankees Manager Joe Girardi argued the call twice and was thrown out of the game.

Girardi can shift blame to the umpires all that he wants but the fact is his team has not hit the ball during the post season with the exception of the 9th inning of game one against the Orioles. The Orioles had a bad call that negated a home run in game 5 of the Division Series against the Yankees that easily could have changed the course of the game, and may have help the Orioles win the series. To see Girardi complaining tonight in the post game interview was unbecoming, especially compared to Buck Showlater’s response to similar questions after game 5 of the ALDS against the Yankees.

Now the series moves on to Detroit and the Yankees will have to face Justin Verlander. Unless the high priced Yankees offense can get going and start getting hits and producing runs they will not play another game at home this year.  The Yankees were lucky to get through against the Orioles and unless something changes fast they will exit the post-season.

I think that this may actually point to greater problems next year for the Yankees. They are getting old and despite their seemingly unlimited ability to buy what they need on the free agent market are not the team that they used to be. They still have a lot of talent but something is not right in the team chemistry and Joe Girardi will have to figure that out in the next few games and after the season ends.

I think that Jeter’s injury and the Yankees struggles portend the changing of the guard in the AL East.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Game 5 Anyone? Resilient Orioles Defeat Yankees in 13 Innings 2-1

Manny Machado Scores winning run (AP Photo)

It was another long night in the Bronx but this time there was no magic from a Yankee hitter and it was yet another thrilling chapter in their 2012 season. The never say die Baltimore Orioles extended their season defeating the Yankees 2-1. Jim Johnson closed out the game in a classic pitchers duel that involved a total of 16 pitchers, 8 from each team. In the 13 innings there were only 15 hits.

Darren O’Day shuts down theYankees in Relief (Elsa Getty Images)

The Orioles struck first as Nate McLouth hit a solo home run in the 5th. The Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the 6th when Robinson Cano grounded out to second to score Derek Jeter who doubled to lead off the inning. Both teams failed to capitalize on when they had runners in scoring position, the Yankees threatened in the bottom of the 8th when they had runners on 2nd and 2rd with only one out. Darren O’Day entered the game and became the hero of Birdland as he struck out Alex Rodriguez and then got Nick Swisher to fly out to right. O’Day then went on to shut down the Yankees in the 9th, 10th innings allowing no hits.

Nate McClouth makes key catch in against the wall off of Jayson Nix, he doubled up Russell Martin. (Elsa Getty Images)

Pedro Strop came into the game in the 11th and pitched two scoreless innings and in the top of the 13th, with the clock already past midnight 20 year old rookie Manny Machado doubled to right and scored on veteran Shortstop J.J. Hardy’s double to left, both off of David Phelps. The Orioles brought in Jim Johnson who put the Yankees down in order in the bottom of the 13th.

Yankees Manager Joe Girardi has managed the series since learning of the death of his father on Sunday (AP Photo Alex Brandon)

It was a tense game as both teams pitchers made the pitches that they needed and hitters struggled. The Yankees and Orioles led the majors in home runs but those big bats for the most part have been remarkably silent. The Orioles can in large part be chalked up to playoff inexperience and hitters swinging at bad pitches, or base running mistakes. The Yankees with the exception of a 5 run 9th inning in game one have been cold and without Ibanez’s home runs in game 3 this series could well be over.

So it comes down to game five. The Orioles and Yankees who were even in the regular season against each other are even again and for one of the teams the 2012 season will be over later tonight, yes it is already Friday.

Meanwhile the magical season on the Oakland A’s came to an end against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. The Orioles or the Yankees will now play Detroit in the ALCS while San Francisco will await the winner of the Cardinals and Nationals game tonight with that series also tied at two apiece.

What a division championship series in both leagues, every series will go the full five games, all competitive and all exciting. This is playoff baseball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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A Midsummer Night Dream: Memories of MLB All Star Games Past and Present

“I think the National League has better biorhythms in July.” – Earl Weaver (1979 All Star Game) 

Before the days of inter-league play and free-agency and the multitude of national and regional television outlets for baseball the All Star Game was the one time outside of the World Series that fans of in a National League town or American League town could watch players from the opposing league play their “boys.”

MVP Melky Cabrera homers in the 4th inning. (Getty Images)

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=22979315&topic_id=34326704

My dad was typical of his generation. He was a National League fan. He grew up with the Cincinnati Reds and when he moved west with the Navy he became a San Francisco Giants fan. When the All-Star Game rolled around at was if time itself would stop as we gathered around the TV as a family to watch it.

Me with Angel’s Manager Lefty Phillips in 1970 at Anaheim Stadium

I think that is in large part why I have such a veneration for this annual event. As I mentioned back then there was no inter-league play and with free agency very limited players spent their careers in the same organization or with teams of the league that they played.

As far as what league I am for it is hard to say. My dad took me to so many California Angels games at Anaheim Stadium when we were stationed in Long Beach in 1970 and 1971 that I became much more familiar with the players of the American League than the National League. That American League attachment grew stronger when we moved to Stockton California where the local minor league team, the Single A Stockton Ports of the California League were then affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles and because of going to Oakland Athletic’s games when the team was in its first era of World Series dominance. He also took me to an occasional Dodger’s game when stationed in Long Beach and sometimes to Candlestick Park to see the Giants but most of the exposure that I had to baseball in my early years was with the American League.

My favorite teams, with the exception of the Orioles tend to be West Coast teams, the Giants and the A’s. My dad was not a fan of the American League, especially of Earl Weaver’s Orioles but between the Ports and seeing the Orioles constantly in the playoffs or World Series in the late 1960s and early 1970s I became a closet Orioles fan. I remember the greats of that team, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, Paul Blair and Pitcher’s like Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson and Dave McNally the team was amazing to watch. I became fascinated with the “Oriole way” which to use Cal Ripken Sr.’s phrase “perfect practice makes perfect” really is a model for success in any field.

Despite this I also love the National League primarily because it does not use the designated hitter and there is more emphasis on pitching and because the San Francisco Giants are a National League team.

Both Leagues have had eras where they dominated the game. Between 1963 and 1982 the National League won 19 of 20 games and the American League won 12 of 13 between 1997 and 2009, the only game that they did not win was the 2002 debacle where Commissioner Bud Selig ended a tie game in the 11th when the teams ran out of substitute players, the only previous tie was in 1961 when rain stopped a tie game in the 9th inning at Fenway Park.

There are some All-Star Game moments that stand out to me more than most. The was Pete Rose plowing over Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game.

Pete Rose collides with Ray Fosse in the 1970 All Star Game

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=5766041

I remember reverently casting my ballot at Anaheim Stadium that year, which was the first time that fans voted in for All-Stars since 1957 when after a ballot box stuffing scandal by Cincinnati Red’s fans caused then Major League Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick to end the practice. I still remember taking that paper ballot and putting it in that box and those votes probably were more important than any political ballot that I have cast, at least I felt like my vote mattered.  Of course now the vote early vote often philosophy which has exploded on the internet takes away some of the reverence that I have for the All Star voting process, but at least no-one checks your ID to vote.

In 1971 I remember the massive home run hit by Reggie Jackson off Dock Ellis at Tiger Stadium, the longest home run in the history of the game, a home run that had it not hit a electrical transformer on the roof was calculated as a 532 foot home run.

Reggie Jackson’s massive home run in the 1972 All Star Game

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=15759689&topic_id=20156278

I remember the 1973 All-Star Game which was the last for Willie Mays, it was his 24th trip to the game, a record that still stands.

The 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park was one that brought tears to my eyes. It was magical as Major League Baseball announced its “All Century Team” including the great Ted Williams.  It was an exceptionally emotional experience for me as I watched many of the living legends who I had seen play as a child walk out onto the field.

Ted Williams at the 1999 All Star Game where the All Century Team was Inducted

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=5570299

But I think one of the most memorable for me was watching Cal Ripken Jr. in his final All-Star Game when Alex Rodriguez insisted that Ripken start the game at Shortstop where he had played most of his career and when Ripken went yard in his final All-Star Game plate appearance.

Alex Rodriguez pushes Cal Ripken Jr. to Short in the 2001 All Star Game

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unF087sArpg

Tonight’s game was played in Kansas City, a town with a remarkable Baseball history especially with the Negro League Kansas City Monarch’s. The Negro Leagues were founded in Kansas City in 1920 and it is the home of the Negro League Hall of Fame. The Athletics played there between their time in Philadelphia and Oakland, and the Royals began as an expansion team in 1969 and opened Kaufman Stadium in 1973. I saw the Royals play for the first time in Anaheim against the Angels.  The Stadium was unique in its era because it was the last non dual-purpose stadium built until Oriole Park and Camden Yards opened in 1991. As such it was and is a beautiful yard and with the renovation completed in 2007 is still among the most beautiful parks in the Major Leagues and there is a seat designated in honor of the late Monarch’s player and manager Buck O’Neil and the home of such greats as Satchel Page.

Buck O’Neil

Tonight  like most All-Star Games I was torn my feelings. Unlike my dad I am not an exclusivist regarding the American or National League. I have favorite teams and players in both leagues. Tonight my Giants have a number of starters on the field including the Starting Pitcher Matt Cain, Catcher Buster Posey, 3rd Baseman Pablo “The Panda” Sandoval and Outfielder Melky Cabrera.  The Giants contingent aided by the ballot stuffing San Francisco Fans dominated the game.

On the other hand the American League had three Orioles on it for the first time in a long time, Closer Jim Johnson, Catcher Matt Wieters and Outfielder Adam Jones. There are future Hall of Famers on the field including Atlanta Braves 3rd Baseman Chipper Jones who is played in his final All-Star Game and got a soft single in the top of the 6th inning.

Chipper Jones 

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=22978231&source=MLB

Justin Verlander was hit hard giving up 5 earned runs in the top of the 1st and Pablo Sandoval had a bases clearing triple. Joe Nathan of the Rangers pitched the 2nd inning and David Price of the Rays pitched the third while Matt Cain pitched 2 shut out innings and was relieved by Gio Gonzalez of the Cardinals. I hope that the game produces a great moment that will be replayed forever.

Managing the game for the National League is Tony LaRussa the now retired former Manager of the 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The American League Manager is Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers.

Pablo Sandoval hits a bases clearing Triple off Justin Verlander in the 1st Inning (Photo Getty Images)

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=22978523&topic_id=34326704

Well the National League won 8-0 led by a home run by Melky Cabrera in the top of the 4th inning. Five of the 8 National League runs were produced by members of the San Francisco Giants.  Cabrera was the Most Valuable Player and Matt Cain got the win.  It was a long night for the American League  especially with the pitchers due to pitch including National’s Stephen Strasburg, Met’s Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, Dodger’s ace Clayton Kershaw, and three closers, Jonathan Papelbon of the Phillies, Ardolis Chapman of the Reds and Craig Kimbrel of the Braves.  As Earl Weaver said “The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Perfect! Phillip Humber Joins Legends as He Pitches Perfect Game against Mariners

Phillip Humber doffs his Cap after his Perfect Game (Photo Steven Bissig US Presswire via USA Today)

Phillip Humber is not who you would have expected to be just the 21st pitcher in MLB history.  However, Humber who had the Tommy John Elbow surgery in 2005 and bounced between a number of teams became one of a select group of pitchers including such notables as Jim “Catfish” Hunter, David Cone, Sandy Koufax, Roy Halliday, Randy Johnson and Cy Young. Of course there are others including Dallas Braden who hails from my home town of Stockton California.

The perfect game is the most rare of baseball events. In over 390,000 games only 21 pitchers have pitched the perfect game which is about a perfect game every 18571 games or so, give or take a few since I am rounding the numbers here. As a comparison for hitters 286 players have hit for the cycle in a game.

It is rare enough that only one has been pitched in a World Series, that of Don Larsen who threw a perfect game in Game five of the 1956 World Series for the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Today Humber required just 97 pitches to dispose of the yet again hapless Seattle Mariners who cannot hit their way out of a wet paper bag. Humber struck out nine on the way to the win.  The final out was recorded when Brendan Ryan struck out on a checked swing which was ruled a strike but since the ball got away from Catcher A. J. Pierzynski the catcher had to retrieve it and make the throw out to first base to seal the win.

The South Texas born Humber seemed an unlikely candidate to pitch the first perfect game since 2010. He was a top prospect, the overall 3rd pick in the 2004 amateur draft, being picked by the Mets one pick after Detroit took Justin Verlander after playing college ball for Rice University. He had been struck in the face above his right eye with a line drive off the bat of Kosuke Fukodome on August 18th 2011. Before his career even really began he damaged his throwing elbow badly enough to have to have the Tommy John elbow ligament reconstruction surgery. He had been waived by teams twice and was pitching in only his 30th big league start. He had not thrown a MLB level shutout or for that matter a complete game.

The Kevin Costner film For the Love of the Game (1999) which is based on Michael Shaara’s The Perfect Game which was discovered after he died in 1988 and published in 1991is one of my favorite films and novels and I think captures how special this feat is for any pitcher. For the pitcher cannot allow a single base runner, not just giving up hits, but walks or runners that reach base due to defensive errors even those beyond control of the pitcher. A pitcher must pitch a complete game face 27 batters and get all of them out. It is a hard thing to do at any level and most difficult at the Major League level.

Humber was low key about his feat saying “This is awesome, I’m so thankful.’’ and “I don’t know that I dominated them, obviously the ball was hit at people. I’m thankful for that. It was a well-pitched game. Definitely something I’ll never forget.’’

Congratulations to Phil Humber and the White Sox. I hope for even more success for Humber who I consider a great example of sticking to something you love doing even when things are difficult.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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