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Down to the Wire: MLB’s Epic Wild Card September Continues to Amaze

B.J Upton and Evan Longoria greet Johnny Damon after a home run against the Blue Jays

What seemed like an impossible season finale less than a month ago is now reality. Four teams, two playoff spots and two games left.  The Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox have spent the month of September in a free fall.  Boston is 5 and 17 this month and the Braves are 9-16 their worst September since 1989.  This helped breathe life into the Wild Card races.  As the Braves and Red Sox collapsed the insurgent St. Louis Cardinals having been written off by everyone have pulled within a game of the Braves and would be in a tie if not for an extra inning loss to the woebegone Houston Astros last night. While the Braves collapse is bad the Red Sox collapse is bordering on epic.  The Tampa Bay Rays who were 9 games out at the beginning of the month moved even with the Sox last night when they defeated the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles continued their September dominance of a team that has over the past decade made their life a living hell.

Justin Pedroia after Monday’s loss in Baltimore

The Red Sox look like a defeated team; their words and body language only reinforce the image of defeat.  The Rays on the other hand appear confident and ready to win under the relaxed leadership of Manager Joe Maddon.  Rays Third Baseman Evan Longoria reflected that confidence after the Rays defeated the Yankees Monday night saying “We’re in the driver’s seat in our opinion. It’s our job just to go out there and win.”  To get in the playoffs Boston must win both of its final two games and pray that their arch rivals, the New York Yankees beat the Rays.  Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said “We’ve backed ourselves about as far as we can go,” after last night’s loss to the Orioles.   That loss was devastating as their best pitcher Josh Beckett lost and now the Red Sox must depend on the struggling Erik Bedard 5-9 3.50 ERA who lost his last outing against the Orioles tonight and possibly John Lester pitching on three days rest Wednesday. Lester 15-9 3.49 ERA has embodied the collapse of the Sox going just 1-5 with a 5.71 ERA in September.

Chris Carpenter and Darth Vader: Will the Cardinal Empire Strike Back? 

The Braves are up by one game but still face a daunting task.  They must win against the Philadelphia Phillies and hope that the Astros can defeat the Cardinals at least once in the next two games.  The Braves task is made harder because they face Phillies starter Roy Oswalt who is 1-0 in four starts with a 1.71 ERA against the Braves this season. Meanwhile the decimated starting rotation of the Braves must pitch the slumping Derek Lowe who has a 4.59 ERA and has lost 6 of his last 8 starts against the Phillies.  Lowe has had a miserable September has lost his last four starts and has an 8.24 ERA.  The Braves hitting has also failed them of late and to beat the Phillies their pitching staff and hitters must perform better than they have in September.  Braves legend Chipper Jones simply said “We have nobody to blame but ourselves for being in this present situation.”

Chipper Jones at the end of the 6th inning against the Phillies Monday Night

This certainly will be interesting to watch. As someone that follows the game and looks at statistics, records and history the month of September appears to be an epic month with not just one but possibly two teams losing what appeared to be insurmountable leads.  As a baseball fan I like to see the improbable happen. As an Orioles fan just hope that the Birds continue to beat the Sox.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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“Experts” Wrong, Padre Steve Right: Giants Win the Pennant! Defeat Phillies in Six to Advance to World Series

Ryan Howard looks as he is rung up on a called third strike as Buster Posey celebrates (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia Phillies and their fans looked on in stunned disbelief as a team of no-names, cast offs and some remarkable starting pitchers and relievers defeated the Phillies in six games to advance to the World Series.  Once again it was a nail-biting tension filled decision that would have driven the Dalia Lama to drink and drink heavily if he is a Giants fan.  It was a game that exemplified the Giants season, a comeback win in the late innings that came down to the Giants closer Brian Wilson against Phillies slugger Ryan Howard in a battle of power against power with two men on base and a full count and on that count he stuck the Phillies slugger out looking.

Juan Uribe hits the winning home run in game 6 (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The game started with the Phillies getting out to an early 2-0 lead in the 1st inning. Giants’ starter Jonathan Sanchez had trouble finding the plate and was hit early. Placido Polanco walked and took second on a wild pitch and scored on a Chase Utley double. Utley took third when Ryan Howard singled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jayson Werth. It looked like the Phillies were on their way to forcing a game seven and judging by the noise of the partisan Philadelphia crowd it seemed that the Giants just might get smacked around hard.  Sanchez was able to finish the inning and send the Phillies down in order in the second inning.  Phillies starter Roy Oswalt seemed in control early but the Giants tied the game in the third inning when Jonathan Sanchez hit a leadoff single and took second on a single by Andres Torres.  Freddy Sanchez then grounded out to advance the runners. Aubrey Huff singled to score Sanchez and Torres scored when Ryan Howard botched a ground ball by Buster Posey.

Fear the Beard: Brian Wilson throws in the 8th inning (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The bottom of the 3rd inning was interesting as Sanchez hit Chase Utley with a pitch to the back. Utley seemed to innocently pick up the ball and lob it back to the mound. A stare down and words between Utley and Sanchez resulted which escalated to words and then benches cleared as both teams took the field to be broken up by the umpire crew and cooler heads on both teams. Bruce Bochy took the angry Sanchez out of the game and send in Jeremy Affeldt who sent the Phillies down in order.

Let the celebration begin: Brian Wilson and Buster Posey great each other after striking out Ryan Howard (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The game settled down as neither team could get their offense going although both teams had chances in the 4th and 5th innings.  Affeldt retired the Phillies in order in the 4th inning and was relieved by Madison Bumgarner.  Bumgarner gave up a leadoff single to Jimmy Rollins and then retired Placido Polanco and Chase Utley on fly balls. Ryan Howard slammed a double to left center which sent Rollins to third.  Bochy had Bumgarner intentionally walk Jayson Werth to get to Shane Victorino who grounded harmlessly to Bumgarner to end the inning.  In the bottom of the 6th Bumgarner gave up a leadoff double to Raul Ibanez who went to 3rd base on a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Carlos Ruiz but was left stranded when Bumgarner struck out Ben Francisco and got Rollins to fly out to end the inning.

Unlikely and improbable victors (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Ryan Madson relieved Oswalt in the 7th and was able to keep the Giants off the board in that inning while Giants’ reliever Javier Lopez came in for the bottom frame and got Polanco to Fly out, Utley to ground out and sent Ryan Howard down swinging. The game went to the top of the 8th inning still knotted at two runs apiece and Madson came back out to pitch the top of the 8th.  Madson has been a one inning reliever all year so this was a change for him. He retired Pat Burrell on a ground out and Cody Ross on a deep fly ball to left which brought Juan Uribe to the plate. Uribe had jammed his right hand sliding into first in game one of the NLCS and sat out game two and took a pitch off the same hand in game five.  Uribe took Madson yard on a fly ball which kept going and tailing away in right field until it cleared the wall by a couple of feet.  The Phillies and their fans went silent as Uribe rounded the bases and scored the go ahead run.

Phillies look on in the 9th as hope fades away (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Giants brought in starter Tim Lincecum into the game to pitch the bottom half of the 8th and he struck out Jayson Werth to begin the inning. He then gave up consecutive singles to Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez and was lifted for closer Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson. Wilson got Carlos Ruiz to line out to first baseman Aubrey Huff who threw to second to double up Victorino for the final out of the inning.

Buster Posey helps hold up the NL Championship trophy (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Phillies sent out closer Brad Lidge in the top of the 9th inning to keep the game close and he did that though things did get a bit sporty for the Phillies when the Giants had runners on second and third with 2 outs with Buster Posey at the plate and Wilson on deck. Charlie Manuel had Lidge intentionally walk Posey to load the bases and Wilson grounded out to first to end the inning causing the entire Phillies nation to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

In the 9th inning Giants fans were treated to another inning of Giants’ baseball sometimes known as “torture ball.”  Wilson got the leadoff batter, pinch hitter Ross Gload to ground out and then walked Jimmy Rollins.  Rollins advanced to second on a ground ball fielder’s choice by Polanco and Wilson then walked Chase Utley to put runners on first and second to bring up slugger Ryan Howard who worked to count to a full count before going down looking on a called strike three to end the game. Silence engulfed the stadium as the Phillies and their fans sat or stood in stunned disbelief, a few boos were heard but the bulk of the noise in the stadium came from a group of cast offs, has beens and never weres who were dismissed for much of the season by almost every baseball expert, even the series MVP Cody Ross was sent home by the Florida Marlins before being picked up by the Giants in August.

Picked by most to finish no better than 3rd in the NL West the Giants were 7 games back of the Padres at the beginning of August.  They won the division on the last day of the season, defeated the Braves in the NLDS and were picked to lose the NLCS to the Phillies in 5 or 6 games by the same experts who gave them no chance at the beginning of the season.  Even in the pre-game show the commentators were picking the Phillies to force a game seven which the Phillies of course would win, I think hoping against hope to justify themselves.  I on the other hand picked the Giants to win by looking at the numbers, match ups and statistics as well as the psychological factor that the Giants had nothing to lose because all the experts were saying that they had no chance. I really think that the Phillies believed the experts.

I said that it would come down to pitching and in this both teams were pretty evenly matched with the Giants having a slightly better team ERA of 3.06 to the Phillies staff 3.08.  However the Phillies continued not to hit the ball well just as they did in the NLDS against Cincinnati, where only 7 of the 13 runs that they scored were earned runs.   The Phillies mustered 20 runs of which 18 were earned s opposed to the Giants total of 19 runs of which 18 were earned.  The Phillies hit a dismal .218 for the series collecting only 41 hits and the scrappy Giants hit .244 with 49 hits.  The Giants had a better on base percentage and better slugging percentage than the Phillies in this series.  This did not surprise me because of the Phillies dismal hitting in the NLDS and the fact that the Phillies and Giants had very similar numbers in all departments of offense except for stolen bases in the regular season. The experts had sold a myth that the Phillies were a massively better offensive team that would not let the Giants pitching staff get away with anything but the numbers told a different story a Phillies team that had a regular season batting average of .260 and 166 home runs and 1451 hits with a .745 OPS (on base+ slugging percentage) going up a Giants team that hit .257 with 162 home runs, 1411 hits and a .729 OPS.  The Phillies did score more runs than the Giants during the regular season but one always has to weigh run-production with the other numbers. I think that many people simply saw that the Phillies had 75 more regular season runs than the Giants and assumed that they would pound the Giants pitching anytime a Giants’ pitcher made a mistake.  They didn’t seem to look at the fact that the teams split their season series 3-3 and that the Phillies won two of those games in the Giants’ worst month of the season which was August.

Padre Steve Celebrates the Giants’ win and his prediction

The Giants now go home to face the Rangers in Game One of the 2010 World Series. I am sure that once again that they will be dismissed.  I will analyze the series as thoroughly as I did the NLCS and make my pick later in the week putting my obvious bias for the Giants aside in order to make an accurate pick.  Until then my friends have a great Sunday and great week.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Lemony Snickets: Phillies Double-up Giants to Force Game Six in Philly

Roy Hallady gutted out his first win against the Giants of the season (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

It was a pitchers’ matchup on a soggy San Francisco night when two of the most feared pitchers in baseball faced each other. This time it was Roy Halladay who got the breaks as both pitchers ground their way through batter after batter in a constant battle. The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the first inning but fell behind in the third inning on what could be best described as a “Lemony Snickets Series of Unfortunate events that included a flare single, a foul bunt that was ruled fair and an inexplicable by Aubrey Huff error that scored runs. This was added to when Cody Ross got himself thrown out at 3rd base on a fly out to Jayson Werth with only one out which ended the inning and a Giants’ threat.

Cody Ross tagged out by Placido Polanco  (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Roy Halladay was forced deep into the count on almost every batter and struggled through much of the six innings that he pitched but benefitted by the grossly unusual third inning which like so many innings this post season continues to lead me down the evil path of replay with an “eye in the sky umpire” who is part of the Umpire crew and could reverse obviously missed calls.  Not the silly NFL style replay but something that would take under a minute as the “eye in the sky” would have a direct link to the crew chief on the field.  There have been few games this post season without some grossly distorted bad call and Baseball will have to face the music as if it were not for great performances that caused people to forget almost every team in the post season has seen bad calls against them that in some cases influenced how the games played out, as was the case on Thursday on Halladay’s bunt. 

Tim Lincecum pitched well allowing two earned runs on 4 hits striking out 7 and walking only one in 7 innings work but was sabotaged by the bad call on the foul bunt as well as the costly error by Huff and the base running mistake by Cody Ross.

Jayson Werth added a needed insurance run in the top of the 9th to secure the win and the Phillies finally got a solid outing from their bullpen following Halladay’s departure at the end of the 6th inning.

The series now heads back to Philadelphia with the Giants up 3-2 with Jonathan Sanchez facing Roy Oswalt.  This could be interesting because Oswalt pitched his normal practice day on Wednesday and then went into Wednesday’s game in the 9th inning surrendering the winning run as the Giants were able to hit him with impunity.  With the exception of Werth’s home run Phillies hitters were still anemic with Ryan Howard going 0-4 and the team only mustering six hits. 

This series will be good; I predicted the Giants in 7 but think that they will bounce back and take it in six on Saturday night.

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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Phillies and Oswalt Down Giants 6-1 Even Series

Roy Oswalt shut down the Giants givig up just three hits in 8 innings (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Philadelphia Phillies smarting from their game one loss against the San Francisco Giants evened the NLCS with a 6-1 win on Sunday night.  The game was actually much closer than the final score would indicate as the Giants were only down 2-1 until the bottom of the 7th inning when the Phillies chased Jonathan Sanchez from the game scoring their third run against the Giants starter.  With no outs the Giants sent in Ramon Ramirez who gave allowed a sacrifice bunt, a intentional walk and a single to score Roy Oswalt. With one out Jeremy Affeldt relieved Ramirez and the normally solid Affeldt after striking out Ryan Howard with two runners on base intentionally walked Jayson Werth to get to the slumping Jimmy Rollins loading the bases.  Rollins though delivered a double to right center which cleared the bases to give the Phillies a 6-1 lead.

Cody Ross goes yard for the third time in the NLCS (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Roy Oswalt continued his stellar performance since coming to the Phillies holding the Giants to one run, a home run by Cody Ross and just 3 hits while striking out 9 batters.  Oswalt got the win and Sanchez the loss, his first against the Phillies this year.  The series resumes in San Francisco on Tuesday afternoon with Phillies ace Cole Hamels on the hill to face Matt Cain and the sea of orange and black at AT&T Park. I picked this series to go 7 games so it should be interesting.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tortureball: Lincecum and Giants Shock Phillies 4-3 as Ross Homers Twice

Tim Lincecum defeats the Phillies in game one of the NLCS Saturday (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The underdog San Francisco Giants went into Philadelphia with all the experts predicting them to lose. Instead Tim “the Freak” Lincecum, Giants relievers and Cody “I can hit clutch home runs” Ross defeated the Phillies on Saturday night. The atmosphere in the ballpark was charged the entire game as the Giants won in yet another one run game as the Giants treated their fans to another evening of torture.

Roy Halladay gets his first playoff loss of 2010 the victim of 2 Cody Ross home runs (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

In the bottom of the third inning Roy Hallady gave up a solo home run to Cody Ross to give the Giants a 1-0 lead after retiring the first seven Giants batter. Tim Lincecum gave up a home run to Carlos Ruiz in the bottom of the third to tie the game at one.  The score was tied until the 5th inning when Cody Ross slammed his second home run off of Halladay a one out pitch into the left field seats for a 2-1 Giants lead.  The Giants increase their lead in the top of the 6th inning when with two outs they got a rally going. With two outs Buster Posey singled and scored on a double by Pat Burrell who was lifted for a pinch runner in the form of Nate Schierholtz. Juan Uribe then singled to score Schierholtz and give the Giants a 3-1 lead.

Cody Ross hits his second home run off Roy Hallady in the 5th inning (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Phillies came back with two runs in the bottom of the 6th when Jayson Werth hammered a two run home run into the right field seats. The game then became a duel of relievers as both Lincecum and Halladay exited the game after 7 innings. In the 9th Phillies closer Brad Lidge loaded the bases but was able to get out of the jam while Javier Lopez and Brian Wilson were able to shut down the Phillies with Wilson striking out the side in the 9th to secure the win. Tim Lincecum got the win for the Giants and Roy Halladay the loss.  Brian Wilson who led the majors in saves with 48 got his third save of the playoffs.

Fear the Beard: Brian Wilson strikes out 4 of 4 Phillies to get the save (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Tomorrow Jonathan Sanchez will face Roy Oswalt who was roughed up by the Reds in the NLDS. Sanchez has beaten the Phillies twice this year while Oswalt has beaten the Giants once. It should be an interesting matchup.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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Padre Steve’s MLB LCS Picks

The Vicar of the Church of Baseball Harbor Park Parish makes his LCS Predictions

Well baseball fans it is time to pick who I think will be in the 2010 World Series.  This year we have the heavyweights, the New York Yankees the defending World Series Champions and the Philadelphia Phillies who won the Series in 2008. The Yankees will be facing the upstart Texas Rangers who are fresh off their first playoff series victory in franchise history while the Phillies face the irrepressible collection of unknown underdogs the San Francisco Giants.

The NLCS

“The main idea is to win.” John McGraw

Roy Halladay no-hit the Reds has his worst record against the Giants of any team that he has faced more than 3 times

Both of these series will be fascinating to watch and should provide baseball fans with some memorable moments. The teams took different paths to get the LCS.  The Phillies as expected took the NL East in a convincing manner going 97-65 in the regular season and having one of the best trios of starting pitchers seen in the Majors for a long time.  The Phillies defeated the Cincinnati Reds sweeping the Big Red Machine in the NLDS.  Despite this the Phillies, apart from the great pitching of Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels were not impressive hitting only .212 against a rather lackluster Reds pitching staff. The Phillies scored only 13 runs on 16 hits in that series, just a fraction above 4 runs a game but only 7 of those 13 runs were earned runs, the rest came as a result of the Reds abdication of something that is known as defense. To skew the numbers even more 4 of those earned runs came in a 1.2 inning period against Reds game one starter Edinson Volquez. Remove those 4 runs and the Phillies scored just 3 earned runs in 25 innings. The Phillies had a .301 OBP and an anemic .273 SLG against the Reds. In the series the Phillies had just one home run, that coming from Chase Utley who led the team in RBIs with 4 in the series. Only one other player had more than 1 RBI and that was Shane Victorino with three. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley led the team’s position players tied with a .273 batting average. Phillies starters had a 1.17 ERA while the team staff had a collection 1.00 ERA.

Jonathan Sanchez beat the Phillies twice in 2010 in a convincing manner (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Giants are the dark horse of the playoffs in fact if you look at all of the “expert” predictions no one had the Giants finishing better than 4th in the NL West behind the Padres, Dodgers and Rockies. The team was a collection of no-names at the start of the season save their starting pitching rotation of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez.  During the regular season and at the trading deadline the Giants went and picked up a bunch of journeymen rejected by other teams leading Padres ace Matt Latos to call them a team made up of “mercenaries.” Since the Giants have gotten little respect most of the year why should they now? The Giants went 92-70 in the NL West taking the division on the last day of the season from their nemesis the San Diego Padres.  The Giants get to the NLCS after gutting it out in four one run games against the Atlanta Braves, a team so evenly matched in most departments in a series that was arguably one of the most filled with tension and exciting in recent divisional series history.  Like the Phillies the Giants hitting was weak hitting .212 and scoring 11 runs 7 of which were earned on 23 hits. Rookie Buster Posey led the team in hitting with a .375 batting average followed by Cody Ross at .286 and Aubrey Huff at .267.  The Giants had a .288 OBP and .295 SLG against the Braves. Giants starting pitchers had a .089 ERA in the series and the team staff had a collective 1.66 ERA.

In the Regular season the Phillies went 97-65 but there is a caveat 25 of those 97 wins came against the Nationals and Marlins. Remove those two teams stats out of the equation and the Phillies are 72-54 against the rest of the league.  The undoubtedly a great record but over a quarter of Phillies wins came against two bad opponents. Now I am not dissing the Phillies in any way as it would have been criminal if they even were close to having a .500 record against them. The Giants went 92-70 and like the Phillies they beat up on their division’s cellar dweller the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 13-5 record.  The only team in the league that had the Giants’ number was the Padres who the Giants edged out on the last day of the season for the Division title.

Playing against common NL opponents the Phillies went 84-54 against the Giants went 82-57 and the teams were 3 and 3 against each other in 2010.  In those 6 games the Phillies had 28 runs to the Giants 27, 45 hits compared to 60 for the Giants and 2 errors against the Giants 4.  But I think the real key is how the starting pitchers did in head to head matchups against the opposing team and I find these numbers to be interesting.

W-L             IP       H         ER      BB      SO      HR         ERA

Hamels     Phi      0-1             20        11        9        5        15         1         4.05

Sanchez    SF        2-0            13       5         2        6         8         0             1.38

Cain           SF        0-1           6        7        5        1          4         1               7.50

Blanton     Phi      1-0           6.1     8        2         2         7         2              2.95

Zito            SF        0-1          5          8        4         4         0         0             7.20

Oswalt      Phi       1-0          7           6        3          3        7        2             3.86

Lincecum   SF       0-0          8.1        3         2         2        1       11           2.22

Moyer        Phi      0-1          6          10        4         4        1        2            6.00

Wellmeyer  SF      1-0          7           3          2         2        4        0           5.27

Halladay      Phi      0-1        7           10        5         5         0        1           6.43

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

In the coming series the pitching rotations tentatively have Lincecum against Hallady in game one, Sanchez against Oswalt in game 2, Cain against Hamels in game 3 and Bumgarner against Blanton in game 4. Both managers have not ruled out pitching either Halladay or Lincecum on short rest. The Giants have a stronger bullpen but Giants closer was banged around by the Phillies worse than any of his other opponents.

Padre Steve’s NLCS Pick

I think this series goes 7 games and I hate to try to pick a winner based on these numbers. All the experts are picking the Phillies in 5 or 6 games but I don’t know if they will manage that based on the statistics. My heart lies with the Giants but the Phillies do have more pop in their bats. In the starting pitching it looks like the Giants have the edge in the head to head match ups.  Also the Giants did not have a good number of new players in their first two games against the Phillies. I am going to be the odd guy out and I will probably be wrong but I am going with the Giants to upset the Phillies in seven simply because the Giants have nothing to lose in this series, none of the real experts expects them to win. I expect Lincecum and Sanchez to be the difference and for Hamels and Halladay not to do as well against the Giants as they have the Reds and their own division. If the Giants lose the series then people will say that I didn’t know what I was talking about and forget these picks by game one of the World Series. If not people will say that I am a genius or incredibly luck. Either way I’m okay with this pick.

The ALCS

“You got to get twenty-seven outs to win.” Casey Stengel

Cliff Lee Owns the Yankees (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

In the ALCS we have the Yankees (95-67) looking to secure their chance to get in the World Series and win in for the 28th time going up against the playoff novice Texas Rangers (90-72).  The Rangers walked away in a weak AL West race and the Yankees finished as the Wild Card winner just behind the Division champs, the now eliminated Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees rolled by the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS humiliating the Twinkies again proving as I said in my ALDS prediction that the Twins can’t beat the Yankees with a stick.  The Rangers defeated the Rays in a close series that went the full five games with their ace, Cliff Lee being the difference maker. The Yankees swept the Twins in a one sided series where they outscored the Twins 17-7 and outhit them 36-21 with their pitching staff having a 1.73 ERA against the Twinkies.  Phil Hughes was dominate in 7 innings work in game three while Andy Pettitte showed that he had recovered from injury and was effective in game two. C.C. Sabathia was banged around in game one but had the good fortune to have Yankees hitters come on strong. Mariano Rivera was simply lights out.

The Rangers won the AL West and faced the AL East champion the Tampa Bay Rays. This was the only series to go five games and the first division series to do so since 2005.  It was also a series where no home team won a game on its own field, so much for home field advantage.  In the series the 21 runs on 44 hits and committed 5 errors against the Rays 13 runs on 37 hits and 5 errors.  The Rangers pitching staff had a 2.40 ERA and was led by Cliff Lee and C. J. Wilson.  Lee was 2-0 in the series going 16 innings giving up 2 runs on 11 hits with a 1.13 ERA.

Mariano Rivera and the Yankees look to down the Rangers and try for their 28th World Series Title (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

In the regular season the Yankees went 84-60 and the Rangers went 76-68 against common AL opponents.  The teams went head to head 8 times splitting 4 games each. The Yankees swept the Rangers in mid-April and split a pair in mid August with the Rangers sweeping the Yankees at home in September. The Yankees pitching staff gave up 33 earned runs on 51 hits in those 8 games with a 4.23 ERA against the Rangers.  The Rangers pitching staff gave up 37 earned runs on 63 hits with a 4.62 ERA. The only pitcher to completely dominate the Yankees was Cliff Lee just as he did in the 2009 World Series when he was with the Phillies.

The Rangers had a regular season team ERA of 3.93 giving up 636 earned runs, 163 home runs and 551 walks.  In the hitting department the Rangers had a .276 team batting average, a .338 OBP and .491 SLG driving in 787 runs on 1556 hits of which 455 were extra base hits including 162 home runs.

The Yankees pitching staff had a team ERA of 4.06 giving up 651 earned runs and 179 home runs.  The Yankees hitters had a .267 team batting average, a .350 OBP (the best in the AL) and a .436 SLG producing 859 runs on 1485 hits including 508 extra base hits of which 201 were home runs.

Padre Steve’s ALCS pick

All things considered the teams match up well but no matter how well Cliff Lee pitches I see the Rangers losing in 6 games. However if the Series goes to 7 games and the Rangers can pitch Cliff Lee a third time I think that they will steal the AL Pennant from the Yankees, but they have to get to game 7 or they will not will the series.  My pick is the Yankees in 7 setting up an old fashioned World Series between two historic franchises the San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees. What baseball fan besides Phillies and Rangers fans wouldn’t want to see that?  The last time the Giants and Yankees faced off in the World Series was 1951 when the Giants were still in New York which the Yankees won as well as 1936 and 1937 both of which were captured by the Yankees. One has to go back to 1921 and 1922 for the last times that the Giants defeat the Yankees in the Series, the last time that the Giants won a series was 1954 against the Indians.  A Giants and Yankees series might even bring back the ghosts of baseball past who will float into the New Yankee Stadium and AT&T Park remembering the old Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds with great fondness while those still living from the 1951 series like Willie Mays and Yogi Berra see their successors battle it our.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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