For a baseball fan, this is the time of year offers the greatest intensity as well as the prospect of a winter that will be too long. Beginning on Wednesday is the end of the annual major league grind.
The post-season saw baseball’s hottest team, Oakland, fall to Detroit, and possibly the game’s youngest, “what are we doing here?” club, Washington, bow to a classic “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over” team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants were handing the Reds their first three-game losing streak at home, coming from two-down to take their five-game National League Divisional Series. The Yankees put away the upstart Baltimore Orioles in a hard-fought max-limit ALDS.
The Tigers took care of the Yankees with quality pitching – oh sure, you can say the Bronx Bombers simply bombed – in a four-game sweep. The Pinstripes were obliterated by Jason Verlander and the rest of Detroit’s staff, save Jose Valverde, who allowed four of the Yankees six runs in only 2/3 of an inning. Verlander was joined by Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, and Max Scherzer in silencing the Yankee bats.
As tonight moves forward, Cardinals will put the ball in Kyle Lohse’s capable right hand, and Matt Cain will take the mound for the Giants. When all is said and done, we will have enjoyed seeing the NLCS going seven games.
No matter who faces Detroit, pitching will be the key to the Series. Bruce Bochy has managed San Fran’s staff and bullpen remarkably well. Mike Matheny can take out a starter and bring in a better arm seemingly every time he has to make a call to the ‘pen. The Cardinals feature incredible velocity out of the bullpen, and none of them seem to have any fear of the moment.
How about Detroit’s pitching? Their starters are just as nasty as the Cardinals’ relief corps. Incredible stuff. Should the Giants make the World Series, Bochy will be making all the chess moves – actually, he’s very good at card games – with a staff that may not have the electric arms of the Tigers’ starters or Cards’ bullpen, but know how to pitch. And he has three lefties that fill important roles after his starters are pulled. The Cards will throw arms at you, the Giants will throw matchups at you.
And there’s no telling how it will go. I doubt the World Series will be over in four games. There’s too much good pitching from the three remaining clubs. Neither National League team knows how to lie down, they just keep playing the game until they figure out a way to win. The Tigers scratched and clawed their way past the Athletics, winning in Oakland on a four-hit shutout by Verlander in the fifth and deciding game of the series. So, none of the teams remaining in the World Series’ hunt really know how to lose.
There will probably be an unsung hero that comes through with a clutch hit somewhere along the way. A simple, seemingly routine play that is botched could turn the key to a club’s success. The potential for a seven-game series is very real, and there will be no such thing as feeling comfortable until the very last out is recorded. That might sound cliché, but with the post-season history of Detroit, St. Louis, and San Francisco, it’s very real.
For me? I’m hoping for the Giants to face off with the Tigers, and go seven games. I have a vested interest in both clubs, and will attempt to simply watch Bochy make his moves quietly, and effectively, and at the same time see Prince Fielder hit laser after laser as he bats behind baseball’s best hitter this year in Miguel Cabrera.
And if, in fact the Giants don’t make the final cut, it will be great to see the true professionalism of the Cardinals match up with Detroit. Then, I can simply look for Fielder to do what I saw him do many years ago as a high school kid. But no matter who makes it for the NL, or who takes home the ring, I plan to enjoy the last series of the season that began back in spring training. And I’ll be looking forward to next year’s spring training to open up.
- There’s no way to handicap the Series for me. All three managers have pushed the right buttons. As I have said before, the only button you really can’t push at this time of the season is the panic button. Mike Matheny, Bruce Bochy, and Jim Leyland have all put their players in the position to win, and allowed their talent to take center stage.
- How good is Prince Fielder? Look at the two guys who have hit in front of him: Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera. MVP/slugging types who have benefitted from his protection in the lineup. It makes me wonder how good Prince’s numbers would be if he had someone like Braun or Cabrera to hit behind him…
- Is Marco Scutaro ridiculous in this series with St. Louis? It seems like he’s always at bat when the Giants need a run, and he always has a line drive available to help the team.
- Want to see a guy who can flat-out rake in the post-season? Look no further than Carlos Beltran of St. Louis? He has a lifetime .367 batting average, and a totally ridiculous OPS of 1.273. Sick, in a good way.
- All three clubs have excellent pitching, but each staff looks different. I’ve spoken about their differences above, but isn’t it interesting to see how different styles can all lead to great results?
The seventh game of the NLCS has just started. The sun is shining, and it’s 62 degrees in San Francisco at game time. And it’s time for me to sit back and enjoy it. Hope you do as well.
Have a baseball question you would like a coach’s opinion on? Leave it in the comments or send it via Twitter to @Aerys_MLB or @WayneTyson11.
Our coach is Wayne Tyson, who was a high school and community college baseball coach for 26 years including six years at Florida Air Academy. His FAA team won the Florida Class 3A State Championship in 1998 and was runner-up in 1999, when the team included freshman Prince Fielder. Wayne currently writes for Cowbell Clankers, the Aerys Sports home of the Tampa Bay Rays.