Category Archives: League Division Series

Game Five in St. Louis: Pirates vs. Cardinals

Gerrit+Cole+Pittsburgh+Pirates+v+St+Louis+PholE4a-mtfl

They don’t get much bigger than this one tonight. The classic David vs. Goliath story: the over-achieve Pirates who haven’t been here in 20+ years against the team that has seemingly been here dozens of times it seems like in recent history.

I’m giving the Pirates way more of a chance to win this one than the rest of the general public is. They have a shot, based on the fact that I think they’re a scrappy bunch that has responded and risen to the occasion all year long when they were counted out by others and Cole is an electric arm that could do exactly what Michael Wacha did in game four. You build a small lead, let Cole shove off for seven or eight inning and ask the bullpen for six or less outs; there just isn’t much St. Louis can do.

St. Louis as an organization and Adam Wainwright especially has been here so many times it seems almost inconceivable that anyone in their right mind would pick the Pirates to advance to the NLCS. If they do, we’ve got a good surprise for you readers. If not, it was a hell of a season for the Buccos.

But I can assure you – the guys in that Pirate dugout under Clint Hurdle are not scared. They think they’re going to win tonight. They believe they’re the better team and they’ve been given this hope because they’ve beaten the Cardinals in 2013 enough times to know that this is a true coin-flip game.

This is going to be a tremendous game.

Juan Uribe hits a legendary home run to win the Dodgers an unbelievable game

Juan+Uribe+Atlanta+Braves+v+Los+Angeles+Dodgers+YEBfSk0mCDSl

[ESPN Los Angeles]

They don’t get much bigger then the two-run shot that Juan Uribe hit in Los Angeles to send the Braves home and send the Dodgers to a 4-3 victory and the NLCS. I’ve seen enough. It’s the Dodgers year.

It wasn’t like they drew it up. Freddie Garcia matched Clayton Kershaw for six innings. The Dodgers gave up the lead in the 7th inning, and trailed by that score until the bottom of the 8th when Yasiel Puig came to face David Carpenter. Carpenter got a couple great pitches by Puig for strikes and in a two-strike count, Puig energized the Dodgers as he’s done time and again this year.

Freddie Freeman was not guarding the foul line in a no-doubles defense, and Puig laced a double down the line that was cut off by Jordan Schafer – and Puig’s incredible speed was evidenced by legging out the double. Uribe failed to get down a couple of bunts and reminded the world that he could be the worst bunter among regulars in the big leagues.

A few seconds later, Uribe caught a letter-high fastball from Carpenter that landed in the Dodgers bullpen. If you’ve been watching baseball for any amount of time, you knew that was a crushing blow. The Braves were broken with that moment.

Kenley Jansen came on in the ninth, blew away Schafer, Heyward, and Justin Upton and the Braves season was over.

There is a magic surrounding the Dodgers. Carl Crawford hit two home runs in this game to put the Dodgers ahead 2-0 early, but the Braves battled back opportunistically when the Dodgers made mistakes in the field, namely by Adrian Gonzalez.

This loss is not an indictment of the Braves honey bear manager, Fredi Gonzalez. He’s definitely horrific, and it’s not surprising that his teams seem to always face this collapsing fate. But the Braves and Gonzalez couldn’t have managed this much differently. Carpenter was throwing gas. Sometimes, Juan Uribe just homers.

The Dodgers await the opponent they will devour, either the Cardinals or the Pirates. Whoever it is will be next to be fed to the monster that is the LA Dodgers.

Uribe-HR

The Los Angeles Dodgers are The Real Deal

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[Box Score]

The Dodgers proved that they’re the team to beat in the National League last night, by overcoming an early 2-0 deficit to the Atlanta Braves and a rocky start by Hyun-Jin Ryu in his playoff debut to win 13-6 in the first Dodger Stadium playoff game of 2013.

Observations:

  • Julio Teheran came out throwing hard, but was leaving balls down the middle of the plate. The Dodgers did exactly what they needed to do in facing him by having quality at-bats and not panicking when they fell behind early. Teheran worked himself into a high-stress inning in the bottom of the 2nd, and with the bases loaded Ryu hit a line drive that almost got over the head of Justin Upton. The poke by the pitcher got the Dodgers on the board, and they never looked back. The next hitter up (Carl Crawford) hit a three-run home run into the right field bullpen, Dodgers lead 4-2.
  • The Braves proved to be nothing if not resilient. Ryu made a few blusters to let them back in it. He missed first base on what should have been a double play and errantly threw home on a tapper back to him. The Braves tied the game at 4-4, and then the Dodgers bats continued the outpour.
  • Yasiel Puig had three hits, line drives to left-center, center, and right field. He scored three times and drove in three runs. Here’s one of those rapier shots. In true Yasiel Puig fashion, he has six hits in his first three postseason games.
  • Hanley Ramirez is absolutely on fire. The Dodgers heart of the order is laying waste to the Atlanta pitching staff; factor in that Juan Uribe also hit a home run and that’s a pretty terrifying four bats in the middle of the Dodgers order.
  • The Dodgers really got into the Atlanta bullpen. Jordan Walden had to throw an extended workload and Alex Wood was in long-relief. That should give the Dodgers an edge today if things are close in a late situation. Conversely, the Dodgers had to use Kenley Jansen to close out the game because Atlanta mounted a min-rally in the ninth.
  • The game didn’t seem the same without Vin Scully calling it. It just didn’t feel right watching a baseball game at Dodger Stadium of such magnitude without Vincent narrating it.

The Dodgers go with Ricky Nolasco tonight and the Braves counter with Freddy Garcia. Freddy Garcia was throwing in the big leagues the year I got my driver’s license. I don’t see how Atlanta could win this game with the way the Dodgers have been swinging it, unless of course the game of baseball decides to rear it’s ugly head and they beat themselves. I bet on the over 7.5 in this one tonight at 9:30 at Chavez Ravine. It’s going to be another late night.

Big Game in Los Angeles Tonight

footlong

The Dodger Dogs will be flowing.

HUGE game going down in a few hours in SoCal.

Dodger Stadium plays host to game three of the NLDS between the Braves and the Dodgers. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Julio Teheran oppose one another. The loser of this game is in huge trouble. I haven’t been able to watch this series like I’ve wanted – but that’s going to change tonight.

Football takes a back seat, and October baseball is going on the tube in the family room come 8:00 PM ET. This is going to be a great game.

Sonny Gray looks the part of Superstar

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[Box Score]

Sonny Gray has the name of a star and shined last night in his MLB postseason debut. He out-dueled Justin Verlander in one of the better baseball games in recent history. Gray went eight strong shutout innings and struck out nine holding the game scoreless and allowing the A’s to steal a 1-0 victory in the bottom of the ninth.

And perhaps Gray ends up being the great young arm that a guy like Rich Harden could never be consistently for Oakland. From the first time we saw him pitch (his MLB debut in relief in Pittsburgh) we thought he had electric stuff despite having a small frame. Gray is the type of arm that could get the A’s on a roll all the way through the postseason.

Yasiel Puig is on the board in the MLB Playoffs

YasielNLDS

[Game One]
[Game Two]

The Los Angeles Dodgers are my playoff horse for a couple of reasons. I’ve been saying they’re going to the World Series since June, and they’ve got the most electric player in the game in their lineup. For these reasons, and so I can maintain interest in my favorite sport with my team eliminated; we’ll follow Los Angeles’ journey through the playoffs.

Yasiel Puig opened his playoff career by going 2 for 4 in Los Angeles’ 6-1 win in Atlanta. Tonight he went 1 for 4 in Atlanta’s 4-3 win.

Sunday night will serve as the big break even game at Chavez Ravine.

They’ve played two games, nothing has been decided, and now it’s a best of three series to decide whose season ends. The Dodgers are going to get this done.

<3 Tommy

Yes, You Choked; Yes, I’m Still Proud of You

This was the toughest loss I’ve ever had to swallow in baseball; or in sports.

For as long as I live, I’ll never forget this. I’ll never get over it. It will never be easier to accept. It will always sting. It now exists as a spot place-marked forever in my life; an irreversible eternity. Never again in my life will I allow myself to think “hey, we might really have a shot to win the whole damn thing”. Not after this. If this team couldn’t do it, I’ll never be sold again.

The Reds made the kind of history you do not want to make yesterday afternoon in Cincinnati in losing 6-4 to the San Francisco Giants.

Sometimes in loss we learn the most about ourselves.

I have never in my life seen a team scratch, claw, and fight with such life or death desperation as the Reds did after getting down 6-0 yesterday. The image that will forever stick with me yesterday was Ryan Hanigan immediately when Buster Posey connected with his grand slam home run. Don’t watch Latos. Don’t watch the crowd behind him. Don’t look at the hitter or the ball’s flight. Watch Hanigan.

I have never seen a catcher react that way to a ball in play in all my years watching the game. Hanigan turns in immediate pain, anguish, and disgust and swings his arm in angst. He knows when Posey connects that it was the kill shot. The Reds at that moment probably knew they were dead. But like a cowboy in an old Western whose gut-shot, they kept shooting until they drew their last breath.

For instance; when Jay Bruce got down 0-2 in the ninth inning, he decides that even in defeat; he’s going to make the Giants closer earn it.

What ensues after Bruce gets down 0-2 in the last frame of the game and the Reds down to their final two outs of the season, was one of the gutsiest things I’ve ever seen in watching sports my entire life.

Bruce proceeds to battle Sergio Romo for 12 pitches in total as if he’s battling a damn lion or dragon. He stubbornly fouls off pitch after pitch, laying off many off-speed pitches that have long been to Bruce’s liking. As the at-bat wears onward, you realize Bruce is doing more than just trying to come up with a big swing that will result in a 3-run homer. He’s battling for himself, for his teammates, for all of us fans, and for what might have been his manager’s swansong. I don’t know what Bruce was thinking during the course of that at-bat where the Giants continually stayed away from his big time power to right field. I can only think he knew he owed it to everyone who hadn’t lost hope.

Bruce eventually flies out to right field, and the Reds came up short. But I had chills for much of that at-bat. It was a moment based on sheer will and determination. It was what baseball was all about. One man competing against another, knowing his probable fate but refusing to just roll over and die.

Forever etched in our memories is something different. I will never forget the hurt of this series collapse, but I’ll always know that the team I rooted the hardest for and held the closest to my heart fought like Hell for a different outcome, even when it would have been easiest to quit.

Like often the man who spends his days writing about them and living and dying with them, they just came up tragically short.

Get me (us) this game today, and I’ll never speak ill of you again

Mike Leake firmly entrenched himself on my shit list long ago. Mistreatment of the fan base, flippant attitude, and then the whole stealing merchandise from Macy’s incident helped to earn him the coveted spot as my least favorite Cincinnati Red. Not to mention he’s the only pro athlete who has ever actually blocked me on twitter!

But I come offering an olive branch of sorts. I’m willing to forever bury the hatchet. If Mike Leake can just win today’s game–you all have my WORD (strong as an oak) that I’ll never say another bad word about the guy for as long as I live.

Save us from a game five; Mike. Save me from another sleepless night. I need you right now. We all need you. Get this game for us today, and all is forever forgiven old buddy.

Unchartered Territory: Reds win NLDS Game Two, Take 2-0 Series Lead

[NLDS Game Two Box Score]

[Cincinnati.com]

The Cincinnati Reds are locked in.

That was as good as you can see Bronson Arroyo look. It was his crowning moment in his Reds career. Maybe except for this commercial that I caught last night shortly after Cincinnati grabbed a 1-0 lead on Ryan Ludwick’s solo home run:

The Reds continued to play sound defense and add-on in the top frames until the game was through.

As we sit here on the eve of only the second postseason baseball game in Cincinnati in 17+ years, I hope the Reds realize they haven’t won anything yet. I hope they realize that the journey is still long. Two wins out West is very special, and it’s the hallmark of a team that means business. But the Giants could easily come back and win this series. This was just the first two dominoes that needed to fall in order to do something in this postseason. If the Reds come out flat tomorrow night, things can snowball in a hurry and this can quickly become the worst dogfight they’ve ever been involved in.

If you want my opinion, the Reds get the match-up they need tomorrow night. I don’t want them to face Matt Cain again. And I still think they’re damn lucky to have had such an easy time with Madison Bumgarner (though I’ll say it’s a misconception that I fall victim to in thinking that this roster of Reds struggles against LHP).

Tomorrow around dinner time, the Reds will face Ryan Vogelsong. He’s a good, solid big league starter. But he’s the kind of righty that the Reds should want to advance against in that park. He’s not Matt Cain, and he’s not Bumgarner.

Go ahead and move on in front of your fans on Tuesday night boys, and let the Cardinals and Nationals slug things out for a few more days. I have to admit, I want the Reds to just keep playing at this point. The worst thing that could happen was to give them a day off and a day to even think about what they’re doing. They’re going so good right now that you just hope they can get back out there on a diamond as soon as possible and keep rolling.

Part of how this team has already been able to do what they’re doing is I don’t even think they realize fully what they’re doing. They’re like a fearless teenager who takes a lot of risks because they don’t know how fragile life is at that age; the Reds still don’t grasp how delicate every single moment is in this postseason. And that allows them to be dangerous in this situation.

Tomorrow I’ll come home from work. I’ll slip on the #32 Bruce jersey (he got another big knock last night). I’ll hopefully see my team advance to the NLCS, making the vision I had back in 2010 the night we were eliminated from the NLDS a reality. To this point, I could not be more proud of how they’ve performed. I can’t even believe this is really happening.

To commemorate his first postseason win, a great Bryce Harper read

Thanks to Tyler Moore’s pinch-hit 2-run single late in the game, the Nationals took a 1-0 series advantage over the St. Louis Cardinals. I spent a good part of the evening last night reading Jerry Crasnick’s long story about Harper’s journey through his first big league season. It’s a great read.

“I sit on the aisle and he sits on the aisle on the plane, so I talk to him all the time,” Nationals broadcaster F.P. Santangelo says. “I’m probably as close to him as anybody on the team. The first thing he says on the plane after the game is, ‘I passed the Mick tonight.’ How often do you hear that? I get goosebumps now just saying it. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life: ‘I passed the Mick tonight.’ He said it with respect and reverence and maybe a little bit of astonishment, all wrapped up in one.”

  • Looking back at Bryce Harper’s thrilling rookie season. [ESPN]

Cincinnati Reds win their first postseason game in 17 years

[Box Score]

[Cincinnati.com] [ESPN SweetSpot] [HardballTalk] [Lance Mcalister] [The Splash] [Giants Extra]

Someone pinch me, I’m dreaming.

Did my team really just beat Matt Cain on the road out west after losing Johnny Cueto (the ace of the staff) after he recorded just one out? I have to be dreaming. This has happened to me a million times. I wake up, and it all goes away. After all, it has been 6,210 days since the Reds franchise won a postseason game (1995 against the Dodgers for those wondering).

Brandon Phillips was balling out of his mind last night. He got scoring started with a two-run home run to left field. He made a few barehand plays. He made an unreal back up play over at first base on a bunt single that kept the runner on first. He singled home an insurance run. Thank you for playing this way DatDude.

Jay Bruce continued his postseason hitting success.

Matt Cain was cruising through the first four hitters in the Reds lineup when Bruce doubled down the right field line for the Reds first hit. There would be no perfect game in this one against the Reds.

And then there was Bruce’s home run into a spot of AT&T Park where home runs aren’t typically hit:

Not sure I’ve ever gone more nuts when a couple of home runs left the yard than when I did for Phillips and Bruce going deep.

There were just so many efforts that contributed to this game. There was no one story. It was a gritty team effort comprised of Bruce, Phillips, Mat Latos, Sam LeCure (getting five outs as a pinch-hit reliever), and the Reds bullpen working out of tight spots late in the game that had me holding my breath.

The first domino has fallen, and the Reds need just ten more wins to claim a World Series title and six more to reach the fall classic. Last night was another memorable, improbable, and high-character moment from a team that has already provided a full season’s worth of them.

2012 NLDS San Francisco Giants vs. Cincinnati Reds Preview Post (and Prediction)

A series this important and monumental for my favorite professional sports franchise leaves me struggling to find the words on the eve of it’s beginning.

There isn’t enough I can say about the 2012 Cincinnati Reds or the special place that they hold in my heart. When this season began, I had a vision that this team’s destiny ended up somewhere in the NLCS. I didn’t know what it held from it’s beginning to it’s end, but it’s one of those visions I’ve rarely had in all of my life watching sports. It came to me originally in the 2010 NLDS, it was the 6th or 7th inning. I knew that door was closing. But I knew if I could just live long enough the Reds would be back and they would make a run. I knew 2012 was that year.

This post is more about their opponent that stands in their way. Based on a few factors, the Giants are the toughest opponent that the Reds could have drawn to open up their postseason. After the initial reaction which was fear came some acceptance on my behalf. Then came the simple fact that if this team is going to win the National League pennant, there shouldn’t be any desires for them to dodge anyone. Lay it all on the line and carve out your legacy. Go through an NL West team. Be the team that knocks off the recent World Champions.

I know these guys know what’s at stake; and I know they’re going to fight hard. There are certain things I have gut feelings about in this series. I would bet my life that the Reds don’t get swept. Not this time. I would also wager that the Reds are confident in winning this series. They aren’t scared. They think they’re the NL’s best team. I have a feeling Joey Votto hits two home runs at some point in this series in the same game. If the Reds lose, I predict that Dusty Baker will retire with the looming health problems and tepid contract situation on the forefront.

If the Reds can find a way to get through Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and company; I predict they’ll represent the National League in the World Series. No one else would be a tougher opponent for the Reds. There are no West Coast trips remaining in the rest possible paths to the pennant. This is the biggest obstacle, and the way through it must be passed first.

But there was something else about my vision of the Reds magical run; and I need to mention that they were probably baseball’s best and most balanced team in the 2012 regular season. If it does end here, we’ve been given a great team that I just knew would deliver up to this point.

The other part of the vision that I had–and I don’t know why–was the Reds season ending at the hands of an NL West team. I felt strongly about it.

I love this team and I’m so proud of them. I’ll lose a part of me during this series win or lose. I know they’re going to fight like Hell to advance. I think we’re in for the ride of our lives these next few days, and if the journey doesn’t end prematurely; some doors will open up with illusions we could only dream of behind them.

Enjoy this series Reds fans. When Johnny Cueto throws the first pitch tomorrow evening, it will have been exactly 18 years to the date since the Reds have won a postseason game. Think about that for a moment. It has spanned careers, lifetimes, relationships, hallmark events in your life.

My heart says one thing, while my head as a baseball fan says another. I’m going with what my head tells me on this.

Prediction: San Francisco Giants over Cincinnati Reds in Five Games

The Bull We Didn’t Want to Draw

Let it be said, let it be written. The Reds path with destiny will go through San Francisco.

Before the season began, I had a premonition that the Reds would make the NLCS. Early in the season, I had the Reds losing to an NL West team (Giants or Dodgers, and I eventually decided on the Giants) in the NLCS. Today I sat in my office and I thought long and hard about how my premonition was almost correct but won’t quite be able to jive.

As much as I didn’t want to see the Reds head out west to play a couple against the likes of Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, there’s no other way. And in a weird and twisted way, this was part of the destiny all along.

This is; in my opinion; Dusty Baker’s final ride. This is Dusty Baker riding the bad bull that broke his face Tuff Hedeman-style one last time. Dusty gets a final crack at the team he gained so much fame with. A team that he was a game away from winning a World Series with. Maybe my intuitions I felt so strongly about weren’t that far from being correct, they were just a bit tweaked.

If the Reds are going to win a World Series, they’re going to have to face and conquer their fears. They’ll need to be better than the best the big leagues have to offer, and for a couple week period. I’ve been thinking about that for the last several weeks.

Whether it’s going to be the Cardinals, or a West Coast trip; there is no backing your way into a World Series. There are no easy match-ups right now (though I think the Reds would have taken Atlanta out behind the woodshed). The only way out, is going directly through it all.

We’ll have more on this series in a full preview edition before Saturday night’s game. For now, just enjoy the oldie.