Category Archives: League Division Series

Bryce Harper’s last blast of 2014 was an epic, clutch, historic clout into McCovey Cove

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Game four of the NLDS, and Bryce Harper may have cemented his legend in baseball once and for all.

It was evident that Harper was still locked in from the early going, as he missed a home run to center in his first at bat by a narrow margin. In his second trip to the plate he doubled in the Nationals first run with a great at bat.

In his third at-bat, he took nasty Hunter Strickland into McCovey Cove to tie the game in epic fashion. It was a moment for the ages in postseason baseball.

Baseball can be beautiful, but sometimes it also has a way of showing us that the heroes die in the end. The Nationals would fall 3-2 to end their season.

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An Ode to the 2014 Washington Nationals

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Welp, that’s a wrap. For all intensive purposes, baseball season ended for us tonight a bit prematurely. In a matter of hours, two teams we love to watch completed the foursome of elimination in the League Division Series with the Cardinals getting past Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers and the Giants breaking the hearts of the Nationals out in the Bay Area.

I never dreamed when this postseason started that a World Series would exist without at least one of these two teams. It almost seems unfair – but it’s not. The Giants and Cardinals took the fight to these teams. They just went out and took it, with the help of a little more clutch hitting and better management.

I spent a TON of time watching Washington and Los Angeles this season. They were entertaining, yet flawed teams. Until the spring comes, I won’t see them again. If you want to see the remaining teams left in the playoffs, find and buy sports tickets to do so.

Bryce Harper nearly reaches McCovey Cove with second NLDS Moonshot

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After a hitless game in the 18-inning marathon on Saturday night, Bryce Harper woke up in San Francisco yesterday and decided he was coming to the park to send this to a game four.

Harper had an absolutely huge game, making two great defensive catches with the game on the line, drawing a walk that started the rally, and hitting of course his monstrous home run which was his third of his postseason.

To take a quote from Brandon Belt – that’s probably one of the hardest balls Harper has hit.

You have to love lowly Jean Machi pointing in the air for the ball to assist his outfielder as it heads toward McCovey Cove. Yeah, Jean. He’s got no chance for this.

So the Nationals live to fight at least one more day, 4-1. They survived Madison Bumgarner and one has to wonder if this series has swung and the Nationals have enough left in the tank to get it back to Washington. One thing is for sure – nothing gives the Nats a shot in the arm like a monster Harper bomb.

Game Five in St. Louis: Pirates vs. Cardinals

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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

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[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.

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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

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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

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[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.