Category Archives: MLB Playoffs

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.

So yeah, that sucked.

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It was an unbelievable day of baseball – but the wrong kind of unbelievable. I’m not sure there’s been a more shocking, stunning day from start to finish in the history of the MLB postseason. Clayton Kershaw had one of the worst innings in baseball history today.

Capped off with another stunner in Anaheim, aided by a dominant outing from Yordano Ventura (pictured above, the world will know him now); today saw three home teams lose and a fourth come from a huge late deficit to beat an arguable favorite.

And not ONE single game has had the outcome we desired since the wildcard games took place at the beginning of the week. Not one. We wanted an LCS of Detroit/Anaheim and Los Angeles/Washington. All of those teams are in the hole or on the brink of elimination – Anaheim is done, Detroit could dig out of a two game hole we feel. And tomorrow, Los Angeles and Washington’s seasons are on the line.

New stars are being born right now. Eric Hosmer, Joe Panik, Yordano Ventura; these are just a few of the guys who are rising up in the world like a regular Tony Montana.

Tomorrow is a new day. Today once again showed how intense baseball can be, how cruel of a game it is, and that sometimes things simply aren’t going to go your way no matter how bad you want it.

Bryce Harper hits the biggest, most titanic home run of his career

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[Box Score]

Bryce Harper possibly hit the premiere home run of the postseason this afternoon. And the Nationals lost a heartbreaker, giving those rotten Giants from the left coast their ninth straight playoff victory. But damn it, Bryce Harper put on his eye black and brought his game to the park today.

And the Nats seemed so lifeless for much of the day. I had the thought that if they could just get a Bryce Harper home run; it would be the one thing that could ignite the crowd and the rest of the Nationals enough to get them back into the game while trailing 3-0. It needed to be something big, and something epic.

And man, they don’t get any bigger or epic than this one. The only way it could have been more out of The Natural is if it was to win a game. It came off a guy in Hunter Strickland who is a relative newcomer to the Major League level, and his stuff is absolutely filthy. He’s never been touched up like this before:

Harper turned on a 97 MPH fastball, and nearly hit it out of the stadium.

The Nationals would add an Asdrubal Cabrera home run to cut the deficit to it’s final resting spot of 3 to 2, but the titanic home run wasn’t enough to dig them out of the hole that their slumber caused.

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Still, anyone who tuned in today expecting to see Harper and Stephen Strasburg play the roles of the two leading Knights in the baseball Camelot that is the Nation’s capital got half of it (Harper also broke up Jake Peavy’s no-hitter the second time through the lineup).

The Royals Wildcard Comeback win was full of ridiculousness

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I lost a pile of money last night, and I still feel like I was on the right side. My gut told me the Oakland A’s would win last night and then move on to Anaheim to give the Angels all they could handle in the ALDS that begins tomorrow. The Royals simply would not die, winning a wild 9-8 ballgame in 12 innings that was an excellent display of how exciting the sport of baseball can be.

I underestimated the effect that all that team speed can have in a one-game and go home scenario. The Royals had seven different players steal bases. They were able to constantly apply pressure to the Athletics, even when they would reach base with an out via a walk or single; it would be just moments until that guy was in scoring position or thinking about stealing third.

After the Royals came back a few times, it became apparent that there was nothing the Athletics could throw at them to give them a ‘kill shot’. It sounds insane saying that about a baseball game, but if you watched how the game played out; the A’s seemingly had this game won two or three times, except for they didn’t.

It was an excellent game to kick off the 2014 playoffs, and I hope some people who say baseball is a slow game had their eyes on the Royals last night. It was their explosiveness, clutch-hitting, and sheer will to not be denied that gave them their first postseason win since 1985. It’s good for the game we all love.

And for the A’s…. well… bye. I don’t know if I could have handled an Oakland ALCS. This is one less boring team in the tournament we all have to worry about being forced to watch.

It’s Baseball Playoff Time

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Baseball fans, rejoice. We’re into the start of a second season. The Royals last found themselves in a playoff game on October 27th, 1985. It was game seven of the world series. I was two years and change.

Brett Saberhagen and the Royals shut out the Cardinals 11-0 on that night in game seven of the World Series. Lonnie Smith! Willie Wilson! Some guy named Frank White hit clean-up that night and played second base. Their shortstop was Buddy Biancalana!

There’s something magical about the MLB playoffs. This post is a little overdue because of a busy workday but it’s great to see the A’s and Royals square off in front of a rabid crowd with all the talking heads saying this is the A’s last running of the bulls. Something’s got to give. Tonight is win or go home.

And in honor of the Royals big night – which is so very good for baseball – we have George Brett talking about the time he shit himself at Kokomos Steakhouse in Vegas.

How nice it is to be able to use those post categories ‘Kansas City Royals’ and ‘MLB Playoffs’ in the same place. You had to figure if you lived a long, normal lifespan you would live to see the Royals get here one time that you could recall. This *could* be the only time. Soak it in!

The Dodgers Cowboy Up, Force Game Six in St. Louis

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[Box Score]
[Los Angeles Times]

You have to give the Dodgers some credit. I truly thought they were done, and when Zack Greinke loaded the bases in the first inning of NLCS game five today, I was sure they were done. Then I had a prophetic feeling about things:

Greinke was able to get Yadier Molina to hit into a double play, and the Dodgers seemed to gain momentum from it all. From there they scratched across two runs, with Adrian Gonzalez starting the rally and Yasiel Puig keeping it going. Greinke singled in Puig. But the Cardinals would not go down quietly.

A Carlos Beltran triple and Matt Holliday double evened scoring at 2-2. Then the Dodgers got the lift they needed.

Gonzalez homered deep into the pavilion in right field to give the Dodgers the lead. They wouldn’t trail again in the game. He would add a second home run later in the game, and the Dodgers that had failed to homer for the entire series ended up with four on the day (Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis got in on the act).

Greinke bridged the gap nicely over to Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen, and the Dodgers held on for a 6-4 victory. They might lose this series, but they got it to Clayton Kershaw. They might lose this series, but they defended their home field in a noble manner and refused to have their season end on their field.

All the while, Don Mattingly seems to keep things cool in his meetings with the press. After a tough loss last night he said that he knew that they were going to come out and play hard, and that seemed good enough for him to resign to for the evening. After the game today he remarked that the Dodgers have become ‘America’s Team’ because the country wants to see a game seven. At this point, they’re a flashy team playing with house money. That’s somewhat dangerous.

On Friday night – they’ll have Clayton Kershaw going on five day’s rest. And we’ll all get another night of entertainment out of this team. That’s really what it’s all about this time of year if your team is out of it. They’ll get a chance to give Michael Wacha all he can handle and get a little redemption. And although they’ve shown some of their makeup with a win like today, we’ll see just exactly what this Dodger team is made of on Friday night. It would be an incredible feat to force a game seven against this seemingly unstoppable rebel force Cardinal team.

Summer is Ending for the Dodgers

 

It was a glorious year for baseball in Los Angeles. The Dodgers are an exciting, brash, star-studded group that has prompted me to take interest in them and watch far more of a St. Louis Cardinals NLCS series then I normally would have. I am sure ratings around the country are improved due to intrigued baseball fans that want to see what this team is all about. I spent a number of nights this past summer watching the Dodgers late night on MLB.tv, listening to Vin Scully tell his glorious tales. That will be part of a memory that sticks with me when I think back to MLB season 2013.

But the Dodgers season is likely ending tomorrow in Los Angeles. The Cardinals are the better team, and for the first time in the 2013 postseason, I’m going to be wrong about an end result.

The Dodgers lost tonight 4-2 in Los Angeles. Ricky Nolasco wasn’t nearly good enough, giving up a MONSTER two-run home run to Matt Holliday. The Dodgers continually tried to rally, and every rally was snuffed out by a Juan Uribe double play, or Nick Punto getting picked off second base, or Yasiel Puig getting sawed off on a Trevor Rosenthal fastball.

All night long, the baseball romantic in me kept waiting for something magical to happen in the same vein as Kirk Gibson 25 years ago tonight. When the Cardinals scored their fourth run on a Shane Robinson homer, I knew the score wouldn’t end 4-3 like that fateful Saturday night back in ’88. But I still kept waiting for someone wearing Dodger blue to get into one and tie the game. The innings came and went and it never happened.

Sure, the Dodgers have Greinke and Kershaw going the next two games, if they get by tomorrow. But it looks like Hanley Ramirez is done for the series. The Dodgers haven’t hit a home run in four games. They are completely neutralized right now, and that is why I think my pick for the 2013 World Series winner probably bows out tomorrow in a tight game.

Magical season, a ton of cool memories of a team I unexpectedly fell for a bit; but it likely ends on a Wednesday afternoon in mid-October at the hands of Joe Kelly and the St. Louis Cardinals.

When was time to ride, the Dodgers hopped on the back of the Wild Horse

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[Box Score]

[Los Angeles Times - Dodgers Now]

We told you it would be so; we told you that the Dodgers would beat Adam Wainwright in the Cardinals in game three of the NLCS. And that’s exactly what happened.

The Dodgers snapped an ugly scoreless streak by gathering a single by Adrian Gonzalez, and a huge triple from Yasiel Puig with two outs. Puig pimped it as if the ball was out. The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead and threw some big first punches against the Cardinals ace with their number three guy on the hill.

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It was obvious from the opening bell that Hyun-Jin Ryu had as good of stuff as he’s had in a long time. He was throwing 95 MPH early in the game and spotting up. He went seven shutout innings and the Cardinals didn’t really mount a threat all night long. St. Louis had four hits on the evening and don’t look now, but the Cardinals are now the team with one run in the last 18 innings.

Hanley Ramirez played with broken ribs, and he did it effectively. He had two hits including a late RBI single for an insurance run to stretch the lead to 3-0. Bigger than that was his piece of hitting that advanced Mark Ellis to third base with no one out in the inning that the Dodgers bottom of the fourth.

After Ryu exited the game, the Dodgers turned it over to their shutdown version of the pen. Brian Wilson allowed a lead off single to Jon Jay, but blew away two hitters after that to strand Jay and get out of the inning unharmed. Kenley Jansen took over in the ninth attempting to earn his first postseason save, and while he didn’t strike anyone out he was clearly overpowering in a 1-2-3 frame, giving the Dodgers their first LCS win in a number of years. Rough night in center for Jon Jay, by the way.

It’s a brand new series, and it’s good for baseball. If the Dodgers lost the game tonight, it was likely to end tomorrow night. Now the Dodgers get a crack at Lance Lynn and a chance to even this thing up. I can’t wait to watch game four tomorrow evening and see if the Dodgers have the same kind of John Wayne in them that they did tonight in the face of all odds. I thought I had the pulse of this team right, and the victory over Adam Wainwright is confirmation that it is so. This is going to be a long and bloody series.

Whose hungry for a Dodger Dog?

For the L.A. Dodgers, it’s Last Call for Drinks

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The Dodgers are in a situation where; it’s either beat Adam Wainwright or start the act of winterizing the clubhouse for the year. And they’ve done this to themselves by scoring one run in 22 innings so far in NLCS play.

It’s one of those games that looks like the Cardinals are going to win without any trouble. Hanley Ramirez has a broken rib. The Dodgers are starting Hyun-Jin Ryu, who hasn’t been effective for an extended period of time. They’re going against the giant of all big-game aces in the National League, Adam Wainwright.

And I’m telling you that as a baseball fan, if I know anything about this game at all; I know the Dodgers have the gusto and the moxy to win this game against all odds and make this a series. They’ll beat Wainwright tonight and face a more manageable task in the Cardinals game four starter (Lance Lynn).

There’s some magic this season out in Los Angeles at Chavez Ravine, and the ghosts of the past will be lurking. Don’t be surprised to see something wild late in the game tonight.

Cardinals Pitching Dominates Dodgers Again in NLCS Game Two

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[Box Score]

[ESPN Los Angeles]

Wacha Wacha!

Alright, so I didn’t see this game – I was playing the best 18 holes of my life – so it’s hard to analyze it too much. The Dodgers find themselves in an 0-2 hole. I saw that Yasiel Puig struck out four more times.

The Dodgers, my playoff horse that I’ve strapped my oxcart to; are now facing a game three in Los Angeles against Adam Wainwright that basically keeps their hopes alive. They counter with Hyun Jin-Ryu. And the thing rigth now is; there’s just not much an opportunity to score runs off anyone. No one in the St. Louis bullpen gives up any runs (9.2 innings of scoreless baseball so far in the NLCS) and it’s not like the St. Louis rotation is going to allow anything substantial. So how the Hell do you score off these guys? How the Hell did the Pirates beat these pesky bastards twice?

The Cardinals aren’t exactly knocking the cover off the ball themselves. Clayton Kershaw was pretty strong today and the game’s lone run was scored on a sacrifice fly and was unearned.

The Dodgers are definitely up against it now. They’re making my bold and brash predictions about them rolling the Cardinals seem foolish and unfounded. It looks like everything is going their way. Hanley Ramirez didn’t play today. Andre Ethier was out of the lineup hurt (though I saw that he struck out to end the game). Yet still, I want to make it clear that I believe this Los Angeles team is made of enough gusto to scrape themselves off the canvas and answer the bell for the next round.

The Dodgers are going to beat Adam Wainwright in game three, and it’s going to swing the series. They’re going to do it at home in that magical, bright ballpark with the palm trees. They’re going to do it because Wainwright – while he’s a horse – that game give against the Pirates took more out of him then anyone realizes. It’s a lot to ask a guy to come back and be that sharp again after that kind of high workload. Wainwright has a lot of miles on his arm and we’ve already seen a decent offensive team in Cincinnati get to him in the not so recent past.

Los Angeles is desperate, and they’ll need something more out of Puig and Adrian Gonzalez among others; but if they win game three, the Cardinals don’t have a set answer for game four as far as a starter. Shelby Miller is going to be phenomenal, but the Dodgers can get to him. If the Dodgers can even this series at two; and I believe they will, there will be no turning back for them. Reaching way down deep within themselves and finding a way to win game three is the biggest domino that needs to fall at this point.

Hopefully now that Puig had a sombrero to wear on his plane ride back to SoCal, the Dodgers have had a chance to clear their minds as a team. Getting back to Los Angeles will help. The Cardinals are all the talk right now for having flawless pitching performances, and if they continue to get them there just isn’t much that can be done. But what are the chances that the Dodgers could actually get another one of these gems from their entire pitching staff? Someone has to slip, and the Dodgers will be waiting in the weeds.

And what the Hell is this with the entire series being on TBS? Is this hockey, Selig? I’ve defended you in the past you dopey, Donald-Duck dweebosaurus; but put the damn national LCS games all on FOX or a network that we all know the channel number on. Get your head out of your ass!

Carlos Beltran is the difference maker in a Phenomenal NLCS Game One

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[Box Score]

Yea, so that game was unbelievable last night. I think the game was just a preview of what we’re going to see all series long, and I wouldn’t count the Dodgers out of this yet. Here are my thoughts on the game, as I watched all 13 innings until the bitter end:

  • Carlos Beltran owned the night. He had the 2-run double that tied the game. He had the unreal throw from right field to nail Mark Ellis at home plate. He predictably (especially by that point in the action) had the game-winning hit in the 13th. Carlos Beltran owns the postseason I’ll never forget the first postseason I watched Beltran back in 2004 against the Cardinals when he was a Houston Astro. He was unbelievable back then and people thought he was just playing for a contract.
  • I didn’t like Don Mattingly’s move to pinch-run Dee Gordon in a tie game, effectively ending Adrian Gonzalez’s evening. Not in a tie game on the road. Maybe if you’re down a run, but Mattingly had to know this game could go into extra innings and he would miss out on a few turns through the lineup of Gonzalez’s spot. Michael Young couldn’t get much done.
  • The St. Louis pen is going to be near impossible to score upon. I’m starting to think all of these games are going to be low scoring totals for the Dodgers. I’m surprised that Edward Mujica didn’t even enter the game.
  • Yasiel Puig didn’t have it last night. He went 0 for 6 with a couple of K’s. He had a great play to throw a runner out at first for an outfield assist and a double play, though.
  • Uribe, Carl Crawford, and Ellis were the only Dodgers with two hits. Uribe’s 2-out single plated the Dodgers only two runs.
  • Zack Greinke was about as flawless as you could ask for. Eight innings, 10 strikeouts, he made only the one mistake to Beltran. He looked the part of ‘ace’ last night.
  • I am shocked the Dodgers didn’t have more success against Joe Kelly, but he didn’t exactly appear to be a ‘weak link’ type last night, throwing 95-97 running in and spotting up corners of the plate.
  • The Cardinals effectively pitched around Hanley Ramirez who was on base four times.

Clayton Kershaw against Michael Wacha today. This should be another memorable day in NLCS history.

Previewing the Dodgers/Cardinals NLCS

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Baseball fans are going to be treated with some excellence in the form of this League Championship Series.

We have the best two teams in the National League, each with it’s own storied past; and a roster dotted with star chess-pieces to go with it. This is as excited as I’ve been for a playoff series in a long time, and it’s a compliment to both teams because I think it’s going to make for some tremendous baseball over the next week-plus.

Both of these teams have one thing that jumps out at me – major thump in the middle of their lineup. Los Angeles has Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzlez, and Yasiel Puig with Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Juan Uribe playing Robin to their Batman act. The Cardinals counter with a lineup containing Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, David Freese, Carlos Beltran and Matt Adams.

To me, that’s a coin flip in terms of lineup talent. I like the Dodgers big three better than I like any three of the Cardinals big three, but I probably like the Cardinals overall lineup talent more.

What that means is that the team who gets better starts from their rotation will probably have an edge on the series – and it doesn’t mean that they’ll win the series because a team is really only as good as their bullpen.

The Cardinals used Adam Wainwright to get to the series, so they’ll open up with Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha against Zach Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. From there it will be Wainwright in game three against Hyun Jin-Ryu presumably and that game three is a swing game that the Cardinals must find a way to take.

Overall, I like the Dodgers starting rotation more; but it’s extremely close. If the Cardinals can find a way to beat the Dodgers tomorrow night in game one with Joe Kelly on the bump, this series heavily swings in favor of the Cardinals. While Kelly is a fine arm talent, he’s a guy who should be handled by the Dodgers offense. It helps that the game is in St. Louis, but Greinke over Kelly is an immediate Dodgers edge.

In terms of managers I think Mike Matheny has the experience edge but I don’t necessarily think that he’s going to end up having a better managerial career than Don Mattingly. I always thought Mattingly – who reminds me of Bill Murray in a baseball uniform – would end up leaving a terrific legacy as a manager. Again, a lot of similarities in these two men and it would be considered a near “push” with a slight edge towards Matheny because he was in the NLCS last season.

It looks like the Cardinals are going to use Trevor Rosenthal as their closer, and I think that’s a good decision. Rosenthal has unstoppable stuff and if handed a lead the game is probably over. I feel just as strongly about Kenley Jansen, I think he’s the next big thing in baseball at the back of a bullpen. I trust the Cardinals bullpen more overall than I do that of the Dodgers, but neither is a weakness.

What makes this such an intriguing series is the fact you have two seemingly complete teams facing off. Both of these squads give the feeling that they were meant to be here, there was no sneaking in. The Dodgers have been on fire since July (ending the season with a 42-8 run), destroying everything in their path. For the Cardinals it was just another steady year.

Conclusion and Prediction: I like the Dodgers to win this series in a long series, we’ll say six games. The Cardinals are a formidable opponent who will test Los Angeles and even at times appear to be in control of the series, but at the end of the day the team with more mojo flowing is the team from the West Coast. I have had a feeling about the Dodgers since back in late June and early July, and since then I’ve seen nothing but a hot team that has the balls bouncing their way. Yasiel Puig is the most exciting player the league has seen in a number of years, and he seems to energize the Dodgers on a nightly basis. I also think the Dodgers have the advantage of being able to throw Greinke and Kershaw four times if they choose to; asking Wainwright to match them twice is fine, but asking Michael Wacha to do the same is asking an awful lot of a rookie that already had no-hit stuff once in the playoffs. I said the Dodgers would go to (and win) the World Series months ago, and I still think that will be the case.