MLB Playoffs: After Exciting Division Series, Competitive Baseball Erupts in NLCS
No surprise. After a competitive divisional series round with no sweeps, the Red Sox, Tigers, Dodgers, and Cardinals have steamrolled into the league championship series.
A big, bad, bearded Red Sox lineup took little time messing around with the Wild Card winning Rays. In four games with two blowout victories, including a record setting game one in which all nine hitters in the Red Sox lineup recorded one or more RBI’s, the Sox made sure there was no question as to why they had the best record in the American League this season. Rays rookie right fielder Will Myers set the tone of a depleted Rays dugout in game one when he inexplicably let a ball drop between him and centerfielder Desmond Jennings. The Rays never recovered and handed the series to Boston.
The Tigers had a little more difficult trip to the ALCS, as the pesky A’s just would not let up. The highlight action of this series came in a game
two pitcher’s duel between Tigers ace, Justin Verlander, and A’s rookie, Sonny Gray. Verlander, who as a pitcher won the AL MVP award just two years ago, threw seven innings of shutout ball, striking out 11 batters. Gray threw eight of his own scoreless frames and struck out nine hitters in the process. Not until the ninth inning did either team score a run, and it was Oakland with a walk off bases loaded single by catcher Stephen Vogt. Oakland kept this momentum going in to the next game and put up six runs on the Tigers in game three to take a 2-1 lead, but Jim Leyland’s Tigers were not disheartened. The Tigers bats came to life for eight runs with blasts from Jhonny Peralta and Victor Martinez in game four, and Leyland boldly stuck Max Scherzer, his winningest pitcher of the season, into a relief appearance for the win. Game five was just as close as the rest of the battles leading up to the final showdown. A’s manager Bob Melvin elected to go with Gray again, instead of this number one starter Bartolo Colon, setting up a rematch of game two’s pitcher’s duel. Once again, Verlander stunned the A’s batting order, tossing eight scoreless frames, six of those without a single hit. Gray did not repeat his masterful performance as walks caught up with him and he allowed a costly two run bomb to Miguel Cabrera that proved to be all the Tigers needed for a trip to the ALCS.
In the National League, the Dodgers heavy offense slugged away at an inexperienced Braves pitching staff, scoring a total of 26 runs in the series. The only win the Braves could muster up came in game two when Jayson Heyward produced a two run single in the seventh at home to ensure a victory. Atlanta’s high did not last long however, as the Los Angeles punished the Braves with 13 runs. Braves starter Julio Teheran lasted only 2.2 innings after surrendering six runs, including a three run bomb by Carl Crawford. Game four proved to be close, only decided by a single run, although the Dodgers had no doubts. Crawford slammed two more big blasts, and Juan Uribe sealed the deal with a two run shot in the eighth off of David Carpenter which propelled the Dodgers into the locker room for the champagne party.
Lastly, the National League Central debate finally settled as the Cardinals bested the Pirates in five games. This series was seesaw matchup with ups and downs from both teams. St Louis started up in the series with a game one 9-1 blowout. Pittsburgh quickly battled back in the second game with a 7-1 blowout of the Cards. Both offenses settled down a bit in game three, but an eighth inning rally with clutch hits by Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin gave the Pirates the series advantage. Amazing pitching by the Cardinals defined the last two games. Rookie starter, Michael Wacha no hit the Dodgers for seven innings in game four, his only roadblock a solo blast by Alvarez which broke up the no-no in the eighth. The Cards managed to hold on the game for a 2-1 victory due to Matt Holliday’s two run homer in the sixth. In game five David Freese came out of his slump a little bit with a two run homer, and Matt Adams provided two more runs on a towering shot to right field. Although the Cardinals would score six in the game, Freese’s original two proved to be all they needed as Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals ace pitcher, shut down the Pirates in a complete game performance.
For the second straight year the Cardinals are battling a Californian team for a chance to play in the World Series. Boston is trying to prevent the Tigers from winning their second straight American League pennant. It does not happen very often, but the two teams with the best record in each league could meet in the World Series if the Cardinals and Red Sox beat their opponents. Both the Tigers and Dodgers have not won a World Series since the 1980’s, so there might be a little more desperation in their cities. This is probably the best MLB postseason in a long time. No team is a clear cut favorite to make the Fall Classic, and so far in the LCS games no team is dominating their series. Brilliant pitching performances have kept the games close with one run differences in five games so far. Baseball lovers can only dream that this kind of competitive play continues throughout the rest of the LCS and into the World Series.