Monday, October 19, 2009

LCS Crunch Time

Well, despite all the talk about how great the last four teams standing in the major leagues were heading into the ALCS and NLCS playoff series, so far the two matchups really haven't been all that close. As I've been writing about here for a long time at this point, both series ultimately feature one team with both superior hitting and superior starting pitching, and the other team left with a bunch of intangibles -- be they coaching, history, home field advantage, you name it -- that so far simply have not been able to add up to much in the face of a whole team full of better baseball players on the other side. Either series could still change on a dime and turn into something better, but in order for that to happen, the Angels and the Dodgers will both need to win on Monday or in my view both series are pretty much over.

In the ALCS, which to me is the less interesting of the two series, the Yankees are up 2-0 after taking both games at home in new Yankee Stadium. CC Sabathia shut the Angels down in winning the first game 4-1, and Game 2 saw the Yankees rally to win in the 13th after another decent pitching performance out of Yankees starter AJ Burnett. Nothing much has surprised me so far out of this series, and I highly doubt there is much surprise among baseball fans in general who've paid attention to the sport, and in particular the Yankees, throughout the 2009 season. The 2009 Yankees' recipe of starting some solid starting pitchers, throwing in the best lineup the sport has seen in a long, long time, and sprinkling in the best closer to ever play the game has consistently produced delicious baseball this year, and this continues as the team matches up with an Angels team that is simply undermanned when compared to the Yankees' $350 million all-star machine.

The one significant point to make about the ALCS from my perspective is the fact that A-Rod continues to shine in the playoffs for the first time in his career, including smacking a game-tying home run in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 2, thanks to a more calm outlook on life and probably in no small part to some fine star-fuckery poontang from Kate Hudson. And talk about a relationship that is destined to end badly for A-Rod. Kate Hudson is not only a star fucker but also a life-ruiner, making the world worse in her wake wherever she has gone. The Black Crowes? Broken up. Owen Wilson? Suicidal. A-Rod? Who knows what lies ahead.

Oh, and the Angels better find a way to get a win on Monday afternoon. Down 3-0 will become a sweep out of the playoffs real quick me thinks if the Angels cannot find a way to liven up their bats and make some noise here as that series shifts to the west coast.

The NLCS is where it's at for me these days, and personally I expected the series between the Dodgers and Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies to be the more closely-fought of the two final four matchups. Much like I said when predicting the Phillies-Rockies matchup in the NLDS, the Phillies simply have the better starting pitching, and the far better lineup, than the Dodgers, and I stated quite simply last week that I was (and remain) highly confident that the Phillies would hold late leads in at least four of the games in the NLCS. So far, I'm three for three on that prediction, as the Phils more or less crushed in Game 1, winning 8-6 but holding the lead straight through from the 4th inning onwards, and then they led 1-0 in the 8th inning of Game 2 after a dominating 2-hit shutout performance out of Pedro Martinez, which unfortunately turned into a loss thanks to the Phils' bullpen and some very strange managerial decisions out of Phils' skipper Charlie Manuel. In Game 3 on Sunday night, as the series moved back to Philadelphia, the Phillies apparently decided they didn't plan to leave things to their shaky bullpen, busting out with four runs in the 1st inning, two more in the 2nd, and five more late in the game while Phillies ace Cliff Lee totally manhandled the Dodgers to the tune of 3 hits, no runs and ten strikeouts in an 8-inning masterpiece that ended 11-0 in favor of the Champs.

At this point I think we can safely make a few conclusions about the National League playoffs. For starters, everybody stop talking about home field advantage. Over time baseball has proven itself not to have much of a home field advantage in the playoffs anyways, but as I mentioned last week the Phillies are simply not affected by playing on the road instead of at home. In the NLDS, Philly split their first two games at home, but then promptly walked into Coors Field and bashed the Rockies right out of the postseason with two straight wins at the Rockies' home field. Then the Phillies traveled to LA, promptly put up 8 on the Dodgers in winning Game 1, and were six outs away from winning Game 2 before the bullpen caved. There's a reason this team was 16 games over .500 on the road in 2009, and with the experience of last year that included winning the World Series against a Rays team with home field advantage, Dodger fans cannot feel comfortable even with the final two games of this series (if needed) scheduled to take place at home.

Secondly, how fucking awesome is the Phillies' lineup? For those who don't know, Phils' first baseman Ryan Howard set a new major league record on Sunday night by getting at least one RBI in his seventh consecutive postseason game. Howard ended the day 1 for 4, but the one hit was a biggie, a triple in the first inning that knocked in two. Jayson Werth joined Howard at 1 for 4, but his first-inning jack knocked in both himself and Howard to get the Phils far more run support than Cliff Lee would need right off the bat. Chase Utley went 2-4 on the day, and Shane Victorino rounded out the Phils' top-of-the-order domination with a 2-for 3 day that included a home run and 3 RBIs as well. And defensive catcher Carlos Ruiz -- long considered a dead spot near the bottom of the Phillies lineup -- continued his amazing postseason so far with a 2-for-3 day that included an RBI and two runs scored as Ruiz raised his postseason average to .429 (.538 on base % and a massive 1.158 OPS) with nine hits and seven RBIs in seven games so far this month. If not for Howard's clutch bat and a certain pitcher to be discussed momentarily, Ruiz would get my vote for team MVP so far this postseason.

And lastly, how fucking awesome is Cliff Lee? Where would this team be if league-best GM Ruben Amaro had not acquired Lee at the trading deadline this year? So far in three postseason games for the Phillies this year, Lee has pitched 24.1 innings, averaging more than 8 innings per start for the World Champions. In those 24 innings, Lee has given up just 14 hits -- just over 4 hits in just over 8 innings per game -- and just two earned runs. Two earned runs total allowed in 8+ innings each against the Rockies at home, the Rockies on the road, and now the Dodgers at home. Even sicker is the fact that Lee has just three walks in those 24.1 innings, to go along with 20 strikeouts. In fact, every time Lee pitches, he seems to be good for at least 100 pitches, and at least 75% of them are strikes. This guy has sick control, and even more important given the Phillies' bullpen woes, sick longevity as well. In 2008, the Phillies rode the hot arm of Cole Hamels to five wins in the five games he started in the postseason, including the World Series clincher, and in 2009 with Hamels struggling to find his focus, Cliff Lee has filled the role that Hamels held so dominantly in 2008, hopefully to the same results in this NLCS against the Dodgers.

If the Dodgers lose on Monday night, they will drop down 3 games to 1, with presumably Cole Hamels to go at home in Game 5, P-Mart back in LA in Game 6, and Cliff Lee primed to run again in Game 7 if necessary. The Dodgers, like the Angels if they lose to the Yankees on Monday, cannot reasonably expect to come back from that. So the way I see it, Monday night it is do-or-die in my view for both of the teams that are currently behind in their respective LCS series.

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Blogger Bayne_S said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Bayne_S said...

Let us all hope Kate dumped A-Rod last night to send him into playoff swoon and Kate has run off to Boston to be with waffles.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Riggstad said...

Chooch is God. Has been the most clutch player in the series so far.

I was going to do a whole write up on Pedro and Charlie after game two but couldn't get to it.

The only acceptable reason he comes out of that game is if Pedro himself, told charlie that he was finished.

Less than 90 pitches, he's throwing a two outer, and he's basically unhittable to that point.

friggin' weird decision if you ask me, and one that cost them being up 3-0.

No worries though... I really can't see the Phils losing anymore. On paper this team is so much more dominate than the Dodgers it's almost comical.

They should back the brinks truck up for Howard. He's a baby Ruth. At least with this playoff performance you know who will be getting a contract and who will be let go (Hamels v Howard) when the time comes.

Of course the whole "on paper" thing is why they play the game.

Tonight will be fun, that's for sure.

1:27 AM  
Blogger The Poker Meister said...

Go Yanks! ;-)

2:23 AM  
Blogger KajaPoker said...

Since this has become a boring-ass sports blog with absolutely no poker content but still with the long-winded repetitive writing style of the mighty Hoy, I figured I will give you this link, Phillie-style:

7:29 AM  

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