Showing posts with label NLCS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NLCS. Show all posts

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Detroit roughs up Jake Peavy, evens up ALCS

With his team trailing 2-1 in the ALCS coming into Wednesday night's Game 4, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland shuffled his lineup.

He moved Torii Hunter into the leadoff spot, moved Miguel Cabrera into the No. 2 hole and dropped the slumping Austin Jackson from first to eighth in the batting order.

Was it the right move? Well, you can't argue with Wednesday's results. The aforementioned three Tiger hitters combined to go 5 for 11 with six RBIs as Detroit defeated the Boston Red Sox 7-3 to tie the best-of-seven series at 2-all.

Detroit roughed up Boston starter Jake Peavy, scoring five runs in the second inning and two more in the fourth to take a commanding 7-0 lead it would never relinquish.

I think, though, that the success of Leyland's lineup shuffle was more of a coincidence than anything else. Quite simply, Peavy had a horrible game. I've watched most of the right-hander's starts over the last four years, and normally his strikeout-to-walk ratio is around 4 to 1. On this night, Peavy uncharacteristically walked three batters in the fateful five-run second inning alone, including a bases-loaded free pass to the struggling Jackson. Peavy had no command of the strike zone whatsoever.

I'm not really sold on the idea that the Tigers are out of their slump now. I think they were the fortunate beneficiaries of a terrible performance by a starting pitcher who is normally pretty good.

We'll see what happens in Thursday's Game 5. If Detroit cuffs around Boston ace Jon Lester, then I'll be convinced that Leyland's lineup juggling has actually made an impact.

Dodgers stay alive in NLCS

Speaking of offensive breakouts, Los Angeles finally got its bats going with four home runs Wednesday in Game 5 of the NLCS. Adrian Gonzalez homered twice, while Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis also went deep as the Dodgers stayed alive with a 6-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals still lead the series, 3-2, and the scene shifts back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Friday night.

Despite all the home runs, the most critical moment of this game came in the top of the first inning. The Cardinals loaded the bases with nobody out, but failed to score after Los Angeles pitcher Zack Greinke struck out Matt Adams and induced Yadier Molina to ground into an inning-ending double play. The Dodgers were one mistake away from finding themselves in a big early hole in an elimination game. Instead, they got out unscathed, and you had it feeling it was going to be their day from that point forward.

Los Angeles will send its ace to the mound in Game 6. Clayton Kershaw will try to lead the Dodgers to a series-tying victory. His mound opponent will be Michael Wacha in a rematch from Game 2, which Wacha won 1-0. Should be another great pitching matchup in a postseason full of them.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hey, Nick Punto! Don't wanna get picked off here in this situation...

Some years ago, I was watching a White Sox game on a Saturday afternoon, and former Sox first base coach Ron Jackson was miked up for one of those "Fox Sounds of the Game" segments.

One of the clips they played featured Jackson telling former Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen, who was on first base at the time, "Don't wanna get picked off here in this situation."

Thank you, Captain Obvious. As if there is any situation where it would be considered OK to get picked off.

Speaking of getting picked off, Los Angeles infielder Nick Punto got picked off at pretty bad time Tuesday in Game 4 of the NLCS. The Dodgers were trailing the St. Louis Cardinals by two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning when Punto reached second base on a one-out double.

Los Angeles had the top of its batting order coming up, and it appeared the Dodgers would have a chance to get back in the game in this inning. Alas, Punto was picked off second base by St. Louis reliever Carlos Martinez. Los Angeles didn't score, and the Cardinals took a 3-1 lead in the series with a 4-2 victory.

Maybe Punto would have benefited from having Jackson standing next to him there on second base.

"Don't wanna get picked off here in this situation." That's sage advice right there.

Would you believe it if I told you the Cardinals are hitting just .148 as a team in this series, despite their 3-1 advantage? It's true, but on this night two home runs made the difference for St. Louis. Matt Holliday, who had no hits the first three games of the series, hit a mammoth two-run blast off Los Angeles starter Ricky Nolasco in the third inning. Little-used reserve Shane Robinson added a solo shot in the seventh, his first hit in the playoffs, to account for the final run of the evening.

The Dodgers are on the ropes, but I wouldn't count them out. Remember, St. Louis had a 3-1 lead in the NLCS last year as well, and it failed to close out eventual World Series champion San Francisco. The Dodgers will need a big start from Zack Greinke in Game 5 Wednesday afternoon. The Cardinals will counter with right-hander Joe Kelly.

Boston takes 2-1 lead in ALCS

I mentioned the Cardinals' lousy team batting average in the league championship series. Well, the Red Sox are doing even worse. Boston is hitting just .133 as a team through the first three games of the ALCS, yet it finds itself ahead 2-1 after a 1-0 win in Detroit on Tuesday.

John Lackey fired 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball, and Mike Napoli hit a solo home run off Detroit's Justin Verlander for the only run of the game in the top of the seventh inning. Verlander was dominant otherwise; at one point he struck out six batters in a row. He finished with 10 strikeouts and allowed just four hits over eight innings, but Napoli's blast was enough to beat him.

The game's pivotal moment, though, came in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Tigers looked poised to tie or possibly take the lead with runners at first and third and only one out, with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder due to hit. The table was set for Detroit's best RBI men. But Junichi Tazawa fanned Cabrera, getting him to chase a pitch that was well outside for strike three. Boston closer Koji Uehara was summoned to face Fielder, and he fanned the Tigers first baseman on just three pitches.

If the Red Sox go on to win this series, those two strikeouts of Cabrera and Fielder might be considered the turning point.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dodgers take advantage of Cardinals sloppiness in NLCS Game 3

We'll start off with a quick stat about Los Angeles shortstop Hanley Ramirez: The Dodgers are 55-28 when he is in the starting lineup this season. They are 41-45 when he is not.

Ramirez did not play in Game 2 of the NLCS because of a hairline fracture in his ribs, but he managed the pain well enough to get back in the lineup for Game 3. Ramirez collected two bloop singles and an RBI in four at-bats as the Dodgers defeated St. Louis 3-0 Monday night to cut the Cardinals' lead in the series to 2-1. 

Ramirez's presence helped the Dodgers, sure, but the main storylines from this game were poor St. Louis defense and outstanding pitching from Los Angeles starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The Dodgers had failed to score a run in their previous 22 offensive innings before breaking through with two tallies in the bottom of the fourth inning off St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright. Both runs were gifts. Cardinals center fielder John Jay and right fielder Carlos Beltran had a miscommunication on a fly ball to right-center off the bat of Los Angeles second baseman Mark Ellis. Jay should have made the play; Beltran could have made the play. Neither man did, and Ellis was credited with a gift double. He would later score on a softly hit double by Adrian Gonzalez.

Yasiel Puig finished the rally with a two-out RBI triple. The hit broke and 0-for-11 slump (with seven strikeouts) for Puig. None of that would have happened if Jay had made the catch on Ellis' ball. It was a poor defensive night for Jay overall. He had four misplays out there, and was fortunate Wainwright was able to pitch over a couple of  his other gaffes. Ramirez added his bloop RBI hit in the eighth inning to cap the scoring, after Jay let a Carl Crawford blooper fall in front of him.

Ryu, a rookie left-hander, couldn't have pitched any better against the most prolific offense in the National League. He fired seven shutout innings, striking out four and allowing just three hits. That performance was exactly what the Dodgers needed. They couldn't afford to go down 3-0 in the series. They had to find a way to beat Wainwright, who had never lost in the postseason previously. Thanks to that performance by Ryu, they are back in the series.

Game 4 is Tuesday night, and both teams will be using their weakest starting pitcher. Lance Lynn, who picked up a win in relief in Game 1, is going for the Cardinals. Ricky Nolasco gets the ball for the Dodgers. St. Louis needs to get its bats going against Nolasco. The Dodgers will be able to throw their pair of aces, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, in Games 5 and 6. St. Louis won Games 1 and 2, which were started by Greinke and Kershaw, respectively. I don't know if the Cardinals will be able to pull that off again, so I feel like it would behoove them to win Game 4. That way, they'll have a little cushion before facing the Dodgers' top two guys again.