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Browsing posts from October, 2012

Live Game Blog | World Series | Game 1

By bullpenbrian - October 24, 2012 - 7:35 pm Leave a comment.

Game Over

What did we learn tonight? This is the Panda’s world and we’re just living in it. Meet your newest player you love-to-hate, Detroit.

With tonight’s victory the Giants are (12-7) in World Series openers and (6-4) in Fall Classic Game 1s at home.

It pretty crazy Verlander allowed more earned runs (5) than innings pitched (4). Granted, his game looked better than the numbers and the Giants did get a few lucky bounces in their favor…in particular Angel Pagan’s double off the third base bag.

Barry Zito. Man, for all the heat this guy’s taken over the years for an inflated contract he hasn’t lived up to…well, they sure love him now in San Fran.

Here’s a look at the upcoming pitching matchups. Fister has been outstanding this postseason. Bumgarner, conversely, has not.

Game 2 RHP Doug Fister (0-0, 1.35) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (0-2, 11.25)
Game 3 RHP Anibal Sanchez (1-1, 1.35) vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (2-0, 1.42)
Game 4 RHP Max Scherzer (1-0, 0.82) vs. RHP Matt Cain (2-2, 3.52)

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A World Series Saved

By bullpenbrian - October 24, 2012 - 1:16 am Leave a comment.

Bullpen Brian

As far as I’m concerned the Tigers and Giants saved the Postseason.

A World Series void of St. Louis & New York restores a proper order to the baseball universe, for which I am grateful considering October baseball has been out of whack for far too long.

The two better teams advanced in their respective LCS series sparing us from what would’ve been an unbearable Fall Classic.

-And on the seventh game, God looked down from the heavens and said “For the betterment of all things good on earth, let the ridiculousness of Cardinals’ postseason baseball end.” And so it came to be. The Baseball Bible

Detroit vs. San Fran appears to be a really good matchup–at least on paper as the saying goes. And it may not have great interest from the masses, but if it extends beyond five-games it should be a real treat for any and all baseball fans.

Most importantly, it won’t be the ‘puke-on-my-shoes’ Cardinals or the expletive Yankees winning it all again. If the Fall Classic could’ve been any less desirable, those two would’ve accomplished it by merely showing up for Game1.

We’re saved, I tell ya. Saved! Baseball fans rejoice!

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Giants So Right, I Was So Wrong

By bullpenbrian - October 23, 2012 - 3:55 pm Leave a comment.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the Giants’ comeback in the NLCS. And I couldn’t have been more wrong about my prediction the series was over after the Cardinals took a 3-1 series lead.

As one reader (George A Giants) points out “Wrong on all counts, sir.” Well yes, indeed I was. Man guilty.

Perhaps it‘s my distaste for all things Cardinals baseball that clouded my judgment? Or maybe it was the fact the Cardinals seemingly could do no wrong the past two postseasons?

Whatever the case, I didn’t just question the Giants’ ability to win but accused them of lacking a ‘clutch’ gene following its Game 3 loss against St. Louis. Of course, I should have known better.

The Giants, of all teams, were arguably the most clutch of any contender this postseason when they bounced back against Cincinnati after an 0-2 start in the division series.

But once San Francisco set an identical scene in the LCS, forcing its hand to win three-straight games, it only appeared the G-Men were merely following suite with the rest of the National League and doing its part to bow-out against the ‘luck-be-a-lady’ Cardinals.

Not to mention, only twice in NLCS history has a team recovered from down 3-1 to win the series (and yes, sadly the 2003 Marlins’ comeback against the Cubs is one of them). And these were the Cardinals, after all–a team who seemingly poisoned the postseason with its frustratingly uncanny ability to stay alive against greater talent.

Then like a switch–’click’–the Giants turned back on. The many scoring opportunities wasted through the first four-games were no more, they capitalized on Cardinals miscues and most importantly, the Giants’ starting pitching was, in a word–outstanding.

Even when San Fran tied the series 3-3 I still figured the Giants were just setting us up for another Cardinals’ clincher…

Wrong again. Instead, the Giants handed St. Louis an old fashioned butt-whopping in Game 7, a 9-0 drubbing that was never a close match.

And despite all the thrilling games we’ve witnessed this October, I enjoyed not one of them more than last night’s Game 7. Why? Because finally a National League team stood up to the Cardinals and refused to give away the series as so many before the Giants had.

No one likes to be wrong, including me. But luckily, I’m absolutely tickled my NLCS prediction wasn’t accurate. And yes, I’ve learned my lesson, too. Forget not counting those Cardinals out, it’s the never-say-die Giants the Tigers should be worried about.

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Giants My New BFF

By bullpenbrian - October 23, 2012 - 12:15 am Leave a comment.

Let me introduce you to my new best friends: Barry, Ryan & Matt. They’re professional pitchers for the National League Champion San Francisco Giants.

These guys are so cool. They just restored order to major league baseball by defeating the Cardinals in three straight games to win the NL pennant.

I’ve been motivating them the whole postseason by telling them they couldn’t win. “Three straight on the road at Cincinnati–ha, you guys are finished!” “Three straight against the Pixie dust Cards–oh, you’re killing me Smalls!”

But now that it’s done, and the Giants have won six-straight elimination games to reach the World Series, we’re like BFF. So yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

Oh, so you wanna be our friends, too? That’s cool but I’m warning you, we’re a pretty close-knit group. But because you also despise the Cardinals…you’re in. I can already tell this relationship is so going places.

Great guys, those Giants pitchers. Great guys!

Bullpen Brian

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Jim Leyland Enjoys His Vodkas & Cranberries

By bullpenbrian - October 22, 2012 - 6:30 pm Leave a comment.

It’s not unusual to hear about players being injured in post game celebrations. But it’s not often a manager gets involved.

Jim Leyland, however, was the target of his new make-shift closer, Phil Coke, who accidentally nicked his skipper on the back of the head with a champagne bottle following the Tigers’ 4-game sweep of the Yankees in the ALCS.

It’s nothing a little cocktail couldn’t fix, or an injury that will keep Leyland from managing in the World Series.

”That was just Phil Coke pouring champagne. I got real cold. I usually don’t go out in those celebrations. ”Well, as he poured the bottle down, I jumped up. Well, he hit my bald spot in the back, split my head open, but fortunately it was just a big scab. It didn’t slice it open. I didn’t need stitches or anything. After a couple more vodkas and cranberries, I didn’t feel anything,” said Leyland.

Aside from his victory scar life’s been pretty good lately for the 67-year-old who continues to enjoying the benefits of leading his club to its second World Series in six-years.

”I can’t tell you how many free meals I’ve had in the past 24 hours. I’m almost embarrassed, but every time I go to pay a check they said somebody picked it up,” Leyland said. ”They’ve been great, really neat, in the grocery store and stuff everybody’s pumped up obviously.”

I imagine the love affair should only continue if the Tigers bring home the golden trophy. Vodkas and cranberries for everybody!

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Cardinals More Poppycock Than Pixie Dust

By bullpenbrian - October 22, 2012 - 4:00 am Leave a comment.

The Cardinals didn’t run out of postseason pixie dust. They were just outplayed by the Giants the past two-games. Imagine that.

In fact, it’s stunning how beatable the Cardinals look when their opponent actually steers clear of choking away games with poor fielding and ninth-inning collapses (you know who you are: Phillies, Brewers, Rangers, Braves & Nats).

Lately, however, it’s been St. Louis sputtering in the clutch while letting its 3-1 series lead slip to a Game 7.

Last night the Cards failed to get a single leadoff man on base while plating just one-run…their only tally over the last 19-innings. Even worse, four costly fielding errors have lead to the Giants scoring 10-unearned runs this series–the most ever allowed in an NLCS.

For once a National League team is taking advantage of Cardinals’ mistakes–and not the other way around.

The Giants’ lineup has capitalized on those extra outs and combined it with sensational starting pitching, a recipe for success against anyone, even the never-say-die Cardinals.

This of course has nothing to do with an immunity from postseason hocus-pocus, but everything to do with the Giants’ realization St. Louis is more poppycock than pixie dust.

Whether or not the Giants believe this truth for a third straight game is yet to be seen. But I’d love it if just once Cardinals fans experienced what it feels like to be defeated with pixie dust, especially in a Game 7.

Poof! Season over. NLCS choked away.

Fingers crossed…

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Grand Return For Papa Grande?

By bullpenbrian - October 21, 2012 - 1:30 am Leave a comment.

Who does Jim Leyland turn to as his closer in the World Series? He wouldn’t go back to Jose Valverde, would he?

Papa Grande’s been nothing short of awful this October: 7-earned runs, 7-hits in just 2.1 innings. Is that really worth gambling on in the Fall Classic?

We’re about to find out. The Tigers’ starting staff is just too good not to find themselves in a closing situation in a game or two against its NL opponent.

Detroit’s already spun 8 quality starts in its 9 postseason games, which is no fluke considering they tossed 90 during the regular season–2nd most in the American League.

It’s the big reason why the Tigers have found so much postseason success lately—the LCS last season and the World Series this year. But as good as the starters have been, Valverde has matched them every step of the way converting 93.2-percent of his save opportunities during the past 3 seasons–the best mark of any closer in the majors over that time.

But when Valverde’s ritualistic compulsions turned ugly in October, first in Oakland and then gut-wrenchingly bad in New York, Leyland was forced to turn elsewhere at closer.

Phil Coke’s primary job as a reliever is to retire left-handed hitters–not close games. But he served as Leyland’s temporary stop-gap at closer, and did so not once but twice in the ALCS. Coke cleaned up Valverde’s mess in Game 1 and returned the following night to close out the Yankees in Game 2.

It was such a rare postseason feat Coke actually made baseball history by becoming the first pitcher to ever earn two post-season saves following a season in which he had one-or fewer saves.

Interesting, indeed. But it doesn’t change the fact Coke isn’t closer material…and neither the Cards or Giants are the ‘no-hit’ Yankees of this postseason.

The closing job for Coke–if, in fact, Leyland decides to stick with him–will be considerably tougher in the coming days. And it’s probably more a case of Leyland playing the matchups before hoping lightning strikes twice with his suddenly sensational lefty.

That could mean running Joaquin Benoit out for the ninth, who’s been average this postseason but does have closer’s experience. It’s minimal…13 saves in 11 big league season, six coming in 2007.

The seemingly ageless Octavio Dotel is another candidate. He has plenty of experience having notched 109 career saves. But he’s also been consistently unpredictable in his later years and far from the closer he once was. Another crapshoot at best.

I can’t imagine the closer issue hasn’t been at the forefront of Leyland’s mind since capturing the AL pennant…more so than lineups, rotations or too much time off for his team before the World Series.

A ninth inning lead will be anything but a certainty for the Tigers. Will Valverde bounce back? Will Leyland risk finding that out by thrusting his cuckoo reliever back into the thick drama of a save situation in the World Series?

It’s enough stress to drive a man like me to start blazing Marlboros right alongside the Tigers’ skipper, and especially if it’s Valverde easing the way for another Cardinals world championship.

Come to think of it, anyone here have a light?

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Contraction, Contenders, Champions

By bullpenbrian - October 19, 2012 - 2:00 pm Leave a comment.

In November of 2001 baseball’s owners voted 28-2 in favor of contracting two teams from the league. It was never specified which two teams, but many speculated the down trodden Tigers were headed for the ax.

Detroit had seen one winning season in the previous 10-years, the in-between was mostly garbage…92, 96, 97 & 109-losses, and most fans, understandably, didn’t care to watch the debacles first hand. A mighty damper was hanging over mo-town and the league had its own ideas how to make it go away.

As we know, baseball didn’t contract the Tigers, or any team for that matter, after striking a new collective bargaining agreement with the players. The league moved on and so did the Tigers–albeit in the same hapless direction.

Detroit lost 106, 119, 90 & 91-games in the following four seasons, enough misery for Tiger fans to wonder “hey, about that contraction stuff..?”

But it all changed in 2006, five years removed from dodging the supposed chopping block. Under new manager Jim Leyland the Tigers won 95-games, took the wild card and stormed through the playoffs reaching the World Series, which they lost to St. Louis 4-1

Nevertheless, since then the Tigers have seen but one losing season. They’ve reached the LCS in back-to-back years, lost to Texas last season, but easily swept the Yankees out this year. Now it’s back to the Fall Classic.

I thought about all this yesterday watching the Tigers celebrate the AL pennant. What a turn-around this has been…contraction…to contenders…to sitting on the door step of being champions, and all done in the decade since Detroit’s darkest hour.

Kind of makes me hopeful as a Cubs fan. Maybe reaching a World Series on the North Side isn’t as far off as it often appears. Would you take two World Series in the next decade following this 101-loss season? Yeah, I’d take that deal, too.

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Bob Brenly Out, Doug Glanville In?

By bullpenbrian - October 18, 2012 - 5:00 am Leave a comment.

Cubs fans have been privy to the exceptional work of Len Kasper & Bob Brenly over the last eight seasons. That’s not as commonplace in baseball as some might believe it to be.

Granted, Brenly wasn’t a favorite analyst of mine out of the gate. He did grow on me and I’m honestly disappointed he won’t be back in the Cubs’ broadcast booth next season—but wishing him all the best wherever he lands.

I’m not shocked, however, Brenly’s leaving Chicago. Here’s what I said in late August:

Post Aug 27: I’m wondering if Brenly wants to come back?

From the outside it seems broadcasting Cubs games is a wonderful gig, Brenly is certainly paid well, but does he want to sit through another three or four losing seasons on the North Side?

Watching the rebuild may not be worth it for a guy like Brenly whose on-air candidness and occasional humor would be welcomed with open arms in markets with competitive teams like Arizona or Los Angeles.

Personally, I’d enjoy if Brenly returns to the Cubs’ booth in 2013 and beyond. But I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if he opts to move elsewhere.

Losing is hard to swallow, even when you’re being paid handsomely to watch.

Nonetheless, now the discussion turns to Brenly’s replacement, and it’s a hugely important decision considering the television broadcast is the main marketing arm of the Cubs…especially coming off a 101-loss season and continuing to sell the idea of longer-term rebuilding plan.

Paul Sullivan of the Tribune lists several possible replacements for Brenly:

  • Mark Grace
  • Rick Sutcliffe
  • Todd Hollandsworth
  • Kerry Wood
  • Steve Stone
  • Eric Karros
  • Gary Matthews
  • Darrin Jackson
  • Steve Lyons.

I understand how beloved Gracie is on the North Side, but I fear his reckless lifestyle would ultimately become a distraction to the organization—same as it did in Arizona.

Kerry Wood is obviously another popular name in the mix, but he has zero broadcasting experience (that I’m aware of) and is the least polished of the early candidates.

I could live with ‘Big Red’ Sutcliffe or the return of Steve Stone. But I’ve always had a soft spot for former-Cub Doug Glanville.

Glanville is smart, articulate, funny and still remains tied to the area as President of GK Alliance, LLC located in the west Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn, as well as serving as an analyst on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight show since 2010.

There are certain to be other candidates. Heck, it’s likely the Cubs have been narrowing down a short-list for weeks now.

The good news is Kasper is signed through another four season, which is a saving grace in itself. Len’s one of the best TV play-by-play voices in baseball. So regardless of whomever is paired with him, at least we’re promised half the broadcast to be enjoyable.

All said, the announcement of Brenly’s replacement is certain to be one of the biggest offseason additions to the Cubs’ family. But here’s hoping it doesn’t remain the top headline for long.

We know whoever it is the Cubs land as its new television analyst won’t be starting at third base, center field, or shoring-up a leaky starting rotation. That’s the kind of signing we can only hope takes top-billing this winter.

Then again, Brenly’s replacement will be an everyday player in the booth, that someone we’ll want to welcome into our living rooms for those six/seven months out of the year.

Brenly couldn’t have been a better house guest on our flat screens, even if he took some getting used to.

Who knows if we’ll be as lucky to have someone as good as Brenly again?

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Giant Letdown In NLCS

By bullpenbrian - October 18, 2012 - 4:30 am 2 comments.

My gut feeling was the Giants couldn’t win two-in-a-row against St. Louis. So far I’m right.

I also said Game 3 was a must-win for San Fran if they were to maintain any chance of winning the NLCS. Of course, the the Giants lost 3-1, and in doing so seemingly assured us of another Cardinals vs. Tigers World Series.

Oh, the joy.

Perhaps what’s more frustrating, however, is the continued realization the National League’s best clubs are at home after choking away in the division series while the Cardinals get to play big brother against the bay boys.

That thought, in particular, has made it hardly bearable watching the Giants waste countless scoring opportunities against St. Louis, and even more difficult to understand how they failed to score despite posting the highest team-batting average (.272), on-base percentage (.348) and OPS (.707) of any team remaining in the postseason.

The Giants are getting scoring opportunities by the boat load this series, especially last night when Kyle Lohse walked 5 batters in 5.2 innings. But San Fran couldn’t capitalize on a single one, left 15 men on base all totaled, including going 0-for-5 with RISP and 2-outs and grounding into 2 double plays.

Where are the Nationals & Reds when we need them?

The big miss has been the Giants’ supposed big-hitters. Buster Posey has been virtually non-existent going 2-for-10 with no RBI and no extra base hits in the LCS. And for all the pre-game rah-rah chatter from Hunter Pence, he’s 1-for-11. Neither player has a single hit with a RISP.

When Ryan Theriot has your biggest clutch knock (a bases loaded 2-run single in Game 2) you know you’re performing well below standards offensively. 

The Cards, meanwhile, have only outscored the Giants by a messily 2-runs through 3-games. But that’s already enough to force the Giants into winning 3 of the next 4 to advance. Anyone willing to take that bet?

Sadly, Orangetober as we know it is dead. Albeit, unofficially. And even if the Giants do have a heartbeat, it’s not detectable…or better said, not scoring.

Must be nice for the Cardinals facing an opponent lacking a ‘clutch gene’ as the lone remaining hurdle to reaching the World Series. Only against the Red Birds would the National League make it so easy.

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