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!
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!
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?
When Scott Feldman walked Yadier Molina with the bases loaded in the fifth inning I switched the TV off.
St. Louis was leading 4-2 and a gut feeling told me this wasn’t the Rangers’ night. They wouldn’t come back, not even with four innings left to play, and despite all the hysterics that took place the night before.
It was a similar feeling of doubt I felt Thursday night with Texas leading by three-runs late in Game 6. “Too close, not over,” I thought.
Unable to bare watching the final innings unfold I turned that game off too, instead opting to listen to the conclusion of Game 6 game on the radio.
Nestled in my office I cranked up the space heater and waited for Texas to celebrate. Of course, that didn’t happen. There I was cold, in the dark, and wondering just how on earth the Rangers had let the series slip to a decisive Game 7.
My nerves were finally spent through five innings Friday night. If Texas came back to win, shame on me for not paying attention. But all I kept thinking was, “Not the Cardinals, not again.”
Only once before had I ever tuned-out a World Series game. Not surprisingly, that came during Game 5 of the 2006 World Series when St. Louis was busy beating the daylights out of Detroit. I simply couldn’t bare the heartache of watching that game either.
There are but three teams I always gain pleasure from watching lose as a Cubs, Colts and Blackhawks fan: The Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Vancouver Canucks.
If Texas could win the World Series I’d have the three-peat in place: Green Bay defeated Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl and Boston won against Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Finals. Not to be, I suppose.
With baseball as my first love, however, this one hurts the most. LaRussa, Pujols, Berkman…Ryan expletive Theriot, baseball’s champions.
Not the Cardinals, not again.
This wasn’t the best game ever played in World Series history, but it’s certainly in the conversation…and near the top of the list.
And as thrilling as David Freese’s walkoff HR was, it’s not the best walkoff HR in World Series history, either. Sorry, Cards fans.
Adrian Beltre has become this October’s version of Edgar Renteria–an accomplished veteran making the most of the postseason.
With all due respect to Ian Kinsler, who I tabbed as the early favorite to win the World Series MVP Award, Mike Napoli has earned top honors should Texas go on to win it all.
The bearded slugger remains a surprise thorn in the Cardinals side delivering clutch hits throughout the series, including his tiebreaking two-run double in the eight giving the Rangers a 3-2 series advantage in Game 5 Monday night.
Napoli is hitting .308 with 2 HR and a series leading 9 RBI, which nearly matches the offensive output from the rest of the Rangers’ lineup (12 RBI).
If there’s a downside to Derek Holland’s brilliant outing in game 4, (besides his pitiful cookie duster!) it’s that he likely won’t be available to start a potential Game 7 scheduled Thursday night in St. Louis.
“It wasn’t a Series-saving rally, but it was huge.” -Ian Kinsler
Sorry Charlie, but I couldn’t disagree more!
Of the 50 World Series that began 2-0, the team having won the first two games has gone on to win the series 40 times. That’s good for 80-percent.
So it’s hard to believe Texas would’ve rebounded from those long odds, even with the series shifting to Arlington for Game 3.
Thankfully, for those of us rooting for the Rangers, it’s still a winnable series due to a dramatic, and historic, ninth inning comeback–thanks in large part to Kinsler’s leadoff single and clutch stolen base to ignite the top of the ninth inning.
At some point I’ll have to give St. Louis credit for winning games this postseason.
I’m not ready to do just yet, even though they’ve ventured deep into October winning the NLDS, the NLCS and taking a 1-0 lead in the World Series.
Game after game, round after round…the Cards lull to sleep its opposition with shaky starting pitching, a patch work bullpen and just enough offense.
It’s certainly not pretty baseball, but it’s certainly not all luck, either.
My hesitation to acknowledge the Cards’ success is, without question, my sour grapes as a Cubs fan. But more so, I’m soured by the fact Philly bowed out so easily in the NLDS, and by Milwaukee’s bumbling fielding and lack of clutch hitting in the NLCS. Awful performances for two of the league’s better teams.
Now, it seems, Texas is following suite–rolling over like a damn dog and letting the Cards walk on by…just like the rest of the NL. (How many more times will the Rangers stare at a called strike 1,2 & 3 trailing by one run late in the game?)
No doubt the game’s greatest hitter, an ace pitcher and a dominate closers can take you far, even more so with one of the game’s greatest managers.
Maybe the Cards deserve a little credit, after all. But I think I’ll wait until they win the World Series to give it to them.