Sunday, October 24, 2021

We've Got a World Series Matchup, and, uh...

 


...yeah, this...isn't quite what I ordered, but it's not BAD.

My worst fear for this playoffs was an Astros-Cardinals series. Clearly, this is not that. The Cardinals lost the Wild Card game, that wasn't gonna happen. But...any attempt to stop the Astros by great teams like the Red Sox and White Sox was futile, because the Astros had built up so much momentum that not even human starts by Luis Garcia and Zack Greinke could stop them. The Sox had a lead, the Astros won 3 straight, and that was it. There was always going to be that possibility that the Astros had a easy path to the World Series.

What I wasn't sure of was whether or not there was anyone in the NL that could stop them.

Going into the playoffs, I was thinking the Brewers were heading to a World Series, by the strength of their rotation, and the contact ability of their lineup. I just thought they were gonna dominate, and they'd be a match to Houston. But then the Braves beat them. Then I figured the Dodgers were gonna waltz all the way to the end on their payroll and strength alone, and their big-game mentality, like Chris Taylor and his 3 home runs, would obliterate Houston as payback for 2017. 

But then the Braves beat them. Which made me think...holy crap, are the Braves gonna be able to take Houston?

This is a thought I couldn't have had in August, when this team was still scraping by and trying to advance. When they had no outfield, I just couldn't see them doing anything in a postseason situation. But now they have an outfield of Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and Joc Pederson [and Jorge Soler when he's healthy], and it's made all the difference. Duvall, Pederson, Soler and ESPECIALLY Rosario have been heroes this postseason for them. That has made them into contenders, even if I lambasted the idea at the time. 

So now, the Braves have enough in the tank that they could definitely be a match for Houston. Charlie Morton taking down his old team is a good story. Dusty Baker against the symbol of his old mentor is a good story. Freddie Freeman, a future Hall of Famer with a few more years like this, finally getting to a World Series is a good story. It's a true good vs. evil matchup, and there shouldn't be any doubt as to who I'm rooting for here.

I'm hoping for a fun Series, something that doesn't depress me too much for the forthcoming offseason. I just really hope the Astros allow for one.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Championship Series Day 6: Clinching Positions Good and Bad

 


So, uh...Astros didn't really need the umps' help on this one.

This game came down to both the unstoppable Astros offense and Framber Valdez, who's been pitching beautifully this season, and had another really nice start last night. People are saying, however, that there was something suspicious about how Valdez rubbed his temple every time he got a new ball, and that it's funny that the umps aren't checking him for substances. 

Regardless, this lineup is on fire, putting up 9 runs in two consecutive games, leading with the same pack [Brantley, Alvarez, Altuve, Bregman], and now adding the young Jose Siri to the mix. They're getting stronger with every game, and unless the Red Sox manage to pull some serious offense together on the road, the Astros will be going to another World Series. I don't want it to happen, you don't want it to happen, but at this point it might be inevitable. 


Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, another team jumped on the 9 runs bandwagon, and it wasn't the home team. I have a Drew Smyly custom here because he got the win, honestly should have started [why start JESSE CHAVEZ when Ynoa gets bounced?], and leveled the Dodgers, with the bullpen's help, after things got going. But...if I hadn't already posted my Eddie Rosario custom twice, it'd go here, cause that man was on fire last night. He was a double away from a cycle and decided to hit a 3-run homer off of Tony Gonsolin just because he could. As tepid as Rosario has been as a contact hitter with Minnesota and Cleveland recently, the man has absolutely taken off in Atlanta, and is having the best stretch of his career by far. 

Plus, the rest of the lineup is helping out, as Freddie Freeman and Adam Duvall also had big moments last night. Things are looking really balanced, and the lack of Ronald Acuna, and Jorge Soler, is not hurting this team at all. Which is wonderful. 

The Braves are 3-1, and have one more game in LA tonight. This could be a clincher, but remember, these are the Dodgers we're talking about. The Giants had a lead too, and look what happened to them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Championship Series Day 5: An Obligatory Testimony from the Opposition

 
I said yesterday that both series' would be battles of which bullpen could go the longest without making the mistake. Suffice to say, the Braves and Sox bullpens evened things up yesterday, culminating in two ninth innings that blew the game up entirely.

First of all, Braves-Dodgers. Seemed like a game of inches for the longest time. Corey Seager has his bomb, the Braves throw some points up and make it 5-2, and it just...stays there, palpably standing, waiting for someone to just do something. Like in the Sox game, the lead wasn't deep enough where you could turn off the set. While some Dodgers fans left before the Bellinger homer, there was still this chance that something could happen, and it certainly did. Getting all of this done in bottom 8 and leaving top 9 to Kenley, with some very easy lineup pieces batting, was just a wonderful twist of fate. Cause now all Kenley Jansen needed to do was just...do his thing, and that he did. While this has been a stronger year for Jansen, you still get the specters of past years of blown saves clouding what could be an easy opportunity, and I'm glad he can still be efficient in these situations.

So, Braves are still leading, but they're the away team and the Dodgers are juuust gaining momentum. This could be very tricky for them. 

As for Boston...look...we need robo-umps. We just do. Angel Hernandez is one thing, but this guy was messing up all night, the media was REPORTING that he was messing up all night, and his mistake in the ninth led to the Astros coming back and winning the game. Meanwhile, all anyone can say is 'well, I guess it was a ball'. Bullshit. The ump got it wrong and cost the Sox the game, and put Jason Castro in position to score the RBI, and lead to the battering of the Sox bullpen. Meanwhile Manfred shrugs because...I'm beginning to think he actually wants the Astros to succeed, seeing as he only barely reprimanded them. 

If the Astros come back and win this series, people will point to this game. Which should have been a Boston win. I never thought I'd be vouching for Boston this much, but here I am.

Tonight, at least one team will take a 3-game lead. Please, PLEASE, do not let it be the Astros. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Championship Series Day 4: Slamming Into Oblivion

 


I figured that the ALCS was going to become a case of which pitching staff committed less mistakes, but I always thought the Sox' bullpen was going to be the victim of this. Hansel Robles sitting around looking human, that's a giveaway. Adam Ottavino and Matt Barnes teetering on the brink of unreliable? This is all foreshadowing in most seasons. 

However, this has all been a pleasant surprise. Something about the Red Sox lineup absolutely obliterating Houston pitchers has been giving me life in this bland, bland postseason schematic. LOOK AT 'EM GO! J.D., Arroyo, Schwarber, Devers, Hernandez. They're all absolutely attacking this team's bullpen. Which means, if anything, that whatever cheating that the lineup did all those years ago, and may still be doing, didn't spread to the pitching.

Aw, man. Something about seeing the Astros get what they've deserved this series has made me like the Red Sox a little. Let me stress that I'm still gonna be rooting for the NL team in the WS, but the Sox somehow have a habit of feeling fun whenever they get good momentum in the postseason. It happened in 2013, it happened in 2018, and it's happening now. Lots of fun, excellent players, like Rafael Devers, Kyle Schwarber, Enrique Hernandez, Eduardo Rodriguez, and now Christian Arroyo, are getting their due. Arroyo's success comes after years of trying to make it in San Francisco, Tampa and Cleveland before FINALLY getting a shot with the Red Sox and taking it to a huge postseason moment. I'm very happy for the guy. 

We've got a few more games left til we really see the full picture here, but with a Greinke-Pivetta battle looming tonight, I'd kinda like some more offensive olympics happening on the home side. Pivetta's been sharp all postseason, Greinke's been human all year, the signs are there. Let's just bring it on home. 

It'll be interesting how the NLCS game goes as well, considering that it's Morton v. Buehler. We could very well see the Braves go to 3-0. Wouldn't that be something? 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Championship Series Update: Intriguingly Close

 
I've been away for the last few days, so I haven't had a chance to do consistent posts on either of these Championship Series. They've been good games, but...it's still very hard for series' with these four teams to be entirely interesting. It's 3 of the teams from last year and the other team won 3 years ago. You can go 'ooooh, this team put up over 10 points', or 'oooh, this game's going to extras again', but without new and different teams, it only really pulls you in so much. 

The Sox-Astros series has been close in the sense that the series is tied, both teams have traded wins, and the strengths and weaknesses of both teams are showcased in both outcomes. The Astros' usual suspects will go to work, then their pitching will get beat up. The Sox will blow a lead, then pummel the heck out of Houston. I'm not sure which one of these is the winner yet, though both morally and quality-wise I am pulling for the Sox. A.) cause screw the Astros, and B.) because they actually have done work to get here. Plus, the Astros have actually been reprimanded successfully. Alex Cora may have been reprimanded, but I don't believe he's doing as much of the old shit as the Astros are. It's very interesting that the Sox are doing well again once Cora has been put back at the helm, but...better him than the Astros, I guess.

Dodgers-Braves is a lot more interesting. The games are closer, the teams are more evenly matched, there's more chance for true heroes. The first two games have ended in walkoffs, first by Austin Riley and then by Eddie Rosario. It's come down to pitching, and bullpen efficiency, and who can break through first, so it's more strategic than the other one, which is just 'HIT TONS OF HOMERS'. Also, more likable teams. I like the Braves, I like the Dodgers. I like that the Braves are winning after 2, even though most Braves fans are hesitant to be excited yet. Hey, the Sixers were winning after 2, and the sun shines on Atlanta sports more than it does Philly sports. You guys will be fine.

[remembers how far up the Falcons were in the Super Bowl]. Yeah. Fine.

I'm still pulling for a Braves-Sox series, and I hope tonight's Boston-set ALCS run pushes us towards that outcome. Especially the Sox. I can not have the Astros win another one.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Division Series: Check, Please

 


With a matchup this damned tight, it was always going to come down to a photo finish.

The Dodgers and Giants, the whole season, were so evenly matched that just calling them a wild card and a division leader did them both a disservice. The Dodgers may have won the wild card, but they still won 100 games. The Giants may have had the best record in the West, but they co-owned that division with LA. It's the kind of tight finish that is probably going to lead to Rob Manfred expanding the playoffs next year, for similar cases that won't be as deserving as this one [it's the equivalent of the Oscars making a Best Animated Feature category to appease fans of Chicken Run, and giving it to Shrek]. 

So, Giants-Dodgers coming down to a battle of pitchers, a battle of 1-run moves, and a single check swing? Yeah. That makes sense.

I was honestly rooting for the Giants, as they had the longer playoff drought and had the better regular season, but the Dodgers always felt like they could win anyway by force of payroll and roster. Their biggest indicator of status this season came when Trevor Bauer was suspended and the Dodgers just shrugged their shoulders and traded for Max Scherzer, like nothing had even happened. They can rebound from things that would wound a normal team, like coming in second, or being in elimination position at the hand of the best team in the NL. The odds are gonna be stacked in their favor, so bringing out Julio Urias and Max Scherzer in later innings is just...something the Dodgers can just do. They're the best, they can do these things.

And regardless of whether or not Flores checked his swing, which...I honestly think the umps did him dirty on, the Giants had lost the momentum, and were about to quietly lose a tense, close game to the Dodgers. Something like the Flores move puts an exclamation point on the game, and the season, sort of like Willie McCovey missing the catch in '62. It's not just a loss, we were robbed! And it's how Giants fans operate. Barry Bonds is a Hall of Famer, can't you see the stats? Willie Mays is the greatest, Hank who? They see the exclamation point and disregard the truth. The truth is that the Dodgers were never going to be stopped, because they're the Dodgers. 

Dodgers-Braves, unless I'm mistaken, is gonna end similarly. The Dodgers have all the cheat codes, the Braves are now missing another outfielder. I want to be wrong, I want the Braves to upset and make it to a World Series for the first time in 22 years...but the Dodgers have so much on their side right now.

In a very boring postseason schematic, Braves-Sox is the only hope of something fairly interesting. I don't know if that's what we're gonna get, but...wouldn't it be cool?

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Division Series' Day 6: Clarity and Thickening

 This was, unfortunately, bound to happen.

As the Red Sox-Rays game was balanced enough to amount for an upset...the Astros were always going to be better than the White Sox. The difference between Dusty Baker and Tony LaRussa is that Baker is going the same direction the Astros are, and is driving them further even despite cheating accusations and things like that. LaRussa is holding the White Sox back, and driving them in separate directions. And the sad part is, LaRussa has a very good chance of keeping his job this offseason, because the Sox don't realize he's a problem yet, or enough of a problem that requires replacing. 

The Astros did their thing, the whole gang was beating up Carlos Rodon and friends. Martin Maldonado joined Altuve, Bregman, Brantley and the rest in bringing the margin over 10 and making it possible for anyone other than Gavin Sheets to get anything done for the Sox. The once-mighty White Sox season ended with a whimper, setting up a Red Sox-Astros ALCS that is not one of the more interesting matchups we had this year.



As for the Sox...they gave it their all.Even without Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert most of the season, they still powered through, with an excellent rotation, some great unsung heroes throughout [Andrew Vaughn being chief among them]. They also proved that they can be a contender after a 2020 season that let a lot of false contenders into the playoffs. I really hope they can strike back in 2022 and climb further than they did this year.

Meanwhile, the Braves similarly clobbered a thought-to-be-impenetrable pitching staff, taking Eric Lauer and the bullpen for a ride, and making this a very close, very tense game, with great work on both sides, Brewers getting RBIs, Braves fighting through. If it wasn't for Freddie Freeman, we'd be going to Game 5, but Freeman got the better of Josh Hader, who just had a pretty awful postseason overall I think, and Will Smith got through the ninth without tanking himself. The Braves came into some insane momentum in September and have been riding it ever since, which should make it very interesting for whoever wins in SF Thursday night.

As for the Brewers...I really thought this was their year. The pitching looked so damn good this year that I really thought they'd get through Atlanta and be a serious favorite for the World Series. Alas, that was not the case, and heroes like Christian Yelich, Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff struggled in the heat of things this week. Next season should also be a big year for them, but I foresee tight competition between them, the Cardinals and the Reds. They'll need Yelich fully back to really make a statement. 

The only team to force a Game 5 yesterday were the Dodgers, who railed against Anthony Desclafani, with big moments from Trea Turner, Mookie Betts and Will Smith. As intimidating as the Giants have looked this year, the Dodgers may be just as good, with enough punch and big players to account for some major chaos. Walker Buehler, even on short rest, was still incredible on the mound, adding another piece of evidence for his Cy Young case. Game 5 may come down to Julio Urias and Logan Webb, and it may just be a battle of which youngster will make a mistake first. And who will capitalize the most.

Excited for Thursday. Sox-Astros seems kinda simple, but this NLCS has the potential to be wild.