Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Wild Card Series' Day 1: Starting Guns


My rooting interest lies with the Rangers during their leg of the AL Wild Card games, solely because the fact that they got the AL West yanked out from under them by technicalities installed essentially this season needs to be rectified.

The Astros aren't good enough this year for a first round bye. They just aren't. But with a commissioner who clearly loves them and hates when they don't win things, they're gonna get by a lot easier even when they don't need to. Which is why the Rangers are pit against the 99-win Rays rather than Houston getting them. To this end, it does mean that I can root against the Rays, rather than rooting for them in this series and hoping they don't get too hot.

The Rangers have been an exceptional team this year, they've just been very unlucky. They run out of steam at the worst times. So my hope was that they'd strike the Rays when they least expect it, and before they have an opportunity to fall apart. Having the Rangers strike first, and before they get to Eovaldi or Dunning in the rotation, makes me very confident.

It also tells you how good of an idea it was for them to pick up Jordan Montgomery. Once again, Brian Cashman never should have given that guy up, he is a handy guy to have around, and his stock has only rose since leaving the Yankees. Gumby got a Game 1 start and went 7 innings without allowing a run. That never could have happened for the Yanks. 

I'm optimistic that the Rangers can keep things going for one more game, though you can never completely count the Rays out.

My rooting interest also lies with the Twins for their Wild Card series, solely because I want them to surprise everybody. The whole season they've been accused of just being carried to the playoffs on the power of the rest of their division [sucking], and while they did become a much better team in September, there's still a lot of skeptics out there. Plus, they're against another unlucky postseason team, the Blue Jays, who've had great teams but no postseason series wins to show for it. 

Yesterday's Twins victory was their first in 2 decades. So if you think the Jays have gone a bit without succeeding, give them time; the 2016 team's barely in the rearview. 

The Twins only really needed two guys to bring down the Jays in Game 1. One of them was Royce Lewis, who hit two home runs, making up for his injury-plagued seasons with ferocity. The other was Pablo Lopez, who had an excellent start, striking out 3 and only giving up 1 run. Those two guys did all the work. It does make me worry that it's keeping the team from being fully versatile, as a lot of guys in this lineup did nothing at the plate in Game 1. They may all get rolling today, you never know. Or, it could be the Jays' turn, as Berrios may have a score to settle in Minneapolis. 

One of the hooks of the Diamondbacks making the playoffs was the opportunity for MLB fans to see rookie Corbin Carroll in the playoffs. And he delivered almost immediately against Milwaukee. 

The Brewers did put up some nice numbers against Brandon Pfaadt, which I sort of thought they'd do, with Carlos Santana and Tyrone Taylor making it 3-0. Then, like magic, Corbin Carroll arrived, and took something Corbin Burnes threw out there yard. Then Ketel Marte followed suit. An inning later Gabriel Moreno got into it. What began as a one-sided pitching matchup turned into a dangerous, versatile lineup getting the best of one of the strongest pitchers in baseball. I'm shocked...but I'm not, like, completely gobsmacked by it. This D-Backs team is not to be trifled with, they could do some real damage going forward.

Christian Walker and Paul Sewald made it an easy finish. Against a Brewers team that's been hard to tame all year, they made it look like child's play. 

And then there's the hometown team.

Gotta be honest, as good as this team has been, the Marlins are the exact kind of team that can cause trouble for us. They can beat you up late, creep up and flip the script while you're relaxing. Josh Bell had me sweating a little late with his hard-hitting theatrics and multiple doubles. There is enough to this team that even when things were going well, especially when Zack Wheeler was on the mound, I wasn't completely assured. 

And yet this team delivered. And yet people like Harper, Realmuto, Stott, Bohm, and even Johan Rojas and Cristian Pache, just kept outdoing the Marlins' pitching. And yet Wheeler stayed unrattled. And yet Jose Alvarado mopped up multiple messes. I'm still very hesitant that these Phillies may not catch fire like last year's could, but this game was a very good sign, and one that could lead to something great. 

May they keep at it for as long as they can. I love this team, and I love seeing them outdo the odds.

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