Monthly Archives: October 2014

Game Seven breakdown

The San Francisco Giants have broken through. They win a Game Seven in the World Series for the first time, and become the first team in 35 years to win a Game Seven on the road. I think it’s all been said about Madison Bumgarner, but man, this guy is good. I thought he had maybe three innings in him, but to go five was arguably the greatest performance in a World Series that I can remember. Not even Randy Johnson in 2001 was this dominant.

Quite honestly, the Royals should be proud of themselves. I know it’s going to be a sad day in Kansas City, but ultimately, considering how close they got- having the tying run on third in the ninth- there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Ultimately, aside from Bumgarner, the middle of the Giants lineup won the game- Sandoval, Pence, and Belt each had two hits, and Michael Morse had two clutch at-bats, with a sacrifice fly and driving in the Series winning run with a fourth inning single.

I don’t really have anything else to tell you at this point. Congratulations, Giants, on the title, and at last, Tim Hudson gets his title.

Here’s hoping a new commissioner will keep the game great.

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World Series Game Six observations

Game Six was a one-sided blowout. Jake Peavy was, well, Jake Peavy (at least in the postseason), and Yordano Ventura carried the memory of Oscar Taveras with him in a beautiful seven inning, three-hit gem.

Somehow, given the two teams playing, it’s fitting that we will see a winner-take-all tomorrow night. With the exception of Game Three, none of these games were even all that close. There has only been one save situation, which Greg Holland converted in Game Three, which gave the Royals a 2-1 lead at the time.

These two teams are probably not the best in their respective leagues, but they won the big games that they needed to win. The Royals won their first seven games, and now play a seventh game for all the marbles.

The Royals got the clutch hits they needed to get, scoring seven times in the second inning to knock out Jake Peavy. They scored seven runs without a home run, getting freak hits, like Nori Aoki’s first hit through a drawn-in infield, or Hosmer’s Baltimore chop double over Crawford’s head (you can try that a million times and you couldn’t do it). Mike Moustakas would homer in the seventh to finish the scoring, giving Hunter Strickland a record in futility- allowing six home runs in a single postseason. It’s almost become laughable at this point.

There are some eerie parallels with 2002- two wild-card teams, and the order of winning games has been almost uncanny. And now Jeremy Guthrie and Tim Hudson, barring major changes, will take their places on the mound in Game Seven. After going nine years without one, we only have to wait three years this time. Seventh games of the World Series are almost the pinnacle of the sporting world- if the Stanley Cup is the best trophy, the baseball seventh game is the best in atmosphere.

So, here we go, for all the marbles tomorrow. 8:00 at Kauffman Stadium. I bet very few people would have predicted the last game of the year would be played in Kansas City. That’s how magical the Royals’ run has been. Even if the Giants pull it out, the Royals summoned everything they had and deserve to be proud.

Game Seven tomorrow night. Nothing much else to say.

World Series Game 3, 4, and 5- observations

The Giants take two out of three in San Francisco. So, again, they cannot clinch at home, but they put themselves in driver’s seat after a brilliant performance by Madison Bumgarner, “MadBum.” The Royals were leading 4-1 in Game Four before the Giants scored fifteen unanswered runs in Games Four and Five. And the Giants won both of those games without hitting a single home run. They smacked the ball around, including three RBIs in Game Five from Brandon Crawford. So, San Francisco stands one win away from the title. It will be put on Jake Peavy to pitch the Giants to the title in Game Six. Whether Peavy can shake off his October demons and gain his redemption remains to be seen, but if Kansas City wins Game Six, it could be enough to power the Royals to the title in a winner-take-all Game Seven.

Observations from the three games in San Francisco:

1. Alex Gordon has been cold in the World Series- he’s hitting .100 in the Series, and hasn’t shown the flashes of defense we’d expect. Eric Hosmer struggled in the first two games, but did make several clutch defensive plays and scored a run in Game Two. If the Royals are going to win, Gordon needs to step up.

2. No home runs were hit in AT&T Park- given the dimensions of the ballpark, I thought we’d see home runs flying into McCovey Cove. But neither team hit any in the three games in San Francisco. If the stats are right, the last time there were three consecutive World Series games without a home run was in 1948, when the Indians beat the Braves in six games to win their most recent title to date. Despite this, the Giants managed to score eighteen runs in those three games, compared to seven for the Royals.

3. Jake Peavy can clinch the Series for the Giants- I never thought I’d be saying this. Look, I really don’t mean to pick on Peavy. I don’t. But his struggles in October have made the respective fans very nervous. Until he can overcome his struggles in October, you can’t feel comfortable with him in the playoffs. He lost Game Four in the ALCS last year, and struggled in Game Three of the World Series, and faltered with the Padres in two straight playoff appearances. Now it’s up to him to pitch the Giants to the title. Forgive me for being cynical, but I think it’s going the distance.

4. We have the DH back- Billy Butler will be back in the lineup for Kansas City in Game Six. He had several clutch RBIs in Game Two, driving in the game-winner in their five-run sixth inning. With Yordano Ventura going for the Royals, if he can get hot, it’s likely that the Royals can force Game Seven.

5. Madison Bumgarner is the likely MVP if the Giants win- the only other case you can really make is Hunter Pence, who’s been their hot hitter.

6. I still don’t think Kansas City is dead in the water- even if the Royals are down, they are not out, and with the recent history of Game Sevens being won by the home team, if they win on Tuesday, the momentum would be on their side with Guthrie going in Game Seven.

7. We saw the cracks in the Kansas City bullpen- as good as the Royals have been, it’s not like the Giants were facing Trevor Hoffman or Mariano Rivera. Ned Yost probably over-managed his bullpen in Games Four and Five, like Bruce Bochy did in Game Two, and if it costs him, you can look to the eighth inning of Game Five as the turning point. Juan Perez, one of those “banjo” hitters who may go 0-for-July, hit a two run double that came within a foot of being a three-run home run. That’s what the World Series does, though- last guys off the bench become heroes.

8. If the Series goes to Game Seven, one streak must end- either the Giants’ streak of losing in Game Seven, or the home team winning in Game Seven. You probably have to favor the home team in game Seven, especially since only two teams in any sport (both in the NHL) have won a deciding game of a championships series on the road since 1979. As mentioned, the last time the visiting team won Game Seven on the road in the World Series was the ’79 “We Are Family” Pirates.

The last time the Royals played in the World Series, they rallied to win Games Six and Seven at home. We’ll see on Tuesday if they have a comeback in them. Say what you want about Ned Yost, but very rarely are a manager’s mistakes to blame for a team’s losing the the finals. Every team that wins a title needs a little bit of luck on their side. If the Royals do fall short, it won’t be due to lack of talent, but perhaps lack of experience. If they get back to the playoffs soon, they have the tools to win it all in the future.

World Series Game 1&2- what we learned

With the World Series between the Royals and Giants tied at 1-1, it now shifts to San Francisco after an off-day. Neither team sweeps, which is fine by me. With Tim Hudson making his World Series debut on Friday night, the Giants will have three games in San Francisco to try to close it out.

What we noticed:

1. Madison Bumgarner is very, very good, especially on the road: It’s almost uncanny how good Madison Bumgarner has been on the road in the postseason. He extended his scoreless streak into the 7th last night before giving up a solo home run to Perez. If the Series is tied after four games, it will be crucial for Bumgarner to give the Giants the advantage. If the Series goes back to Kansas City, which all of a sudden seems likely, Bumgarner can’t afford to be off his game.

2. Even if they lose, the Giants are pesky: Although they lost Game Two, every Giants starter had one hit. Yordano Ventura only had two strikeouts, and although the bullpen shut them down, they are not invincible. If the Giants can get into the bullpen, especially in the late innings, momentum might be back on their side.

3. Jake Peavy can’t close in the postseason: Although Peavy will always be remembered fondly as being a member of last year’s Red Sox championship team, he wasn’t effective in his one start last year. He was pulled after throwing only sixty-six pitches, but it could have been more if the Royals weren’t swinging early in the count (which they probably have to do, since they don’t score a lot of runs). Even if Bruce Bochy gave Peavy too early of a hook, you never had a feeling of comfort with him on the mound. If the Red Sox had to go to a Game Seven, the butterflies would have multiplied tenfold.

4. The Giants bullpen isn’t as deep as I thought it was: With Hunter Strickland struggling, and Tim Lincecum leaving with an injury in the eighth inning, the pressure will be on Tim Hudson to go deep into Game Three. If not, the Royals could take a shocking lead in San Francisco.

5. Travis Ishikawa is miscast in left field: Would Michael Morse be a better choice in left field in the NL ballpark? Ishikawa had a hit in Game Two, but you could tell that he looked out of place in left field. If Belt struggles, Ishikawa could go back to first base. This connects to point six.

6. Both benches are spread thin: Kansas City has only four bench players, using twelve pitchers in the Series. Two of them, Terrance Gore and Erik Kratz, have yet to have an at-bat in the Series (although Gore did pinch run and score a run in Game Two). Likewise, with Angel Pagan out of the Giants’ lineup, the pinch-hitting options become spread very thin, with Susac and Perez their likeliest options off the bench.

7. It’s a best-of-five series now: I think the split was good- it prevents a boring sweep, and now both teams have face adversity. With most predicting the Series going back to Kansas City, the next two games will be a determining factor in how far we go.

World Series analysis

Matchup: Kansas City Royals (AL) vs. San Francisco Giants (NL)

Who would have seen this matchup coming? Not only is this the second-ever World Series involving two wild card teams, neither team even was able to win ninety games. Considering that the postseason has been a little bit of a dud so far, here’s hoping for a good Series.

Keys for the Royals:

1. Use home field advantage: The Royals play a potential Game Seven at Kauffman Stadium on October 29. Since we still aren’t sure about who Kansas City will pitch in Game Three, it’s important for Kansas City to split the first two games. If Madison Bumgarner is able to beat James Shields, pressure will be on Yordano Ventura to win Game Two. Granted, Jake Peavy has been known to struggle in the postseason, but earning a split in Kansas City is crucial. If not, it could be a very short series. Still, the Royals are the first team to win the World Series after losing the first two games at home (1985), a feat accomplished only twice since (1986 Mets and 1996 Yankees). Earn a split, and if you get it back to Kansas City, they could be very dangerous. Additionally, no team has won a Game Seven of the World Series on the road since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. All but one of those teams has won Game Six (the 1997 Florida Marlins). If Kansas City gets it to a Game Six, and wins, it could be a dream scenario for them.

2. Don’t underestimate the layoff: The Royals have a layoff of almost a week. In 2007, the Colorado Rockies went 7-0 heading into the World Series. But with an eight-day layoff, and starting the Series on the road, they were quickly swept in Boston, and didn’t put up much of a fight. When a team has momentum, sometimes it’s more beneficial for them to play sooner rather than later.

3. Embrace the underdog role: The Royals are the upstart team. It’s their first appearance in the playoffs, let alone the World Series, in twenty-nine years. The Giants in that time have made the playoffs nine times (1987, 1989, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2010, 2012, 2014). They have played in four World Series- 1989, 2002, 2010, and 2012, winning the last two in convincing fashion. The Royals may be playing with house money, and may not have the familiarity, but they’ve done reasonably well so far.

Keys for the Giants

1. Utilize the pitching: The Giants probably have a deeper pitching staff. Six potential starters exist in this rotation- Tim Lincecum, Jake Peavy, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, and Tim Hudson. All six have made at least one All-Star team, Peavy and Lincecum won Cy Young Awards, Lincecum and Cain have pitcher no-hitters, Hudson won 20 games, and all but Hudson have played on at least one World Series winner. Although Cain is injured, and Lincecum will likely be used out of the bullpen by Bruce Bochy, this is a deep pitching staff. When you consider the rest of the bullpen, including Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Hunter Strickland, and Yusmeiro Petit, this could be a very short series if the Giants are able to use their pitching staff.

2. Embrace familiarity: most of the Giants roster has been on one World Series winner, if not both. The Giants are playing in their third World Series in five years, and have done it with many of the same players. Bruce Bochy went from decent manager to savior in San Francisco. The Giants might not have the record on their side, but they do have the postseason experience. That will count for a lot.

3. Continue playing well on the road: The Giants, believe it or not, have not clinched a World Series at home since 1922, when they beat the Yankees in the old Polo Grounds. Every subsequent clincher, in New York or San Francisco, has been on the road (1933 in Washington, 1954 in Cleveland, 2010 in Arlington, and 2012 in Detroit). The Giants have been dynamic on the road throughout their postseason history, and that could play to their strength.

4. Finish early: History hasn’t been kind to the Giants if a series goes to six games or more. They are 0-4 in Game Sevens in the World Series, losing in 1912 to the Red Sox, 1924 to the Senators, 1962 to the Yankees, and 2002 to the Angels, with the first three coming by one run. In fact, the Giants didn’t win their first postseason winner-take-all game until 2012, winning Game Five of the 2012 NLDS against the Reds in Cincinnati (they also won Game Seven at home against the Cardinals). If the Giants want to win the Series, they need to try to ensure that it doesn’t go past five games.

Prediction

Although the Royals have been the fan favorite for many, I think the Giants have history and the pitching on their side. I think the Royals should split in Kansas City, so if they want to give themselves a better chance, they need to win at least one game in San Francisco, if not two.

If I’m wrong, so be it, but my pick: Giants in 5

ALDS and NLDS matchups

With both Wild Card games out of the way, the League Division Series (LDS) in both leagues can now begin. For the first time in the history of the LDS, neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees are participating.

The matchups are as follows:

American League
(1) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. (WC) Kansas City Royals
(2) Baltimore Orioles vs. (3) Detroit Tigers

National League
(1) Washington Nationals vs. (WC) San Francisco Giants
(2) Los Angeles Dodgers vs. (3) St. Louis Cardinals

ALDS breakdown:

The Angels come in with the best record in baseball, although they didn’t finish strongly. Mike Trout is considered to be the favorite for the MVP Award, and Albert Pujols is always dangerous in October. The Royals are playing with house money, and considering they’re in the playoffs for the first time since 1985, they will have many people rooting for these underdogs. In a five-game series, though, I think the Angels have the advantage. Getting that fifth game at home could have a major impact if it goes that far. The Royals have the chance to steal a game with James Shields. Still, with Jered Weaver going in Game 1, it could be a long way back for the Royals.

Although the Tigers have the experience, and likely a little bit deeper pitching staff, the Orioles come in as the higher seed. The Orioles have won on grit and guile all season in a year when they weren’t supposed to win the East. They also did this with several key injuries and suspensions. If they can’t go all the way, they showed that heart can carry you further than you anticipated sometimes. The Tigers probably have the edge on paper, but this could be the Orioles’ time to rise.

NLDS breakdown:

The Nationals make their second appearance in three years, and they are the top seed both years. However, it didn’t work out too well for them last time. The Giants won the Series in 2010 and 2012, so they are very dangerous in the postseason as of late. I figured that the Nationals would have a better chance if the Pirates had won the Wild Card game. I’m not sure if the Nationals have it in them to knock off the Giants.

The Dodgers probably have the deepest pitching staff of any playoff teams. Not only do they have Cy Young and MVP candidate Clayton Kershaw, who won 21 games this year, but they also have Josh Beckett, who pitched a no-hitter, All-Star Dan Haren, and former AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. Even if Wainwright is able to steal Game One in Los Angeles, I think the Dodgers are a little deeper in a short series.

Here’s hoping for a great playoffs. Let the games begin!