The World According to Keitho

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Posts Tagged ‘pennant races’

That just happened

Posted by keithosaunders on September 29, 2011

Wow.  Just wow.  What an amazing night of baseball.  I barely, and I mean barely, was able to see a good portion of it.

Here on the west coast the sporting night begins early — at 4PM — and since I had a rehearsal at precisely that time, I turned to my old friend the DVR.  I set it to record both the Redsox/Orioles game, and the Braves/Phillies game.  I knew I couldn’t watch them both, but my thinking was that if the Sox game was a blowout I would switch to the Braves game, insuring the greatest possible bang for my figurative buck.

The thing about taping baseball is that the games almost always exceed their allotted scheduling.  This means that you must tape the next few scheduled events or risk missing the end of the game.  I had to do this for both games and since they were both on ESPN (one was on the deuce) I realized that there were potential late game pitfalls.  Both stations run similar post game programming so it was going to be tricky discerning which station had which game once the initial three-hour block expired. 

Between the rehearsal, making dinner, and walking the dog I didn’t get to the baseball until 8:30 Pacific time.  I decided to watch the Redsox game since I was in the mood for tragedy.  For a while it looked like I had made the right choice.  It was a close, tense affair, and by the 7th inning Boston was clinging to a 3-2 lead.

Then…a rain delay.  This was the first inkling that this was not going to be an entirely smooth evening.  How was I going to find the proper event stored for completing the game?  Would I have enough recorded events to see the ending?      

No matter — I switched to the Braves game.  I knew that it was 3-2 Braves late.  It was a simple matter of forwarding the event to the 2.20 mark, which was where I had left off in the Boston game.

I picked it up in the top of the 8th inning in time to see the Braves reliever, Jonny Venters. work out of a jam.  They failed to score in their half of the inning and in the 9th they brought on their closer, Craig Kimbrel, who promptly blew the save.  And at that moment the recording lapsed.

I went to my stored recordings and tried the first one I saw only to find weight lifting.  I tried another and saw it was the Braves, but…it was the 12th inning.  Somehow I had skipped over the intervening innings.  Of course I was miffed, but at least I might get to see the ending.  Jayson Heyward led off the inning with a double and was sacrificed to third, but the Braves could not get him home. 

The tape ran out again so I went to the next event.  It was the Redsox and Orioles in the bottom of the 9th with two outs!  (somehow I skipped the Braves  and managed to miss the ending of that one)  The Orioles were down to their last strike when Nolan Reimold smashed a ground rule double off of Jonathan Papelbon tying the game.  Robert Andino followed suit with a single that Carl Crawford could only trap.  Game over! 

But this was not all.  The Tampa Rays had dug themselves out of a 7-0 hole to tie the Yankees.  They were playing in the 12th inning, and after the Sox game ESPN promptly switched over.  Evan Longoria was at the plate and he hit a line drive home run that barely cleared the left field wall.  The Rays had  come back from the dead to take the wildcard!

Part of me had been hoping for some Thursday baseball, but I was happy with the two teams that won, and glad that I managed to see a large portion of the action.  The best part is that these pair of choking teams — the Braves and Redsox — have eclipsed the Mets debacle of 2007.  Happy days are here again!

And now onto hockey.  What’s this you say?  Playoffs?  No, I’m afraid that for me the enjoyable portion of the season has come to its conclusion.  Nothing remains but another Yankee post season.  I have a sinking feeling that they’re about to embark on a run that will end in Joe Girardi changing his uniform number yet again.  

Now where did I put that Sharks schedule? 

Advertisements

Posted in baseball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Freefall

Posted by keithosaunders on September 28, 2011

 Somebody tell Mr. Selig to put his newfangled expanded playoff plan on hold.  The old-fashioned wild car system is alive and well with a pair of improbable finishes.   Going into the final day of the season the both NL and AL wild card races are in a tie.   The Boston Redsox and Atlanta Braves may be running on fumes, but the pennant races are alive and well. 

Pennant race…it’s hard to believe I’m writing that phrase when a mere two weeks ago I was bemoaning the lack of drama in the 2011 season.  How quickly things turned.

How did this happen?  On September 3rd the Redsox were a half game out of first and on a pace to win 98 games.  They were nine games ahead of the Tampa Rays.  They proceeded to go 7-19 in September and will have to rely on Jon Lester on three days rest. 

Let’s compare this fold up with another recent debacle — one that is quite painful for me to recall.   The 2007 Mets were coming off a year in which they came within two innings of going to the World Series.  They had a strong April and May, slumped in June, but recovered their winning form in July and August.  Despite being swept by the Phillies in a four game series at Shea August 27-30, they proceeded to go on a tear, winning their next 9 of 10.  On September 12th they found themselves 21 games above .500 and seven games ahead of division rival Philadelphia .  They would only win five more games the rest of the season.

They lost five of six to the lowly Nationals during the final two weeks, and despite falling behind the Phillies, they could have pulled even with a final game victory over the Florida Marlins.  Tom Glavin started that game, allowed seven runs in the first inning, and the season was lost. 

I suppose this Redsox collapse would be worse, but just barely.  Both the 2007 Mets and the 2011 Bosox had exceptionally high hopes coming into the season, and both teams had high payrolls.  (albeit the Redsox payroll is insane)  The Redsox have been hit hard by injuries whereas that Mets team, for the most part, was healthy.  Even Pedro Martinez managed to return from his semi-permanent home on the DL to pitch a few meaningful games.   

As for the 2011 Braves, who have managed to squander an eight and a half game lead in the wildcard race, I hope they lose.  Not only were they a longtime nemesis of the Mets, their star longtime ace and erstwhile Met, Tom Glavin, spit the bit in the clutch.  Regardless of that,  Atlanta fans do not deserve a winning team.  Their tomahawk chop is offensive, corny, and tired, and they can’t even sell out playoff games. 

Fenway pawk

Either way I’m happy we are finally getting to see some drama.  I’ll be hoping for both teams to win, or both to lose so that we’ll be treated to a pair of one game playoffs.  Let’s play two!

Bum

Posted in baseball | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

R.I.P. pennant races

Posted by keithosaunders on August 24, 2011

It seems like only yesterday that I was waxing rhapsodic about the possibility of an epic four team National League Central Division pennant race.  I had Pirate fever and was envisioning playoff games from PNC Park.  Braves-Pirates would have been a fun first round matchup — a rematch of the 1991 and ’92 NLCS, and a chance for the Buccos to have reaped revenge. 

Alas, what a difference four weeks make.  Not only are the Pirates dead and buried — their hopes of breaking their 19year consecutive losing season streak all but dashed — the entire division has been taken over by the ascendant Brewers.  Mind you, I am happy it’s Milwaukee, rather than the Cardinals and their insufferable skipper, LaRussa, but I would have preferred a good old-fashioned dogfight.

In fact, there is only one pennant race this year, and I am lucky enough to be residing in one of two major league cities that is still hosting meaningful games.  By all rights, the San Francisco Giants should be buried, but it is their good fortune to play in the NL West, which contains a broke Dodgers, and a broken down Rockies.  The Diamondbacks are a feisty, young squad, and they are the surprise team of 2011, but I don’t see them winning more than one playoff game, if that. 

The Giants, with their pitching, would at least have a shot.  They have been a walking M*A*S*H unit this year — at this writing they have nine players on the DL — and yet have managed to remain in the race.  They picked up Carlos Beltran from the Mets, who did his best to blend in with his teammates by immediately going on the DL.  What is it with Beltran — the man can’t stay healthy.  He is a great player, but his entire career is based on the 2004 post season. 

A September devoid of pennant races is a bitter pill for me to swallow.  Once October begins, so does my personal hell, which consists of sweating through another Yankee blitzkrieg.  It’s torture watching them grind their way through playoff run after playoff run.  Yes, I know they’ve lost a few first round series in recent years, and the Redsox look formidable, (as does Texas) but something tells me that the Yanks will not be an easy out this year.  I dread another Redsox – Yankees ALCS — those five hour marathons which end when some obscure Yankee hits a homerun.  

All I hope for at the beginning of each baseball season is for the Yankees to miss the playoffs.  This has occurred once in the last 16 years.  It has been a reign of terror and there is no end in sight. 

The fact that there may be no pennant races, thus cutting off my last enjoyable month of the year, is a bitter pill to swallow.  Football, you can not start soon enough.

Posted in baseball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Grand Central Division

Posted by keithosaunders on July 25, 2011

CENTRAL W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA DIFF STRK L10
Pittsburgh 52 47 .525 26-25 26-22 382 378 +4 Won 1 6-4
St. Louis 53 48 .525 25-21 28-27 474 438 +36 Lost 1 5-5
Milwaukee 54 49 .524 33-14 21-35 443 452 -9 Lost 2 5-5
Cincinnati 50 51 .495 3 27-23 23-28 469 433 +36 Won 2 5-5
Chicago Cubs 42 60 .412 11.5 25-31 17-29 411 507 -96 Won 3 5-5
Houston 33 68 .327 20 17-36 16-32 388 506 -118 Lost 3 3-7

Don’t look now but there’s a classic pennant race shaping up and it’s not where you’d expect.  Forget your AL East with its twin behemoth Yankees and Redsox — their passion play will not begin until October, since the team that doesn’t win the division figures to take the wild card.

The action this year resides in the NL Central; that erstwhile laughing-stock of a division.  There, four teams sit separated by two games in the standings.  Given the fact that the NL East-residing Atlanta Braves figure to take the wild card, only one Central club will advance to the playoffs.

My sentiments lie with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are at this writing, leading the division by percentage points over the Cardinals.  The Pirates have reached the rarefied air of five games above .500, threatening to break their ignominious streak of consecutive losing seasons, currently at eighteen.  It is the longest such streak in professional sports. 

The Buccos are winning with a team of gritty, young ball players.  (that’s what several consecutive years of high draft picks, and a savvy GM will do for you) It’s rare for me to watch a Pirate game in which I fail to utter the sentence, “Who is that guy?”  

Andrew McCutchen is a speedy young center fielder who has 59 RBI.  Their second baseman is Neil Walker, a slick fielder, and a good run producer as well.  Their only semi-star is Lyle Overbay, who is playing first base.  The pitching has been surprisingly solid behind Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens, and Paul Maholm, and their closer, Joel Hanrahan, has been superb. 

The Cardinals are the favorites, with their murderers row middle of the lineup — Pujols, Holiday, and Berkman — but I’m hoping that their shaky bullpen will see to it that the do not run away and hide. 

Milwaukee was a sexy pick at the beginning of the season, and they are proving themselves worthy of the hype.  They’re a good team, and as long as K-Rod doesn’t blow too many games, they are going to be fine.  They’re another team I would like to see take the next step. 

I can’t stand the Reds pitching.  Johnny Cueto?  Edinson Volquez?  Homer Bailey?  It speaks volumes that Dontrelle Willis is making a comeback with this staff.  Still, they’re  another good hitting club that may be able to hang around. 

You see, this is why interleague play is a sham.  Here you have four teams in a pennant race, and they’re all going to playing each other come August and September.  While the Yankees, Phillies, and Redsox, spend September sorting out their post season rotations, there will be daily blood-lettings in the middle of the country.  Interleague is a distraction from pennant race baseball.  It is a novelty act that has worn thin.

If MLB has its way, however, we will see the expansion of interleague play, as well as the end of pennant races as we have known them since 1969, the year divisional play was introduced.  There has been a plan floated around that would do away with divisions, creating two 15 team leagues.  The schedule would be balanced, meaning that all teams would play each other the same amount of times, regardless of league.  Imagine if the Pirates played the Royals the same amount of times as they did the Cardinals.   

Baseball seems high bent on removing any sense of tradition from the game, rendering it corporate and soulless.  All the more reason for us to savor what could well be one of the last great divisional races.  

Posted in baseball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »