ST. LOUIS & ARIZONA SURVIVE, TRIO OF GAME 5’s AHEAD
The National League Division Series are both heading to a Game 5, as St. Louis and Arizona won do-or-die home games and forced decisive showdowns on Friday night. The production in the middle of the lineup—or lack thereof—was a big theme in both games.
St. Louis fell behind Philadelphia 2-0 early, but rallied and eventually won 5-3. The Phils had their opportunities to do more damage, but the 3 thru 6 spots in the order—Hunter Pence, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino went a combined 1-for-12, wasting good nights from Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley at the top.
Arizona had no such problems. They hit four home runs in a 10-6 win over Milwaukee, and their own 3-thru-6 combo of Aaron Hill, Miguel Montero, Paul Goldschmidt and Paul Goldschmidt went 8-fof-17. That helped set up the heroics of seventh-place hitter Ryan Roberts who hit a grand slam in the first inning that kept Milwaukee playing from behind the entire night.
We’re now set up for three Game 5 showdowns over the next three nights. It starts tonight in the Bronx with Yankees-Tigers as New York throws rookie Ian Nova against Detroit’s Doug Fister. The National League games are on Friday, back in Philly and Milwaukee respectively, and each one has a battle of aces. It’s Roy Halladay against Chris Carpenter, the latter pitching on short rest. And Arizona’s 21-game winner Ian Kennedy gets a chance to redeem himself for a Game 1 loss against Yovani Gallardo. It’s all hands on deck for this one, and I’d be prepared to see C.C. Sabathia for New York, Justin Verlander for Detroit and Zack Greinke for Milwaukee available for relief work, in spite of Detroit protestations that Verlander won’t be available. Greinke, with three days rest since a Game 2 start, would surely be available quickly if Gallardo struggles.
However it works out, we’re headed for a wild fight to the finish in the most exciting Division Series round since this level of postseason play began in 1995.
OREGON & BOISE STATE GET SPOTLIGHT
Another college football week kicks off tonight when Oregon hosts Cal (8 ET, ESPN) and tomorrow Boise State goes to Fresno State for their own chance at the spotlight in another 8 ET kickoff on ESPN. Oregon is ranked ninth and that season-opening loss to LSU has realistically ended any national title hopes unless this is going to be one of those wild seasons. In either case, the Ducks have plenty to worry about in the Pac-12 North, with Andrew Luck and Stanford, and a resurgent Washington both at 2-0 in league play. It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction Cal gets in Eugene—recall that this was the opponent who nearly derailed Oregon’s unbeaten regular season a year ago, and later was subjected to charges that they’d faked injuries to slow down the high-octane offense. Whatever they try this time won’t be enough.
Boise State is sitting at #5 in the polls and as they joust with Wisconsin and Oklahoma for pole position opposite the LSU-Alabama winner for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game, they can’t miss any opportunity to pile up a big number. Fresno is a respectable team, but this isn’t the midmajor juggernaut that Pat Hill used to have. The Bulldogs are now a fairly pedestrian team, not favored to win even a watered-down Boise-less WAC. There’s no way they’ll keep it close.
On another note, the NHL season starts tonight when Boston meets Philadelphia on Versus. The Notebook will mix in some hockey talk over the next month as we size up the contenders for the Stanley Cup.