So much for the concern about the letting the lower-seeded teams play the first two games of the Division Series at home, a setup that presumably favored underdogs getting out to 2-0 series leads before having to take their act on the road. While it worked that way for Detroit, the rest of the series—indeed, the entire playoffs, including Friday’s wild-card games—have been marked by road winners. Let’s recap Sunday in the MLB playoffs and look ahead to the two game set for Monday night…
Washington 3 St. Louis 2: Can we officially say that Cardinal setup man Mitchell Boggs is a train wreck this October? He was the reliever was in meltdown mode on Friday before the disputed infield fly call in Atlanta bailed him out. Now on Sunday he comes in with a 2-1 lead and promptly surrenders the lead, as the Nationals steal a road win.
The St. Louis bats were quiet all day, except for David Freese’s two hits. The Cards let Gio Gonzales off the hook in the third after the Washington ace walked the bases loaded, but St. Loo only got two runs. Then in the seventh, with the bases loaded, no outs and a chance to get some insurance, they instead get nothing, with Yadier Molina hitting into a double play.
Cincinnati 9 San Francisco 0: As the score indicates, the Reds beat the Giants every way you can imagine. They got on the board with the long ball when Ryan Ludwick went deep in the second inning. Then in the fourth they peppered San Francisco starter with four singles that produced three runs. The game was broken open in the eighth on an array of balls powered into the gap. And the pitching? Bronson Arroyo was perfect through four and threw seven innings of one-hit ball.
NY Yanks 7 Baltimore 2: C.C. Sabathia came up very big for New York and Jim Johnson came up very small for Baltimore. The Yankee ace went 8.2 IP and threw 120 pitches, while the Oriole closer came on in the ninth inning of a 2-2 game and a chance to get his team six more outs if only he could take care of business. Instead, Johnson gave up a leadoff home run to Russell Martin, four more runs followed and a taut night of baseball at Camden Yards turned into a rout.
New York has to be thankful for the result, because their own baserunning mistakes cost them. In the top of the first, the game opened with a Derek Jeter single and an RBI double by Ichiro Suzuki. Then Ichiro inexplicably tried to steal third and was cut down. What was the point of even risking letting Baltimore starter Jason Hammel of the hook before he’d proven he could get anyone out. Then in the fourth, a potential big inning ended when Mark Teixeira hit a ball high off the wall, but was thrown out at second.
Replays showed Teixeira did what most big leaguers do these days and dogged it about three-quarters of the way down the first-base line. The out was the second of the inning and cost the Yanks a chance to have second and third with no outs. Baltimore wasn’t on the attack as much, but for eight innings were much cleaner until their closer just didn’t have it.
Detroit 5 Oakland 4: On the one hand, you can say that because Oakland has the next three at home, there’s reason to think they can turn this series around if they just pick up one win and put some pressure on Detroit. On the other hand…Game 2 of this series was tailor-made for Oakland. While Detroit got good work from Doug Fister (7 IP/2 ER) and four hits combined from Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, Oakland starter Tommy Milone had a 6 IP/1 ER line, and the hits to Detroit’s big guns were all singles.
It meant a battle of the bullpens, which is the spot where the A’s needed to get this series. And when Josh Reddick got inconsistent Tiger setup man Joaquin Benoit for a two-run shot in the eighth, they had a 4-3 lead and could turn to the lights-out tandem of Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour to tie up the series. But Cook put runners on second and third, and then when he had two outs and looked set to preserve the lead, the setup man uncorked a wild pitch to tie the game, and Detroit then beat Balfour for the winning run in the ninth.
The Cincinnati-San Francisco & Detroit-Oakland series will travel today, with the Reds going home and the Tigers going west, each with 2-0 series leads. Both will resume on Wednesday.
TBS will carry a doubleheader today starting at 4:30 PM ET, beginning with St. Louis hosting Washington, and then the Yankees-Orioles resuming hostilities in Baltimore.
The Cards throw Jaime Garcia in an attempt to even up the series and give Chris Carpenter a shot in the crucial Game 3, the spot in the rotation where the Nationals might miss Stephen Strasburg. Yesterday’s starter, Gonzalez, might win the Cy Young Award and today’s pitcher, Jordan Zimmerman is an ace in his own right. I think homefield is less consequential than pitching matchups, and while Washington can happy with a split on the road, St. Louis could also live with a split of the Gonzalez-Zimmerman games.
A similar dynamic exists in Baltimore, where the Orioles couldn’t be too upset with a split of two games facing Sabathia and tonight’s starter Andy Pettite. What Baltimore’s going to need is a big-time effort from Wei-Yin Chen, their most consistent starter through the season, but inconsistent in September until a nice finishing outing in Tampa Bay.
And Buck Showalter has to be concerned that Johnson’s Game 1 meltdown is not an isolated incident—the closer loaded up the bases on Friday in Texas before finishing it off and barely survived a couple situations against New York in a key series back in September.