I know things are starting to get serious in Major League Baseball when entire teams perch themselves on the top step of their dugouts, adorned in hoodies with some sort of slogan on them. For the 2016 playoffs, the choice is, “We Came To Reign”.
Really? Me thinks that is, “Totally Lame”! Sweatshirt weather means October baseball drama, the playoffs, and the Fall Classic is a week or so away. It also means that I am running out of opportunities to write the wildly popular, 3 Up and 3 Down column. So, here my friends, is a playoff version of the feature.
Andrew Miller – Going into the ALDS showdown with the Boston Red Sox, it was obvious that the Cleveland Indians were short on starting pitchers. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were out for the season, meaning that manager, Terry Francona, would have to go to war with 2014 Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Josh Tomlin. Not so good. So, Tito decided to hang with his starter as long, or short, as he could go (4th or 5th inning), and then summon his best weapon from the bullpen.
For all intents and purposes, it was Miller time! And why not want to hand Andrew Miller the ball? In 74 innings this year, he only gave up 42 hits, while striking out 123 batters! In game 1, Miller came in to get the final out of the 5th inning, went 2 innings with 4 K’s, and was the game’s winning pitcher. He wasn’t needed in game 2, but was right back in the middle of things in the game 3 clincher (2 IP, 3 K’s). With help from closer Cody Allen, the Indians bullpen was the X-factor in the sweep of the Dead Sox, er Red Sox.
Javier Baez – Whether it was in the field or at the plate, the 23 year-old from Puerto Rico, seemed to be in the middle of everything for the Chicago Cubs throughout their 3-1 NLDS victory over the San Francisco Giants. His home run in the bottom of the 8th inning of game 1 off of Johnny Cueto set the tone for the series. Cueto had given up only 2 hits until Baez squared up one of his offerings. By sight and sound it seemed the ball was destined to not only clear the fence, but the state line as well. Much to his chagrin, because of some serious Wrigley winds, the ball just did get out, giving the Cubs the series lead.
Photo: Grading on the Curve
Not be outdone, Baez again had the game winning RBI in game 4’s clincher in the City by the Bay. Showing no signs of nerves, he laced a single up the middle, chasing Jason Heyward home from second base, and capping Chicago’s improbable 4 run 9th inning. This kid, among others Theo Epstein has compiled (Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, etc.) will be around for a long time baseball fans, so you had better get used to him now.
Edwin Encarnacion – Is there anyone on the planet hotter than this guy? First off, his walkoff, 3-run bomb off Ubaldo Jimenez (not Zach Britton), sent the Orioles home (from the American League Wild card game), and his Blue Jays into the heart of Texas to play the Rangers in the ALDS. He then stole that heart by hammering good Rangers pitching at a clip of 5-12 with 2 HR’s and 3 RBI’s over the three game sweep. Teammates Josh Donaldson (.500) and Troy Tulowitzki (.353) helped the big guy do most of the heavy lifting.
The Red Sox Killer B’s – Misters Betts (Mookie), Bogaerts (Xander), and Bradley Jr. (Jackie) were all starters in this year’s All-Star Game. Betts is a serious contender for the American League’s MVP Award, by way of his .318, 31, 113 season. Xander wasn’t quite as dandy but still went .294, 21, and 89, while JBJ exceeded everyone’s expectations by hitting 26 HR’s and knocking in 87 runs. Surely they were primed for the post season, right?
NOT! Combined, the killer B’s went 6-32 (.187) with 1 extra base hit, zero RBI’s, and 12 strikeouts. While their futures are bright (throw in Andrew Benintendi too), they were clearly not ready for their close up in October, and it cost the club dearly.
The San Francisco Giants Bullpen – The ninth inning was somewhat of a black hole for the Giants all season long. However, they could not have envisioned what happened in game 4 of the NLDS Tuesday night, when Matt Moore was removed after 8 innings and 120 pitches. Bruce Bochy tried to mix and match his relief pitchers to record the final 3 outs. His first choice to protect a 5-2 lead was Derek Law. Next up was Javy Lopez, who gave way to Sergio Romo, who was replaced by Will Smith, and then finally Hunter Strickland. The post mortem on the disaster, I mean inning, was: 5 pitchers, 24 pitches, 4 hits, 1 walk, and 4 earned runs. Ouch!
Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish
While it looked like Texas had the upper hand in the starting pitching department against Toronto, I’ll remind you that looks can be deceiving. Hamels lasted just 3.1 innings in game 1, giving up 6 runs on 6 hits, and Darvish followed that up by allowing 4 home runs (5 IP, 5 hits, 5 earned runs) in game 2. Talk about terrible starts, the big, bad, Blue Jays bats played Texas pound-em against these two very good pitchers.
In conclusion, on behalf of all the good folks here at M2S, I’d like to offer my fondest farewell wishes to David Ortiz. Thank you Big Papi for 13 great seasons, 3 World Series titles, and wonderfully happy memories of enjoying Red Sox games with my father. You were a pleasure to watch, read about, and of course, root for. It goes without saying, but you will certainly be missed!
And that is My 2 Sense for this week.