Baseball Blitz

1 10 2011

Rays 9, Rangers 0

I still can’t figure out what’s more shocking: the Rays dominance over the Rangers or my disappointment in the movie “Drive.”

In game 1 of the first AL division series, both teams were coming off their own respective multi-game win streak. Each team put completely different types of pitchers on the mound; the Rangers sent out C.J. Wilson while the Rays put rookie Matt Moore to the test. C.J. Wilson has a solid pitching resume, having 73 total starts. What about Matt Moore? One. He had one start prior to this match-up, which is the fewest number of starts for someone pitching in a postseason opener. Looking back at the game, this might have actually hurt the Rangers since they did not have much film on the youngster.

When the game started, both pitchers came out strong, being in complete control of their pitches; Wilson pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, and Moore allowed only one (of two total hits Hamilton would have for the entire team) hit to Josh Hamilton before closing the inning out on a Michael Young fly ball.

When C.J. stepped back on the mound in the 2nd inning, the game completely shifted… quickly. After Zobrist was hit by a pitch, Damon, who always seems to play well just at the right time, smashed one into the stands for a 2-0 lead. At this point, it was still anyone’s ballgame, but with a Shoppach single and a Joyce RBI, the score was 3-0. The inning was now looking more like a momentum shifter than just a few scored runs. Furthermore, having thrown 33 pitches in the 2nd inning, Christopher John was already being worn down by the Rays batters.

Following a 1-2-3 inning for Matt Moore, Wilson came back on the mound hoping to reestablish his game. However, the only thing reestablished was the roll the Rays are currently on. Following a Longoria single and a perfectly placed bunt by Zobrist, Shoppach joined in on the home-run fun with one of his own, pushing the lead to 6-0. Aside from Wilson’s shaky pitching, the Rays efficiency has to be acknowledged since at this point, they had 6 runs on 6 hits.

After these back-to-back torturous innings for Wilson, Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux kept him in for the fourth inning, hoping the regular-season C.J. Wilson would make an appearance. He was wrong. After another Shoppach homer in the 5th inning to put the pounding at 8-0, #36 would be done for the night with 103 total pitches and six earned runs on seven hits. From this point forward, it was just a formality to finish the game since the Rangers batters decided to leave their game back in the regular season. The final score ended up being 9-0 with huge momentum being right alongside the Rays.

There’s no beating around the bush – C.J. Wilson had a terrible outing. It was very hard to watch him fall to pieces in one of the biggest games of his career. But if he wants to have a better outing in a possible game 4 or in any future playoff games, he needs to put this game out if his mind and forget about it. The worst thing you can do as a pitcher is dwell on a bad game and overanalyze how you need to change it up. If he comes back out with a fresh mindset, I believe he can be back in prime-form.

Yankees v. Tigers (postponed)

On the other side of the AL, the Yankees-Tigers game was finished quicker than you could say “Carsten Charles Sabathia.” By the second inning, the game was postponed due to rain, wiping out both aces for a couple of days. Game 3 will be the next time we get to see these acclaimed pitchers on the mound. The reason this is significant is because these men will now only be pitching one time in this series.

Even though you can’t truly gauge how the pitchers would have done on their limited play, Sabathia looked to have the slight edge. He only had 27 pitches in two innings of work, having complete control over his pitches (fastball specifically) and only giving up a single home-run to Delmon Young. Verlander threw the baseball 25 times in one inning while also giving up two walks. We’ll see if there’s any trend for these pitchers’ play when game 3 comes along.

Even with yesterday’s prime match-ups, today is filled with some great games:

Diamondbacks v. Brewers

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers – both division winners – face off at 1:07 P.M. CT. These teams are coming off solid seasons both in pitching and in batting, and many didn’t expect this from either club at the start of the year. The Diamondbacks finished their 2010 season in last place for the AL West (65-97), and the Brewers finished in third place for the AL Central (77-85). It’s great to see these new teams in the playoffs.

I believe the key for this series is the match-up of the stars from each ball club. Ryan Braun (MIL), Prince Fielder (MIL), and Justin Upton (ARI) – all legitimate NL MVP candidates – have carried their respective teams up to this point. All three of these men have played consistently throughout the entire year, so it will be interesting to see if their play continues into the playoffs. Also, regarding pitching, if this game goes all the way to five games, I think the Brewers will have the edge with their more balanced pitching. Yet, if Ian Kennedy is able to continue his breakout season with more stellar play, the Brewers better not get too comfortable.

Phillies v. Cardinals

Directly following this game, at 4:07 P.M. CT, the 100+ wins Philadelphia Phillies welcome the St. Louis Cardinals to town. After having the big signing of Cliff Lee in the offseason to give their team a fantastic four of pitchers, the Phillies had high expectations for the season, and they have fulfilled those expectations. We will see if it translates over to play in October. The Cardinals attempted at their own offseason signing but were unable to convince Pujols to sign their proposed contract. Whenever any type of argument as such occurs between management and a player, it is always worrisome how the season will turn out. This didn’t affect Pujols’s or the team’s play, however, as they won 90 games and had an emotional late push to make it into the playoffs.

Since many expect the Phillies to blow right through this series onward to the World Series, I’m going to give what I think is the critical key for the Cardinals if they want to have a chance. I believe it’s pretty basic: win game 1. If they want a chance in this series, they need to do what Tampa Bay has done and build off their emotional playoff run. If they can catch the Phillies off guard and grab a quick 1-0 lead, then they’re completely in it. However, if they get in a 1-0 hole, I can see the series being over very soon.

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