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Gary Armida's Blog
A Night of MomentsPosted on October 11, 2012 at 01:47 PM.
Wednesday night was just another example of why the Major League Baseball playoffs give something that no other sport can give. The drama of a Major League Baseball playoff game is unmatched because of time. In Baseball, time is never a factor. A team is never done until it makes the 27th out. The competition is truly about the play on the field. Clock management in other sport is indeed a unique part of the other sports, but a clock being a part of game strategy does take away from the importance of what the players can do. Baseball is all about the players.
Baseball is all about the moments.
Wednesday gave baseball fans the types of moments that last for generations. Fans of the Oakland A’s will forever pass on the story about the ninth inning comeback to stave off elimination. Raul Ibanez will forever be linked with the Yankees’ long postseason history. Tim Lincecum gave a glimpse at what once was and what could be again. The Cardinals showed that a champion always has a punch left. The flipside to those is the agony of the Detroit fan, the momentum crushing loss of Baltimore, the worry of the Reds, and the wonder of what could’ve been for the Nationals.
But, it’s the moments that draw us in. It is the moments that make us come back. The moments are the results of both decisions and performances. In 20 years, we may not remember who won either American League Division series, but we’ll remember Raul Ibanez. We’ll remember Seth Smith and Coco Crisp. Those moments become part of the lore that separates Major League Baseball’s postseason with all of the other sports.
Moment One: Joe Girardi’s Decision
Leading into game three, the discussion centered around Yankees Manager Joe Girardi’s decision to keep Alex Rodriguez in the third spot in the batting order. Actually, some crazed Yankees fans and observers wondered if Rodriguez should be removed from the lineup completely. Girardi left Rodriguez in the third spot. Rodriguez responded with two more strikeouts and another hitless night. Rodriguez has been long criticized for his postseason performance during his Yankees tenure, which does hide the fact that Rodriguez is a career .268/.376/.479 in 71 post season games. While he has just one hit this postseason and has struggled during some seasons, Rodriguez has been unfairly criticized.
But, at 36 years old, Rodriguez is no longer the superstar slugger. He is merely an upper echelon third baseman as evident by his ranking 7th in slugging and 6th in on base percentage amongst Major League third basemen this year. Girardi was criticized for staying with his slugger, but Girardi made a decision that will be one of his finest moments as a Manager. He sent up Raul Ibanez to pinch hit for Rodriguez. All of the talk about catering to Rodriguez disappeared in one decision. Joe Girardi sat his highest paid player in favor of a 40 year old veteran.
Girardi’s decision led to a moment that Raul Ibanez will forever be known for. Ibanez became the first player in Major League history to hit a game tying home run in the ninth and then a winning home run later on.
Moment Two: A’s Rally
The Oakland A’s season was down to three outs. After a magical run that saw them catch the Texas Rangers on the last day of the season for the West Division title, it looked like the A’s would be disposed of in four games. The Tigers sent closer Jose Valverde to the mound to close out the series. But, the A’s magical season continued for one more night. Down 3-1, the A’s sent Josh Reddick up to start the inning. He singled. Josh Donaldson doubled. Seth Smith came up and doubled home both runs. Valverde got the next two batters and looked like he would escape the inning with a tie game. But, Coco Crisp pulled a ball to right field which allowed Smith to score the winning run.
Three outs from elimination, the A’s once again showed their resiliency, keeping their improbable season alive.
They face a monumental task in game five as the Tigers send out Justin Verlander to close out the series. Verlander has been the best in the sport and is capable of dominating any team. He already beat them in game one and is the type of starter who can go nine innings each start. The odds are stacked against the A’s tonight in the winner take all game. But, the odds have been stacked against them all season. Last night, they showed what they do to odds. They’ll try again.
Moment Three: Timmy Time
Tim Lincecum has endured the worst season of his professional career. The season has been so bad that he has become a long man for the Giants in the playoffs. The two-time Cy Young Award winner took a backseat to Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito this postseason. But, with the Giants down 2-1 in the series against the Reds, it was Lincecum who came on in relief in the fourth inning with his club clinging to a 3-2 lead.
Lincecum responded with 4.1 innings of 1 run baseball. He allowed just two hits and struck out six to get the win and send the Giants to a decisive game five. At times, Lincecum was dominant. The great ones always find a way, even when they are struggling, to be bigger than the moment. Tim Lincecum was bigger than the moment.
Moment Four: Carpenter’s Comeback
Nationals fans and certain media members may be squawking about the lack of Stephen Strasburg in the series. But, the Cardinals hit Edwin Jackson around on Wednesday. Jackson isn’t a replacement pitcher. He would be pitching in this series regardless.
The real story of the game was Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals ace who pitched just 17 regular season innings after being on the disabled list all season. The veteran right hander pitched 5.2 innings of scoreless baseball, allowing 7 hits, 2 walks, and striking out two batters. Just like last season, the Cardinals weren’t the favorites entering the tournament. But, Carpenter’s presence has lifted the Cardinals to a 2-1 series lead and the offense seems to be coming together at the right time. Already battle tested, the Cardinals performance in game three gives them momentum and the opportunity to close out the series today.
Of course, there will be more moments. Last night is likely a prelude as to what will come. Will the Reds be able to stop the Giants’ momentum? Can the Nationals recover? What will Joe Girardi do with Alex Rodriguez? Can Buck Showalter ready his team after another devastating loss? Can the A’s overcome Justin Verlander?
Nothing beats postseason baseball. Nothing.
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BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
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