MLB Playoffs: Giants and Cardinals Go Seven
Date posted: Monday, October 22, 2012
Delmon Young and the Tigers sweep the Yankees, await tonight’s NLCS winner.
It seems fitting that this year’s World Series champion could be a team that only won 88 games during the regular season. The 2012 MLB playoffs have been seized by the underdogs. While traditionally teams win about 55% of their home games, even in the postseason, this year playing on one’s home field is more a curse than an advantage. Only the Yankees’ narrow win over the Orioles in the division round averted what would otherwise be a complete collapse of higher-seeded teams.
But now the Yankees have been dismantled, and the World Series awaits the Tigers and, perhaps, the Cardinals, last year’s champions who today face the San Francisco Giants in a series-deciding seventh game. The Tigers and Cardinals are both talented teams that, despite lackluster regular season records, are performing at their best when the stakes are highest.
Tigers over Yankees
The Tigers four-game sweep over the Yankees was thorough and brutal. New York managed a remarkable 4-run ninth-inning rally to tie the opener, but then lost the game and Derek Jeter to injury in extra innings. By the disconcerted looks of the few Yankees fans who sat through the whole ordeal, those two events seemed to decide the fate of the series.
While pitcher Justin Verlander and the Tigers’ pitching staff strung together four dominant starts, designated hitter Delmon Young was the series MVP. Young has the privilege of batting in the lineup behind the AL triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera and the equally imposing Prince Fielder, a power-hitting duo that makes a rally possible whenever they approach the plate. If Tigers pitching foes want to relax after battling Cabrera and Fielder, Young makes them pay. Against the Yankees, he did so in a big way, hitting two home runs but, more importantly, knocking in the game-winner in each game, something never before accomplished in a postseason series.
It was a vindication of sorts for Young, who was a prized number-one overall pick in the 2003 baseball draft but hasn’t lived up to the potential warranted by such a selection. The Tigers are his third team, after earlier stints with the Devil Rays and Twins, and he’s had well-documented troubles on and off the field, including hate crime charges after a bizarre incident in New York City last April. Now, though, he can win a World Series.
There’s one catch: as a designated hitter Young has no position when the games are played in the National League team’s park. But manager Jim Leyland has already expressed the likelihood that Young will start in left field on those days. When a hitter’s on a hot streak, he needs to play every inning of every game.
Giants vs. Cardinals in Winner-Take-All Game Seven
In the second game of the series between clubs who’ve won the past two championships, St. Louis’s Matt Holliday, an outfielder of Bunyanesque proportions, plowed into the Giants’ Marco Scutaro while trying to break up a double-play, leaving the diminutive second baseman with a strained hip and sore knee and setting the tone for the rest of the series.
Since the collision, Scutaro’s been sensational, having had five multiple-hit games (out of of six). Although the Giants—with a big contribution from Scutaro—managed to win that second game to even the series, the Cardinals stole momentum when the series moved to St. Louis, taking the next two games with relative ease. As this happened, Bay Area sports-talk-show chatter grew despondent and cynical. The best callers had to offer was: if the Giants were going down, would they fight by, perhaps, having a pitcher plunk Holliday with an errant fastball?
Moods can change quickly in a baseball playoff series. When pitcher Barry Zito, a player criticized for his astronomical contract as much for his fairly frequent substandard performances, pitched an incredible game five to keep the Giants alive, the outlook in San Francisco once again grew sunny. Holliday was no longer a concern.
Returning home to play in AT&T Park, the Giants have regained their swagger. The team took last night’s sixth game handily behind an exceptional pitching performance by Ryan Vogelsong and a four-run second inning. The biggest hit of that rally? Marco Scutaro’s two-run double. And Matt Holliday? He was out with a “stiff back.” They say karma’s . . . well, you know what they say. Whether the karma continues in tonight’s final game will have to be seen.[pinit]