Wow. That was fast. Three sweeps and one four-game series means we have two days without baseball before the NLCS begins on Thursday, where two NL West teams will meet for the first time. The ALCS starts on Friday when Cleveland heads to Boston to face the Red Sox. Hopefully these two series will prove to be a little more competitive, because, despite some exciting games, none of the four series even sniffed the thrill of the Rockies-Padres game last Monday.
Red Sox defeat Angels 3-0
This one was never really close, as Red Sox pitching dominated the Angels to the tune of 4 runs in 3 games. Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling were particularly impressive, combining for 16 shutout innings. The bullpen also threw 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball and looks stacked. With Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, and the less-renowned Manny Delcarmen, the Red Sox have three relievers who can simply shut the door. Along with Javier Lopez, they combined to shut down the Angels after Matsuzaka’s uninspiring start in Game 2, and allowed Boston to come back from their only deficit (3-2) and win on a walk-off homer in the ninth by Manny Ramirez. And then there’s Eric Gagne too, who has been disappointing so far, but still could be a factor (I’m still confused, however, about why the Red Sox traded so much for him, when their bullpen was already so good).
Indians defeat Yankees 3-1
Ah, the Yankees. It’s now three times in a row they’ve been eliminated in the first round and there seem to be major changes looming on the horizon. George Steinbrenner has indicated that Joe Torre will be gone, and there are many more players who may follow. Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte might retire, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada have said they want to test the free agent market, and Alex Rodriguez may opt out of his contract. Those are some big names, including a few future hall-of-famers, so the Yankees may be a completely different team next year.
This time around, Chien-Ming Wang almost single-handedly lost them the series, going 0-2 by giving up 14 hits, 4 walks, and 12 runs (all earned) in just 5 2/3 innings. If you think that’s an exaggeration, consider that he gave up half of all the runs the Yankees allowed. Now, it may be a little harsh to blame it solely on Wang; for one, the Indians did have very good situational hitting, especially compared to the Yankees. To be more detailed, the Yankees hit six home runs in the games they lost, all with nobody on base. That means that in the three losses, 75% of their runs came on home runs, indicating that: 1) the Yankees relied on the home run too much, and 2) the Yankees could not get hits with men on base, whether it was a home run or not.
Diamondbacks defeat Cubs 3-0
The lovable losers were overmatched entirely by the Diamondbacks. A lot of people have noted that Arizona has more runs allowed on the season than they have scored (including myself), but I saw only positives from this series with the Cubs. They out-homered Chicago 6-1, they were able to put down bunts when they had to, and they turned four double plays in the final game of the series. And they have accomplished all of this after finishing tied for last in their division in 2006 and with four of their top six players (in terms of at bats) being in their first or second full year.
Rockies defeat Phillies 3-0
The Rockies rode their torrid streak at the end of the regular season right into their divisional series with Philadelphia. Both teams had made remarkable runs to get into the playoffs, but it was the Rockies who proved to be superior. Manny Corpas picked up a save in each game of the series, allowing two hits and no runs in 3 1/3 innings. He had Ryan Howard’s number all series, as Howard watched strike three go by from Corpas in each game. Yet again, it was pitching that enabled the Rockies to sweep, along with the Red Sox and Diamondbacks. When you allow just eight runs in three games (which the Rockies did), it makes it substantially easier to win those same games.
As for the Championship Series, here are my picks:
-Red Sox defeat Indians, 4-3.
-Rockies defeat Diamondbacks, 4-2.