Baseball’s run of great pitching continued last night, as the playoffs featured a freakishly amazing performance and saw two teams, riding stellar performances from their starting pitchers, take commanding leads over their hapless adversaries. Recall that the previous day had brought us a no-hitter from a playoff newcomer and a gem from the man who dominated the mound last post-season. In my recap of that day’s events, I wondered what the Giants’ Tim Lincecum would do to match Halladay’s and Lee’s efforts.
(writer’s note – due to work, “back to school night”, and a little-used commodity known as “sleep”, I did not get to see more than one inning of each of the games yesterday. My recaps are based on what little I saw/listened to of the games themselves, as well as what I have read and heard both last night and this morning. I am aware of the fact that there were questionable calls in each game. I choose to ignore them here, though – if they didn’t happen on the last play of the game, then the other team still had opportunities of their own. Let’s not detract from the great performances)
Nine innings. Two hits. One walk. FOURTEEN strikeouts. In his own post-season debut, the Giants’ “Freak”, Lincecum, came as close as possible to Halladay’s Wednesday night gem. And he did so in as close a game as possible, which was won by the Giants by the slimmest of margins, 1-0. One could argue (although I will not do so here) that his performance was as dominating, if not more, than Halladay’s since the Phillies gave Doc an early lead – and that Lincecum was forced to pitch with more pressure throughout the game. I will leave that to the pundits. Suffice it to say that it was clearly an incredible performance, one which overshadowed a great performance by the Braves’ ace, Derek Lowe, and invoked memories of the last game of the 1991 World Series, when Jack Morris outdueled John Smoltz, throwing ten scoreless innings to give Minnesota the championship.
Meanwhile, in the American League, the Rays continued their inability to have bat meet ball, mustering only two hits against the Ranger’s CJ Wilson and bullpen. Wilson was dominating for six plus innings, allowing only two hits, and wily veteran Darren Oliver shut Tampa down over two and a third hitless innings. But Wilson is not Cliff Lee, and Oliver is no Mariano Rivera. The game also featured a home run from Michael Young, who, like Roy Halladay, had toiled for more than a decade before earning his first taste of October baseball. It took him until his second game, but he mde his presence known by putting the game out of reach with his three-run blast.
The Tampa bats are anemic. Losing two games at home by a combined score of 11-1 is no way to begin the playoffs, especially in a five-game series. They are traveling to Texas for Game 3, which really means nothing; because even if Tampa somehow rights its ship and pulls out a victory in that game, a rematch with the indomitable Cliff Lee looms in Game 4. I’m changing my earlier prediction – give this round to Texas.(The Yankees also won their second game last night. So as not to be vilified (again) as being too pro-Yankee, I will describe their game in purely factual terms, offering no analysis or commentary that can be considered overly generous)
Andy Pettitte took the mound for the Yankees last night and extended his record for post-season wins, giving up two runs over seven innings in a 5-2 victory. Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for the save, extending his post-season record for most saves ever by a reliever. The Yankee’s win, in which they came back from an early 1-0 deficit against former New York hurler Carl Pavano, gave the Yankees a two-game lead in the best-of-five series.
54-5. Since the introduction of the five-game playoff series, 54 out of 59 teams that won the first two games eventually went on to capture those series. Both the Rangers and Yankees are currently sitting in that position, and both have the added luxury of having won both games on the road. They are both going home for two games in which they can dispose of their opposition, and both will again be throwing their aces, Cliff Lee for the Rangers, and CC Sabathia for the Yankees, in their respective Games 4. Lee has already shown that he can continue his magical post-season mastery. Sabathia will be out to prove that his performance in Game 1 was an anomaly, and that he can still be the post-season horse that he was in season’s past.
By the end of the weekend, there is little doubt that the AL Championship series will be set, and that the Yankees will be packing their bags for Texas. In the National League, if the first games are any indication, the maxim that pitching wins playoffs will continue, and, as a certain Pilgrim said, there are two squads (Phillies and Giants)holding three aces. Each of their primary aces did their jobs in more than convincing fashion. Let’s see if the others can follow suit.