Tag Archives: PLAYOFFS

CUBS VERSUS ASTROS IN WORLD SERIES??

AZ 2014 004What could be more exciting than a Playoff Season that started out with all four of the Underdogs ahead of the Favorites two games to one after three games? So far, both American League Favorites, the Blue Jays and Royals, have come back and won Game 4 to avoid being eliminated. But both the Dodgers and Cardinals, winners of their National League Divisions, are down two games to one, to the Mets and Cubs, and facing possible elimination tonight.

What could be more exciting would be an American League Championship Series that pitted the Houston Astros, who finished in fourth place in the Western Division last year, against the Texas Rangers, who finished in last place in the Western Division last year, in an all Texas series. If you have forgotten, Houston won only 70 games while losing 92 in 2014 and finished 28 games out of first. The only thing that kept the Astros out of last place was those Texas Rangers, with a record of 67-95, 31 games back. Texas was the only team in the American League that lost more games than the Astros, who were tied for the second worst record in the League. Tomorrow night both of them have a chance to advance to the American League Championship Series.

What would be just as exciting would be a National League Championship Series with the Chicago Cubs, who finished in last place in the Central Division last year, facing the New York Mets, who finished in third place in the Eastern Division last year. The Cubs won 73 and lost 89 last year and finished 17 games out of first. The Mets finished with the same 73-89 record and were also 17 games out of first. The Mets are up two games to one over the Dodgers while the Cubs have the same advantage over the Cardinals. If the Mets and Cubs can each win one of the last two games against the Dodgers and Cardinals, the Mets and Cubs will meet in the National League Championship Series.

The four Underdogs finished with a combined record of 295 wins and 353 losses last year while the other four teams finished with 356 wins and 292 losses. This year, the Underdogs finished with a combined 361 wins and just 287 losses compared to the Favorites record of 380-268.

Imagine a World Series with the Chicago Cubs, who finished last in their division the past two years and the Houston Astros who finished in fourth last year and last the previous year after being moved from the National League Central to the American League, facing each other. Remember also that the Astros finished in last in the National League Central their last two years there and were the only thing that kept the fourth place Cubs out of last.

The Astros have not been in the World Series since 2005, when they lost their only appearance in the Fall Classic to the Chicago White Sox in four straight. The Cubs have not been in the World Series since 1945, 70 years ago, when they lost to the Detroit Tigers four games to three. They have not won a World Series since 1908, 107 years ago, when they beat those same Tigers four games to one.

The chances of it happening are slim but don’t tell Manager Joe Maddon of the Cubs or Manager A. J. Hinch of the Astros, who, by the way, are both in their first year of managing these clubs. The fact that these four Underdogs have gotten to the point that they all have a shot at getting to the Championship Series should be excitement enough for one playoff season.

As I say every year at this time, how can anyone get excited about football, basketball or hockey when baseball is giving us its usual Fall dose of excitement and suspense?

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RED SOX PLAYERS FOUND GREENER PASTURES

In case you are a Red Sox fan and missed it, last night’s National League opening Division Playoff game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs featured ex- Red Sox pitchers John Lackey and Jon Lester in a classic pitcher’s duel for 7 1/3 innings. Lackey went 7 1/3 innings for the Cardinals and shut out the Cubs on just two hits, leaving ahead 1-0 and getting the win. Lester held the Cards to just one over 7 1/3 innings before giving up two with one out in the eighth and got the loss. Both were traded at the trade deadline last year when the Red Sox were wallowing in the cellar and unloading most of their pitching staff.

Lackey went to St. Louis and has been in the Playoffs both years since and Lester went to Oakland and signed with Chicago as a Free Agent this year. Lackey was 13-10 with a 2.77 ERA and pitched 218 innings in 33 starts this year. Lester was 11-12 with a 3.34 ERA in 32 starts and threw 205 innings. The Cardinals won Game number one but Lackey and Lester may face each other again in the fifth game if there is one.

Lackey and Lester are not the only Red Sox players who have been traded or lost over the last couple of years and have found greener pastures while the Sox have remained in the basement.

Andrew Miller, who was also traded at the trade deadline last year, went to Baltimore and this year signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees. With the Yankees, he became their closer and appeared in 60 games, saving 36 games in 38 tries and finishing with a 2.04 ERA and a remarkable 100 strikeouts in just 61 2/3 innings pitched. Of course the Yankees and Miller made the Post Season but were eliminated by Houston in The Wild Card playoff game. Jacoby Ellsbury, former Red Sox center fielder was an integral part of that Yankee team.

Jake Peavy, who was traded to the San Francisco Giants last year at the same time, was a member of and pitched in the World Series for the Giants’ World Series Championship team last year. He was 8-6 with a 3.58 ERA for the second place Giants this year.

Yoenis Cespedes, who came to the Sox in the trade for Jon Lester last year and was traded to the Detroit Tigers this year for Rick Porcello, was traded to the New York Mets during the season. He hit .291 with 35 homers and 105 RBI’s between the two teams and is in the Playoffs as a member of the Mets this fall. He batted third in Game 1, which the Mets won, and went 0-4 at the plate.

Mike Napoli, who was hitting .207 with the Sox before being traded to the Texas Rangers this year, played in 35 games for the Rangers and hit .295 with five homers and started Game one at first place for Texas in their Division Series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Jonny Gomes, who was traded to Oakland with Lester last year, has since played for Atlanta and was traded to Kansas City late in the season and played only 12 games for them this year, hitting just .167 in limited playing time. He did not make the roster for the first round of the Playoffs against Houston being edged out of an outfield spot by speedster Terrence Gore but may make the roster if the Royals advance.

Rubby De La Rosa, who was traded to Arizona in the deal that brought Wade Miley to the Sox, had a 14-9 record, with a 4.67 ERA in 32 starts for the third place Diamondbacks and was an important part of their starting rotation.

Watching the two ex Red Sox starters duel last night must have made some Red Sox fans wonder what might have happened if the sell off had not occurred, especially since, after the additions of Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Joe Kelly, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, the Sox still ended up with another lost season in last place.

As for myself, I think that the addition of Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens, with the turn around Porcello, Miley and Kelly experienced late in the season, combined with the solid team of position players that evolved over this season bodes well for the Red Sox in 2016.

All that is left for Dave Dombrowski, the new President of Baseball Operations, to do is work his magic and unload Ramirez and Sandoval, even if he has to absorb part of their salaries, for another quality starter and one or two relievers and Red Sox fans could enjoy another Worst to First dream come true.

In the meantime enjoy a playoff and World Series season that could be as exciting and competitive as any you have ever seen even if the Red Sox are not in it.

BLUE JAYS AND CARDINALS ARE THE TEAMS TO BEAT

The Major League Baseball regular season ends two weeks from today on October 4, with a full slate of games. All the games on that date start at 3:00, Eastern Time, so that all of them will be ending their season at approximately the same time, theoretically. My guess is that the geniuses who run MLB’s Promotion Department were hoping for the pennant races to go down to the wire and provide some drama on the last day.

If they were hoping to duplicate the finish of 2011 when the Red Sox and Braves were edged out by the Rays and the Cardinals for the Wild Card on the last day, they bet on the wrong horse. Most of the races are already all but over.

If the season ended today, the Toronto Blue Jays, who lead the Yankees by 3 games, would win the East. The Kansas City Royals, who lead the second place Twins by 11 games would win the Central and the Texas Rangers, who lead the Houston Astros by 2 ½ games would be the Western Division winners.

What happened to last year’s Division Winners in the American League? Last year’s Eastern Division Winner, the Baltimore Orioles, are in third place, 12 games behind the Jays and just 1 1/2 games ahead of the last place Red Sox. Last year’s Central Division Winner, the Detroit Tigers, are in last place, 17 1/2 Games behind the Royals. Last year’s Western Division Winner, the Oakland Athletics, are also in last place, 16 ½ games behind the Texas Rangers and have already been mathematically eliminated from the race.

The Yankees appear to have a lock on the first Wild Card, leading their closest challenger, the Astros, by four games. The Astros lead the Los Angeles Angels by 1 ½ games and the Minnesota Twins by 2 ½ games for the second Wild Card. All three of the teams chasing the Yankees and looking for the second Wild Card, have not been doing well recently so anything can happen there.

This seems to be the only place having the potential for drama in either league. The National League playoff teams have just about been decided. Three of the playoff teams will come from the Central Division as the St. Louis Cardinals are ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates by four games and the Chicago Cubs by five and all three of these teams have better records than the other two division leaders. The New York Mets lead the Washington Nationals by 6 ½ in the Central and the Los Angeles Dodgers have an 8 ½ game lead on the Giants in the West.

If the season ended today, the American League Wild Card Playoff game would pit the Yankees against the Astros with the winner playing the Royals, the team with the best record. The other Division Playoff would be between the Rangers and the Blue Jays.

The National League Wild Card Game would be between the Pirates and the Cubs, with the winner playing the Dodgers and the other Division Playoff would be between the Mets and the Cardinals.

As I always caution, anything can happen in baseball but the matchups above look like a pretty good bet at this time. At this point, my money is on the Blue Jays and the Cardinals to meet in the World Series but, with two weeks to go, who knows.