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Championship Series thoughts on a rainy Sunday

by Matt Smith

For many in the U.K., today is the sort of Sunday where you’re glad to be able to stay indoors to shelter from the wind and rain.

Saturday night’s two Championship Series games were the perfect gift for anyone trying to find something to occupy the mind whilst huddled up away from the elements.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to re-watch the games in full then the Complete Game videos on MLB.com are a good way to catch up on the main flow of each game, even if the lack of commentary does take a bit of getting used to. Alternatively the Pulse of the Postseason video follows the timeline of the day in one neat 10 minute package.

First up on the ‘Pulse’ video is the St. Louis Cardinals’ 1-0 triumph over the Dodgers to take a 2-0 series lead as the teams head out to L.A.

Rookie Michael Wacha was impressive once again, but the most telling part of the tale came in Trevor Rosenthal’s 1-2-3 ninth inning to seal the Dodgers’ fate.

With Matt Kemp done for the season, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier battling injuries and Yasiel Puig battling a loss of form, they are severely restricted when it comes to scoring runs and whilst pitching can take you a long way – good pitching beats good hitting, and so on – you can’t win if you can’t score runs.

Puig looked completely lost at the plate throughout the game and none more so than when he struck out to lead off the ninth inning, lumbering him with the ‘golden sombrero’ for four strikeouts. Juan Uribe, no one’s idea of a number 5 hitter on a World Series contender, then wildly hacked his way to the next strikeout, before Andre Either came off the bench to end the game striking out on three pitches.

L.A. have received two strong pitching performances from Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw and both have gone to waste due to their scuffling batting lineup. That lineup will now have to face the Cardinals’ best pitcher, Adam Wainwright, in Game Three whilst the Dodgers are likely to send Hyun-Jin Ryu to the mound knowing that he’s dealing with arm soreness and has been ineffective of late.

The Dodgers aren’t done just yet, but the Cardinals couldn’t be in a better position.

The other game of the night also finished 1-0 as Anibal Sanchez and the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen came within two outs of no-hitting what has been a potent Boston Red Sox batting lineup.

This series has been billed as a match-up between the Tigers’ starting pitching and the Red Sox’s offence and in that respect it was Detroit’s strength that won out in Game One. However, I suspect that it will be Detroit’s batting lineup that will determine the result of this series and in that sense the first game showed Boston how they could make it to another Fall Classic.

Even though they were handcuffed by the Tigers’ pitching – Boston fans have some reason to point to Joe West’s strikezone as a contributory factor too, although all hitters know they have to adjust to the zone being called on the night – they were always in the game because their own pitching was able to limit the Tigers’ offence.

Whilst Detroit are justified in having faith in their starting pitchers – not least in Max Scherzer for Game Two tonight – they’ll know that it’s unlikely they can win four games in this series against a strong Boston team if they can’t find a way to get the offence going around a clearly hobbled Miguel Cabrera.

You expect the Tigers to pitch well and, even in the face of this, you expect the Red Sox’s offence to score runs. What we should expect from the Tigers’ offence is less clear and finding out should make this a fascinating series.

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