Dodgers advance; Yankees and Angels have brooms at the ready

MLBLogoThe Los Angeles Dodgers became the first team to advance to the Championship Series last night.  They defeated the St Louis Cardinals 5-1 to complete a three-game sweep, marking themselves out as genuine World Series contenders in the process.  The Dodgers will meet one of the Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies in the NLCS, although the postponement of their game yesterday, with the series tied 1-1, means we are still a way off knowing which it will be.

The ALCS lineup could be decided within the next twenty-four hours as the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels both need one more win to clinch a sweep.  The mysteries of the Metrodome and the Red Sox’s recent history of mounting comebacks give fans in Minnesota and Boston, as well as us neutrals, hope that the divisional series could yet hold more twists and turns. 

Missed opportunities and mistakes

The outcome of every ballgame is usually decided by which team makes the most of the opportunities that come their way.  The cut-throat nature of the postseason magnifies every one of those opportunities and the Dodgers-Cardinals NLDS emphasises the point.  The Cardinals managed a paltry 4-for-30 with runners in scoring position and their batters don’t need telling that such a performance is likely to send any team to an early exit. However, there’s always two sides to any situation.  Where one batting team fails, the pitching and defense on the other side will take pride in bearing down in the crucial spots.  Did one team ‘choke’ or did the other give them little chance to come through with a big hit?  It really depends on your own viewpoint.

There’s no doubt that the big play came in game two when Matt Holliday did his best Frank Spencer impression (not in the ‘ooh Betty’ way) and clunked a relatively simple catching chance that would have ended the contest in the Cardinals’ favour 2-1.  Yet again, you’ve got to take the other side into account.  Holliday’s gaffe didn’t directly hand the Dodgers the win; they still worked two walks and two hits with two outs to score the two runs they needed to walk-off with the 3-2 victory.  They were fortunate to get another opportunity, but the point is that they took it.

That same line of thinking can be applied to game two of the Twins-Yankees series.  It was an absolute thriller, the sort of game that will be remembered for many years to come, however much fans in Minnesota would like to be able to forget about it.  The game had everything, great closers being hit for runs, dramatic homers and even a spot of controversy.  The Twins have every right to regret the left-field umpire’s incorrect call in the top of the eleventh inning on Joe Mauer’s shot down the left-field line.  The ball landed far enough fair that you couldn’t excuse the mistake and as the inning panned out, you could argue that the Twins were ultimately denied a run.

But how that inning panned out rested on many other plays.  Minnesota went on to have the bases loaded with no outs and they failed to score a single run, or the Yankees stopped them from doing so depending on how you want to look at it.  And then Jose Mijares made a mistake against Mark Teixeira, laying in a 2-1 fastball right down the middle of the plate.  The Yankees’ first baseman might have been early on it, hooking it foul and levelling the count at 2-2. Instead, he put a good swing on the ball and kept it fair. Mijares gave him the opportunity, but Teixeira still had to take it and boy did he ever.

A useful baseball lesson

Game Two was also notable for the base-running blunder by Carlos Gomez.  The play provided a useful lesson for fans relatively new to the sport in the process, clarifying a rule that took me a little while to get my head around when I first started following baseball. 

With two outs, Gomez slipped after rounding second and his instinct was to try and scramble back to the base where he was tagged out by Derek Jeter.  That in itself could be considered unlucky, but the mistake element came from the fact that Delmon Young was just about to cross home plate.  Had Gomez been more aware, he could have got into a rundown which would have allowed the run to score.  The rule is, if the third out is a ‘force’ play (the player in question was ‘forced’ to advance to the base they are going to), the run will not stand even if the runner crosses home plate before the third out is recorded.  This is most often seen when a man is on third and the batter grounds out.  Even if the baserunner has a big lead and crosses home before the force out is made (at first, for example) the run does not count.  If it’s not a force play, and Gomez wasn’t forced to go to third as he was attempting in this case, the run will stand so long as it is scored before the tag is made.

Today’s games

The Angels are on the verge of reversing a recent trend of falling to the Red Sox in the ALDS, but their previous disappointments will ensure that they will not let their 2-0 series lead affect their play.  The Red Sox will be cheered on by the Fenway faithful knowing that a win today gets them firmly back into the series.  Scott Kazmir and Clay Buchholz are on the mound with first pitch scheduled for 17.07 BST.

The other two games take place later on.  The Twins need to make the Metrodome work to their advantage  (00.07), while the Phillies and Rockies will resume their close battle so long as snow doesn’t get in the way again (03.07).

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About Matt Smith

Matt Smith is the editor and lead writer at BaseballGB. An Oakland A's fan, Matt has been following baseball since 1998 and started writing about the sport in 2006. He is the current Chair of the British Baseball Hall of Fame.

7 thoughts on “Dodgers advance; Yankees and Angels have brooms at the ready

  1. Steve

    Great write up, thanks.

    The past few days have really showed there is little or no margin for error in the play-offs, particularly in a best-of-five series. It also shows how ruthless the likes of the Yankees and Dodgers can be when given half a chance. But poor Matt Holliday, such a horrible end to a great season. And that Mauer call was bizarre.

  2. Matt Smith Post author

    Certainly was. Hard to see how the umpire got it wrong, to be honest.

    It was good to see the St Louis crowd gave Matt Holliday a great ovation when he was announced prior to the game. That wouldn’t have happened in every city. Will he return to the Red Birds though?

  3. Matt Smith Post author

    Well the Angels have just swept the Red Sox in astonishing fashion. Boston were one out away from a victory in the top of the ninth when Jonathan Papelbon imploded.

  4. Matthew Crawshaw

    Back to the drawing board for Boston. Lots of questions to answer in preperation for 2010.

    Has Big Papi lost it?
    Will Tek be back?
    How will we ever win the WS again with only 2 decent starters?
    Who sanctioned Smolz and Penny?
    Will Mike Lowell’s hip hold out?
    Who will be our starting SS in 2010? (question carried forward from 2008!)
    How many more chances does Clay need?
    Which Dice-K will turn up next year?
    Why can’t we win away?
    What was our hitting all about in the post season?

    The investigation starts now and heads will need to roll!

  5. Joe Cooter

    mathew let me answer a few of your questions.

    #1 No Big Pappi hasn’t lost it, but he’s in the process of losing it.

    # 2 No Veritek will not be back, Victor Martinez will be the everyday catcher in 2010 but eventually they’ll have to find a catcher who can throw base runners out.

    # 3 Lots of teams have won the the WS with two decent Starters, including the ’01 Diamond backs.

    # 4 I think the blame for those transaction has to be entire Redsox Front Office including Theo, John Henry, and Mickey Mouse (he owns a share of the team)

    # 5 Lowell may need More surgery to heel that hip, but he’ll be fine.

    # 6 How about Bringing back Nomar Garciaparra.

    # 7 Clay will be their number three starter next year so he’ll be giving plenty of more chances.

    # 8 Your guess is as good as anyones. Many people wanted to blame the World Baseball Classic for Dice K’s poor start this year. I am not one of them. I believe that Dice K never adjusted to the league, after the league had adjusted to him.

    # 9 The reason you can win on the road is because the teams is designed to play at Fenway Park. The team is designed to take advantage of the Green Monster and the Pesky Pole, where hitters are able to get easy homeruns and doubles. You can’t do that in other Parks. In addition, the Sox are a statioon to station team that doesn’t run alot outside of JAcoby Elsbury. Looking at teams like the Angles, they run all the time. The Yankees are a good running team as well. They are capable of mixing both power and speed in ways the Red Sox can’t.

    # 10 They went into a slump at the worst possible time. It’s as simple as that.

  6. Matthew Crawshaw

    Some good points there Joe.

    I can see a massive clear out next year, although I dont really understand the MLB transfer system to know enough about which players could potentially be dealt.

    Still two WS in a decade isn’t a bad return I guess, especially for the Red Sox lol.


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