2012 MLB Playoffs Recap, Analysis: Yankees-Orioles Game 3, Athletics-Tigers Game 4 and More
There aren't many ways to candy-coat a big shutout like this. The Cardinals jumped ahead early and never let Washington on the board. St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter did allow nine baserunners over his 5.2 innings, giving the Nationals' WPS a little tickle, but without runs to close the gap, the numbers finally gave out completely. This game had the second-worst WPS score of the 2012 postseason so far.
Bryce Harper had another frustrating day, a warning-track shot in the first leading nowhere but an oh-for-five line. Reports say he's been battling a case of strep throat with some fever mixed in. This could certainly affect one's game, but how often do we hear of players fighting off various illnesses yet still playing great ball? Someone should do a study on whether reported illness actually leads to decreased production and how much, but I wouldn't envy whoever had to collect all the reports for that.
St. Louis has outscored Washington 20-4 in the last two games, and the Nationals have to turn that around immediately. If they don't, there's going to be ugly talk about the Curse of Teddy Roosevelt. It's that or the Stephen Strasburg shutdown, folks. Choose your poison.
This one started with very good back-and-forth action, including some Reds threats even when they didn't score. As it crept out of the Reds' reach, though, the numbers lost their upward momentum and left the game with a below-average WPS.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy made waves when he put Barry Zito in his playoff rotation, consigning Tim Lincecum to the bullpen. The move didn't work, and it did. Zito was out of the game in the third inning, having put half the batters he faced on base. Lincecum, called for in the fourth to escape a two-out jam, had his second strong relief outing of this series, allowing only one run in 4.1 innings pitched as the Giants put five more on the board. One has to think there could be a change of assignments come the next round—if San Francisco makes it, which is much likelier now than when they left AT&T Park.
Todd Frazier, third baseman for Cincinnati this day, has experience with big games. His Toms River, New Jersey team won the Little League World Series in 1998. Has there ever been a player who won the LL World Series and the actual World Series? I feel like I should know, but I don't. Anyone?
Our third WPS-certified great game of this postseason. It left some excitement on the table—runs coming in on solo homers rather than rallies, plus plenty of shutdown innings with no threat to score—but it came through late. Much like, well, you know.
In a series where the patchwork Baltimore rotation was supposed to be overmatched against the likes of CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda, the advantage in starting pitching must go to the Orioles. The Yankees' starters have had quantity, two of them pitching into the ninth, but the O's have edged them in quality. Miguel Gonzalez surrendered but one run, on a Derek Jeter triple that Adam Jones misread and should have been able to track down in the air. Showalter's starters have done all he could have expected of them, and more.
Jim Johnson has been another matter. He melted down in Game One but rebounded for a perfect save in Game Two and had a chance to put Baltimore in the driver's seat. Jeter was out of the game with a foot injury, and Joe Girardi pulled a struggling Alex Rodriguez for Raul Ibanez with one out in the ninth. The Yankees looked on the verge of collapse.
It turned out Ibanez was on the verge of Bronx immortality.
His ninth-inning home run to tie the game sent a Yankee Stadium crowd that had been silent with dread for much of the game into ecstasy. Who needs A-Rod? And when substitute shortstop Jayson Nix snagged a Nate McLouth liner for a double play that a hobbled Jeter likely wouldn't have made, a few fans might have breathed the sacrilegious question, "Who needs Jeter?" (Yeah, probably not.)
And then Ibanez, still in at DH when the spot came around to lead off the 12th, was fresh out of creative ideas for contributing to a Yankees victory, so he just did the same thing all over again.
For a franchise defined by its superstars, the Yankees have their share of supernumeraries with immortal games: Don Larsen, Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone. Raul Ibanez extended that list.
As for the Orioles, not only did they lose a one-run game, something they did less than 25 percent of the time this season, not only did they lose an extra-inning game for the first time in 17 tries, but they lost a game they led after seven, and suffered a walk-off defeat, both for the first time in 2012. They would feel justified in thinking that the magic spell has been broken. If they are to overcome this moral shock and recover to win the series, it will take more than their old defiance of the statistical norms. It will take guts.
And if that is no more substantial a basis for success than beating the sabermetric odds, it is probably far more satisfying to those doing it.
Okay, that's another game that knew how to end. Not particularly great through eight and a half—another of those close games with relatively few threats to score—but the bottom of the ninth made up for it in spades. Heck, in every suit, and no-trump.
Early on, it looked like the biggest, or only, highlight of the night would be Prince Fielder. Having been robbed of a homer the previous day by Coco Crisp, he hit one in the third that could only have been brought back into the yard by Inspector Gadget. Josh Donaldson of the A's did try to compete in the seventh, with a diving play on a grounder that would have proven he was Brooks Robinson in a previous life if Brooks were not still alive.
Still, it looked like a middling game until Jose Valverde came on in the home ninth to nail down the series win for Detroit. Do you remember 2011, when Valverde converted every save opportunity he had in the regular season? He didn't look like he remembered. The A's definitely did not.
Consecutive hits by Josh Reddick, Josh "Brooks" Donaldson and Seth Smith pulled Oakland even, with the winning run on second. Valverde settled down and got two outs, but Coco Crisp, still miffed that he hadn't gotten the chance to rob Fielder again of a homer, did the next best thing and laced a single to right. When rookie Avisail Garcia overran the ball, Seth Smith's winning run went from potential to actual.
The A's survive their third elimination game in a week and will play for the whole shooting match tomorrow. Late tomorrow, at the end of another day packed with four games. Meaning I have to stay up again until oh-dark-thirty to watch them and write up their game.
If it ends like this one did, I can live with that.
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