2012 MLB Playoffs Weekend Review: A's-Tigers, Cardinals-Nationals, Yankees-Orioles, Reds-Giants
We have an overflowing schedule to get through today, so I won't waste time with introductory boilerplate.
I mentioned at one point in yesterday's wrap-up that we hadn't seen a playoff game of even above-average excitement yet this year. We no longer have that problem.
Average in WPS is a bit above 300; the threshold I set for "great" is 500. The line score above doesn't quite tell us anything we didn't already see for ourselves. If you missed the game, though, it tells you, "Hey, you missed a whale of a game!"
This game followed several of the rules for highly exciting games. It was always close, with no team ever leading by more than one; when one team pulled ahead, the other immediately rallied; and the majority of the needle-moving events happened late, when leverage can be at its highest. The last was critical; it took a promising-but-middling game into the territory of truly memorable.
And beyond what the numbers can read, there was stimulating variety. Runs scored on homers (okay, one), on wild pitches (twice), two on Coco Crisp's double-bobble of Miguel Cabrera's mostly catchable fly (I didn't know Matt Vasgergian's voice could go that high). A runner was gunned down at the plate (a play betrayed by WPS: the hit and out partly cancel each other), and a sacrifice bunt came about two inches from being a bases-loading hit (another time WPS undercounts). If anything, the game was better than the numbers tell.
And it was day ball, too. Who could ask for more? Er, apart from extra innings, that is.
One fantastic half-inning raised this game from "good" to "borderline great," which is still great the way a near-miss is still a miss. Quick, who had Nationals pinch-hitter Tyler Moore in the GWRBI pool?
St. Louis got their first two runs two innings before their first hit, which suggests how ineffective their offense, and Gio Gonzalez's control, was. A two-run no-hitter would have been hilarious, but would have exposed a loophole in the WPS system, so I say thank goodness for Ian Desmond.
Should so much credit for game excitement go to a single half-inning like the Nationals' eighth? This can be a matter of personal taste, but a late comeback with big swings in momentum both ways (Kurt Suzuki's strikeout to make it two away was the third-biggest play of the game) fits my idea of exciting. Put it in the ninth inning, or 10th, and I don't think anyone would have a problem.
Tight games aren't necessarily great ones, if enough innings lack even threats to score. There was some of that here, as both CC Sabathia and Jason Hammel pitched strongly enough that nothing developed in several frames. Not enough, though, to keep this from being a good close game, for eight innings.
Most of the way, the Yankees seemed to be composing for themselves the epitaph "Killed on the basepaths." Ichiro Suzuki got caught stealing with no outs in the first, dissipating the momentum of his RBI double. Mark Teixeira ran himself out in the fourth trying to stretch a wall-banging single to two. In the seventh, Russell Martin came home unforced on an infield grounder and was tagged out. In tight playoff games, one doesn't usually hand away baserunners this freely and survive.
They did this time. In the Orioles' eighth, CC stranded J.J.—Hardy, that is—rendering his leadoff double fruitless and keeping the score knotted. Then Russell Martin took Jim Johnson deep, and Baltimore never did close the floodgates after that, the deluge running dry by itself. A fun barrage (for some of the fans) to end a good if not great contest.
Well, three out of four isn't bad. Unless you're fielding.
This is a textbook example of how games end up dull. One side takes a substantial early lead, and not only don't let the opponents come back, they don't even let them mount a rally. Bronson Arroyo set down the first 14 Giants he faced, and Reds pitchers overall never allowed more than one base runner in any inning until the virtually meaningless ninth.
I would mention offensive stars, except that it was really a team effort, and that the pitching was even more impressive. There isn't much more to say about a rout of this order, except that it was a pity to end a very good day of baseball that way.
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