And when the dust settled, the historic collapse of two storied franchises was complete.
By now, you know what happened. You’ve seen the highlights on ESPN and read lengthy, poetic diatribes by countless other sports writers. Perhaps you stayed up late to watch it happen live, to be a part of history.
And certainly, you’ve read all of the amazing statistics. The Boston Red Sox were 77-0 this year when leading after 8 innings. They were up nine games in the wild card standings at the beginning of the month. The Atlanta Braves, virtually an identical story. But bullpen woes, and a pronounced lack of offensive punch, cost both teams their trip to the postseason.
Oh, and the fact that the Cardinals and the Rays played some really great late season baseball. The Cardinals, in fact, won 23 of their last 32. That’s pretty solid stuff. The Rays came back from a seven run deficit against the AL East champs to win an extra inning walk-off.
It doesn’t get any more storybook than that.
And yet the real losers here—sorry Jonathan Papelbon and co.—are the thousands of schoolteachers throughout the Boston and Atlanta
school-systems. Today, they’re dealing with all of the grumpy, sleep
deprived kids who were allowed to stay up late with dad last night to
watch the conclusion of the scariest horror flick they’ve ever seen.
And now the postseason begins, and if you’d been scripting this earlier in
the month, your bracket looks decidedly different. So who’s playing who,
and who’s going to win? Let’s take a look.
The Rays are the Cinderella story, I suppose, especially after the last month of the season. Unfortunately, there was a reason they were so far
out of contention in early September. They’re scrappy, but from top to bottom, they’ve looked at times like the most beatable team in the field.
Oh sure, they’ve got some pieces—their rotation is as solid as Sears—and you’ve gotta figure that ace David Price got his mulligan out of the way with Wednesday’s disastrous performance.
But the Rangers have done this before. They’re the team that beat the Rays in five games last year on their march to the World Series. Two of those
games, however, were started by Cliff Lee. And they were masterful performances. Lee jetted for more Philadelphian pastures in the off
season, though, and I don’t think the Rangers pitching staff is ready to fill the void his departure created, especially in the playoffs. The Rays win this one in five.
Detroit Tigers @ New York Yankees (Series begins Friday, 7:37 CT, TBS)
Justin Verlander has been dominant this season. So dominant, in fact, that
he’s a virtual lock for the AL Cy Young. MVP talk has also been thrown around. He won 24 games, lost only 5. His ERA was miniscule. He struck out 250. Against the Yankees in the regular season, though, he made two starts and had a 4.50 ERA, his third worst against any opponent. He’ll start two against them in the ALDS, but I’ve got a feeling one of those starts will
be average, at best. And I just don’t think the rest of the Tigers rotation has what it takes to hold off the murderer’s row that comprises the Yankees lineup. At some point, you just KNOW Brad Penny is going to be facing off against Mark Texeria or Robinson Cano with the game on the line, and that kinda makes me giggle. Yankees win this one in five.
Arizona Diamondbacks @ Milwaukee Brewers (Series begins Saturday, TBD,
The Diamondbacks have the worst record of any playoff team at 94-67. Last year, they finished 65-97 and ended up in last place. Turnarounds like this don’t happen in baseball. They just don’t. I’m not saying Arizona is a fluke, I’m just saying they’re potentially fluke-ish. Huge difference. Also: the Brewers’ Zack Freaking Greinke is 11-0 at Miller Park. Unbeatable. It’ll be interesting to see how our boy does under totally foreign circumstances… you know, baseball that actually matters. And with Ryan Braun and Prince “I’m Not Fat, I’m Just Big Fleshed” Fielder in the lineup, I smell some blowouts. I think the Brewers sweep.
St. Louis Cardinals @ Philadelphia Phillies (Series begins Saturday, TBD,
The Cardinals squeaked in. For the first time in Albert Pujols’ career, he failed to drive in 100. He started off slow, got hurt. Matt Holliday has battled injuries throughout the season. The pitching staff, composed of retreads, inexperienced youngsters and an aging Chris Carpenter, feels like it’s living on borrowed time.
The Phillies staff, however, is quite possibly one of the best in MLB history. Team ERA of 3.02. Roy Halladay. Cliff Lee. Cole Hamels. Roy Oswalt. As the fan of a team who ran Kyle Davies out there until the joke wasn’t funny anymore (wait… was it ever funny?), this seems unfair. Their offense is a shadow of its former self, though, so the chance is there to
lose some 1-0 or 2-1 games. But ultimately, you just don’t beat that staff in five games. You can’t. You won’t. Phillies win in four.