For baseball fans, this is officially “calm before the storm Tuesday.” I’ve noticed that every college football Saturday has a nickname now, so why can’t a Tuesday? Here are the match-ups and some points of interest that will make the storylines a little juicier.
ARIZONA & CHICAGO: The D’backs are to ’07 baseball what the NY Jets were to ’06 football. When you look at their numbers, they aren’t very impressive, but somehow they won and won and won. Don’t ask me how. Their game two and game three starters are Doug Davis and Livan Hernandez. Go to their web site and pull up the numbers for these two guys. They aren’t good.
On the other side, the Cubs are the Cubs. However, before you write them off as losers by fate, remember that this millennium has been much kinder to those who basically spent the entire twentieth century mired in futility. While the Cubs, White Sox and Red Sox couldn’t win in anything that started with a “19”, now only the Cubs have failed to win post Y2K. Could this be the year?
PHILY & COLORADO: The Rockies have won almost every game for two weeks, but after last nights extra inning nail biter, they can’t even name a starter for game two, let alone game three. The Phillies can score and have trouble pitching. The Rockies pitching is better that you think, and they don’t slug it like they did in yesteryear, but they can still score too. Don’t turn off any of these games in the sixth inning and say “this one’s over.” The excitement will run from beginning to end. And the home crowds, who haven’t seen playoff baseball in over a decade, will make each place as loud and tense as any LDS series we’ve seen.
BOSTON & The ANGELS: Dice-K to pitch twice instead of Schilling? That’s interesting. How will Papelbon do in October? Remember, he’s been great for the Sox, but this is only his second season, and last year they didn’t make it. As a matter of fact, the Red Sox haven’t won a playoff game since they won the World Series in ’04. They got swept in ’05 and sat out last year. Also, how will Lugo, Crisp and Drew do? We know about everyone else, but without production from at least two of these three guys, the offense may not score much.
From the Angels side, you always wonder if they have enough thunder to go with Vlad. If the Red Sox decide to make some else beat them, do the Angels have that someone else. Also, has Escobar run out of gas? If there is a modern, professional version of “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts," it’s the Angels. Their manager is great, and they play the game right.
Both bullpens should be tough to score against, so mistakes early could hurt in this series more than any other. I expect more bunting here than in any AL series you’ve seen in a while.
NEW YORK & CLEVELAND: There is one story here and it’s Arod. Sure the Yankees don’t hit lefties. Sure they haven’t seen Sabathia in four years. Sure Roger Clemens is nursing three injuries. I get all that, but the story after game one is going to be whether Arod went 0-fer or not. If he does anything in game one, like 1 for 3 with an RBI, then Cleveland might want to look out.
The other thing that is interesting is that many people are picking the Indians. Peter Gammons did. It would be better for Sabathia and Carmona to come in with everyone picking the Yankees, just as they have done the last ten years. Situations don’t bring pressure, expectations bring pressure. If these guys were handed the ball and told “go have fun. We’re not supposed to win anyway,” how hard would that be? Now they are being told that they are expected to win. When you are expected to win and you don’t, then you’re a choker. And these two guys are 27 and 23 years old, with a combined one playoff start. They may handle it well, or they may not.
There’s some stuff for you to chew on. While this week has been watered down a little with the extra off day, I’ve always thought that this was a close second to the first week of March Madness as far as great sports weeks go. When do you get Wednesday, Thursday and Friday action like this? The Rockies/Padres match-up really helped fill the gap, but these next three days are as fun as any that don’t involve a bracket.