And Away We Go
Welcome to October. If you haven’t gotten anything out of these wildcard games I feel very sorry for you. Nobody should ever say that one game is enough to determine which team reigns supreme, but that’s the incentive to winning your division. These games are intense, and 2015 was fun, but I’m so glad we don’t have to go through this again. I am all for this chaos.
Talk about a roaring start. Leadoff home run and a 2 run shot to knock the Yankees into their bullpen early had Minnesota feeling some type of way. Too bad Brian Cashman built a bullpen you might not even expect to see during All-star weekend. The twins had to hold their lead till about the 6th or 7th for you to start to feel safe, but the Baby Bombers had other ideas. Down 3-0 before you even hit in a winner take all playoff game, call it a day right? Don’t tell that to Didi Gregarious. So it’s an 8 inning game and the Yankees are already in their pen, no problem. Take a three second look at the names in the Yankee bullpen and tell me who has the highest strikeout rate amongst them. Who ya got? If you had anyone other than Chad Green, check again. Two innings from him and hand the keys over to Dave Robertson. Now the post season is about riding the hot hand, but the wildcard game gives teams one more game to navigate arm usage The royals made it work all the way to a game 7 win; We saw how Terry Franconia handled his three headed monster in 2016, how Joe Maddon managed (or mismanaged, up to you) Aroldis Chapman; and now 2017 graces us with this Yankee bullpen. Joe girardi went with Dave Robertson and got 3.1 scoreless and into the 6th. In the meantime, Brett Gardner and Aaron judge took matters into the own hands, giving the bullpen a 7-4 lead. Now it’s the 6th and there are still 4 closers in the pen. Kahnle comes in for two and Chapman to shut the door, Girardi and yanks enter the DS with a fresh starting rotation and maybe one guy you would consider overworked. After a day off, the only true unavailable arm is David Robertson, and I’ll guess Kahnle would be just in front of him at the end of the line. Green is used to appearances of more than 4 outs, so I look for him to be more than ready come Thursday night. Chapman will be more than ready, and Dellin Betances went untouched. If you ask me, Severino’s outing was a blessing in disguise.
Sonny gray vs Trevor Bauer for game 1. Two dynamic bullpens accompanying young electric bats. I wanted the twins to take the wild card game but I have to say I’m pretty excited to see this series play out.
The Diamondbacks got off to a twins like start but they, however, decided it was a good idea to add on. “Bullpenning” became the “it” thing early last October after the Zach Britton usage debacle in the AL wildcard game. These first two games share a common theme already; starting pitcher early exit. But now that I think about it, that just leads to more bullpenning, so I guess the theme is essentially the same: How short does your team make the game, and did you get the lead before that inning mark? Early on before Greinke was pulled I was thinking, “I’d be sweating if I were the Dodgers”. As the game progressed I had the similar thoughts, just towards both teams, though I still saw Arizona pulling it off. I whole heartedly believe the DBacks will give the Dodgers a run, and at a glance this has the makings of a 2015 Cubs Cards NLDS. Two teams that are very familiar with each other with offenses that can put up big numbers in a hurry. The key differences lie in the pitching staffs, where right now LA has a clear advantage. Not much is going to strike fear into Dodger hitter’s hearthen looking out in the bullpen late in a close ball game. On the flip, the Diamondbacks have to worry about Kenley Jansen looming late, with Tony Watson and Pedro “The Human Pace of Play Problem” Baez to set him up (that is his real nickname). And none of that even mentions the fact that the dodgers have their rotation set up, while Arizona used their top two to beat the Rockies. They may have to hope for Clayton Kershaw’s playoff history to weigh him down yet again, but something tells me we may see another level from that man come Friday night.
Its Kershaw vs TBD in game 1. Interested to see where Torey Lovullo goes with his decision.
Greinke only threw 58 pitches, and with a day of rest and essentially no travel to accommodate, could you get another 3 or 4 innings out of the guy? Maybe the better option is to save him for game two when he isn’t offset by Kershaw, and you could then easily expect 5-7 out of him depending on the quality of rest he got. DBacks took the season series 11 to 8 including the final 6 in a row. Talk about getting hot at the right time, or did the Dodgers just go cold at the wrong time? A very interesting series lay ahead indeed.
Cubs Nats preview
We have a game 1 starter and his second half ERA is 2.13, which lead the NL by quite a bit. I am talking of course of Kyle “The Professor” Hendricks, and although he isn’t, I am all sorts of hyped up that he is getting the ball game 1. Given the final couple sprints through the rotation, it was clear Jon Lester was not quite the same guy, though showing promise that he could come back into his own, I feel much safer with the way Kyle has thrown the ball down the stretch. If all four guys are right, I don’t care what order you throw them out there, it’s a fairly daunting task for opposing hitters to try and get through Hendricks, Lester, Quintana, and Arrieta. The best record in the second half, and a 15-3 bounce back from a brewers sweep at Wrigley has them rolling into the playoffs looking like a team that is more than ready. The pressure in this series is undoubtable on the nationals. With the age of Bryce Harper fast approaching its bitter end, and they find themselves with the defending champions in the direct path of the elusive NLCS appearance. Still not much out there on Max Scherzer, which could either be very bad for the Nationals, or your typical don’t give away too much information NHL style “lower body injury”. I would guess we find out his status late Thursday or early Friday morning. If momentum in baseball really is just your next days starting pitcher, this could help the Cubs series winning probability in a big way.
Still a couple questions I see looming over the finalized roster. I saw talks of deciding between 10 or 11 pitchers, which to me says a decision between John Lackey and Leonys Martin/Rene Revera. I personally see it as Lackey or Revera, given Joe’s love of all things versatile, carrying three catchers has shown to have its advantages in long games and long series of long games. As far as a starting lineup goes, your guess is as good as mine. At this point I have a better chance of pinning the names on a dart board and blind firing to fill the spots, before I could guess what joe will roll out there. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but I can’t be the only one thinking along the same lines. In reality, the infield is pretty straight forward with Rizzo, Baez, Russell, and Bryant right to left, and Willson Contreras behind the plate. The big questions are in the outfield, and it starts with center. I think my only criteria for the three positions (from a starting lineup standpoint) is this; no more than one of Jason Heyward, Jon Jay, or Ben Zobrist. You need a defensive captain, sure, but they also can’t be giving away outs and while every hitter has their ups and downs, the bats of Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ have the ability to change the game dramatically with one pitch. I’d like to see Kyle, Jason, and Ian (left to right), with Almora taking over center late, shifting Heyward to right and Happ to left. From there, given a comfortable lead you take out Happ for Jon Jay and have Jay, Almora, Heyward in the late innings. Now I know it will never be that cut and dried, but if Joe Maddon that is my game plan. As far as a lineup is concerned, the two leadoff options nobody has fussed much about have been Jay and Zobrist, but if my formula is followed, only one of them can start and possibly not even if he decides to use Heyward. Could we see Kyle Schwarber leading off again, that’d go over well with everyone I’m sure. That remains to be seen, and it’s going to take more than a couple lines in some 23 year old’s blog worth of thought to figure it all out, but that’s why Tom Rickets hired who he did to do the jobs we wish we could. I know one thing for certain, come quittin’ time Friday evening I’ll be (a mess) all in on whatever is posted on the Wrigley Scoreboard lineup graphic.
Happy W season, folks.