2017 World Series Preview: History-Rich Dodgers Face History-Chasing Astros

Home field advantage will play a vital role in 2017 Fall Classic

By Brendan DeVenney

The Dodgers just won their 22nd National League pennant. The Astros just won their 1st American League pennant, 2nd overall after being in the National League. That is all you need to know about how historic this upcoming World Series is.

Last year’s World Series had a similar feel. The Cubs entered with 16 National League pennants, while the Indians had just 6. But by throwing history out the window, both teams gave America and the world a World Series to remember. Houston and Los Angeles both hope to do just that starting on Tuesday night in Hollywood.

Digesting this series

The pitching between these two teams is slightly incomparable. Houston’s pitching, behind the dominating Dallas Keuchel and veteran Justin Verlander, have come up clutch in their wins. Make note of that, because in the American League Championship Series, New York was able to get to them in the Yankees’ three wins in a row at home, three of the four Postseason losses for the Astros.

Houston’s pitching let up 19 runs combined in Games 3, 4, and 5. We all know how much home field advantage plays a huge role in the Postseason, and we’ve seen that be a factor particularly in the American League bracket. In the Yankees’ Divisional Series with Cleveland, they got back in the series with huge wins at Yankee Stadium. They did the same thing by winning three in a row to take the series lead in the Championship Series with Houston.

The Astros did the same thing, winning the first two games at home in both series with Boston and New York. And with New York, they regrouped back at their place to win the series in elimination games at Minute Maid Park. And their pitching has been a major reason for all those wins and losses.

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Looking back at this crazy ALCS, Houston’s pitching was all over the place in the series. In their first two games at home, Dallas Keuchel, who will throw Game 1 of the World Series, and Justin Verlander, who goes in Game 2, were magnificent, both going the distance. Keuchel went 7 innings striking out 10 and shutting the Yankees’ lineup down, and Verlander went a complete game with 13 strike outs and just one run on 5 hits, doing just enough to get the Astros win.

However, then they went on the road and didn’t do as well, with Charlie Morton getting rocked, not making it through 4 innings and giving up a dismal 7 runs in Houston’s 8-1 loss at Yankee Stadium in Game 3. In Game 4, Houston was nine outs away from winning with a 4-0 lead in the 7th, but Lance McCullers, known as a bullpen guy, got tired and exited the game. That’s where the bullpen didn’t do its job, with Chris Devenski, Joe Musgrove, and Ken Giles giving up six runs in the 7th and 8th innings, allowing New York’s lineup to ride the Bronx crowd in a comeback win to tie the series. And Game 5 wasn’t a great outing by Keuchel, giving up 4 runs in 4.2 innings of work, despite striking out 8, as the Yankees won 5-0 to take a 3-2 lead in the ALCS.

But it was so interesting how going back to Minute Maid Park, Justin Verlander dazzled again, and Charlie Morton looked like a different pitcher. Verlander went 7 scoreless innings with 8 innings in Game 6 to even the series, while Morton did his job in 5 scoreless innings, and McCullers pitched a 12-out, scoreless save.

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Home field advantage plays a critical role. It’s been proven. We’ve seen crowds at Dodgers Stadium, Yankee Stadium, and Minute Maid Park play key roles in helping their teams win ballgames. How will the Astros and Dodgers handle their opposing crowds?

Well, like mentioned above, the Astros don’t play particularly well on the road in the Postseason. Even in the 2015 ALDS versus Kansas City, they went 1-2 at Kaufman Stadium. This year they are 1-4 on the road. They won’t have that Houston crowd to back them up in the first two games of the Fall Classic. The Los Angeles Dodgers, much like the Yankees, are undefeated at home in the Postseason. Having the best record in baseball, the Dodgers won the first two games of each series with Arizona and Chicago, protecting that home field play. Ever been to a Postseason game in Hollywood? You’re missing a lot, especially when the offense is red hot sizzling.

The Dodgers offense has been lighting it up hitting a combined .273, led by Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner, hitting .414 and .387 respectively. After their losing streak at the end of August, beginning of September, some worried about Los Angeles. But it turned out to be a positive lesson for “The Boys in Blue,” peaking at the right time and going on a tear in the Postseason. In their first two home games versus the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers put up 9 and 8 runs off tough Arizona pitching. Justin Turner had 5 RBI’s in Game 1, and in Game 2, down early, took advantage of pitching miscues and rolled, thanks to a three hit game from Logan Forsythe, and two huge RBI’s from Yasiel Puig. They would go on to sweep Arizona with You Darvish dominating in Game 3.

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They would come back home to host the defending World Champions, and they used both their pitching and hitting to take down the Cubs easily in five. Without Corey Seager, who injured his back in Game 3 of the NLDS, Los Angeles pummeled the Cubs in Game 1 with home runs by Puig and Chris Taylor and rolled to a 1-0 lead. Then in Game 2, with the game tied at 1-1 in the 9th, Justin Turner walked it off in the bottom of the inning with a three-run home run to left-center to take the series to Wrigley Field with the Dodgers up 2-0. It was the first walk-off home run for Los Angeles in the Postseason since Kirk Gibson’s historic, symbolic walk-off at Dodgers Stadium in 1988 World Series versus Oakland.

In Game 3, things didn’t get much better for Chicago, with Andre Ethier and Chris Taylor hitting home runs in the 2nd and 3rd innings, and then Taylor roped an RBI triple to put the pressure even more on the Cubs, as the Dodgers rolled to a 6-1 win. After Chicago took Game 4, the Dodgers exploded for 11 runs in Game 5 to advance to the World Series. Enrique Hernandez broke out for three home runs, one being a grand slam in the Dodgers’ 5-run third inning.

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We have seen that the hitting is there for the Dodgers. But is the pitching? Los Angeles’ staff has a lot on their plate going up against a really strong lineup in Houston, who in Games 6 and 7 powered their way to the World Series against strong New York pitching, scoring 3 off Luis Severino, 4 off David Robertson, and hit C.C. Sabathia out of the third inning in the final game. José Altuve has hit .400 in the playoffs with 5 huge home runs. Carlos Correa has hit .295. Alex Bregman has been real special hitting .190 with 5 RBI’s. George Springer has hit .233, but is just 10 for 43. And Yulieski Gurriel has been huge with a .366 average and a three RBI game at Yankee Stadium.

But at home, Houston’s hitting has been unstoppable. They scored eight runs in both their first two home Postseason games, walked off in Game 2 versus New York with Carlos Correa, and came up huge with 7 and 4 runs in Games 6 and 7. With the Dodgers’ pitching, they’re blessed with having home field in the first two games with Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw going in Game 1 and Rich Hill going in Game 2.

Kershaw is a story in himself. In the regular season, he went 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA in 27 starts, and pitched just one complete game coming against Kansas City. Kershaw has not had a rough patch at all this year, and in the Postseason, he’s thrown three games earning a 2-0 record with a 3.63 ERA. Historically, he’s not a great playoff pitcher, with a 6-7 Postseason record and 4.40 ERA. He went 2-1 last Postseason, 1-1 in 2015, 0-2 in 2014, and 1-2 in 2013. But this year, he’s off to a much better start, and his last outing at Wrigley Field, he had his stuff working for him in 6 innings of work, giving up 3 hits, and just 1 run in Game 5 of the NLCS.

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Rich Hill for Los Angeles will go in Game 2. Hill has thrown a 3.00 ERA in October in just two starts, not even making it past the fifth inning of either of those games against Arizona and Chicago. Hill went 12-8 in the regular season, so if a lineup built like Houston’s can get to him early in the game, you won’t see much of him. He’s known for doing just enough and letting the bullpen do the rest consisting of Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda, Tony Watson, and closer Kenley Jansen. In Game 3, Yu Darvish will take the mound and he’s been special with a 2-0 record and a 1.59 ERA. He’s had experience with road postseason games with both his starts coming on the road so that helps Los Angeles. And Alex Wood will go in Game 4, with his only start coming in Los Angeles’ only loss in Game 4 of the NLCS where he went 4.2 innings of work, allowing 3 Chicago home runs.

That being said, both Arizona and Chicago were able to expose Los Angeles’ pitching, with the Yankees showing weaknesses from the Astros’ pitching staff. On paper, Houston’s pitching staff is stronger, and they are going to get tested from a lineup in Los Angeles that has hit .273 in the Postseason. Houston as a lineup has hit .247 in 11 games played, compared to Los Angeles needing only 8 games with the NLDS sweep of Arizona.

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Playing the sorrow note

Everyone has felt bad about what has happened in Houston with Hurricane Harvey rolling through in August. Also, California has seen their fair share of devastation as well with deadly wildfires burning through northern Los Angeles near Hollywood. This is not the first time that baseball has played as an intercessor for fans of those cities that have been hit with harsh reality.

You take a long look back at the 1989 “Bay Bridge” World Series where the Loma Prieta Earthquake struck areas of both San Francisco and Oakland right before Game 3 at Candlestick Park. The series had to be postponed 12 days before Oakland would go on to sweep San Francisco, 4-0. Once that series resumed, it meant so much to the Bay Area, no matter who was winning the series at that point, as baseball became a time of satisfaction and hope that people in California can come back to reality.

In 2001, the Major League Baseball season would be postponed 18 days, and the regular season concluded from September 30 to October 7. The World Series was even more special that year as the New York Yankees would bring the City of New York and, the nation as a whole, together by making that year’s Fall Classic, and taking Arizona to seven games before blowing a ninth inning lead in Game 7. Once again, the series acted as a time where New Yorkers could forget what happened over a month ago and get back to reality.

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The same thing will go for the 2017 World Series. It happens almost two months later from the end of Hurricane Harvey, but for Houstonians the devastation is still there and is still real. This Postseason, and this upcoming World Series, acts as a time of celebration and sheds light on what the city of Houston is all about.

Series Notes:

  • Game 1: Tuesday, October 24; First pitch: 8:00; Dodgers Stadium, Los Angeles, California
  • Game 2: Wednesday, October 25; First pitch: 8:00; Dodgers Stadium, Los Angeles, California
  • Game 3: Friday, October 27; First pitch: 8:00; Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
  • Game 4: Saturday, October 28; First pitch: 8:00; Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
  • Game 5*: Sunday, October 29; First pitch: 8:00; Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
  • Game 6*: Tuesday, October 31; First pitch: 8:00; Dodgers Stadium, Los Angeles, California
  • Game 7*: Wednesday, November 1; First pitch: 8:00; Dodgers Stadium, Los Angeles, California

Prediction: Los Angeles in 6

 

 

2017 Postseason: American League Championship Series Preview

Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees

By Brendan DeVenney

Two franchises that could not be more different historically. On one side, you have the Astros, who have for years been the laughing stock of the league until the past few seasons and have only made one appearance in the World Series, and lost. Yet, on the other side, you have the storied franchise in the New York Yankees. 27 World Series Titles, 40 American League pennants, and 58 Hall of Famers. The Astros have 11 Hall of Famers.

But in 2017, the better team both on paper and talent wise is the Houston Astros. Houston is loaded this year, and after knocking out Boston in the ALDS, they have a ton of momentum after three huge wins over the Red Sox.

Taking a look at their series win over Boston, they won their three games with attitude and vengeance. In Game 1, they got hot and stayed hot getting Jose Altuve going with a three home run game, and Verlander went 6 dominant innings in his Houston Postseason debut. In Game 2, George Springer and Carlos Correa got in on the fun, and Dallas Keuchel got the win with a 7 strikeout night. And in their win in Game 4, Alex Bregman and Carlos Beltran came up clutch with huge at bats in the 8th and 9th innings for their 5-4 win.

The way that Altuve, Bregman, Beltran, Correa, and Springer all hit the ball, this could go down as one of the best lineups in Astros history. These are guys that see the ball well and are patient at the plate. This lineup is dangerous. Just ask Boston pitching.

Plus, their pitching has been dominant, from their starters to their relievers. That is if you don’t count their Game 3 loss. I look at that loss and say that the Fenway Park crowd played a big role in Boston scoring 10 runs. Justin Verlander looks like 2014 Justin Verlander now in his new role with the Astros and Dallas Keuchel is finally getting his shot at pitching on the big stage. Chris Devenski out of the bullpen has two solid appearances with one hiccup in Game 3. And Ken Giles, Houston’s closer, has looked solid in his appearances, as well.

This will be the first time in franchise history that they will play in the American League Championship Series after 50 seasons of playing in the National League. They moved to the AL West in 2013 but haven’t made it this far since. So, this is a historic series for Houston, and a series that reveals a new stage of baseball to a large percent of the Astros’ roster.

As for New York, the Yankees have been here before. That is, the franchise. But most players on New York’s roster this year haven’t been this far in their careers. The last time the Yankees made the ALCS was 2012, where Brett Gardner, C.C. Sabathia, and David Robertson were all on the roster. There are also other veterans who have LCS experience as well, such as Jacoby Ellsbury who has won two World Series titles with the Red Sox. Starlin Castro was on the NLCS Cubs team in 2015.

But for guys like Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, and Greg Bird, this is their first taste of American League Championship Series baseball. And from what we saw in the ALDS vs. Cleveland, they are ready for it.

Gregorius has started to become real hot and has shown that he can hit off of All-Star pitching, taking Corey Kluber yard twice in the ALDS. Sanchez also homered twice in the series for three RBI’s, and Hicks went an impressive 7 for 22 with 5 RBI’s, coming up huge in Game 2 despite New York losing that game.

The major concern though for New York is Aaron Judge striking out a whopping 16 times versus the Indians. Now, he won’t get the same caliber of pitching versus Houston, but his struggles at the plate have to be concerning for Joe Girardi. You don’t just come out of a slump like that in one game. However, from what we saw in the Wild Card game against Minnesota, if he sees a pitch he likes, he’ll take you out of the ballpark with one swing and change the game.

As far as the Yankees pitching goes, they impressed everybody in the Division Series, shutting down Cleveland’s lineup. Who knows if that was phenomenal pitching, or just really bad hitting. None the less, the starters of Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, and Luis Severino all answered the bell for New York with strong starts in the final three games. You need the same out of them against this Houston that you know is going to hit the ball, unlike the Indians.

And their bullpen could not have performed any better. David Robertson did not let up a run in his appearances in Games 3 and 5. Aroldis Chapman scared the living day lights out of Cleveland once again in New York’s three wins. And Dellin Betances and Tommy Kahnle are great backup guys when needed.

Houston did win the season series against the Yankees, 5-2. Houston won the series at Yankee Stadium, 3-1, and then beat New York 2-1 at Minute Maid Park. But from what we saw with Cleveland, it doesn’t matter if you win the season series. This is Postseason baseball. Anything can happen.

I look at this series and the only way these teams win is if they win the battle of New York pitching vs. Houston hitting. Houston’s lineup is really dangerous right now, and if the Yankees starters and relievers can keep them in check, then New York has a chance.

Series Notes: 

  • Game 1: Friday, October 13; First pitch: 8:00; Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
  • Game 2: Saturday, October 14; First pitch: 4:00; Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
  • Game 3: Monday, October 16; First pitch: 8:00; Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
  • Game 4: Tuesday, October 17; First pitch: TBD; Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
  • Game 5*: Wednesday, October 18; First pitch: TBD; Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
  • Game 6*: Friday, October 20; First pitch: TBD; Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
  • Game 7*: Saturday, October 21: First pitch: TBD; Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas

Prediction: New York in 6

 

Thoughts on the Indians-Yankees American League Division Series

Cleveland blows 2-0 lead, Yankees advance to ALCS

By Brendan DeVenney

Major sports franchises (MLB, NFL, NBA), whether or not they want to publicly proclaim it, want drama filled stories in the playoffs and feel good stories to make the sport better. For instance, in the NFL it has been the aging Tom Brady and the Patriots winning Super Bowls like he’s 24 years old. In the NBA, it’s been LeBron James bringing a winning culture to the Cavaliers and the Warriors’ dynasty in the making. In baseball? Well there hasn’t really been one. Yes, the Cubs became America’s team last year winning the World Series, but now it feels like people have forgotten about them quickly. This postseason? It looks like it will be the Yankees.

New York has struggled for the last five years, not really being relevant in Postseason conversation. But now, they’re in the American League Championship Series after a historic comeback in the franchises rich history. Down 0-2 in the ALDS versus the Indians, the Brett Gardner-led Yankees rallied and fought their way to a series win over Cleveland.

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MLB is most likely drooling over the fact that the “Yankees,” the 27-time World Series Champion Yankees, the major market, Jeter-faced, pinstripe, America’s team Yankees, are now four wins away from playing in the World Series for the 41st time. They haven’t played in the Fall Classic since 2009, and for baseball lovers everywhere, for Major League Baseball, and national media combined, this could be the year they get to lavish over New York going for title #28.

This New York team doesn’t really have a ton of big names like Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, or Jorge Posada. Instead they have numerous newcomers in Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, Greg Bird, Luis Severino, and Gary Sanchez. This is a Cinderella story so far for the Yankees, and they get Houston next after coming back down 0-2. That being said, how did they accomplish a major task against Cleveland? Well, they were handed so many gifts by the Indians, who once again blew a major lead in the Postseason by losing series clinching games.

Cleveland entered the Postseason as a World Series favorite, and after Game 1 it looked like we were watching the same old Indians from their 22-game winning streak. Trevor Bauer threw a stellar outing, and the offense came out hitting to win. But then came the next four games.

In Game 2, Kluber got rocked and didn’t make it out of the third inning. Then the bullpen got rattled, as Mike Clevinger gave up critical runs for the Yankees. Luckily for Cleveland, they had their lone Postseason moment and rallied down 8-3 to win in 13 innings. Francisco Lindor got his first of two hits blasting a grand slam to cut the New York lead to 8-7, Jay Bruce got his second Postseason home run to tie it up, and Yan Gomes ripped a walk-off single down the third base line, creating hallmark, marquee photographs at Progressive Field. With the walk-off, they took a 2-0 lead to New York with a chance to sweep the Yankees. Instead, they got worse.

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In Game 3, Carlos Carrasco pitched a gem and did his job, shutting down the Yankees. Andrew Miller and picked up where he left off, but gave up a crucial solo home run, a home run that would be the game-winning run because the offense turned into a garbage fire. The next three games saw the Indians fall flat on their face at the plate. As the series continued, they kept on getting worse at the plate. Indians batters struck out 11 times in Game 3, 14 times in Game 4, and 16(!) times in Game 5!

And it came at the worst of times, other than Game 4, the Indians had multiple times to take the lead and win the series. In Game 3, Cleveland lost 1-0. That was it. The Tribe left 14 men on base! Jason Kipnis hit a triple to left, but they couldn’t get him home because Ramirez and Bruce were swinging at air, missing everything in sight. Earlier in the game, Austin Jackson and Michael Brantley both grounded into double plays that ended innings and stalled possible scoring opportunities. Overall in that game, the offense was 5 for 30. A pathetic performance for the second best offense in the American League.

In Game 4, it almost seemed as if the Indians were in no man’s land. Cleveland gave up 6 unearned runs to the Yankees!  The defense committed four errors that all led to runs, with two coming from Giovanny Urshela was has been known for his stellar defense at third base. They had their worse defensive performance of the year on the wrong night because the lineup actually contributed with home runs from Carlos Santana and Roberto Perez. If they don’t give up 6(!) unearned runs, they possibly win that game and escape a scare from New York. But instead, here we go back home to Cleveland for Game 5.

Francona set the pitching rotation around Corey Kluber so that if there would be a Game 5, Kluber would be on regular rest. You can’t go against that game plan. Your best pitcher on the team, best in the league, on the mound for a win-or-go-home game. Plus, you’re at home! No matter what happened the past two games, this is what you hope to have going for you. Well, it backfired on the Indians.

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Kluber did not have his stuff, yet again. It wasn’t like he was awful, using his breaking ball a lot efficiently and finishing with 6 strikeouts. But Didi Gregorius figured him out and drilled two home runs (one a two-run blast) in his first two at bats against Kluber. Those three runs would be plenty for New York, because guess what? The offense stunk up Progressive Field and failed to help out their ace. Francisco Lindor went 1 for 4. Jason Kipnis struck out three times. Josè Ramírez went 0 for 3, along with Edwin Encarnacion. Carlos Santana struck out twice going 0 for 4. And this was against 37-year old C.C. Sabathia, whose best pitch is his offspeed pitch! Embarrassing performance by the lineup for the third straight game.

I have two thoughts, and they regard Corey Kluber and the lineup. First on Kluber. Wednesday nights outing was his third straight start where he did not make it past the fourth inning. In Game 7 of the World Series in 2016, he went 4 innings giving up 4 runs on 6 hits, including 2 home runs versus Chicago. I don’t know how you explain that other than is he not fit for the big stage? If not, then he really doesn’t deserve the Cy Young Award if he can’t pitch like he does in the regular season in Postseason games, specifically series clinching games. In 2016, he only got to the seventh inning once, compared to 18 times he went 7-plus in 2016 and 19 times in 2016, and that was with an injury mixed in in May. Kluber has the will and attitude of a regular season pitcher, and has yet to prove himself in the Postseason. Francona and Mickey Callaway need to help this guy if they make it back to the Postseason in 2018.

And on to the lineup. Your best hitters in Lindor and Ramírez were absolutely silent in 5 games going a combined 4 for 38. That is called choking. Both these superstars had slumps in the regular season and got out of them, hitting the ball with fire and vengeance. But that’s supposed to get you ready for the Postseason. And it’s not like they haven’t been here before. They were strong at the plate last Postseason. It was so disappointing seeing them struggle the way they did at the plate. They were chasing everything and weren’t seeing the pitches well at all.

And as for the other men in the lineup, specifically Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis. I honestly feel as if we should move on from the sympathy show with these two and get something better for these injury plagued All-Stars. They can’t stay healthy. And when they come back, they try acting like they’ve been in the lineup for all 162 games, when in reality they show the attitude of not caring at the plate. Their swings are broken and aren’t working against American League pitching. They wave at everything and are so frustrating to watch. Now, we’ve signed Kipnis through 2020 with a team option, and Brantley has one more year with a team option. I would use that team option if I’m the Indians front office.

LOOKING AT THIS OFFSEASON

Chris Antonetti has a lot to think about this coming offseason. He has to reevaluate who he wants to stay and leave in the starting rotation. You obviously keep Kluber, Bauer, and  Carrasco. We own Kluber through 2020 and Carrasco through 2019. But with Bauer, he has arbitration this upcoming season, so Antonetti has to sign a deal that keeps him. Then you start asking questions about Tomlin and Salazar and Clevinger. How valuable do we see them being in the future? Tomlin’s and Salazar’s contracts are nearing an end and I would so be for getting better starters than those two injury prone hurlers. Guys like Gio Gonzalez or Robbie Ray. I feel like they would be way better than what we have right now.

As far as this offense goes, we need to make a decision on Carlos Santana. What will be the most talked about free agency discussions in the league, it might not be a bad idea to get a better bat for him. His production has dropped from this season to last, and there are plenty of first basemen first agents this offseason to choose from, like Yonder Alonso, Eric Hosmer, and Matt Holiday.

My biggest request from Antonetti this offseason is that he gets rid of Brantley and Kipnis, and fills those holes with better talent. That’s all I ask for.

DON’T BLAME TITO

There were a number of decisions that Francona made this Postseason that were controversial. But they were decisions he has made in the past with other teams and he thought only best for the team. Throwing Bauer in Game 1 worked out. There’s no question that we all thought Francona was the smartest ever after Trevor’s performance. He then decided to keep going with Kipnis in centerfield. Kipnis had shown promise at the plate after coming back from his injury in August and Francona had to have seen that he was getting his groove back or I’m almost positive he wouldn’t have put him in the lineup in center. There may have been one instance in the series where it looked like Kipnis didn’t belong in center, but that was bound to happen and Tito had to have been ready for it. Also, it was a big question if Bauer would be ready to go in Game 4. Why not throw Tomlin? Or Clevinger? Guys that had been rested and experienced starters for going long distance and who have pitched well against this lineup. Well, Francona wanted someone who was in a rhythm and he wanted to get the win and not play New York again. So he went with a guy that was better in games like this than Tomlin or Clevinger. But in the end, you can’t blame Francona for this series loss. He didn’t strike out 41 times in the three losses. He didn’t call Game 5’s awful strike zone. He didn’t catch Lindor’s potential home run in Game 3. He didn’t commit 4 errors and give up 6 unearned runs in Game 4. You can only put full blame on the entire team.

TIP OF THE CAP TO THE YANKEES

I tip my cap to the New York Yankees on playing a phenomenal series and showing us what a team looks like that really wants to win. I fully believe that if the Indians went down 0-2, they would not have enough to come back and win the series in three straight games. New York took advantage of the fact that they still had a possible three games. They calmed down and took game by game and just flat out beat the Indians’ butts. Girardi became a genius in New York after being a scapegoat, and if Judge gets his act together after striking out 16 times and going 1 for 20 in the series, then the Yankees truly have a shot at getting to the Fall Classic.

 

 

Analysis on National League Division Series Game 2

Lights, camera, action! Dodgers are rolling in the Postseason

By Brendan DeVenney

So far it has been a Hollywood story in the Dodgers clubhouse. This Los Angeles ball club is going out and proving that they are not going to falter in October this year, and they showed it again with another game of lighting up the scoreboard.

In Game 2, the Diamondbacks pitching staff struggled all night long, and they gave Los Angeles multiple opportunities to capitalize on offense. None bigger than the fourth inning, where Arizona had a 2-1 lead after a big first inning.

With Robbie Ray on the mound for Arizona, he would let up the Dodgers back in the game. After loading the bases, Ray through a wild pitch to bring home Forsythe, who started the huge inning with a single to left. That would make the game tied at 2-2.

It was then Chris Taylor to deliver the Dodgers’ first lead of the game, ripping a single up into left, Austin Barnes came home to score, and Los Angeles was back clicking leading 3-2.

A one-run lead, however, wouldn’t be enough for the Dodgers’ liking. The very next inning, the Los Angeles lineup erupted again, something they have been known for all year. This fifth inning would be just like any other of their huge innings.

After Ray hit Justin Turner with a pitch, Corey Tovullo would have to take him out of the game and bring in Jimmy Sherfy. Well Sherfy couldn’t help Arizona’s cause either. With two on and one out, the bottom of the lineup started to produce with Logan Forsythe delivering a huge RBI single to left. Then Austin Barnes roped a two-run double to left center, adding the huge blow the Dodgers always have. Yasiel Puig then capped off the inning with a single to left bringing home Barnes to make it 7-2 Dodgers and the punch to Arizona’s gut was officially delivered.

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Diamondback’s Brandon Drury would launch a three-run bomb to the seats in left to start a potential Arizona comeback in the seventh, but Los Angeles’ bullpen would prevent that from occurring.

Could this be the Dodgers’ Hollywood October that they’ve been searching for? With the clutch hitting of their lineup and dominant bullpen helping out their starters after they struggle, the Nationals and Cubs, whoever comes out of that series, should be careful of how they go about their game planning.

For Arizona, their pitching just hasn’t been enough and their experience level is hurting them against a veteran built Dodgers’ roster. I’m no where near writing them off with them going back to their place, but down 0-2, Los Angeles’ momentum is carrying them strong to a potential series sweep.

In Game 3, it’s two of the games best going at in You Darvish for LA and Zack Greinke going for Arizona. That should be a huge test for both starters, and after how Greinke got rocked in the NL Wild Card game against Colorado, he can only get better and have a better start at home and prevent Los Angeles from eliminating the D-backs.

 

Analysis on National League Division Series Game 2

Washington says never say die, evens up NLDS with Cubs

By Brendan DeVenney

We now have ourselves a series between two of the undermined teams in the league. The Nationals proved theirselves in Game 2 of the NLDS with fight and the never say die attitude.

Down 3-1 in the eighth inning, the face of the franchise, Bryce Harper, ignited the Nationals crowd with one swing of the bat, a two-run blast to deep right field to tie the ballgame up at 3-3. Carl Edwards for Chicago was in on the mound at this point, and Joe Maddon had to bring him out and bring in Mike Montgomery in relief. That didn’t work out very well.

With two on and just one out, Ryan Zimmerman would launch a ball a mile high and just a foot over the left field wall to cause bedlam in the nation’s capital, making it 6-3 Nationals. And that score would stand to tie the series up at 1-1.

When you look at this win in Washington baseball history, it’s up there as one of the biggest. The Nats were down 3-1 and two innings away from going down 0-2 in the series and be on the verge of going home early. They have lost intense, important games, such as Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS versus San Francisco where the game went 18 innings only to lose 2-1. And remember, a Nationals team has never won a Postseason series. This ended up being a must win game to not make themselves go down 0-2 into a very hostile Wrigley Field crowd on Monday.

A lot of credit also has to the Washington pitching staff. After Gio Gonzalez got rocked early on, Matt Albers, Sammy Sólis, Ryan Madson, Óliver Pérez, and Sean Doolittle all came in and shut down the Cubs lineup. It was one of the most impressive bullpen managing that Dusty Baker has shown in quite some time, and his relievers all answered the call.

Now, for both teams, comes the decisive Game 3 on Monday in Chicago. The Nationals will look to go up two games to one with Max Scherzer on the mound. The interesting thing about this move by Baker is that Scherzer, over a week ago, tweaked his right hamstring and was listed day-to-day. He was originally supposed to start Game 1, but everything got pushed back in this Nationals rotation. Now he pitches in the biggest Postseason game of his career, not close to being 100%.

The Cubs will throw Jose Quintana out there in their Postseason home opener after having an 11-11 regular season and posting a 4.15 ERA.

 

Analysis on National League Division Series Game 1

Dodgers get huge win versus Arizona behind big night from Turner

By Brendan DeVenney

The Dodgers have not been a Postseason team for a long time. But, on Friday night, they showed that they are looking to rewrite history in October.

The Dodgers’ bats came out hot early on in their NLDS Game 1. Los Angeles cut into Arizona’s World Series hopes early in the first inning with a four run spark. Justin Turner, who has ben a huge addition to this Dodgers’ team for the past four years, started his huge night with a three-run shot off of Taijuan Walker. Then Yasiel Puig, the Cuban hero for the Dodgers franchise, roped an RBI double to center bringing home Cody Bellinger. Walker hasn’t been one of the best pitchers in the National League, and it showed on Friday night getting hit out of the game after one inning.

The offensive onslaught didn’t stop there for Los Angeles in front of their home crowd in the fourth inning. Corey Seager started it with an RBI single to left bringing home Logan Forsythe to make it 5-1 Los Angeles. Then Justin Turner delivered again with a single up into center scoring Chris Taylor, and the Dodgers were rolling 6-1.

After three home runs by Arizona through the sixth and seventh innings, Corey Seager and Justin Turner delivered huge blows to the Diamondbacks potential comeback in the eighth inning, making it 9-4 Dodgers at Dodgers Stadium.

Arizona’s four runs were accounted for all by home runs. So it wasn’t exactly a great pitching performance by either starting pitcher. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers had a tough night but still got the win, giving up 4 home runs, 5 hits, and striking out seven in 6.1 innings pitched. His Postseason numbers continue to be shaky, now with a 4.63 playoff ERA, and a 4-7 record entering Friday.

But the story of the night was no doubt Justin Turner’s ability to come up huge in the moment. He finished 3 for 4 with 5 RBI’s and drew a walk and was Arizona’s Achilles heel, with none of the Diamondbacks relief pitchers being able to figure him out. No doubt this was his best career Postseason performance.

Arizona and Los Angeles now gear up for Game 2, and it’s a must win for the Diamondbacks to avoid going down 0-2. Robbie Ray goes for Arizona, and he has season Postseason time already after the NL Wild Card game against Colorado. He threw 2.1 innings in relief against the Rockies, so he will only be on three days of rest. For the Dodgers, 12-game winner Rich Hill takes the mound. Los Angeles is looking to go up 2-0 in a playoff series since 2009.

Analysis of National League Division Series Game 1

Cubs shutout Washington behind stellar outing by Hendricks

By Brendan DeVenney

The Cubs are at it again, and it’s safe to say that the Nationals are at it again as well.

Game 1 of the National League Division Series saw the Cubs and Nationals put two dominant pitchers out on the mound in Kyle Hendricks and Stephen Strasburg. But in the end, only one of them would outlast each other. That pitcher would be Hendricks, throwing seven scoreless innings of powerful pitching.

Hendricks struck out 6 Nationals and allowed just 2 hits on the day. Washington could not get anything going offensively. If the Nationals would get a runner in scoring position, Hendricks would settle down and deliver huge pitches and get out of the inning. Hendricks, in his fourth postseason start, came up big in Chicago’s first game en route to trying to defend their championship. And he has proven to being a big arm in this Chicago rotation, going 2-1 last year in the Cubs’ championship run in October.

Chicago came in underrated, being said that they don’t have enough to go up against a big lineup in the Nationals. Well Washington for years now have shown that the Postseason is too big for them. Trea Turner went 0 for 4 striking out twice. Anthony Rendon went 0 for 3 with a strikeout. Daniel Murphy went 0 for 3 with a strikeout. Ryan Zimmerman went 0 for 4. and Jayson Werth went 0 for 3. An offensive slump in Game 1 will not help you win the World Series, and if you can’t get clutch hitting going, you’re not going to get out of round one.

On the other side, Stephen Strasburg pitched extremely well, pitching five scoreless innings until the sixth, when he let up the eventual game winning runs to Chicago. The Cubs’ Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the faces of the franchise, delivered back to back RBI singles to make it 2-0. After Rizzo later doubled in the 8th to bring home the Cubs third run and Wade Davis closed it out in the 9th, the Cubs defeated the Nationals in game one to move to a 1-0 lead in the NLDS.

This loss for Washington is a huge blow in their Postseason run and could be detrimental  to the rest of their season. Jon Lester goes for the Cubs in Game 2 and that is not good news for the Nationals lineup. Lester didn’t have a great regular season, but after last year’s playoffs, he knows how to rise to the occasion. He went 3-1 with a 2.02 ERA in October last year and is looking to have similar numbers from last year.

 

Analysis of American League Division Series Game #2

Late game heroics, Gomes walk-off in the 13th lifts Tribe over Yanks

By Brendan DeVenney

This was one you’ll tell your grandchildren and talk about with your friends for years to come. In the most Cleveland way possible, the Indians came back down from an 8-3 deficit to knock off New York in Game 2 of the ALDS in 13 innings!

The game didn’t start out too pretty, however, for the Cleveland Indians. Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber got rocked early and often, giving up a two-run blast to Gary Sanchez in the top of the first. Does that happen if he doesn’t walk Judge before that at bat? Maybe not. But pitch selection was all over the place by Kluber. His breaking ball down hanging around too high, and the Yankees took advantage of his mistakes.

He then gave up four runs in the third. He let up an RBI single to Starlin Castro, and a three-run bomb by Aaron Hicks. That home run would be the shot in the heart for Kluber’s day.

The Yankees would then make it 8-3 thanks to a Greg Bird two-run blast to right off of Mike Clevinger. New York was just hitting the ball perfectly, seeing the ball with execution, and making Cleveland’s pitching pay. This was an irregular night by Mickey Callaway’s staff.

But then this happened. Hammy?

Francisco Lindor, just like last year in the ALDS against Boston, delivered a huge blow to New York fans and lifted the Indians back into the ballgame with a towering grand slam off the right field foul pole. Just a few inches or feet to the right and we may not be talking about a 2-0 lead for Cleveland. Lindor’s third career Postseason home run and first Postseason grand slam was the type of moment when you are so grateful that you’re an Indians fan in 2017 and that ignites a ball club like none before.

Then in the 6th inning, Jay Bruce delivered his second home run of the Postseason, taking David Robertson deep into the bleachers in left to tie the ball game!

What was vital at this point in the game was the pitching by the Indians to keep the Yankees off the board through the rest of the night. Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, Joe Smith, Cody Allen, and Josh Tomlin all came in and proved why the Indians truly have the best bullpen in the game, giving up no more than three hits, and with Tomlin sitting down every batter he had to face.

There were multiple opportunities for either team to win the game in extras, but finally something would give in inning number thirteen as Yan Gomes would send the Indians faithful all home.

All credit must be given, though, to the Yankees bullpen for battling as well. Tommy Kahnle Aroldis Chapman, and Dellin Betances all came up clutch, getting out of several jams, and keeping the Tribe off the board in extras. You can only go so long, however, being perfect, and the 13th inning was the time that Betances couldn’t go any longer.

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The home runs by Lindor and Bruce are the reasons why the Indians are the best team in all of baseball. The pitching after Kluber had to exit the game is the reason why they are such a complete team. When it gets to the largest of moments, any one of the 25 players on this Postseason roster can come up huge. Well, they did just that in the biggest way possible, defeating the resilient New York Yankees in 13 innings by coming back down 8-3 in the 6th inning.

Now up 2-0, Carlos Carrasco gets set to toe the rubber in a possible series clinching game on Sunday night in New York at Yankee Stadium. The 18-6 Carrasco will be making his first Postseason start in his career having an injury plagued 2016. He’ll match up against struggling Masahiro Tanaka.

The Indians, however, will be without their designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion after suffering what was ruled as a right ankle sprain in the first inning, trying to get back to second base to not get doubled up. He is listed as day-to-day.

Analysis of American League Division Series Game #2

Astros go up 2-0 over Boston with a dominant outing by Keuchel

By Brendan DeVenney

Boston, for the second year in a row, is showing that they are multiple pieces away from becoming a World Series contender. For the second year in a row, they find themselves down in the ALDS, 2-0. The Red Sox, led by John Farrell, faltered again in Texas against the Astros against another Cy Young caliber pitcher.

Dallas Keuchel has been a dominant starting pitcher for a long time. Since taking the scene in Houston in 2012, he’s been one of the most underrated starting pitchers in the league, and he’s finally starting to prove his worth in the postseason. On Friday afternoon, Keuchel went 5.2 innings pitched with 7 strikeouts and allowing just 3 hits versus a Boston lineup that has struggled since September.

Keuchel worked his magic after getting out of a jam in the first, allowing a walk and then a double by Carlos Correa to put runners on first and second. But he got out of the inning with no damage done. Then, despite letting up Boston’s first run, struck three men out in the second for his first three strikeouts of the game.

Dallas followed that by sitting down the next nine batters he faced through the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings. He would leave the game in the sixth with two outs to a standing ovation from the die hard Houston fans.

Since his 2015 Cy Young campaign, he has thrown straight heat, and now has a 2.90 ERA after his Game 2 start with 125 strikeouts on the year.

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It was a huge night offensively, as well, for the Astros. Carlos Correa got the party started in the first, just like Bregman and Altuve did on Thursday, with a two-run blast to left making it 2-0 Houston early.

Then in the third, George Springer homered to deep right and Jose Altuve roped a RBI single to left making it 4-1 Astros. That would knock Drew Pomeranz out of the game after just 2 complete innings pitched. Once again, not a good start by Boston pitching. The Red Sox starters have not lived up to expectations this year. Pomeranz allowed 4 runs on 5 hits, 2 home runs, and struck out just one batter.

With Boston hanging around by their nails, Houston put the exclamation point on their their first two games at home with a four run sixth inning. Bregman, Correa, and Evan Gattis all delivered big blows off of both Eduardo Nunez and Addison Reed to make the score 8-1.

The way Houston is playing, they could easily sweep Boston come this Sunday. The problem with the Red Sox is that they aren’t a complete team good enough to play a complete game in the postseason. Their losses against the Indians last year in the ALDS look better than this year. They are hardly hanging around with the Astros, losing both games now 8-2. Andrew Benintendi is 1 for 8. Mookie Betts is 3 for 8 so far. Leadoff man Xander Bogaerts is 0 for 9! And Jackie Bradley, Jr. is 2 for 7. Those are just some of the Red Sox struggling in the first two games.

The offense is now in for a rude awakening on their home field again on Sunday, having to face off with 13-2 Brad Peacock of Houston, who holds a 3.00 ERA and 161 strikeouts this season! If they can’t get to him early in the game, and if Doug Fister can’t contain this explosive offense who is showing no signs of slowing down, then you the Astros can bring out the brooms.

Analysis of American League Division Series Game 1

All Sit! Bauer shuts down Yankees, Bruce delivers big in Game 1 win

By Brendan DeVenney

They are back. The Cleveland Indians came in, took care of business, and left in a blink of an eye, blanking the New York Yankees, 4-0, like it was no big deal. Behind Trevor Bauer and the clutch hitting of Jay Bruce, the Indians now go up 1-0 in the ALDS.

There was a lot of speculation surrounding the Indians during the week whether or not manager Terry Francona was making the right decision starting Trevor Bauer in Game 1 instead of Corey Kluber. Well, Bauer answered the call in dominating fashion, going 6.2 innings of shutout baseball, giving up 2 hits and striking out eight Yankees! He gets his first Postseason win after starting five games last year, but never in line to get the victory.

Bauer so many times Thursday night maneuvered around batters so efficiently with catcher Roberto Perez, and was clutch in the moment when the crowd got into it with 4 3rd out strikeouts.

Bauer did the dirty work, as well. He struck out Didi Gregorious, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Judge three times, silencing the big bats in the Yankees lineup. Plus, he didn’t allow a hit until the sixth inning. That is dominating pitching at its best in the Postseason.

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It’s not a complete game if you don’t back up your starting pitcher, and that is exactly what the offense accomplished, putting the pressure on Sonny Gray. It was no where close to being a “Sonny” outing for Gray. In the second inning, the Indians loaded the bases and brought home the games’ first run. Jay Bruce, who started the season with the Mets, started the inning with a huge leadoff double, and that was just the beginning of his huge night.

In the fourth, with nobody out, Jay Bruce launched a huge two-run home run into the Cleveland night to make it 3-0 Tribe over New York and make get Gray rattled even more. He wouldn’t make it through that inning, and it was another short night for New York starting pitching.

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Cleveland only got 5 hits, so it wasn’t like the offense was firing on all cylinders like they have before against this New York team, leaving 17 guys on base, but they scored when it counted. And they played superb defense as well, highlighted by a Jason Kipnis diving catch in center field robbing an extra base hit from Chase Headley in the third inning. Kipnis played outfield in high school, but didn’t start playing it in the majors till a few weeks ago! A huge play to open the Postseason for “The Kid.”

All around, it was a huge team win as Andrew Miller and Cody Allen came in in the last three innings to nail down a Game 1 victory. Miller’s night was highlighted by striking Aaron Judge out to end the eighth with two on. The strikeout would end Judge’s night going 0 for 4 with 4 strikeouts.

Both the Indians and Yankees gear up now for a Game 2 matchup featuring two aces that the city of Cleveland knows all too well. Current ace in Corey Kluber goes for Cleveland, whereas Cleveland draftee C.C. Sabathia goes for the Yankees. It will be the first time that these two hurlers will matchup against each other.

The Yankees have a huge task ahead of them as they are now down 1-0 heading into a game they must win against the best pitcher in baseball. Kluber is not a person you want to mess around with and when he has his breaking ball and curveball going, you can take the loss early in the game. He may not go all nine innings, and that’s where Francona can bring in Miller and Allen to close it out. The Yankees must find an answer against this Cleveland pitching staff or it could actually be a very quick series for New York.