Overtime thrillers, the catch of the year (twice) and a season obituary – this is what you came for.
The road to baseball’s World Series is one step closer for four teams, with the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers the unlikely quartet set to face off in post-season MLB.
The Texas Rangers progressed through to the American Champion league series with a relatively comfortable American League Division Series win over Tampa Bay, who had a place in the ALDS after an extra innings walk-off home run against the Yankees in the 162nd and final game of the season.
This was the only division series that wasn’t decided in the full five games with Texas taking the first game at home and clinching games three and four in Tampa Bay to win the ALDS and earn some vital time off to watch their two potential American Championship Series opponents battle it out through five games.
The Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees series was a very different series from that of the Rangers and the Rays.
Game one of the series was played over two days due to rain and New York eventually ran out comfortable winners at home 9-3.
Game four was also comfortably won by the Yankees. But the fifth and final game belonged to Detroit with the fantastic closing ability of Jose Valverde who has yet to blow a save this year.
My future brother in-law mentioned that he felt the Yankees manager over managed the game when using seven different pitchers over the nine innings.
The two NLDS series also provided plenty of high drama and entertainment. The Arizona Diamondbacks bounced back from two away losses to win both home games, thanks in part to some power ball hitting.
Both home wins saw a grand slam – making it four straight home games in which Arizona have hit a grand slam.
However, the fifth and final game was back in Milwaukee – who claimed second spot in the national league and subsequent home field advantage for the NLDS.
To fans of baseball this will be nothing new, but Milwaukee had a league leading home record this season at 57 and 24.
The game did go down to the wire – a testament to the come-back mentality that the Diamondbacks have held this season, leading the majors in come from behind victories.
History was against the Diamondbacks with no team since 1984 being able to come back from two games down in NLDS. The game went to 10 innings after John Axford blew his first save since April.
He managed to make up for it with a quick 10th inning. Carlos Gomez of Milwaukee was able to get a one out single and subsequently steal second thanks in part to catcher Henry Blanco unsuccessful attempt at throwing out the runner.
Nyjer Morgan (aka Tony Plushh – look it up on YouTube) hit a single into centre field to score Gomez from second and give Milwaukee their first post-season series win since 1982.
The other NLDS was played between top placed side the Philadelphia Phillies and last gasp wild card winners the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals were lucky to be there after the meltdown of the Atlanta Braves in September opened the door for the Cardinals to win a birth in the play offs in the 162nd game of the season.
This series also went to the fifth and final game in Philadelphia, a game that would only have a single run in the 9 innings. The Phillies had the best ERA of all 30 major league teams during the season with a 3.02 and the cardinals could only manage the 12th best ERA.
The bats are what wins games for the Cardinals with names like Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Matt Holiday and Yadier Molina (with 104 home runs between these guys in the regular season). The Cardinals had the 5th best records for hits, runs scored and runners battered in.
Games 2, 3, 4, and 5 were all decided by two runs or fewer. The Phillies pitching staff keeping the lid on the potent St. Louis offense. But their offense failed to fire in any form of run support except in game one where they scored half of all their runs over the five games.
The pitching from the Cardinals however, was also potent for the most part. Particularly, in game five, where Chris Carpenter was able to protect the one run with nine innings of work with only three hits.
Roy Halladay was unlucky to pick up the loss for Philadelphia with eight innings pitched giving up only six hits and one earned run – a performance that would have one nine out of ten games.
So that’s the wrap up of the first part of the world series. The next series are decided over seven games and offer up a few little interesting clashes.
None more so than the NLCS that sees American Central rivals St. Louis and Milwaukee meet. The last meeting actually saw the Cardinals sweep the Brewers at home.
The ALCS will see last years World Series losers attempt to atone for last year against the Tigers who lost the 2006 world series to St. Louis – so a rematch is certainly on the cards (pun not intended).