Wednesday, October 04, 2006

MLB Playoff Wrap: Day 2

There were only 2 games today because the Stankees destruction of the Tigers was postponed by rain for a day; they'll make it up tomorrow at 1P on ESPN.
But in each of the 2 games that did take place, OAK v. MIN, LAD v. NYM, a rare & spectacular play occurred that makes baseball the greatest sport there is- nothing matches the drama, excitement and heartache of big plays, both good & bad, in a postseason game.

A's take commanding 2-0 lead on Twins
He thought he had it. And if Torii Hunter thinks he's got a ball, then Torii Hunter is going to go after that ball. And 99.9% of the time Torii Hunter is going to run down the ball, usually resulting in an incredible, gravity-defying catch. Unfortunately the 6th inning of the Twins playoff game vs. Oakland was one of those times the odds caught up with Torii.

After the Twins had fought to tie the game at 2 in the 6th on back-to-back-jacks by Cuddyer & Morneau, the A's had a man on 1st and 2 outs when Mark Kotsay stepped to the plate. Kotsay, a superior defensive outfielder not known for his speed, sliced a liner to right center that tailed away from Hunter. In a split second, Torii made the decision to lay out for the ball and attempt a difficult diving catch; for what reason no one is quite sure. There were already 2 outs, and the man at 1st, catcher Jason Kendall, was only going to advance as far as 2nd if the ball dropped in front of Hunter. But Torii is just what his name indicates- a hunter. He hunts balls down and plucks them out of midair like catching butterflies in a net. He has delivered so many highlight reel catches in his career a loop of them would be longer than Pearl Harbor. If he thought he could get to that ball he was going to try to get it. Not take the safe play and pull up, letting the ball drop for a harmless single, but make a Torii Hunter-like play, which would have been spectacular, but not affected the game as much as him missing it did.
Because the result of his miscue, as the ball dipped under his glove and proceeded to roll all the way to the outfield wall, was Kendall & Kotsay circling the bases like mice on a treadmill, and when the smoke cleared Kotsay had an inside-the-park homer, the A's led the game 4-2, and for all intents and purposes the series was over. Well, not over, but definitely on life support. To his credit, Hunter took all the blame and said he felt like less than a man because of his gaffe. But also to his credit, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire stated that he would never question Torii's decision to go after a ball: "When he goes after a ball, I don't second-guess him. Ever."

You live by the sword, you die by the sword. Unfortunately for Torii & the Twins, they may have fallen on theirs today.

Dodgers doubled-up and knocked out, 6-5
What, so you think a little 'missed diving catch resulting in a 2-run inside-the-park home run' makes for exciting playoff action? Well so did I, but that was before the Dodgers and Mets contributed a wild play that will go down in postseason history.
With no score and runners on 1st & 2nd in the top of the second, Dodger catcher Russell Martin hit a liner to the right field wall that Shawn Green could not catch up to. But for some reason Jeff the jerk Kent hesitated at second base, thinking the ball might be caught (it was a good 10 feet away from Green.) Kent paused and then took off, running like a wild man through the third base bag and hell-bent for home plate, but his stubby legs could barely get out of their own way-Dodger RF JD Drew was coming right up his back at full bore as well. Green relayed to Jose Valentin who relayed to C Paul LoDuca, who grabbed the ball and applied the tag on a diving Kent. As Paulie got up to survey the field, he turned and saw Drew trying to sneak in at the plate and applied the tag to him as well. Two outs at home plate on one play- never been done before in the history of playoff baseball. Needless to say the Dodgers were a little shell shocked after making that kind of history.
Although they still put up a fight after that. Martin scored in the inning to put LA up 1-0 (could have been 2 or 3 though), but the Mets, behind rookie pitcher John Maine, came right back to score 2 in the 4th on homers by Carlos Delagdo & Cliff Floyd off of D-Lowe. When they tacked on 2 more in the 6th on a 2-run single by David Wright, playing in his 1st postseason game, it looked like that was all she wrote. But the never-say-die Dodgers clawed right back and tied it on a 2-run double by my boy Nomah in the 7th. Kent then struck out swinging.
But the Mets were not to be denied today, especially with Sling Blade Little calling the shots regarding the bullpen. For some reason he chose to bring in probable Game 2 starter Brad Penney in the bottom of the 7th of a tie game. Brilliant move, Chicken Little; Penny floundered in the unexpected role. Phenom Jose Reyes led off with a walk, stole 2nd, and scored on a Delgado (4-5 in his first playoff game after 14 years and 1711 games) single, Wright followed with another ribbie, the game was technically over and the Mets 'stole one' at home.
Well, actually, they stole stole 2.
There's a corny cliche that's very true at this time of year: big players make big plays in big games. I have a variation on that theme that's a tad less cheesy: Great players & big plays make for memorable games. So far this postseason we've seen some great players (Jeter, Big Hurt, Phat Albert, Zito, Cy-Tana, Delgado) and some great plays (both of the above mentioned playoff classics), and it sure has made for some great games.

And it's only Day 2.

I Live For This.

(Even if the Sox aren't in it)

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