Notes on the Baseball Playoffs

Here’s a little suggestion for the Philadelphia Phillies.

When your closer is Brad Lidge, and when most of the country still thinks of Lidge as the guy who gave up one of the most memorable home runs in post season history, and when Lidge has melted the last time he was under the national spotlight at the All-Star Game, and when this is Lidge’s first time in the postseason since his 2005 meltdown…it might not be the best of ideas to have Mitch Williams throw out your first pitch. Especially when most of the public still thinks of him as the guy who gave up a home run even more famous than the one given up by Brad Lidge – Joe Carter’s Game Six winning, World Series clinching homer.

I just wouldn’t want to be putting any ideas into Lidge’s head, if you get what I mean.

But for most of yesterday’s Game One matchup between the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies, the question was whether Phillies starter Cole Hamels was going to slip up and give the Brewers any hope of life. The answer was no. Hamels went eight innings while giving up only two hits and one walk and striking out nine batters. "Dominating" tends to be an overused word when it comes to pitching performances, but Hamels dominated the Brewers.

And due to sloppy Milwaukee fielding in the third inning that allowed the Phillies to score three runs after two outs, the Phillies were safely up 3-0 going into the top of the ninth inning. This is when Brad Lidge made his first postseason appearance since the 2005 World Series.

Lidge started the inning by striking out Mike Cameron – whose sloppy fielding allowed the game’s first two runs to score when he let a fly ball bounce out of his glove. But Lidge then walked Ray Durham and surrendered a double to Ryan Braun which scored Durham to make the score 3-1. Prince Fielder worked Lidge to a 3-2 count, but Lidge got the strikeout to make it two outs, then walked J.J. Hardy to put Brewers on second and third base. Lidge uncorked a wild pitch to the next batter, Corey Hart, allowing Braun and Hardy to each move up a base. But with the count at 2-2 on Hart, Lidge got the strike to end the game.

The 3-1 Phillies win may have gotten the monkey off Lidge’s back, but it was still tempting fate to let Mitch Williams anywhere near the field. So Phillie fans, if I were you, I’d be hoping that the team doesn’t take chances like that again.

AROUND THE PLAYOFFS:

The Chicago Cubs, looking for their first World Series title in a century, took the early 2-0 lead against the Los Angeles Dodgers yesterday. But the Dodgers’ James Loney got around on a Ryan Dempster pitch in the fifth inning to hit a grand slam to put the Dodgers on top 4-2. By the time the game had ended, Manny Ramirez and Russell Martin had also homered for the Dodgers and the Dodgers had the 7-2 victory.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were not able to repeat the performance of their cross-town rivals as they lost to the Boston Red Sox 4-1. The pitching for both teams was on the money, and the Red Sox were hanging on to a 2-1 lead before breaking open the game by scoring two runs in the ninth inning.

***************** The Phillies win was their first in the postseason in 15 years. That win was a World Series victory against the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993. The Brewers last won a postseason game in 1982 when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in game five of the World Series.

Brad Lidge was named the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year earlier this week. Sure, he went 41-for-41 in saves this season, but I’m still trying to figure out how he’s a comeback player. He didn’t miss last season. He didn’t spend most of the 2007 season in the minors like American League Comeback Player Cliff Lee. So, someone, tell me, what did he come back from?

***************** The last time the Dodgers won the first game of the postseason was in 1988, the year they won the World Series. Prior to yesterday’s game, the Dodgers were 1-12 in the postseason since that World Series.

Manny Ramirez’s homer was his 25th in the postseason, which extends the record that he already owns. Is it just me, or is Manny playing for a new contract or something?

Joe Torre has now managed a team in 13 straight postseasons.

***************** The Angels’ loss was their tenth straight postseason loss to the Boston Red Sox. And each time the Red Sox have played the Angels in the postseason, the Red Sox have gone on to the World Series – 1986, 2004, and 2007.

The Red Sox are in the playoffs as a wild card for the sixth time. Since the advent of the wild card in 1995, no team has made the playoffs as a wild card more times than the Red Sox. And the Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino with their 2004 Series lead as a wild card.

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who got the save last night, has yet, this season, to blow a save when he comes into a game with a three run lead.

***************** The Red Sox/Angels series takes today off. The Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Sox will play their first game instead. Chicago’s Javier Vasquez will get the start against James Shields for Tampa. In Chicago, Carlos Zambrano will attempt to salvage the Cubs’ hopes when he faces Chad Billingsley of the Dodgers. And in Philadelphia, CC Sabathia will once again try to save the Brewers as he faces Brett Myers. – John Royal


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