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Some Quick Thoughts On Day 9 Of The Playoffs

Playoff doubleheaders are weird, because the turnaround is almost instantaneous. In a regular season doubleheader, you get 30 minutes or an hour or so, at least, before the second game kicks off. In the playoffs, you're lucky if the games don't go so far as to overlap. It's not a viewing problem - you get to see pretty much all the action. It's a memory problem, because after watching Brian Wilson and the Giants close out the Phillies, I needed to go to the Yahoo! MLB page to remember that the Rangers played the Yankees earlier this afternoon. I didn't have any opportunity to let that game sink in. Everything just passed through my eyes, and before I could reflect on what I had seen, Game 1 of the NLCS was already in the second inning.

Thank God for box scores to jog my memory. It's like I was blacked out at a party for four hours, but someone put pictures on Facebook. Oh, yeah, I totally remember drinking with David Murphy. The guy's fuckin nuts.

  • I think Colby Lewis is kind of a right-handed, American League version of Jonathan Sanchez. He doesn't give in against anyone, and he's an anti-Mariner in that it seems like he hates the idea of pitching to contact. It's just nibble, and nibble, and nibble, with a bunch of walks, a bunch of strikeouts, and a bunch of deep counts before balls get put in play. I guess it's also the poor man's Rich Harden mold. Or the very very rich man's 2010 Rich Harden mold.

    So with Lewis on the mound, and given his approach, and given the Yankees' lineup, you knew coming in that the Ranger bullpen would have to soak up a handful of innings. What a difference a day makes. I won't say they were good, but they melted down yesterday and were put in a very similar position today, and this time, they didn't break. That's a confidence builder. The Rangers can now pitch with the confidence of knowing that a Yankee comeback isn't inevitable or unstoppable. They can be stopped.

    It's hilarious what this does to the narrative. Yesterday - not 24 hours prior to the conclusion of today's game - the Rangers were inexperienced chokers who wilted under the pressure of the bright playoff lights. They had a big game in their grasp, and they gave it away, because thrust into an advantageous position, they didn't have the balls to finish. Now what? Where was the inexperience? Where was the momentum? Where was the devastation?

    The Rangers, I'm sure, were spooked after blowing Friday's big lead. Any team would've been. Then they put it behind them, and took an early lead in Game 2, and everything was forgotten. Playoff narratives are the worst. Playoff narratives will have you believe that experience is a player's most important trait come October. A player's most important trait is his ability. The Rangers weren't able to win yesterday. They were able to win today. It has so little to do with their experience, and everything to do with their hits and their pitches.

  • The Rangers scored their first run on a double steal. Josh Hamilton stood on first and Elvis Andrus stood on third. Hamilton broke for second, and when Jorge Posada threw down, Andrus broke for home, scoring before the return throw could come in. You might recognize that move as the one that ruins any baseball video game you play against your friend ever. At best, your friend gets to steal second. At worst, he steals second and home. It was a glitch in 1993, and it remains a glitch in 2010. Your only hope is that your friend doesn't understand how to make one runner go at once, but no sufficiently advanced video gamer ever has runners on the corners for more than one pitch. They always advance, and it's always just the dumbest shit of all time.

  • Robinson Cano finished with a .914 OPS. Adrian Beltre finished with a .919 OPS. If Adrian Beltre were in the Yankee lineup instead of Robinson Cano, do you think the TBS announcers talk about him in the same way? From watching, you'd think Cano was the most dangerous hitter in baseball, instead of a guy who's good.

  • I can't tell you how many times those same TBS announcers got on the Rangers for letting CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes get out of jams. It's almost like the Rangers didn't score 12 runs against them in eight combined innings of work. In Ernie Johnson's mind, any stranded baserunner is an unforgivably wasted opportunity. Sure, the Rangers stranded 11 baserunners against Sabathia and Hughes. They also scored 12 of them. A team that regrets not cashing in on every single baserunner is a team that hangs itself in an asylum closet by June.

  • Brian Wilson posted a 1.81 ERA this season, with 93 strikeouts in 74.2 innings. But having watched him a bunch of times over the past few weeks, I get what Giants fans mean when they say he always finds a way to make things interesting. I know pretty much every team's fans say that about their closer, but it's undeniably true with Wilson. He puts guys on base, or if he doesn't put guys on base, he gets into deep counts and almost puts guys on base, such that when he finally seals the deal, the relief of tension is overpowering.

    It's a testament to the awesomeness of Mariano Rivera, or the awesomeness of the old J.J. Putz. Those are guys who feel automatic. Old Trevor Hoffman, too. A bunch of closers end up with really good numbers every season. But it's rare that a closer actually makes the fans feel comfortable and confident when he comes in. Wilson doesn't. Heath Bell doesn't. Carlos Marmol doesn't. Rafael Soriano doesn't. Rivera does. Putz and Hoffman did. That's incredible to me. The true shutdown closer is as rare a specimen as the gifted all-around shortstop.

  • Postseason heroes so far: the .301-slugging Elvis Andrus, and the we-don't-want-you-but-we-know-the-Padres-want-you waiver claim Cody Ross. Once you liberate yourself from the desire to see the playoffs crown the best team in baseball, the whole thing is really quite amazing.

    Man 1: Roy Halladay gave up two home runs tonight.
    Man 2: Who hit them?
    Man 1: Cody Ross.
    Man 2: Well sure!

    It's a month-long spectacle presenting the viewer with storylines he won't realize don't make any sense until it's all done. Cody Ross hit two homers against the best pitcher in baseball. Elvis Andrus stole home against the Yankees. These are events, from today.

  • I know I'm not the first person to point this out, but the Phillies allowed a critical insurance run when Raul Ibanez couldn't handle a fly ball off the bat of a left fielder the Phillies let get away because they didn't like the way he played defense.

  • The one inside fastball Brian Wilson threw to a left-handed hitter was his last one of the game, to Shane Victorino. It was 96 miles per hour, and it completely tied him up for an awkward swinging strikeout. I'm not going to critique or defend Wilson's plan of attack, but when you're a lefty, and you see all these pitches to lefties staying away away away, the perceived velocity of a more inside fastball like that last one must be like 190. It was the punchline to a 32-pitch setup.

  • Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay allowed seven runs in 14 innings, with three walks and 15 strikeouts, despite a funny strike zone, and people are disappointed. They are both so good.