Friday, October 18, 2013

NLCS and ALCS Providing Plenty of Drama

The baseball season begins in February in Florida and Arizona with each team feeling optimistic as they head into Spring Training. By mid-October there are four teams remaining. At this point each game and every inning is more pressure-packed than the last.

The National League Championship Series, which resumes with Game 6 Friday night in St. Louis, and the American League Championship Series that now moves back to Boston for its Game 6 on Saturday, have provided a little bit of everything and nothing short of drama.

As expected there has been dominant pitching in both series. The Red Sox own the “worst” team ERA of the four clubs remaining with a 3.27 mark. Ironically, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Detroit Tigers own the top two ERAs among the LCS participants at 2.09 and 2.45 respectively, yet find themselves down in their series. The Cardinals are just off the Tigers’ mark with a 2.49 ERA. There shouldn’t be any surprises here considering the top-flight names like Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Adam Wainwright and Jon Lester leading the way.

There have also been terrific displays by rookie pitchers. Michael Wacha continued his hot stretch with 6.2 innings of shutout ball in Game 2 and will hope to continue the trend in Game 6. Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Korean hurler for the Dodgers had his moment in Game 3, tossing seven scoreless innings.

Another rookie, Yasiel Puig, continues to be a lightning rod for conversation about celebrating on the field. He caused enough of a stir along with his teammate Adrian Gonzalez to prompt Wainwright to proclaim they were “Mickey Mouse” antics. Gonzalez more or less retorted, get used to it, this is Hollywood.

Virtually every game of the series has been tight and many have come down to the final out. There have been four shutouts (including three 1-0 beauties), six one-run games and of course we’ve witnessed a walk-off. Not coincidentally, the teams up front right now have dominant closers, with rookie Trevor Rosenthal (4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB & 6K) and Koji Uehara (5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB & 7 K) shutting down the opposition.

Both of the teams with home field advantage, the Cardinals and the Red Sox, are up 3-2, but it could just as easily be the Dodgers and Tigers with the advantage. Despite St. Louis and Boston “sitting in the driver’s seat” a Game 6 victory by the visitors is hardly impossible. The Dodgers have their best pitcher on the mound in Kershaw and the Tigers will lean on Scherzer, the AL wins leader.

I believe it is safe to say that whichever way the Game 6’s go down, they will be hotly contested and likely finish in dramatic fashion. We can only hope that each brings about a climactic Game 7 for a chance to play in the World Series. Is there anything better than a winner take all game to reach the World Series? Just two of them!

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