The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
More post-season reflections

Last week I focused on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ latest failure in the post-season, suffering a disappointing ending to one of the best regular seasons in baseball history.


I’m continuing to reflect on the post-season this week, but commenting on some of the other playoff teams’ successes and failures and looking forward to the World Series between the Astros and Nationals.


Cardinals must have lost their bats between NLDS and NLCS

After an impressive series beating Atlanta in the NLDS, the Cardinals offense was surprisingly woeful in the League Championship Series against Washington.  Sure, the Nationals had an impressive battery of starting pitchers, but the Cards managed only 16 hits, including only three extra-base hits, in the four-game sweep. (Three Cardinals batters accounted for 11 of their hits.)  It made you wonder if the Cards’ bats somehow got misplaced on the trip between the two series, and they wound up having to use Whiffle Ball bats in the NLCS.


Bryce Who?

The Washington Nationals’ defeat of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS has put them in the World Series for the first time in franchise history.  Their sweep of the Redbirds came after a come-from-behind defeat of Milwaukee in the wild-card game and a surprising win over a favored Los Angeles Dodgers squad in the NLDS.  And the Nats accomplished this without their former standout player, Bryce Harper, who had been the face of the franchise since his Rookie-of-the-Year season in 2012.  Harper apparently didn’t want to continue playing for the Nats, who offered him $30 million per year.  Instead Harper wound up signing a 13-year, $330 million mega-deal with the Philadelphia Phillies at the start of spring training.  While the loss of Harper was considered by many to be disastrous for the Nats’ future, the rest of the team, led by MVP candidate Anthony Rendon and 20-year-old phenom Juan Soto, stepped up big time to offset his absence.  How soon Nats fans forgot about Harper.


Nats’ Anibal Sanchez doesn’t fit the mold, but he still wins

In the era of flame-throwing pitchers who routinely hit 97 mph or better, Anibal Sanchez is somewhat of an anomaly.  Unlike his hard-throwing counterparts in the Nationals’ starting rotation, he’s more of a finesse pitcher, never reaching more than the low 90s at best.  He carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning of NLCS Game 1 against the Cardinals, something that would have been expected of one of the other headliner starters.  He stayed on the corners with his four primary pitches (four-seam fastball, cutter, sinker, and splitter) that he used almost equally throughout the game, while throwing in a few curveballs and changeups for good measure.  However, Sanchez is a much-welcomed throwback on the staff.


So long, CC.  See ya in Cooperstown.

Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia made a painful exit in Game 4 of the ALCS Game.  He had entered the game in relief in the 8th inning, in an effort to keep the Astros from adding to their 7-4 lead; but the 38-year-old had to be taken out he threw his arm out of his socket.  It was his last appearance in a major-league game, after pitching for 19 big league seasons.  It was a sad ending to what has been a Hall of Fame career for the left-hander.  In these days of re-defining the use of starting pitching, his 251 career wins may make him the last pitcher to register that many victories.  His first four years with the Yankees (2009-2012) marked the best stretch of his career, although he had previously won a Cy Young Award with the Cleveland Indians in 2007.  Always a fan favorite, Sabathia is a good bet to get a bronze plaque in Cooperstown.


DJ LeMahieu: all he did was hit

He’s not your prototypical-looking leadoff hitter at 6-foot-4, but this guy can get on base with the best of them.  He was one of the few Yankee constants during the regular season in which a record 30 players went on the Injured List.  He was in the lineup practically every day, playing 40 or more games in three different positions, and he led the team in Batting Average and On-Base Percentage.  He’s the Yankees’ MVP for the season in my book, even though Gleyber Torres put up some big power numbers this year.  When most of the rest of the Yankees offense went stale in the playoffs, LeMahieu was still in there cranking out the hits, including three timely home runs.


Yanks and Astros pitchers may have done better hitting for themselves

Who said the Designated Hitter provided more excitement in American League games?  Well, not in the ALCS.  The Yankees’ Edwin Encarnacion (1-for-18) and the Astros’ Yordan Alvarez (1-for-22) turned in dismal performances as their respective team’s DH.  There wasn’t much room for the teams’ pitchers to have done worse.  Both DHs had lost their stroke, looked completely out of synch at the plate, and ultimately did nothing to help their teams.  A career .225 hitter, Zack Greinke should be scheduled to pitch at Nationals Park where he can take his own turns at the plate in the World Series.


In the “Year of the Home Run,” homers haven’t been the dominant theme in the playoffs.

Major League teams broke the record for most home runs in a season by over 600.  Eight of the ten teams in the playoffs made up the top eight home run-hitting clubs from both leagues, led by Minnesota and New York that broke the previous record for homers with over 300 apiece.  But we didn’t see a barrage of home runs in the playoffs.  Tampa Bay, which was one of the playoff teams not in the Top 8, was the only one that hit more than three homers in a game (four in their wild card game against Oakland and in Game 3 of the ALDS against Houston).  The Twins hit only four in their entire series against the Yankees.  When the Cardinals scored 10 runs in the top of the first of Game 5 of the NLDS against the Braves, none came from home runs.  Of course the biggest dinger of the playoffs so far was Jose Altuve’s dramatic ninth-inning walk-off to defeat the Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS.  Perhaps the upcoming World Series will be a different story, but it’s not likely with the quality of starting pitching of each team.


Detroit Tigers fans are kicking themselves

No, the Tigers weren’t in the playoffs.  In fact, they were the team farthest away from making the post-season, since they lost more games (115) than anyone in baseball this season.  But there are three former Tigers pitchers who are currently headed for the World Series.  When the Tigers last appeared in the World Series in 2012, they had Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez in their starting rotation.  If we combine the 43 wins of these three pitchers in 2019 with the Tigers’ 47 wins, they would have come within only a few game of being an American League wild card team this year.  Unfortunately for Tigers fans, they won’t be seeing another home-team playoff contender for quite a few years.


What will happen when good pitching meets good pitching?

We’ve heard the old adage “good pitching beats good hitting.”  Well, what happens when good pitching meets good pitching?  That’s what we’ll see in the World Series when the Astros and Nationals face off.  Both teams have top-of-the line starters in the first three slots of their respective rotations.  It’s Verlander/Cole/Greinke vs. Scherzer/Strasberg/Corbin.  So, what should we expect in the World Series?


Lots of strikeouts.  Nationals pitchers struck out 11 or more batters in eight of their nine post-season games, including games with 14, 15, 16, and 17 punchouts.  The Astros struck out their opposition 10 or more times in nine of their 11 post-season games, including a game with 17.


Low-scoring games.  Even when pitchers like Verlander, Cole, and Scherzer get behind early in games, they are usually able to recover quickly and hold their opposition from running away.  Astros pitchers gave up three or less earned runs in six of their nine playoff games.  Nationals pitchers yielded three or less earned runs in seven of their nine playoff games.


Game-winning home runs.  Each team will hit less than 10 home runs in the Series, but several of them will be game-winners coming at the expense of the bullpens.


Who wins the 2019 Fall Classic?

My money’s on the Astros.  I expect Alex Bregman to be more of a factor in the World Series.

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