Saturday, October 08, 2005

Wha Happen???

Where to begin? OK, let's start out by marveling at Chicago's complete dominance. I'll roll out the old managerial cliche "every phase of the game", because it's true--Chicago was better in every phase of the game. You don't need any park-adjusted normalized statistics to show that. Could the Red Sox have played better? Certainly. But I think most of the credit for Boston's futility at the plate should go to Chicago's pitching. I completely underestimated the staff's ability to pitch in high pressure situations, figuring that Boston mojo from last year would translate itself into fraying nerves and hanging breaking balls from the likes of Freddy Garcia and Bobby Jenks. Boy, did they prove me wrong. Looking back at my preview, I feel quite stupid. I knew how vulnerable Boston's pitching staff was; that even Chicago's relatively toothless lineup would be able to plate 4-5 runs a game against them. Yet I was, to some extent, still seduced by that Fenway mystique, that idea that after last season, there's no way BoSox would lose at home, at least during the ALDS. I figured, even before the series began, that there'd be a game 5 in Chicago and the White Sox would wilt under the pressure. Wrong again.

Chicago is now on a roll, and everything Ozzie touches turns to gold. El Duque was probably not the best option in a bases loaded jam, but damned if he didn't turn in one of the best performances of his life. After that, it's just more props to Bobby Jenks. This team really reminds me of the '02 Angels and '03 Marlins, teams with solid pitching and defense whose bats caught fire at the right time. Getting the extra rest and homefield advantage means the Sox have the inside track to win the pennant.

In the Bronx, the Big Unit turned out to be a colossal bust. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was his back, but Randy Johnson did absolutely nothing to justify his contract. The sole reason the Yankees signed him was to give them an automatic victory in the playoffs. The New York comeback was as predictable as clockwork, but then again, so was their bullpen's collapse. Aaron Small actually didn't pitch all that badly, but the good karma that followed him around was washed away last night. All of the garbage-time runs the Angels scored after going up 8-6 further exposed the soft underbelly of this Yankee club. For $210 million, Bubba Crosby should not be your centerfielder, nor should a washed-up Al Leiter and a never-was like Aaron Small be your first men out of the bullpen. Today's rainout doesn't affect this series all that much, but if it does end up going 5 games, whoever wins it will be at a serious disadvantage in ALCS Game 1.

Looking to the NL tonight, the Padres could steal a game against Matt Morris, St. Louis's weakest starter, if Woody Williams can keep the Cardinals confined to the caverns of PetCo, that is. That's not as easy as it sounds with Williams, as he managed to allow half of his 24 home runs at home, which truly astounds me. St. Louis has the advantage at PetCo anyway, because of Jim Edmonds's superior defense in centerfield, and LaRussa's ability to sub in a plus defender like So Taguchi in the later innings.

Atlanta throws fireballing young righthander Jorge Sosa, whose weakness is his control. At this point, he's still just a thrower, and most of his walks happen because his pitches just have too much spin on them (kind of like Matt Clement). That's not a good recipe against a lineup whose centerpieces are Lance Berkman (.411 OBP) and Morgan Ensberg (.388 OBP). Look for some big innings tonight, unless Sosa can find a strikeout groove and strand the runners he puts on. Roy Oswalt was his usual stellar self this season. Houston has to be the favorite in this game.

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