Friday, November 18, 2011

Division Series Recap Part 2

In Tampa Bay's series win over Iowa, the formula was the same for each game; get an early lead and let some good starting pitching make it hold up. Tampa scored in the first inning in each of the first two games, and Cy-Young hopeful Rich "Say It Ain't" Sobolewski and Doug "Buck" Rogers pitched brilliantly to earn the victories. And when Harry "Met Sal" Lee struck out 10 through six two-hit innings in game 3, the series victory was sealed. Late season acquisition, Jamie "The Fire" Byrne, who was brought in to provide a spark the the Don's lackluster offense, did just that in scoring 5 runs while batting .556. Byrne added a homer and knocked in 3 to earn series MVP honors. Congratulations to Iowa on a great season. The injury bug bit hard, as SP Gio "The Hybrid" Hernandez was lost late in the season, and Emmanual "Lil' E" Aquino was lost for this round of the playoffs. After an off-season of healing, you know the Rounders will be back in the hunt next season.

The Jackson-Charlotte series was one for the ages, filled with multiple lead changes, walk-offs, late inning heroics, bullpen implosions, and staff aces working in relief. How 'bout 3 one-run games and 2 two-run affairs! Charlotte got the early jump with Alex Estalella pitching 7 1/3 for the win, and MVP candidate Carlos "Exxon" Valdes hitting his 4th HR of the playoffs. In game two, things were looking bleak for the World's best team in the regular season when the 'Men took a 6-2 lead into the 8th. But just as in game 4 of the Toledo series, Charlotte's bullpen totally imploded, allowing 6 runs in the final two innings to foster a dramatic Jackson comeback. Back-to-back homers by Dickerson and Dupler in the 8th cut the defecit to 1. Ellie Crandall had the game-tying hit in the ninth, and Ralph "Billy the Kid" Kydd provided the walk-off RBI. In game 3, "Meat" Stu Magee pitched his heart out for Charlotte, getting out of multiple jams in scattering 10 baserunners through 7. He turned over a 4-1 lead to his bullpen, but closer Charles "1001 Ways to" Dye blew his second straight save. Kydd provided the heroics again with a three-run homer, and Jackson took a 2-1 series lead. It was Jackson's bullpen that melted in its game 4 loss. They were up 5-2 after their half of the eighth, but RP Chance Liebel loaded the bases and left a mess for Rookie of the Year candidate Grant Mercedes. All three ended up coming around to tie the score, the big blow a 2 run double by Tom Lewis. In the ninth, hero Ralph Kydd's error created another mess for Mercedes, who would eventually give up the walk-off hit to PH Juan Estrada, sending the series back to Jackson for the deciding game. In a curious move, Jackson decided to give the ball to Ugeth Nunez instead of going to their Cy-Young candidate, Reese "Smokin'" Hemphill on regular rest. The move panned out, as Nunez gave them three innings of shut-out ball before handing the ball over to the ace, who gave them 5 innings of relief in earning the win. Charlotte naturally turned to ace "The Professor" Alex Gabriel to pitch the deciding game. It was his second consecutive start on three days rest, and the heavy workload seemed to have an effect. He gave up 10 hits and 2 walks through 6. Dan Blair got Jackson on the board early with a solo shot in the first. Ellie Crandall, who had a nice series, added a solo homer, as Jackson and Hemphill took a 4-0 lead to the ninth. Tony Juarez moved the Jackson crowd to the edge of their seats with a two run blast to cut the defecit in half, but it was too little, too late, as late-season acquistion Carlos "Exxon" Valdes did what he was brought in to do; shut the door to seal a series victory. Congratulations to Charlotte. They almost knocked off the best team for a second straight season, and will be tougher than ever next year.

All four of the top seeds have advanced to the league championships. Should be great scoreboard watching!