Thursday, March 7, 2013

Division Championship Recaps by cebola

Oakland’s reward for getting to the second round was facing the 106 win American League champ Trenton Thunder.  Trenton used the “score early and make it hold up” formula in all three games of the sweep.  The big stick of Jonathon “Green Eggs &” Hamelin and the newly reformed “three-headed beast” at the top of the rotation was a perfect match for this type strategy.  The Thunder got a 2-run “big fly” by 2B Hamelin in the first of game one, and 3-time Cy Young Award winner Karl Hurst pitched five strong in the 5-1 win.  In game two the early scoring came courtesy of RBI singles from Ober Furcal and Javier Rivera in the first, and on another 2-run bomb from Hamelin in the second.  The less fortunate single former Cy Young Award winner Pat “Puffy” Combs gets the 4-3 win by hurling seven brilliant innings, the only blemish coming on a Tony “The Crooner” Bennett 3-run homer in the 6th.  Old “Hamlisch” Hamelin was at it again in game 3, belting a three-run blast in the first, in support of the third member of the beast, Placido Balentien.  The 22-game winner may in fact have an outside chance at this season’s Cy Young award.  Balentien tossed six innings, giving up only 1 earned to cap of the sweep with the 5-3 win.

Great job by new ownership of the Pistol Pimps.  They were able to keep the team in position to make another run at the title, while freeing up some cap space to stay competitive long term.  They locked up stud catcher/DH Clay Stanley long term and SP Johnny Robinson for a few more seasons.  They made a great value off-season signing in on-base-machine Pablo Marquez.  When they needed a bat mid-season, they pulled the trigger on the John Ueno deal.  Congratulations on a very fine season!

The Philadephia Colonials came off their dramatic five games series victory to face the well-rested reigning champs, Tampa Bay in round 2.  Tampa drew first blood behind stellar pitching by former Cy Young award winner Rich “Say it Ain’t” Sobolewski, stud set-up man Kenta Itou, and 2-time Fireman of the year Alfonso Villefuerte with the 3-1 victory in game 1.  In game 2, The Dons got a grand slam from Justin “Jeepers Creepers” Long, and the pitching formula was working to a tee again behind Phillip Bryant and Itou.  Bryant’s only blemish was a costly three-run jack surrendered to MVP candidate Geoffrey “Opie” Cunningham.  Still, Villafuerte was handed a 1-run lead in the 9th, and was 1 out away from securing a two-games-to-none lead for his Dons.  Pinch hitter Craig Wilkens came off that deep Philly bench to launch a game-tying homerun to vault the game into extras.  Tampa had a great opportunity to walk-off in the 11th, but their All-Stars Derrick Grissom and Hi Shouse each stranded a runner on third.  Philly had a bases jammed, 1-out chance in the 13th that they squandered, but they would come through in the 14th on a couple of big two-out hits by Santos Torres and last season’s Silver Slugging 1B Vicente Bennett.  The 7-5 Philly win evens the series at a game apiece.  Game 3 was all Philly, all day in front of their fired up home crowd.  Former Don Rob Cormier stymies his former teammates by pitching seven solid innings of 1 run ball.  Cormier was supported by a couple of three-runs jacks, one by lead-off man Donn Jones and another by catcher Joba “The Hutt” Zeigler.  Justin Long cracks his second grand slam of the series (both in losses) during garbage time in the ninth, but it was too late, as Philly takes the series lead with the 9-6 win.  Tampa liked their chances in game 4, as their designated big game hurler Rich Sobolewski squared off against rookie Louie Li, who got knocked around in his first taste of playoff baseball in the Texas series.  Li did pitch two scoreless innings in game 2’s 14 inning affair, which seemed to build his confidence, as he outduels the two-time World Series champ.  He goes 6 and 2/3 to earn the 4-3 win that sends his team to the League Championship round.  Philly’s big guns at the top/middle of the order did all the damage as Cunningham, Bennett and Hammel all go deep.  Hammel’s 2-run bomb was the one that broke the 2-2 tie in the 6th.  Tampa’s clean-up hitter Derrick Grissom came up with runners on base in several key situations but failed to deliver the big hit, thusly sending the reigning champs home for the winter.

Augusta met up with the 105 win San Diego “Great” Beards of Zeus for a round two match up.  The ‘Bears sent Pedro “High” Sierra to the hill on three day’s rest in game 1 to face the well-rested ace of San Diego’s staff, Kevin Sobolewski, who is up for this year’s Cy Young Award.  Sierra was sharp (6 innings, 1 run, 0 walks, 9 K’s), while Sobolewski was a little rusty, yet effective (6 innings, 2 runs on 8 hits).  Power hitting lead-off man Tony Rodriguez widened the 1-run lead with a solo shot in the 9th, and Augusta took game one 3-1.  In game 2, San Diego’s 1-2 hitters Pedro Galvez and Burt McCartin wreaked havoc all day.  Galvez stole 3 bases, and scored four runs; McCartin scored four, drove in four, hit a homer and stole a base.  Former Cy Young Award winner Bryan Christiansen pitched well (6 innings, 2 runs) to earn the series-evening 10-5 win.  Augusta was able to send ace Flip “Lennon &” McCartney to the bump for game three, after resting up from his game 5 complete game gem over Cincinnati in the previous round.  McCartney was just as brilliant, as he tosses a second consecutive shutout, striking out 9 in the effort.  He got support in the usual Augusta fashion, the long ball; solo shots by Tony Rodriguez (his 6th of the playoffs), Cleatus Alexander, and Clarence Jenkins to account for all the runs in the 3-0 win.  Sobolewski took the mound for SD in game 4 to try to extend the season for the Beards.  He goes 7 innings, surrendering 3 runs in the 7-3 win that would even the series and force a deciding 5th game.  Carlos Mariena hit a three-run homer to turn a tight 3-2 lead into the more comfortable 6-2 lead that Sobolewski would have no problem protecting.  Entering game 5, speculation was that Pedro “High” Sierra would get the ball for Augusta.  But there were whispers that as dominant as McCartney has been, that he may in fact get the call, even if it meant going on 2 day’s rest.  The Beards had the advantage of earning the bye to set up Bryan Christiansen on full rest for a game 5.  Christiansen wasn’t sharp at all, as he gives up 4 runs in the first, three of them on a homer by Victor Lawson.  Sierra does get the start and leaves the game with a 6-0 lead after 5.  Reminiscent of the Diamondbacks’ epic “Destiny in the Desert” World Series win in 2001 when Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson both pitched in the game 7 win over the Yankees, McCartney comes in to pitch the final 4 innings to squash any hope of a San Diego comeback.  Augusta wins 11-0 to take the series and move on to the championship round.

Congratulations to San Diego for an amazing season.  105 wins!  They have a good mix of youngsters, vets, and players just entering their primes.  Christiansen and Sobolewski are locked up long term and Galvez is just beginning to burn rubber on the bases.  Records will fall!  They have decent sluggers in the middle of the order, with the likes of Mairena, Yamakazi and DeLeon.  You know they will be back to compete for it all next season.  Great job!

Sub .500 Chicago moves on to face top team on the board, the 107 win Colorado Shock for the right to advance to the League Championship.  In game 1, Alex Estallela and Rafael Beltre both pitch well and we have a 3-2 Shock lead through 8.  Chicago’s Ronald Martin ties it up in the 9th with a solo shot (his 2nd of the game) off closer Lorenzo Alomar.  The Blagos proceed to unload on former Cy Young winner Travis Jones for 4 more runs, on homers by Magglio Bocachica (3 run shot) and David Sisk, and Chicago takes game one 7-3.  In game 2, Chicago builds a 7-3 lead through 7 and ½ on solid pitching by JP Brogna and four homeruns (2 by Lew Allen and a three run blast by Bocachica.)    With Colorado just six outs away from the grim possibility of going down 0-2, the explode for 7 runs off set-up men Rashun Rooney and Willie Wells, who help the Colorado cause by walking 3 in the crooked inning.  Giving this line-up free bases in the thin air is a recipe for disaster.  The dramatic hit was the 2-out grand slam by Diory Silva (his 3rd homer of the game), that turned the 7-6 Chicago lead into the 10-7 Colorado victory.  The Shock get three no-hit innings from Lyle Erickson and Alomar.  Colorado carries the momentum of their dramatic win into the Windy City, where they explode for 13 runs on 15 hits in the shutout victory.  The deep line-up gets five homeruns from five different players, with Silva going large again.  Gio “The Hybrid” Hernandez pitches like the ace that he is, going 7 innings, giving up only 4 hits, striking out 8 and walking none.  In the win-or-go-home game 4 for Chicago, the Blagos strike early, building a 5-2 lead through 5.  Steve Scott hits a 2-run homer and Bocachica and Sisk have back-to-back 2-out RBI hits in support of big money arm Alex Estallela.  Rashun Rooney redeems himself by pitching two hitless innings, and Chicago ties the series and forces a game 5 with the 5-3 win.  Game 5 was everything you would want in a series deciding game.  Colorado chipped away at Chicago’s JP Brogna and built a 4-1 lead through 5.  Felipe Mercado and MVP probable Marc Clarke went back to back in the 4th as part of the effort.  Dante Zoltan got the start and held the Blagos to the single run through 4.  With the game plan to empty the nasty bullpen out on Chicago, Kenny Priest enters in the 5th and proceeds to surrender the lead by giving up a three-run blast to Chan Ho Martin.  David Sisk actually gives the Blagos their first lead of the game with a 2-run triple later in the inning off Lyle Erickson, but Gio Hernandez comes on in relief to strand Sisk by getting the final out.  The Blagos tack on another run on a solo homer by Tom Lewis in the 7th, and take a now 7-4 lead into the 8th.  But the never say die Shock mount another incredible rally off a rattled Rashun Rooney.  After Rooney loads the bases by hitting two batters, he walks Clark and then surrenders huge two-out RBI hits by Blago legend Benito “Blame It On” Rijo and Trevor Prince.  Stud closer Lorenzo Alomar is up for the task of protecting the 1-run lead in the 9th, and Colorado wins the series and advances to the League Championship round.

Congratulations to Chicago for getting this far in what was expected to be another step in the rebuild.  Estallela is locked up long term, and a new era of middle-of-the order sluggers has barely just begun with the likes of Maglo Bocachica and David Sisk.  Great things are sure to come in the next several seasons.  Very nicely done!

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