Monday, March 4, 2013

NL Round 1 Playoff Recap by cebola

Chicago gets back to the playoffs for the first time since season 21 and a little ahead of their rebuilding schedule.  Don't be fooled by the Blagos's sub .500 record; they went 41-30 since the All-Star break, which happens to coincide with the arrival of slugger David Sisk.  They squared off against Helena, who made their 3rd consecutive playoff appearence.  Chicago took the first two games on brilliant pitching performances by Andrew Gates (7 innings, 2 runs) and Alex Estalella (7 innings, 1 run).  Gates got the support of the explosive Blago bats in the form of six long balls, including three by Sisk, in the 9-2 win.   But Estallela was forced to earn his big free-agent contract as he was asked to protect a 2-0 lead that was provided by a Lew Allen 2-run homer in the first.  And protect he did, as Chicago wins game 2, 2-1.  In game 3, Helena's Valerio "Code Red" Santiago keeps his team alive with a brilliant performance (6 innings, 2 runs, 9 K's), and the bats come to life back home, as the Peacemakers bang out 11 hits, including three by last year's silver slugger CF, Gerald Hull in the 4-2 win.  In game 4, Helena scratches out a couple runs off of game 1 winner Andrew Gates early to take a 2-0 lead, but Chicago answers with 2 in the 4th.  Sisk again was in the middle of the scoring, with an RBI triple and run scored.  The game would stay tied through regulation and well into extras, as both teams get lifts from their deep relief corps. Both pens provide 7 shutout innings before Mac Sano of the Blagos delivers the game winning 2 run homer in the top of the 13th to send his team into the next round.

Congratulations to Helena for getting to the post season again.  The core will no doubt return next season to make another run at the title.  Sluggers Hersh Glynn, Critobal Chavez, and Gerald Hull provide the punch to drive in the table setters Chrity Rivers and Zachary Anderson; and none of these guys will be going anywhere soon, I'm certain!  The Peacemakers caught a lousy break with Daryl Bigbie getting hurt, but he's in line to return as the key component of a strong rotation.  Great job, Helena!

The other series in the NL featured two teams that finally saw the hard work put in during their rebuilding processes pay off.  The Philadelphia franchise gets to the playoffs for the first time since season 16, and the Texas franchise for the first time since season 13.  Texas got the jump as they took game 1 in a battle that featured two Cy Young candidates.  Reese "Smokin'" Hemphill labored through 7 innings, surrendering 13 baserunners, and his counterpart, Clarence "Nat King" Coleman pitched 6 effective innings and left with a 2-1 lead.  Texas would tie it at 2 in the 8th, and there we stayed until they unloaded for 3 runs in the top of the 12th.  The big hit was a 2-run triple by SS Eddie Wooten.  But Philly would storm back in a manner that would define the series to tie it up on a huge 3-run blast by Santos Torres.  With their hopes dashed after blowing the 3 run lead on enemy territory, the Wildcats don't bow to the pressure, as they get a go ahead HR by 50 homer man Wellington Rijo to take back the lead.  They hold on this time to secure the game 1 victory.  Texas would go on to win game 2 by a 7-2  score, behind a strong pitching performance by Jared Sexson (6 innings, 1 run).  Silver Slugging 3B Alex Scott delivered the crippling blow, a 3-run HR in the five run 5th.  With no margin for error, Philly sends Carl "The King" Pressley,  their co-ace to the mound for game 3 to try to keep their season alive.  Pressley comes up huge with 7 innings of 1 run ball (on 2 hits) and the Philly bats open up a tight 2-1 game with 5 runs in the ninth to take the 7-2 victory.  Robert Ellis's pinch-hit grand salami provided the bulk of the breathing room.  If Texas was going to take the next game and the series, they were going to have to do it against Coleman, who stymied them in game 1.  Coleman (7 innings, 1 run, 10 K's) pitches brilliantly and stakes his team to a 4-1 lead heading into the 8th.  But once he leaves the game, Texas is able to get to rookie 15 game-winner Louie Li for 3 to tie it up.  New Wildcat catcher  Brant Ducey hit a 2-run bomb in the frame, and Eddie Wooten delivers another clutch hit to tie it.  This game would also go to the 13th, where it was Philly's turn to man-up after blowing a late lead.  They get a big RBI double from their  MVP candidate, Geoff "Opie" Cunningham, and hold on for the win that forces the decisive game 5.   "Big Game" Hemphill, who has been in this spot once or twice before, would get the start for Texas against Rob Cormier, who was roughed up in game 2.  The match up is a battle between two pitchers who each have two World Series rings.  And as fate would have it, it was indeed a pitcher's duel.  Wooten gets another big hit, as he homers in the third off Hemphill to give Texas the lead.  Cormier helps himself by getting a hit in the bottom of the frame, and Cunningham brings him in with a clutch two-out hit.  In his next at bat, two innings later, Cunningham homers off Hemphill to give Philly the lead.  Cormier, Luis Castillo, and Cesar Mesa hold the tough Texas bats hitless over the final four frames to seal the victory and complete the Colonial comeback.

Congratulations to Texas for an outstanding season.  They got hot over the final couple months and became a force to be reckoned with.  They knocked around big-brother division rivals Iowa and Tampa during the final week of the season to get into the tournament.  It says here that their performance will carry over into next season where they will again compete for a title.  Kelly, Scott, Rijo, Stoops, Ducey - great hitters all, and all 25 or under!  Hemphill being under contract for a few more seasons will help to keep the window wide open.  Great job!