I was going to do my standard “2014 MLB playoff preview”. But that’s boring. I’ll give you my predictions right now, and then get into something more interesting afterwards. So this is kind of a 2 in 1. First things first, my playoff predictions that will likely be way off!
AL Wildcard: Oakland at KC
I’ll take the Royals. The A’s got in but just barely and seem to have major issues, don’t care who they have on the mound.
NL Wildcard: San Francisco at Pittsburgh
I’m taking the Giants. Loads of experience and I like Bumgarner a little better than Volquez.
ALDS: KC vs LA Angels
Got to take the Angels in 4 here. Don’t want to, I’m really pulling hard for the Royals these playoffs but the Angels have just been dominant in the 2nd half and much like the Giants over the Pirates, the Angels just have WAY more experience.
ALDS: Detroit vs Baltimore
Man I’m having a tough time here. The reason being, I REALLY want to take the O’s. But experience again here and the pitching goes heavily to the Tigers so I’ll take Detroit but I really won’t be anything shocked if the O’s take this. Tigers in 5.
NLDS: San Francisco vs Washington
I like the Giants here. And ONCE AGAIN I like the experience factor. The Nats just don’t really own the Giants in any category. Yeah their staff had a better season, but the Giants guys have all proven themselves in big spots. Giants in 4.
NLDS: St. Louis vs LA Dodgers
Well I can’t really go experience here because both sides have plenty. Tough series to pick but the Dodgers staff just has more dominant guys. Kershaw vs Wainwright will be FUN! I like the Dodgers in 5 and if it goes to a 5th game with Kershaw and Wainwright on the bump….thank you baseball gods.
ALCS: Detroit vs LA Angels
Again, while I should absolutely likely pick the Angels here, I just can’t ignore the Tigers big arms and fully expect them to start showing up this month. Tigers in 6.
NLCS: San Francisco vs LA Dodgers
WOAH!! What a big time series this would be! Giants have great arms who are postseason proven and that team is going to be a TOUGH out, but the Dodgers have better arms and bigger bats. Dodgers in 7.
World Series: LA Dodgers vs Detroit
Love this matchup too. 2 teams full of history, big power arms, and some big time bats in their lineups. Again I just truly believe the Tigers arms will really get going here in October and they’ve been a little snake bitten in the playoffs. Joe Nathan does scare me at the back of that pen, but teams have won with marquee starting pitching and average bullpens. Talked a lot of the 2001 Diamondbacks lately and will again in this piece, they rode only 2 great arms. The Tigers have 2 great ones and 2 damn good ones. A little under the radar this season too since they struggled to get in. That struggle will help them I believe and I got the Tigers winning it all, taking down the Dodgers in 7 games.
Ok, so I got all that out of the way. Now this is what I want to talk about. I did the Jeter piece last week and it really kindled my fire to look back on some of the flat out PHENOMENAL series that were played starting in 95, which of course was the first season the divisional series were played.
So why not take a little stroll down memory lane? 20 years of one of the best changes MLB has ever made. I decided to rank the top 5 LDS of all time.
The Cards had ZERO chance in this series. It was pretty much a miracle they even got in the playoffs, and they were about to be swept in everyone’s mind save for Cardinal fans, but yet I’m certain even Cards fans didn’t give them much of a chance. The Phillies had Halladay, Lee, Hammels and the seasoned vet Roy Oswalt all going in the series. The Cards had a thought to be finished Chris Carpenter. After dropping the opener the Cards came back from an early 4-0 deficit to take game 2, 5-4. They dropped a tight game 3, 3-2 and were certainly done in game 4 with Oswalt facing journeyman Edwin Jackson. But Jackson was awesome and the Cards took it back to Philly, winning 5-3. But with Roy Halladay on the mound against former Jays teammate Chris Carpenter going on only 3 days rest, nobody gave the Cards a chance. Carpenter was amazing, as was Halladay but the Cards rode a Skip Schumacher 1st inning RBI all the way. Carpenter threw a 3 hit shutout and one of the biggest upsets in playoff history was complete. This was only the begining of the Cards amazing 2011 run to the World Series.
You’ll see a pattern of 2-0 deficit’s in this piece. This one might have been the most impressive comeback. The Giants were dominated in games 1 and 2 in San Fran and had to go to Cincy for games 3, 4, and 5. To say they were on the ropes is a pretty big understatement. Game 3 was a classic, and a game Reds fans likely feel Scott Rolen cost them with a vital error in the top of the 10th that gave the Giants a 2-1 lead and really changed the series.
After the Giants crushed the Reds in game 4, they looked as though they were about to do the same in game 5 jumping out to a 6-0. But the Reds slowly chipped away at the lead and got back in it. They had the tying run at the plate in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings, and then brought the winning run to the plate in the 9th with only 1 out. But Sergio Romo got Jay Bruce to fly out after a 12 pitch AB, and then struck out Scott Rolen, the man who’s error in game 3 started the Giants series comeback, to end the series en route to the Giants 2nd World Series in 3 seasons.
Well this is the one that gets all the glory, because of the flip. The A’s walked into Yankee stadium and ran the Yanks show in the first 2 games. Like it wasn’t close. Both Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson threw gems to put the A’s up 2-0 going home. Trust me when I say, it was DONE. Barry Zito going in game 3 who was dominant at the time. You know what happened next, as I showed this in my Jeter piece last week. 2 out, bottom of the 7th, 1-0 Yankees.
And as I said in the Jeter piece it completely changed the series. The Yankees dominated game 4, and while the A’s got off to a great start in game 5, the Yankees had too much momentum and took game 5 by a final of 5-3. Considering the fact that 9/11 had happened just a month earlier, it was maybe the most emotional comeback in MLB history.
This series doesn’t get the attention it so rightly deserves. Game 1, A’s take it 5-4 in the 12th inning on a squeeze which was a total shock that the money ball A’s would do such a thing.
Game 2 was an A’s blowout. The only not great game of the series. Game 3 the Sox got back in it with a walk off 2 run shot by Trot Nixon in the bottom of the 11th.
Game 4 the A’s held a 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th before an emerging superstar named David Ortiz smacked a 2 run double off the monster to give the Red Sox a 5-4 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Game 5 was Pedro vs Zito in a battle of Cy Young winners. The A’s trailed 4-3 in the 9th, put 2 on with nobody out. A Ramon Hernandez bunt moved the runners to 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out. But Derek Lowe struck out pinch hitter Adam Melhuse and then with the bases loaded pinch hitter Terrance Long was the A’s last shot.
The very first to go to a 5th and final game is still the best. I can never stress enough how awesome this series was. This was really the begining of the Yankees dynasty. Although most of the big names weren’t on the team yet, including one future Yankee piece being on the other side of the field. But this was the first time for the Yankees in the playoffs since the 1981 World Series. They jumped out to a 2-0 series lead after a 15 inning classic in game 2. Game 3 back in Seattle was completely dominated by Randy Johnson to keep the Mariners alive. Then in game 4 the Mariners trailed 5-0 early, only to make a frenetic comeback capped off by an Edgar Martinez grand slam that lifted the Mariners to a 10-6 win and a game 5 (in Seattle, in the first 3 seasons of the LDS, teams with home field got the last 3 games of the series). Game 5 was the best baseball game I’ve ever seen. David Cone on the mound for the Yanks, had them in front 4-2 in the bottom of the 8th with 1 out. Then…the kid stepped up.
His 5th homer in 5 games. The Mariners tied the game at 4 later that inning and looked primed to blow it wide open with the bases juiced and 1 out. Buck Showalter called on some scrawny, no name, 23 year old kid to stop the bleeding, and Mo Rivera did just that. The Yanks managed to re take the lead in the top of the 11th off Randy Johnson who came in relief. But the Mariners still had magic left in that lineup and in the bottom of the 11th and with 2 on and 1 out, Edgar Martinez did this:
Best game ever, and still the top divisional series of all time.
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