Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Playoffs, Day 1: Everything Be Peachy

It's too soon to put on the Nostradamus hat or do any serious prognosticating at all, but you have to like how the pertinent (for me) ALDS and NLDS games turned out today. The A's, the overwhelming underdog (at least according to all the so-called "experts") against the Cinderella Twinkies, pulled off the improbable and stunned the Snack Cakes in the HostessDome. Frank Thomas... man, without him, the A's would have been sitting on their hands and meekly watching the LAAAA trot off with the division again. He's the man who's doing all the heavy lifting that Eric Chavez was supposed to, and Chavy, while I love him, has never demonstrated a propensity for "clutch" heroics.

The Big Hurt brought the pain yet again, jacking 2 HR - one off Johan Santana and one off Jesse Crain - and Marco Scutaro added an RBI double off his fellow Venezuelan. Huston Street survived a Baggy-induced triple to open the ninth, as Milton Bradley lost Michael Cuddyer's routine fly in the cursed Metrodome roof, and flashed his balls of steel by not melting down, as he's had an unfortunate tendency to do against worse teams than the Cinderella Twinkies. End result, 3-2 A's win, 1-0 series lead.

Barry Zito, aside from blogging about the entire post-season experience, also got in on the whole Balls of Steel thing with eight gritty innings to match Santana's. 1-0 isn't anything to pop the champagne corks about, and 2-0 wasn't safe for the A's 3 years ago, but beating Santana is huge. HUGE. Esteban Loaiza goes tomorrow in an attempt to put the A's firmly in the driver's seat before they go home to McAfee, which will be undoubtedly as loud as (or louder, once you factor in the drummers) the Baggydome.

Now, confession time: I didn't watch the game. Not a pitch. Not an inning. I can't handle pressure, and I felt that if we lost here, we were doomed from the outset. I'm still trying not to hope too much - we still have to win two more, and God only knows what can happen in baseball.

My inner optimist is coming out and hopefully snuffling at the air, all the while waiting for the big bad pessimist to return. I don't know what's going to happen, but.... GO ATHLETICS!!! If you see a girl walking around campus at SLC wearing a) an A's jersey, b) an autographed A's home hat, c) an A's AL West Champs shirt, d) an A's ALDS hat, or e) any combination of these, it's definitely me.


As for the Cards, their game today was all that a very, very nervous Redbird fan such as myself could hope to see. Chris Carpenter turned in a high-quality outing to open the set with the Friars of San Diego, lasting 6.1 innings and allowing 1 run on five hits, with one walk and seven strikeouts. Tyler Johnson finally got command of his finicky slider and worked an inning and a third in relief before handing it off to Adam Wainwright (no words needed. Please pardon this post for a moment):


But you knew that, right? ;)

Anyway, Adam's stuff was filthy, he came out as pumped as ever, and dispatched of the Padres with a mixture of an absolutely sick curveball and some high-90s heat. We have a closer, and he is GOOD. It's awesome to see. I will wear my Adam shirt to bed tonight with even more pride than usual. :D

As for the offense and defense, they also showed up. Albert Pujols, El Hombre, Yo Daddy, or simply GOD, whichever is easiest to remember, got new life after Mike Piazza (one of the worst defensive catchers in the game, and absolutely hopeless at catching base-stealers) dropped a harmless foul pop. Albert retaliated by taking a fat Jake Peavy offering downtown for a 2-0 Birdie lead, which Carp ensured was never lost. A couple other Cards made contributions as well, most notably Jimmy Edmonds, who had two base hits after returning from post-concussion syndrome. Great to see... I love Jimmy and I'm thrilled that he's back for the postseason.

But the defense was exceptional and may have saved the Redbirds' behind in a major way. Ronnie Belliard made a spectacular sprawling catch and throw from his back to stab a sure-ticket 2-RBI single and end the inning, after Johnson was cleaning up Carp's slight mess in the bottom of the seventh. And Albert flashed the leather (he can field, hit, and use the Force... don't mess with this man) to end the inning after Adam came in and to take an RBI single away from Piazza.

Of course, this is baseball, so everything could change tomorrow. But for a fan nervous that her teams were both going to get steamrolled in the first round, it's good to see. It's also interesting to see all the pundits who predicted a 3-game sweep by the Padres stumble over themselves to mention how good the Cards still are and how they shouldn't be discounted so easily. Try this on for size, talking heads: The Cards are 7-0 in postseason play against the Padres going back to 1996, I believe, and have owned the NL West this season.

Side note: I have a terrible baseball addiction. I was trying to read Part I of Spinoza's Ethics for philosophy class (tomorrow, so I really needed to get it done) and at the same time, I watched the entire Yankees/Tigers game. I don't like either team and would be happy to see them both out of it (although I hope the Tiggers make it to the ALCS, since they'd be easier for the A's). However, that is unlikely. Getting swept by the Royals at home to end the season and cough up the AL Central crown does not bode well for postseason glory.

With slightly more optimism than yesterday, * I close this post with:


* until Esteban Loaiza and Jeff Weaver probably get shelled tomorrow and send me plunging back to ground zero

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