Teams, players and skippers are leaving it all out there.
The first few games of the MLB Division Series has the evenly matched squads executing the signature components of playoff baseball -- unpredictability, strategy, pitching and timely hitting – at its highest levels. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a baseball game is going on or a Luke concert, as each team is leaving it all out on the field, and each manager leaving no potential move to the imagination.
NY-BALTIMORE: The Yanks-Orioles series is the defining moment for Buck Showalter. Jermaine Jackson couldn’t get him not to take it personal. He is still salty about being fired as Yankee manager 20 years ago and every meticulous move he makes is another building block towards getting revenge. The Yanks may have the talent edge, but Baltimore has the advantage in managerial strong-arming. Showalter plays the top of the dugout steps, stares at umps and intimidates them into his pocket. He disputes every close pitch and questionable call. With the series tied at 1-1 entering Wednesday’s Game 3 matchup at Yankee Stadium, expect moshpit-wild emotion. Showalter has a baseball bag of tricks that would keep anybody entertained, and Yankee skipper Girardi is a ticking time bomb. If you want guaranteed drama, and some possible dirt getting kicked on an umpire, this is the series to watch.
CNCINNATTI-SAN FRANCISCO: Reds pitcher Brunson Arroyo’s 2-0 shutout of the Giants in Game 2 was long overdue. Arroyo, a constant name in the MLB trade mill over the past few seasons, has battled high expectations, severe criticism, carpal tunnel syndrome and a serious case of mononucleosis. The most impressive thing about Arroyo lately has been his funky hair. If his pitching ever matched his sex appeal, he’d be a Cy Young candidate. Maybe this is the playoffs that he truly earns all those greenbacks The Reds have paid him.
WASHINGTON-ST. LOUIS: Chris Carpenter and Edwin Jackson have been to the top of baseball’s mountain together. Last season, the pitchers got busy in the World Series, helping St. Louis dismiss the heavily-favored Rangers. Tonight they face each other as opposing pitchers in a crucial Game 3. The Nats’ rotation is on a mission to prove that they are not a one pony show. Their postseason motto is “No Strasburg. No problem.” But Nationals manager Davey Johnson has got to be missing Stephen Strasburg after Jordan Zimmerman got tattooed in Game 2, locking the series at 1-1. Veteran leaders like Jackson – who has got to be pumped to stick it to his old gang – have got to step up. It’s going to take a platinum performance to beat Carpenter (9-2 in playoffs), the postseason pitching equivalent to Darrelle Revis
DETROIT-OAKLAND: The Comeback Kids used a lot of gas during their historical run to the AL West chip. If Bob Melvin’s young Oakland squad has anything left in the tank, they need to use it tonight, as they face ALDS elimination. The Tigers, who won the first two games with relative ease, need not sleep on the As. Oakland is playing with house money. Their team of rookies and rejects don’t know they are supposed to lose tonight. In fact, being down 2-0 is just how they like it. If Manager Jim Leyland has a copy of the book Tortoise and The Hare, he needs to read it to his Tiger team before tonight’s game. Oakland tends to creep up on teams when they appear to be dead and stinking. Just ask AL West champ Texas, who’s home after blowing a 13 game division lead.