We are one win by the Rays away from having an unpredictable World Series matchup between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. Wow.
Rays and Phils. The networks have gotta love that potential matchup. I must remind myself that the Red Sox could start downing shots of Jack at any moment and win the final two games of the ALCS. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. Big Papi isn’t hitting. The bloopers aren’t falling in for Jacoby Ellsbury. Mike Lowell needs hip surgery. Jason Varitek isn’t hitting.
So let’s just go ahead and pretend that the Rays have already won 9-5 tonight and are headed for the series.
It’s been a crazy postseason, hasn’t it?
But we have been here before. Let’s take a look back at the 2006 postseason.
ALDS: Twins vs Oakland and Yankees vs Detroit
The Twins were smoking hot entering the postseason, having won the AL Central division on the final day of the regular season. Many experts picked the Twins to win the World Series. That ended against Oakland. Frank Thomas hit two homers in Game One. Mark Kotsay got an inside-the-park homer in Game Two when Torii Hunter re-enacted the Ray Durham play from the 2002 postseason. Then the skeletal remains of Brad Radke couldn’t keep the Twins in contention in game three. A couple Twins players admitted to me that, once they won the division, they exhaled – and by the time they took their next breath the ALDS was over.
ALCS: Yankees vs Tigers
Detroit put together a nice team, but the Yankees were the Yankees. With A-Rod, the Big Unit and Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano in contention for a batting title eventually won by Joe Mauer. I, like many, had the Yankees favored to win. But who saw a total offensive collapse by the guys in pinstripes? Joe Torre basically threw up his hands and batted A-Rod eighth in Game Four! The Tigers won the series.
So it’s Oakland-Tigers in the ALCS – and the Tigers sweep in four, finishing the series with a walk-off homer by Magglio Ordonez. So the team few picked to get out of the AL bracket that year was in the World Series.
NLDS: Mets vs Dodgers and Padres vs St. Louis
Most, `experts’ had the Mets and the Padres meeting for the pennant. The Mets stepped up and swept the Dodgers. The Cardinals, with 83 wins during the regular season, beat the Padres in four games as San Diego suddenly became allergic to hitting.
NLCS: Mets vs St. Louis
This was set up for the Mets to reach the World Series. But they fell behind 3-2 in the series before outlasting Chris Carpenter and getting to the bullpen to win Game 6. It’s Jeff Suppan vs Oiver Perez in Game 7. I was already stunned that the series lasted that long. Perez pitched well for six innings and Chad Bradford tossed a scoreless inning. Suppan went seven strong. Something called Randy Flores gets through the eighth for the Cardinals. “Who are these Cardinals pitchers?’’ I kept asking myself.
Ninth inning. Aaron Heilman is on the mound (Billy Wagner was injured, big surprise). In the shot that rocked baseball fans everywhere, Yadier Molina hit a two run homer. Adam Wainwright got through the ninth, and the Cardinals are in the World Series. The Mets were crushed – a feeling they’ve had to get used to.
World Series: Cardinals vs Tigers
No one gave the Cardinals a chance.
“The National League Championship Series is a nice little event, but no matter what happens between the Mets and Cardinals, it’s not going to change this World Series prediction: Tigers in four. And when it happens, when Detroit celebrates its first title since 1984, it will confirm what many talent evaluators whispered before October began: Any of the four American League playoff teams – yes, including the Twins – could take down the NL’s best in this year’s Fall Classic.’’ —- Joe Christensen, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Oct. 17, 2006.
He wasn’t alone. The Tigers, with a great lineup and impressive pitching staff, were supposed to chew up and spit out the Cardinals, and I would then turn my attention to watching the Bears roll to the Super Bowl. But Al Reyes won Game One. Tigers pitchers forget how to throw to bases. Detroit actually committed eight errors in the series. And the Cardinals pitchers – household names like Randy Flores, Josh Kinney, Braeden Looper and Tyler Johnson – put up zeroes. St. Louis won 105 games in 2004 but couldn’t win the title – but won 83 in 2006 and won it all. What a game.
So let’s look at 2008.
The Cubs looked like a juggernaut heading into the postseason but lost to the Dodgers because of breakdowns in every facet of the game. The Dodgers, who got hot in September, look ready to return to the World Series for the first time since 1988 but that homer by Matt Stairs in Game Four was a killer.
The Angels wrapped up their division early and backstroked into the postseason, and many felt they could go all the way. That was before the Red Sox spanked them in four. Boston had a shot for a third World Series win in five years - and the lead in the team of the decade race - but are getting worked over by the Rays. Frankly, I think the Twins would have been a better matchup for the Rays than the White Sox, who are allergic to playing in Domes and on FieldTurf.
What an unpredictable sport. You really don’t know what’s going to happen when you get to the ballpark – which is why I love this game.