Friday, August 24, 2007

Series Preview

The championship comes down to one of the oldest teams in the Cloverland Leagues vs. one of the most recent. With 89 years between them, the Cubs and Indians played in very different eras-- Chicago playing in an era of segregated baseball, truly independent minor leagues, daytime games, and a dead ball. Cleveland's team only played a partial season due to a strike, and not only has players of many ethnicities, but also has citizens of several nations. Furthermore, no fewer than 5 Indians outhomered the Cubs team in real life, even in an abbreviated season. In the replay, Albert Belle hit more than three times as many home runs as the Cubs (finishing with an astonishing 62, one more than Babe Ruth's record set the season before).

So, who will win?

Beats me. I picked both of the playoff series incorrectly. If compelled to pick someone, I'll gave to go with Cleveland. Their pitching was good enough to mostly stifle the Yankees, and their hitting is pretty tremendous. Chicago's pitching is, of course, spectacular. But it wouldn't take much to get in a big hole against the Indians.

Having said that, a Cubs win wouldn't shock me. And of course, that's why I play the games...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Scooter beats the traffic

Maybe I'll have more to say later. But Phil Rizzuto's announcing is one of the vivid memories of my youth, and one of the real joys that made me a baseball fan, let alone a Yankees fan.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

ALCS Game 6: A Game for the Ages

I'll cut to the chase: the 1995 Cleveland Indians will be representing the AL in the Cloverland Series against the 1906 Chicago Cubs. Cleveland defeated and eliminated the 1939 New York Yankees in a see-saw Game 6 that went to the 17th inning before it was decided.

The Yankees staked Steve Sundra to a 1-0 lead on a leadoff triple by Red Rolfe and a single by King Kong Keller. Sundra and Charles Nagy, starting in place of injured Chad Ogea, traded zeros until the 4th, when Cleveland broke out for 5 runs, punctuated by a three-run home run by Yankee-killer Manny Ramirez. Facing elimination, Yankee manager McCarthy brought in Marius Russo to try and limit the damage.

New York came back in their next at-bats, scoring three to pull to within 1 of the Indians. Further trouble for Nagy in the 6th brought in Paul Assenmacher from the bullpen, but that did not prevent a Bill Dickey sacrifice fly from scoring Frank Crosetti with the tying run. A parade of further Cleveland relief pitchers worked in and out of trouble, but the Yankees just couldn't plate another run.

Meanwile, Russo worked 5.1 innings of two-hit relief. Oral Hildebrand came on with two on in the 10th and nobody out, and induced a double play from Kenny Lofton to keep the Yankees hope alive. Albie Lopez came in to put down a New York rally in the 13th. Cleveland nearly put the Yankees away in the 15th, but Manny Ramirez was thrown out trying to score on a ground ball to Crosetti.

Leading off the 16th, Keller hit a line shot home run into the right field stands. The still-packed stands fell silent hoping against hope the Indians could respond. Respond they did with one out in the 16th, as Carlos Baerga tied it up with a solo home run. And on to the 17th the game went.

Finally in the 17th, the game reached its climax. Eddie Murray opened the inning with a single, but Hildebrand, in his 8th inning of relief, struck out Ramirez and Paul Sorrento. As Tony Peña stood in, most spectators were probably thinking about the next inning. Peña refocused their attention by smacking a double down the left field line and scoring Murray on a close play at home. As suddenly as that, it was over and Cleveland was going to the Series.

Notes: The Yankees were victims of bad baserunning, both in cases where I had a choice to send or not send runners, and in cases where I had no choice. It's something of a problem with the game itself, though in theory it should even out. But it certainly felt like the Yankees got the short end during this series.

The ALCS MVP, much as it pains me, is Manny Ramirez. He finished with "only" a .286 average, but 2 HR, 7 RBI, and a .667 SLG. Dennis Martinez would be another plausible candidate (2-0, 0.56 ERA), but Manny's performance in Game 6 plus some outfield assists he made (even given the previous point) swung me to give him the vote.

This is the first time the Yankees won't be in the Series. They faced the '06 Cubs in Season 1, and defeated the 1934 Tigers in the playoffs en route to their shocking ouster by the 1897 Beaneaters in Season 2. They also were present in Season 0, the season I did with Strat-O-Matic cards back in the mid-80's, defeating the 1953 Dodgers to win that Series.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

ALCS Game 5: Advantage Cleveland

Yankee fans packed The Stadium to watch what they hope will not be New York's final home game until next season. Knotted at 2 games a piece, Game 5 was an important one for both teams before they headed back to Cleveland for the remainder of the ALCS.

The Indians started in quickly against Red Ruffing, the Yankees starter. A single by Kenny Lofton followed by a hit-and-run double by Omar Vizquel scored the first Cleveland run, Vizquel scoring on two groundouts before Ruffing was able to end the inning. Cleveland struck again in the second on a solo home run by Paul Sorrento. The Yankees started well in the bottom of the inning, with a single by Dickey and double by Gordon to start the inning. A flyout by Twinkeltoes Selkirk was not quite deep enough, as Kenny Lofton's arm passed the test Bill Dickey put it to, cutting him down at home. Orel Hershiser escaped trouble as a result.

Ruffing and Hershiser settled down after that point, giving up only two hits between them after that point. Ruffing gave way to Johnny Murphy in the 9th, but Hershiser was able to shut down the Yanks, finishing with a complete game, three-hit shutout. The teams return to Jacobs Field with Cleveland one win away from meeting the 1906 Cubs for the championship.

Charles Nagy will start for the Indians in Game 6, replacing the injured Chad Ogea (no record in the postseason, 11-13, 4.67 in the regular season). The Yankees counter with Steve Sundra (1-0, 1.00 in the ALCS, 9-3, 3.22 in the regular season).

Monday, August 06, 2007

NLCS Game 4: Cubs Win The Pennant

The 1906 Chicago Cubs, winners of 116 games in real life, finished a 4 game sweep of the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates and will represent the National League in the Cloverland League Series (for lack of a better term). The win ends the Pirates' wild run, where they edged a crowded NL East field to make the playoffs with a mere 87 wins, a full 10 fewer than the Cubs.

Game 4 featured a strong pitching performance by Ed Reulbach (2-0), who shut down the Pirates with only two hits. Jack Chesbro (0-2) matched Reulbach inning for inning until the 7th, when a single by Harry Steinfeldt and a triple by Johnny Kling put Chicago on the board. Kling was thrown out at the plate trying for an inside the park home run, but the damage was done.

Pittsburgh threatened in the bottom of the 8th, with singles by Leach and Bransfield putting men on 1st and 3rd with nobody out. Jack Sheckard saved at least one run with a running catch of a Paddy O'Connor drive followed by a perfect throw nailing Leach at the plate and deflating the Exposition Park field. For all intents and purposes, the pennant was won right there. The Cubs added an insurance run in the 9th, and with Claude Ritchey's foulout to Kling, the pennant was theirs. The Cubs now wait to see whether they will be visiting Cleveland or New York for game 1 of the Championship Series.

Notes: Ed Reulbach was named MVP of the NLCS, going 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA. The only other competition came from Steinfeldt, who batted .385 with two singles, a double, and two triples in the five games. Other than Steinfeldt, no player batted above .300 in the series. Thanks to four walks, however, Fred Clarke led all players with a .467 OBP. The Cubs batted .217 in the series, but their pitchers held Pittsburgh to an astonishing .126 batting average, averaging less than 4 hits a game.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

ALCS Game 4

Game 4 found another full house in Yankee Stadium. This game featured a rematch between the Game 1 starters, Bump Hadley for New York and Dennis Martinez for Cleveland. Both teams saw this as an important game, the Yankees hoping to go up 3-1, the Indians hoping to tie up the series.

Hadley, burned for 6 runs in 2 2/3 innings in Game 1, pitched much better in this game. Through three innings he held Cleveland scoreless, with only a single hit. Martinez also denied the Yankees through three, though he worked through jams in the 2nd (Manny Ramirez threw out Selkirk trying to score) and 3rd (with bases loaded and 1 out, New York failed to score). In the 4th, Ramirez was a difference maker on the other side of the ball, driving in Murray and Thome with a 2-out double. Those would be the only runs Cleveland would get.

However, they would be the only runs they'd need. Martinez allowed a few baserunners the rest of the way but did not run into serious trouble (thanks in part to a spectacular catch by, yes, Manny Ramirez), and went the distance with a shutout. Dennis is now 2-0 in the series, with an ERA of 0.56. With the win, Cleveland ensured a return to Jacobs Field for at least a Game 6.