The National League Championship Series reaches its climax … some time in the third inning. Brother, they are not making it easy to write about these games.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Cardinals 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Giants 1 1 5 0 0 0 1 1 X 9 ( WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Cardinals 12 30 13 2 1 3 1 1 0 Giants 19 16 21 0 0 0 0 0 X WPS Base: 118.9 Best Plays: 27.4 Last Play: 0.0 Grand Total: 146.3
This refrain has gone past familiarity and deep into tediousness. When a team takes a sizable lead in the early innings and prevents its opponent from making any substantial comeback, it is the death of excitement in baseball. Had we not had a couple nice jams before the Giants’ breakout in the third, it would have been as bad as the previous night’s score of 129.2. The greatest drama in the last six innings was whether the downpour that soaked AT&T Park in the ninth would force a rain delay, but they averted that nightmare.
Once again, a Giants starter shut down the Cardinals with his arm and helped the offense with his bat. Matt Cain‘s RBI came in the second, a hit straight up the middle and just over Kyle Lohse‘s glove. On the mound, he pitched 5.2 scoreless innings, a feat that the Giants made look routine in the last three games.
The biggest slip Cain made might just not have been a slip: he hit Game Two villain Matt Holliday in the arm with a pitch. We will probably never know whether this was delayed reprisal for Holliday’s take-out slide against Marco Scutaro, though one hopes not. Scutaro got ample revenge by himself, batting a scorching .500 for the NLCS.
The game broke on a bizarre hit, with the score just 2-0 Giants in the third but with the bases loaded and nobody out. The shattering bat of Hunter Pence struck the ball three times before the ball headed through the infield with a wicked spin on it. Pete Kozma broke the wrong way on contact and couldn’t flag it down, and Jon Jay misplayed it in the outfield, permitting a third run to score on the play. It deteriorated for the Cardinals from there, Kozma’s late throw home on a fielder’s choice being a further crusher.
The Giants did not let up. Up seven in the seventh, Bruce Bochy sent Gregor Blanco from first on a no-outs, 3-2 hit-and-run. Brandon Crawford‘s hit got him to third. Later that inning, Angel Pagan tried to go second-to-home on an infield error by Kozma, who managed to throw him out at the plate for the third out. This crosses into the nebulous territory of the unwritten rules that discourage teams from showing up whipped opponents. Whether such codes exist in a postseason elimination game is a debatable point, and the Cardinals made no noticeable beef about it.
With the League Championship round completed, we can take a quick look back at how exciting both series were. The capsule conclusion: we just balanced the books on the excitement we got from the LDS quartet.
The Tigers-Yankees matchup got off to a hot start, then cratered. The combined WPS score of the four games was 1290.5, finishing a hair more exciting than the 2006 Tigers-A’s ALCS to come in as the third least-exciting LCS ever. This isn’t as completely awful as it sounds: it was only the sixth four-game sweep in LCS history, so it’s middle of the pack for those. That is about as much sugar-coating as the Tigers’ sweep will bear, though.
The lone sweetener for the Giants-Cardinals series is that it went the distance. None of the seven games cracked the approximate WPS median of 300. The whole series added up to a WPS of 1427.8. This is not only the least exciting LCS to go seven, it’s the least exciting of any seven-game postseason series to go the limit. And it was less exciting than any seven-game series that went just six! (The previous record-holder there was the 1930 World Series. The Cardinals lost that one, too.) One hopes the World Series will be a reaction to the LCS tedium and burn some serious barns.
Speaking of which, it’s the Tigers and the Giants starting Wednesday. The good news for baseball purists is that, whether due to the new wild-card system or not, there is no wild card in this year’s championship. The bad news is that the American League representative sports the seventh-best regular-season record in the junior circuit.
Somewhere deep inside MLB’s corporate headquarters, Bud Selig is doing his best Doctor Evil laugh.