MLB Championships: Baseball’s Banquet Begins
Wow! Sunday’s opening game of the 2011 National League Championship Series (NLCS) produced plenty of fireworks, especially for the victorious host team, the Milwaukee Brewers. Their Braun ‘n’ Fielder show was on full display.
Neither Zack Greinke (Brewers) nor Jaime Garcia (St. Louis Cardinals) had their best command, so it was left up to the offenses of both teams to provide the edge. Of course, Gary Darling, the home plate umpire, may have had the biggest impact on the game when he issued warnings to both benches in the first inning (after Garcia inadvertently hit Prince Fielder with a pitch following a Ryan Braun two-run homer). Given the recent sniping between the Cardinals and Brewers, the umpire may have felt compelled to issue the warnings sooner rather than later. This had the net effect of allowing the batters to zone-in on the pitchers without having to look for inside offerings.
The Brewers won this opening contest, once again proving their competence at home in Miller Park.
Today, the Cards’ Edwin Jackson is scheduled to go against the Brewers’ Shaun Marcum. Consistency on finishing pitches has been a problem for both. If Marcum’s balance is on target, give the Brewers a slight edge in the game. Neither team has superb defenses (the two catchers are the best defensive players on each team) and this is the kind of match-up where both teams could benefit from stronger gloves.
On the American League Championship Series (ALCS) front, the host Texas Rangers outlasted the Detroit Tigers on opening night (Saturday, October 8, 2011). The pitching on both sides was excellent, though neither C.J. Wilson (Rangers) nor Justin Verlander (Tigers) had their best stuff. Alexi Ogando deserved the win with a superb relief performance.
On Monday, the Tigers’ Max Scherzer takes the hill against one of the Rangers’ talented lefties, Derek Holland. This should be a good one, even though the Tigers are without Magglio Ordonez for the series. Also, on Saturday, Nelson Cruz (Rangers) served notice that he’s back–he hit a towering home run off Verlander.
Neither team has a stellar defense, but the Rangers have a slight edge in both the bullpen and starting pitching depth. Offensively, the Rangers’ lineup is as productive as any. Of course, the Tigers do have the best pitcher on the planet in Justin Verlander. It is fair to point out the nearly two-hour rain delay Saturday night helped the Rangers more than the Tigers. Also, the skipped day (Sunday, October 9th, due to the rain postponement) also helped the Rangers.
If Holland is in command, give an edge to the Rangers for Monday’s contest.