In a tweet this morning, ESPN’s Buster Olney suggested that today could rival September 28, 2011, as “one of the best days in baseball in our lifetime.” And he’s right. There are four games scheduled for today, with all four holding the possibility of advancement and elimination. Two of the four division series have gone as far as they can go, reaching a deciding fifth game.
This is how all of that happened Wednesday night:
St. Louis Cardinals 8 – Washington Nationals 0
The Cardinals exploded for eight runs against the Nationals. The top four batters in the St. Louis line up went a remarkable eight for seventeen, while collecting three walks. However, the real offensive dyanmo for the day was shortstop Pete Kozma who knocked in three runs with a home run in the third inning of the game off of Nationals starter Edwin Jackson.
Meanwhile, Washington’s bats fell flat against a version of Chris Carpenter that didn’t even have his best stuff. And that was with Bryce Harper wearing intimidating (?) red contact lenses, which I guess would be a novel look for a 19-year-old Mormon who hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol.
The victory gives St. Louis a 2-1 series lead with a 4:00 PM ET start time scheduled for Nationals Park today. If the Nationals lose today’s game, we’re bound to hear a whole lot about how if the team had only not shut down Stephen Strasburg, but for as good as Strasburg is, even he needs some kind of run support. Scoring seven runs over three games isn’t going to win any team a whole lot of games. I’m dumbstruck every time I see Michael Morse come up to the plate without it resulting in a home run. Ginormous men of his size should not ground out. Every pitch that hits his bat should get pushed over the fence in my opinion.
Neither team has announced their starters for today’s game quite yet.
San Francisco Giants 8 – Cincinnati Reds 3
It’s difficult to imagine a starter only lasting two and two thirds innings in a game that ends up being a success for his team, but after Bruce Bochy wisely pulled Barry Zito at the first sign of difficulty, the San Francisco Giants went into cruise control against the Cincinnati Reds. The Giants bullpen pitched six and a third innings, only giving up a single run, as Tim Lincecum came on in relief in the fourth inning and put forth more than four innings of effective work.
In addition to scoring eight runs, doubling their total from the first three games of the National League Division Series, the Giants lineup finally emerged from the slump that had mired their approach over the first three games of the series. Angel Pagan went two for three with his bat, hitting a home run and a double, but also getting on base four times in total, scoring twice and driving in two, as well.
Reds starter Mike Leake couldn’t get out of the fifth inning, but it was a rough afternoon all around for the right-hander, as this first pitch acted as a harbinger for things to come.
It’s an incredible come back for the Giants, who looked all but dead and gone after the first two games of the series, and while we’ve all been reminded on several occasions that no visiting team has come into Cincinnati this season and won three straight games at Great American Ball Park, San Francisco only needs to win one game, now, to go through to the next round.
With the series tied at two games apiece, today’s decider is scheduled for 1:00 PM ET. Giants ace Matt Cain will take the mound for San Francisco, and Cincinnati will counter with Mat Latos. Both pitchers unexpectedly ended up facing each other in the first game of the series when Johnny Cueto left his start with an injury.
I’m pretty sure that it’s impossible to overstate this: Go Giants!
Baltimore Orioles 2 - New York Yankees 3
In an incredibly entertaining game, the Baltimore Orioles went to the bottom of the ninth inning up a run against the New York Yankees, only for their lights out closer, Jim Johnson, to give up a solo home run to Raul Ibanez, an unlikely hero pinch-hitting for the listless Alex Rodriguez. Ibanez’s heroics only served to grow from there, as the substitute designated hitter won the game for the Yankees with another home run to lead off the bottom of the twelfth inning.
Raul Ibanez: 2 at-bats, .827 WPA.
— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) October 11, 2012
The performance of Ibanez was only made possible by Hiroki Kuroda’s somewhat under appreciated start in which the 37-year-old right-hander went eight and a third innings, allowing only two runs on five hits and a walk, while striking out three. He was picked up in excellent relief by Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson, who faced seven batters from whom he collected six outs.
It would be negligent of me not to also mention the Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez, who kept the Yankees to a single run while striking them out eight times over seven innings. Also of note is that in addition to A-Rod being subbed out of the game, Derek Jeter had to leave after the eighth inning. Jeter’s absence was injury, not performance, related as the Yankees legendary shortstop appeared to aggravate an ankle injury earlier in the game.
The two teams go back at it today at 7:30 PM ET, with Joe Saunders making his first start since Baltimore’s Wild Card playoff game victory against the Texas Rangers. The Yankees will send Phil Hughes to the mound as they attempt to wrap this series up, already ahead two games to one over the Orioles after last night’s walk-off.
Detroit Tigers 3 – Oakland Athletics 4
The line of the night belongs to our very own Scott Lewis, who wrote the following about Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde:
How this guy hasn’t tested positive for elevated levels of narcissism at this point is beyond me.
Valverde got something of a comeuppance for all of his grand standing, giving up three runs in the ninth inning, including a Coco Crisp walk-off single that scored Seth Smith from second base with two out. Smith was on second after hitting a double that cashed in two runners to put the A’s within striking distance. It was likely the most exciting half-inning of baseball this season. And social media was very much aware of Smith’s contribution.
Seth Smith ladies and gentlemen. twitter.com/BMcCarthy32/st…
— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) October 11, 2012
Prior to this season’s most exciting half-inning of baseball taking place, the most brilliant defensive effort happened:
That’s Josh Donaldson, reaching deep in the top of the seventh.
With the series tied at two games apiece, the two teams will play the deciding game this evening at 9:30 PM ET. Facing Justin Verlander, it promises to be no easy task for the Athletics, as it’s entirely possibly that the Tigers ace may break both 200 pitches and 150 miles per hour tonight. Oakland will counter with Jarrod Parker, whose home splits this season reveal a 2.61 ERA and a 3.25 FIP.