Down to the Wire

October 5, 2009

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My Colorado Rockies started the season 20-32. They had the second worst record in the National League, trailing only the dreadful Washington Nationals. Heading into Saturday’s game with the Dodgers, the Rockies’ record stood at 92-68. Not only was this the best in franchise history, but it also left the Rockies within striking distance of finishing the regular season with the best record in the National League. They simply need to win the final two games to surge past the Dodgers, claim the National League West title, and sail into the playoffs as the #1 seed.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers halted the six game winning streak of the Rockies on Saturday, handing them the loss that eliminated them from contention for the division title, relegating the Rockies to the role of wild card participant. While this is disappointing for a number of reasons (including the fact that we will not face off against Matt Holliday’s Cardinals in the first round), it is worth noting that the 2007 World Series participant Rockies also qualified as the wild card.

In my quarter century of following baseball, I have now been a fan of five playoffs teams – the 1984 and 1989 Cubs and 1995, 2004, and 2007 Rockies. While this is not a particularly strong track record, it does tend to magnify that magical feeling of the playoffs.

Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has been a catalyst during the Rockies surge. Through June 6, Tulo was batting a lackluster .216 with 5 homers and 16 RBI in 167 at bats (.683 OPS). Since June 7 Tulo has pulled a complete 180 and hit .332 with 27 homers and 76 RBI in 377 at bats (1.038 OPS). In early June, nobody could have guessed that he was going to finish with 30+ homers and 90+ RBI.

AL Central

In the AL Central, the Twins and Tigers were locked in a tight battle going into the final day of the season. The Twins were seven games out of first place on September 7, but a streak of eleven wins in twelve games between 13th and 26th brought them within striking distance of the Tigers.

On Tuesday, they had faced off against Detroit in a double header, with the Tigers protecting a 2 game lead. A sweep of the two games would have pushed the Twins into a tie for the division lead. The Tigers managed to win one of the games, keeping their advantage at two games. A win the next day pushed their advantage to 3 games with just 4 games remaining in the season. This was a nearly insurmountable lead.

Someone neglected to mention this fact to the Twins, who surmounted the lead by beating Detroit in the series finale and taking the first two games in a series against the Royals. Meanwhile, the Tigers lost games to the White Sox on Friday and Saturday. Heading into action on Sunday, the AL Central was dead even. If one team won on Sunday and the other team lost, the winning team would be in the playoffs. If the two teams both won or both lost, they would face off in a one game playoff to determine the division winner.

One game playoffs are typically played the day after the regular season concludes. However, in this case, Minnesota had won their right to host the game (via a coin flip) but there was a scheduling conflict on Monday night – the Vikings and Packers were scheduled to face off in a Monday Night Football game. This would push the game to Tuesday. The extra wrinkle was that their first round playoff opponents – the #1 seed Yankees – would get to decide whether the AL Division Series would begin on Wednesday or Thursday. The prudent move for the Yankees would be to choose Wednesday – forcing the winner of the one game playoff to fly to New York to play a game the next day and eliminating any possibility of rest for the pitching staff.

Of course, Sunday’s results could make this a moot point. So, what happened?

In Detroit, the Tigers jumped out to a 5-0 lead against Chicago and weathered a late White Sox rally to pull out a 5-3 win.  In the Metrodome, Jason Kubel  hit two early three run homers off Royals starter Luke Hochevar en route a 13-4 Twins victory.  The Twins have won 16 of their last 20 games and take that momentum into the one game playoff on Tuesday.  Will Tuesday be the final baseball game in Metrodome history, or will the ‘Dome feature post-season baseball once again?

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Evan Kline
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 10:11:28

    As a Phillies fan, the Rockies scare me in a short series. Just like in 2007, they go into the playoffs red hot, and it seems like the hot teams do well in the playoffs. The Phils, on the other hand, limp in with a poor record down the stretch, and a slew of injuries. The players insist they can turn it on when the games count, so that’s what I’m hoping for.
    .-= Evan Kline´s last blog ..6 Sites That Help You Scratch Your Retro-Gaming Itch =-.


  2. kosmo
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 10:34:12

    I have slightly different memories of 2007 🙂

    On Purple Row(Rockies blog)there is talk about how the shadows in the afternoon will amplify the advantage of your lefthanded pitchers against our batters. Personally, I don’t really get caught up in talk about shadows and such, especially in the post season.
    .-= kosmo´s last blog ..The First Time =-.


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