MLB Division Series, Day Five: One Down, Three to Go
We welcomed eight MLB teams to the postseason earlier this week and said goodbye to 22 teams, whom we will not see again until next April.
Today, we say goodbye to one of those playoffs teams, but it isn't exactly the team you thought would be leaving at this point.
I really feel for the Chicago Cubs and their fanbase. To be pulled through the jubilation of a 162-game season and then to have it end like it did—in the blink of an eye—well, that just isn't fair.
But, we move on without them, fair or not.
Let's face it though, Chicago was working against everything that makes you fail as a baseball team. Not only were they facing a hot team with great pitching, the Cubs are simply working against the forces of the baseball gods.
Chicago is a team with pressure that had nothing to fight for down the stretch, and they were facing the exact polar opposite in terms of a playoff team (Dodgers).
It is a recipe for disaster, and the Chicago Cubs should have seen it coming a mile away. Those teams dominate the regular season, but they ultimately fail in the postseason.
It's a reason why Milwaukee won Game Three to survive another day. They had it all with no pressure: the home fans embracing them, believing in them, and not doubting them, and their past experience of playing with their backs to the wall.
Two teams have their backs to the wall today and I can already tell how it's going to end. The White Sox and Angels mirror their NL counterparts, and I've now realized how the story of today's games will play out.
ALDS Game Three: Tampa Bay (Garza) @ Chicago (Danks)
Here comes John Danks, coming off a start in which he shut down the Minnesota Twins to push his team into the playoffs with everything on the line.
He's staring down the same situation he did earlier this week. "Oh, come on," he's probably thinking as he takes the mound against Tampa Bay. This is the second time in less than a week he has to save his team from elimination.
Here comes Matt Garza, coming off a start he probably doesn't even remember. He is in a position he hasn't been put in before, but why should that matter? That hasn't stopped Tampa yet, why should it now?
"No bid deal," he's probably thinking as he gets ready to send his team to the American League Championship. This is the first time he's pitched in over a week; he'll have plenty of rest.
I guess you could portray it that way, and that's the way I want you to view it. Because, that's exactly the way I think both pitchers are approaching this game.
I've continued to pick against the Rays time and time again. Call it stubborn or boneheaded, but I'm flat out going to do it again.
With Chicago's back against the wall and no one to save them now but themselves, I'd expect them to live to fight another day. They've been in this position before, and they know how to handle it, just like Milwaukee did yesterday.
It has nothing to do with what Tampa has or will do, but more with what Chicago can and wants to do. Three runs in three of Garza's last four starts, including five home runs. I'm picking Chicago to survive.
ALDS Game Three: Los Angeles (Saunders) @ Boston (Beckett)
They've been here before and they know how the story ends. Their National League counterpart, the Chicago Cubs, were here last night and they found out how it ends.
Los Angeles is in a pit of despair, hanging by a thread, and Josh Beckett is standing on their finger with a pair of scissors in hand.
It's a situation that no one wants to be in and one that seems impossible to overcome.
Nine out of 10 times, the story actually ends like you'd think it would. Very rarely does the upset occur.
Beckett has a 1.72 ERA in 10 postseason games. He has a 0.56 ERA in two division series starts. That is ridiculously good and in four games last year, he walked just two batters in the entire playoffs. Compare that to the 12 he walked with the Marlins back in 2003, and it's obvious that he just keeps getting better.
I'm not stupid, and after watching him rip my heart out just one year ago, I'm never going to bet against him ever again. I'd rather be wrong than be stupid. Betting against Josh Beckett is just plain dumb.
The Angels haven't played in one meaningful game all year. They have no idea what they are dealing with, especially facing a battle-tested Boston team that has not only won a championship, but has been playing playoff baseball for a month now.
The pressure is on the Angels and they don't know how to handle it. So, go with Boston to advance to yet another American League Championship.
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