MLB Playoffs: St. Louis & Detroit Get Road Wins On Sunday

A key player who struggled in the Division Series and had to be lifted early saw his chances for redemption in the League Championship Series go by the boards, at least for now. I’m not talking about Alex Rodriguez or anyone in the New York Yankee lineup, but San Francisco Giants’ starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, who turned in his second straight shaky outing of the playoffs in a Game 1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals that begins our recap of Sunday’s action in the MLB playoffs…

St. Louis 6 San Francisco 4: With the Cards starting Lance Lynn, this needed to be the game the Giants could exploit their starting pitching depth. It didn’t work out that way and not because of anything Lynn did. San Fran’s offense chased the St. Louis starter in the fourth inning, but by that point they’d already dug a 6-0 hole and the four runs scored off Lynn were the last of the night.

David Freese looks ready to make a run at his second straight LCS MVP honor, as he started the scoring with a two-run homer in the second. In the St. Louis fourth, they knocked out Bumgarner with a two-run blast by Carlos Beltran being the big blow. Daniel Descalco also had two hits, including a double that continued what’s been a little postseason power surge for the normally light-hitting second baseman.

San Francisco came back, first scoring one run and having two men aboard when Gregor Blanco tripled, then Brandon Crawford doubled, and suddenly the score was 6-4 with more than half the game to play.

Bullpen length is another area that was supposed to be a Giants’ advantage coming in, but it didn’t work out that way. Not through any fault of their own pen, as Tim Lincecum again gave two quality innings in relief and led an effort that shut down St. Louis the rest of the way. But the Cards’ relievers were equal to the task, with arms like Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal delivering in the middle innings and the closing tandem of Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte locking down the final six outs.

This series continues tonight with October veteran Chris Carpenter taking on Ryan Vogelsong. It’s not the most ideal of circumstances for the Giants to try and get their first home win of the playoffs, and I wouldn’t count on a sudden turnaround like they had against Cincinnati. Also, the last three games played involving these two teams (last night, plus the Game 5s each had in the Division Series) have seen someone get out to a 6-0 lead. Wonder what the odds are for doing four in a row?

Detroit 3 NY Yanks 0: Anibal Sanchez joined the parade of pitchers who have been shutting down the New York bats this October. The Yankee offense in the postseason is built around two ninth-inning bursts against closers—one against Jim Johnson in the opener of the Baltimore series, the other against Jose Valverde on Saturday night to open the LCS. Other than that, it’s been dead silent and never more than yesterday when Sanchez and reliever Phil Coke combined on a four-hit shutout.

Hiroki Kuroda continues to excellent work of New York’s own starting pitching, which has now been solid in seven straight postseason games and a reminder of what could happen if this offense can find any life at all. But Detroit chipped over a run in the seventh and then New York couldn’t overcome a bad break in the eighth.

With two outs and a man on first, Austin Jackson singled to right. The baserunner, Omar Infante, foolishly took a wide turn around second, dove back and was clearly tagged out by Robinson Cano. I mean tagged out by a lot, with the umpire right in front of the play. But the call was missed and the inning continued, A bloop single by Avisail Garcia scored one run and then Miguel Cabrera got the second of his two hits for the game by lining a base hit to right. It was 3-0 and the game was all but over.

Joe Girardi was ejected after the game and in the press conference absolved the umpire on the call, while also insisting on instant replay. I agree with everything Girardi said, as well as the tone in which he said it. He acknowledged it might not have made a difference in the game, but that “I’d like to take my chances” when it came to dealing with a relief pitcher down 1-0 instead of down 3-0. I’m not quite as understanding in how the call was blown to begin with, but there’s no reason not to give baseball managers the challenge flag in spots like this.

After a day off today, it’s on to Detroit for the next three games of the series starting Tuesday. Are the Yankees dead in the water with Justin Verlander scheduled for Tuesday? Given that I picked Detroit to win the series so long as they got even one win in the Bronx to open things up I’d be inclined to say yes.

But let’s just spin this from a different perspective. New York throws C.C. Sabathia in Game 4, and all they need to do is either upset Verlander on Tuesday or win Game 5 on Thursday and they at least get the series back to the Bronx. While Detroit would still have Verlander for a Game 7, by that point the Yankees would get him in their home park and all the pressure would be on Detroit because of the way the series began. I’m not ready to predict it, but the Tigers might want to hold the champagne for the time being.