So, Boston vs. St. Louis in a rematch of teams with red uniforms who happen, this year, to be the best teams in their respective teams. The cream doesn't always rise to the top in a short series, but this time I think it did. Before we look ahead, here's a quick look back at the just completed ALCS...
Perhaps this is just my green-and-gold colored glasses seeing everything through the lens of the A's, but parallels seemed to abound between the ALDS and ALCS.
There was Seth Smith's swing just missing a dramatic game-tying HR off of Joaquin Benoit, and David Ortiz not missing at all. There was Josh Reddick flailing at a surprise 3-2 changeup-y thing from Max Scherzer, and Ortiz calmly watching the same pitch go by in the same count. Conclusion: Ortiz might be a better hitter than Smith or Reddick. Who knew?
Dan Straily's exit (back tightness) after 6 IP when he was rolling in game 4 was as key as Scherzer's exits after 7 IP (apparently told Jim Leyland "I'm done") in game 2, and his departure after just 6.1 IP and 110 pitches last night.
And then of course there was the Tigers channeling their inner-A's with a crucial base running gaffe at the most inopportune time, when Prince Fielder managed not to run when he needed to, run when he needed not to, and then dive when there was no base nearby.
You know who impressed the HECK out of me in this series? Xander Bogaerts. Here's a 21-year old rookie thrust into the spotlight of the ALCS and while his double off the Green Monster was a nice bit of crushage, what impressed me was the calmness of his at bats, especially with 2 strikes. Time and time again Bogaerts tracked a tough 2-strike pitch, gauged it to be just off the plate, and laid off. Considering how early you have to start against the likes of Scherzer and Verlander, how deceptive the Anibal Sanchez slider can be, we're talking about especially impressive takes in exceptionally high pressure situations. Color me impressed. Can I dream of saying some of the same things soon about one Addison Russell?
Am I the only one who thought Leyland routinely overmanaged by pulling effective relievers after 1-2 batters -- sometimes after one pitch -- in order to get every platoon matchup? When you have a bullpen that struggles to get people out in general, you might not want to be too quick to pull the ones who are looking good. One glaring example was Jose Veras coming in to strike out 2 batters in dominant fashion only to be yanked. He had his best stuff that day. Coke's one-pitch appearance was symptomatic of other relievers, such as Drew Smyly, being used seemingly every game.
I also have the same thought whenever I see Craig Breslow pitch: Why exactly didn't the A's hang onto him longer? He's very, very good.
Finally, I wrote last week about possibly forsaking platoons a bit in the playoffs to let key players like Derek Norris, this year, or Jonny Gomes, last year, have a chance to make an impact. I'm not wedded to the thesis, and will acknowledge that several times in the series Gomes looked over matched by Detroit's RHPs. But I will also point out that the Red Sox' winning rally last night, in the bottom of the 7th, was started by a double high off the Green Monster -- and it was delivered by Jonny Gomes off of RHP Max Scherzer.