It’s the two most beautiful words not just in baseball, but in all of sports. Game seven. One game decides your playoff fate. Everything you’ve put into the season comes down to one game where one pitch, one swing, one call, one stolen base, one error can be the difference. The San Francisco Giants brought us to these two words with their 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night. Monday night at AT&T Park the Giants will look to come back from two games down for the 2nd straight series and advance. Let’s try and figure out who will win.
Starting Pitcher: Kyle Lohse vs. Matt Cain
Have to start with the scheduled starters. Both of these starters have arguably had a career year in 2012 and this game will define how they look back on this season. Lohse has been great this postseason with a 1.96 ERA including giving up just one earned run over 5.2 innings in a victory over the Giants in game three. Lohse was erratic though giving up 5 walks. Lohse has has a history of not coming up big in huge games (see 2011 playoffs), but may have turned a new leaf in 2012. Cain, on the other hand, has been “Bizarro Lohse.” He was spectacular in big games previously (see 2010 playoffs), but has given up three runs in each start this postseason. Cain got the win for San Francisco in game five against the Reds. This one is close, but give me the previous elimination game winner.
Both bullpens have been spectacular this series. I’m sure everyone is going to be available for Monday’s game. Jason Motte has become the big closer everyone thought he would be. Sergio Romo has taken control of the closer role for the Giants and has the best slider in the game. I think Mike Matheny left Chris Carpenter in game six through four innings to try and preserve his bullpen for a potential game seven. St. Louis ended up using Shelby Miller for two innings, Fernando Salas for 1.1 innings, Marc Rzepczynski and Edward Mujica for 1/3 of an inning each. Not on that list is Trevor Rosenthal and Jason Motte. The Giants had to use their standard of Jeremy Affeldt (.2 IP), Santiago Casilla (.1 IP), and Romo (1 IP) to lock down a game seven. I would not be surprised if we see Motte come in for a six-out save in game seven if needed. This one is tough.
Slight Advantage: Cardinals
The big question stemming from game six is will Matt Holliday be ready to play? He may not be 100%, but if you think he’s missing this game I’ve got a giant bridge in San Francisco to sell you. Buster Posey has been completely off offensively this series, hitting just .136. Posey does have a flair for the deciding game dramatic as he hit a grand slam in game five of the NLDS against Cincinnati. Marco Scutaro has been the hot bat for San Francisco hitting .458. The other big question for the Cardinals lineup is with Holliday back, is there room for Matt Carpenter? Carpenter owns Matt Cain it seems and had a home run off him in game three. I think overall with Holliday, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran, and David Freese this should be good for St. Louis.
Manager: Mike Matheny vs. Bruce Bochy
I have nothing against Mike Matheny, but his team almost blew a 2-1 lead in the NLDS against the Nationals. His team has now blown a 3-1 lead in the NLCS against the Giants. It’s his first season. It’s his first playoffs. Give me the guy with the World Series ring on his hand, even though I’m sure Matheny is making a call to Tony LaRussa tonight.
The Giants have now won five straight eliminations games in these playoffs, only the 1985 Royals won more elimination games in a single postseason with six. The Cardinals have won six straight elimination games, dating back to 2002, where they lost to….you guessed it! The Giants. Mike Matheny could become the first rookie manager to lead his team to the World Series since Bob Brenly got the Diamondbacks there in 2001. The Giants have never won a game 7 as a team, they are 0-5, the worst mark in MLB history. This is the first game seven in the NLCS since 2006, where the Cardinals beat the Mets.
I reached out to my fellow podcasters for their predictions. Here’s what they have.
Jeremy Dorn: Cardinals 345, Giants 0. No really, 5-3 St. Louis. Lohse has been better than Cain this postseason and the Cards have never lost a game 7 right?
Brian Boynton: Giants 6-5
Kurt Peter: Giants 5-2
Angelo Feliccia: Lots of rain to help out my Tigers in the World Series. I’ll take the Giants 4-0, but I could see Romo blowing this game though late.
Final Mapes Prediction: Buster Posey shows why he’s the MVP and gets another big hit for the Giants. While Lohse is erratic once again forcing Matheny to go to the bullpen earlier than he’d like and is bailed out by Rosenthal, Mujica, and Motte. It’ll be too late as Cain gets the job done over seven innings and turns the ball over to Affeldt and then Romo. Then again, it’s baseball, nothing is EVER that simple. Giants 4 Cardinals 2, enjoy game seven everybody!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
Moving along in our 3U3D Awards to Manager of the Year. Will these be the awards that we agree on the most? Let’s take a look.
Jeremy Dorn (@JamblinMan): Ventura has done a fantastic job in his first year on the Southside, but he was given a pretty decent offensive team, and you can mostly thank his pitching coaches for getting Jake Peavy back to his normal self. It’s a tight, two-horse race here between Bob Melvin and Buck Showalter, but I have to give the edge to Melvin. Yes, it was only a two-game difference in record, but he got his team all the way back from a huge deficit to actually win their division and absolutely shock the Texas Rangers. What a story.
Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Bob Melvin wins this award for leading his team to an AL West win. Rookies paved the way for Melvin’s A’s, recording an AL record number of wins. Buck Showalter would have taken this award home for me if it wasn’t for the A’s winning their division on the last day of the season. Buck had used 25 different starters and didn’t have a single player bat over .300.
Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): How can the guy who had the second lowest total payroll in baseball and won his division not win this award. The A’s finished first in AL West with a record of 93-69 beating the Texas Rangers on the last day of the season to take the division. Buck Showalter has dramatically increased his teams wins in his second year and this year’s Baltimore Orioles were no different finishing this season with a record of 93-69 after 2011’s 69-93 record. Robin Ventura had a very good rookie season as a manager although he was unable to win the division the Chicago White Sox led for a majority of the season. His team wilted down the stretch losing him his Manager of the Year award.
Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): You can’t throw away what Buck Showalter did for the Orioles. Making their first playoff appearance since 1997 and shocking the tyrants of the AL East. I loved watching it all season and seeing Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and JJ Hardy keep the birds in the air. Moneyball Part 2 can also not be overlooked. Bob Melvin and Billy Beane worked their magic again as it seems this haphazard group of misfits in Oakland got it done. Their team OBP is not great, they don’t lead in many categories, they strike out a lot, but boy do they bring the energy and win when it counts.
Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): Melvin and Showalter are on their own level for this award and I think that the actual vote will be closer than ours was. Melvin gets the slightest of edges for me for winning the AL West and finishing with the better record than the Orioles when both teams had low expectations. To win the AL West in a division with the back-to-back American League champions and a retooled, strong Angels team is amazing. The fact that Melvin did it while starting a rookie pitcher in more games than any other team in MLB history is even more amazing. Maddon gets my 3rd place vote, because I don’t think there is a manager that gets more out of his team and his strategy than the Rays skipper.
Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): Davey Johnson is the easy call here. The Nationals had the best season based on expectations. Johnson led the franchise to its first playoff appearance since 1982 and finished the season with the best record in the National League. Gonzalez gets my 2nd place vote as I wasn’t sure what could happen after the Braves collapse of 2011. They could have imploded and finished 69-92 like the Red Sox, but Gonzalez rallied the team to get the 1st Wild Card spot in 2012. Bochy is a close 3rd to me, just over Dusty Baker. I’m already second-guessing myself on that one, but I’m sticking with it.
Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): The Washington Nationals were bound to break out of their coccoon eventually, and an (almost) full season of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper helped Davey Johnson guide the ship out in Washington. Their pitching has been dominant, Ryan Zimmerman has put in his work at 3rd base for them, and Teddy actually got his first win!! Dusty Baker also gets a nod because the Reds just ran away with the NL Central. There’s no doubting they are the best team in that division and when Baker was out due to health issues, they still stayed energized and headed strong into the playoffs.
Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): Davey Johnson has to win this award right? He led the Washington Nationals to their first playoff berth in franchise history leading the NL East for almost the whole season. Dusty Baker for all his short comings as a “manager” of his pitching staff was able to effectively use one of the best bullpens in baseball. Leading the Reds to the division title this season after finishing in third in 2011 with a record of 79-83. Im beginning to think that the St. Louis Cardinals are just a team that plays mediocre baseball for much of the season and then makes a push for the playoffs late in the season. This season under Mike Matheny was no different from last year than last year under Tony LaRussa but still not bad for a young rookie manager.
Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Davey Johnson is just a winner plain and simple. He won with a completely revamped team with a few key pieces from last year. Mike Matheny takes over the reins as Cards skipper and leads the defending World Champs to a playoff appearance that’s of the Wild Card variety.
Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): Well, come on. I’ve got to give my boy Donnie Baseball a little third-place love up in here! Sure, Mattingly did a great job in L.A., but it’s nothing compared to the magic that Hurdle and Johnson have twirled in Pittsburgh and Washington D.C., respectively. I probably would have given the nod to Hurdle if the Pirates had reached 81 wins. But, Johnson instead snuck in after leading the Nats to a 90-plus win season, the number one seed in the playoffs, and an NL East division title for the first time since they were…the Senators? No literally, since the only people in America were British senators. At least that’s what it seems like. Long live the Expos!
Congrats to the Atheltics Bob Melvin and Nationals Davey Johnson on winning the 3U3D Managers of the Year!
What are your thoughts on Manager of the Year? Let us know in the comments!
It’s been a season for the ages, what with three perfect games (so far), five no-hitters, Mike Trout, a four-homer game, two cycles in one week, Mike Trout, crazy trades, Chipper’s farewell, and of course, Mike Trout.
But the ultimate pinnacle of 2012 will occur around Halloween hangover time, when an official World Series champion will be crowned. Shortly thereafter, we find out who a bunch of writers think were the best hitters, pitchers, rookies and managers in baseball this season.
And we all know who the big candidates are: Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Justin Verlander, Buck Showalter, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Davey Johnson, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Trout and Mike Trout.
Did I mention Mike Trout might win every award ever created for 2012?
Here’s how I expect it to go when the final tally comes across:
American League: Trout (MVP/Rookie of the Year), Felix Hernandez (Cy Young), Showalter (Manager of the Year)
National League: McCutchen (MVP), Wade Miley (Rookie of the Year), R.A. Dickey (Cy Young), Johnson (Manager of the Year)
Womp, womp. That’s fun. But how about the dark horse candidates in each league for each of these awards? The guys like “Brendan Conlon” (Joel Edgerton) from the movie Warrior (Side bar: if you haven’t seen it, go. Leave this blog immediately and Red Box that sh*taki right now.), who are up against all odds and turn in an incredible performance to take home the hardware? Someone you would never expect to have a chance?
Here is my list of three dark horse candidates for each major award in each league for the 2012 MLB season:
Leading candidates: Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano, Paul Konerko
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles: Arguably the best story in all of baseball this season has been the resurgence of the Orioles. The catalyst in the offense is All-Star center fielder Jones. His slash line in 2012: .290/24/65/12 SB
Josh Willingham, OF, Twins: Normally I shy away from great players on losing teams (sorry, Edwin Encarnacion), but I can’t ignore what Willingham has brought to the Twins. This season: .258/31/91/.900 OPS
A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: An unlikely first place team led by an unlikely season from their catcher. Sure, Paul Konerko is pitching in, but look at the damage A.J. has inflicted on opposing pitchers: .293/23/70/.877 OPS
A.L. Cy Young:
Leading candidates: Verlander, Hernandez, Jered Weaver, Chris Sale, David Price
Jake Peavy, White Sox: He is only 9-9, but records really are out of a pitcher’s control. His peripherals are really good. And did I mention the White Sox are potentially playoff bound? Peavy’s numbers: 9-9/3.09/155/1.08
Matt Harrison, Rangers: Shame on you for not recognizing Harrison’s dominance. On one of the best teams in baseball, he’s been their most consistent starter, low strikeout numbers be damned: 15-7/3.04/101/1.22
Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees: A big free agent signing for the Yankees has been fantastic this season in maintaining some sense of sanity in the messed up world that is the Bombers’ rotation: 12-9/2.98/131/1.10
A.L. Rookie of the Year:
Leading candidates: Trout, Yu Darvish, Brett Lawrie, Will Middlebrooks, Yoenis Cespedes, Jesus Montero
Quintin Berry, OF, Tigers: Berry came up as an injury replacement and forced his way into the everyday lineup. Average, speed, a little pop and great defense? What more could you ask for? His line: .272/2/24/17 SB (in 17 tries)
Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners: Mark my words – the Mariners are really heading in the right direction. One of the offensive cornerstones they will build around is this guy. Could be a big power hitter soon: .252/15/73/.725 OPS
Tommy Milone, SP, Athletics: Untouchable at home, but has had his share of growing pains. That being said, Milone looks like he has the potential to develop into a very special starter: 10-9/3.87/112/1.19
A.L. Manager of the Year:
Leading candidates: Showalter, Robin Ventura, Ron Washington, Joe Girardi, Jim Leyland
Bob Melvin, Athletics: Maybe he should have been considered a “leading candidate.” But he manages an Oakland ball club that has to have a movie made about them to get national attention. His team is 69-57. I honestly expected 100 losses.
Joe Maddon, Rays: A contender every year it seems, Maddon might not get a ton of recognition this year because people are used to him being a great manager. But the Rays are leading the Wild Card despite losing Evan Longoria to injury for most of the season.
Eric Wedge, Mariners: Again, props where props are due, people! Wedge has turned this exceptionally young, raw M’s team into a force to be reckoned with. With such a baby-faced team, they are only 5 games under .500, 8.5 back in the Wild Card.
Leading candidates: McCutchen, Buster Posey, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Braun, David Wright, Carlos Ruiz
Angel Pagan, OF, Giants: The Braves finally figured out how to tame the wild beast that was Angel Pagan yesterday, but before that he was hitting over .500 in his previous week’s worth of games. With Melky Cabrera suspended, Pagan could steal a potential MVP award from his teammate Posey if the Giants make the playoffs: .292/7/48/21 SB
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves: Speaking of the Braves, how about the ridiculous season Heyward is having? I guess the sophomore slump is real, because J-Hey is back going Yicketty and Mammo all day in a solid third season: .278/23/68/18 (please don’t remind me he’s 7 months younger than me…it hurts)
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals: Teammates Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday are stealing the thunder in St. Louis these days, but I bet if you polled the clubhouse, Yadi would be the team MVP. If the Cards make another miracle run to the playoffs, this award could be his: .326/17/61/11 SB/.892 OPS (and we know about the defense)
N.L. Cy Young:
Leading candidates: Dickey, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, A.J. Burnett, Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel
Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals: I’m a little bit offended that Zim’s fantastic season is going under the radar. Sure he’s overshadowed by two of his own teammates, but check this line: 9-7/2.48/119/1.11
Ryan Vogelsong, Giants: Speaking of being overshadowed by two of his teammates, Vogelsong is quietly having a career year. His peripheral stats are off the charts in 2012: 11-7/2.90/122/1.19
Kyle Lohse, Cardinals: Speaking of being over…wait. You mean to tell me KYLE LOHSE has been the best pitcher for the Cardinals this year? Undoubtedly, this has been the most anonymous Cy campaign of 2012: 13-2/2.61/104/1.08
N.L. Rookie of the Year:
Leading candidates: Miley, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rizzo, Zack Cozart, Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier, Wilin Rosario
Mike Fiers, SP, Brewers: KP can attest to how incredibly good Fiers has been this year. When he shut down the Dodgers earlier this season I thought it was a fluke. His numbers in 2012 would beg to differ: 7-6/2.98/96/1.13
Norichika Aoki, OF, Brewers: Okay, maybe now I’m just sucking up to KP. Just kidding – there was no way to avoid putting Aoki on here with the type of spark he’s been for Milwaukee: .279/6/30/19 SB
Steve Lombardozzi, OF, Nationals: I went back and forth here between Lombardozzi, who has been just as good, if not better than his teammate Harper, and Colorado infielder Jordan Pacheco. Lombo gets the nod: .281/2/23/hitting leadoff for a 1st-place team
N.L. Manager of the Year:
Bud Black, Padres: “What! The Padres suck this year!” Au contraire, monsieur (for you who are Frenchly challenged, I believe that translates to YOU ARE WRONG, DUMMY)! How about 28-20 since the All-Star Break with a roster of nobodies?
Mike Matheny, Cardinals: Another guy not getting much credit for keeping his team in an extremely tough race is Matheny. He’s in his first year managing, has dealt with a plethora of injuries and the loss of Pujols. Still, the Cards are in line to win a Wild Card berth.
Terry Collins, Mets: I know the Mets are out of it, but is it still not an admirable job that Collins has done in the Big Apple? Besides David Wright and R.A. Dickey, the man has nothing to work with, yet the Mets were still a contender into mid-July.
*All statistics current as of start of play on Sunday, August 26th, 2012*
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)