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The League Division Series round of the playoffs kicked off on Saturday, and while both games were exciting, thankfully there was a little less controversy than there was the previous day.
Now that the Rangers have been eliminated from the playoffs, I'm left only rooting against two teams: the Tigers and the Yankees. The Yankees should be self-explanatory, as they're an easy team to hate and I'd much rather root for the feel-good Orioles than the Yanks. As for the Tigers, I don't really have anything against them -- outside the fact that they got in the playoffs despite being a worse team than the Rays -- but they're playing the Athletics and I'm seriously pulling for them. As many of the commenters here have noted, how can you not root for a team that has both Jonny Gomes and Grant Balfour on it? They're just too darn like-able.
Sadly, things didn't get off to a great start for the Athletics in the ALDS. Jarrod Parker pitched well, but when facing Justin Verlander, you have to be better than merely "above average." Verlander shut down the A's and only allowed three hits through seven innings (although he did walk four), and he was painting the corners so perfectly that the A's hitters were grousing about the strike zone.*
*To be fair, the umpires were calling quite the large zone last night, but Parker benefited from that too.
In the end, the Tigers pushed across three runs against Parker, while the A's could only get one run against Verlander. Both bullpens were fantastic -- including Pat Neshek, who was pitching for the first time since the death of his son -- and the Tigers ended with the W.
In the Reds-Giants series, things were a little more interesting. Cincinnati starter, Johnny Cueto, left after a mere eight pitches due to back spasms, so the Reds' bullpen was forced to pick up the slack for the remaining 8.2 innings. This would seemingly have given the Giants a huge advantage, but not so; Matt Cain showed his human side and allowed two homers through five innings, and was then lifted for a pinch hitter.
The Giants ended up losing 5-2, but since Cain only threw 75 pitches, it's possible he could return to start Game 4.
- There was a ton of discussion yesterday about the weird Infield Fly Rule call from the Cardinals-Braves game, with people coming down on both sides of the debate. Harold Reynolds had a very reasoned take on the call, but I think I have to side with Tango on this one. This wasn't how the infield fly rule was supposed to be used, even if that's how the rule has been called in recent years. Something in how the rule is worded and/or enforced should change.
- Regardless of how you feel about the play, check out Justin Bopp's visual diagram of the play over at Beyond the Boxscore. As always, Bopp's graphics are so much fun.
- Terry Francona has been named the new manager of the Indians. Somehow,this feels right.