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As we head to more Tuesday drama, a look back to late-night video as Dodgers are first to LCS

By Mike Harrington

Tuesday's action includes the A's trying to close out the Tigers at 5 and the Red Sox trying to do likewise to the Rays in an 8:30 start. Both games will have a long way to go to match Monday's drama, be it the near-brawl in Detroit, the near no-hitter by Michael Wacha in Pittsburgh or the Jose Lobaton walkoff homer in Tampa.

The craziest finish came at 1 a.m. as the Los Angeles Dodgers are in the NLCS after last night's dramatic 4-3 win over the Atlanta Braves. Juan Uribe's two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth was the difference -- while Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez sat by idly and didn't get closer Craig Kimbrel into the game. 

There would have been a day off before Game Five. Your ace closer can't get you a five- or six-out save? Think about that all winter, Fredi. Just plain Terrible.

Here's the video of the home run (I'm told the radio call of the great Vin Scully was beautifully punctuated by the question, "Isn't it amazing what somebody will do when he can't bunt?" Classic.)

Yanks in trouble, Phils hit surprising bump

Quick hits on the division series:

---Remember when I said that Game One suspension hurt the Tigers? Never mind. The Tigers survived the Bronx downpours for a huge 5-3 win in Game Two. And ponder this one: If Justin Verlander beats CC Sabathia tonight at 8:30 -- which I think he will do -- the Yankees' season will rest of the shabby, erratic arm of A.J. Burnett. Yeesh. Advantage, Tigers.

---Seemed like we should have just been able to cue up that Phillies-Brewers NLCS. The Diamondbacks and Cardinals have been outclassed. At least that's what I was thinking when the Phillies had a 4-0 lead last night and were heading to a 2-0 series lead of their own. And then Cliff Lee blew the lead and the Cardinals came back to win, 5-4. I still think the Phillies win the series but it's a lot dicier now with the next two in St. Loo.

---No clue about the Rays and Rangers. Texas' 8-6 win Saturday broke the six-game losing streak home teams had in the division series between these clubs the last two years in the ALDS. Let's see what happens in today's key swing game with the series at 1-1.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

The postseason begins: Make your picks

While the Red Sox are going through the process of not renewing Terry Francona's contract today (e.g. he's getting fired), the real focus of the baseball world is the start of the postseason. The American League division series opens on two fronts with the Rays and Rangers meeting in Texas and the Yankees and Tigers meeting in the Bronx. That's Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia and that's must-see TV.

Right from the top, I'll put this out there: I got the Tigers and the Phillies in the World Series and I'm taking the Phillies in six. Sorry, Yankees fans. If Sabathia doesn't win tonight, I think it's possible the Tigers sweep the Bombers in three. And wouldn't that make for an interesting offseason. Remember, all division series games are on TBS.

So here's some quick analysis off the cuff. Hey, I gotta do Sunday's Inside Baseball column on the collapse of the Sox and Braves and I'm still working hockey previews too. Some multi-tasking. I give you some polls at the bottom too. Be sure and vote!

Tigers vs. Yankees -- I know all about the Bombers' offense but you have to like the Tigers' combination of Verlander, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer. You have to love closer Jose Valverde. Miguel Cabrera should get plenty of MVP looks. As for the Yankees, can you really count on Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia in this spot? Seriously? And does A-Rod show up in this series or bat eighth like he did in when he was humiliated in Game Four in Detroit in 2006. Tigers in four. 

Rays vs. Rangers -- I'm tempted, very/very tempted, to pick the Rays to go to the World Series. Maybe I should. Now that they're actually in the postseason, they have the best starting pitching in the AL. I think they get through this series and avenge last year's division series loss but you wonder how much energy they have left after that crazy September. Rays in five.

Cardinals vs. Phillies -- I don't think a lot of analysis is needed. The Phillies' losing streak near the end of the season was rooted in injuries and boredom after clinching the division title. They're ready. Halladay-Lee-Hamels-Oswalt with Worley in the bullpen. Do they need a bullpen? This is one of Tony LaRussa's better managing jobs but this is a case of thanks for playing and please drive home safely. Phillies in three.

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers -- Who had this matchup in March? Thought so.  In Kirk Gibson and Ron Roenicke, you have your two main candidates for NL manager of the year. Think the Yankees wish 20-game winner Ian Kennedy had found his game when he was with them until waiting to getting to Arizona?  The Dbacks are a great story but the Brewers have the motivation of Prince Fielder's last season. They have an MVP in Ryan Braun, a great rotation, a supreme closer in former Canisius College pitcher John Axford. I think Brewers-Phillies could be a fabulous NLCS. Can't wait. Brewers in four.

Now you vote.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

World Series: You make the call

Division Series impressions

Apologies for some of the silence on ye olde IP blog. That Sabres preview section took lots of time and energy but that doesn't mean we haven't been watching the Division Series and preparing for our annual pilgrimage to the World Series.

Here's a few of my thoughts in no real order:

---I stand by my March choice of Phillies over Yankees. They're both prohibitive favorites now after quick sweeps. Their pitching is all set for the LCS as they can run Halladay/Oswalt/Hamels and Sabathia/Pettitte/Hughes, respectively. Now, of course, they move to best-of-seven and you really can't go with just three starters. The Yankees have already announced today that they will in fact use A.J. Burnett in Game Four. Oh boy. They're going to be playing simulated games Tuesday and Wednesday so they don't get overly rusty. But six days off is a loooooooong time at this point.

---Poor Brooks Conrad. Has anyone had that many yips in the field in a playoff game as the Braves second baseman did last night? Even Bill Buckner only butchered one ball, not three! The Braves are sitting him out tonight in Game Four, putting Omar Infante at second and Troy Glaus at third. They had no choice.

---What's up with the Rays and Rangers? No five-game series has ever seen the road team win all five games so that's in the Rays favor for the deciding game Tuesday night in St. Pete. The Yankees have to love this series. Now Cliff Lee or David Price is out of the ALCS until Game Three and certainly can't go three times in seven games.

---The Giants need to win tonight. Forget about beating the Phillies in the NLCS if they have to use Tim Lincecum in Game Five against Atlanta. They'll be in the same spot the Rays and Rangers find themselves in.

---Why did the Reds even bother? If that was the National League's best offense, that doesn't say much for the NL. Between the Halladay no-hitter, the Hamels shutout and Jay Bruce's butcher job in the lights, it was a quick exit after 15 years out of the postseason. Dusty Baker sure goes down hard in October (think 2002 Angels and 2003 Cubs). Even the Twins played the Yankees tough for two games. But they're equally pathetic in October.

Memo to White Sox, Cardinals, Astros and even sad-sacks like the Indians, Royals and Pirates: You're not that far away in these divisions. If the Twins and Reds are the gold standard, you can jump up quick. 

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

MLB's final day: Rays in charge of AL East, potential tiebreaker chaos looms in NL

The MLB regular season winds down today (maybe -- more on that in a second) and you needed to stay up until 1:22 this morning to be fully versed on what was at stake in today's games. That's the time the Red Sox wrapped up a 7-6, 10-inning win over the Yankees in the second game of a day-nighter that stretched nine hours and featured the teams splitting 10-inning decisions.

Meanwhile, the Rays posted a 4-0 win at Kansas City. So that means the Rays and Yankees are both 95-66 heading into today's finales (the Yankees are at Boston at 1:35 on YES while the Rays are at KC at 2:10). Tampa has the tiebreaker edge so a Rays win wraps up the AL East and sends the Yankees on to Minnesota as the wildcard for the division series. The Yankees can only win the division with a victory in Boston and a Tampa loss. Dustin Moseley -- yes, Dustin Moseley -- will start for the Yankees today.

There is no one-game playoff, remember, because both teams have already qualified. In that case, Tampa's 10-8 regular-season edge is used as the tiebreaker. That's not going to be the case in the National League as we could be looking at the first three-team, two-day tiebreaker in history.

If the Padres win today at San Francisco for the third straight day and the Braves beat the Phillies, we would have three teams (Atlanta, San Diego and San Francisco) tied at 91-71. So what would happen? The Padres and Giants would play for the NL West crown Monday in San Diego with the loser going to Atlanta Tuesday to determine the wildcard. Oddly enough, it might behoove the Phillies to lose today to potentially force the three-teamer and make all of their potential NL opponents run through some pitching before the division series starts.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Drama in Denver caps division series

Phils Pretty amazing game Monday night in Denver to draw the Division Series round to a close. The Phillies showed why they're the defending champions by rallying for three runs in the top of the ninth -- after giving up three runs in the bottom of the eighth -- and held on for a 5-4 win over the Rockies to close the series in four games.

So we had three sweeps and one four-gamer in the first round but each series had at least one fantastic finish and the Phils-Rox had a double dose of drama once they hit frigid Denver. A big story in the opening round was the failure of closers. Jonathan Papelbon, Huston Street, Joe Nathan and Ryan Franklin all flamed out when their teams needed them most. Makes you appreciate Mariano Rivera come October even more.

We'll have plenty more later in the week on the LCS (Phils-Dodgers opens Thursday in LA and I'll be on hand for Yankees-Angels I and II Friday and Saturday in the Bronx). But for now, give a quick look back to the ALDS and NLDS with a vote in our poll below.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

(Photo: Associated Press)

Diamond musings from The Ralph

It's a sunny but chilly day at Ralph Wilson Stadium as I get set for our Bills Live chat at noon. I'm told it's about the same in Fenway Park as the Red Sox and Angels get set for Game Three of the ALDS shortly after noon. You wonder if this is the day the Angels finally end their long playoff hex against Boston. So far, the Sox have done nothing at the plate. And they have to put all their faith today in Clay Buchholz.

The Yankees are 9-0 against the Twins this year.And today they face Carl Pavano. This series should be over tonight. I'll be on hand Friday night in the Bronx and I'm expecting to see Game One of Yankees-Angels.

Umpire Phil Cuzzi tells the Newark-Star Ledger "there is no excuse" for his blown call in the 11th inning Friday. Sure isn't. What else is he doing out there but watching that line? May as well scrap the two OF umps in the postseason and just go to replay.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the Yankees were so frustrated by Joba Chamberlain that they nearly sent him to Scranton in August, and that Chad Gaudin will almost certainly start in the ALCS while Joba will stay in the bullpen.

Hello, Cardinals? The playoffs started. You might have wanted to show up. No home runs by Albert Pujols since Sept. 9. An end-of-season slumber that never ended when the postseason started. The Dodgers pulled off just the third sweep ever against St. Louis. The others were in the World Series in 1928 (Yankees) and 2004 (Red Sox).

After yesterday's snowout, the weather is expected to be warmer today in Denver for the Phillies and Rockies. Philly has gone back to J.A. Happ and scratched Pedro Martinez. That means Cliff Lee can go in Game Four.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Late night in NL, great night for Yankees

It was nearly 1:30 a.m. today before the Dodgers finally wrapped up their Game One victory over the Cardinals in the NLDS, a 5-3 victory that set a division series record for a nine-inning game by lasting 3 hours, 54 minutes. The main reason? The teams combined to leave 30 men on base, a record for any nine-inning postseason affair. The Dodgers stranded 16, including the bases loaded three times.

Stunningly, history says the Cardinals are in trouble. Teams losing the opener of an NLDS are just 3-25 in their series (the losers in the ALDS opener are 14-14). The three that came back to win the opening round all went to the World Series -- the '99 Braves, '00 Mets and '03 Marlins.

The biggest story from the opening day of play, of course, was the fact that A-Rod quickly snapped out of his postseason funk with two hits in the Yankees' win over the Twins. Big elephant in the room that's now been shooed away. Great job backing up his bucks by CC Sabathia as well.

---Mike Harrington

(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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