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Late night at the NLCS -- At nearly 1 a.m., Beltran gives Cardinals a 13-inning victory in opener

By Mike Harrington

If you didn't stay up until almost 1 a.m. ET, you missed a classic opener to the NLCS as the Cardinals beat the Dodgers, 3-2, on Carlos Beltran's RBI single to right in the bottom of the 13th. 

The only two NLCS games that went longer were two epic Mets games -- the 16-inning clincher at Houston in 1986 and the famous Robin Ventura "grand slam single" victory of 1999 in Game Five against Atlanta. It took 4 hours, 47 minutes to play.

Said Cards shortstop Pete Kozma: "It was a good team win. A good team Carlos win today."

He's not kidding. The guy did it all.

Neither team had scored since the third, when the Dodgers went ahead on Juan Uribe's two-run single and Beltran tied the game with a two-run double. Beltran kept things tied in the 10th with a perfect one-hop throw to nail Mark Ellis at home and finally won it in the 13th off Kerwin Danley.

Beltran has nine RBIs in October and continues to affix his reputation as one of the greatest October players of our generation (apologies to Mets fans still bemoaning that called third strike in 2006).

Click below to see all of Beltran's heroics from Friday night/early this morning.

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.)

Pick your bizarro LCS winners

Tigers-Rangers and Cardinals-Brewers. Did you have that LCS combo in March? Heck, did you have it two weeks ago? This has become one bizarro October.

The Red Sox and Braves, who looked solid all summer, went bellyup before we even got out of September. The Cinderella Rays were gonzo. Then the Yankees went down -- and you'll note I picked that one. But the biggest shocker of all was the Phillies losing to St. Louis.

They were the best team in baseball all year but their offense failed them. That eight-game losing streak after they clinched the NL East was, in fact, a bad omen. And Cliff Lee blowing a 4-0 lead in Game Two when they were in complete control of the NLDS was another major issue.

Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer correctly says this is the lowest point for the Phillies since they won the World Series in 2008. And it appears Ryan Howard may have a torn Achilles tendon after making the last out.

So while the Phillies and Yankees try to figure out what's next (Cheap plug: Read more on the Yankees in Sunday's Inside Baseball column),  the final four play on. The ALCS opens tonight in Texas with the NLCS opening Sunday in Milwaukee. Here's my thoughts:

Tigers vs. Rangers -- Big loss for the Tigers came out today with Delmon Young being taken off the roster with a strained oblique. He's been huge since he was acquired at the trade deadline. Still, I like the roll this team is on.  I like Justin Verlander in Game One and potentially going three times.  Doug Fister and Max Scherzer provide great help in the rotation and the bullpen has been solid led by Jose Valverde. The Rangers looked terrific against the Rays, like they completely expect to go back to the World Series. Think the Red Sox still wish they had Adrian Beltre? FOX may wish this was Yankees-Red Sox but they will still get a great series. Tigers in seven.

Cardinals vs. Brewers -- All the momentum in the world has me wanting to pick the Cardinals but I have questions about their rotation after Chris Carpenter. The Brewers, meanwhile, are just about unbeatable at Miller Park. Great offense,  great bullpen,  solid rotation. Plus they know this is their one chance with Prince Fielder having one foot out of the door en route to free agency. Prince and old man Cecil have long been estranged so it will be interesting to see how he deals with all the questions about his father if he meets the Tigers, Cecil's old team, in a World Series. The Cardinals have been a great story but the road ends here. Brewers in five.

Now you make your picks.

---Mike Harrington

World Series: You make the call

Around the horn: Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays

It's all over for the Yankees, who were lucky they weren't swept in the ALCS by the Rangers and were finally put away with Friday night's 6-1 Texas victory in Game Six.  New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said it actually felt like a six-game sweep. 

Cheap plug alert: Be sure to look for Sunday's Inside Baseball column for my thoughts on Joe Girardi. And be sure to keep tuned in to the blog starting Tuesday with my reports from the World Series.  Of course, I have no idea where I will be because the NLCS is still not decided. Game Six is tonight in Philly with Roy Oswalt looking to get the Phillies even with the Giants. And if he does that, I'm thinking Philly completes the comeback.

On the managerial front, the Blue Jays are apparently close to naming Red Sox pitching coach and former Bisons pitcher John Farrell as their new manager. Great choice to work with all their young hurlers. From my dealings with Farrell as the Indians' farm director from 2001-2006, he has a keen eye for talent and how to connect with players. I always thought he had GM stock but he wanted to get back on the field and joined Terry Francona's staff in 2007, promptly winning a World Series.

Might be a chance for old friend Torey Lovullo to get a big-league job as well. You would think Farrell would consider him for the Toronto staff from their days with Cleveland.

---Mike Harrington

It's time for the LCS picks: Yankees and Phillies

Go all the way back to our season preview section in March and you know how I'm going to pick both versions of the League Championship Series. I picked the World Series as a "reverse of 2009" and I'm staying with that. That means I got the Yankees over the Rangers (I'm going to say six games) and the Phillies over the Giants (I'll say in five). Here's how I see it shaping up:

ALCS: Yes, the Yankees have lots of question marks on the mound, headlined by Game Four starter A.J. Burnett and the middle relief. But CC Sabathia is an ace, Game Two starter Phil Hughes has been unbeatable in Arlington and Andy Pettitte is simply the winningest pitcher in postseason history. The offense continues to be strong and I think they'll really benefit from their quick division series win. Whereas a lot of rest isn't normally a good thing, this Yankees team has been pretty beat up all season. Guys like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner really needed some down time and should be in better shape now.

The Rangers, of course, are riding their hopes on Cliff Lee but the Yankees will only have to worry about him in Game Three. Unless it goes to Seven. That's the issue. The Yankees cannot let this one get to Game Seven, where Lee would be waiting again. It was a huge boost for the Yankees' hopes that the Rangers blew their two home games against Tampa Bay and had to go back to the Trop for Game Five. You have to love C.J. Wilson's transformation from bullpen to starter and the Rangers have feel-good stories like manager Ron Washington and veteran Michael Young but they're no match at the plate. Nor are they a match for Mariano Rivera in October.

NLCS: The only team in the NL that can approach the Phillies' big three of Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels is the Giants. Will any pitching matchup in recent time have more hype than the Game One showdown of Halladay and Tim Lincecum? Must-see TV. The Phillies are on a mission to become the first NL team since the 1940s to get to the World Series three straight times. I just don't see any way they're stopped now. They've won 30 of their last 38 games and seem to be far and away the best team remaining in the postseason. I'm thinking the World Series doesn't go past five games no matter which AL team they would play.

Pretty amazing Philly lineup now that it's healthy. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard were all out for spells and that really accounted for the Braves' division lead that stretched into August. I can't really get excited about a Giants lineup featuring the likes of a journeyman like Aubrey Huff. Great closer matchup between Brad Lidge, who looks like vintage 2008 again, and Brian Wilson. I'm not expecting a lot of blown leads late.

So those are my picks. Be sure to make yours in our polls below.

---Mike Harrington


Halfway to I-95 Series: Phillies in, Yankees got next in ALCS

Philly front The Phillies are back in the World Series, going back-to-back for the first time in their history by bouncing the Dodgers from the NLCS with Wednesday's 10-4 victory. They're just the fifth NL club in the divisional era to repeat and they'll be trying to match the Big Red Machine of the 70s with back-to-back World Series titles.

(At left, the cover of the Philly Daily News shows Brad Lidge and Carlos Ruiz after the final out)

What a battle of the titans we could have as Ryan Howard is just as hot this October as Alex Rodriguez. Ah, but the reborn-in-October A-Rod isn't there yet as the Yankees need one more win to make our I-95/Amtrak Series official. That could come tonight in Anaheim. It's been five years since the Yankees have been this close and we all remember what happened in 2004. So they want to get the job done at the first chance they have with A.J. Burnett on the mound.

Of course, if the Yankees win, we have to wait until Wednesday night for the thing to crank up because of this goofy, drawn-out schedule that Bud Selig & Co. allowed Fox to foist upon us. Hope we don't see any snowflakes along I-95. I'll be on hand for all the chatter and all the games, beginning with Tuesday's workout/media day.

On another note, our long national nightmare is over and we no longer have to deal with TBS in the postseason. That means Chip Carey is silenced. Mercy on all of us. Hopefully next year, the domos there get a real play-by-play man who knows what he's doing and don't kow-tow to family history. Pretty bad when you're breathing easier because you know Fox is doing the rest of the games.

---Mike Harrington


The LCS picks: Mine and yours

Pretty hard to believe it's been five years since the Yankees have gone to the ALCS but that's the fact: They haven't been there since that historic choke to the Red Sox in 2004. They open Friday night in the House that Jeter Built against the Angels in what should be a fascinating series. The Yanks have power at the plate and power on the mound, the Halos have speed on the bases and heavy hearts as they play for the memory of late pitcher Nick Adenhart. Manager Mike Scioscia won a World Series in 2002 and has been a playoff regular; Joe Girardi is in his first run as a postseason skipper.

I think the series comes down to two things: The Yankees' offense and Mariano Rivera. Both teams have quality starting pitching that bears some question marks. But the Yankees have too many big bats. And Los Angeles closer Brian Fuentes tends to put a lot of men on base, a dangerous way to work against the Yankees lineup. Rivera, on the other hand, is an ageless wonder still in shutdown mode. Look at all the closer blowups in the division series. He had nary a trouble spot. I think there's going to be at least one cream-pie rally off Fuentes. My pick is Yankees in six.

In the NLCS, the Dodgers were challenged only in Game Two by the slumping Cardinals so their rotation is set for their rematch with the Phillies. Joe Torre & Co. has revenge on its mind from last year's five-game defeat but I'm not expecting this one to go much better. Manny Ramirez has been relatively quiet with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier the big bats to watch. The Phillies, meanwhile, have that amazing middle of the order and terrific starting pitching. The bullpen is certainly iffy but if Brad Lidge pitches as he did against the Rockies, it will feel like 2008 for him again and not the nightmare that's been most of '09. The rematch is a repeat. I'm going with the Phillies in five.

So I'm going with the Yankees and Phillies in an Amtrak series. Maybe you'll take the Angels and Dodgers in a Freeway Series. Make your selections below and feel free to chat up the LCS. I'll be in New York for all games at Yankee Stadium in this round so follow our coverage in the blog, online and in the print editions.

---Mike Harrington


No late nights on LCS schedule

Bud Selig promised some better times in this year's postseason schedule and at least MLB has delivered for the League Championship Series even though all these off days should be cut way back. According to the schedule announced late Tuesday afternoon, no LCS game starts later than 8:07 Eastern time except for a potential Game Seven of the ALCS. That would go Oct. 25 at 8:20.

It should be more of the same for the World Series. As announced last winter, at least five of the seven games are expected to start at 7:57.

The Phillies-Dodgers series is on TBS and will actually be two games old before the Yankees-Angels set gets under way Friday on Fox.

For all you Yankee fans out there, here's the ALCS rundown:
Game 1, Friday, Oct 16 in New York, 7:57
Game 2, Saturday, Oct. 17 in New York, 7:57
Game 3, Monday, Oct. 19 in Anaheim, 4:13
Game 4, Tuesday, Oct. 20 in Anaheim, 7:57
Game 5, Thursday, Oct. 22 in Anaheim, 7:57
Game 6, Saturday, Oct. 24 in New York, 4:13 or 8:07 (if NLCS is over)
Game 7, Sunday, Oct. 25 in New York, 8:20

Here's the NLCS schedule:
Game 1, Thursday, Oct. 15 in Los Angeles, 8:07
Game 2, Friday, Oct. 16, in Los Angeles, 4:07
Game 3, Sunday, Oct. 18 in Philadelphia, 8:07
Game 4, Monday Oct. 19 in Philadelphia, 8:07
Game 5, Wenesday, Oct. 21 in Philadelphia, 8:07
Game 6, Friday, Oct. 23 in Los Angeles, 8:07
Game 7, Saturday, Oct. 24 in Los Angeles, 8:07

---Mike Harrington


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


(Photo: Associated Press)

It's postseason time: Who wins it all?

The playoffs begin at today at 2:30 with Game One of the Rockies-Phillies series. Be sure to check our complete preview in today's paper and vote in our polls for the ALDS and NLDS. But as we head toward the first pitch of the postseason, give us a preliminary thought on who is going to win it all.

The Yankees getting No. 27? The Red Sox cementing team of the decade with their third title in six years? The Cardinals, Angels or Phillies tying Boston with their second of the decade? The upstart Rockies? The Dodgers' first crown since 1988, further adding to the legend of Joe Torre?

Make your pick. Even leave a comment or two on where you think Inside Pitch is going to be for the Fall Classic

---Mike Harrington


Philadelphia fever

Phils_champWonder how all you Mets fans feel now that the Phillies are going to the World Series? Bet that one hurts. We haven't seen the Phighting Phils in the Fall Classic since Joe Carter's home run off Mitch Williams cleared the wall in 1993 but they're headed to either Tampa Bay or Boston -- probably Tampa, right? -- after Wednesday's decisive 5-1 win over the Dodgers.

As championship-starved cities go, there's Cleveland and Buffalo ahead of the crowd. But the most prominent one might be Philadelphia, which hasn't had a championship parade down Broad Street since the 76ers won the NBA crown in 1983. The Phillies lost the Series in '83 and '93, the Flyers lost the Stanley Cup finals to Detroit in 1997 and the Sixers were dropped in the NBA finals by the Lakers in 2001.

You have to be impressed with the Phils. Cole Hamels looks like 2008's answer to Josh Beckett, circa 2007. Jimmy Rollins hit another leadoff home run in a clinching game. Chase Utley and Shane Victorino are terrific players who are finally getting some national pub (Victorino, by the way, is one of just two visiting players to homer from both sides of the plate in a game at Dunn Tire Park -- doing it with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2005). Brad Lidge has been perfect and gets a chance to make up for his dreadful '05 performance with the Astros. Ryan Howard is, well, Ryan Howard but it would be nice if he started hitting again. And Charlie Manuel is a prince of a guy.

For more than a month, the Phillies have been the most consistent team in the NL. The Dodgers might have hit the NLCS as the hottest team but their starting pitching didn't hold up and their offense was too Manny-centric. Come next week, I'm looking forward to that cheesesteak.

---Mike Harrington

(AP Photo: Brad Lidge, front, and Scott Eyre pop their corks over the Phillies' title)

Sox keep getting burned

I'm ready to call a Rays-Phillies World Series right now (OK, that's hardly going out on a limb) but the Red Sox are unequivocally 100 percent toast. Yeah, yeah, I know what they did in '04 against the Yankees and '07 against the Tribe -- I was there for every game. But their lineup is a shell of what it once was, key guys are slumping and the starting pitching is a mess.

And here's maybe the worst part: The famed CITGO sign behind the left-field wall at Fenway got a little scorched this morning by a small fire. Talk about things going against you.

The Rays, meanwhile, are opening up all the obstructed views at Tropicana Field for any more potential ALCS games and the World Series. That's about 5,800 more seats but most have limited views because of the catwalks hanging from the ceiling.

As for the Dodgers? They might win Game Five tonight. But sweeping two more in Philly? Nope.

---Mike Harrington

Rays keep surprising everyone

We know FOX wants Red Sox-Dodgers. But we're now halfway to Rays-Phillies for the World Series, which would still be full of compelling stories. Just wondering: How much could you have gotten for that matchup in Las Vegas in March? Not that I ever bet but wow.

Even though they lost Game Two, you expected the Red Sox to go home to Fenway and take care of business, especially with Jon Lester on the mound. It certainly didn't happen Monday as the Rays rolled to a 9-1 win that has to have New England in a state of near-hysteria. Lester gets shelled, Josh Beckett is a huge question mark and the Sox have to rely on knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to get them through Game Four.

I know they were down, 3-1, to the Indians last year but the Sox would have to close things out in Games Six and Seven in Tampa if it gets to that point and not at cozy Fenway. They're in trouble.

HUGE game tonight for the Phillies and Dodgers. Two quick runs for the Phils in the first tonight off Derek Lowe. Let's see how Manny & Co. respond.

---Mike Harrington

It's picks time for ALCS and NLCS

I wont gloat much over my division series picks (OK, just a little. I was 3 for 4, missing only the Red Sox over the Angels. Those of you who criticized the Dodgers over the Cubs were thinking too much with the pixie dust that's all over Chicago too often).

Now it's time to move on to the ALCS and NLCS. Sully has his say in Thursday's paper and he seems to be leaning to a Manny Ramirez reunion at Fenway with the Dodgers meeting the Red Sox.

Am I really going to agree with Sully on this one? Absolutely. While I love the Rays and really think they can beat the Sox -- and it could easily be a seven-game series with the home team winning every game -- I think Boston's experience proves to be the difference. As for the NLCS, I just think the Dodgers are the hot team with the better pitching, better manager and the more versatile lineup. The Phillies are a little too much of home run-or-bust for my taste this time of year.

I've got the Red Sox in six and the Dodgers in five. Make your picks and leave your thoughts in the comments section.

---Mike Harrington


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 |

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 |