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October 17, 2007

Prospectus Today

October Tedium

by Joe Sheehan

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Hey, another postseason game without a lead change. How exciting.

We've played just shy of the first two rounds of playoffs in one game over the minimum, and the Red Sox and Indians will push that number to plus two Thursday night in Cleveland. This would be a great figure walking up the fairway at 18-I'm usually happy if that's my number walking up the fairway at two-but for a baseball postseason, it stinks. The various series haven't been well-contested, with four sweeps, and no deciding games at the end of a full slate of five (or seven). The games themselves have largely been nondescript, with few great moments-Manny Ramirez's walk-off homer in the ALDS and Matt Holliday's three-run homer Monday night are the ones that stand out-and almost none of the tactical intrigue we've come to expect from the postseason. I'm as big a baseball fan as exists, and I'm ready to declare the 2007 postseason a dud.

Last night's game didn't add much to the mix. Both Paul Byrd and Tim Wakefield pitched well, better than I expected, and both ran into trouble right around the same time. Wakefield allowed a solo homer in the fifth, followed by a single and a hit batsman. Given his lack of work of late, you could have argued for a quick hook, but consider what followed-back-to-back double-play balls on which double plays just weren't turned. Grady Sizemore hit a grounder to second, but softly enough that a player with his speed couldn't be doubled up. Then Asdrubal Cabrera poked a ball to the left of the mound that also could have led to two, but Wakefield got only enough glove on it to deflect it to the dead zone behind the mound, creating an infield single.

What happened between those ground balls also had an impact. Cabrera fouled a ball down along the stands down the right-field line. Kevin Youkilis got a glove on it-it hit right in his mitt-but couldn't hold on. At the time, the drop looked like it saved a run, as Franklin Gutierrez would have tagged and scored, but the out would have been valuable, and in retrospect, critical.

Wakefield struck out Travis Hafner with two on and one out, for what was arguably the fifth out of the inning. The scoreboard read, "2," though, so he pitched to Victor Martinez, who lined a single into the hole between third and short that plated another run, and chased the knuckleballer. Manny Delcarmen in, baseball out, 6-0 Indians. They played four more innings, but the game was over at that point, despite three straight sixth-inning homers by Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez.

For all the world, the game resembled Game Four of the NLCS-a rally filled with dinks and dunks, extended by a misplay by the first baseman, with a three-run home run that gave the home team six runs in the frame. Oh, and some innings afterward to fill out the linescore.

The Indians, down a set and a couple of games Saturday evening, now find themselves up 3-1 with their best pitcher headed to the mound, and just one reliever, Rafael Betancourt, who might have to be held back a bit (he's thrown back-to-back days, and even with the day off, may need a break, or a short leash). C.C. Sabathia has yet to pitch well this postseason in two starts, while Josh Beckett has been dominant twice, so even down 3-1 the Red Sox aren't in terrible shape.

As baseball fans, we should all hope so, anyway. We need a Game Six, and even a Game Seven, to rescue this October.

---

Errata: It's been a lousy week for facts here at "Prospectus Today," and all I can do is work to be better, every single day. Thanks to those of you who wrote in to remind me that the 1976 Cincinnati Reds also blew through the postseason at 7-0. I thought they had, but my scan of the postseason results prior to posting the piece missed them.

It's very frustrating to make mistakes like that. I can't even give you a good "the sun was in my eyes" or "the dog ate my homework" story. I just whiffed. Keep reading, and I'll keep improving.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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Playoff Prospectus: AL... (10/17)
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