There’s been a lot of talk about narratives lately, mostly concerning the Yankees and identifying reasons for their struggles. By comparison, the National League Championship Series seemed almost boring. Here you had two good teams playing for a chance to win their second world title in a two- or three-year span—nothing exciting about that whatsoever. In Monday night’s Game Two, the series-defining narrative arrived.
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The league's two best offenses face each other. Are they the league's two best organizations, too?
The two most recent World Series champions face each other for the chance to throw a second parade. Considering the Phillies’ decline to an aging, expensive .500 team this year, one might argue that the Giants and Cardinals are the league’s two best organizations: The Cardinals have won 89 games per year (and a World Series) over the past four seasons, and the Giants have won 90 per year (and a World Series). In a postseason that has been dominated by pitching, expect these seven games to produce plenty of offense.
One month ago, R.J. was bullish on Ryan Vogelsong, and he wasn't alone. What about now?
Analysis, like comedy, is about timing. I wrote a flattering profile on Ryan Vogelsong’s pitching, in mid-August, praising his command, feel, and confidence. The key statistic was Vogelsong’s 22 consecutive starts without an outing shorter than six innings.
On the night of the piece’s publication, Vogelsong allowed eight runs and failed to complete the third inning, ending his streak. The bad outing appeared to be a hiccup in an otherwise tranquil season, but the problem is that hiccups often come in spurts. Vogelsong took the mound a few days later. He threw 96 pitches over three innings before his removal. One quality start later, Vogelsong appeared to be back on track. Except he then went and allowed three home runs. Over his three most recent starts, including Sunday, Vogelsong has allowed 17 runs in 11 2/3 innings. Hiccup.
How much did Melky Cabrera's suspension affect San Francisco's odds of appearing in October?
When news of Melky Cabrera’s 50-game suspension for taking testosterone broke this afternoon, the Giants had 45 games remaining, were tied with the Dodgers atop the NL West, and were half a game worse than the Braves and Pirates, the two teams tentatively holding the two NL Wild Cards. Shortly after that, they lost to the Nationals, 6-4, but let’s pretend that never happened. (Who knows, maybe with Melky they would have won.) This morning, with Melky, the Giants had a 60.5 percent chance of making the playoffs: 53.2 percent from winning the division, and 7.3 percent from winning a Wild Card. How much did losing Melky for the rest of the regular season affect their odds?
The Dodgers have spiraled out of control since late May, and with seemingly no plan for offense, it's a three-team race in the wild West.
Do you realize how bad the National League West has been since May 27? This is an arbitrary date reflecting my desire to cast the division in its worst possible light, so probably not. But consider what the standings looked like at the start of that day:
The Thursday Takeaway
Sixteen days ago, Matt Cain found his way into the Giants’ record books by throwing the first perfect game in team history. Now, his four rotation colleagues—Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner—have joined him by spearheading the team’s first-ever of run four consecutive shutouts.
The Giants’ 5-0 victory over the Reds last night marked their seventh win in 10 games, and it came on the heels of a three-game blanking of the rival Dodgers that left the teams tied atop the division. Combined with the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the Mets on Thursday, it put San Francisco alone atop the NL West for the first time this season.
After completing a three-game sweep of the Nationals in D.C., the Yankees are starting to look like the real Bronx Bombers.
The Weekend Takeaway
The Yankees and Nationals both came into this weekend’s series at Nationals Park on six-game winning streaks. But after Danny Espinosa grounded out to end Sunday’s finale, New York was on cloud nine and Washington was three in the hole.
Though the Dodgers have one more win than the Yankees and four more than the Nationals, by most measures, the teams that squared off in the nation’s capital this past weekend were the two best in baseball right now. After a month and a half of lurking in the background and struggling to find a rhythm, Joe Girardi’s squad has resoundingly announced its presence with the recent surge.