The Stories Behind The Greatest Division Series Round Ever
Transcendent stars have shined in this postseason and will need to continue if the team you’re rooting for wants to advance to the League Championship Series. Take Thursday’s pair of decisive game fives involving Bay Area teams, for example.
You won’t find a much better pitching performance than Justin Verlander’s complete game, four-hit shutout in an elimination match in the Tigers’ 6-0 win over Oakland. The A’s had a tremendous season and constantly and consistently came from behind during September or October, but none of that “magic” or “momentum” mattered when someone like Verlander has an incredible performance in them. “This is where legends are made,” Tigers C Alex Avila said. “Tonight, he basically put us on his back and said, `We’re not going to lose.” Verlander basically agreed. ”I think it’s one of those things, I expected to go nine innings,” Verlander said. “In this situation, in a Game 5, I wanted to go all the way.”
Buster Posey knows what it feels like to take his team all the way. He did it as a rookie and has his Giants one round away from a second World Series appearance in three years. Not coincidentally, those two successful years have come when the world class catcher has been healthy. With the chance for San Francisco to put the Cincinnati Reds away in Thursday’s game five, Posey smacked a fifth inning grand slam off Mat Latos and the Giants advanced to the NLCS with a 6-4 win over the Reds.
After the Reds won the first two games out west, the Giants played three straight elimination games and won them all on the road, led by the likely National League MVP, Posey.
“That guy’s definitely the MVP of our team,” Giants closer Sergio Romo said. “We believe he’s the MVP of the league. We wouldn’t be here without him, that’s for dang sure. He’s the one that’s been the face of the team all season long. What a great story with all he’s been through last year.”
San Francisco will move on to the NLCS to face either the Nationals or Cardinals. Game four at Nationals Park was a really well pitched game, but it came down to one transcendent moment to keep the Nats alive. On the 13th pitch of Jayson Werth’s fourth at bat, he smacked a solo home run off Lance Lynn that (for now) validated his $126 million contract and gave Washington a thrilling 2-1 win.
On a 3-2 pitch that far into an at bat, it’s Werth’s bat against Lynn fastball and everyone in the stadium knew it. “Tip your cap to him. The guy can play, and he beat me,” Lynn said. ”He battled that whole at-bat, and I was making good pitches, making my pitches, and you know, he won. It was just a matter of time. I was challenging him, and he was up for it.”
Speaking of being up for the challenge, the pitching staff of the Baltimore Orioles, Washington’s Beltway buddies, have been up to the task of shutting down the offense of the mighty New York Yankees. And if not for a transcendent game three performance from Raul Ibanez, Baltimore would already have advanced to the ALCS.
In a series where runs are hard to come by, it’s the timely hitting that almost always rules the day. J.J. Hardy was 2-17 in the series when he faced David Phelps with a runner on third and one out in the 13th inning of a 1-1 game. ”We just kept telling ourselves, ‘This is not the last night of the season,’” Hardy said. Thanks to Hardy, it was not.
Hardy smashed a double off the base of the left field wall to bring home the eventual winning run, but it will take one more transcendent win for Baltimore to improbably advance to baseball’s final four. That win will have to come against Yankees ace CC Sabathia, but the Orioles have been doubted all season and all it takes is just one more win to dethrone, defeat and eliminate the mighty New York Yankees.
All these stories are just some of the big picture reasons why this year’s MLB Division Series is the best and most thrilling opening round we’ve ever seen.