Tuesday night was pretty magical for pitchers in the Major League playoffs. It was as if some stronger power had reached out and sprinkled all of them with pixie dust. Just about everyone who took the mound for the Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers or Oakland A’s was close to perfect. And sometimes being even that good didn’t get you a win.
Both the Giants (2-1 in 10 innings) and the A’s (2-0), avoided being swept three straight games in their Division Series’, living to fight another day, if only one more since both trail 2-1 in games. It was one of those nights in baseball that no matter who a manager trotted out, for six innings or one out, the hurler did his job. They always say pitching matters most in the post-season and it certainly did Tuesday. Meanwhile, with four games Wednesday we’ll probably see winning scores in double figures, just to prove all theories incorrect.
Before they began play the Reds-Giants series loomed as likely to be extremely close. The Reds quickly gained the upper hand by winning twice on the West Coast and with up to three remaining games at home. They couldn’t close it out Tuesday, but it wasn’t because of the pitching staff. Starter Homer Bailey, who threw a no-hitter in his final start of the regular season against the Pittsburgh Pirates nearly did it again.
For Bailey, his Tuesday start seemed to merely be a continuation of his Sept. 29 no-hitter. He pitched seven innings and gave up one hit, at which point Reds manager Dusty Baker pinch-hit for him. Just because the Reds have the best bullpen in baseball does not mean Baker has to use it every game. He should have left Bailey in to continue. Put it this way, if Bailey had been pitching a no-hitter again, would Baker have taken him out when he did? No. So why let one hit change strategy?
Not that the bullpen triumverate of Sean Marshall, Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Broxton did anything wrong. The Reds lost on a Ryan Hanigan passed ball and a Scott Rolen error, but I’m just saying, this was one case of too much tampering with success instead of letting a hot starter roll on.
The Giants’ bullpen was Cincinnati’s equal. Sergio Romo dominated the last two winnings for the win. Watching the thickly bearded Romo on the mound, I had a passing thought. Is this what Fidel Castro would have looked like in his prime if his curve ball really was as good as people said it was back in the 1950s?
The Giants’ Bay Area cousins shut out the Tigers after losing two straight with the same type of shut-down pitching. The A’s pieced together a four-pitcher, four-hit shutout. Brett Anderson did yeoman work for six innings, but in his one-inning stint Sean Doolittle appeared to be operating on so much adrenaline he may have been capable of launching for Mars with the rocket ship.
It’s still difficult to picture the Giants or the A’s running the table for three straight wins after going down 0-2, but in the baseball playoffs no one blinks twice when this happens.