Wasn’t last night a perfect example of everything Joe Girardi said about the Yankees after their division series loss? Over and over again, Girardi said that one big hit — or even a couple of sacrifice flies — could have made all the difference. He was right, and last night’s ninth-inning rally proved it.
A couple of singles, some good base-running and a pair of sacrifice flies sent the Rangers back to Texas with the series even. If the Yankees had an inning like that in any of those three close loses, they might have advanced. It really was that close.
Good point by my friend Sweeny Murti about just how even these playoffs have been. Texas might have set itself apart as the best team in the American League by the end of the ALCS, but it wasn’t by much. Just a couple of days ago we looked at their roster vs. the Yankees roster, and I’m not sure which I’d prefer.
The Phillies were heavy favorites in the National League, but the Cardinals got themselves healthy and made some key additions, and they were able to sneak through the first round. Then, in beating a dangerous Brewers lineup, the Cardinals showed they had a pretty dangerous middle-of-the-order themselves.
Another good point that several people have made, but which I first saw from Sweeny: The team that wanted Cliff Lee is out of the playoffs (the Yankees), the team that got Cliff Lee is out of the playoffs (the Phillies) and the team that lost Cliff Lee is heading home to try to take control of the World Series (the Rangers).
Baseball. You really can’t predict it.
My friends back in Missouri seem completely unsurprised by the two clutch pinch hits from Allen Craig in this World Series. In played in fewer than half of the Cardinals games this season, but he hit .315/.362/.555. He made his mark in St. Louis before he took his turn on the national stage. What I wonder is, which of the Yankees — if given a spot in this World Series — might have grabbed the opportunity and made the rest of the baseball world take notice?
Brett Gardner — Most of the Yankees everyday players are already well known, but a guy like Gardner could certainly grab people’s attention. Speed is easy to recognize, and it’s fun to watch. With one good running catch in left field and a few stolen bases, Gardner could have momentarily taken a turn in the spotlight.
Dave Robertson — An easy choice, and one who got a sample of the spotlight at the all-star game. Surrounded by that many big names, though, Robertson certainly didn’t steal the headlines. A few of his Houdini acts in the World Series, though, would certainly be noticed.
Jesus Montero — Another obvious choice. The Yankees top young hitter is well known in prospect circles, and the Yankees fan base has known his name for years, but the World Series would have been an opportunity to begin creating a household name. People certainly knew Andruw Jones after the 1996 Series.
But, if I had to pick a relatively unknown Yankee to really make a name for himself this postseason, it would have been…
Ivan Nova — Based on the way he pitched in Game 1 of the division series, Nova wouldn’t have been blinded by the bright lights of the Fall Classic. His second half was good enough that national writers would have easily picked up the story, and a big start in Game 2 — either to give the Yankees a two-game lead or even the series at a game apiece — would have forced people to take notice.
Associated Press photos