Sorry to have dropped off the face of the earth just as things were getting good. I spent most of this past weekend communing with the TV and the computer as I watched one of the most eventful final weekends in recent memory. It was probably to my wife’s advantage that she was out of town for a few days; I’m not sure I let go of the TiVO remote all weekend, and things got so intense watching the Dodgers on Friday night that I simply shoved my coffee table into a corner of the room so as better to maximize my pacing/jumping space and minimize the number of shin bruises.
The sweetest part of the weekend, of course, was the Dodgers reaching the postseason by winning the Wild Card; even better, they clinched in San Francisco, slaying some ghosts in the process. As you can imagine, I was PUMPED, even though the clincher was blacked out on the Extra Innings package; by the time I started thinking about suddenly, desperately shelling out for MLB’s GameDay Audio, the score was 3-1 L.A. and I figured it best not to mess with success. So I took one for the team, watching station-to-station pixelball on GameCast, sans Vin Scully’s call. You know what? It felt just as good when they won.
Of course, the Yanks’ clinching homefield advantage for the entire playoffs is pretty cool as well; I’ve got two teams in the running, and like 2004, I hold out the faint hope that they’ll meet in yet another World Series.
In any event, most of what I have to say about the weekend and the pending playoff slate wound up in the season’s final Hit List, which took forever and a day to write; I’m relieved to put the column up on the blocks for the winter, if only to get my Sundays back and to redirect some of the energy I put into that effort back to this blog. Here’s the eighth-ranked Dodgers entry:
The plucky Dodgers win six straight road games to secure the NL Wild Card, losing the NL West title only on the basis of a tiebreaker (they were just 5-13 against the Padres) but returning to the postseason for the second time in three years. Sweeter still, they do it by clinching on their archrivals’ field, chasing the ghosts of Joe Morgan’s 1982 home run away. James Loney’s nine-RBI game and Greg Maddux’s stellar start on three days’ rest key a dramatic week punctuated by the cool-as-ice performance of 36-year-old rookie closer Takashi Saito (third in the NL in Reliever Expected Wins Added at 5.469). The Dodgers will face the Mets in the first round, and their rejiggered rotation–which now includes Hong-Chih Kuo instead of Chad Billingsley and ahead of ailing Brad Penny–comes in at a 3.81 Quick ERA; given the battered state of the Mets rotation, this matchup has upset potential.
And here’s the top-ranked Yankees’ entry:
In an uneven week that sees them blast out 16 runs one night and then come within two outs of being no-hit the next, the Yanks clinch home-field advantage throughout the postseason while savoring their ninth straight AL East title and celebrating a league record for attendance (4,248,067). Nonetheless, this is a vulnerable team; Randy Johnson’s herniated disc emphasizes the Yanks’ relative lack of power pitching and less than dominant rotation. But despite wrist injuries that limited Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield to a combined 91 games, the Bombers banged out 930 runs, 60 more than any other team; when you can put forth a lineup with an All-Star in every spot and the league’s hottest hitter in the #9 hole, you’ve got little to complain about. Look out, Detroit.
As nice as it is to have two teams in the playoffs, Wednesday’s slate forces me to leave the house before the end of the Dodgers-Mets opener to head up to Yankee Stadium for Game Two of the Bombers’ series with the Tigers (the Pinstripes looked pretty good last night). I know, I know, tough break, ain’t it?
Expect a report of the Yanks game tomorrow…