Saturday, October 8, 2011

Central The NL's Best In 2011

Hey, guess what division is the best in baseball as of this moment and has a guaranteed spot in the World Series? Nope, not that one in the junior circuit with the Yankees, Rays and Bosox. It would be the home base of the Buccos, the NL Central.

Milwaukee and St. Louis eliminated Arizona and the Phils in thrillers last night. Their upcoming NLCS series will determine which of the pair will represent the NL in the 2011 October Classic.

The Brew Crew fell behind on Justin Upton's third inning homer off a 3-2 heater from Yovanni Gallardo, who was especially honked because he thought he had caught him looking at a slider the pitch before. The Brewers tied it on a Jerry Hairston sac fly in the fourth, and a two-out Yuniesky Belancourt single in the sixth off Ian Kennedy put them up 2-1.

It could have been a bigger frame, but Chris Young made a no-look web gem grab of a Hairston shot to center to limit the damage. The drama continued in the ninth, when a Willie Bloomquist squeeze tied the game, snapping John Axford's 44-game save streak.

That set the table for Nyjer Morgan, who rolled a single up the middle just past JJ Putz's leg in the tenth inning to plate Carlos Gomez, who had stolen second, with the series-clinching run.

St. Louis came out on top of an old fashioned pitching duel. Raphael Furcal and Skip Schumaker opened the game with extra base knocks off Roy Halladay to take a 1-0 lead before an out was recorded. It was the game's only score. Chris Carpenter tossed a three-hit, complete game gem and the Phillies were left on the outside looking in yet again. As Paul McCartney noted, money can't buy you love.

It should make for a great series. Yesterday's winners, team aces Carpenter and Gallardo, are set up to square off in Games 3 and 7. The clubs finished the regular season series 9-9, and have a thing for one another, with trash talkin' yap and bench clearing hubbubs regular features of their contests.

For the Bucs, it validates the blueprint of building a team that is championship caliber rather than just competitive. For all the hue and cry of a weak division, the Central proved itself in the playoffs. This year is a high point, of course, but it does show how far the Bucs have to go yet.

The Brewers and Cards both have a murderous one-two punch in the middle of their lineups (although Prince Fielder is likely to become a free agent, and who knows whassup with Sir Albert?) and can throw some top-of-the-rotation arms at you.

The result? Pittsburgh won seven games against the Cards and three against Milwaukee for a combined 10-21 slate against the big boys of the division. Make no mistake; that's a fair barometer against teams that have some elite talent playing against a club that by and large doesn't. And those games are the only meaningful measuring stick, because you can't go anywhere until you step out of the division.


Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls said...

Yeah, good for the NL Central and the reflected glory on our fourth-place Pirates. The Cubs should be ashamed of themselves, by the way.

I admire what Tony LaRussa and the Cardinals have done this year, and I haven't always been fond of some of the Brewers' antics, but I've gotta root for Nyjer Morgan. He plays the game likes it's a -- well, like it's a game and not a business. He has fun, and he clearly has galvanized not only the fan base in Milwaukee but his teammates, as well. He's a catalyst. He makes the game fun to watch. I'm glad he found a home in Milwaukee and has done so well.

Plus, a Milwaukee-Detroit World Series would be awesome.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering how many Green Weenies (real ones) are out there. I just was cleaning our some old toys and I found my Green Weenie from when I lived in Pittsburgh. The hair is a quite messy but the weenie is great.


Ron Ieraci said...

Hey Joey - no reflected glory meant; just a reminder that the club has a long way to go, and the competition is not just a cakewalk. And yah, the Cubs are poster children for the ill-advised long term contract.

And I wouldn't be surprised if they were still looking for a stick in right. Pence would have fit, but he did draw a king's ransom from the Phils, for all the good it did them.

Maybe they think Marte will become a power guy for them, though he hasn't given much indication of that tool yet.

Ron Ieraci said...

Hi Betty - I'd guess the remnants of weenie-mania are still in cellars and attics around town. They were popular give-aways for a while in the mid-sixties; heck, guys wore those little green Heinz pickle pins and tried to pass them off as mini-green weenies, lol.

In the next decade, the green weenie fell out of favor and was replaced by Babushka Power, a precursor to the Terrible Towel.