Playoff Preview: One Game At A Time (Part 1)

The following is by James Generic, from Philly. Somehow, he manages to make a piece previewing a game between the Reds and Pirates about the Phillies for about 1/3 of the piece, but we’ll grant him that.

Tonight, we’ll all get to see Francisco Liriano, who has had amazing numbers vs. left handed batters, and pitched extremely well at home. He’s pitching at home tonight against a team whose best hitters are, you guessed it, left-handed (nexus of the universe!). Although one of them,  Joey Votto is no slouch as he is a yearly MVP candidate. This should be a game to watch. Enjoy.

It is truly my favorite time of the year. Unlike Opening Day or the All-Star Break, the start of the baseball playoffs is the real deal. Even if my ever aging Phillies have failed to make it to the October bright lights, the sheer amount of weight to each game heightens the tension to a fever pitch. I was at the Roy Halladay no-hitter against the Reds, an intense deliriousness I’ll never forget. A few weeks later, I saw the Phillies fall to the Giants on a called Ryan Howard strike, followed by a crushing silence of Philadelphia. The electricity or fiery oblivion reminds you that over a long seven month season, these games are what it is all about. Throw out the stats, throw out the awards, throw out the players who you fell in love with, the baseball playoffs are only for the teams that truly belong to compete for that final trophy. The talent dictates the game here.

Full disclosure: I am a National League fan. I hate the DH and savor hits by pitchers (where have you gone, Carlos Zambrano? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo woo woo.)
I would never want a batter to go for me while playing slow-pitch softball or sandlot. I love the final scene in A League of Their Own, when the long overshadowed younger sister Kit (a pitcher) hits an inside-the-park home run, taking out her catcher sister Dottie at the plate (which would have been impossible with the DH.)
It is an argument that I will eventually lose as both the Commissioner’s office centralization of decision making power and the players union rightfully maximizing wages for its members, will push for standardization of the rules in both leagues. Even so, I root for whatever National League team is in the World Series to win it all, and lately I have had good rooting success, even as my home team has had disappointing results.
So we’ll start tonight. Though last night’s Rays vs Rangers game had the feel of a playoff game as it was an elimination tie-breaker, tonight is the official start to red leaves, broken dreams, and high hopes for ten MLB teams and their fan bases.
Tonight begins the mania with the wildcard game- Pittsburgh Pirates hosting the Cincinnati Reds for the right to advance to the five game NLDS. Pirates fans finally have a reason to smile, as the Buccos made it over the 20 year hump with an ever improving core. They are led by a solid starting pitching core and MVP candidate and badass in centerfielder Andrew McCutchen.
On the mound for the Iron City is Francisco Liriano, sporting a 1.47 ERA at home. Facing them is crusty Dusty Baker’s Reds, whom have had early playoff exits in their recent history. The oft-injured Ace for the Red Baron machine is Johnny Cueto, who himself is filling in for a bone spurred Mat Latos. The Red offense is led ever dangerous first baseman  Joey Votto and his deadly bat coupled with unbreakable plate discipline (he broke Pete Rose’s franchise mark for reaching base, at 312 times, with 177 hits, 135 walks, and 4 times he was hit by a pitch.)
The Pirates are coming off a 3 game sweep of the Reds and will be playing in front of a sports mad and baseball-playoff hungry Pirates fan base tonight. They picked up a pair of key midseason acquisition contributors in Marlon Byrd from the Mets and Justin Morneau from the Twins. The Reds’ bats seem to be faltering and stumbling. The momentum seems to favor the Pirates to advance to face the Cards.
However, baseball has a funny way of bringing you predictions over the long term only to be sapped in the short term, lightening strike that is playoff baseball. The entire season of the Reds and Pirates comes down to this. As last year’s Cardinals-Braves NL Wildcard Game showed, anything can happen, even if it is something ludicrous like an infield fly rule in the outfield.
Tonight, we are reminded why we are fans.
PS: If all else fails, just use this graphic to help you prepare for the playoffs (thanks Sports on Earth). 

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