Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Rockies win NLCS: There's officially no more homespun cliches, extemporanous remarks or shallow, fairly accurate observations to make about your National League champion Colorado Rockies.

About all that's left to point out is that North Delta, B.C.'s Jeff Francis getting to start Game 1 of the World Series on Oct. 24 -- on 11 days' rest to boot -- might be some karmic rebate for what happened to another British Columbia sports star, Steve Nash, in the NBA playoffs last spring. Nash and the Phoenix Suns were hosed out of their rightful spot in the NBA Finals, where they would have had their way against a team from Cleveland. Now the Rockies are headed to the big show, possibly against a team from, wait for it, Cleveland.

Fun fact: The Diamondbacks wore a different jersey in each game -- white, black, red and grey. That's why they lost, seriously. Incidentally, J.D. Drew's brother, Stephen Drew, the Arizona shortstop, made the penultimate out by popping out on a 3-0 pitch. Gagging just runs in the family.

Incidentally, minor goof on Sportsnet's part: Canada's home for the baseball playoffs cut away from the TBS broadcast before the series MVP was announced. Then the late-night edition of Connected didn't mention it either. (It was Matt Holliday, of course.)

Cleveland leads ALCS 2-1: A big piece of the puzzle for the Indians through three games is that their 7-8-9 hitters are outhitting their Red Sox counterparts.

Forty-year-old Kenny Lofton, who's hit in the 7-hole in all but one of the Indians' post-season games, smacked the two-run homer off Red Sox righty Daisuke Matsuzaka in the second inning that provided the margin of victory in a 4-2 win, of course. Lofton's big hit pointed out one major difference between the teams' lineups. The Indians' bottom third has an .805 OPS through seven post-season games, compared to Boston's sickly, sub-John McDonald .548 in the post-season.

Cleveland manager Eric Wedge has got something out of each of six players who have started a game in the 7, 8, or 9 spot, including Lofton, Casey Blake (who hit second for much of the season) Franklin Gutierrez, Trot Nixon and backup catcher Kelly Shoppach. Even weak-hitting Jason Michaels has a double in his only at-bat of the playoffs. (Oddly enough, the one game where Lofton was moved into the 6-hole, he went 0-for-5.)

While Wedge has been constantly tinkering, the Red Sox have stuck with the same trio in each game: Jason Varitek (who homered tonight but is 2-for-14 in the ALCS), Coco Crisp and Julio Lugo. All three are probably too important on defence to be benched, and lord knows the first six hitters in Boston's lineup can smack the ball around (except for J.D. Drew). However, it seems like their Achilles heel has been laid bare by a team that has good pitching, or can match the numbers put up by Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, et al.; the Indians qualify on both counts. Now their bottom third has given them a Wedge issue, so to speak.

It's not terribly sexy stuff, but it does seem to be an overlooked factor. During Detroit's run through the American League playoffs last fall, the Tigers' 7-8-9 hitters had a .796 OPS in their team's eight-game march to the pennant. Their opponents, the Yankees and Oakland A's, mustered a combined .426. Maybe this should be discussed more often.

Keep this in mind: Dice-K would start Game 7 for Boston if the series go that far; Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel has more on this.

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