The sun is setting earlier, the leaves are starting to change and float down to the ground and the Red Sox are watching television in their winter homes in Florida. It must be time for the Major League postseason.

This one is already shaping up to be one of the great ones. In the National League, the Braves have successfully made their 3,206th consecutive trip to the National League Championship Series, sweeping the highly favored Houston Astros.

It’s a cliche as old as the game itself: Good pitching beats good hitting every time and never more has it been true than in this postseason.

The Astros struggled offensively, with studs Lance Berkman and oises Alou having about as much impact in the past few days as my opinion on pretty much anything.

Of course it didn’t help Houston’s chances that its number-one starting pitcher, rookie Roy Oswalt, spent the entire three games on the bench with a groin injury. Add to that the fact that the home plate umpires were tacking on an area roughly equivalent to the former Belgian Congo to the strike zone for Braves pitchers, and it’s really no surprise that the Atlanta staff held the Astros’ first, second, fourth and fifth hitters to averages of .167 over the course of the series.

With the calls the Braves were getting, blind, crippled hamsters could have struck out Craig Biggio. Give that kind of leverage to the likes of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Burkett and newfound Braves’ closer John Smoltz and it’s really no surprise the Braves breezed through the series.

Then there are the Mariners. One hundred and sixteen wins mean nothing in a five game series, and the M’s almost found that out the hard way. While it is impressive that they have defied logic and improved tenfold after unloading the best pitcher, the best infielder and (arguably) the best outfielder in the game, that improvement will mean less than nothing without a World Series title to hang beside the their record regular-season win total.

But again, pitching proved the difference. Coming into the postseason, Jamie Moyer sported a 2-0 record and a 0.64 ERA against the Tribe. After throwing a gem in game one and another tremendous performance in game five – allowing only one run on three hits and one walk – Moyer proved his dominance over the Indians this year.

Largely because Charlie Manuel was dumb enough to throw Steve Finley in game five after he had already folded like an origami crane in game two, but also because of the arms of Moyer and the youthful Freddy Garcia, the Mariners are moving on and the Indians are heading for the golf course.

And while we’re talking about some great pitching moves, how about that trade for John Rocker. The Indians have one of the best bullpens in the league, but hey, why not seize the opportunity to snap up a controversial, sporadic closer who is also a cancer in the club house. And in the process you can trade away a future closer in Steve Karsay and an excellent set up man in Steve Reed and make your existing closer, who had only blown one save at the time of the trade, livid. The vaunted acquisition, Rocker has pitched one completely useless inning of relief in the Indians 17-2 victory in game three. Yes, good overall move.

And speaking of stupid trades, the team that wound up on the better half of the Ruth trade ended up on the better side of the scoreboard in games three and four in Oakland and the deciding game 5 in the Bronx to once again advance to the American League Championship Series.

The Bombers really surprised me. I really didn’t think they had it in them. I thought for certain that the A’s, a team many thought to be the best in the postseason, would sweep the Yanks after taking the first two games in New York. Just winning games three and four was more than I could have hoped for.

While most Yankees fans will credit this turnaround to the heart of the team, I personally credit it to the two candles I lit on Sunday. Red Sox fans, of course, will undoubtedly credit it to the highest payroll in baseball.

Last but not least, the Diamondbacks and Cardinals. You couldn’t ask for a better series than this. You have long ball, small ball (kudos to Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly for having the cajones to call a suicide squeeze with the winning run on third in the bottom of the ninth, even if Womack choked and missed the bunt attempt), great pitching and two great teams all around. It was a shame that one of them had to lose. But such is the way of the game. Hopefully the remainder of the postseason will live up to the early standard of this series.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.