Friday October 9th, 2009

1. Angels right-hander John Lackey dominated the Red Sox lineup in ALDS Game 1 predominantly by throwing fastballs in what turned out to be a 5-0 win for Los Angeles. Should you be surprised that Boston was shut out for the first time in a postseason game since 1995, so long ago that Orel Hershiser started that game for Cleveland? Well, maybe not. This is not your usual grind-it-out offense for Boston, especially when the Red Sox have to play outside of Fenway Park.

The Red Sox did finish third in the AL in runs this year, but a majority of the damage was done at home. On the road, Boston was ninth in baseball in runs, 10th in OPS and 12th in slugging. It is a lineup with some dead spots, especially when David Ortiz and Mike Lowell are showing their age, Dustin Pedroia can't hook pitches off the Green Monster, and Jacoby Ellsbury reminds us why he is not the next Johnny Damon. Lackey and Darren Oliver walked only one batter last night.

Don't expect Game 2 to be much different. Josh Beckett, the Boston starter, might be working with the same slim margin of error as did Jon Lester, who lost because he missed badly on one pitch, which Torii Hunter turned into three runs and a fireworks display. Angels Game 2 starter Jered Weaver, like Lackey, is also capable of lasting deep into the game against this Boston lineup. Like Lackey, Weaver is better off going into attack mode while facing the Red Sox out of their comfort zone.

2. It's strange to see the former power brokers of the Los Angeles market, Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez, pose such little threat at the plate these days. Both Guerrero, 34, and Ramirez, 37, are showing signs of age. The Cardinals, like every other team in the NL over the past month, keep challenging Ramirez with fastballs that he used to punish; now all he does is foul them off. Guerrero "slugged" .369 in September and finished with the lowest slugging percentage of his career. Moreover, in ALDS Game 1, Guerrero almost cost his team a run by jogging home while the third out was nearly made at third base. Here's a novel concept for the postseason: hustle. Guerrero is looking more and more like a free agent who could be headed toward one of those late-winter one-year deals that were in fashion last offseason.

3. On Friday Cardinals manager Tony La Russa will check on Chris Carpenter to see how his body and arm feel after throwing Game 1 in the NLDS. If Carpenter gives La Russa the green light -- and Carpenter is a former hockey player, so what would you expect? -- La Russa is expected to start him in Game 4 on three days' rest if the Cardinals can win Game 3. Normally that's not a risky strategy in the best-of-five round: better to bring back your ace to stay alive. But in this case, Carpenter has made 260 starts in his career but none of them on short rest. If Carpenter feels too stiff or fatigued to come back on short rest, look for John Smoltz to get the ball.

4. The Dodgers were losing 2-1 and batting in the bottom of the seventh inning of NLDS Game 2 when Los Angeles manager Joe Torre told bench coach Bob Schaefer to get Jonathon Broxton up in the bullpen. Who puts their closer into a game when his team is losing?

"We have other guys we can go to," Schaefer said, "We can go to . . ."

Torre cut him off.

"Get Broxton up."

Broxton dismissed Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick without letting a ball leave the infield. George Sherrill, Torre's next-best reliever, pitched a scoreless ninth. The Dodgers won in the bottom of the ninth, 3-2, by getting five straight batters on base after two outs and nobody on.

"That was vintage Joe Torre right there," said Dodgers first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. "That's what helped win us the game, being aggressive like that. I'm seen him do it with Mariano [Rivera]."

Said Schaefer, "There is no tomorrow. Only today."

5. How dead were the Dodgers in Game 2? When James Loney hit a fly ball to left field with two outs in the ninth, Los Angeles third base coach Larry Bowa took two steps toward the dugout. The game was over. Only the formality of the ball landing in the glove of Matt Holliday remained. But Holliday dropped the ball, then staggered to the ground as the ball bounded off his body and away from him.

"We were given a gift," Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake said. "We were pretty lucky."

Yes, that was a gift, but the Dodgers then exploited the vulnerability of St. Louis closer Ryan Franklin, who went from almost unhittable in the first half to almost useless in September. Since Sept. 1, Franklin has thrown 9 2/3 innings and allowed 27 baserunners (12 walks and 17 hits) and nine runs. And you thought Brad Lidge had issues?

When asked to explain the fall of Franklin, La Russa said Franklin first suffered from fatigue, but then suffered from the lack of regular closing opportunities as the Cardinals did not play well down the stretch. Down to an elimination game scenario, St. Louis can't feel good about how it goes about getting the final three outs of a must win.

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