Five Cuts: As other closers stumble, Rivera simply marches on
ATLANTA -- Welcome to the club,
Remember last postseason, when Rivera won the closers'
This season is taking on a similar look. The Reds, Giants and Rangers all held leads in the eighth inning and couldn't finish it off. The Reds couldn't get to their closer,
And yet there was Rivera once again last night, as if time has stood still all these years, shutting down another game and another series.
Okay, the Yankees handed him a big fat lead this time against the overwhelmed Twins, 6-1. But he did save Games 1 and 2. And the October tableau of Rivera as the last man standing never seems to change.
The Twins are a nice team. Fine organization. Great fans. Sound fundamentals. But do we really want to see them in another postseason with the same kind of strike-throwing, pitch-to-contact pitching philosophy? These guys are baseball's Boise State. Easy to root for, fine inside the AL Central, but they're not major conference timber.
Minnesota's wipeout against New York and its potent lineup was entirely predictable. The Twins have a below-average staff when it comes to getting swings and misses and getting strikeouts, quick barometers of how to measure up against good hitting teams in October.
In losing 12 straight postseason games, the Twins' starters have averaged only 5.7 strikeouts per nine innings -- about 15 percent worse than all teams averaged this regular season. The franchise hasn't had a starter punch out 10 batters in a postseason game since
Crawford showed his skills on the big stage yesterday with two fabulous catches in left field and two hits, including a big ninth inning home run. And he has little help behind him because
The loss of closer
If the postseason is more about stuff than it is experience, the Braves are still in good shape. Here are the five Baby Braves, their average fastball velocities and career strikeout rate per nine innings and saves:
Yes, Lincecum never has thrown on short rest (never had a reason to do it, either) and he threw 119 pitches in Game 1 (but kept his mechanics clean and had very few stress innings). But the key to Bochy even having this option is that Lincecum, at some prodding from the Giants, stepped up his fitness and training over the past month or so. When Lincecum stumbled badly in August, the Giants were concerned that he was fatigued from not staying properly conditioned through the grind of the second half. Lincecum altered his workouts, and he is much stronger and fitter than he was in August.