Weekly Hit Ground Ball: Postseason Dreams

The opening weekend of the NFL naturally draws some of the attention away from MLB Stateside; however, whilst this means baseball has to compete with gridiron it also means that the business end of the MLB season is upon us.

MLB announced the 2013 postseason schedule last week and the use of the term ‘October baseball’ to describe the playoffs couldn’t be more appropriate this year.

The postseason begins on 1 October with the National League Wild Card game, currently looking very likely to be a battle between two NL Central teams. The action then will continue all the way through to a potential World Series Game Seven on 31 October.

From a British perspective, the main thing we concentrate on is the start times and they will not be announced until much closer to the games being played. Typically there are a few games over the Division and League Series contests that are played during the day-time, and therefore during the British evening. Understandably, the majority will be played at night and so October is often the month where fans in Britain need to sacrifice some sleep, or at least take some leave from work to make a lie-in possible.

The two Wild Card games should be spectacular, whoever ultimately ends up playing in them, and from our perspective they are likely to take place in the early hours of Wednesday 2nd (NL Wild Card) and Thursday 3rd (AL).

The World Series will once again begin in the early hours of a Thursday with the potential Game Seven – something I’m sure we would all love to see, especially after the slight anti-climax of the San Francisco Giants’ four-game sweep last year – being in the early hours of Friday 1 November. We’ll need to wait until the end of a potential Game Six to know if it’s definitely going to happen, but if there’s a Friday to be tentatively booked off work to start a long weekend then that would certainly be one to pick.

Oh, and don’t forget the potential tie-breakers.

Buccos wave goodbye to 20 losing years

“There’s a high drive to right field … could this clear the deck … cannonball coming …Travis Snyder … a pinch-hit home run in the top of the ninth inning in Milwaukee .. Buccos lead it 4 to 3 … how about that … unbelievable!”.

That’s how the KDKA announcers called the moment when the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Travis Synder took a 2-2 pitch over the fence last Tuesday. Any go-ahead ninth-inning home run is going to cause excitement, especially for a team in the playoff race.

However there was another element that made its potential – and ultimately actual – impact all the more important. The victory was the Pirates’ 81st of the season and ensured that they had finally brought an end to one of the most crushing sequences of losing ever seen.

Baseball fans in Pittsburgh have suffered 20 consecutive seasons in which their team lost more games than it won. The 20th was arguably the toughest of the lot because it looked for a good proportion of the 2012 season that the streak would come to an end. That was before they lost 39 of their final 58 games, turning a 60-44 record into a 79-83 finishing mark.

The manner of their collapse was somehow inevitable. The Pirates had long since swapped the parrot on their shoulder for a monkey on their back and however hard they tried, they couldn’t shake the losing habit.

Now that they have, the question is can they build on the achievement and make it to the postseason?

Kazmir coming good

Cleveland’s good week has meant that their playoff hopes are still alive as they are firmly in the Wild Card race. They had lost of six games of seven before taking two wins against Baltimore and then getting the better of the New York Mets at home.

The opening game of the series against the Mets had an interesting subplot to it in the form of the Tribe’s starting pitcher. Scott Kazmir was the Mets’ first round draft pick back in 2002 but never actually pitched for them after controversially being traded away to the Rays in July 2004. For a while, Kazmir was one of the few bright spots for a struggling Tampa Bay team before injuries took a toll and eventually saw him drop out of the Majors in 2011.

When Kazmir signed on with an independent team based in Houston, the Sugar Land Skeeters, last July it looked like being a forlorn last-ditch attempt to keep his career alive as the results from his 14 starts were far from impressive. However, a good stint with the Gigantes de Carolina team in Puerto Rico convinced the Clevelend Indians to sign him to a Minor League contract and he has surpassed all expectations in giving the Indians 25 starts (so far) of solid starting pitching.

The way Kazmir struck out 12 Mets over six score-less innings on Friday showed how his career has not only come full circle, but that it still has time to run after most of us thought his time had run out.

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