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THE REPLAY ZONE
 
By Jeff Polman
 
November ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict.
 
And then there were four…
 
My Best of 2010 Tournament is now through two of its four rounds, and the League Championship matchups have bee determined, as the Rays will meet the Yankees in the ALCS, with the Padres facing off with the Giants in the NLCS. And as you’ll see, every team deserves to be there. As usual, there were some serious upsets in the first two rounds, which is one reason why doing this tournament in NBA/NHL seeding format always means unexpected fun.
 
FIRST ROUND
(8) MARLINS over (1) PHILLIES, 4 games to 2

Florida always plays more scrappy for me than they do in real life, while the Phillies have been knocked out in the first round constantly. No exception here, and the big reason is Mike Stanton, who lights up the series with six homers in the six games. The Marlins’ absentee manager makes some dicey choices with his lineup (OBP-less Cameron Maybin leading off and John Baker catching) but it doesn’t even matter, because after a first game blowout, Philly underwhelms at every opportunity, their point being Game 3, when Brad Lidge takes a 5-2 lead and gives Florida four runs in the last of the 9th.
 
at Phillies 8-16-0, Marlins 4-4-1
Marlins 4-5-2, at Phillies 2-5-0
at Marlins 6-13-1, Phillies 5-10-0
Phillies 7-12-0, at Marlins 5-12-0 (10 inn.)
at Marlins 4-11-0, Phillies 2-7-0
Marlins 7-10-0, at Phillies 1-7-0
 
 
(6) PADRES over (3) REDS, 4 games to 2

Adrian Gonzalez goes nuts, going 5-for-10 with two doubles and three homers in the first two games, before the Reds get scrappy enough to take the first two at Petco. Then Padre pitching takes over, as Latos throws a complete game 4-hitter, and the deep and excellent San Diego pen holds off the Reds in Game 6 until Hairston can win it with a 9th inning homer off Cordero. The Cincy hitting was a good match for the Padres, but San Diego was ahead of them in pitching talent, and it showed.
 
Padres 3-8-0, at Reds 1-7-0
Padres 12-18-0, at Reds 5-10-1
Reds 5-12-2, at Padres 3-5-1
Reds 5-9-0, at Padres 0-1-2 (Mike Leake wins!)
at Padres 4-9-0, Reds 1-4-0
Padres 5-11-0, at Reds 4-7-2
 
 
(2) GIANTS over (7) ROCKIES, 4 games to 3

Best series of the first round, as Colorado is every bit as lethal but just can’t come through in the eleventh hour. Three 1-run games and two extra inning torture chambers add to the fun, and Buster Posey gets one big hit after another, icing the series with a 2-run shot in the final game.
 
at Giants 4-10-0, Rockies 3-12-0 (11 inn.)
Rockies 8-10-1, at Giants 6-7-2 (11 inn.)
at Rockies 3-11-1, Giants 2-4-0
Giants 5-12-0, at Rockies 3-9-2
Giants 8-13-0, at Rockies 3-6-0
Rockies 6-8-0, at Giants 5-5-1
at Giants 8-12-1, Rockies 3-2-0 (Cain brilliant)
 
 
(4) BRAVES over (5) CARDS, 4 games to 1

Despite a much better lineup and two front-line aces, St. Louis cannot get one drop of offensive dice luck and lose way too easily and painfully to Atlanta. Martin Prado opens the series with a double, grand slam, and six RBIs to set the tone as Adam Wainwright gets hammered in both of his starts. Carpenter’s 1-0 gem in Game 2 on a Holliday homer is their lone highlight.
 
at Braves 11-14-0, Cards 3-8-1
Cards 1-7-0, at Braves 0-6-0
Braves 3-9-1, at Cards 0-6-0 (Lowe is great)
Braves 3-7-1, at Cards 2-9-1 (Medlen is great!)
Braves 5-10-1, at Cards 1-6-0
 
 
(1) RAYS over (8) ATHLETICS, 4 games to 1

Things look hopeful for Oakland after they beat Garza to split the first two games in Tampa, but nothing goes right when they get home. Crawford and Upton wreak tons of havoc, and the Rays sweep the under-equipped A’s on their own turf to take the series.
 
at Rays 1-4-0, A’s 0-5-1
A’s 6-11-0, at Rays 1-8-2
Rays 5-9-0, at A’s 3-7-0
Rays 4-9-0, at A’s 2-5-0
Rays 3-7-0, at A’s 1-4-1
 
 
(2) YANKEES over (7) BLUE JAYS, 4 games to 0

Raw power propels the Yanks in their sweep. Granderson wins the opener with a 3-run walk off, Teixeira and Thames go yard in Game 2, Thames and Granderson do it again in Toronto, and New York gets an extra inning clutch single from Swisher to win the series. Rivera with two wins and a save.
 
at Yankees 5-10-0, Jays 2-8-0
at Yankees 5-9-0, Jays 2-6-1
Yankees 3-4-1, at Jays 2-3-2
Yankees 3-6-0, at Jays 1-4-1 (11 inn.)
 
 
(6) RED SOX over (3) RANGERS, 4 games to 2

Take a look at this Boston team without the injury problems they had that year, and they could possibly win 100 games. It’s no surprise they fared pretty well in this tournament. Youkilis batted out of his mind against Texas, going 9-20 and getting on base constantly. Not even Cliff Lee could stop the Red Sox bats in the opener, and had to be relieved midway through his second start. When John Lackey throws a complete game 5-hitter, you know the writing’s on the wall.
 
Red Sox 4-7-0, at Rangers 3-5-1
Red Sox 7-12-2, at Rangers 0-5-1
at Red Sox 5-8-0, Rangers 1-5-0
Rangers 7-15-1, at Red Sox 2-3-0
Rangers 13-15-2, at Red Sox 5-9-0
Red Sox 6-12-0, at Rangers 1-9-0
 
 
(4) TWINS over (5) WHITE SOX, 4 games to 0

An exciting, low-scoring series is a clean sweep for Minnesota. Best game is the second one, when doubles by Cuddyer and Morneau cap a 4-run rally off Buehrle and Thornton in the last of the 9th.
 
at Twins 2-8-0, White Sox 0-5-2
at Twins 5-12-1, White Sox 4-10-0
Twins 1-5-0, at White Sox 0-5-0
Twins 2-10-0, White Sox 1-6-2
 
 
SECOND ROUND
(2) GIANTS over (8) MARLINS, 4 games to 1

Florida’s luck finally runs out against the Torture Boys. Stanton kicks off the series with two more homers at AT&T, but the Giants roll from there, getting great pitching work from Cain and rolling the Fish in Game 4. Game 5 is a thriller won with four 9th inning runs and horrid Florida defense.
 
Marlins 4-6-0, at Giants 3-9-0
At Giants 6-11-1, Marlins 4-8-1
Giants 4-11-0, at Marlins 1-4-2
Giants 16-16-0, at Marlins 2-12-2
Giants 4-7-1, at Marlins 1-5-3
 
 
(6) PADRES over (4) BRAVES, 4 games to 1

After an opening split and Turner Field, the vast ballpark HR chances at Petco Park doom the Braves. That plus an astonishing number of lucky rolls from the Padres as they sweep at home t
o put Atlanta away. Twice Billy Wagner ended an extra inning game and was twice beaten by miniscule split rolls on his nearly unhittable card. Tejada ends the series in Game 5 with a walk off homer.
 
Padres 5-8-0, at Braves 0-5-1
at Braves 4-8-0, Padres 2-7-0
at Padres 7-15-1, Braves 6-12-0 (13 inn.)
at Padres 1-7-1, Braves 0-8-0 (Clayton Richard!)
at Padres 2-8-2, Braves 1-5-0 (12 inn.)
 
 
(2) YANKEES over (4) TWINS, 4 games to 3

A thrilling, back-and-forth series, won on a brilliant Andy Pettitte/Rivera shutout in Game 7. The Yanks bombed away the first two games, but like the Braves, their bats ran into termites on the road. Pavano’s surprise 2-hit shutout in Game 6 made the seventh game possible. The Twins were actually lucky to get as far as they did, because Joe Mauer (.167, zero RBIs) and Jim Thome (zero HRS despite a Babe Ruth card) did nothing in their 11 games.
 
at Yankees 6-10-0, Twins 4-10-2
at Yankees 7-12-0, Twins 6-8-1
at Twins 9-12-1, Yankees 3-5-1
at Twins 3-9-0, Yankees 1-7-0
Yankees 5-12-0, at Twins 2-5-1
Twins 3-8-0, at Yankees 0-2-1
at Yankees 3-7-2, Twins 0-3-1
 
 
(1) RAYS over (6) RED SOX, 4 games to 3

More routs than the Yankee-Twins series, but still went to a Game 7, won easily by Tampa in a Lester-free environment. Jon has clearly been the pitching star of the tournament thus far. In his 4 starts: 34.2 IP, 21 H, 6 ER, 51 K 12 BB, 3-1 record. Great fielding and clutch hits were the Rays’ key to success.
 
Red Sox 6-11-0, at Rays 4-14-0
At Rays 2-4-0, Red Sox 1-7-1
Rays 5-11-1, at Red Sox 4-9-0
Rays 12-18-0, at Red Sox 3-7-0
At Red Sox 2-6-1, Rays 1-10-0
Red Sox 13-17-0, at Rays 0-3-1
At Rays 7-11-0, Red Sox 0-5-1
 
 
I’ll be back next month with the final results and opinion. You can follow along with the (virtually) daily action on the Strat Fan Forum by clicking here.