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THE REPLAY ZONE - NOVEMBER 2014
 
By Jeff Polman
 
November ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Check out “Ball Nuts”, my latest “fictionalized” replay book, which used the 1977 season.
 
BEST OF 2013 TOURNEY KICKS OFF!
 
In a scintillating and often shocking first round, four of the eight series that opened this year’s Best of 2013 Tournament were won by the lower-seeded team. Using a formatfeaturing the top eight clubs in each league and set up like an NHL/NBA postseason, underdog teams are ripe to pull off upsets, and this time they were everywhere.
 
First off, here are the participating managers, listed by seeding:
 
 

National League

1. CARDS (Darin Orenstein, Woodland Hills, CA)
2. BRAVES (Eric Westrom, Boise, ID)
3. PIRATES (Chris Witt, Madison, WI) *returning champ
4. DODGERS (Paul Clinton, Lakewood, CA)
5. REDS (John Nocero, Euclid, OH)
6. NATIONALS (Matt Johnson, Des Moines, IA)
7. DIAMONDBACKS (Scott Seidel, Glendale, AZ)
8. GIANTS (Matthew Benham, Vacaville, CA)
 

American League

1. RED SOX (Mike Lynch, West Roxbury, MA)
2. ATHLETICS (Chris Crawford, Exeter, NH)
3. TIGERS (Scott Bourget, Hebron, ME)
4. INDIANS (Dan Lee, Pickering OH)
5. RAYS (Charles Tripp, Norton, OH)
6. RANGERS (Mary Luca, Wilimngton, DE)
7. ROYALS (Michael Horvatin, Anchorage, AL)
8. ORIOLES (Brent Roughton, Defiance, OH)
 
And here’s how the first round rolled out:
 
CARDS DEFEAT GIANTS IN 7
 
Clearly the best series in the bunch. Madison Bumgarner mops the floor with the Redbirds in the opener, but every other game from there is a nail-biter decided by one or two runs. Walkoff hits by Allen Craig and Jon Jay decide Games 6 and 7 in extras. In the finale, Yadier Molina gets hit by a Bumgarner pitch his first time up, then collects hits in his next four at bats, inspiring the squad.
 
GIANTS 7-12-0 at CARDS 0-2-1
GIANTS 5-11-0 at CARDS 3-7-0
CARDS 1-6-0 at GIANTS 0-4-1
at GIANTS 2-11-0, CARDS 1-4-0 (11 innings)
CARDS 7-10-2 at GIANTS 5-10-1
at CARDS 2-12-0, GIANTS 1-7-0 (10 innings)
at CARDS 3-10-0, GIANTS 2-8-0 (10 innings)
 
DIAMONDBACKS DEFEAT BRAVES IN 5
 
The seventh-seeded Snakes pull off a huge upset, and fairly easily after they get two extra-inning thriller wins under their belts. Game Three is the backbreaker, when Craig Kimbrel blows a 4-1 lead in the 9th, after giving up two runs in the 10th to lose the opener. With his meltdown in the Best of ’12 Tournament against the Giants, Kimbrel just can’t be relied upon in these things. Patrick Corbin spins a 4-hit shutout in Game Four and somehow Randall Delgado pitches effectively in the finale.
 
D-BACKS 4-9-0 at BRAVES 2-11-0 (10 innings)
at BRAVES 8-12-0, D-BACKS 2-6-1
at D-BACKS 5-11-0, BRAVES 4-8-0 (11 innings)
at D-BACKS 6-12-0, BRAVES 0-4-1
at D-BACKS 7-13-1, BRAVES 2-7-0
 
NATIONALS DEFEAT PIRATES IN 5
 
Another upset, but not nearly as shocking because these Bucs aren’t exactly dangerous against right-handed pitchers, and the Nats have a ton of good ones. While the Pirate offense misfires in clutch situations repeatedly, Washington just gets big hit after big hit: a homer and double by Ryan Zimmerman in the opener, a double and two singles by Wilson Ramos in Game Two, a giant three-run homer by Zimmerman off Jason Grilli to take Game Three, and a 4-for-5 performance with a double, homer and two singles by Anthony Rendon to win the clincher.
 
NATIONALS 4-7-0 at PIRATES 3-8-1
NATIONALS 3-11-2 at PIRATES 2-7-0 (10 innings)
at NATIONALS 5-12-1, PIRATES 3-9-0
PIRATES 7-14-0, NATIONALS 2-8-1
at NATIONALS 8-12-2, PIRATES 2-6-0
 
DODGERS DEFEAT REDS IN 5
 
Finally, a series that goes the way you’d imagine. Except for the opener, in which dingers by Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Todd Frazier defeat Clayton Kershaw, L.A. by and large steamrolls the Reds with superior pitching. Series turning point comes late in Game Three, when Mat Latos leaves with a four-hit shutout through seven, only to have Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall give up four 8th inning runs. Yasiel Puig is on fire throughout, going 9-for-16 (.583).
 
REDS 6-7-1 at DODGERS 1-6-0
at DODGERS 6-10-0, REDS 0-6-1
DODGERS 4-8-0 at REDS 1-5-2
DODGERS 3-6-0 at REDS 2-3-0
DODGERS 7-10-0 at REDS 0-8-1
 
ORIOLES DEFEAT RED SOX IN 5
 
Reminiscent of the Phillies getting swept out of the first round by Houston in my Best of 1993 Tournament many years ago, Boston turns in an absolutely hideous performance for a supposed champion. Don’t let the generally close scores fool you; they were behind for most of every game and except for a three-homer burst off Chris Tillman for their only win in Game Four, the Sox couldn’t come up with a key hit to save their lives. Baltimore, meanwhile, went crazy, hitting eleven homers in the five games, including three apiece by Adam Jones and Manny Machado. The very mediocre Wei-Yin Chen threw a complete game in the finale. It was so bad that Koji Uehara only got into one inning of the series, then gave up a homer to the first batter he saw, J.J. Hardy on his practically unhittable pitching card! Just a disaster all around.
 
ORIOLES 5-8-0 at RED SOX 2-6-1
ORIOLES 5-13-0 at RED SOX 4-11-1
at ORIOLES 5-7-0, RED SOX 3-5-0
RED SOX 4-7-1 at ORIOLES 2-8-0
at ORIOLES 11-8-0, RED SOX 3-8-2
 
RAYS DEFEAT INDIANS IN 6
 
A much more exciting and competitive series saw Tampa win the last two contests with exceptional pitching by David Price (4-hit shutout in Game Five) and the superb Rays bullpen of Torres, Peralta and Rodney. Ben Zobrist was the offensive sparkplug for Tampa, tripling in the winning run in the opener after Luke Scott tied the game with a 9th inning homer off Cody Allen, homering for the only run of Price’s Game Five shutout, and doubling in the tying and winning runs in the 6th inning of Game Six.
 
RAYS 7-9-0 at INDIANS 6-12-1
at INDIANS 6-9-1, RAYS 1-4-1
INDIANS 4-8-0 at RAYS 0-4-0 (Kazmir CG shutout)
at RAYS 6-11-0, INDIANS 4-8-2
at RAYS 1-9-1 INDIANS 0-4-0
RAYS 5-11-0 at INDIANS 3-5-0
 
ATHLETICS DEFEAT ROYALS IN 4
 
The only sweep of the first round is a pitching masterpiece by Oakland—or if you prefer, a complete lack of Kansas City hitting. Only four Royals runs cross the plate in the four games, and they fail to hit one home run.
 
at ATHLETICS 2-8-1, ROYALS 0-4-1 (Gray CG)
at ATHLETICS 2-4-0, ROYALS 1-7-0
ATHLETICS 5-6-1 at ROYALS 1-6-0 (Milone CG)
ATHLETICS 3-9-1 at ROYALS 2-6-0
 
TIGERS DEFEAT RANGERS IN 7
 
Another near-upset finds Detroit barely outlasting the pesky Rangers by winning the last two games at home, the finale an 11-strikeout performance by Max Scherzer. Miguel Cabrera goes 10-for-21 (.476) with four homers to power the Tiger offense, but Scherzer gets series MVP honors by winning all three games he starts. In a losing cause, Tanner Scheppers throws seven innings of shutout relief for Texas.
 
at TIGERS 4-9-0, RANGERS 2-6-0
RANGERS 3-11-0 at TIGERS 2-5-1
at RANGERS 10-12-1, TIGERS 3-10-1
TIGERS 6-10-1 at RANGERS 2-3-0
at RANGERS 3-6-0, TIGERS 2-7-0
at TIGERS 3-8-1, RANGERS 2-5-0
at TIGERS 1-7-1, RANGERS 0-4-0
 
So we move on to the Second Round, with these matchups:
 
DIAMONDBACKS at CARDS
NATIONALS at DODGERS
RAYS at TIGERS
ORIOLES at ATHLETICS
 
Good luck, gents!