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THE REPLAY ZONE - NOVEMBER 2015
 
By Jeff Polman
 
November ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Check out, “Mystery Ball ‘58”, my latest baseball novel, which was inspired by a replay of the 1958 season.
 
BEST OF 2014 TOURNEY KICKS OFF
 
Proving again that this is why we play the games, the first two rounds of the Best of 2014 Tournament were marked by a flurry of upsets. Years ago when I was just rolling these on my own, an 8th-seeded 1992 Cubs team went all the way and beat the Blue Jays in the World Series. Well, this 2014 Atlanta Braves club is giving them a run for their money…
 
 
FIRST ROUND – NATIONAL LEAGUE
 
#8 Atlanta defeats #1 Washington, 4 games to 3
 
Braves 3, at Nationals 1
Braves 4, at Nationals 0
Nationals 5, at Braves 4
Nationals 7, at Braves 4
Nationals 4, at Braves 2
Braves 4, at Nationals 3 (11 innings)
Braves 3, at Nationals 1
 
A very odd series, in which road teams win every game, and all but one contest is decided by three runs or less. Julio Teheran pitches a brilliant opener and finale, and the lower part of the Atlanta lineup—Tommy La Stella, Ramiro Pena, and Andrelton Simmons—take turns getting huge clutch hits to help pull off the amazing upset.
 
#5 San Francisco defeats #4 Pittsburgh, 4 games to 2
 
Giants 4, at Pirates 1
Giants 9, at Pirates 6
at Giants 4, Pirates 3
Pirates 4, at Giants 3
Pirates 8, at Giants 1
Giants 6, at Pirates 4 (14 innings)
 
Make it two straight tournaments that a rejuvenated Buccos team has disappeared in the opening round. In three of the games they lose, Pittsburgh has leads of 4-0, 3-1 and 4-1, but a combination of poor starting pitching and many clutch hits by the Giants lineup does them in. In a thrilling Game Six finale, a two-run single by Buster Posey in the top of the 14th settles the series. At least a home team managed to win one of the games.
 
#7 New York Mets defeat #2 Los Angeles, 4 games to 2
 
at Dodgers 5, Mets 1
at Dodgers 10, Mets 1
at Mets 5, Dodgers 4
at Mets 2, Dodgers 1
at Mets 4, Dodgers 3
Mets 6, at Dodgers 5
 
Last year’s tournament champion Dodgers just can’t find the magic or offense this time, taking the first two at home easily behind Kershaw and Greinke, before going to Citi Field and dropping all three by one run. Back home, Greinke has nothing, giving up six runs and twelve hits, and they lose again by one run against Wheeler and Familia. A two-out Ethier pinch single in the 8th sends Kemp to the plate with a 1-17 20-sider chance to tie the game. The roll is 20.
 
#3 St. Louis defeats #6 Milwaukee, 4 games to 3
 
at Cards 2, Brewers 1
Brewers 4, at Cards 3 (10 innings)
At Brewers 2, Cards 0
Cards 7, at Brewers 2
Cards 7, at Brewers 3
Brewers 12, at Cards 7
At Cards 8, Brewers 0
 
This one is a surprisingly tough battle, with Adam Wainwright winning all three of his starts and Matt Holiday going crazy (.400, with four homers and ten RBIs) in the final four games.
 
 
FIRST ROUND – AMERICAN LEAGUE
 
#2 Baltimore sweeps #7 Cleveland, 4 games to 0
 
at Orioles 3, Indians 2 (11 innings)
at Orioles 6, Indians 3
Orioles 9, at Indians 5
Orioles 4, at Indians 1
 
The Tribe doesn’t get any closer than they do in Game One, when Corey Kluber whiffs 14 and they take the lead in the 11th on a Lonnie Chisenhall homer off Darren O’Day, only to have Delmon Young hit a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the inning off Cody Allen to win the game. From there it’s mostly Bird power: a grand slam by Jonathan Schoop in Game Two, two dingers by Nelson Cruz, one each from Machado and Pearce in Game Three, and a tiebreaking three-run homer by Cruz in Game Four to seal the sweep.
 
#3 Detroit defeats #6 Seattle, 4 games to 3
 
at Tigers 4, Mariners 2
Mariners 3, at Tigers 1
Tigers 4, at Mariners 1
At Mariners 4, Tigers 2
Tigers 5, at Mariners 3
Mariners 5, at Tigers 1
At Tigers 2, Mariners 1
 
A tight, very evenly matched series, each team takes turns winning and no team scores more than five runs in a game. Max Scherzer wins the opener and finale against Felix Hernandez, Torii Hunter provides the series-winning hit with a solo shot in the 6th inning of Game Seven.
 
#5 Oakland defeats #4 Kansas City, 4 games to 1
 
A’s 2, at Royals 0
A’s 3, at Royals 2
Royals 4, at A’s 1 (11 innings)
At A’s 11, Royals 1
At A’s 4, Royals 3 (10 innings)
 
Wasn’t shocked at all by this result. Late last year, I had the sneaking suspicion that the gritty team character and infectious mojo they were experiencing in the postseason would not translate well into Strat play—and it sure didn’t in this tournament. K.C. just could not score enough runs, especially off tough Oakland pitchers Samardzija, Lester, and Gray. The final game is a complete heartbreaker, as a Sal Perez single puts the Royals up in the 10th, only to have Jed Lowrie single in the winning runs off Greg Holland with a gbA+ past a drawn in infield!
 
#1 L.A. Angels defeat #8 NY Yankees, 4 games to 2
 
Yankees 4, at Angels 2
At Angels 4, Yankees 1
At Yankees 5, Angels 4
Angels 5, at Yankees 3
Angels 3, at Yankees 0
At Angels 3, Yankees 2
 
After trading wins in Anaheim, the Yanks get a heroic effort from Mark Teixeira in Game Three (two homers, including a three-run smash off Joe Smith to give them the lead in the 8th), and New York takes a 2-1 lead in games. They never win again, Weaver snuffing them out in Game Five before Richards edges Tanaka back on the west coast to clinch it.
 
 
SECOND ROUND – NATIONAL LEAGUE
 
San Francisco defeats NY Mets, 4 games to 1
 
At Giants 6, Mets 4 (10 innings)
At Giants 4, Mets 0
At Mets 6, Giants 2
Giants 9, at Mets 4
Giants 6, at Mets 1
 
The Giants tie the opener in the 9th on a walk, single, stolen base and Andrew Susac pinch sac fly off deGrom, then win it with a walk-off blast by Pence one inning later. The Mets make it semi-interesting with a stomping of Ryan Vogelsong in Game Three, but it’s all S.F. from there, and Buster Posey personally wins the finale with two homers and five RBIs.
 
Atlanta defeats St. Louis, 4 games to 2
 
Braves 2, at Cards 0
At Cards 4, Braves 0
At Braves 11, Cards 2
At Braves 8, Cards 1
Cards 4, at Braves 0
Braves 4, at Cards 0
 
More Miracle Braves stuff, and all six games are one-sided, including four shutouts. Teheran wins twice, Lynn tosses a 1-hitter in Game Two, but the Brave bats explode at home in games Three and Four for a combined 19 runs. Andrelton Simmons goes 10-for-20 (.500) in the series, even though he barely hit over .250 in ’14.
 
 
SECOND ROUND – AMERICAN LEAGUE
 
Detroit sweeps Baltimore, 4 games to 0
 
Tigers 2, at Orioles 1
Tigers 6, at Orioles 3
At Tigers 4, Orioles 3 (10 innings)
At tigers 4, Orioles 3
 
Detroit gets four complete game wins, two by Scherzer and one each by Price and Sanchez to help Baltimore duplicate their real postseason performance of 2014, when they swept the Tigers and got swept by K.C. The Birds waste numerous scoring chances the last two games, while Detroit gets a key hit whenever necessary. J.D. Martinez has a huge series, going 9-for-17 (.529) with four RBIs, three of them game-winners.
 
Oakland defeats L.A. Angels, 4 games to 2
 
Athletics 3, at Angels 2
At Angels 5, Athletics 0
Angels 4, at Athletics 3
At Athletics 6, Angels 1
At Athletics 8, Angels 2
Athletics 3, at Angels 1
 
Samardzija wins both of his starts, and the A’s recover from getting 3-hit by Garrett Richards in Game Two and falling behind 2-1 in games to take the final three and shut down the Halo offense.
 
 
NEXT MONTH: Best of ’14 Tournament Part 2, starting with the championship round…
 
Braves vs. Giants
Athletics vs. Tigers
 
Remember, the eventual champion receives a $25 gift certificate from Strat!