The Division Series’

Ronald Acuna Jr. – hero or goat? Last year’s Rookie of the Year has all of Atlanta on his back today after he took it easy and hot-dogged watching a well hit fly that he assumed was a homer end up bouncing back in and be deftly played by Dexter Fowler of the Cards. Acuna’s slow jog after standing to watch the ball kept him to a single, whereas he could easily have been on second with a stand up double. He was doubled off by the next batter. Mistakes like that loom big in the playoffs, very big in a game that ends up being a one-run loss.

Fans, and the rest of his team, let him hear it. Especially the one other legitimate superstar on roster, Freddie Freeman. “It’s kind of frustrating,” the first baseman said, “I think you have that conversation once. Kind of beat the dead horse if you keep having the same conversation,” a not-too-veiled reference to previous times Acuna has been criticized for not hustling or giving it his all. Catcher Brian McCann agreed, saying “that can’t happen.” The manager, Brian Snitzker said Acuna should have been on second, but “we’re kind of shorthanded to do anything about it,” referring to the idea he should have pulled Acuna and benched him.

To be fair, Acuna hit a home run in his next at bat to keep his Braves in the game. And let’s not forget that he had a potentially-MVP season for the NL East winners, hitting .280 but with 41 homers, 37 stolen bases and a WAR over 5. Without that, Atlanta might have been looking up at Washington in the standings, not winning the division. But still, talent will get you only so far. It takes effort and dedication to go that final mile to become a “superstar”. Let’s hope Atlanta don’t have to keep beating that dead horse anymore with Acuna.

With that, the ALDS is just about to kick off right now. We don’t have time for detailed analyses but here’s a brief look at the four playoff series as I see them:

AL:

Houston over Tampa Bay, in 3. Yes, the Rays are the darlings of many, being the feisty small market, small budget team that somehow kept on winning and kept last year’s champions (Boston) out of the post-season. But just as talent will only get you so far, as said with Acuna, so too will a good attitude. Houston – especially that 1-2-3- of Verlander, Cole and Greinke on the mound – is far too talented to be knocked off this early. The Rays’ 48 road wins and +113 runs on the season look great… until compared to the Astros, with home advantage, and their 60 home wins an +280 runs.

New York over Minnesota in 4. Gotta give the Twins credit, for so dominating most of the year and well exceeding expectations. But the Yanks have been even better, and better with a largely improvised roster for much of the year. Now they have Judge, Stanton and Encarnacion back and healthy, and Game 1 starter has settled into the ace they expected when they first signed him. With over 600 home runs between the two, expect to see some longballs… although now that cool air has settled over the northern states, pehaps not as many as some think.

NL:

LA over Washington in 4. If young Walker Buehler could shut them down like he did last night, how will the Nats rise up to crush Kershaw or Ryu? Dodgers shut out Washington twice in seven regular season games (they took 4 out of the 7.) Washington now needs to win 3 of 4 … too tough a path to hike.

St. Louis over Atlanta in 5. Ok, I flipped on this one. Before the series, I thought Atlanta would win a close series. After last night’s game, and the clubhouse furor, I think the Cardinals can win it, especially with Paul Goldschmidt starting to hit like Paul Goldschmidt again.

15 comments

  1. badfinger20

    What Acuna did was just dumb. If this was the only time it would be one thing…but it isn’t. Hans and I were talking about this…hopefully the players will close ranks and take care of this. The thing that upset me was he didn’t seem to think it was a big deal afterward.

    The Dodger game I’m worried about is Ryu pitching in Washington. He does much better at home but you can’t pitch Kershaw 3rd. When Buehler puts it together with his stuff. I think a Cy Young could come one day for him. He has the stuff to do it…he is just not consistent yet. He will be the future ace unless an injury happens.

    I can’t argue with your picks…the dicey one is Atlanta and St. Louis. The Cardinals are hot and the Braves are really young…taking that first game was important. I think the Braves are better on paper but a hot Cardinals team will be tough.

    You think the injuries to the Yankees will affect them much?

    Yea I agree with your Tampa Bay pick but….Go Tampa Bay!

    • Dave

      I figured Kershaw would be more “on” last night… also didn’t expect to see Scherzer back out there, even if only an inning. But that might push him back to start til game 5, if there is a game 5. Still like your Dodgers in the series. St Louis/Atlanta could go to the ninth or tenth inning of Game 5 I expect.

      • badfinger20

        No that was a typical Kershaw start all year. Remember when the Blue Jays faced him? He allows runs usually in the 1st – 3rd innings and then he settles down.

      • Dave

        Well, that’s usually the way with the greats. Seem to always remember that about Dave Stieb, Jack Morris in his brief time in Toronto, and roy Halladay plus several of the great opponents … Verlander when he was younger for example – got to get to them early on or you’re out of the game. They settle into a great groove by the third if not sooner.

      • badfinger20

        Well it’s going down to the wire…. they better hit Strasburg or it’s over with. I knew they would have trouble with Max…he hasn’t lost much in the years.

      • Dave

        No, Scherzer and Verlander to me are the two pitchers who you’d want on the mound on a crucial game, no matter what their regular stats might be like. I was surprised to see Washington using Scherzer and Strasburg out of bullpen though. Reminds me of Arizona in 01(?) with Johnson and Schilling. good luck for your guys — who goes for game 5? I liked seeing Martin’s big game, by the way!

      • badfinger20

        Martin has been really valuable this year. I hope they keep him for next…he has been such a good teacher to Will Smith and has come up with hits when they needed them.

      • Dave

        he seems to thrive there. There was a mini-Twitter storm of Toronto fans when he had that big game (game 2, wasn’t it?) ; I and quite a few others felt Blue Jays should’ve hung on to him this year to ride out that contract, others said why, we suggested hey, he’s useful as a bench player, can still play several positions and would be a great “tutor” to rookie catchers Jansen and McGuire; to which a couple said along the lines of $17M for a ‘glorified coach’? I figured, why not, a coach who’ll help shape a player who’s supposed to become a mainstay for the next five years or so, and while doing that can probably be a better backup catcher than what they had? Better use of $17M than spending I think $13M to ship him to L.A. but played out well for your guys! Hope he comes through again tonight!

      • badfinger20

        Yea they paid most of the salary anyway so what was the difference. It’s monoply money at that point.
        I’m glad they did though because it’s great to see him in Dodger blue again and he has done very good.

  2. badfinger20

    Looks like Houston and Atlanta are in the same shape as the Dodgers. In a 5 game series, anything can happen. I’m shocked at the Rays…

    • Dave

      Me too! No way in the world did I ever see them winning a game, let alone getting to game 5. If I was a “bookie” I’d probably have gone 25-1 against them hitting a Game 5 after they lost 2. Gotta like their determination and heart!

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