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Rays Burned After Controversial Michael Young Check Swing

If the Buster Posey stolen base was the controversy of Game 1 between the Braves and Giants, then Michael Young’s check swing was the equivalent in the Rays/Rangers ALDS. Young was up with men on first and second in the 5th inning and facing reliever Chad Qualls. Young had two strikes on him and appeared to go around on a check swing that would have resulted in a strikeout. On the appeal to the first base umpire, Young was ruled safe and got to continue his at-bat. Young belted the next pitch to deep center for a three-run home run giving the Rangers a 5-0 lead. They went on to win 6-0 and take a 2-0 ALDS lead on the Rays. In case you missed it, here’s the controversial check swing:

While the call was wrong, the Rays have less of a gripe than the Braves. Tampa Bay was already down 2-0 and has only managed one run in the entire series. Even if Young was punched out (as he should have been), Josh Hamilton singled and that would have scored a run to make it 3-0. Besides, the Rays need to hit — they’ve only scored one run in two games. Their inability to score consistently plagued them during the season and seems to be their problem in the postseason.

Controversy: Buster Posey Was Out at Second on Stolen Base (Picture)

It wouldn’t be the MLB Playoffs it there weren’t lots of controversies. From the ball to right field caught by Greg Golson but called a hit for the Twins to Michael Young’s check swing, we’ve already had our share of bad calls by the umpires. Perhaps the most controversial play was Buster Posey’s stolen base in Game 1 of the NLDS between the Giants and Braves.

Posey led off the 4th with a single off Derek Lowe. He stole second and was called safe, but replays show he was out. Posey later scored on a two out single by Cody Ross to bring in the game’s only run. The Giants won 1-0 to take Game 1, but this call will live in infamy. Here’s a picture showing Buster Posey was out at second on his stolen base:

Even with that call, Omar Infante should have made a play on Ross’ ground ball to end the inning so I still blame the Braves for allowing the run to score. They also couldn’t muster any offense against Tim Lincecum who was dominant with 14 strikeouts and only two hits allowed. Even if the game remained scoreless, Atlanta wasn’t winning anytime soon. Still, this play adds more credence to the sentiment that baseball needs instant replay to help out umpires with difficult calls.

Cliff Lee Has Technique to Dodge His Fans

The Rangers have taken the first two games of their ALDS with the Rays allowing just one run in the process. Starters Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson have pitched admirably for Texas, combining to allow just seven hits in 13.1 innings. Though Lee has won the Cy Young Award and is one of the best pitchers in baseball, he doesn’t have a very high public profile. The case is even more extreme for Wilson who went from being a bullpen pitcher to going 15-8 in his first year starting. Wilson recently talked with Jimmy Traina of SI and explained that he doesn’t get recognized very often in public. He then relayed a hilarious story about the way Cliff Lee has dealt with his fans:

If I do become famous, though, I’m going to adopt a technique from Cliff Lee. A couple of weeks ago, we were in San Francisco, and some guy at a restaurant went up to Cliff and was like, “Yo, you’re Cliff Lee.” And he said, “Who’s Cliff Lee? What are you talking about?” And the guy was like, “You’re Cliff Lee, you pitch for the Rangers.” And Lee goes, “Oh, that guy? He sucks.” The dude was all confused because he was 97 percent sure Cliff was Cliff. And the dude just walked away shaking his head.

Man, I feel badly for that guy — nobody likes being made to feel like an idiot. I’ve certainly been there before. Texas is looking good but let’s hope Wilson doesn’t adopt that strategy or become like Cole Hamels if he does win World Series MVP.

Another item from the interview (well worth a read) that was really interesting was Wilson’s explanation for why the transition from relieving to starting has worked for him. Generally we think that relievers won’t have much stamina as starters, but C.J. said that the regularity of starting was easier on his arm, adding that relievers throw with more intensity. Usually I look at it as relieving is easier than starting but looks like the converse was true for Wilson.

MLB Playoffs Day 1: Rocco Baldelli vs. Jeff Francoeur, Rays-Rangers Is Best Series

The 2010 MLB postseason got off to a fantastic start with three very exciting ballgames. I have in-depth notes for Game 1 of the Tampa Bay/Texas series— which is going to be the most exciting series of the postseason other than a Phillies-Yankees World Series rematch.

Why is this perhaps the most exciting match-up in the postseason? Surely, (my home team) against (that other team) is better! Of course, but no other series features two more exciting, dynamic, young, complete teams that are also totally different in the way they approach and play the game.

In Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford, we have two of the best players in the league, both about to enter free agency with a lot at stake. In Josh Hamilton, we have one of the game’s most exciting, compelling players playing hurt. We have a difficult pitching environment in Texas where not a lot of postseason games have been played and pitchers are going to have to battle. Both teams will score runs and both teams have question marks in their pitching staffs that keep the series interesting. I could go on and on.

RAYS-RANGERS

In Game 1, Cliff Lee was his usual, strike-throwing-robot-self, working mostly off his fastball, keeping it down and locating it on both sides of the plate, cutting it against righties. He mixed in his change and curve but did not have a great feel for his curve and did not use too many. He obviously did not need it, striking out 10 and walking none.

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Roy Halladay Tosses No-Hitter in Postseason Debut for Phillies

One of the great side stories to the MLB playoffs this year was Roy Halladay getting his first shot at the postseason after spending 12 years in Toronto. Who could have ever imagined that he would throw a freaking no-hitter in his first career postseason start?

The Phillies Cy Young candidate threw the first playoff no-hitter since Don Larsen’s perfect game for the Yankees in 1956, beating the Reds 4-0 in Game 1 of the NLDS. As if that stat wasn’t impressive enough, the no-no comes four and a half months after he threw a perfect game against the Marlins! To place that in context, only four pitchers have thrown two no-hitters in the same season, and the last was Nolan Ryan who’s now an executive with the Rangers.

Halladay needed only 104 pitches to make history happen. Aside from a walk to Jay Bruce in the 5th, Halladay was perfect facing just 28 batters in the game. He only had three three-ball counts and threw 79 of his 104 pitches for strikes. After the game, Doc described his performance as “surreal,” saying “to be able to go out and have a game like that is a dream come true.” It is a dream come true, and it makes the game so special for the fans to enjoy.

With a no-hitter in his postseason debut, the only question is where does Doc and the Phillies go from here? Anything less than winning the World Series would have to be a disappointment. Good thing they’re our World Series favorite. What an incredible start to the 2010 MLB Playoffs!

Arte Moreno Will Spend to Get Angels Back to Playoffs

Arte Moreno is quietly one of the best owners in sports. It’s comments like the ones he made to the LA Times that affirm this point. After missing the playoffs for just the second time since he took over the Angels for the 2004 season, Moreno vowed to get the team back to the postseason. The Angels’ owner said to Bill Plaschke “You’re not in the playoffs, you’re not a happy person. I just don’t like losing, and we’re going to make adjustments. It’s going to cost money, but our fans need to know what we’re committed to winning.”

Yankee fans probably understand the feeling, but it’s great to know that your team’s owner cares as much about winning as you do as a fan. I try to catch every single Angels game on TV but the reality is I tuned out the entire last month of the season — there was just no point in watching by then. It was the most disinterested I’ve been in a season of Angels baseball since Moreno took over the team.

Think about it: since he became owner of the Angels, the team has won the AL West five of seven years, won 95 or more games three times, and made the ALCS twice. Even when the team missed the playoffs in 2006, they still won 89 games and finished in second. The 2010 season was the worst of the Arte Moreno era — an 80-82 3rd place finish.

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Caller Suggests James Shields Is Rays’ Game 2 Starter Because He Is Jewish

After being in the sports radio business for the past nine years, things said by callers generally don’t surprise me. Having said that, the clip I heard today via Jimmy Traina’s Hot Clicks had me flipping out. Some lady on Steve Duemig’s show on WDAE in Tampa suggested that the Rays starting James Shields in Game 2 of the ALDS is a Jewish conspiracy. No joke.

The decision to start Shields in Game 2 is quite surprising. David Price is a Cy Young candidate and the team’s Game 1 starter. Many people would have expected Matt Garza to start Game 2 for the Rays because of his playoff experience and success this season, but manager Joe Maddon is giving Shields the nod. Shields pitched well twice against the Red Sox in the ALCS in 2008 and beat the Phillies in the World Series, but he’s been hit hard this year, particularly towards the end of the season.

I could understand the argument that Shields is one of the team’s veteran leaders and that’s why he’s getting the start. The suggestion that his Jewish background is the reason he’s getting the start is incomprehensible. The show’s host, Steve Duemig, thought the female caller was joking when she made the suggestion. As he told me, and as you can hear in the audio clip (listen here), he gave her every possible out to say she was joking. After continuously questioning the lady, it was determined she was completely serious.

The oddest part of the whole situation is that Shields isn’t even Jewish! Duemig said that in his 20 years in sports radio, Quaker Lady was probably number two on the list of craziest calls he’s received. Frankly, it’s hard to believe she wasn’t number one. Something tells me it was Rick Sanchez disguised as a random lady making the call.

Brilliant Photo Credit: Jason Collette via Draysbay