Monday, October 5, 2009

The First Playoff Game

Who doesn't love a one-game playoff? Ok, if you're team is in one you probably don't, but for the rest of us it's fun. Who doesn't remember Bucky (bleeping) Dent hitting a home run in the one-game playoff against Boston in 1978?

The fun part about one-game playoffs is that they are often the result of a titanic gag down the stretch. The 1978 Red Sox held a 14 game lead on the Yankees on July 19th, only to have the Yanks catch fire and force a 163rd game of the season, which they won on Dent's home run. The 1995 California Angels also couldn't handle their on their own success, turning a six game lead on September 12th into an extra game against the Seattle Mariners, which they lost, 9-1, to Randy Johnson's complete game, three-hit, 12-strikeout domination.

My favorite one-game playoff memory is from 1998, when the Cubs and Giants met up at Wrigley Field to determine the NL Wild Card entrant. With the Cubs up 5-0 going to the ninth inning, the Giants scored twice. With runners on first and third and one out, the Cubs went to their closer, the late Rod Beck. Beck ended up pitching five out of six days down the stretch in 1998, and the extra game was his 81st of the season. At this point Beck was on fumes, but he was a gamer and would always take the ball when called upon. Jon Miller, calling the game for ESPN, called one of Beck's pitches "Change-up in for a strike at 75 miles an hour" to which Miller's longtime broadcast partner Joe Morgan replied "Actually Jon, that was his FASTBALL." Beck held on for the save.

That's what it's all about this time of year, getting it done, no matter what's left in the tank.

So who get's it done today with the Twins taking on the Tigers? The Tigers, playing with the weight of a beaten down city, or the Twins, playing for another day in the Metrodome. The Tigers have the bigger distraction, with recent news about Miguel Cabrera, and also have 20-year old Rick Porcello the mound in the biggest game of the season. I don't care how good you are, how poised you are, whatever, being 20 and under that pressure is pretty intense.

I've seen articles written in the last two days that say obviously the Twins will win, or obviously the Tigers will. I have no idea, and I can't even get my head around who I think has the upper hand.

But it should be fun. Extra baseball is never a bad thing.

Even if your reward for winning is taking on the Yankees in the first round.

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