28 September 2011

A Wild Wild Card Night

As if this season of baseball wasn't crazy and insane enough, the final day of the regular season saw a total of eight games which had playoff implications, and most of them were absolutely incredible!

First off, in the American League, the Yankees, Rangers, and Tigers had already locked up their divisions, but the Boston Red Sox were trying to avoid missing the playoffs after a miserable September which saw them lose  20 of their 28 games. At the same time, the Rays were trying to at least get to a playoff game by beating the Yankees, who have the best AL record this year. The Rangers and Tigers were each trying to gain home field advantage and the number two seed in the AL against the Angels and Indians, respectively.

In the National League, the Braves and Cardinals were tied for the Wild Card spot, and a win by one and a loss by the other would seal the deal for one of them. Milwaukee and Arizona were vying for the right to not face the Phillies with home field advantage.

Here's how the night went down. First, the matchups:

Red Sox-Orioles

The games started out quickly enough. The Yankees took a seven-run advantage over the Rays, while the Rangers handily beat the Angels, rendering the Detroit game meaningless. When the Cardinals beat the Astros, it became a must-win situation for the Braves, and when Milwaukee beat Pittsburgh soon after that, the Diamondbacks knew they were going to open on the road.

But then the Rays tied the Yankees with a six-run eighth inning and a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth. Boston and the Orioles emerged from a rain delay with Boston on top by one in the 7th, and a 3-3 stalemate ensued in Atlanta. The Yankees-Rays game and the Phillies-Braves games both headed to extra innings, with the Wild Card hopefuls fighting with every tool in their arsenals for the chance to play postseason baseball. It was exciting.

Just a few minutes ago, the Baltimore Orioles tied their game in the bottom of the ninth inning against Boston on a Nolan Reimold ground rule double, and then won it on a walk-off Robert Andino RBI single. The Red Sox needed a Yankees win to force a playoff.

The Atlanta Braves gave up a run to the Phillies in the 13th inning of their game, and the Phillies shut them out in the bottom of the frame, ending their playoff dreams this year. This locked up the NLDS matchups.

And just moments ago, Evan Longoria hit a game-winning, playoff-making, walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning against the New York Yankees to give them the AL Wild Card, locking up the ALDS matchups.

No one would have ever thought the Rays had a chance this year, but they came back from several games down to Boston to win it, and the Cardinals completed a similar wild run. This day of baseball has been simply amazing!

The playoff picture is set.

ALDS A: Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees
ALDS B: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers
NLDS A: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies
NLDS B: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Thus, my playoff predictions this year will be as follows:

ALCS: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Detroit Tigers
NLCS: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Philadelphia Phillies

World Series: Detroit Tigers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

WS Winner: The Arizona Diamondbacks in 6 games

Yes, I'm biased. Deal with it! Haha... GO DBACKS!

My 32nd Game of the Year

Tonight I went to - where else? - Chase Field for my 32nd and final regular-season game of the year to watch the Arizona Diamondbacks take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. I've blown my previous high of 15 games in a season out of the water in 2011 thanks to all the tickets I've been given or won from the Diamondbacks organization, the Diamondbacks Foundation, Fry's Food, and now from right fielder Justin Upton himself!

That's right, I won a four-pack of tickets to tonight's game on Twitter from @realjustinupton, who was giving away tickets yesterday. Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and had a direct message from Upton telling me I'd won! It was very cool.

I ended up taking Scott to the game with me, but we had two unusable tickets because no one else could go. We got there early enough to be first in line to get in when the non-season ticket holder gates all opened, and while Scott went to the team shop to get a shirt and hat, I went to left field in an attempt to catch a ball or two. I was wholly unsuccessful, though I did get Clayton Kershaw's attention and he glared at me. Funny story. Kershaw robbed a couple DBacks fans of a ball hit at the wall, and a guy 20 feet to might right yelled at him "You suck, Kershaw." Kershaw turned around, asked who said it, and the guy said "I did." So Kershaw proceeded to wind up for a really hard throw of the ball he'd just caught right at that guy. He didn't do it obviously, but he came off as a wimpy little you-know-what. So one of the next balls that was hit was a homer, which Kershaw also chased to the wall right below where I was standing. I yelled out at him, "I don't think you're tall enough to rob a fan of that one, Kershaw," which prompted him to glare at me a moment. I glared back. He went and moved to center field to shag balls after that. Probable Cy Young Award winner for 2011 or not, Clayton Kershaw is a jerk. Period.

Anyway, after BP, we had some time to kill, so we wandered to our seats in right field, then just before game time, we got some popcorn and chatted throughout the first six innings of the game. It was a 0-0 deadlock, with  phenom Jarrod Parker (@JarrodBParker) pitching in his first ever big league game, and doing really well. He got pulled after 5 2/3 innings with a pitch count of around 75, but he was obviously getting tired, and he did a great job in his debut!

Eventually, the Dodgers scored a run on a Dee Gordon single in the 7th, but the Diamondbacks came right back to tie it in the bottom of the inning on a long Lyle Overbay double, scoring Chris Young.

Fast forward to the top of the 10th inning... score still tied at 1-1. Micah Owings came in to pitch and promptly gave up a double, then made a throwing error to score the runner on a fielder's choice, then a single and a fielding error on Chris Young, a groundout advancing the runner, a single, a walk, and a triple, and just like that, it was a 6-1 Diamondbacks deficit. By that time, most of the crowd had left, thanks to both the time and the circumstances, but Scott and I stayed. (Okay, in all fairness, I kind of made Scott stay... he wanted to leave in the 8th inning.)

By the way, that triple I mentioned was a clanger off the wall which Justin Upton tried to chase down. The ball hit the wall, ricocheted hard, and hit Upton in the left temple. Upton, recovering from a mild concussion after being beaned by Tim Lincecum the other night, was obviously hurt, but still found enough strength and clarity of mind to get the ball back in before squatting on the ground and waiting for medical help. He was removed from the game as a precaution, but initial reports said he would be all right. Scott and I were literally RIGHT THERE when it happened, and it definitely sounded painful. In the screen grab below, Upton had just been hit by the ball, and he's below the "S" in the State Farm sign. The ball is to the right of his head below the "a" and Scott and I were sitting in the yellow circle.

I really hope Justin's going to be okay. Two head injuries in a lifetime would be two too many but a pair in a week is excessive. I did hear tell that he had a headache but felt all right, but obviously I wish him well anyway. I was extremely impressed at his strength of will to stay composed after the ricochet and get the ball back in to the infield. He saved a potential inside the park home run and held the runner to just a triple. If it were me, I might have said screw the run and just laid down on the grass. Upton's the man.

In the bottom of the 10th, everyone thought the club would be just going through the motions. After all, down by 5 with three outs remaining, at 10:30pm in a game that technically doesn't really matter aside from keeping you in the race for home field advantage in the NLDS.... It would have been easy to just say screw it. Indeed, Willie Bloomquist and Gerardo Parra quickly grounded out. With two outs, Cole Gillespie, who came in for Upton, singled to the first baseman and beat the throw. Miguel Montero smacked on up the middle, and Chris Young walked. Bases loaded, two out. A fielding error on the Dodger third baseman Aaron Miles allowed a run to score, leaving the bases loaded again during John McDonald's at-bat. After a pitching change, Aaron Hill walked, driving in another run, which left the Diamondbacks down by three runs with the bases loaded and Ryan Roberts coming to bat. Roberts had had an 0-for-4 night at the plate with two strikeouts. But you can't keep him or this team down... on the very first pitch he saw at 9:26pm he connected, sending a scorching line drive to deep left field, and over the wall!

A WALK-OFF GRAND SLAM FOR RYAN ROBERTS! That's the first walk-off grand slam for the Diamondbacks organization since May, 2000, and only the fourth time it has ever been done in extra innings EVER (including once by Babe Ruth)!

Ryan Roberts had said that if he were ever to hit a walk-off home run, he'd do the Kirk Gibson fist pump from the 1988 World Series... you know the one. And he did... it was awesome! (I'm not kidding... you MUST click this link to watch the video: http://www.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=19748777&partnerId=aw-5143649194975279678-996) Immediately after the game, Roberts (@RRoberts14) tweeted to his followers, "Thanku [sic] to everyone for sticking around and having that moment with me! Wow wow wow!"

It truly was incredible. It was without a doubt the best moment of the year for this club. It makes you believe that this really, truly, might just be our year again.

27 September 2011


The Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday delivered the knockout blow to the San Francisco Giants and became the 2011 National League West Division Champions!

Down 1-0 going into the bottom of the 7th inning, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt walked, then was driven all the way around to score by a Chris Young double. After an intentional walk to Gerardo Parra with just one out, new shortstop John McDonald popped to first base, and Geoff Blum, pinch hitting for starter Joe Saunders, struck out looking.

David Hernandez relieved Saunders, and got Justin Christian to fly out to right field before allowing a single to Jeff Keppinger. Emmanuel Burriss came in to pinch run and did move to second base on a wild pitch, but key strikeouts to both Carlos Beltran and Brett Pill kept the score tied.

In the bottom of the eighth, third baseman Ryan Roberts (AKA "Tatman") smoked a 1-0 double to left field to lead off. Second baseman Aaron Hill sacrifice bunted to the pitcher to move Tatman to third base. Wisely, the Giants allowed their starter, Matt Cain, to intentionally walk Arizona's most dangerous power hitter, right fielder Justin Upton, before removing him in favor of lefty reliever Javier Lopez. Lopez faced just a single batter and threw only a single pitch, getting catcher Miguel Montero to fly out to shallow center field, not allowing the run to score from third. But with two outs, two runners on base, and a 1-2 count, Goldschmidt hit a shrieking line-drive into the right-field corner: his first career triple scoring two runs and giving the D-backs a two run advantage. Young's strikeout ended the inning, but not before the damage was done.

Tension filled the stadium as the air crackled with excitement and anticipation. Cheering partially gave way to thunderous silence as no one wanted to jinx the team by speaking the unspeakable: the Diamondbacks were about to go from worst in 2010 to first in 2011. Eventually, the sounds of "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC amplified the atmosphere in the stadium... J.J. Putz, the closer, and he of the 45 saves this season for Arizona, came in from the bullpen.

Putz's first challenger was Mark DeRosa, and Putz fell behind him with two early balls. The third pitch was a bloopy liner to center field. The tying run was coming to the plate in the form of the extremely dangerous and tough to strike out pinch hitter Pablo "Panda" Sandoval, relieving Andres Torres, who had pinch run for Brandon Belt, while Brandon Crawford pinch ran for DeRosa. Perhaps it was fate, or nerves, or the consequences of the inevitable... or maybe Putz was just mad about the single... but the un-K-able Panda was struck out swinging on a mere four pitches. On the very next pitch, a long fly out to center field eliminated Orlando Cabrera, and the Giants were left with but one out to play with, down by two runs. Eli Whiteside, the catcher, came to the plate, and on strike one, Crawford moved to second. Defensive indifference. His run didn't matter. All that did matter was getting out Whiteside. Strike two. The fans climbed to their feet, yelling JJ's name, whistling, and ready for the celebrations that were inevitable. Ball one. A collective groan, but then even louder cheering, as if the fans themselves could will the strikeout just by sheer volume. Another pitch... a foul ball. With a 1-2 count, and the decibel level inside Chase Field rivaling that of the inside of a jet engine at peak operation, Putz threw pitch number five home... a shallow pop to center field... caught by Chris Young!

Putz picked up Montero as Young gave a leap of ecstasy and the team rushed the field to celebrate. The Arizona Diamondbacks had just won the National League West Division, usurping the title from the once-champion San Francisco Giants, for the first time since 2007. Nothing that night could have been sweeter than the taste of champagne sprayed from dozens of bottles, nor more exciting from the fan's perspective than watching the team rush the pool in right field, jumping over the right field fence to splash into the cool water.

The team has a tough road to go: if they win home field advantage, they face the Atlanta Braves, against whom they have gone 3-3 this year. If they fail to gain that advantage, they face the Philadelphia Phillies, against whom they are also 3-3 this year. Arizona has among its young stars a potential Cy Young Award Winner (Ian Kennedy), a potential MVP (Justin Upton), a guy who was never supposed to make the team (Ryan Roberts), a complete turnaround (Sean Burroughs), the possible Rookie of the Year (Paul Goldschmidt), the unquestionable Manager of the Year (Kirk Gibson), three potential Gold Glove outfielders (Chris Young, Gerardo Parra, and Upton), a possible Silver Slugger pitcher (Daniel Hudson), and two of the best shutdown relievers in the game (David Hernandez and J.J. Putz), not to mention two possible Executives of the Year (Kevin Towers and Derrick Hall). Not too bad for a team the pundits predicted would be lucky to make it out of the cellar again this year. Rebuilding be damned.

Will we win the Series this year, the tenth anniversary of the improbable 2001 World Series against the Yankees? From this team, anything is within the realm of possibility. All I know is that it will be incredibly fun to watch!

Go DBacks!

21 September 2011

2011 MLB Postseason

Every year, I do a post about the makeup of the 2011 postseason picture for baseball, and this year is no exception... with one exception. The Diamondbacks are back in contention for the first time since 2007! A win over the San Francisco Giants at any time this weekend, or any combination of two Diamondbacks wins, two Giants losses, or one of each within the next six games seals the deal and makes the DBacks 2011 National League West champions!

To answer the obvious question, yes, yes, YES I have already bought my tickets to the National League Division Series here in Phoenix should we make it. That all being said, here's the current postseason picture:

American League:
East: The New York Yankees clinched the AL East crown for the 17th time tonight with their win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Obviously the Yankees are always a tough opponent, but that the AL East was only won with six games to spare says a lot about the rest of the field. The Yankees haven't been themselves since losing to the Diamondbacks in 2001... can they pull off win number 28 this year?

Central: The Detroit Tigers ran away with the Central this year, and with Verlander as their ace, they remain a very tough opponent. Their hitting is good, their pitching is stellar, and they have all the tools to make a run for the title.

West: The Texas Rangers lead the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by 5 games going into the final stretch, and their magic number is 3. The Rangers have seven games left to play, but three of those are against the Angels, so the Halos aren't quite out of it just yet.

Wild Card: The Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are all still in contention. Currently it's the BoSox atop the field, but just by 2 1/2 games over both competitors. With the magic number for Boston set at 5, there's no guarantee yet that they're going to make it. Recently, the Rays have really been on a roll, and I wouldn't count them out.

National League:
East: The Phillies locked up the majors' best record - and the NL East - a long time ago. They have been everything this year that all the pundits predicted. They look primed to recapture their 2009 title, and with Halladay and Lee leading the way, followed by a killer offense, it'll take determination to stop them. However, they also have a target the size of the Twins' stadium on their backs, so a determined team with something to prove definitely has a shot.

Central: The Milwaukee Brewers hold the hammer over the St. Louis Cardinals, who have been streaking lately trying to play catch-up. The Brew Crew's magic number is 3, and their schedule has them set against the Marlins and the Pirates to close out the year. I'd feel confident in saying they can probably get three wins out of the deal to put the Cards to bed.

West: Like I mentioned above, the DBacks magic number is now 2 over the San Francisco Giants. The Giants come to Phoenix this weekend for a three-game set, and anything but a sweep of the Snakes gives the title to Arizona. Despite exceptional pitching, I don't think Brian Wilson's team is going to be able to "Book it!" this year!

Wild Card: The Atlanta Braves currently hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and a 3 1/2-game lead over the San Francisco Giants. The Cardinals face the Cubs this weekend in what is sure to be an emotionally-charged set as they try to take over the Wild Card lead, if not the NL Central, and the Giants play the Diamondbacks for their fight to remain in contention. The Braves take on the Nationals, followed by the Phillies, so this is by no means locked up yet for any of the three teams.

If the postseason started today, the picture would look like this:

Rangers @ Yankees
Red Sox @ Tigers

Diamondbacks @ Phillies
Braves @ Brewers

Frankly, I can't even make good predictions yet because the Wild Card races are so tight (it will come down to the wire in the NL, I think), so I'll hold off until next week. But just looking at the matchups, the Diamondbacks and Phillies would be fun to see - hopefully the underdog team that wasn't supposed to make it out of the cellar this year can play Daniel to the Philly Goliath - and the Tigers and Red Sox matchup would be a good one as well. If the Rangers could trounce the Yankees in a matchup from the 2010 NLCS, it would be nice to see them try for another World Series berth.

All-in-all, unless we get Yankees-Phillies again this year, the postseason should be a fun one to watch! Personally, I'm rooting for a Diamondbacks-Tigers World Series (or perhaps a rematch of 2001....)!

18 September 2011

2011 Fantasy Baseball RESULTS

Several months ago, at the start of the regular season, I posted my 2011 Fantasy Baseball lineup and mentioned that if I could get in the top half of places at the end, I'd be happy. This is the original lineup:

IF: David Wright
IF: Buster Posey
IF: Rafael Furcal
IF: Gordon Beckham
OF: Hunter Pence
OF: Jay Bruce
OF Chris Young (Arizona)
UTIL: Joe Mauer
UTIL: Carlos Quentin
SP: Roy Halladay
SP: Matt Cain
RP: Chris Perez
RP: Ryan Franklin
P: Shaun Marcum
P: Jaime Garcia
B: Angel Pagan
B: Coco Crisp
B: CJ Wilson

Well, I'm happy to say that not only did I make it into the top 6 (out of 12 players), I also took home the trophy for 1st place! The season officially ended today, and I won! This is the championship team:

IF: David Wright
IF: Ryan Roberts
IF: Gaby Sanchez
IF: Kelly Johnson
OF: Jay Bruce
OF: Hunter Pence
OF: Chris Young
UTIL: Matt Weiters
UTIL: Carlos Quentin
OF: Ichiro Suzuki
SP: Jaime Garcia
SP: CJ Wilson
SP: Roy Halladay
SP: Matt Cain
SP: Shaun Marcum
SP: Ian Kennedy
RP: Chris Perez
RP: Ryan Madson

Nine of my 18 players stayed with me all year; the other nine were lost due to injury (Posey), or just were underperforming so I replaced them.

Now I can add this to my list of "credentials:" "2011 Yahoo Fantasy Baseball Champion." Woot.

16 September 2011


Hello friends. Sadly, I have been neglecting my blog more frequently than is normal. I'm juggling a bunch of stuff right now while getting settled into my apartment, so it's been hectic the last few months. I'm going to try to do better!

As for the apartment, well, it feels like home a bit more now. I have had to pay rent and Internet bills (gasp!), so I'm getting the full experience.... And trust me, spending $700-plus on rent for the first time is a bit of a shock to the system when you haven't paid for very much that's that expensive before! But we have a nice setup. My brother's got a nice television which is HD-capable, and we've been watching the Diamondbacks games here. We also have a couch and a recliner, as well as our computers, a desk, and the other normal amenities. The place is not cluttered with stuff, though. It's just right.

Aside from that, obviously lately I've continued to go to my Diamondbacks games. In addition to the weekend games I got from the DBacks Scholarship, I also had a great time about three weeks ago with Scott, Travis, and Matt watching batting practice from the field behind the batting cage. It was a vastly different experience than watching from the stands, especially in the outfield where I like to be to try to catch baseballs.

(From left to right, that's Matt, Scott, Travis, and me.)

We got to meet Ryan Roberts, who signed a couple baseballs for us, and we had a generally good time. Roberts, by the way, sounds nothing like you would expect. It was weird, in a good way.

The week after that, I took my friends Nate and Ryan to another game where I got to spend an inning in the Diamondbacks' broadcast booth alongside Mark Grace and Daron Sutton. I was allowed to bring only one of them, so Ryan went with me. THAT WAS AWESOME! At the third inning of the game, we went up through the press corridors, which apparently not many fans get to do (my passes were special as a raffle prize from the Diamondbacks Foundation) and got to stand in a little area to the left of the broadcasters while they called the game. Between the top and the bottom of the third, while there was a commercial break, they both came and shook our hands and asked where we were from and how we liked what the Diamondbacks were doing this season. Mark Grace also signed two baseballs for us. It was just unspeakably cool... I'll probably never have another chance to do that again! Here... photos:

First, a view of the field from the press box. I'd be perfectly fine having this view every day....

Next, a photo of the booth itself. The people in the photo are (closest to me) the broadcasters' statistician and scorer on the very right of the photo, then Daron Sutton and Mark Grace sitting, and a broadcast crew member behind them. In the next booth over, you can see Greg Schulte and Tom Candiotti, who do the radio broadcasts!

 Did anyone notice what Mark Grace was doing in the above photo? That's right.... signing my baseball!

The wall we were standing next to in the booth was a veritable who's who of celebrities, former players, part-owners... all the cool people who had been up there for interviews. We saw, notably, Luis Gonzalez' autograph and Billy Crystal's signature (he was once a part-owner of the Diamondbacks). 

The booth is on the second level of the stadium so this is mostly just a shot of the stadium, the baseball writers' area, and the stands, but I think it turned out nicely.

Of course, it wouldn't have been complete without the obligatory photo with Mark Grace and the two of us.... And Mark was kind enough to pose with us quickly during the inning break!

That may very well qualify as the coolest thing I have ever been able to do at Chase Field. Right up there with winning all my tickets this year, and getting to go to the All-Star festivities! Right now, obviously, the DBacks are in the thick of protecting their seven game lead in the division over the Giants. It was so cool to be able to do, see, and interact with the players, broadcasters, and staff when the games really matter. There was a certain extra electricity about everything, which I don't think would have been as pervasive if I'd gotten to do all this stuff, say, last year when the team performed very poorly.

Since I'm on the topic of stuff that's been going on, last night I also attended the LD-15 meeting for the Republican Party. It was held at AZGOP headquarters, which is currently in the process of being rennovated. This was my first LD-15 meeting, and most of the people there was quite kind. They seemed a bit desperate for new precinct committeemen, going out of their way to twist my arm a bit about it, but I attribute that to a sense of needing more support in the heavily Democratic district. They had a trio of candidate speakers there last night. First was Susan Bitter-Smith, the Central Arizona Project president who is now running for Corporation Commission. She last ran for Congressional District 5 against multiple opponents and lost a couple years ago. In 2006, she also ran for CD-5, and I had a negative incident happen with her campaign, when, according to the information I have, someone who was involved somehow with her campaign slandered me and defamed my character. Last night, she did recognize me, but I didn't tell her from where.

The next speaker was one of the former Phoenix mayoral candidates, whom I was unfamiliar with, having just moved into the area. She was throwing her support behind Wes Gullett, who is in a runoff against Democrat Mike Stanton. I know little about either candidate right now, but I wasn't surprised to see the Republican candidate endorse the Republican... it's not as if she would have endorsed the Democrat.

The final speaker of the evening was Clair Van Steenwyk, also known as Van the Radio Man, a conservative/Christian radio host in the valley who has decided to run for US Senate against Jeff Flake and Wil Cardon. This guy was, to put it mildly, hyperconservative. A staunch, almost Libertarian, Tea Party member, Van Steenwyk acted last night more like a bitter, angry old man than a candidate for Senate. He denounced the GOP as being too accepting of people that weren't committed to repealing anything that wasn't explicitly in the US Constitution, and basically called anyone that didn't see things his "blunt" way a RINO (Republican In Name Only). I was offended by him, and it usually takes a lot for me to be offended by a politician. He called Flake and Cardon out for saying that they would "bury" his campaign, and he accused them of "buying the seat."

I want it formally said, right here, that I do not support this man for US Senate. I do not think he has the right demeanor, the right ideas, or the right ideology for the job of representing Arizona's interests in Congress. Sorry, Tea Party, but this level of extremism and hatred for members of our own party MUST STOP. I'm very tired of other Arizona Republicans thinking I'm an inferior conservative because I don't support this level of hyperrepublicanism.

That brings me up-to-date now. This weekend, I'm celebrating a birthday with some friends (Scott's daughter is turning one year old, and they're having a get together), and I may see a movie. I'm looking forward to checking out Contagion and getting wigged out by how easy it would be to spread a virus uncontrollably. Luckily, our movie theatre here is close to the grocery store, so I can buy lots of Purell when I get out.