Blackout

The entire nation seems to be pulling for the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight. Who can blame us? The energy in PNC Park is absolutely contagious. The players and fans are all wearing their black shirts and jerseys. It’s Pittsburgh’s #blackout.

Francisco Liriano and his filthy slider vs. Johnny Cueto and his… BP tosses.

Chants of “Cueeeeeeeeto” reverberate around PNC Park as both Marlon Byrd and Russell Martin take Cueto deep to left field. The Pirates take a 2-0 lead and the chants don’t stop anytime Cueto takes the field. It’s both inspiring to see fans this crazed as well as depressing to think about the last time I got be this crazed about the Mets. (Game 7, 2006) Le sigh.

A less organized chant of “Marshall” at Sean Marshall ensues when Cueto is pulled. It works. Pirates score again on a Neil Walker double. Marshall doesn’t make it out of the inning. The chants seemed to work.

Francisco Liriano ends up going 7 innings giving up just 1 run on 4 hits with a walk and 5 strikeouts. Can’t ask for much more from your pitcher in a do or die game. Outstanding night for Liriano.

The Reds couldn’t muster much of anything against Liriano, so their last chance is against the Pirate ‘pen with only 6 outs to play. With Pitt up 6-1, that’s a pretty big hill to climb.

Potential future Met, Shin-Soo Choo makes it interesting in the 8th with one out by taking Pirate lefty Tony Watson deep into the right field making it 6-2. Might have been fan interference, but the guy doesn’t get mugged since the lead is still 4 runs. After Ryan Ludwick hits a double, Votto and Phillips both ground out to first to end the top half of the 8th and leave the Reds with only 3 outs until elimination.

Jason Grilli comes in to close for the Pirates and sits the Reds down 1-2-3 to seal the date with St. Louis. The Reds never looked like they had a shot tonight. The NL Central will just have to go on and keep eliminating themselves without them.

Good for Pittsburgh. First playoff win since 1992. This was something special for a victory starved fanbase. Now they get to play in the real playoffs.

Home Run Apple picks the playoffs

Now that the tiebreaker game is over and the MLB playoff picture is complete, I can officially declare my intentions on who I want to win each series. Full disclosure, I’m picking winners based on their appeal to me, not based on who might be projected to win. As Brad Pitt once said to Jonah Hill, “the playoffs are a crapshoot.”

Spoiler Alert: I’m jumping hard on the Pirates World Series bandwagon if they can make it past the Reds tonight.

NL Wild Card Game: Cincinatti at Pittsburgh – I like the Pirates here. The home field advantage will be evident tonight, as playoff starved yinzers get the chance to chant “Lets go Bucs” on national TV.

AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay at Cleveland – Tough call here. I love Believeland and their resurgence to relevancy. I also like Terry Francona and the way he seems to get the most out of his guys. But the Rays in a “do or die” with Alex Cobb on the mound and Longoria in the zone? Gotta go Rays here.

NLDS: LA vs. Atlanta – This match-up is so perfect.  Especially in light of recent events involving Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman, aka the Fun Police. Meanwhile, Yasiel Puig, and by association the Dodgers, have a penchant for showing a little too much exuberance at times. Benches will absolutely clear during this series. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. This is going to be a true soap opera, WWE, reality TV, DRAMA-FEST. It’s just a shame these teams couldn’t meet in the NLCS and play 7. Really can’t wait for McCann’s first arrest as commissioner of the fun police. I’ll take the Dodgers in 4.

NLDS: Pittsburgh vs. St.Louis – I hate the Cardinals. Always have, always will. The only time in recent memory I actually rooted for the Cardinals to do anything of significance was when they met the 102 win Phillies in the NLDS and promptly sent them packing via rally squirrel things. And look what happened after that…  St. Louis went on to win the World Series.  Plus, I’m on the Pirate bandwagon. What of it? Pittsburgh in 5.

ALDS: Tampa Bay vs. Boston – Not really into the beards. Yet another annoying thing Boston hangs their hat on. But this team is built to win and is firing on all cylinders. I’d love for the Rays to win, but I’ll take the Sox in this series. Red Sox in 4.

ALDS: Detroit vs. Oakland – Two powerhouses in the AL face off in a 5 game series. Yet another series I wish was one round later so it had the potential to go 7. Detroit needs the Verlander of old to show up and accompany Max Scherzer if they want any shot of winning this one. I’m taking the A’s in 5.

NLCS: Pittsburgh vs. LA – Pittsburgh deserves this series and the Dodgers are just so good. Should actually yield a pretty dramatic series. And regardless, this has potential to go 7 with the well-roundedness of both teams. And I’m the one making the predictions, so I say Pirates in 7  because I can.

ALCS: Oakland vs. Boston – In my opinion, the two best teams in the AL this year. In regards to history, Boston has 2 world championships in recent memory and Oakland hasn’t won the AL pennant since 1990, choosing instead to bow out in game 5 of a bunch of ALDS  series just to really make their fans want to gouge their eyes out. My prediction? Oakland finally gets their world series berth. 7 games will be played of course, because this is my fantasy prediction after all.

World Series: Pittsburgh vs. Oakland – Oh, weird! The two teams I most enjoy pulling for in this playoff field have miraculously made it to the World Series in my prediction post. Do I pull for Lone Survivor-bearded Josh Redddick and fat juicer Bartolo Colon or dreadlocked superstar Andrew McCutchen and rookie sensation Gerrit Cole? I’m a National League guy so Pirates it is. 7 Games of course.

Then, after Pittsburgh breaks all their losing droughts at once and the yinzers become absolutely insufferable next year, I can go ahead and start to hate them. And I’ll be all about crapping on their lame bandwagon that I jumped off after the final out of Game 7.

Game 163

It’s win or go home tonight. And if you win, it’s win or go home again on Wednesday. Baseball is cool.

First batter of the game Desmond Jennings tries to stretch a base hit into a double and gets thrown out at second. Could it be a bad omen for the Rays? Nah. Wil Myers walks, then Zobrist and Longoria both single to load them up for Delmon “Politically Correct” Young. Young’s sac fly RBI scores Myers. Wil Myers, by the way, apparently has lettuce for hair according to Tom Verducci in the pregame show. I don’t get it either. That’s a pretty weird comment, let alone a super geeky one. Perez K’s the next batter and escapes the first only down 1-0.

David Price gets the “honor” to pitch for the Rays in the play in to the play in game tonight. He K’s Ian Kinsler for out #1. Bad omen for the Rangers? Nah, probably not. Elvis Andrus, up second, draws a walk off of Price. Nothing comes of it as Price get out of the inning unscathed, but this is game 163. Something dramatic has to happen right?

In the bottom of the second the announcers are quick to point out that “Those aren’t boos, they are yelling Cruz”” Thanks dummies. I TOTALLY would have thought the home crowd was booing their own player.

Martin Perez seemed to have settled down briefly but in the top of the 3rd, Evan Longoria hits one deep to put the Rays up 3-0. At this moment I would love nothing more than for a Cruz homer to tie it up. Mainly for the inevitable hyperbole from the outraged writers.

In the bottom of the 3rd Ian Kinsler drives in a limping Craig Gentry on a misplayed ball to shallow left center but then gets “caught stealing” after taking a bit of a large lead to end the inning. This is going to be fun. We are only 1/3 of the way in. 3-1 Rays.

Perez gets pulled in the top of the 6th after retiring 8 in a row after the home run and starter Alexi Ogando gets the call only to give up a double to… “Mr. Game 163” Evan Longoria. David DeJesus Drives Longoria in with a double. The bases are walked loaded and Texas finds their season on the ropes with two outs in the 6th. Ogando gets Jose Molina to line out, gets out of the jam, but the Rays now lead 4-1 going into the bottom of the 6th.

David Price had been the king of “bend but don’t break” until the 6th when two straight hits score another run for Texas to cut the Rays’ lead in half. The Ballpark at Arlington gets LOUD after that, but Price gets out of the 6th without any further damage. Still banking on that “dramatic” Cruz HR to knot it up eventually. Hyperbole will surely ensue.

In the top of the 7th, Longoria comes to the plate with two outs, Myers on base, and is “a triple away from the cycle.” What does Mr. Game 163 do? He draws a walk. And Wash has to pull Jason Frasor for Joakim Soria. Delmon Young drives one into center off of Soria, but Leonys Martin fools the 6 umpires on the field into thinking he made the inning ending catch even though the ball bounced off of the grass.  And that’s for sure a replay challenge next season. LOLhumanelement.

Price then goes 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the 7th inning. Makes his point. He pitches another “0” frame in the 8th, at one point making a fantastic glove flip to first for the second out. 4-2 Rays. 3 more outs for the Rays to win the tiebreaker game now.

In the 9th the Rays threaten again. Sam Fuld, now in at CF for his defense, singles and then moves to 2nd on a Wil Myers ground out. Fuld steals third and comes home on a throwing error by the pitcher Tanner Scheppers. 5-2 Rays. This is likely the nail in the coffin for Texas.

Beltre, Pierzynski, and Cruz are due up so my dream scenario of a game tying Cruz bomb can still theoretically happen. Only issue? Price is still in pitching the 9th. On the second pitch Adrian Beltre drives one to the warning track for out number one, while simultaneously crushing my former-cheater-and-PED-user-Cruz-as-hero dream. Now I just want a Price-pitches-complete-game-and-Rays-don’t-finch-at-blown-call story.

Price gets Cruz to ground out for out number 3 and Tampa Bay wins the play in to the play in game.

Indians-Rays on Wednesday for the Wild Card. Hello October.

Back for October Baseball

After a long hiatus, Home Run Apple is coming back for October (and September 30th). I’ll be commenting on the 2013 baseball playoffs, which per tradition do not feature the New York Mets.

The plan is to follow all the games through the World Series. Following that HRA will comment on the inevitably excruciating Mets offseason as well as the baseball world at large.

We believe in comebacks!

6 runs in the 8th inning!!

Who do the Mets think they are? Kind of reminds me of the 2000 Mets with the fight these guys show night in and night out. This ball club can come from behind to win. We’re coming off a weekend of back to back walk off home run wins. Who would’ve thought the stupid slogan for the 2010 season (We Believe In Comebacks) would ring so true this season.

Now, I’m pretty sure the 2006 Mets weren’t very adept at this skill and they are still considered by many to be the gold standard of Mets teams in the past decade. For the past few years, the Mets have lived by the mantra: score lots of runs early, hold the lead, win. But they were never the team that was able to come from behind late in a game.

This 2010 Mets team however, shows a ton of fight and does possess the ability to come from behind to win games. I like this type of team better. They are gamers. They are here to play a full 9 innings. They are winners.

The icing on the cake tonight is Ike’s third flip catch over the dugout railing.

To honor the winners I will link to the MLB.com video of Chris Carter (the anti-Catalanatto) hitting the RBI double that put the Mets in the lead.

Apples and Outs 5/11/10

“If Blanco hits a home run here, I’m walking back to Manhattan,” Said the man sitting behind me in top of the 11th inning of a windy (but very sunny) saturday afternoon game.

Moments later I got to experience my first walk off homer at Citi Field, and only the second for the Mets since its opening last season.

Coming from such an unlikely source, (back up catcher) last Saturday’s walk off win is tops on my “Home Run Apples” list. And how fitting it is that the top Apple is actually a Met home run. Since it would be terrible karma, I won’t reveal my all time Citi Field record at this moment, but let’s just say I’m looking forward to my next scheduled game on June, 5th.

Apples:

1) As explained above, Blanco’s walk off and our section’s rowdy celebration in the stands. Nice to have a “Shea Moment” at the new park.

2) Mike Piazza’s quote about his years with the Mets. Mets Police does a summary and links to the actual Times article.

3) Ike Davis staying hot. Power and offense when we need it most. We like Ike!

4) Chris Carter up. Frank Catalanatto down. Now if we can just rid ourselves of GMJ and Ollie… then we’re talking.

Outs:

1) Ollie walking practically the entire Giants’ roster on Sunday. He’s already in Aaron Heilman territory, let’s see if he gets to Bonilla-levels of hate before he’s gone.

2) Met bullpen implosions. All weekend long the Mets bullpen did something it hasn’t really done much of all season… blown leads. Our formerly stellar ‘pen allowed us to experience the thrill of back to back walk off wins. But the inevitable happened, that magical hit never came, and the Mets lost the chance to sweep the Giants. Ollie blamed the wind. The ‘pen will simply redeem itself through actual talent. Maturity, folks.

3) The fear that next week’s list will be lopsided on the “Outs” side. Opening the week with a close loss to the Nats ain’t the best way to get our hopes up. At least we’re still playing over .500.

Apples and Outs 5/3/10

I’m only hitting on two points today. Otherwise, I’m holding my breath in anticipation of a bounce-back against the Reds tonight. (please!)

Home Run Apples
-D. Wright continues to bomb Citizens Bank Park… series loss aside, David Wright found his power stroke in Philly, and he should continue “knocking those home runs over the waaaaaall” over the next three games at Great American Ballpark, the best hitters’ park in the majors.

Warning Track Outs
– Santana’s rough outing… He’s allowed to have a bad night, but the cards were stacked in favor of the Mets for this series. Jamie Moyer gets bombed early and Santana gets handed a 3 run lead only to suffer an Oliver Perez-like meltdown on national TV. Here’s hoping he has a bounce-back game at home against the Giants this weekend. I’m scheduled to be in attendance and Santana owes us a win after the worst game in his professional career.