Baseball in the Pythagorean Universe 1871-Present

Now it's time for Game 2 of the 2008 American League Championship Series from Fenway Park in Boston. The date is Thursday, October 9:

Lineup Changes:

Twins-
Justin Morneau is back at first base. Jason Kubel will serve as the designated hitter and bat fifth. Delmon Young moves down to sixth. Matt Tolbert will move to third base and bat seventh. Finally, Nck Punto is back at shirtstop and will bat eighth.

Red Sox- Jacoby Ellsbury moves from center field to right field. Jason Bay moves up to fifth, while Jed Lowrie moves up to sixth and Jason Varitek moves up to seventh. Mark Kotsay moves down to eighth, while Coco Crisp gets the start in center and will bat ninth.

Weather: 65 degrees, fair skies, southwest wind at 9 MPH.

Twins 1st: Denard Span drew a leadoff walk against Red Sox starter Josh Bexkett. Alexi Casilla lined a base hit up the middle to put runners at the corners, and a walk to Joe Mauer loaded the bases. Beckett retired Morneau on a fly to Ellsbury in shallow right for the first out, but Span came home when Kubel bounced into a force play that eliminated Span for the second out. Young struck out swinging to end the inning with runners still at first and third, but the Twins have scored first thanks to a hit, two walks, ad a force play. How will the Red Sox respond?

Twins 5th: Span grounded a leadoff single to right center. Casilla's fly down the line in left was caught by Bay for the first out, but Span stole second. Mauer's base hot past a diving Beckett and into center field brought Denard home, and it was 2-0 Minnesota. Morneau flew to shallow left center for the second out, and Kubel's pop behind short was caught by Lowie to end the inning. The Twins have added a run on two hits and a stolen base, and they lead the Red Sox 2-0 halfway through Game 2.

Red Sox 5th: Bay lined a leadoff single up the middle. Lowrie's double into the right center power alley moved Bay to third, but Varitek went down swinging for the first out and Kotsay bounced to third for out number two. That brought Crisp to the plate. Here's Dick Enberg with the count one ball and two strikes:

"This is the first inning where Blackburn's been in a serious jam. It's much different from Game 1 of the Division Series against the Blue Jays, where they hit him pretty hard right ut of the gate and had the Twins down 6-3 before the Twins made their big comeback capped by Kubel's three-run pinch-hit homer. Crisp getting the start in center today because J.D. Drew needed a day off, so Ellsbury moved to right. He's got a chance now to make (Red Sox manager) Terry Francona's confidence pay off. Runners will be going on contact with two out, and Beckett kicks and fires.......HARD LINE DRIVE GOING DEEP TO RIGHT, SPAN GOING BACK, AT THE TRACK, AT THE FENCE, BUT THIS ONES' OUTTA HERE! TOUCH 'EM ALL, COCO CRISP!...…All of a sudden, it's 3-2 Red Sox, and Fenway Park goes from murmurs to roars."

Ron Darling: "The Red Sox needed a wakeup call, and now they've gotten it. Blackburn was so good over the first four and two-third innings, but he makes his first major mistake of the night, and Crisp, who can surprise people with his power from time to time, lines this hanging slider over the wall in right. There you see Blackburn's reaction, ad there you see Crisp's reaction; he knows that his team has the lead."

Jim Kaat: "Blackburn has to go back to what made him successful. If he allows what's happened in this inning to affect him, the Red Sox can keep adding on with the offense they have and put this game away."

Ellsbury walked on five pitches to keep the inning alive, but Mauer threw him out trying to steal second to end the inning. The Bosox have taken the lead thanks to Crisp's three-run blast; after five, it's Boston 3, Minnesota 2.

Twins 6th: Young led off with a fly ball to left enter that dropped on the warning track and hopped over the fence for a book-rule double. Tolbert's seeing-eye single to right brought him home, ad we were even at three. Punto walked to put two men on, but Carlos Gomez took a called third strike for the first out. Spa walked on four pitches to load the bases, and Francona called on Manny Delcarmen to face Casilla. Alexi popped the ball up behind first base, where it was caught by Kotsay for out number two. That left Mauer as the last hope in the inning, and here's Dick with what happened:

"This is the action pitch: three balls, two strikes, bases loaded, two out. There are your runners: Tolbert at third, Punto at second, Span at first, and the crowd o n its feet at Fenway. Delcarmen nods to Varitek, checks the runners, and here's the payoff pitch/.....fly ball to right, Ellsbury coming in, has to hurry, AND IT DROPS IN FRONT OF HIM! THEY'RE COMING FROM EVERYWHERE! TOLBERT'S IN, PUNTO'S IN, AND HERE COMES SPAN TO CLEAR THE BASES! MAUER PULLS IN AT SECOND, WITH A BASES-CLEARING DOUBLE, AND THE TWINS LEAD 6-3!"

Morneau went down swinging to strand Mauer at second and end the inning, but the Twins have taken the lead with four runs on three hits and two walks, and we head to the bottom of the sixth with the Twinkies leading the Scarlet Hose 6-3.

Red Sox 7th: Lowrie led off with a single up the middle. Varitek was next, and here's Dick with the count two balls and no strikes:

"(Twins manager) Ron Gardenhire decided to let Blackburn come out for the seventh only after that long conversation that we saw, and Jesse Crain's getting ready quickly in the Minnesota bullpen. The Red Sox left Ortiz at third after his double in the sixth, and Gardenhire wanted that to be all for Blackburn, but the youngster talked him into another inning, and now he's given up a leadoff single ad is down two balls to Varitek."

Darling: "You have to admire Blackburn's toughness, but I think I'd have gone with my first instinct if I was Gardenhire."

Kaat: "If you let some pitchers have their way, they'd throw until their arm fell off, even in this day and age."

Enberg: "We'll find out soon enough who was right. Lowrie takes a short led off first, and here's the 2-0 pitch to Varitek........HAMMERED DEEP TO RIGHT! SPAN GOING BACK, HE'S AT THE WALL, BUT THIS ONE'S GONE, AND WE HAVE A ONE-RUN GAME!...…Varitek touches 'em all, and the hometown team's right back in it down 6-5, and Gardenhire won't be dissuaded this time."

Darling: "I guess Gardenhire was right the first time. Blackburn was struggling with both batters he faced in this inning, and this pitch had nothing on it. I'm not even sure what it was supposed to be, but it ended up going over the fence in right, and as Dick just said, we're looking at a one-run game."

Kaat: "This is why most managers don't allow discussion when they take a pitcher out of the game, to the point that some make the signal to the bullpen before they even get halfway to the mound. Gardenhire let himself be talked into something that he knew wasn't right by a gutsy kid who loves to compete, and now he has to be bailed out by his relievers."

Crain retired Kotsay on a comebacker,, Crisp on a fly to the warning track in center, and Ellsbury on a fly to left that was caught by Young on the left field line to retire the side. Varitek's first dinger of the series has cut the Twins' lead to 6-5 as we go to the eighth at Fenway.

That was all the scoring, as the Red Sox wasted a two-out single by Kevin Youkilis in the eighth and a one-out walk to Varitek in the ninth. Twins closer Joe Nathan recorded the final four outs. Our final score: Twins 6, Red Sox 5, and this series is tied at a game apiece.

Mauer was named Player of the Game by TBS due to his bases-clearing double in the sixth that put the Twins ahead to stay. He finished his evening two for three plus two walks with four runs batted in. Span also had a big day, as he scored three of the six Minnesota runs; he finished one for two and was walked three times.

Final totals: Twins 6-10-1, Red Sox 5-8-0.

W- Blackburn (1-0)
S- Nathan (1)
L- Beckett (0-1)

HR- BOS: Crisp (1), Varitek (1)

The series will shift to the Metrodome in Minneapolis for Game 3 on Saturday night. First pitch is scheduled for shortly after 7:30 PM Eastern, with Jon Lester starting for the Red Sox and Glen Perkins taking the hill for the Twins.

Next: We look at Game 3.

Thoughts?
 
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Now it's time for Game 3 of the 2008 American League Championship Series from the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The date is Saturday, October 11:

Lineup Changes:

Red Sox-
Jacoby Ellsbury moves back to center field. J.D. Drew is back in right field and will bat fifth, which moves Jason Bay down to sixth. Mark Kotsay moves up to seventh, while Jason Varitek moves down to eighth. Finally, Alex Cora will start at shortstop in place of Jed Lowrie and bat ninth.

Red Sox 1st: Ellsbury led off by beating out a grounder to second for an infield single. Dustin Pedroia flew to Denard Span in shallow right for the first out, but Ellsbury stole second. David Ortiz was next, and he ripped a double into the left center power alley to score Ellsbury and give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. Big Papi held at second while Kevin Youkilis popped to third for the second out, but Drew walked to put two men on. Jason Bay was next, and his bloop skipped past a diving Carlos Gomez and rolled to the wall in left center. Ortiz and Drew both scored to put the Bosox up 3-0, and Bay pulled in at second with a double. Mark Kotsay's fly to center ended the inning with Bay still at second, but the Sox have broken on top with three runs on three hits, a walk, and a stolen base. It's up to the Twins to dig out of this 3-0 hole as they come to bat.

Red Sox 2nd: With one out, Cora cracked a double to right center. He moved to third on Ellsbury's bouncer to second, amd Pedroia stepped to the plate. Here's Dick Enberg with the count one ball and one strike:

"Perkins is fighting to stay in this game; he's already down 3-0, and the heart of the Boston order's coming up; he needs an out in a hurry, preferably two. Boof Bonser, the long man for Minnesota, throwing in the bullpen, and he looks to be nearly ready. Cora taking his lead off second, looked back by Perkins, who now pitches to the plate..........HIGH, DEEP FLY BALL TO LEFT CENTER, BACK GOES GOMEZ, AT THE WRNING TRACK, AT THE WALL, AND THIS ONE IS...GONE! JUST OVER THE GLOVE OF GOMEZ, AND PEDROIA CAN INDEED TOUCH 'EM ALL!.....5-0 Red Sox in the second, and here comes (Twins manager) Ron Gardenhire with the hook for Perkins."

Jim Kaat: "This one didn't look to have home run distance off of Pedroia's bat, but it just kept carrying and carrying. Gomez keeps going back, and back, thinking he has a play, and he even sticks his glove over the wall, but the ball lands just a foot or two beyond it."

Ron Darling: "The Twins' starting pitchers haven't done all that well in this series; (Nick) Blackburn was decent in Game 2, but Scott Baker and now Glen Perkins have been hit pretty hard. At some point, it's going to tell on their bullpen."

Bonser gave up a four-pitch walk to Ortiz, but Youkilis flew to shallow left center to end the inning. The Sox have added another pair of runs thanks to Pedroia's two-run homer, and after an inning and a half they lead the Twins 5-0.

Here's how Dick called Youkilis' inning-ending fly, which is our Defensive Play of the Day:

"High fly ball to left center, but it's not deep. It's dropping fast, though, Gomez has to hurry, AND HE MAKES THE CATCH!......If he'd taken one more step, the ball would have dropped in for a hit, but Gomez stopped just in time."

Twins 3rd: Nick Punto led off with a double to center. Red Sox starter Jon Lester struck Gomez out swinging for the first out, but Span lined a single to left center to score Punto and put the home squad on the board. Casilla was next, and here's Dick :

"The Metrrodome starting to stir just a bit now that the Twins have scored, and now here's Casilla, who grounded to Kotsay at first his first time up. Infeild is at double-play depth for the Red Sox, and (Red Sox starter) Jon Lester's looking to settle things down a bit. He only gave up a walk to (Jason) Kubel through the first two innings, but he's given up a run on two hits here in the third. He's back up on the hill now, and he looks in to Varitek. Nods at the sig, and the first pitch.......THAT BALL IS HAMMERED DEEP TO LEFT, BACK GOES BAY, HE'S AT THE WALL, BUT THIS ONE'S WAY OUTTA HERE! ALEXI CASILLA WITH ANOTHER LONG HOME RUN, AND THIS IS NOW A 5-3 GAME!.......Where has this power come from, gentlemen? He hit only seven home runs in the regular season, but this is number three for the postseason and the second in this series."

Kaat: "He's just an incredibly hot hitter right now, and the Red Sox may need to rethink how to pitch him. We've seen all three of his home runs, Dick, and they've been bombs. That has as much to do with a bad pitching pattern as it does with good hitting."

Darling: "The Twins are getting to Lester all of a sudden. If they can keep up this pressure and force (Red Sox manager) Terry Francona to go to his bullpen, that'll be a big thing, with three games in a row coming up, counting this one."

But Lester steadied himself and retired Joe Mauer on a grounder to second and Justin Morneau on a popup to Youkilis at third to retire the side. The Twins gotten back into this one with three runs on three hits, including Casilla's two-run homer. After three in Game 3, it's Bosox 5, Twinkies 3.

Twins 5th: With one out, Bay dropped an easy fly ball, allowing Gomez to reach. Span took a pitch off of his knee to put two men on, and he and Gomez executed a double steal to put runners at second and third. Casilla uncorked another long fly ball to left, but Bay made the catch at the wall for the second out as Gomez trotted home to make it a 5-4 game and Span moved to third. Mauer's grounder to first ended the inning, but the Twins have crept closer without the benefit of a hit thanks to an error, a hit batsman, a double steal, and a sacrifice fly while leaving the tying run at third. After five, it's Boston 5, Minnesota 4.

Red Sox 7th: With one out, Youkilis lined a single up the middle. Drew's double to left brought him home, and the Red Sox led 6-4. Gardenhire replaced the tiring Bonser with Juan Rincon, whose first pitch was grounded into left by Bay for a base hit. Drew scored, and the Sox led 7-4. Rincon then quite literally went wild, walking Kotsay and Varitek on five ptches each to load the bases, then throwing four straight balls to Cora, which force Bay home and made it 8-4 Boston.

Then came the final indignity, as Ellsbury's fly hit off of Span's glove, hit the turf, bounced up, and hit him right in his protective cup. Kotsay and Varitek scored easily as Span writhed in pain, and the Red Sox led 10-4. Ellsbury pulled up at second as Gomez retrieved the ball and got it back to the infield. Span eventually got to his feet after a delay of several minutes and stayed in the game, which resumed with Cora at third and Ellsbury at second. New pitcher Jesse Crain walked Pedroia to load the bases, but Ortiz tapped one to Morneau, who threw to the plate to get Cora, then accepted the return throw for an inning-ending double play. The damage: ten men to the plate, five runs on three hits, an error, and four walks, with runners left at second and third. As we stretch at a deflated Metrodome, the Red Sox now lead the Twins 10-4.

Twins 7th: Punto lined a leadoff single to right center. After Gomez's foul pop behind the plate was gloved by Varitek for the first out, Michael Cuddyer (batting for Span, who was being examined in the locker room) singled to right to move Punto to third. A walk to Casilla loaded the bases, and Javier Lopez (no relation that I know of to the Braves' catcher of the same name) came in to pitch to Mauer. Joe's fly to the warnng track in right was caught by Drew for the second out as Punto came home with the fifth Minnesota run. Morneau's fly to shallow center was caught by Ellsbury for the final out, but the Twins have scored a run on two hits, a walk, and a sacrifice fly, and they're back to within 10-5 after seven.

Twins 8th: Kubel led off with a single to left center. After Delmon Young took a called third strike, Matt Tolbert sliced a double to right to put runners at second and third. Punto's bouncer to short brought Kubel home, and the Twins were within 10-6. Gomez grounded to third to retire the side with Tolbert still at second, but the Twins have scored another run on two hits and a groundout. As we head to the ninth, the Red Sox still lead 10-6.

Twins 9th: Cuddyer drew a leadoff walk and came home on a double into the right field corner by Casilla to cut the Red Sox' advantage to 10-7. Francona called on closer Jonathan Papelbon for the first time in the series, and he fanned Mauer on thee consecutive pitches for the first out. A base hit to right center by Morneau put runners at the corners, but Kubel bounced into a game-ending 3-6-3 double play. Final score: Red Sox 10, Twins 7, and the Red Sox lead the series two games to one.

Casilla was named Player of the Game in a losing cause by TBS. He finished two for three plus a walk with a home run and four RBIs. For the victorious Red Sox, Bay was two for five with three RBIs.

Final totals: Red Sox 10-10-1, Twins 7-10-2.

W- Lester (1-0)
S- Papelbon (1)
L- Perkins (0-1)

HR- BOS: Pedroia (1)
MIN: Casilla (2)

The series will continue with Game 4 tomorrow afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for shortly after 4PM Eastern, with Tim Wakefield pitching for the Red Sox and Kevin Slowey starting for the Twins.

Next: We look at Game 4.

Thoughts?
 
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Now it's time for Game 4 of the 2008 American League Championship Series from the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The date is Sunday, October 12:

Lineup Changes:

Red Sox-
J.D. Drew moves up to the leadoff spot. Jason Bay moves up to fifth. Mark Kotsay moves up to sixth. Coco Crisp replaces Jacoby Ellsbury in center field and will bat seventh. Kevin Cash will catch and bat eighth, while Jed Lowrie is back at shortstop and will bat ninth.

Twins- Michael Cuddyer will serve as the designated hitter and bat fifth. Brendan Harris starts at third base in place of Matt Tolbert and will bat seventh. In other news, Denard Span's a bit sore after yesterday's incident, but he's in the leadoff spot and playing right field.

Red Sox 2nd: With one out, Kotsay lined a ball down the rightfield line and into the corner. Span tried to pick the ball up, but it remained lodged in the bottom of the fence. He put his hands up in the "unplayable" sign, and Kotsay was awarded a book-rule double. Crisp dumped a base hit into right to score Kotsay and put the Sox up 1-0. Cash's seeing-eye base hit to left put runners at the corners, and Lowrie bounced into a force play, which eliminated Cash but allowed Crisp to score and make it 2-0. Drew's line drive was speared by Justin Morneau at first to end the inning, but the Red Sox have scored to runs on three hits and a force play, and they lead the Twins 2-0 after an inning and a half.

Red Sox 3rd: With one out, David Ortiz hit a high, deep fly ball to left that looked to be a home run, but scraped the top of the fence and came back down in play. Big Papi chugged into third with a standup triple, and he came home on Kevin Youkilis' bloop single to left center to give the Bosox a 3-0 lead. Bay grounded into a 3-6-3 inning-ending double play, but the Red Sox have added a run on two hits. After two and a half, it's Red Sox 3, Twins 0.

Twins 6th: Joe Mauer lined a two-out single up the middle. Morneau banged a double off the wall in left, with Mauer stopping at third. With a chance to get back into the game, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire sent Jason Kubel to the plate to bat for Cuddyer. Here's Dick Enberg with the count two balls and no strikes:

"(Red Sox starter Tim) Wakefield was working on a three-hit shutout through five, but the Twins have broken through a bit here in the sixth with back-to-back hits, and now Gardenhire's going for the tie in one swing with Jason Kubel, who's already won a game in this postseason with a three-run homer."

Ron Darling: "If this pitch misses, they should just put Kubel on and pitch to (Delmon) Young."

Jim Kaat: "Wakefield can't afford to skip this pitch in the dirt with runners at second and third. Cash better look alive back there."

Enberg: "This whole stadium's alive, as Kubel's back in the box ahead two balls and no strikes. The pitch of the game could be coming, and here it is.....HIT A MILE TO DEEP LEFT FIELD,, GOIG BACK IS BAY, HE'S AT THE WALL, BUT THIS BALL IS GONE, AND THIS GAME IS TIED! OH, MY!!!!!!!"

Darling: "He went to the fastball, Dick. He didn't trust his knuckleball in a key situation, and he got beat with his second-best pitch. That's unbelievable."

Kaat: "I'm not sure if it was a fastball or just a badly thrown knuckler, Ronnie. Whatever is was, it was slow and straight, and Kubel had an eternity to swing. Sometimes that's a bad thing, but Kubel certainly made it work for him. Look at Bay just watch it leave, and there's Wakefield's reaction. He knows what a mistake he made, but it's too late."

Young's fly to right center was caught by Crisp to end the inning, but Kubel's three-run pinch-hit homer has tied the game at three after six.

Twins 8th: Kubel drew a two-out walk, then stole second. That brought Young to the plate, and here's Dick:

"The Metrodome's still buzzing about Kubel stealing his first base this year, regular season or postseason, and now Young can give the Twins the lead. Manny Delcarmen throwing in the Red Sox bullpen, but this mess is Wakefield's to get out of. Young's hitless in three at-bats today, but he'd be the hero if he can connect here. Wakefield's ready, Young's ready, and here's the first pitch.......LINE DRIVE INTO LEFT, GETS DOWN FOR A HIT! KUBEL COMING TOWARD THE PLATE, HERE'S BAY'S THROW...…CUT OFF!...…The Twins take the lead, and now (closer) Joe Nathan steps it up in the bullpen, because he'll definitely pitch the top of the ninth."

Brian Buscher batted for Harris and bounced to second to end the inning, but the Twins have taken the lead thanks to a walk, a stolen base, and Young's single. Nathan will face Bay, Kotsay, and Crisp in the top of the ninth, and he'll have a 4-3 Minnesota lead to work with.

Nathan retired the Red Sox one-two-three in the ninth, retiring Ellsbury (batting for Crisp) on a grounder to second to end the game. Final score: Twins 4, Red Sox 3, and this series is tied at two games apiece.

Young was named Player of the Game by TBS for driving in the winning run. Kubel was also a candidate due to his game-tying pinch-hit homer. Kick Punto also contributed to the offense with a perfect three-for-three day at the plate; two of the hits were infield singles to short. The Twins' pitchers- starter Kevin Slowey, Jesse Crain, and Nathan- combined to strike out twelve Red Sox hitters without allowing a walk. For the Red Sox, Wakefield pitched an eight-inning complete game in a losing cause, giving up four runs on eight hits while walking three and striking out five. He threw 115 pitches on the day.

Final totals: Twins 4-8-0, Red Sox 3-8-0.

W- Crain (1-0)
S- Nathan (2)
L- Wakefield (0-1)

HR- MIN: Kubel (1)

Before we go, here's our Defensive Play of the Day. Kotsay's leading off the top of the fourth, and here's Dick:

"Fly ball to center, going back is Gomez, he's at the teack, at the wall, CRASHES INTO THE WALL AND MAKES THE CATCH ON THE WAY DOWN! THERE'S SAM HOLBROOK, THE LEFT FIELD UMPIRE, WITH THE OUT CALL! OH, MY!......…Kotsay can't believe it, and I don't think Gomez can either! Now here's Coco Crisp."

The series will continue tomorrow with Game 5 here at the Metrodome. First pitch is scheduled for shortly after 4:30 PM Eastern, with Daisuke Matsuzaka starting for the Red Sox and Francisco Liriano taking the hill for the Twins.

Next: We look at Game 5.

Thoughts?
 
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Now it's time for Game 5 of the 2008 American League Championship Series from the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The date is Monday, October 13:

Lineup Changes:

Red Sox-
Coco Crisp moves up to the leadoff spot, while J.D. Drew moves down to sixth. Jed Lowrie moves up to seventh, while Mark Kotsay moves down to ninth. Finally, Jason Varitek is back behind the plate and will bat eighth.

Twins- Joe Mauer will serve as the designated hitter. Jason Kubel gets the start in left field and will bat fifth. Mike Redmond starts behind the plate and will bat sixth. Brian Buscher will start at third and bat seventh. Finally, Adam Everett will start at shortstop and bat eighth.

Twins 1st: Denard Span led off against Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. Here's Dick Enberg with the count two balls and no strikes:

"The fans here at the Metrodome just settling in after (Twins starter) Francisco Liriano set the Red Sox down in order in the first.. Dice-K was the winning pitcher in Game 1 of this series at Fenway Park, He gave up three runs on five hits over eight innings as the Red Sox won 9-4. Span still a bit sore after that fly ball hit him in the intimate parts, shall we say, in Game 3; 3. He's looking forward to the day off tomorrow, even it comes on an airplane. Dice-K nods to Varitek, now come the two-ball pitch...…PULLED DOWN THE RIGHT FIELD LINE, DREW COMING OVER, AT THE WALL, AND IT'S GONE! JUST MADE IT INTO THE RIGHT FIELD SEATS, AND THE TWINS STRIKE FIRST!"

Jim Kaat: "Right field here at the Metrodome is 327 feet, Dick, and this ball traveled about 327 feet and two inches. J.D. Drew thinks he has a play right up until the last second, and look how close he comes to actually making the play. He puts his glove over the wall, and the ball goes just beyond it."

Ron Darling: "Dice-K just has to take a deep breath and start over. The Red Sox have enough offense that one run is nothing. He just has to make sure that he doesn't give up any more, and the Twins have some powerful bats too."

Dice-K got the next three outs in order: Alexi Casilla grounded to third, Mauer grounded to short, and Justin Morneau grounded to second. But Span's leadoff homer has given the Twins a 1-0 lead after one.

Twins 3rd: Carlos Gomez led off with a bloop single to right. The Red Sox attempted to pick him off, but Varitek's throw went into center field. Gomez thus stole second and moved o third on the error. Span walked to put two men on, and Casilla lined a base hit to right that scored Gomez and put the Twins up 2-0. Span moved to third, and subsequently scored on Mauer's base hit to right to give the Twins a 3-0 lead. Morneau walked on four pitches to load the bases, Kubel's fly to right center was caught by Crisp for the second out, which brought Redmond to the plate. Here's Dick with what happened next:

"Paul Byrd getting ready in the Boston bullpen, and we'll see how much longer Dice-K lasts. Casilla at third, Mauer at second, and Morneau at first. One ball and one strike to Redmond, who's giving Mauer's knees and back a rest today. The stretch by Dice-K, and the one-one pitch.......fly ball into left center, dropping quickly, and CRISP CAN;T GET IT! KICKS PAST HIM, AND THE MERRY-GO-ROUND BEGINS! CASILLA'S ALREADY IN! AUER'S COMING HOME! BEHIIND HIM IS MORNEAU! THE TWINS LEAD 6-0, AND REDMOND'S AT SECOND WITH A DOUBLE!......(Red Sox manager) Terry Francona now coming out, but he hasn't made the signal to the bullpen yet."

Francona eventually signaled for Byrd, who retired Bucher and Everett on consecutive lies to Crisp in left center to end the inning. The Twins have erupted for five runs on four hits, two walks, and an error while stranding Redmond at second, and after two they lead the Red Sox 6-0.

Red Sox 4th: After two out, Drew blooped a single to left. Another single to left by Lowrie put two men on, and another bloop from Varitek scooted down the right field line and into the corner for a doublr. Both Drew and Lowrie scored, and the Red Sox were on the board. Kotsay popped to Casilla a second to strand Varitek at second and retire the side, but the Sox have scored two runs on three hits, and after three and a half they're back within 6-2.

Twins 4th: Gomez lined a leadoff single up the middle, but was caught trying to steal second. Span tapped to Kotsay at first for the second out, but Casilla walked to keep the inning alive. Mauer was next, and his bloop eluded Crisp and scooted into the right center power alley for a double. Casilla scored, and the Twins led 7-2. Mauer was stranded at second when Morneau grounded to first to end the inning, but the Twins have added a run on two hits and a walk. At the end of four, it's Twins 7, Red Sox 2.

Red Sox 6th: Kevin Youkilis lined a leadoff single to right. against Twins reliever Matt Guerrier. Jason Bay beat out a grounder to second for an infield single to put two men on, but the runners held when Drew popped to second for the first out. Lowrie lined a double into the left center gap to score Youkilis with the third Boston run while Bay moved to third, and Bay came home on Varitek's bouncer to second to cut the Twins' lead to 7-4, with Lowrie moving to third. Kotsay's grounder to first ended the inning, but the Bosox have scored twice more on three hits and a grounfout while leaving Lowrie at third. We've played five and a half, and it's Minnesota 7, Boston 4.

That was all the scoring. Our final: Twins 7, Red Sox 4, and the Twins lead the series three games to two.

Redmond was named Player of the Game by TBS for his bases-clearing double in the second. Mauer was two for four with a run scored and two more driven in, while Span and Casilla were each one for three plus a walk with an RBI and two runs scored. Varitek drove in three of the four Red Sox runs, while Lowroe was two for four with the other RBI and a run scored. Drew was three for four and scored a run. A tip of the cap to Byrd for his incredible relief performance; he pitched the final six and two-thirds innings for the Red Sox, giving up just one run on two hits.

Final totals: Twins 7-7-0, Red Sox 4-10-1.

W- Liriano (1-0)
S- Nathan (3)
L- Matsuzaka (1-1)

HR- MIN: Span (1)

The series will return to Fenway Park for Game 6 on Wednesday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for just after 4PM Eastern, with Scott Baker starting for the Twins and Josh Beckett going to the hill for the Red Sox.

Next: We look at Game 6.

Thoughts?
 
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A point of information:

The Astros' cheating scandal still happened in the Pythagorean universe, but it didn't pay off as well; as we saw earlier in this timeline, they were eliminated by the Indians three games to one in their ALDS. We'll find out the Red Sox' 2018 fate as we go along.

More coming soon!
 
The Astros' cheating scandal still happened in the Pythagorean universe, but it didn't pay off as well; as we saw earlier in this timeline, they were eliminated by the Indians three games to one in their ALDS. We'll find out the Red Sox' 2018 fate as we go along.
Wonder if they get hit as badly as OTL; IMO, them winning the World Series was part of the reason they got punished so harshly...
 
I don't get into anything in this timeline except the games on the field; other than that, baseball history happens exactly as it did in real life, which means that their punishment will be exactly the same.
 
A display problem with my computer has prevented me from posting for the last couple of days. I temporarily transferred my sims to another board, but since it was a Steelers-centered board, I decided to start the only remaining series which featured the Pirates. With that in mind, it's time for Game 1 of the second 2014 National League Division Series from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The date is Friday, October 3:

Pirates 1st: With two out, center fielder Andrew McCutchen banged a double off the wall in right field against Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw. Catcher Russell Martin grounded a base hit to right center to bring Cutch home and give the Buccos a 1-0 lead. Left fielder Starling Marte grounded to first to end the inning, but the Pirates have scored first thanks to a run on two hits. Now let's hear from the Men in Blue.

Dodgers 1st: Second baseman Dee Gordon lined a leadoff double down the right field line. He held at second while center fielder Yasiel Puig's liner was caught by Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez for out number one, but Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez's single to right center brought him home to tie the game at one. Right fielder Matt Kemp beat out a grounder to third to put two men on, and shortstop Hanley Ramirez's double into the left center power alley brought both runners home and gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. Stolmy Pimentel began to get loose in the Pittsburgh bullpen while Volquez faced left fielder Carl Crawford, who beat out an infield single to short to put runners at the corners. Third baseman Juan Uribe popped to Harrison for the second out while the runners held, but catcher A.J. Ellis' base hit up the middle scored Ramirez, and the Dodgers were up 4-1, with Crawford moving to third.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle summoned Pimentel, whose first pitch glance off of Martin's glove and rolled to the backstop. The official scorer ruled it a passed ball, and Crawford came home to make it 5-1 Los Angeles while Ellis moved to second. Kershaw struck out swinging to end the inning, but the Dodgers have scored five runs on six hits and a passed ball while leaving a runner at second. After one, it's Dodgers 5, Pirates 1.

Pirates 3rd: Harrison led off with a single to left. Mercer's liner was speared by Gordon for the first out, but J-Hay stole second. McCutchen's grounder to first moved him to third, and he scored when Martin beat out a grounder to deep third for an infield hit. Marte's bouncer to short ended the inning, but the Bucs have gotten a run back thanks to two hits, a productive groundout, and a stolen base. After two and a half, it's Bums 5, Buccos 2.

Dodgers 4th: Pimentel hit Gordon in the knee with a pitch after one out. Gordon stole second, but had to hold while Pirates second baseman Neil Walker made a diving stop of Puig's line drive for out number two. Gonzalez's lined single to left center scored Gordon to put the Dodgers up 6-2, but Harrison made a leaping grab of Kemp's line drive to end the inning. The Dodgers have restored their four-run lead thanks to a hit, a hit batsman, and a stolen base. We've played four, and it's Los Angeles 6, Pittsburgh 2.

Dodgers 5th: Ramirez lined a leadoff single to left, then stole second after Crawford had popped up to Walker for the first out. Uribe's fly to shallow left center held Crawford at second, but Ellis lined a single to left center to bring Carl home with the seventh LA run. Kershaw walked on five pitches to put two men on, but Pimentel finished his day by striking Gordon out swinging to retire the side. The Dodgers have added a run on two hits while leaving runners at first and second, and they lead the Buccos 7-2 through five.

Dodgers 6th: With two out, Kemp faced new Pirates pitcher Jeanmar Gomez. Here's Joe Buck with the count two balls and one strike:

"Kershaw has done a whole lot better in this oppressive heat than the Pirates' pitching staff, at least to the moment. He's given up just two runs on six hits through five, while the Dodgers have hit almost at will; they've outhit the Pirates eleven to six. Gomez has been effective so far, getting the first two outs of this inning in just five pitches; now he's behind Matt Kemp two balls and one strike. Gomez ready with the next pitch, WHICH IS LIED DEEP TO LET, BACK IS MARTE, AT THE TRACK, AT THE WALL, AND THIS BALL IS GONE!......Matt Kemp hits the first homer of this series, and it's 8-2 Dodgers here in the sixth."

Harold Reynolds: "Gomez hung a slider right in the heart of the strike zone, which is fresh meat to a hitter like Matt Kemp. This ball flew off of his bat, Joe, and you could hear the crack of the bat all the way up here."

John Smoltz: "The Pirate bullpen hasn't been up to the task so far, and if this keeps up the Dodgers will have an easier time in this series than anyone could have ever thought possible."

Ramirez followed with a base hit to left, but Crawford bounced to second to end the inning. Kemp's homer has extended the Dodgers' lead to 8-2 after six.

Pirates 7th: Right fielder Travis Snider lined a leadoff single to left. Gregory Polanco batted for Gomez and took a pitch off of his shin to put two men on, but was forced by Harrison, with Snider moving to third, Mercer's infield fly was caught by Gordon for out number two, but Cutch's base hit to left scored Snider to bring the Pirates to within 8-3 with Harrison moving to third. Martin struck out swinging to end the inning. The Pirates settle for a run on two hits, and as we stretch at Chavez Ravine they trail the homestanding Dodgers 8-3.

Dodgers 8th: Gordon lined a leadoff single to right. Puig smacked a double into the left center power alley to bring Gordon home and make it 9-3 Los Angeles. Justin Wilson came out of the Pirates bullpen and walked Gonzalez on five pitches to put two men on, then retired the next three batters in order: Kemp and Crawford each struck out swinging, and in between Ramirez flew to McCutchen in shallow left center. The Dodgers have added a run on two hits and a walk while leaving runners at first and second, and as we head to the ninth they now lead 9-3.

Pirates 9th: Pedro Alvarez batted for Wilson and singled to left center. That brought Harrison to the plate against new Dodgers pitcher Brandon League. Here's Joe with the count one ball and one strike:

"The Pirates are looking to put this loss behind them and even the series tomorrow night when they'll send their young lefthander Jeff Locke to the mound against the Dodgers' other ace, Zack Greinke. They jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first, but the Dodgers answered with a five-spot and haven't looked back since. Alvarez is no threat to run at first, especially with the Pirates down by five. Here's the two-one pitch to Harrison...…...HIGH FLY BALL TO LEFT CENTER, BACK IS PUIG, AT THE TRACK, AT THE WALL, AND IT'S GONE!...….Josh Harrison is now three for five, and this is now a 9-5 game here in the ninth."

Smoltz: "Josh Harrison wasn't even supposed to make the Pirates' roster in his rookie year because he didn't have any discernible skills. All he's done is play multiple positions well, steal bases with his speed and baserunning ability, and hit home runs more than occasionally. This ball was gone from the second it left the bat, and this home run may prove to be a catalyst for the Pirates going forward. It's happened before."

Reynolds: "Don't ever count out a team from the Steel City, no matter what the sport."

League settled down to retire the next three batters, as Mercer flew to Puig in left center, McCutchen struck out swinging, and Martin grounded to third to end the game. Our final: Dodgers 9, Pirates 5, and the Dodgers lead the best-of-five series one game to none.

Gordon was named Player of the Game by FS1. He finished three for four and scored three runs. Ramirez finished three for five with two runs scored and two RBIs, and Gonzalez and Ellis each had two his and drove in two runs apiece. For the Pirates, Harrison was three for five with a homer and two RBIs.

Final totals: Dodgers 9-15-0, Pirates 5-12-0.

W- Kershaw (1-0)
L- Volquez (0-1)

HR- PIT: Harrison (1)
LAD: Kemp (1)

The series will continue with Game 2 tomorrow night here at Dodger Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for shortly after 9:30 PM Eastern, and Joe gave us the pitching matchup earlier: Jeff Locke (Pirates) against Zack Greinke (Dodgers).

Next: We look at Game 2.

Thoughts?
 
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Now it's time for Game 2 of the second 2014 National League Division Series from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The date is Saturday, October 4:

Lineup Changes:

Pirates-
Travis Snider moves up to second. Neil Walker moves up to the cleanup spot, while Neil Walker moves down to sixth and Jordy Mercer to eighth. Finally, Ike Davis gets the start at first base and will bat seventh.

With one out, Travis Snider whacked a double to center off of Dodgers starter Zack Greinke. After Andrew McCutchen took a called third strike for out number two, Neil Walker stepped to the plate. Here's Joe Buck with the count one ball and no strikes:

"Neil Walker is one of the most interesting stories of this postseason. He grew up a Pirates fan in Pittsburgh during their back-to-back National League East championship years in 1991 and '92, then was drafted by the Pirates as a catcher. He bounced around to several different positions during his time in the minor leagues, then became the Pirates' starting second baseman at the beginning of 2010 and has been there ever since. He also played third very early in his career, but now Josh Harrison is manning that position very nicely. One-ball pitch from Greinke…….HIT HIGH IN THE AIR DEEP TO LEFT! BACK IS CRAWFORD, AT THE WALL, AND IT IS GONE!...….A two-run homer from the man they call 'The Pittsburgh Kid', and Neil Walker has put his Pirates up 2-0 against Zack Greinke here in the first."

Harold Reynolds: "Greinke thought he could get Neil Walker to swing at a high fastball, and he did, but Zack sure didn't want him to hit it like that. The heat here in Los Angeles helped it go a little further than it might have otherwise, but that was definitely a home run swing."

John Smoltz: "With temperatures in the nineties tonight, this could be the first of many balls flying out of here. What's going to tell the difference in this game is how the pitchers who give up the home runs react to them. Zack Greinke is known all over a baseball as a cool customer, so this one mistake shouldn't get him off of his game."

Russell Martin almost made it back-to-back home runs, but his fly to right center died slightly at the warning track, allowing Yasiel Puig to make an inning-ending catch. The Black and Gold are on the board thanks to Walker's two-run homer; now we'll see what starter Jeff Locke can do against the Dodgers.

Dodgers 1st: Dee Gordon drew a leadoff walk, but was thrown out trying to steal second. Puig lined a single to right, but Locke struck Adrian Gonzalez out swinging for the second out. Next was Matt Kemp, who doubled over Starling Marte's head in left to score Puig and tie the game at one. Hanley Ramirez walked to put two men on, but Locke struck Carl Crawford out swinging to end the inning. The Dodgers have hit the board with a run on two hits and two walks while leaving runners at first and second. After one, it's Pirates 2, Dodgers 1.

Dodgers 3rd: Puig drew a leadoff walk, but was forced by Gonzalez. Kemp flew to McCutchen in center for out number two, but Ramirez kept the inning going by lining a single to right. Crawford's base hit up the middle scored Gonzalez to tie the game at two with Ramirez moving to third, and Juan Uribe's lined single to left center cashed in Ramirez to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead while Crawford moved to third. A.J. Ellis made it four singles in a row by lining a single to center. Crawford scored, and it was 4-2 Dodgers. Runners were still at first and second for Greinke, but his bouncer to Harrison at third stranded the runners and ended the inning. The Men in Blue have taken the lead with three runs on four hits and a walk, and after three it's Bums 4, Buccos 2.

With two out, Walker faced Grenke. Here's Pirates broadcaster Greg Brown with the count one ball and one strike:

"The Pirates got off to a flying start with Walker's homer in the first, but since then Greinke's pitched like the Cy Young candidate he is. (Jordy) Mercer blooped a single to left center field in the second, and Martin doubled to left in the sixth; that's been it as far as hits since the first. He's allowed three walks, one to Snider with two out in the fifth. The Bucs actually got two on with two out in the fourth on back-to-back walks to Marte and Davis, but Jordy Mercer struck out swinging to end the inning. Now we're in the eighth, and Walker needs to get something started. Here's the one-one pitch......HIGH AND DEEP TO RIGHT FIELD! KEMP IS BACK, HE'S AT THE WALL, AND YOU CAN CLEAR THE DECK! CANNONBALL NUMBER TWO TONIGHT FOR NEIL WALKER, AND THIS IS NOW A 4-3 GAME IN THE EIGHTH!"

John Wehner: "Greinke's insisted on trying to get Neil out up high all night, and this is the second time he's been taken deep. This wasn't really deep like the homer in the first inning, but it carried enough to get out of here."

Martin followed with a seeing-eye single to left, and Marte beat out a bouncer to short for an infield single. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called for closer Kenley Jansen, and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle countered by sending Pedro Alvarez to the plate to bat for Davis. Jansen won the battle, as Alvarez bounced to Gordon at second to retire the side. Walker's second home run of the night has cut the Dodgers' lead to 4-3 after seven and a half, but the Buccos have also left runners at first and second. We'll see if it comes back to haunt them.

That was all the scoring. Gaby Sanchez, who entered the game at first in the bottom of the eight, was hit in he knee by a pitch with one out in the ninth, but Jansen retired Harrison on a pop to Gonzalez at first and struck Snider out swinging to end the game. Our final: Dodgers 4, Pirates 3, and the Dodgers lead the series two games to none.

Greinke was named Player of he Game by FS1. He pitched seven and two-thirds innings, giving up three runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out three. Walker was unquestionably the top dog for the Bucs, as he finished two for four with two home runs and all three Pirate RBIs.

Final totals: Dodgers 4-8-0, Pirates 3-7-0.

W- Greinke (1-0)
S- Jansen (1)
L- Locke (0-1)

HR- PIT: Walker 2 (2)

The series shifts to PNC Park in Pittsburgh for Game 3 on Monday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for shortly after 5PM Eastern, with Hyun-Jin Ryu starting for the Dodgers and Vance Worley taking the hill for the Pirates.

Next: We look at Game 3. I'll resume the 2008 ALCS once the Pirates' 2014 run has finished. (Hey, give me a break. they're my hometown team!)

Thoughts?
 
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I've changed my mind and decided to finish the 2008 ALCS first. With that in mind, let's head to Fenway Park for Game 6 on Wednesday, October 15:

Lineup Changes:

Twins-
Joe Mauer is back behind the plate, with Jason Kubel serving as the designated hitter. Delmon Young is back in left field and will bat sixth. Finally, Nick Punto is back at shortstop and will bat eighth.

Red Sox- J.D. Drew and Jason Bay switch places in the batting order; Drew will bat fifth while Bay hits sixth. Mark Kotsay moves up to seventh, Jed Lowrie moves down to eighth, and Jason Varitek moves down to ninth.

Weather: 57 degrees, mostly cloudy skies, east wind at 8 MPH.

Twins 3rd: Mauer drew a one-out walk, Red Sox starter Josh Beckett struck out Justin Morneau swinging for out number two, but Kubel's bloop into right center got past Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp and rolled to the wall. Mauer came home, and the Twins led 1-0. Young's bouncer to Kevin Youkilis at third retired the side with Kubel still at second, but the visitors have combined a walk and a double to scratch out a 1-0 lead after two and a half.

That was all the scoring. Twins starter Scott Baker and closer Joe Nathan combined on a five-hit shutout, and Nathan's fourth save of the series cemented his ALCS MVP award. The Bosox only managed even a mini-threat twice. In the fourth, Drew blooped a double to right center with two out, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire decided to walk Bay intentionally to get to Kotsay, who struck out swinging to end the inning. In the eighth, Baker hit Varitek in the leg by a pitch. Crisp took a called third strike for the first out, and Pedroia forced Varitek for out number two. David Ortiz lined a single to center to put two men on, and since he was the tying run Red Sox manager Terry Francona sent Jacoby Ellsbury in to run for him. Nathan was ready in the Minnesota bullpen, but Gardy decided to let Baker finish the inning, and he did so in style, striking Youkilis out on three pitches.

Baker finished with eight innings pitched, over which he gave up five hits and a walk while striking out seven and throwing a hundred and seven pitches. Brian Buscher was a perfect three for three at the plate plus a walk at the plate, and Carlos Gomez was two for four. Ortiz had two of the five Boston hits.

Final totals: Twins 1-7-0, Red Sox 0-5-0.

W- Baker (1-1)
S- Nathan (4)
L- Beckett 0-2)

Before we go, a couple of calls from Dick Enberg. First, here's how he called what turned out to be the game winning hit:

"Mauer with a bit of a lead at first; could he be stealing with a power hitter like Kubel at the plate? A count of one ball and one strike, two out in the top of the third. Beckett ready, and the one-one pitch........fly ball into right center, it's going to drop in front of Crisp, NOW IT GETS BY HIM! THEY'RE WAVING KUBEL AROUND THIRD, AND THE THROW HOME WILL BE CUT OFF! THE TWINS LEAD 1-0!........Crisp could have played it on a true hop, but once the ball skidded past him, it kept on going."

Now for the final out. Kotsay's at the plate against Nathan, and the count is two balls and one strike:

"Nathan falling behind Kotsay with Bay on deck. He struck out both Drew and Bay to start the inning, but now he may be pressing, as the Twins look to win their first American League pennant since 1991, when they lost that seven-game thriller of a World Series to the Dodgers. A reminder that the American League won the All-Star Game this year, so whichever team wins this series has the home-field advantage, which means not only a potential Game 7 at home, but also one more game with the designated hitter. That would be especially big for the Red Sox, as Big Papi really can't play the field well at all anymore, even at first base.

Two balls and a strike to Kotsay, who'll do anything to get on base in this situation. Nathan stretches, now throws........fly to left, not deep at all, Young is under it AND SQUEEZES IT FOR THE FINAL OUT! THE TWINS ARE AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONS!...…The Twins are going back to the World Series for the first time in seventeen years, and they've also erased that awful defeat in the divisional round from four years ago, where they had the Red Sox down two games to none and watched them win three straight, ending in Johnny Damon's game-winning homer in the twelfth inning of Game 5. Now it's their turn to do the celebrating, and the Twin Cities will be rocking for Game 1 of the World Series.

That'll do it from Fenway Park; now stay tuned for The Postseason Show Presented by Captain Morgan, which will feature Chip Caray with interviews from the winning clubhouse, the presentation of the American League championship trophy and the MVP trophy, and analysis from Ernie Johnson and his roundtable back at our Atlanta studio. That's all coming up after these messages. Our final score: the Minnesota Twins 1, the Boston Red Sox 0, and the Twins take the American League pennant four games to two. For Ron Darling, Jim Kaat, and our dugout reporter Sam Ryan, this is Dick Enberg saying so long from Fenway and have a good winter. We'll see you in 2009 here on TBS."

This is the Twins' seventh American League pennant as a franchise and its third in Minnesota.

Next. Back to the Pirates' 2014 NLDS with the Dodgers for Game 3 at PNC Park.

Thoughts?
 
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Now it's time for Game 3 of the second 2014 National League Division Series from PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The date is Monday, October 6:

Lineup Changes:

Pirates-
Gaby Sanchez replaces Ike Davis at first base and will bat seventh.

Weather: First pitch was delayed until 6:40 PM due to persistent light rain. At that time, the temperature was 55 degrees, with cloudy skies and a south wind at 12 MPH.

Dodgers 1st: Dee Gordon lined the first pitch of the game into right field for a single, then stole second. Yasiel Puig stroked a base hit to left to score Gordon and give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. Adrian Gonzalez grounded to Gaby Sanchez at first for out number one, which brought Matt Kemp to the plate. Here's Joe Buck with the count one ball and no strikes:

"(Pirates manager) Clint Hurdle made the gamble or trying to hold off the Cardinals for the Central Division title with his best pitchers, Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano. It worked in that respect, but now the Pirates are facing the prospect of being eliminated without either one of them ever taking the mound. Edinson Volquez was rocked in Game 1, and Jeff Locke gave up three runs in the third inning of Game 2, which ended up being the difference in the game. Now here's Vance Worley with the task of saving the Pirates' season. Next pitch to Kemp is HIT DEEP TO RIGHT, SNIDER BACK, HE'S AT THAT 21-FOOT HIGH WALL, AND IT GOES OVER FOR A HOME RUN! WHAT A BLAST BY MATT KEMP, AND IT'S 3-0 DODGERS! THAT WAS INCREDIBLE!"

John Smoltz: "You can clear the fence in the corner over by the bullpen, but to actually hit one over the Clemente Wall...…..unbelievable."

Harold Reynolds: "That shows you what a true power hitter Matt Kemp is. Do you know how high you have to hit a ball for it to clear a 21-foot wall? I'd like to know how many players have ever done that."

The answer is: none that this Pirate fan knows of. At any rate, Hanley Ramirez kept the inning going with a base hit to center, but was forced by Carl Crawford. Juan Uribe's fly to shallow right was caught by Travis Snider to end the inning, but the Dodgers have scored three runs on four hits, including Kemp's mammoth home run, and a stolen base. Now let's welcome the Buccos.

Pirates 1st: Josh Harrison led off with a base hit up the middle, but Travis Snider grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. Andrew McCutchen kept the inning going by lining a base hit to left, and Neil Walker's single past Ryu and up the middle put runners at the corners. Russell Martin was next to the plate, and here's Greg Brown with the count one ball and one strike:

"The Pirates have come right back in this inning with three hits, although Josh Harrison's single was erased by Snider's double play. Runners at first and third for Martin, and the sellout crowd at PNC Park is back into this game after the long delay and the hot start by the Dodgers. Ryu checks the runners and the one-one pitch......HIT HIGH AND DEEP TOWARD TO LEFT CENTER, GOING TO WARD THE NORTH SIDE NOTCH! PUIG GOING BACK, HE'S AT THE NOTCH, AND THIS BALL IS GONE! RUSSELL MARTIN HAS TIED THE GAME WITH ONE BIG SWING, AND THIS PLACE IS GOING CRAZY!"

Steve Blass: "This is like the Wild Card Game last year, with the blackout and this hot crowd, and it was Russell Martin who hit two home runs to lead the offense. Now he ties the game with a home run over the North Side Notch and into the stands, and although we've got a long way to go in this game, we're starting even again."

Starling Marte's roller to first ended the inning, but Martin's three-run homer has tied the game at three after one.

Dodgers 3rd: With two out, Ramirez lined a single to left. Crawford's single to right center put runners at the corners, and Uribe's single to left scored Ramirez to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead while Crawford stopped at third. A.J. Ellis struck out swinging to end the inning, but the Men in Blue have taken the lead thanks to three consecutive hits while leaving runners at the corners. At the end of two and a half, it's Dodgers 4, Pirates 3.

Dodgers 5th: Gonzalez led off with a medium-depth fly to left that went into, then out of, Marte's glove. By the time Starling tracked the ball down, Gonzalez had pulled in at second, and Marte was charged with a two-base error. Kemp's line drive was gloved by Harrison for out number one with Gonzalez holding at second, but Ramirez's bouncer to first moved Gonzalez to third. Crawford beat out his sharp grounder to third for an infield single, which allowed Gonzalez to come home and put the Dodgers up 5-3. Crawford then stole second, and Uribe walked on four pitches to put two men on. But Ellis' liner was gloved by Mercer to end the inning. The Dodgers have added a run on an error, a stolen base, and infield hit, and a walk, and halfway through Game 3 , it's Bums 5, Bucs 3.

Pirates 5th: Gregory Polanco batted for Worley and lined a leadoff single to left. Harrison took a called third strike for out number one, but Snider beat out a bouncer to third for an infield single to put two men on. Cutch's bloop single to center loaded the bases, and Walker's single to right center scored Polanco and Snider to tie the game at five while McCutchen went to third. Martin flew to Crawford in shallow left for out number two, but Marte singled up the middle to bring Cutch home and give the Buccos a 6-5 lead. Ryu departed at that point in favor of Pedro Baez, and Hurdle countered by sending Ike Davis to the plate to bat for Sanchez. Ike smacked the first pitch he saw off the wall in left for a double. Walker and Marte both scored, and the Pirates were in front 8-5. Mercer's liner appeared ticketed for the right field corner for another run-scoring double, but Gonzalez just managed to smother it for the final out. The Pirates have taken the lead with five runs on six hits while leaving a runner at second, and after five they lead the Dodgers 8-5.

Pirates 8th: Mercer drew a leadoff walk against Dodgers reliever Brandon League. Pedro Alvarez batted for reliever Tony Watson and singled up the middle to put two men on. J-Hay was next, and his single to left center brought Mercer home to put the Bucs up 9-5. Snider's grounder to first moved both runners up, but McCutchen took a called third strike for the second out. Walker was next, ad his lined single to left scored Alvarez and Harrison to make it 11-5 Pittsburgh. J.P. Howell replaced League and retired Marte on a grounder to short to end the inning with runners still at first and second, but the home squad has added three more runs on four hits, a walk, and a productive groundout. Closer Mark Melancon will come in to pitch the ninth in what is now a non-save situation, and he'll face Puig, Gonzalez, and Kemp with the Pirates now leading 11-5.

Melancon allowed a two-out single to left by Kemp, but Ramirez grounded to Davis at first to end the game. Final score: Pirates 11, Dodgers 5, and the Dodgers now lead the series two games to one.

Walker was named Player of the Game by FS1. He finished three for four plus a walk with two runs scored and four RBIs. He's now five for eight plus a walk over the last two games with two homers and seven RBIs. Martin was two for five with a homer and three RBIs. Gordon was the offensive leader for the Dodgers, going four for five with a run scored and a stolen base. Kemp was two for five with his home run.

Final totals: Pirates 11-15-1, Dodgers 5-13-0.

W- Worley (1-0)
L- Ryu (0-1)

HR- LAD: Kemp (2)
PIT: Martin (1)

The series will continue tomorrow with Game 4 here at PNC Park. First pitch is scheduled for shortly after 5PM Eastern, with Clayton Kershaw starting for the Dodgers and Liriano taking the mound for the Pirates.

Next: We look at Game 4.

Thoughts?
 
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Now it's time for Game 4 of the second 2014 National League Division Series from PNC Park in Pittsburgh, The date is Tuesday, October 7:

Lineup Changes:

Dodgers-
Carl Crawford moves up to second, while Andre Ethier starts in center field for Yasiel Puig and bats sixth.

Pirates- Starling Marte moves up to fifth. Ike Davis starts at first base and will bat sixth, while Jordy Mercer moves up to seventh. The big news is that Russell Martin suffered a slight muscle pull in his side on a swing yesterday and won't start behind the plate. Backup Chris Stewart will take his place and bat eighth.

Weather: 58 degrees, cloudy skies, south wind at 7 MPH. There was a two-hour, fifteen-minute rain delay from 5:36 PM to 7:51 PM.

Pirates 2nd: Neil Walker led off against Dodgers starter Clsyton Kershaw. Here's Joe Buck with the count one ball and one strike:

"The newspapers here in Pittsburgh are having a field day with (Pirates manager) Clint Hurdle's decision not to start Gerrit Cole until a potential Game 5 on Wednesday night. Hurdle has said that he doesn't want to disrupt his pitching rotation, but Cole will have had ten days between starts if there's a Game 5. Cole, for his part, hasn't said much, but that could change if the Pirates lose today and are eliminated without him getting a chance to start. One-one pitch to Walker is pulled down the line in right, over is Kemp, he's at the wall, and this one is...…GONE! Neil Walker just manages to hit this one over the wall in the right field corner for his third home run of the series, and the Bucs are on the board here in Game 4."

Harold Reynolds: "Neil Walker's really taking advantage of this opportunity to show what he can do to a nationwide audience. As Joe said, this is his third home run of the series, and he has eight RBIs over the last three games. People talk about Andrew McCutchen, but in this series Walker's been the men that's made the Pittsburgh offense go."

John Smoltz: "There you see his family, or at least some of them. I know he left a ton of tickets for these last two games."

Marte was next, and he grounded the first pitch he saw past Kershaw and into center for a base hit. But Kershaw retired the next three batters in order: Davis and Stewart each flied to right, and in between Mercer took a called third strike. Walker's third home run of the series has given the Buccos a 1-0 lead after two.

Dodgers 3rd: Crawford reach base when Davis fumbled his slow roller, then stole second and third. Adrian Gonzalez walked to put runners at the corners, and Matt Kemp bounced into a force play to bring Kemp home and tie the game at one. Hanley Ramirez popped to Josh Harrison at third to retire the side, but the Dodgers have tied the game thanks to an error, a pair of stolen bases, a walk, and a fielder's choice. After two and a half, we're tied at one.

Dodgers 5th: With one out, Kemp whacked a double to right. Ramirez followed with a lined single to left to score Kemp and put the Dodgers in front 2-1. Ramirez then stole second and third, much like Crawford had two innings prior. But Ethier flew to McCutchen in shallow right center for out number two, and after Uribe walked to put runners at first and third A'.J. Ellis flew weakly to Marte in left to retire the side. The Men in Blue have taken the lead thanks to a pair of hits, a pair of stolen bases, and a walk while leaving runners at the corners. We're halfway through Game 4, and it's Bums 2, Buccos 1.

Pirates 5th: Mercer lined a leadoff base hit to left. Stewart followed with another single to left that put two on, and the runners were bunted over by Pirates starting pitcher Fancisco Liriano. That brought J-Hay to the plate, and we join Pirates radio broadcaster Tim Neverett with the count one ball and two strikes:

"Mercer at third, Stewart at second with one out, and this is a golden opportunity for Harrison to at least tie the game with a fly ball. A hit of any kind should give the Pirates the lead, as Stewart will almost surely be off on contact. Aonther hot may also get the Dodger bullpen working, although Kershaw has shown no ill effects from the delay so far. One-two to J-Hay...…HIGH FLY BALL DEEP TO CENTER., BACK GOES WTHIER, AT THE WALL, AND THIS ONE IS GONE! JOSH HARRISON WITH HIS SECOND HOME RUN OF THE SERIES, AND THE BUCCOS TAKE A 4-2 LEAD!"

PA Announcer Tim DeBacco: "A Bucco Blast, his second of the playoffs, by NUMBER 5, JOSH HARRISON!"

Bob Walk: "Kershaw wanted to try and get Josh to go down swinging, but he got it a little too far up in the strike zone, and this ball was mashed. It's 400 feet to dead center here at PNC Park, and that's at least 420, maybe 425. Imagine how far that one could have gone on a hot summer day. A tape-measure shot for sure."

The official distance of J-Hay's homer: 417 feet.

The inning continued with Travis Snider's bouncer to second for out number two. Kershaw then gave up back-to-back walks to McCutchen and Walker, but Marte went down swinging to strand the runners and end the inning. The Buccos have taken the lead thanks to three hits, a sacrifice bunt, and a pair of walks, with the key blow being Harrison's three-run homer. We've played five, and it's Pittsburgh 4, Los Angeles 2.

Dodgers 6th: Kershaw was allowed to bat for himself and drew a leadoff walk. After Dee Gordon went down swinging for out number one, Crawford tagged a ball to right that dropped on the warning track and hopped over the fence for a double, sending Kershaw to third. Then came the play that turned the game around, as Gonzalez hit a line drive deep to center. Cutch was in position to make the catch, but skidded on the wet grass and went down in a heap. The ball glanced off of his upturned arm and rolled away; both Kershaw and Crawford scored easily to tie the game, and it was several moments before a stunned Cutch regained his feet and was cleared to stay in the game. Kemp lined a single to left to put runners at the corners, and Ramirez brought them both home with a double off the wall in left that put the Dodgers ahead 6-4.

That was all for Liriano; Hurdle called for Charlie Morton out of the Pirate bullpen, but Ramirez stole third before the new hurler could pitch to the plate, giving him three stolen bases on the day. Ethier's fly to deep left was caught by Marte at the wall for the second out as Hanley scampered home to make it 7-4 Los Angeles. Uribe's fly to right was caught by Snider to end the inning, but the Dodgers have stormed ahead with five runs on three hits, a walk, a stolen base, a sacrifice fly, and what was scored as a two-base error by McCutchen. After five and a half, the Dodgers now lead the Pirates 7-4.

Dodgers 7th: Ellis belted a leadoff triple into the left field corner. Kershaw's line drive was gloved by Walker for the first out, but Gordon blasted another triple into the North Side Notch to score Ellis with the Dodgers' eighth run. Crawford followed with a double down the line in right that brought Gordon home to make it 9-4 and also ended Morton's evening. Jeanmar Gomez was the next man out of the Bucco bullpen, and Gonzalez slapped his first pitch into right for a base hit. Crawford trotted home, and the Men in Blue had put up double digits. A wild pitch moved Gonzalez to second,

Kemp was next, and he lined a single to left. Marte charged the ball and came up throwing, and his one-hop throw to the plate arrived just ahead of Gonzalez. The Dodgers challenged the out call, claiming that Stewart hadn't tagged Gonzalez before Adrian had touched the plate, but the replay showed that he'd brushed Adrian on the seat of his pants a split second before the foot touched. When the game resumed, Ramirez blooped a double down the line in left to score Kemp and make it 11-4. Gomez departed in favor of Stolmy Pimentel, who retired Ethier on a grounder to first to end the inning. The Dodgers have added four more runs on six hits and a wild pitch while leaving Ramirez at second, and as we stretch at a gloomy, dispirited PNC Park, the Dodgers now lead 11-4.

Between innings, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly went out to further dispute the out call on Gonzalez and was ejected by home plate umpire Eric Cooper.

Pirates 7th: Martin, who'd entered the game behind the plate as part of a double switch, led off with a single to left center. Harrison lined a double off the wall in left, and Martin made it home just in front of Crawford's throw. Snider followed with a base hit to right to score J-Hay and bring the Bucs to within 11-6. Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt came to the mound with the hook for Kershaw, and J.P. Howell came in to face McCutchen, who lined his first pitch into right field for a single to put two men on. But Howell recovered to strike Walker out swinging, and Marte forced Cutch, with Snider moving to third. Pedro Alvarez batted for Davis and grounded to second to end the inning, but the Bucs have scored twice on four hits while leaving runners at first and third. After seven, tFor nhe Dodgers' lead is down to five at 11-6.

Dodgers 8th: Walker couldn't field Uribe's leadoff grounder cleanly, which allowed Juan to reach. Ellis followed with a bloop single to right center, which put runners at the corners. Dodgers bench coach and acting manager Tim Wallach decided to let Howell bat for himself with a five-run lead, and he forced Ellis. That was enough to bring Uribe home, and the Bums led 12-6. Next was Gordon, whose double off the wall sent Howell to third. With two runners now in scoring position, Wallach sent Puig in to run for Howell, and it paid off when Crawford singled to right center. Both Puig and Gordon scored, and the Dodgers' lead was now eight at 14-6. John Axford was next out of the Pittsburgh bullpen, and Gonzalez' pop to short was caught by Mercer for the second out, but Kemp's bloop single to center put runners at the corners, but Ramirez's liner was gloved by Mercer to retire the side. The Dodgers have added three runs on four hits, an error, and a fielder's choice while leaving runners at first and third, and as we head to the ninth, the Dodgers now lead 14-6.

That was all the scoring. Here's Joe's call of the final out, as new Dodgers pitcher Brian Wilson is ahead of McCutchen one ball and two strikes:

"This park, which has been so loud over the last couple of days, is now almost silent. The Dodgers have racked the Pirate pitching staff to the tune of fourteen runs and twenty hits, and the defense has added to the mess by committing four errors, although the one charged to McCutchen was debatable at best. Another major factor is that the Dodgers ran on Chris Stewart at will, stealing six bases. Ramirez and Crawford each executed back-to-back steals, and Ramirez ended up with three stolen bases on the day. The future still looks bight for the Pirates, but their present will soon be over barring a miracle. Wilson ready, one two-pitch........in the air to left, an easy chance for Crawford, AND THE DODGERS MOVE ON TO THE NLCS!.......They defeat the gritty young Pirates three games to one, and we'll have a ton of interviews on our postgame show. We'll be heading out to Busch Stadium to join the Giants and the Nationals in progress in just a moment, but first we should tell you that our Player of the Game is Hanley Ramirez, who finished his evening three for six with a run scored and four RBIs.

Our final score from PNC Park in Pittsburgh: Dodgers 14, Pirates 6. For Harold Reynolds, John Smoltz, and Ken Rosenthal, I'm Joe Buck saying so long from the Steel City and sending you to Matt Vasgersian, Tom Veducci, and J,P. Morosi in Washington."

Continuing the Dodgers' honor roll where Joe left off, Gordon was four for seven with two runs scored and an RBI, while Kemp was four for six with an RBI and scored three runs. Crawford was three for five plus a walk with three runs scored and three more driven in, while Ellis was three for five with a run scored. The Pirates' offense was led by J-Hay, who was two for five with two runs scored, a home run, and four RBIs.

Final totals: Dodgers 14-20-0, Pirates 6-10-4.

W- Kershaw (2-0)
L- Liriano (0-1)

HR- PIT: Walker (3), Harrison (2)

Next: The Cubs are one of the teams that the Twins could face in the 2008 World Series, so I'm going to bring the Curse of the Billy Goat up to date by looking at the Cubs' playoff runs in 2001, 2004, and 2007. First up is 2001, as the Cubbies head to Phoenix to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday, October 9. First pitch is scheduled for shortly after 10PM Eastern on ESPN, with Jon Lieber starting for the Cubs and Curt Schilling taking the mound for the D-Backs.

Thoughts?
 
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Now it's time for Game 1 of the first 2001 National League Division Series from Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. The date is Tuesday, October 9:

Starters Jon Lieber (Cubs) and Curt Schilling (Diamondbacks) engaged in a thrilling pitcher's duel for the first six innings. The Cubs put together two mini-threats against Schilling. The first was in the top of the first, as center fielder Eric Young spanked the second pitch of the game into the right center power alley for a double. Shortstop Ricky Gutierrez walked to put two men on, but Schilling came back to strike out the side: right fielder Sammy Sosa and first baseman Fred McGriff went down swinging, and left fielder Rondell White took a called third strike to end the inning. In the top of the fifth, center fielder Michael Tucker led off with a bloop single to center, and after one out catcher Robert Machado beat out a slow roller to first for an infield single. But Lieber's foul pop was caught by Arizona first baseman Mark Grace for the second out, and Young's line shot was gloved by shortstop Tony Womack to retire the side.

Meanwhile, the Snakes managed just one baserunner against Lieber in the first six innings and two in the first seven. Center fielder Steve Finley lined a one-out base hit up the middle in the bottom of the first, but was thrown out trying to steal second by Machado. Lieber then retired the next sixteen Arizona hitters in a row until Womack led off the seventh by slapping a single to right center. He promptly stole second, but was stranded there as Finley struck out swinging, left fielder Luis Gonzalez grounded to short, and right fielder Reggie Sanders flew to Tucker on the warning track in deep right center. By this time the D-Backs already trailed 1-0, as you'll see below.

Here's our scoring summary:

Cubs 7th: Left fielder Rondell White grounded a leadoff single up the middle. Tucker followed with another single to center that moved White to third; he became the first baserunner to reach third against Schilling so far. Third baseman Bill Mueller forced Tucker, which allowed White to come home with the game's first run. Machado flew to Gonzalez in shallow left for the second out, and Lieber's bouncer to third ended the inning. The Cubs have gotten on the board thanks to two hits and a force play, and as we stretch at The Bob, they lead the homestanding Diamondbacks 1-0.

Diamondbacks 8th: Second baseman Craig Counsell drew a two-out walk. Catcher Damian Miller followed with a double to left, sending Counsell to third. D-Backs manager Bob Brenly sent Jay Bell to the plate to bat for Schilling, and Lieber walked his former Pirates teammate on four pitches to load the bases. Another former Bucco was next in Womack, and he grounded a base hit to right that brought Counsell home and tied the game at one. Cubs manager Don Baylor called on closer Tom "Flash" Gordon to pitch to Finley, and Gordon struck Finley out swinging at three straight pitches to retire the side with the bases still loaded. The home squad has to settle for the tying run on two hits and two walks, and as we head to the ninth in Game 1, it's Cubbies 1, Snakes 1.

Diamondbacks 9th: With one out against reliever Jeff Fassero, Sanders' bloop fell in the left center power alley for a double. That brought former Cub Grace to the plate. Here's Vin Scully with the count one ball and one strike:

"And so it comes down to this: the former Cub Mark Grace, still beloved in Chicago, trying to break the hearts of those who consider him a hero and lift his new team to victory. The Cubs had their chance in the top of the inning, loading the bases on a hit batsman and two walks against (D-Backs closer) Byung-Hyun Kim, lifting their closer Tom Gordon for pinch-hitter Todd Hundley in an effort to get the tying run home, but after Hundley walked to load 'em up, Eric Young's fly to left ended the inning. Now it's Fassero against Grace with the potential winning run at second. One ball and one strike, with Matt Williams waiting on deck. Fassero checks Sanders at second, but he won't be going with Grace up there. Here's the one-one pitch.......LINED INTO RIGHT CENTER, TUCKER COMES OVER, BUT HE WON'T GET IT! IT ROLLS TO THE WALL, AND HERE COMES SANDERS! THE DIAMONDBACKS WIN GAME 1, 2-1!.......Those fans you see in blue walking out with their heads down are Cubs fans; the team still trains in this area in the spring, and lot of people from the Chicago area retire here because of that, so this isn't a universally popular win for the Diamondbacks by any stretch. They'll take it nonetheless, and look to build on it in Game 2 with Randy Johnson going to the hill."

Our final: Diamondbacks 2, Cubs 1, and the Diamondbacks lead the best-of-five series one game to none.

Grace was named Player of the Game by ESPN because of his game-winning hit, but the real stars of the night were the starting pitchers. Lieber held the Snakes to one run on four hits in seven and two-third innings while walking two, striking out six, and throwing only ninety-two pitches. Schilling was equally brilliant, allowing just one run on six hits in eight innings while walking just one and striking out twelve. He threw 116 pitches on the night. Kim added two more strikeouts in the ninth for a total of fourteen strikeouts by Arizona pitching for the night.

Final totals: Diamondbacks 2-6-1, Cubs 1-6-0.

W- Kim (1-0)
L- Fassero (0-1)

The series will continue with Game 2 tomorrow afternoon here at Bank One Ballpark, First pitch is scheduled for shortly after 4PM Eastern, and as Vin said earlier Randy Johnson will take the mound for the Diamondbacks. He'll be opposed by the Cubs' Kerry Wood.

Next: We look at Game 2.

Thoughts?
 
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Now that I'm into the Cubs portion of my curse project, I feel the need to warn those of you who may be native Chicagoans:

While I post the weather conditions at the top of every game played outdoors, those weather conditions have nothing to do with the kind of game that comes out of the simulator. In other words, the conditions on a given day may indicate that the wind would be blowing in at Wrigley Field, and we'll get a 13-12 slugfest where each team hits multiple home runs. Conversely, a day on which the wind is blowing out at 30 MPH may produce a 1-0 game where it seems that no one can hit a ball out of the infield. It's all the same to the WhatIf Sports simulator, which doesn't really take weather into account in football either, although the person running the sim can set it to suit their taste. I don't make the sims up; I just write the game stories (although I add and remove eligible players at my own discretion).

Speaking of winds, which wind directions (north, east, south, etc.) indicate whether the wind is blowing in or out at Wrigley on a given day or evening? I've watched a lot of Cubs games over the years due to the Pirates being in the same division, and I've never been able to keep it straight.
 
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Now it's time for Game 2 of the first 2001 National League Division Series from Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. The date is Wednesday, October 10:

Lineup Changes:

Cubs-
Corey Patterson starts in center field and will bat second. Matt Stairs replaces Fred McGriff at first base and will bat cleanup. Todd Hundley will catch and bat sixth, while Delino Deshields gets the start at third base and will bat seventh. Finally Augie Ojeda starts at shortstop and will bat eighth.

Diamondbacks- Jay Bell replaces Craig Counsell at second base and will bat seventh.

Diamondbacks 1st: Luis Gonzalez drew a two-out walk against Cubs starter Kerry Wood. That brought Reggie Sanders to the plate. Here's Vin Scully with the count two balls and no strikes:

"Wood has now thrown six consecutive balls, four to Gonzalez and two to Sanders. Reggie started the fateful ninth inning last night with a one-out double, and Mark Grace, who's on deck, drove him in with another one. The crowd here in Phoenix today is similar to last night's: about 75 percent Diamondbacks fans and 25 percent Cubs fans, most of whom retired here from the Chicago area. Of course, when we get to Wrigley Field on Friday, it'll be 99.5 percent Cubs fans, and heaven help the other half percent. Sanders swings at the two-ball pitch AND HITS IT DEEP TO RGHT CENTER, BACK GOES PATTERSON, HE'S AT THE WALL, BUT IT'S GONE!......Reggie Sanders with yet another big hit for the Diamondbacks; this one goes out of the park and gives the Snakes a 2-0 first-inning lead."

Jim Palmer: "Kerry Wood's been wild high ever since the start of the game, Vinnie, and here it finally costs him, as Sanders almost has to swing at the pitch to avoid getting hit by it. He can't quite extend enough to get all of it, but what he gets is enough to take this one out over the wall in right center."

Grace's fly to Patterson in center ended the inning, but Sanders' two-run homer has given the D-Backs a 2-0 lead after one.

Diamondbacks 3rd: With one out, Steve Finley lined a base hit to left. Gonzalez followed with a double down the left field line that brought Finley home and gave the Snakes a 2-0 lead. He was stranded at second, as Finley took a called third strike and Grace flew to right to retire the side. The home squad has added a run on two hits, and after two it's Diamondbacks 3, Cubs 0.

Diamondbacks 5th: Womack was hit on the forearm with the first pitch of the inning. Hundley threw him out trying to steal second, but Finley whacked a double down the right field line to keep the inning alive. Gonzalez walked on five pitches to put two men on, and Sanders brought both runners home with a double off the wall in center to give the D-Backs a 5-0 advantage. Grace walked on five pitches to put two men on again, but Matt Williams struck out swinging and Bell popped to Ojeda at short to retire the side. The Snakes have added two more runs o two hits, two walks and a hit batsman while leaving runners at first and second, and at the end of five they lead the Cubs 5-0.

Diamondbacks 7th: Gonzalez led off against Wood, and here's Vin with the count no balls and one strike:

"A reminder that this series comes to Wrigley Field for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 will be Friday afternoon at 4PM Eastern, and Game 4, if necessary, will be Saturday night at 7:30 PM Eastern. Game 5, if necessary, will be Monday night at 8PM Eastern back here in Phoenix. Gonzalez now back from the bat rack and steps back in against Wood, who hasn't pitched all that badly but has gotten no help from his offense, as Randy Johnson is pitching a three-hit shutout through seven innings and has recorded eleven strikeouts, which gives the Arizona staff twenty-five K's in two games. Here's the one-strike pitch, AND THAT'S HIT HIGH AND DEEP TO RIGHT! SOSA CAN SAVE HIMSELF THE TRIP! A TITANIC HOME RUN FOR LUIS GONZALEZ, AND THERE GO THE CUB FANS AGAIN! IT'S 6-0 ARIZONA!"

Palmer: "Yeah, the Cubs fans are head for the exits after that one. Wood's battled hard all day, but when he's needed to shut the Diamondbacks down and give his offense even a small chance against Randy Johnson, he's come up short. This pitch is a little lower than the home run ball to Sanders earlier, and that's enough for Gonzalez to get full extension and hit it a long, long way. It's 334 feet to right here at Bank One Ballpark, and that one traveled at least 370."

That was all for Wood; reliever Todd Van Poppel retired the next three hitters in order. Sanders took a called third strike, Grace tapped to first, and Williams' liner was gloved by Eric Young at second to end the inning. But Gonzalez's tape-measure home run has added to the Snakes' lead. After seven, it's Arizona 6, Chicago 0.

That was all the scoring. Our final: Diamondbacks 6, Cubs 0, and the Diamondbacks lead the series two games to none.

The Big Unit was named Player of the Game by ESPN. He pitched a four-hit shutout, throwing 127 pitches while walking four and striking out fourteen. Sanders and Gonzalez were his main helpers on offense; Sanders was two for four with a homer and four RBIs, while Gonzalez got hits in both of his official at-bats , one of them a home run, drove in two runs, and scored three. He was walked twice. Finley was also two for four and scored a pair of runs.

Final totals: Diamondbacks 6-9-0, Cubs 0-4-0.

W- Johnson (1-0)
L- Wood (0-1)

HR- ARZ: Sanders (1), Gonzalez (1)

The series will move to Wrigley Field in Chicago for Game 3 on Friday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for shortly after 4PM Eastern, with Miguel Batista starting for the Diamondbacks and Jason Bere going to the hill for the Cubs.

Next: We look at Game 3.

Thoughts?
 
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