The Baseball Desert

Friday, October 01, 2004

"This ballclub will self-destruct in five seconds..."

Mark Prior pitched nine innings yesterday, giving up just on run on three hits and striking out a career-high sixteen, but at the end of the day he had nothing to show for his efforts as the Cubs lost a heartbreaker to the Reds, 2-1.

It was a great game to watch, as Prior was matched for seven innings by Aaron Harang, who gave up four hits and one earned run, but the Cubs ended up paying the price for leaving 12 men on base. Six of those twelve men were stranded by Prior himself, who came up to bat twice with the bases loaded, but the blame for the Cubs not winning the game can hardly be laid at Prior's doorstep - his job is put up zeroes and stop the other team from scoring, which he did magnificently. The Cubs' offense, however, picked a bad day to have a bad day - they really needed this win to stay abreast of the other clubs in the Wild Card race. Houston didn't play last night, but the Giants beat the Padres 4-1 to tie the Astros for the Wild Card lead.

The Yankees finally clinched the AL East title yesterday, leaving Boston the consolation prize of the AL Wild Card berth, so the playoffs are finally starting to take shape. So far, those invited to the prom are: the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Twins, the Braves and the Cardinals, but there are still three playoff spots to be won (AL West, NL West, NL Wild Card), so it's going to be a fascinating weekend of baseball.

In the AL West Anaheim and Oakland are tied for first place, and the scheduling gods have decided to serve up a three-game series between the clubs this weekend, so it's easy to work out - the first club to win two of those three goes to the postseason. The NL is a little more complicated - the Dodgers need just one win against the Giants to clinch the division, but if the Giants were to sweep the Dodgers, they would be in a tie for first place. Outside of the division race, the Giants are also tied for first place in the Wild Card (see above), and whilst they play a rivalry-fuelled three-game series in California, the two other pretenders to the Wild Card throne have very different schedules - Chicago has three games against the 94-65 Braves, whilst Houston gets to face the 49-110 Diamondbacks. You would have to figure that the Astros have a huge advantage, but baseball is a funny old game, and I'm not willing to make any rash predictions - I'm just going to let the weekend play itself out and look forward to the start of the playoffs.

Oh, and just one other thing - I know that there are a lot of things up in the air right now, but it would be nice if Major League Baseball could put at least some kind of tentative postseason schedule on their website. Do they not realise that, for this baseball exile, the postseason is an operation that needs to be organised with almost military precision? I can't just come home and flip the TV on at 8pm to watch the games - 8pm ET is 2am here, so it would be useful to know more than a couple of days in advance on which precise days I need to re-organise my life around the games.