Baseball’s most exciting post-season yet

It might be the end of an exciting road

 

Potential NL MVP Buster Posey leaves the field at AT&T Park in San Francisco (Courtesty Harmony Rae)

Is this the most exciting post-season in baseball?

2012 hasn’t disappointed yet.

With the divisional series nearly completed, here are three big moments that stand out:

Painting orange over Reds

Thursday marked the first day in 13 years with four potential elimination games in Major League Baseball’s post-season. The last time it happened was Oct. 9, 1999 and history looks like it’s dying to be re-written.

With hitter-friendly AT&T Park giving them next to no home-field advantage for the first two games, the San Francisco Giants arrived in Cincinnati on the brink of elimination. They hadn’t swept a three-game series in Cincinnati since 1999, and right up until the final out of the game, the Reds weren’t ready to hand the brooms over.

The Giants painted the Reds town orange, becoming the first National League team in history to ever come back from a 0-2 deficit in the Division Series to advance to the NLCS with a 6-4 victory in Thursday afternoon’s game.

Not only did the Giants break post-season records, but the Reds lost three consecutive home games for the first time in 2012.

Dominant through four innings, Reds starter Mat Latos sealed the home team’s fate in the fifth. He gave up a grand slam to NL MVP candidate Buster Posey, giving the Giants the 6-0 lead they needed to lock up the first slot in the NL Championship Series.

The Giants’ catcher, returning from a gruesome broken leg he sustained last season, hit the first post-season grand slam for San Francisco since Will Clark went long against the Chicago Cubs during the NLCS in 1989.

Latos, the 24-year-old righty took his first loss, perhaps the most costly of his young career, in eight appearances.

Pinch hitting for A-Rod?

The Baltimore Orioles, in some bizarre way that only a force beyond Earth might be able to explain, were 75-0 when leading after seven innings. On Wednesday night, they passed the seventh with a 2-1 lead over the New York Yankees.

With Jim Johnson in to close the game, it should have been a done deal. The Orioles’ closer had 51 saves in the regular season, but post-season play hasn’t been so kind.

Of the 12 runs the O’s have surrendered in the ALDS, six have come off of Johnson. His ERA has ballooned to 10.38.

The occupants of Yankee Stadium couldn’t question manager Joe Girardi for long after he replaced Alex Rodriguez for pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez.

Not only did Johnson offer up the game-tying home run to the 40-year-old in the bottom of the ninth, but Ibanez walked off the hero in the 12th after going long against reliever Brian Matusz on the first pitch of the inning.

The New York City native is the first player to hit two home runs in a post-season game who didn’t start.

Ibanez stole the spotlight in the Bronx with the 2-1 series lead over Baltimore, and his home runs were the top two social media moments of the post-season. There were 74,972 and 38,549 comments five minutes after each respective longball.

Moneyball vs. lots-of-money ball

While their payrolls may be polar opposites, the Oakland A’s and Detroit Tigers are dead even on the other side of the country, locked into a Game 5 that pits Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander against A’s Jarrod Parker for a trip to the ALCS.

Oakland will face Verlander for the second time in this five-game series at home. If there’s anything to stay positive about when facing last year’s AL MVP and Cy Young winner, it’s that he’s not historically the same ace in the post-season.

Through eight playoff appearances not including Game 1, Verlander has a 5.57 ERA.

Last Saturday was a different story. Verlander allowed one run, a home run to Coco Crisp, on three hits over seven innings in Game 1. He struck out 11 batters, but walked four.

In another significant outing, Verlander started the all-star game in Kansas City for the American League. In an effort to please the crowd, he sacrificed command for the show.

The National League ate up the theatrics with five runs in the first inning on the way to an 8-0 shutout of the American League, and more importantly, securing home-field advantage for the World Series.

The key to breaking the no-contact rule that Verlander seems to have implemented to batters may be in his free passes (he’s issued at least two in all of his post-season appearances).

With tidy base running and top-notch defence, the A’s might have a shot to light up the Coliseum for a lot less money.