by Charlie Miller
Today is a day that Major League Baseball had in mind when it expanded the playoffs for what was to be 1994, but due to the strike, actually began in 1995. Four playoff games, three of which could be elimination games. All in one day.
It will be tough to match last Wednesday night for a four-game set that ranked as the best ever, but with three teams’ seasons on the line, today is must-see baseball.
Beginning today at 2:00 ET, Tampa Bay will attempt to stave off elimination at home against Texas. Then at 5:00 St. Louis hosts Philadelphia in the only non-do-or-die affair. At 7:30 the Yankees will be in Detroit trying to extend their season another few days and force a Game 5 back in New York. Milwaukee and Arizona begin at 8:30, but I suspect most of the nation will catch only the last few innings after the Yankees-Tigers tussle. The Diamondbacks will try desperately to avoid the embarrassment of being swept at the hands of the Brewers.
Milwaukee at Arizona
It’s easy to look at this series and believe that the Milwaukee Brewers have manhandled the Arizona Diamondbacks. And it’s also convenient to believe that the D’backs were happy with just making the playoffs after losing 90 games last season and being predicted by most to finish last in the NL West. But both assertions are incorrect.
The Brewers haven’t had their way with Arizona. Just Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. And content with just making the playoffs? Do you know who is managing this team? Kirk Gibson will never be content with anything short of a World Series title. He may celebrate a little with each step in that direction, but content? No way.
A quick glance at the two games played in Milwaukee shows that the Brewers outhit the Diamondbacks 20-14 and outscored them 13-5. Looks like a couple of mismatches. After all, the Brewers are batting .300 as a team. But, they’re not really batting that as a team, just as a tandem. Fielder and Braun have combined for a pair of home runs and a .563 batting average. The rest of the team has no home runs and is hitting .220 for the series. Think Gibson’s pitchers will allow Braun and Fielder to beat Arizona tonight? Doubtful. Someone else will have to step up for the Brew Crew.
And that someone is likely to be Rickie Weeks. After returning from his injury this season, Weeks has been moved to the fifth spot in the batting order. He should get at-bats tonight with runners on and the chance to be the hitting star.
The fate of the D’backs’ season rests in the hands of rookie pitcher Josh Collmenter. That’s right, Collmenter. The rookie joined the rotation in May and shut out the Dodgers and Braves over six innings each in his first two starts. The righthander had seven starts of at least five innings in which he did not allow a run. Two of those starts came in July against Milwaukee. One of those the D’backs lost 3-1, the other was a 3-0 Arizona win. So it appears there’s a chance.
However, leading MVP candidate Braun was not in the lineup for either game, dramatically changing the Brewers’ lineup. The Brewers are just too hot right now to be slowed by Collmenter. Gibson and his staff will have to take pleasure in building momentum for 2012.
Texas at Tampa Bay
New York at Detroit
Philadelphia at St. Louis
Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie.