Yesterday, three games took place. The Yankees and Rangers both went up 2-0 on the Twins and Rays, respectively. Both teams won both of their first two games away from home, meaning they’ll be heading home with a chance to sweep. Both teams have gotten themselves out to great starts in the playoffs, and it’s now a near certainty that they will face off in the ALCS.
The third game, the first in the NLDS featuring the Braves and Giants, was a true showdown between aces. Derek Lowe and reigning Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum faced off, with Lincecum pitching a gem to get the better of the Braves, 1-0. You’ll hear more about that later, as I’m going to take you through the games looking at WPA leaders and the plays that turned the tide in the game.
Yankees vs. Twins:
WPA leader: Lance Berkman (0.292)
Berkman, batting 8th and DHing for the Yankees, was the clear star in this game. Since coming over from the Astros at the trade deadline, Berkman has been injected into a playoff race. He’s been very mediocre in his time with the Yankees, but last night he made his acquisition worth it for the Yankees with two swings of the bat.
Berkman was at the plate for two of the most pivotal at-bats in the game, taking advantage of both of them in spectacular fashion. In the fifth inning, with the Yankees down 2-1, Berkman crushed a solo blast to left-center to tie the game. Though it was a low leverage situation (LI of 0.88), the play added .135 to the Yanks’ win percentage. Two innings later, with the Yanks once again down one run, Berkman rocked another ball to left center, with Jorge Posada scoring from first. Berkman later scored to put the Yankees up for good. The no-out double had a WPA of .192. The O-Dawg’s solo jack off Andy Petitte in the 6th to put the Twins back up after Berkman’s home run improved the Twins’ chances of victory by .175, making it the second most valuable play in the game.
Carl Pavano had a WPA of -.264, with his four earned runs in six innings not getting it done and putting the Twins in a serious hole.
Rays vs. Rangers:
WPA Leader: CJ Wilson (.240)
Wilson: Wilson pitched an extremely strong game, going 6.1 innings and giving up no runs on two hits and striking out 7.
Biggest Plays: In the 5th inning, Michael Young stepped to the plate with men on first and second and one out. In a 2-2 count, Young checked his swing on a pitch outside the zone, taking ball 3. The Rays protested, and it appeared that Young may have gone around. However, in a full count, Young blasted a pitch out and broke open a 2-0 game, giving the Rangers a 5-0 lead. The high gravity of this situation (1.50 LI) made it the play of the game, with a WPA of .153.
The Goat: Chad Qualls gave up Young’s home run, explaining how he could muster a WPA of -.185 after pitching just a third of an inning. Qualls was responsible for two of the three runs on Young’s bomb, making him the goat of this game.
Giants vs. Braves:
WPA Leader: Tim Lincecum (.711)
To no one’s surprise, Lincecum’s complete game two hitter and 14 strikeouts make him easily the most valuable player in any game yesterday. Lincecum was absolutely dominant in his first career playoff start… Roy Halladay, watch your back.
Biggest Plays: The only run-scoring play of this game was also its’ most valuable, with Cody Ross’ single to plate Buster Posey garnering a WPA of .137. In a high leverage situation (2.06 LI), Ross’ hit gave Lincecum the only support he would need. This play had a bit of controversy too, as Posey reached second on a steal. Pat Burrell struck out swinging and McCann’s strong throw appeared as though it might have beaten Posey to the base, but he was called safe and later scored on Ross’ two-out knock.
The Goat: Freddy Sanchez’s double play groundout after Torres’ single to lead off the game dropped the Giants’ win probability by .072, making it the second most negative play of the game. Add in Sanchez’s overall 0 for 4, and he was the least valuable player in this matchup, with a WPA of -.166.
Look for another recap tomorrow. Not sure when it’ll go up (Michigan plays Michigan State tomorrow, so Go Blue!), but it will be up eventually.