Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Playoffs The Best In Years, But Who Will Get to the Series

The playoffs begin Tuesday and for the first time in years any of the eight teams can get to the world series.

Pitching (the whole staff) will determine who advances to the LCS and eventually the series.

As baseball is played today, I don’t care who the starting pitchers are, they don’t go nine innings, but instead turn the ball over to the bullpen for the final six outs or more. Who will close the deal, that is the question?

The Yankees open with Mike Mussina at home against the Twins. Mussina has a 20-2 record against Minnesota since coming into the league. The Twins are 33-12 against righthanded starters in their last 45 games.

The big question for me is whether Minnesota can outhit the Yankees. When Anaheim knocked the Yanks out of the playoffs in 2002, they did it with big time slugging and excellent long relief.

The Twins counter with Johann Santana, who has had a fantastic second half, in fact the whole Twins team has too, going 46-23 since the break.

The Yankees are hitting the ball much better than Minnesota. Alfonso Soriano is hot, Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi get on base, Jorge Posada is hitting so well that the press is pushing him for MVP, Nick Johnson, Bernie Williams, Aaron Boone, and Hideki Matsui are capable hitters also. I don’t think Minnesota can hold the Yankees down over a five game series.

To me, it all adds up to a Yankee series win, even with Jeff Nelson, a struggling set up man, the Yanks should have enough of a cushion to get the ball to Mariano Rivera to close the deal. Gabe White and Jose Contreras should fill the set up void.

Brad Radke has to be perfect, Kyle Lohse doesn’t appear ready to shut the Yankee attack down, and it appears that Ron Gardenhire doesn’t trust Eric Milton to start game four, if there is one, so Kenny Rogers may start that game and if he does, it will be the last game Minnesota plays in 2003.

Click below for the other matchups!

The Red Sox come into Oakland full of spirit and confidence. They bring in the best slugging team in baseball history. Yes, even better than the 1927 Yankees. The Sox don’t hit as well on the road as they do in Fenway. They play three games in Oakland, if the series goes five.

The Red Sox strategy is to get Pedro out of game one early with a big lead. They would like to have Pedro available in game four Sunday, meaning the righty would pitch on three days rest for the first time in his Red Sox career.

Is Tim Hudson healthy (some rumors about Hudson’s back)? Hudson has already two hit the Sox in August (against Pedro in Oakland). Hudson has not been his usual sharp self since his 127 pitch effort against the Angels in early September. Barry Zito has not been perfect as he was last season. Both these pitchers will need to be on top of their game to shut the Red Sox down.

The mystery pitcher for Oakland will be Rich Harden. The A’s need him to come in before Chad Bradford and give the A’s another option when the save is on the line. I’m not sure Bradford is strong enough to carry the set up role on his own against this offense. If the A’s can let Bradford face three batters instead of six or seven they will be in much better shape.

The A’s will be in the Red Sox bullpen every game. The A’s will only see two potential lefties the whole series, neither of whom have pitched well against Oakland in the past (Embree and Saurbeck out of the pen). The A’s will get good swings from the left side. Expect Scott Hatteberg, Erubiel Durazo, Eric Chavez, and Terrence Long to get some big hits and get into deep counts. Since the all star break the A’s have faced right handed starters 75% of the time and you know the teams second half success rate.

Boston has a slow team save for Johnny Damon, they are a team of sluggers, not situational hitters. If Hudson, Zito, and, yes Ted Lilly in Fenway (here’s where Harden comes in for sure) pitch the way they are capable, this series will end in four games Sunday in Boston.

The Red Sox are holding Derek Lowe back until game three (game three is the key game in a five game series, either you are 1-1 or 2-0 or 0-2 going in) and if the A’s get by Pedro in game one, the pressure will be on Lowe Saturday. I think you throw your best right away and don’t screw around with the rotation because there is a chance Lowe might be pitching to keep the Sox alive instead of giving them the lead, and I wouldn’t want my second best pitcher in that position (his only appearance).

Keith Foulke can close the game, Byung Hyun Kim is a mystery every time he steps on the mound. Can the Red sox win? Absolutely, but they can also lose if everything doesn’t go according to their carefully scripted plan and you tell me the last time a postseason plan went perfectly.

I’ll take the A’s in four unless Hudson and Zito are off their games.

The Cubs have a wonderful hard throwing pitching staff that doesn’t have a very good defense behind it. They haven’t been exposed because the pitchers strike out so many batters that the ball isn’t in play that often. The Braves crush the fastball, like the Red Sox hitters, the reputation of the Cubs pitchers precedes them. I don’t think they will over power the Braves.The Cubs struggled against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and got into the playoffs when Houston melted down against the Giants and Brewers.

The Braves are the best team I’ve seen all year on the field. The Cubs aren’t. The Cubs will rely on two wins by Kerry Wood and one from Mark Prior, like Boston if this script goes haywire, so do the Cubs chances.

John Smoltz sounds like he is 90% and that is enough to get the ball past Chicago. Greg Maddux, Mike Hampton, and Russ Ortiz can win just as the Cubs pitchers can, but the Braves are better everywhere else, and I’m sticking with them in five games. You don’t win your division by double digits by accident and coincidentally that brings me to the Giants.

Json Schmidt must be beaten twice by Florida for them to win the series. He is the one pitcher in the postseason who I will expect to go nine. Florida’s offense is suspect, they have speed but can’t steal first base. Pudge Rodriguez, Derek Lee, Mike Lowell, and Jeff Conine don’t worry me if I’m the Giants.

The Marlins pitching is young and strong. The Marlins bullpen is very suspect when viewed repeatedly in a five game series, meaning can Chad Fox and Ugueth Urbina win and save three games in six days? I don’t see it happening. Urbina is one of those closers very slow to the plate and in a one run game the Giants can run on him at will.

The Giants play the game correctly, they run the bases well, they aren’t awed by the prospect of their big gun being walked over and over. In fact if the Marlins walk Bonds every chance they get, I bet it hurts them because you can’t have your young guys pitching out of the stretch every other inning, that strategy will catch up with the Marlins just like it has with every team the Giants have played this year.

It will be a close series (run differential), but I see the Giants winning in three or four games. The Marlins are not the Marlins of ’97.

So there it is.

SF, NY, Oak, and Atlanta in the LCS with NY and Atlanta in the series.

Remember anything can happen in a short series. They don’t call it the World Season, it’s the World Series and every sub series can turn on a one or two day slump. During the year, you can always work your way out a slide, not in October, it is baseball survival, cuthroat baseball at its finest.

Look for good defense, good relief pitching, good starters, and timely hitting, not record setting hitting because it just doesn’t happen in October very often. Watch who wins game three, whoever takes the 2-1 lead has the big gun ready for game five and there are alot of big guns out there.

The teams that play the best baseball will survive whoever they may be.

Personally, I’m a dreamer and I’d like to see the A’s and Cubs or Red Sox-Cubs or Red Sox Giants, you can see which AL team I’ve left out.

It will be fun, the heavy lifting of the 162 game season is over, let the party begin.


1 Anonymous { 09.30.03 at 1:08 am }

I like the A’s in 4 too, Marty. Course, they are going to have to play perfect ball for that to happen and they haven’t not been able to do that yet in the playoffs. So, we will see. The middle of the A’s order should be able to help the team score runs.
I think the Marlins will give the Giants more of a fight than you think. The Giants pitching, aside from Schmidt, is mediocore. The Marlins will score runs off them. And the Marlins pitching can be dominating. I think the series can go either way. Course, I’m not much of a NL person, so I could be entirely wrong. Here’s to a great couple of weeks of playoffs.

2 Anonymous { 09.30.03 at 1:18 am }


I agree that it is curious that the Red Sox chose to hold Lowe back to game 3.

Also, I think it is to the A’s advantage that they face Wakefield in the relative thin air of Thursday’s day game.
If the knuckler isn’t moving, ball’s are gonna fly out of the park.

Do you think that the A’s will get in a little BP against Sparks to get them ready? It’s a short turnaround from Wed. nite.

I believe Huddy will handle Ortiz and Nixon especially away from the short fences of Fenway and I’m with you in thinking that our lefty hitters will hit Pedro. 3-1 A’s in game one.
Got the feeling Thursday will be a shootout 7-5 A’s.

Finally I think the A’s and Red Sox will play a game 5 with the A’s prevailing.

I’m attending the Wed. and Thurs. games and very much looking forward to the A’s coming on strong.

Reno Bill

3 marty { 09.30.03 at 8:54 am }

I think the A’s have a distinct advantage by playing Wed. nite, then coming back on Thursday afternoon for game two. They have done it this way all season and baseball players perform well in familiar circumstances. I’m picking the A’s because they have two, perhaps three pitchers who should hold the Red Sox in check, and then a much superior bullpen. My biggest concern is the A’s offense, which needs someone other than Chavez (he will have a big series) and Tejada to step up, maybe it is time for Durazo to get some key hits. Even if Pedro does his thing in game one, which is no sure thing in Oakland, this series will be far from over. I think the Sox would like to pitch Pedro in game four in Fenway to avoid two starts in Oakland where the A’s seem to get his pitch count up quickly. This series should be something to watch!

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