Three-fourths of of the two Championship series are already set, and the fourth could be determined today if the Phillies can knock off the Rockies. The World Champion Phillies have the distinction (if they make it to the second round) of being the only team not to sweep their divisional series, as both LA teams and the Yankees advanced quickly to the next round. I don’t think you can chalk it up to a major talent disparity, as the Dodgers, Angels and Yankees were not that much better than their opponents. I think that may be why the Yanks swept, but not the other two series. I think what we saw in these matchups was the importance of momentum. Its something that we always hear about in sports, but one of the hardest things to quantify. But three playoff sweeps are the perfect example for how momentum can kill you.
Now to be fair, the better team, and the team with home field advantage came out ahead in every series. With the exception of the Yankees-Twins matchup, no one really thought these games would would go by so quickly. The Dodgers were the better team, but the Cards had some mega talent on their roster. It was a series that could go either way, and would likely go the full five games. It lasted just three games, because in game two with the Cardinals in perfect position to even up the series 1-1 before heading back to St. Louis, OF Matt Holliday made a critical error that allowed the Dodgers to come back to win the game. The Cards had no chance in Game 3 at home, after literally watching the series slip through their (Holliday’s) hands.
The Red Sox vs. Angels series was another one where the Angels had the advantages on paper, but the Red Sox were favored given their vaunted lineup, vast playoff experience, and the Fenway Faithful giving the Sox a huge advantage in games three and four. Well the Angels shut down the the Sox lineup in the first two games, holding them to just eight hits, including only two extra base hits (neither of which was a home run). Up 2-0 in the series the Angels took away another advantage the Red Sox had by ensuring the series had to come back to Anaheim if Boston hoped to win it. If the Red Sox went back to Boston tied 1-1, their home field advantage for games three and four could have given them the momentum to win the series. Instead being down 2-0 left them in a hole they couldn’t dig themselves out of. The Red Sox did hit a little better (seven hits, two extra base hits, including a home run) scoring six runs, compared to the single run they managed in the first two games. That extra offense wasn’t enough as the bullpen got touched up for five runs in the final two innings. In watching the game you just see that despite being down by three runs entering the 8th inning, the Angels showed no sign of panic. They knew they could win that game and finish the series right there in Boston.
Now the least surprising sweep was by far the Yankees over the Twins. Minnesota was coming off a 12 inning game to just get into the playoffs, and were a team without their second best hitter and their best pitcher. They had just about no chance to knock off the Yankees and all their top baseball talent. And even though it was one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen in game (especially with the ump down the line) the Joe Mauer foul call in Game 2 did not change the outcome of the series (though probably changed the outcome of the game). Even if the Twins win that game, they would have been overmatched and unable to win two of the last three games. I maybe could have seen them winning one more at home, but even that was a stretch. The biggest thing with that call was that it visibly took the wind out of the Twins sails, in that game (bases loaded no outs and you can’t get a run) and yesterday at home (4-1 loss).
In all three matchups we saw the importance of grabbing that important 2-0 series lead, before you head out on the road. Hopefully from a baseball fan’s perspective, the Championship round and the World Series are a bit more exciting than the first round has been (Sorry Rockies fans I don’t see them overcoming the Phillies). Baseball could use some good drama in October, especially since all we have left are the big market teams.