No shortage of arms in baseball playoffs

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 3, 2013 - 12:16 AM

The best arms in the majors form one of the themes of the playoffs.


The Cardinals scored in bunches during the regular season.

Photo: Jeff Roberson • Associated Press,

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The 2013 postseason will feature beards, Bucs and bygone Twins.

Less likely? Blowouts.

Not since 1995, when there were two fewer teams and a strike that erased three weeks of the season, have so few runs been scored in the major leagues as this year. And the teams that qualified for the playoffs did so by following that trend; the teams with the five lowest starting-rotation ERAs in the National League all qualified for the postseason, while the American League’s playoff rotations all ranked in the top six.

Count on that theme to carry over into the postseason, which reaches the Division Series stage beginning Thursday afternoon. Each of the eight finalists has an ace, and some lucky teams have two or three, pitchers with established track records who are being relied upon to shut down the opposition and get the game to the bullpen with a lead.

But when every team has superstar pitching, who wins the ring? Maybe it’s the Red Sox, who scored more runs than anyone. Maybe it’s the Cardinals, who had better clutch hitting than the other 29 teams. Could be the A’s, who own the most reliable defense. Or how about the Tigers, with the game’s best hitter, Miguel Cabrera, in the middle of the lineup? And then there are the Pirates, back in the postseason after 21 years, making them America’s favorite underdogs.

Here are five story lines to follow as the unpredictable postseason plays out:

Kershaw, Kershaw & Friend

That Clayton Kershaw was the NL’s best pitcher this year is well known. It may come as a surprise, however, that the Dodgers own the second-best pitcher in the NL postseason as well. While Kershaw posted an otherworldly 1.83 ERA, Zack Greinke quietly built a 2.63 mark of his own, a half-run better than any other NL postseason starter. He hasn’t given up more than two runs in a start since July. With each of them pitching twice per series, the Dodgers will put tremendous pressure on the other pitching staffs.

The relentless attack

Without the benefit of a DH, the Cardinals operated an American League offense; they scored a whopping 77 more runs than the next-most-proficient NL team, and were the only NL team among the nine highest-scoring in baseball. They did it without a dominant hitter, too. No Cardinal reached 100 RBI or 25 homers, but an MLB-best five starters had 75 RBI or more. The secret? Their .330 batting average with runners in scoring position, far and away the best in the league. Taking advantage of opportunities is what makes a champion.

Is it the beards?

The Red Sox went from a 93-loss, last-place team in 2012 to the highest-scoring team in the game in 2013, with 28 more wins. They had the best home record in the AL, drew more walks than anyone but Tampa Bay, and have a closer in Koji Uehara who has retired 56 of the last 60 hitters he has faced. They also lead the league in shaggy, scraggly whiskers, a symbol of the unity that last year’s team lacked. “It’s a bonding element. It takes the focus off the daily grind,” new manager John Farrell told reporters this week. “We wanted talented guys who were good teammates. If this is how they express it, that’s fine with me.”

The rematch

Detroit and Oakland reprise their memorable first-round showdown of a year ago, a five-game thriller that included two walk-off wins, two shutouts, and four straight one- or two-run games. Three outs from elimination in Game 4, the A’s rallied with a three-run ninth, only to be shut down by Justin Verlander in the deciding game. This A’s team is more balanced offensively and has a stronger starting staff — but the Tigers feature Verlander, ERA champ Anibal Sanchez and Cy Young front-runner Max Scherzer. Still, don’t count out the A’s — the Tigers, strangely enough, are 1-9 in Verlander’s past 10 starts (including two against the Twins), and closer Joaquin Benoit has never saved a postseason game.

Ex-Twins factor

Seven of the eight remaining teams include former Twins, and most of those 11 players are in prominent roles. Justin Morneau of the Pirates and David Ortiz of the Red Sox bat cleanup for their teams, while Torii Hunter bats in front of Cabrera. Delmon Young was the MVP of the ALCS last year and homered in his first at-bat for the Rays on Wednesday night. Francisco Liriano has already won a playoff game for the Pirates, and he’ll go again against the Cardinals. And in the bullpen, Craig Breslow of Boston, Luis Ayala of Atlanta and Oakland closer Grant Balfour all pitch in critical situations. Also on playoff rosters: Cleveland’s Matt Carson, Pittsburgh’s Garrett Jones and Dodgers utilityman Nick Punto, who, along with Ortiz, already owns a World Series ring. Which former Twin will join them? We’ll know in three weeks.


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Philadelphia 3:30 PM
San Diego 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Phoenix 99 FINAL
New York 90
Portland 6:00 PM
New Orleans
Utah 6:00 PM
Atlanta 7:00 PM
San Antonio 7:30 PM
Indiana 8:00 PM
Milwaukee 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Arizona 3:00 PM
Los Angeles
Colorado 6:00 PM
Philadelphia 6:00 PM
Ottawa 6:00 PM
Washington 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Tampa Bay 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Florida 6:00 PM
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Chicago 6:00 PM
Nashville 7:00 PM
Calgary 9:00 PM
St. Louis 9:30 PM
San Jose
VA Commonwealth 68 FINAL
Cincinnati 47
Charlotte 78 FINAL
Georgetown 81
Michigan 51
Louisville 76 FINAL
Western Ky 67
Mount St Marys 45 FINAL
American Univ 46
Abilene Christian 33 FINAL
Boise State 77
UMass Lowell 63 FINAL
Duquesne 79
South Alabama 65 FINAL
Ohio State 74 FINAL
North Carolina 82
Massachusetts 65 FINAL
Providence 85
Syracuse 77 FINAL
Villanova 82
Citadel 61 FINAL
Virginia Tech 64
Belmont 73 FINAL
Fairfield 61
St Bonaventure 69 FINAL
Binghamton 51
Montreat 64 FINAL
Campbell 90
Delaware 74 2nd Half 0:06
Fair-Dickinson 75
South Florida 62 2nd Half 0:16
Florida State 75
Vanderbilt 60 FINAL
Georgia Tech 65
SC State 71 FINAL
Houston 63
Missouri 59 2nd Half 0:17
Illinois 59
Truett-McConnell 55 FINAL
Jacksonville 84
Toledo 83 FINAL
McNeese State 69
Elon 65 2nd Half 1:06
UNC Greensboro 60
Drexel 64 2nd Half 0:20
Penn State 70
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Rutgers 68
Albany 64 FINAL
Yale 60
PSU-Beaver 74 FINAL
Longwood 106
Eastern Ill 60 FINAL
Indiana State 56
Indiana 59 2nd Half 9:27
Butler 57
Marshall 32 2nd Half
Arkansas State 27
Lafayette 28 2nd Half 19:54
Kansas 45
Oral Roberts 28 2nd Half
Memphis 35
Western Mich 28 2nd Half
Northwestern 25
Delaware State 27 2nd Half
Oregon 38
Fla Atlantic 32 2nd Half 16:47
St Francis-NY 29
Arkansas Tech 30 2nd Half 18:24
Stephen F Austin 53
Howard Payne 29 2nd Half 17:30
Texas-Arlington 47
UMBC 38 2nd Half 18:04
Kennesaw St 38
St Josephs (IN) 22 2nd Half
Chicago State 23
Eastern Mich 31 2nd Half 20:00
Missouri State 19
UCLA 2 1st Half 9:11
Kentucky 28
UC Davis 3:00 PM
Air Force
Houston Baptist 3:00 PM
UC Riverside
Davidson 0 1st Half 20:00
Coll of Charleston 0
USC Upstate 2 1st Half 17:03
Miss State 0
NC Central 3:00 PM
Miss Valley St
Illinois State 3:00 PM
Murray State
Louisiana 0 1st Half 20:00
Northwestern St 0
Oakland 3:00 PM
Detroit 3:00 PM
Rhode Island
Presbyterian 3:00 PM
UT Martin
Monmouth 3:00 PM
Southern U 3:00 PM
Iowa State 4:00 PM
Wake Forest 4:00 PM
High Point 4:00 PM
James Madison
Texas Southern 4:00 PM
Michigan State
New Hampshire 4:00 PM
Sacred Heart
Northeastern 4:00 PM
Santa Clara
Huston-Tillotson 4:00 PM
Texas State
Purdue 4:15 PM
Notre Dame
Prairie View 4:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Xavier 5:00 PM
Bluffton 6:00 PM
NJIT 6:00 PM
Central Conn St
Hofstra 6:00 PM
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
Iona 6:00 PM
George Mason
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
Texas A&M 6:00 PM
Kansas State
Morgan State 6:00 PM
Saint Josephs 6:00 PM
East Carolina 6:00 PM
Richmond 6:00 PM
La Salle 6:00 PM
Incarnate Word 6:05 PM
CS-Bakersfield 6:30 PM
Idaho State
Iowa 6:30 PM
Northern Iowa
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
SIU Edwardsville
Long Beach State 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio 7:00 PM
SE Missouri St 7:30 PM
Lehigh 8:00 PM
Arizona State
New Mexico 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Oklahoma 8:00 PM
Utah Valley U 8:00 PM
Weber State
Jacksonville St 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
St Edwards 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
NC State 8:30 PM
West Virginia
TX A&M-CC 9:00 PM
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
Fresno State 9:00 PM
Montana State 9:00 PM
Ball State 9:00 PM
San Diego St
South Dakota St 9:05 PM
Utah State
Stanford 10:00 PM
Utah 10:30 PM
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 7 3rd Qtr
Texas-El Paso 3
(23) Utah 14 1st Qtr 6:15
Colorado State 0
Western Mich 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Livingstone 77 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 81
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Dartmouth 70
Georgia Tech 65 FINAL
St Francis-NY 59
Auburn 49 FINAL
St Johns 56
East Tenn St 56 FINAL
Jacksonville St 57
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Detroit 57
Cal-Irvine 42 FINAL
Wright State 80
Gardner-Webb 47 FINAL
Kennesaw St 50
(7) Stanford 40 FINAL
(11) Tennessee 59
Alabama A&M 47 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Central Michigan 45 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 80
Nebraska Omaha 50 FINAL
Creighton 67
Western Carolina 83
Houston 65 FINAL
Nicholls 47
St Thomas Aquinas 45 FINAL
Army 70
St Bonaventure 72 FINAL
Niagara 60
Texas State 57 FINAL
Stetson 75
George Mason 65 FINAL
ULM 53
Grambling 38 FINAL
Kansas State 61
Robert Morris 59 FINAL
Cornell 70
Air Force 44 FINAL
Abilene Christian 80
Hampton 53 FINAL
James Madison 85
American Univ 64 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 52
Tenn Tech 49 FINAL
NC A&T 54
Presbyterian 45 FINAL
NC Central 33
Penn 58 FINAL
Drexel 67
Lipscomb 38 FINAL
Xavier 62
Ohio Christian 62 FINAL
Akron 97
Jacksonville 62 FINAL
Murray State 80
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Iona 58
Indiana 88 FINAL
Oakland 61
Missouri 79 2nd Half 0:19
Wake Forest 64
Texas Southern 61 2nd Half 0:13
TX A&M-CC 65
Vermont 40 2nd Half 0:15
Green Bay 60
Charleston Southern 52 2nd Half 9:36
UNC-Wilmington 55
Indiana State 50 2nd Half 5:29
SMU 40
Denver 37 2nd Half 7:09
Purdue 51
TX-San Antonio 20 1st Half 3:00
Texas Tech 20
UCF 24 2nd Half 20:00
Middle Tennessee 37
Campbell 35 2nd Half
Bethune-Cookman 26
Florida A&M 32 2nd Half
SE Louisiana 21
Northwestern St 24 2nd Half
Jackson State 21
Lehigh 35 2nd Half 17:49
Arizona State 48
Valparaiso 32 2nd Half
SIU-Edwardsville 28
Liberty 19 1st Half 6:40
Minnesota 24
Wofford 16 1st Half 5:40
North Florida 31
Marshall 3:00 PM
(22) West Virginia
Morgan State 3:00 PM
Northeastern 3:00 PM
Ohio U 3:00 PM
Prairie View 3:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Toledo 3:00 PM
Southern Ill
High Point 3:00 PM
(12) Nebraska
Montana State 6 1st Half 17:45
Washington St 5
Furman 2 1st Half 18:43
(15) Georgia 4
(18) Michigan State 6 1st Half
(9) Baylor 2
Winthrop 3:05 PM
Wichita State
William Jewell 3:30 PM
Louisiana Tech 4:00 PM
Southern Utah 4:00 PM
Hawaii 4:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
San Jose St 4:00 PM
San Francisco
CS-Northridge 4:00 PM
San Diego State
Norfolk State 4:00 PM
East Carolina
Saint Peters 4:00 PM
Arizona 4:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Northwestern 4:30 PM
Eastern Illinois
Oral Roberts 5:00 PM
Florida Atlantic 5:00 PM
New Mexico St
La Salle 5:00 PM
Georgia State
(16) Oregon State 5:30 PM
Sacred Heart 6:00 PM
Delaware 6:00 PM
Troy 6:00 PM
Tennessee St
Saint Louis 6:30 PM
Utah Valley U
Washington 7:00 PM
Pacific 7:00 PM
Long Beach St
Old Dominion 7:00 PM
Austin Peay 9:00 PM
Lewis-Clark State 9:00 PM
(21) Miss State 9:30 PM
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