The magic number is down to three after a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers, whose own playoff hopes have disintegrated into virtually nothing. In other words, break out the proverbial fork. Later, Tigers. You failed to hold leads in every game of the series, a series which, in fact, you needed to sweep. Try again next year, Leyland and Co.
It is nice to exact, no matter how minute, some measure of revenge against Leyland for what happened in the '97 series.
There are three viable candidates for the Cy Young award in the AL: C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona and Josh Beckett. My choice? Sabathia. He beat Johan Santana three times this year and Justin Verlander twice. Both are the aces of rival teams in the East. C.C. has owned them.
Everyone's been praising Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez, but we got a nice look at what Jensen Lewis can do Monday night against Detroit, when Paul Byrd was not at his best. Lewis came in and held the Tigers scoreless for three innings. He has pretty nasty looking stuff and he was pounding the strike zone with it. If he could do this on a consistent basis, what a nice addition he would be to what has become a lockdown bullpen.
You want to know one of the keys to the success of the Tribe's pitching? Control. Carmona has walked 57 batters all season--an excellent number and, incidentally, the most on the club. Sabathia has walked 36, Byrd a ridiculous 26, Perez 14 and Betancourt 9. In all that's a combined 142 walks in about 748 innings. Their strikeouts? 543. Great, great K/BB ratio. The walk is easily the worst play a pitcher can make. Even a fat pitch can be popped up, or beat into the ground, or missed altogether. A walk? Nothing good can come of it.
Conversely, the Indians batters strike out waaay too much. Their achilles heel all season has been the K. In the AL only Tampa Bay and Texas have struck out more. Too many times the Tribe have loaded the bases only to have the next couple of batters be unable to make contact. Put the ball in play! In the playoffs this will be critical.
You don't hear too many calls for Wedge to be fired anymore, do you? Manager of the year is the new tune being sung.
I am going to the ballgame tomorrow with my buddy Than. Fausto Carmona will be going for his 18th win. Who the hell saw this season coming for Carmona? I mean, we knew he had the potential, right? But after his stint as closer, I, at least, was wondering if this guy had the mental makeup. Now we'll see how he handles playoff pressure.
Tomorrow I plan on having two hotdogs with Stadium Mustard, the official mustard of McBone.
I know nothing about football. Nothing. Sunday's game proves it. I really thought the Bengals would come in and beat the Browns 42-3. And maybe the Bengals did too...
What was truly great about that game was seeing all these tremendous offensive weapons being used to their potential. Braylon Edwards making acrobatic catches. Kellen Winslow making first downs and picking up 100 yards. Joe Jurevicius catching two TD passes.
Then there's Jamal Lewis. Nobody's going to pine for Reuben Droughns this season I predict. Lewis became just the fourth Brown to ever run for 200 yards in a game. The others? Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell and Greg Pruitt, who was the last to do so, in 1975.
How nice to see Lewis gain 200 for us.
I, for one, did not think Derek Anderson could do what he did. Five touchdown passes. Wow.
Where did all this offense come from? The offensive line. Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach looked a lot more comfortable out there, didn't they? The line looked a lot more cohesive. Let's see them against a good defense, though, because the Bengals don't have that.
Neither do the Browns. Crennel is a defensive mastermind, but it sure ain't showing here. So far I like Kamerion Wimbley, D'Qwell Jackson, Antwan Peek and I've always been an Orpheus Roye fan. Otherwise our always-battered secondary is, well, battered. Ted Washington is looking washed up, taking up a lot of space but not getting much done. Andra Davis plays hard but is no star. I could go on with the problems, but suffice it to say the Browns defense is a sobering reminder not to get carried away after a big win. A big offseason will be needed to get better, because an average of five touchdown passes a week isn't going to win many games.
I am thrilled that the Browns have signed punter Scott Player, not because he'll be a reliable replacement for Dave Zastudil, but because he wears the classic single bar facemask that has otherwise gone the way of the dodo (NOML officials are at a loss as to what to make of his moustache, however).
Everyone's saying it, and I agree: Josh Cribbs is the most exciting player on the team. Use him more on offense!
41 days until tipoff.
I really hope Zydrunas Ilgauskas has been working on his hook shot this offseason, because it is probably the ugliest thing I've ever seen. Uglier, even, than Mike Sanders' jump shot.
Nate's unreasonable prediction of the week
The Browns - Oakland game will be a preview of the AFC title game.