And they did us all the favor of not dragging it out until the seventh game of the World Series like last year. The difference was simple: pitching. Anaheim hit .376 and averaged almost eight runs a game. And in crucial eighth-inning situations, Torre could not go to Rivera because of his arm troubles this year. The Angels are a great story, but so are the Twins.
First they defied Bud Selig, who wanted to contract them. Then they defied their owner, Carl Pohlad, who badly wants to sell them. And now they defied the odds, by beating a team with the best 1-2-3 starters in the major leagues and an A.L. record 20-game win streak this year. Odds should once again go against the Twins, though now they have the home-field advantage. The Angels are clearly the stronger team and also feel they have destiny on their side.
Now this kind of bursts my bubble, since I no longer have to root based on who has the best chance of beating the Yankees. So I can, without hesitation, root for the Giants to beat the Braves in game five (a tough task) and take on the Cardinals. Barry’s finally come through with a couple of home runs, though once again he’s been pretty much a non-factor, as those dingers came late in games in which the Giants trailed by large margins.
While we’re on the topic of these division series, the A’s and Yankees upsets illustrates one of the problems with the Wild Card. The first problem is that the division series are so rarely even close to competitive. But the second is that, in such a short series, it’s much too easy for a team to come in and beat a superior opponent just because one or two pitchers had a bad outing or someone got hot at the plate.
This is not to say that the Twins and Angels didn’t win fair and square — they did. And the “better team” doesn’t always win in the playoffs. But a five-game series is really not a good test of which team is better. If major-league baseball insists on having a division series and a wild card, the series should be seven games.