8 Teams Enter, 4 Teams Leave In Baseball's Big Friday
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Time now for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: Is there a better time of year? Four playoff games yesterday, two tonight. B.J. Leiderman writes our theme music. Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine joins us. Thanks so much for being with us, Howard.
HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. Are you sure you want to have this conversation after your Chicago Cubs took a 4-0 pounding yesterday in Game 1?
SIMON: I am a professional.
SIMON: I have to go, oh, is that the score? I didn't see, Howard. I wasn't paying attention.
BRYANT: Of course you weren't.
SIMON: Left my two daughters in tears.
SIMON: But let's be vaguely responsible. Begin with Texas-Toronto. Texas defeated Toronto 6-4. Blue Jays are two games down, no home field advantage. Lot of us thought the Jays had really caught fire over the past few months. How have the Rangers thrown a blanket over their land?
BRYANT: Well, it's good news for everybody, then, because it's early, except for Toronto, where, as Yogi Berra would say, it gets late early around here in the postseason. And they're in big trouble right now. It's a five-game series. You lose the first two games at home. Now they've got to win two in a row in Texas to come back, and it comes down to two things. And we'll talk about the Dodgers in a minute, but the - David Price is your ace, and he didn't get it done...
BRYANT: ...In Game 1, and now you don't get it done in Game 2. And I think one of the big problems is is the way they're constructed. They are a big home-run hitting team. They're the only (unintelligible). They led the league in home runs. They led the league in runs scored. And only three times in the last 50 years has that type of team ever won.
They are now 16-61 when they score four runs or less. And so - and this happened the first two games in the playoffs, so they're going to have to find a way to win close playoff games. And right now all that good cheer is nine innings away from going away.
SIMON: Mets are looking hot, aren't they?
BRYANT: The Mets look great. And once again, David Price doesn't get it done in Toronto, and now Clayton Kershaw, who's...
BRYANT: ...Considered the best pitcher in baseball before Jake Arrieta this year is the guy...
SIMON: Yeah, glad you added that, yeah.
BRYANT: ...(Laughter) is the guy - two Cy Youngs - he's the guy who you're thinking is supposed to be a playoff ace. He's had awful playoffs usually against the Cardinals. But now last night, the seventh inning got him again. And this is the great theater. This is where you love the Pedro Martinezes and the Luis Tiant and the Curt Schillings and El Duque Hernandez and all those great pitchers. The postseason is where you...
BRYANT: ...Show how good you are or people remember it, one way or the other.
SIMON: The St. Louis...
BRYANT: Easy, you can say it. You can say it.
SIMON: I can't bring myself to play the name, OK, all right.
SIMON: The St. Louis Cardinals, a great franchise, defeated the (whispers) Chicago Cubs
last night 4-0. The Cards keep reinventing themselves, don't they?
BRYANT: Well, Game 1 - and that's the thing that the Cardinals do. I mean, you look at their record over the last 15 years, and you're like, how do they do it? How do they do it? How do they do it? But once again, let's remember something that the Cardinals were the best team in baseball this year. They won 100 games out of 162. They beat the Cubs 11 out of 19, so they do kind of have their number.
And also, because you have to play that one game playoff, the Cubs didn't go up with their best pitcher who's Jake Arrieta because he pitched to get them in to beat Pittsburgh. So you're not going to get him until Game 3. And so I think that once again, you've got to survive it. But let's talk a little bit about the Cardinals. John Lackey - we talk about Arrieta, we talk about Strasburg, we talk about all these great pitchers, but John Lackey is one of those pitchers in the postseason who...
BRYANT: ...Finds a way, and he raises his game, and it's fantastic to watch because during the regular season, you don't think he's that good. And then when the leaves change, he's tough to beat.
SIMON: And I don't want to overlook the Royals and the Astros. They're tied 1-1. Any team have the upper hand in your eyes right now?
BRYANT: No, total dogfight, but I love the Astros because they're playing so well, and they're playing above their heads because they looked like they were going to crash and burn in the last week of the season. But let's not forget that the Royals did make the World Series last year.
So let's see which team is more battle-tested as we get to the end. This is the good stuff, and I didn't give the Rangers enough credit, either, because they have been fantastic. No one expected this.
SIMON: Yeah, let me just say one thing in the last few seconds we have. Jake Arrieta, get some rest.
SIMON: If you're listening, go back to sleep. We need you. Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine. Thanks so much for being with us.
BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.