Hall Monitor: One Round Down
By Trevor Hayes
The opening round of the playoffs was notable in many ways, from to woes Minnesota has with the Bronx Bombers to the tight, to-the-wire competitions between the Giants and Braves. As October rolls on, today’s players write their stories.
The Roys: Bolstered by the second-ever postseason no-hitter and a solid sweep, the Phillies’ rotation is set for another run. And coincidentally, two of the team’s three NLDS starting pitchers share more than a uniform. If Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt can help bring another World Series trophy to Philadelphia, they will be the fifth set of same-named starters to do so. The others: The 1998 Yankees with David Cone and David Wells; the 1988 Dodgers with Tim Belcher and Tim Leary; the 1983 Orioles with Mike Boddicker and Mike Flanagan; and the first pair, who not only led the 1948 Indians but also joined the Hall of Fame: Bob Feller and Bob Lemon.
Famous in Philly: Cole Hamels was impressive two years ago, and along with the Roys, he’s harnessing that again. He tossed a shutout in the deciding game of the NLDS. In 2008, he marched the Phillies to their first World Series title since 1980, picking up iconic status in the city, four wins and a pair of postseason MVP Awards along the way. His shutout this year was his sixth career playoff win, matching another legend, Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, who served as the team’s ace during its glory years in the 1980s.
Texas Boppers meet Bronx Bombers: Over the last week, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz provided plenty of pop to propel the Rangers to an ALCS matchup with the Yankees. The Texas duo each hit three home runs, making them the second pair of teammates to connect for at least three homers apiece while playing five or fewer postseason games, The other pair set their standard in 1928. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, with each famous Yankee hitting three homers during a four-game sweep of the Cardinals.
Master Lee: The Ranger’s success against the Rays can also be attributed to the man who won two games. Cliff Lee’s postseason dominance has made him seem incapable of walking batters, who seem incapable of getting to him. His 21 strikeouts without a walk set a new single-series record, besting the previous mark of 14 set by the Braves’ Kevin Millwood when he didn’t walk a Giant in the 2002 NLDS. Meanwhile, Lee tossed a complete game in Game Five, his fifth game with seven or more innings of without a walk. That ties Hall of Fame Christy Mathewson for the second-most and is just two behind Greg Maddux’s record of seven.
With just two years of postseason play under his belt, Lee is now 6-0 in seven starts. Only five pitchers in major league history have six wins in their first seven postseason starts, including Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lefty Gomez. Pitching in Games One and Five, Lee won his fifth and sixth straight decisions as a starter to begin his postseason career, equaling Gomez for third-most all-time. The record is eight, and Lee is slated for at least one more start without going on short rest. He’s also rattled off five straight W’s in which he pitched seven or more innings. Only Dave Stewart, Gibson and fellow Hall of Famers Red Ruffing have longer streaks.
Last of the 30: In the first-ever series in which the road team won every game, the Rangers picked up their first-ever postseason series win. Dating back to the 1961 Washington Senators, the franchise has finally claimed victory in baseball’s second season, the last active franchise to do so. The franchise waited 41 years to taste postseason glory, a drought only eclipsed by four teams, three of which began play before the World Series started in 1903. From their birth onward, only the Phillies (104 years), Dodgers (79 years), Orioles (63 years) and Cardinals (50 years) took longer to win their first playoff series. Like Texas, each of those teams had made the postseason before. And each year they finally won a postseason series, they went on to win the World Series. In fact, only the Astros, Brewers, Mariners, Nationals, Padres, Rays and Rockies did not win the World Series in the same season the franchise garnered its first playoff series win.
Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.