Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014-15 NBA Predictions

East
Out in first round: Toronto, Washington, Miami, Brooklyn
Out in Eastern semis: New York, Charlotte
Eastern Finals: Cleveland over Chicago 4-2

West
Out in first round: Memphis, Denver, Dallas, Houston
Out in Western semis: San Antonio, OKC
Western Finals: LA Clippers over Golden State 4-3

NBA Finals
LA Clippers over Cleveland 4-2

Monday, October 27, 2014

Game 5 - A Masterpiece

The Giants' Madison Bumgarner continued his incredible World Series run. He pitched nine shutout innings in Game 5. he struck out eight and only allowed four hits.

James Shields, who has had a difficult postseason, finally settled down. He gave up a couple of singles int he second inning that led to an RBI groundout by Brandon Crawford. In the fourth, a couple of singles led to a Crawford RBI hit. Shields went six innings and only gave up those two runs.

Kelvin Herrera pitched a scoreless seventh, but struggled in the eight. Wade Davis, who has a microscopic ERA, finally showed he was human in the same inning. Pinch-hitter Juan Perez doubled in two off Davis. Crawford got his third RBI of the game later in the inning.

The Giants won 5-0 and took a 302 series lead heading back to Kansas City.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Game 4 - Momentum Swings

The Giants manufactured a run in the first when Gregor Blanco walked and later scored on a Hunter Pence forceout. Kansas City came back in the third with a vengeance.

The Royals sent ten men to the plate in the inning. Pitcher Jason Vargas made two of the Royals' outs. Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante, and Salvador Perez all had RBI knocks in the inning. Infante's hit brought in two. KC ousted the Giants' starter, Ryan Vogelsong, from the game. And yet, in retrospect, the Royals lost the game right here.

With the bases loaded, Vargas strode to the plate for the second time int he inning. He worked the count to 2-2 and took a close pitch that was called a ball. He thought it had been ball four and trotted down towards first base. He was called back and struck out on the next pitch, one that seemed out of the strike zone.

Buster Posey drove pinch-hitter Matt Duffy home int he bottom of the third. Vargas was taken out in the fifth inning Joe Panik led that inning off with a double. He scored when Hunter Pence smacked a single. Pence scored on a sac fly tying the game.

Brandon Finnegan pitched the sixth and gave up three more runs. The Giants did it with small ball, constantly moving the line.Finnegan allowed the first two Giants to reach in the seventh. Then, the bottom fell out. He was replaced by Tim Collins. Blanco bunted and Collins threw the ball away. One scored on the play. Panik doubled in two and Pence doubled in Panik. By the time the Giants' onslaught was over, the score was 11-4.

Meanwhile, Yusmeiro Petit was San Francisco's unsung hero again. He had earned wins int he Division Series and in the NLCS. Earlier in the year, Petit quietly set the MLB record for most consecutive batters retired. While that record should have brought him heaps of praise, it took an outstanding playoff performance to bring him the appropriate notoriety. As the Giants fought back to get into the game, take the lead, and ultimately run away with it, Petit threw three scoreless innings just when the Royals' attack was at its most confident.

The Giants' 11-4 victory tied the series at two games a piece.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Game 3 - NL Baseball

Game 3 was a relatively quick game and the only close contest thus far int he World Series. Alcides Escobar, who has played a great shortstop, doubled to open the game. He was moved over to third. Then Lorenzo Cain grounded him in.

Tim Hudson of the Giants and Jeremy Guthrie of the Royals shut down opposing bats until both ran into trouble in the 6th. Escobar singled before Alex Gordon doubled him in. Eric Hosmer knocked in Gordon and Kansas City took a 3-0 lead.

In the bottom of the sixth, Brandon Crawford got on with a basehit before pinch-hitter Michael Morse doubled him home. Kelvin Herrera replaced Gutherie and got out of the inning giving up only one more run on a Buster Posey groundout.

Herrera went an inning and a third, rookie Brandon Finnegan got two outs, and Wade Davis pitched a scoreless eighth. Greg Holland got hte save int he ninth. Kansas City won 3-2 and take a 2-1 series lead.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Game 2 - Homerun Fury

Both teams scored in the first. Gregor Blanco led off with a homerun to lead off the game for the Giants. Billy Butler singled in Lorenzo Cain in the bottom of the inning. Flame throwing Yordano Ventura then settled down for Kansas City.

Alcides Escobar doubled in Omar Infante in the second. Jake Peavy then threw three scoreless innings. In the fourth, Pablo Sandoval doubled before Brandon Belt knocked him in with a double of his own. The game stayed knotted at two a piece until the sixth inning.

The Giants had two on in the top of the inning, but Belt and Michael Morse got out. In the bottom of the sixth, all hell broke loose. Peavy left after giving up a single to Cain and a walk to Eric Hosmer. Jean Machi came in and promptly was knocked out by a Butler single that scored a run.

Javier Lopez got Alex Gordon to fly out. Then Bruce Bochy made a fateful decision. He brought in Hunter Strickland, a hard-throwing young pitcher with a killer curveball. Strickland didn't give up a run in nine regular season appearances.

Strickland threw a wild pitch allowing Hosmer and Terrance Gore, who had pinch run for Butler, to advance. Salvador Perez then doubled them both in. Next up, Infante smacked a homer. Strickland, who had just given up his fifth four-bagger of the postseason began screaming. Perez was confused, because it seemed as if Strickland was yelling at him. Strickland then yelled at Perez some more and threatened him. Strickland showed a lack of class in the face of his poor performance.

By then, the game was 7-2, which is how it ended. Kansas City tied up the series as it heads west to San Francisco for Game 3.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Game 1 - Rude Visitors

Both teams made the World Series after playing in the Wild Card game. This series is the first time a fourth seed has faced a fifth seed in the series. The 162 game regular season is rapidly losing importance.

The Giants wasted no time in roughing up Kansas City's starter James Shields. Hunter Pence slammed a two-run homer after Pablo Sandoval doubled in a run. The Giants were up 3-0 before Madison Bumgarner took the hill.

Once Bumgartner was on the mound, the game was effectively over. He befuddled the Royals' hitters. Kansas City had a chance in the bottom of the third when Omar Infante reached on shortstop Brandon Crawford's error. Mike Moustakas doubled. But the top of the order failed the Royals. With two outs, Lorenzo Cain walked to load the bases, but cleanup hitter Eric Hosner weakly grounded to second base, uncharacteristically failing in the clutch.

The Giants tacked on two more in the next inning to take a 5-0 lead. Michael Morse knocked in Hunter Pence with a single. Later, when Shields was lifted, Danny Duffy walked Gregor Blanco with the bases loaded.

In the seventh, rookie second baseman Joe Panik tripled home Blanco, who had walked. Duffy was lifted after three plus innings. Sandoval later singled home Panik for the Giants seventh run.

In the bottom of the inning, catcher Salvador Perez nailed a homer off of Bumgarner, who gave up three hits and finished the seventh. Javier Lopez and Hunter Strickland shut the door the rest of the way for a 7-1 Giants victory.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Nats Fall in Game 1

It's undeniable that the rust that accumulates with five days off hurt the Nats in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Giants. If you can win the Wild Card Game, then having played in it is a huge advantage. Both Wild Card teams won Game 1 of the Division Series this year and it was pretty clear that the Nats' and Angels' timing was off offensively. MLB has to reorganize the playoffs.

The Nats' offense succeeds when Denard Span and Anthony Rendon get on base. They were a combined 1-9 in Game 1. The 3-2 loss was frustrating because it seemed so fluky.

Wilson Ramos made a few great blocks of the ball, but the one he missed was huge. Ramos almost never misses a pitch like that. It allowed two runners to move up and a run eventually scored. One of those two runners were on base because Adam LaRoche was uncharacteristically aggressive defensively. He's usually such a cool customer, but he tried to do too much.

Ramos is also great at throwing out potential base stealers. He threw one out in Game 1. But he didn't get Hunter Pence and the Giants scored a run only because Pence stole that base.

It was also frustrating because Steven Strasburg pitched well, but the batted balls kept finding holes. And Ian Desmond struckout with the bases loaded, but the very next batter, Bryce Harper, launched a monster homerun. Unfortunately, Harper's homer took place in the following inning.

The Nats' defense has been the one area that has shown inconsistency. The Nats can be very good defensively, but they have a tendency to implode every now and again. Still, the machinations of the postseason bit them. The long wait and the torturous four hour 9-inning 3-2 game are two things that are very different than the regular season. Laz Diaz's miserably erratic strike zone didn't help either.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

NL East Champs!

The Nats claimed their second NL East tile in three years. It's been a long journey since the early years in DC. It's rewarding to pour your heart into a team from the outset and eventually get to celebrate. There were a lot of losses to endure before we got to cheer on a winner.

I especially feel good for Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen, and Ross Detwiler, who have been with the franchise for so long. I only wish that Ryan Zimmerman, Mr. Nat, had been there to celebrate.

And of course, it feels extra good to clinch in Atlanta. The past two seasons, the Braves have represented everything that's wrong with baseball. They've hit opponents for no particular reason, started fights, and scuffled with umpires. The Nats had struggled a bit with the Braves until turning things around midway through this year.

The thing I love most about the Nats is that they genuinely seem to enjoy each other's company. It's an easy team to root for, which is a real luxury for a fan. Here's to another month and a half of Nats baseball!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reykjavik to DC

At our hotel in Reykjavik, where we got a room in a giant three-story house, one of the owners, a middle aged man, flirted way too much with Candace. That didn't make me happy.

We packed up and headed towards the Blue Lagoon before traveling to the airport. The Blue Lagoon was worth the hefty price of admission, because that price wasn't so hefty for us. We got half off. The Lagoon itself looks like a fancy swimming pool in an upscale spa. It's heated by geo-thermal power and steam constantly rises into the cold atmosphere.

We smartly wore our bathing suits under our clothes. But it turned out to be stupid, because neither one of us brought a change of underwear. We put the clay on our faces that was supposed to make them smoother. I don't know how well it worked. But I wasn't feeling so great when I woke up and I felt better after being in the pool.

On the drive to the airport, we couldn't get the correct address for the airport. Candace saw a sign for Keflavik, so we went there. But the Keflavik international airport isn't in the city of Keflavik, which used to be home to a large American military based. We thought we were running late and were a little anxious. We eventually found our rental car place, returned the car without issue and walked to the airport. The airport went smoothly and so did the flight.

Clearing customs, the only thing of note back int eh U.S. was when an agent asked how much cash I had on me. "$2," I replied a bit flustered. I hadn't expected that question. Was he planning on mugging me when I left the airport if I had more?

Overall it was a wonderful trip filled with incredible scenery. I'd highly recommend anyone to visit Iceland. I did forget to mention the time I tried to cut our frozen pizza in Akureyri and the knife slipped out of my hand. I was agile enough to catch it, but stupid enough to catch it. The blade sliced my finger.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Akureyri to Reykjavik

Afyer eating our stove top cooked frozen pizza again, we headed back to Reykjavik. We were hoping to go to the Thingvellir park first, but the GPS took us to some unpaved roads and the Suzuki Swift didn't much like that. So we went back to the ring road and it was too late to head for the park.

The drive was long and arduous. About 5 hours, but not on the big wide highways that I'm used to. The scenery was, well... you'll just have come to Iceland and see for yourself. If you make the drive between Reykjavik and Akureyri, your trip will be well worth it. Hidden waterfalls, sund-drenched mountains, sparkling lakes, just to name a few.

Candace wanted to take pictures of the scenery constantly. I get anxious when people stick things out or near an open window, say a camera, while I'm driving. Candace did not appreciate my anxiety.

We are near the stadium a couple of kilometers outside of downtown. Soome soccer match was going on and we could clearly hear the cheers as  we walked around. We discovered how Icelandic children who live in isolated places go to school. They go to boarding school of course. We haven't figured out why Icelanders love licorice, even a chocolate-covered licorice bar.

We also learned that it is permissible to say fuck in English on tv here. We caught the global edition of The Daily Show and Jon Stewart was talking about the volcano in Iceland!