Two games in, four baseball teams are already on the verge of having their playoff runs ended. But while each of the four Division Series stands at 2-0, they haven't been without some surprises.
While it's not much of a surprise (even to an admittedly biased observer such as myself) that the Philadelphia Phillies are up 2 games on the Milwaukee Brewers, the fact that the Phils drove CC Sabathia out of Game 2 in the 4th inning was unexpected. Yes, Sabathia was starting on 3 days' rest but he had done so in his last 3 starts of the regular season and still thrived. If the Phils have a long playoff run the at bat by Phils' pitcher Brett Myers against Sabathia with 2 outs in the 2nd inning could go down as one of the most amazing moments in the team's history. Myers batted just .069 this year but, after falling behind 0-2, fouled off a number of pitches and worked the count to 3-2 off Sabathia, as the crowd became increasingly frenzied. Finally Myers took a pitch for ball four, eventually leading to Shane Victorino's grand slam which put the Phils up to stay.
For the Tampa Bay Rays, it can be considered a surprise that they lead the Chicago White Sox 2-0 only because they've never even had a winning season before 2008, and how a young team reacts to the spectacle of the postseason is always a question. But if the Rays are feeling any pressure it's not showing, as they've rallied from two-run deficits in the early innings of both victories. Their next step is to perform on the road, but they only need one win to advance to the AL Championship Series.
The biggest shocks come from the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels, the teams with the best record in their respective leagues. The Cubs, with all of the anticipation and hype over the 100th anniversary of their last World Series win, have looked horrendous against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ryan Dempster walked 7 in less than 5 innings in the first game and Chicago's infield defense let Carlos Zambrano down in game two. Nothing surprising for Joe Torre, though. His team is in the playoffs once again -- it's just not the Yankees.
The Angels finished with 100 wins in the regular season and were 8-1 this year against the Boston Red Sox. Surely this would be enough to overcome the Angels' previous playoff failures against Boston? So what if the Sox swept the Angels in the 2004 and 2007 Division Series? History seems to be repeating itself, though. LA was stymied by Jon Lester in the opener and suffered a crushing defeat last night. Boston scored 4 in the first but squandered a lot of other chances, and the Angels finally tied the game at 5 in the 8th inning, only to see J.D. Drew hit a 2-run homer off Francisco Rodriguez in the 9th.
Dating back to the 1986 AL Championship Series the Red Sox have now beaten the Angels 11 consecutive times in postseason play. The series now shifts to Boston where the Angels must beat Josh Beckett, who has a career 1.73 ERA in 10 playoff starts.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, of the 35 teams to fall behind 2-0 in the division series before this year, just five have come back to win. So the odds are against the Brewers and White Sox, but especially against the Cubs and Angels: only one team, the 2001 Yankees, has ever rallied to win a division series after losing the first two at home.