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Game #7  – Justin Verlander vs. Matt Cain

SacramentoOkay folks, here we go.  It’s time for Game 7 of the NLCS.  Only once before has the NLCS gone to seven games–in 2005, when Tempe defeated the Sacramento franchise (then in Los Angeles) 4 games to three.   The 2005 series was particularly remarkable because it started with a three-game sweep of Los Angeles, only to have Los Angeles come back to win the following three games; a Los Angeles victory would have been an unprecedented series victory when starting the series down 0-3.  Now, in 2012, the same two franchises are battling it out in extremely close games.  Let’s hope Game 7 is as exciting as the Series has been thus far.

Both teams save their best for last; it’s ace versus ace.  For Sacramento, Justin VERLANDER takes the mound for his third start of the season, while Tempe sends Matt CAIN back to the mound for his fourth (YES, FOURTH) start of the NLCS.  Tempe’s offense would be the first to strike.

 Bottom of the 2nd, Adrian GONZALEZ steps up to the plate against Just in VERLANDER; VERLANDER brings it home … GONZALEZ lofts a high fly … down the line to right; Nyger MORGAN has it covered; he’s on the warning track … now his back’s to the wall … the leap … and MORGAN comes down empty handed! … GONZALEZ eases into his home run trot … that ball just wouldn’t die.  GONZALEZ does it again for Tempe, giving them the 0-1 lead.  Next up, Troy TULOWITZKI; this time, VERLANDER makes quick work of TULO, inducing a routine fly ball to  Mitch MAIER, who replaced the injured Torii HUNTER in center … one away.  Adrian BELTRE, steps up; there’s no fooling anybody on this one … The pitch … well hit drive … deep to left field … carrying … it’s long gone! CAPITALS 0, TEMPERS 2.  VERLANDER and the Capitals look like they could be in some serious trouble here. But, VERLANDER escapes the 2nd with a quick strikeout of Dustin PEDROIA and a Jose MOLINA popup to Yadier MOLINA near the screen.

Sacramento, however, was ready to strike back in the top of the 3rd.  Needing the run, CAPITALS manager looking at his scoresheet, and picks switch-hitter Jimmy ROLLINS to pinch hit for MAIER to lead off the top of the 3rd.  CAIN to ROLLINS … the ump signals base on balls … good eye ROLLINS.   With VERLANDER at the plate, we can all guess what’s happening next … the pitch … swung on … strike! … and there goes ROLLINS! MOLINA comes up throwing … tags him … too late … ROLLINS dusts himself off at second, eliminating the double play and setting up the sacrifice for VERLANDER.

CAIN’s pitch … VERLANDER squares and bunts it back to the mound … CAIN has it … looks at third … but fires to GONZALEZ at first, but the throw is wild! The ball rolls into right field … ROLLINS scores … and VERLANDER cruises in to second; that’ll be an error on CAIN.  CAPITALS 1, TEMPERS 2.  Sacramento’s rollin’ now. This was not the way Tempe wanted to respond in defending it’s lead.  Daniel MURPHY at the plate, no outs, and MURPHY grounds out to PEDROIA, but moves VERLANDER up to third.  Now it’s YOUKILIS’ turn at the plate, with one out.  CAIN brings it … hit to GRANDERSON in deep left … he’s back … plenty of room … takes a couple of steps to his left … and brings it in … VERLANDER’s tagging … and Sacramento’s taking a risk here–they’re waving him home … here comes the throw … and he’s … just safe under the tag!  YOUKILIS picks up a sac fly and an RBI.  CAPITALS 2, TEMPERS 2.  PUJOLS is up with two outs, and CAIN continues to struggle with a base on balls.  CANO at the plate, the delivery, and PUJOLS is running!  Sacramento’s going for it!  MOLINA throws … the slide … tags him … they won’t get PUJOLS this time!  That’s the CAPITALS 2nd stolen base in this game.  CANO still up, this time with a runner in scoring position.  What’ll he do?  CAIN lets it go … it’s popped foul behind third … TULOWITZKI’s over … and he’s got it.  Three down.

The game stays tied through the bottom of the 3rd and the 4th.  But, picking things back up in the top of the 5th, game tied, MURPHY faces CAIN, and CAIN makes quick work of him–a pop up behind home plate.  Next, YOUKILIS. CAIN continues to dominate … a topper out front … CAIN has it … goes to first in time for the out.  Pujols comes to the plate, two outs and no one on.  Let’s turn it over to the announcers: “CAIN fires it in … PUJOLS swings … and mashes it … it might go all the way GRANDERSON is at the warning track … but he’d need a ladder to get to this one a four-bagger for PUJOLS! CAPITALS 3, TEMPERS 2.  PUJOLS hasn’t had a great series, but he comes up clutch here, and the game would remain 3-2 until the 9th … yes, it’s gonna be a close one!

Top of the 9th, CAIN was pulled long ago, and PERALTA is now on the mound.  Yadier Molina steps up to the plate.  Again, let’s turn it over to the announcers: “The offering … there’s a fly ball to left … GRANDERSON drifts back … still backpeddling. Hey, this ball may carry … at the fence … GRANDERSON jumps for it … does he have it? No! … a home run for MOLINA! CAPITALS 4, TEMPERS 2.  And here comes TEMPERS manager … he’s asking PERALTA for the ball coming in to pitch is Jim JOHNSON … the right-hander … so PERALTA didn’t get his man.”  Johnson, however, would get through the remainder of Sacramento’s order in the 9th without any problems, taking Tempe to the bottom of the 9th, down by two, with some work to do.  Sacramento pulls VERLANDER after 8 innings of 2-run ball and turns the game over to Eric O’FLAHERTY to face lefty Curtis GRANDERSON–he’s only in for this one batter … GRANDERSON facing O’FLAHERTY … and O’FLAHERTY induces the high pop fly down the third base line.  O’FLAHERTY does his job.  One out.  And here comes CAPITALS manager … he’s asking O’FLAHERTY for the ball … he’ll go to the bullpen, and there is only one man throwing … Mariano RIVERAThis is his game to save.  First up, Melky CABRERA: “RIVERA with the pitch … that’s high and deep by CABRERA … MORGAN is on the run … on the run; it’s starting to tail away from him … and it drops in … CABRERA is headed for second, and he’s in ahead of the throw.  Uh, oh.  One out, runner on 2nd, tying run at the plate in Hunter PENCE.  But, PENCE fails to come through, dribbling it to HARDY at short, who looks CABRERA back and fires to first for out number two.  Up next? You guessed it, Adrian Gonzalez, the Tempers most reliable and fierce batter all series.  We are going to turn it over to the announcers for this one: “GONZALEZ facing M. RIVERA, … Speedy CABRERA edging toward third … RIVERA spins and fakes the pick off to second CABRERA steps back toward second … now RIVERA’s set again … RIVERA comes to the plate lined to center … base hit … MORGAN stabs out … it’s off his glove … CABRERA scores GONZALEZ rounds second … but puts on the brakes … dives back in … the tag … and he’s out!” GONZALEZ does his job by doubling in CABRERA, but a tough base-running error ends it for the Tempers.  Tough luck for Tempe manager, Chris Douglass, who was bound to pull GONZALEZ for a two out pinch runner with Troy TULOWITZKI.  But, that’s all folks.  Capitals take the game and the series 4-3.

The player of the game for Sacramento was Yadier Molina for is 9th inning home run that proved to be the difference in the game–stealing the potential player of the game from Pujols for what would have been the game-winning home run.  The pitcher of the game for Sacramento was, without a doubt, Justin Verlander, who pitched 8 strong innings, giving up only 3 hits (all extra base hits–one double and two home runs), while walking only one.  For Tempe, Adrian Gonzalez proved once again to be the key to their success, going 2-4 with a home run and 2 RBI, while Tempe’s pitcher of the game has to go to CAIN, who pitched 4.2 innings while giving up only 1 earned run–the two unearned runs simply killed him and were the difference in the game.


The NLCS was an amazing series; every game (except for Game 4) was close.  There were 4 1-run games, with each team winning two.  The other three games were decided by 2 runs, 3 runs, and (the only “blow out” 6 runs).  Overall, Sacramento outscored Tempe 33-26 in the 7-game series.

Defensively, each team gave up 5 errors–uncharacteristically for the two best defensive teams during the regular season.  But, the errors impacted Tempe more–Tempe’s 5 errors resulted in 4 unearned runs, while Sacramento’s 5 errors resulted in only 2 unearned runs.  Sacramento was also superior behind the plate; while Sacramento and Tempe stole 7 and 8 bases, respectively, Tempe was caught stealing 3 times while Tempe failed to throw out any baserunners.  Sacramento pitching also dominated, but not by much.  Sacramento finished with a 3.60 ERA, with 2 saves, and only 2 Quality Starts, while Tempe finished with a 4.35 ERA, 3 saves, and NO Quality Starts.  Shockingly, Matt Cain (the likely Cy Young award winner) went 0-2 in 4 starts with a 3.95 ERA, while Brandon McCarthy, the only other Tempe pitcher to start a game, finished 0-1 with a 10.38 ERA in two starts.  Sacramento’s starters fared somewhat better; Lee didn’t (going 0-2 with a 9.26 ERA in 3 starts), but Verlander did (going 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 3 starts). Sacramento gave up less home runs (7) than Tempe (9), but Tempe also struck out more batters (54 to 44).   While each team showed struggles in their rotation, a big difference between the two teams seemed to be their bullpens; Sacramento’s pen finished 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA in 25.3 innings, while Tempe’s pen won all three games for Tempe, finishing 3-1 with a 3.83 ERA in 40 innings.

Neither team finished strong offensively.  Sacramento finished with a .226/.295/.465 slash, while Tempe finished with a .198/.256/.373 slash.  Sacramento, while performing somewhat better offensively, also left far more base-runners on base (40) than did Tempe (30) in the 7 games.  The big difference here seemed to be Sacramento’s power (23 doubles, 2 triples, 9 home runs) when compared to Tempe (17 doubles, no triples, and 7 home runs).  This is not to say neither team had their stars.  For Tempe, it was clearly Adrian Gonzalez (who finished with a .320 BA, 3 2B, 3 HR, 4 runs, and 6 RBI) and Adrian Beltre (who finished batting .318 with 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 runs, and 4 RBI).  For Sacramento, the player of the series was undoubtedly Robinson Cano, who batted .296, with 3 2B, 3 HR, 5 runs, and 12 RBI; while Molina, Hardy, and Pujols each contributing with at least 4-5 runs and 3-5 RBI apiece.

In the end, Sacramento takes just a little revenge over Tempe’s long-standing dominance over the Sacramento-Los Angeles franchise, strengthening the rivalry that much more.

WEDNESDAY 07/17/2019
AT 11:59 PM - ET!