The Colorado Rockies have recorded 21 wins in 22 games to make their World Series reservations, and barring a Yankee-esque collapse, the Cleveland Indians have made theirs too. The Wild West tall tale that is the 2007 Rockies’ season demonstrates the parity of the current National League, almost as distinctively as the negative run differential accumulated by their less-than formidable NLCS counterparts, the Arizona Diamond(hacks)backs. The Phantastic Phillies that the Rockies left bloodied along the way on their manifest destiny weren’t ready to swing their bats; a pathetic truth that strikeout king Ryan Howard knows better than all. Howard is still staring at the Manny Corpas sinker that struck the bottom of the strike zone to end his playoff experience. Colorado solved the Arizona mystery, with air purifiers to clear the smoke and spray paint to cover the mirrors. The young rattlers simply weren’t good enough to represent the National League, as baseball finally lived up to its law of statistical averages, albeit a couple of months late. The demise of the nature-defying Diamondbacks ensures the relevance of stat monsters Theo Epstein and Billy Beane, as well as a Manager of the Year award for Bob Melvin.
The NL slate for Colorado was hardly daunting, but the Rockies weren’t responsible for the shortcomings of their opponents. They can play ball. Led by a defense featuring shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, the masters of the thin air don’t surrender runs they should not, and they take away those that they should. Tulowitzki, armed with a rocket arm and aesthetically enchanting footwork, doesn’t look or necessarily play like either Omar Vizquel or Ozzie Smith, but his defensive prowess that rivals theirs. The lineup does the Blake Street Bombers of the pre-Humidor era proud, boasting a middle that includes MVP-contender Matt Holliday, Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe and Tulowitzki. Jeff Francis is the practically unknown ace of the Rockies, who has out-dueled more notable aces in Cole Hamels and 2006 Cy Young winner Brandon Webb. The bullpen has been solid this postseason, anchored by closer Manny Corpas and set-up men Brian Fuentes, LaTroy Hawkins and Matt Herges.
The Tribe is slaying legends left and right. In the division series, the Indians shut down Yankee captain Derek Jeter, who in the last two playoffs has performed like his respiration-challenged infield mate Alex Rodriguez. After suffering a midge of a roadblock in the form of postseason beast Josh Beckett, the Indians are one game away from sending the Boston Red Sox home without a World Series championship in the last three years. As hard as it is to believe that the precocious Tribesmen are about to beat a team that boasts three World Series MVPs and the game’s most ballyhooed clutch-hitter in David Ortiz, they are just one more Eric Gagne appearance from doing just that.
The successful postseason run of the Cleveland Indians has been defined by two-out RBIs and double plays. No matter how many times Yankee arms had only one more out to end an inning or how many times the Red Sox had men on first and second with just one out, the Indians seem to always come through. The Indians haven’t dominated their opponents like the Rockies have, but the big moments have belonged to them.
While youth is being served through Cleveland’s success, the spotlight still belongs to a ’90’s remnant. The journeyman known as Kenny Lofton highlighted his third stint in Cleveland and set the tone for the clutch-hitting Tribe with a remarkable performance in game one, driving in four runs. The two-headed monster of starting pitchers C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona have produced only one good outing in four starts, but the Tribe keeps on rolling as a result of timely hitting, inspired performances from starters Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd and last but not least the golden right arm of Rafael Betancourt. Along with the ageless Lofton, Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta have feasted upon Boston pitchers not named Josh Beckett. They have outscored the Sox 24-11 in their three victories. The aforementioned Betancourt has been utterly unhittable, even taming the legendary bats of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.
While Cleveland is just one game away from being heavy favorites to win the World Series, Boston still has a fighting chance, even without Dave Roberts. Beckett locks fastballs with the underperforming Sabathia in game five. The Indians would travel back to Fenway if they lose, where postseason legend Curt “the bloody sock that bloodies our ears” Schilling and Asian enigma Daisuke Matsuzaka wait to rebound from underwhelming performances. The Idiots need to Cowboy Up very soon, because it’s Tribe Time Now.