Notes from the Shadows of Cooperstown: October 24, 2008
The Sweet 16 Rolls On; Phillies vs. Braves
SWEET SIXTEEN PLAYOFFS: PHILLIES VS BRAVES
This is the fifth in a series of reports on a simulated playoff of the sixteen "original franchise" teams. The results of the first-round American League "brackets" can be found by clicking "Columnists," and then Gene Carney\'s name in the upper left hand corner of this page. You\'ll also find his rules for the tournament.
The Phils are the top seed in the National League, with a .531 winning percentage. They finished two games behind the Cards in my first simulated season, then tied with the Reds in the second, and won the best-of-three playoff. Altho strengthened considerably in the Negro League draft, they were below .500 in the most recent season.
As noted earlier, the Phils have a terrific top of the lineup, three .390+ hitters: Sliding Billy Hamilton, perfect for the leadoff spot; Big Ed Delahanty, who killed the dead ball in his day; and Big Sam Thompson, who hit .392 in 1895 with 18 HR and a ton of extra-base hits. The next three slots are also no-brainers, making this lineup easy to pencil in: Chuck Klein in cleanup (his 1930 inflated .386, 59 2B, 40 HR), Richie Allen at first, and Mike Schmidt at third. So in the NL draft, the Phils bolstered their middle infield, adding "King Richard" Lundy, a lot of leather and speed at SS; and Curtis "Popeye" Harris, who can play any position, but fields poorly at all of them. He can\'t steal, either, but he sprays hits like Richie Ashburn, who is on the Phillie bench. So is John Kruk, Granny Hamner, Juan Samuel, Larry Parrish, and for the pinch HR, Fred "Cy" Williams. Darren Dalton is a catcher with power, and Virgil "Spud" Davis is his able back-up.
Two Phillie aces are a cut above A: Grover "Pete" Alexander, and Steve Carlton. Other starters are Robin Roberts and Jim Bunning. For long relief, draftee Jon Matlack and Utica\'s own "Frosty Bill" Duggleby; then there\'s Jim Konstanty, Turk Farrell and closer Tug McGraw.
The Braves drew last seed mainly because they had an awful first season, played mostly with their top 25 players. But they played .500 after that, and are really a good team. Trouble is, every other team is good, too.
The Braves lead off with Hugh Duffy, who once hit .438 (with 50 2B and 18 HR), and his card is Cobb-like. Then there is Negro League star (the Braves had a high pick) Christobal Torriente, a Cuban who will threaten Chief Wilson\'s 3B record if he ever plays a full season with this card. The Braves\' 3-4 is automatic, like Ruth/Gehrig and Simmons/Foxx: 3b Eddie Mathews and RF Hank Aaron. I might add here that I am a National League fan by birth, and grew up watching Mathews and Aaron swing at old Forbes Field, and the simulations are more fun when you can tap your memories.
Fred McGriff displaced Joe Adcock at 1B. Another NL draftee is SS John "El Cuchara" Lloyd, a great glove and bat, but will not steal bases or hit HRs. The Braves wound up with Felipe Alou, and OF who can also play some 1B. And they drafted Craig Biggio, who plays a great 2B. Their bench is strong: a one-season flash, Bob "Hurricane" Hazle; Dale Murphy; Wally Berger; pure hitter Ralph Garr; and glovemen Felix Millan and Chipper Jones. At catcher, Joe Torre in his peak season, and Javy Lopez.
The Braves have some great arms, too: Greg Maddux (sorry, Cub fans); "Kid" Nichols; Warren Spahn; and Tom Glavine; John Smoltz is in long relief, with Vic Willis, Johnny Sain and Phil Niekro; Gene Garber closes. When Maddux was injured in the first game, I let the Braves add Rick Camp to the roster.
GAME ONE, AT PHILADELPHIA
Maddux vs Alexander, so we might expect a lot of goose eggs on the scoreboard. The Phils draw first blood, Sam Thompson taking Maddux deep in the first inning, and Lundy making it 2-0 with a 2nd-inning HR. The Braves tied it when Torriente tripled, Mathews walked, and Hank Aaron tripled them both home with two out. McGriff, who fanned with two in scoring position in the first, stranded Aaron by fanning again. In the Braves\' 3rd, Lloyd doubled and came in on two flies to RF, Biggio getting the sac fly. Chuck Klein\'s RBI single in the home 5th tied it at 3. But McGriff UN-tied it with a long solo HR in the 6th. In the Phil 6th, Darren Daulton\'s line drive knocked out Maddux, and Niekro entered the game. He gave up just a single the rest of the way.
This game was shortened to eight innings by rain, but before that, the Braves flooded home five runs in the 7th. Biggio was hit with a pitch; after he stole second, Torre doubled him home. Thompson dropped Duffy\'s fly to right, and Old Pete bore down to get Torriente and Mathews. But Aaron singled in one run and McGriff tripled in two more. Lloyd\'s hit closed out the scoring, and the Braves were on top, with a 9-3 win.
GAME TWO, AT PHILADELPHIA
The Phils scored first again, Chuck Klein connecting with one on in the first. The Braves came right back with two; after Aaron and McGriff walked, Lloyd singled and when Murphy grounded into a DP, it was tied at 2. Kid Nichols was on the hill for the Braves, Steve Carlton for the Phils.
But Carlton did not make it thru the third. Joe Torre rapped an infield single and went to third on Duffy\'s double. Torriente singled them both home, 4-2. Aaron\'s HR chased Carlton, 6-2. Jon Matlack could not put out the fire. With two out, Lloyd singled and Murphy was hit with a pitch. Biggio doubled home a pair, 8-2. Torre walked, and little Hugh Duffy poked one out of the park, making it 11-2 -- a nine-run inning.
But Yogi was right, it ain\'t over till it\'s over. Klein hit a 2-run HR, his second of the game, in the home third. 11-4. Delahanty\'s double plated another in the 4th, 11-5. Klein walked and Allen tripled him around, and chased Nichols. Against Sain, with two out, Harris tripled, making it 11-7. Daulton\'s hit made it 11-8. The Phils tied it off Sain in the sixth. Delahanty walked and Sam Thompson singled him to 3rd, then stole second. Klein walked to load the bases. Enter Garber. Who promptly walked Allen to score one run. Schmidt\'s long fly to right made it 11-10, Klein taking third. Klein scored on Lundy\'s fly to right, and the game was tied.
Meanwhile, the Phillies bullpen was holding the Braves at bay. After that horrendous third inning, Turk Farrell came in and gave up two hits (both doubles by Aaron) over four innings. In the Phil 7th, the home team hit for the cycle, scoring four runs off Garber. Harris doubled and after Daulton fanned, Duffy put the Phils ahead with a single. Thompson\'s fourth hit of the game was an RBI triple, and Chuck Klein, walked his two previous at bats, ended the scoring with his third HR of the game. 15-11. Tug McGraw retired the last six Braves, in a game reminiscent very much of a 15-14 World Series game the Phils played with Toronto.
GAME THREE, IN MILWAUKEE
This time the Braves jumped on top 2-0 when Mathews homered in the first with Duffy aboard. McGriff\'s clout made it 3-0. The Phils got two back on Harris\' 2-run double in the 4th, but Duffy\'s HR made it 4-2 Braves. Harris\' HR in the 7th cut the leads to 4-3. Spahn had held the Phils hitless for the first four innings, but now was struggling. When Allen and Schmidt singled in the Phils\' 8th with one out, John Smoltz took over. He was greeted by an RBI single by Lundy, Schmidt taking third. Harris\' fly to left put the Phils up, 5-4.
Roberts had been cruising after yielding the three gopher balls, retiring 11 of 12 going into the 9th. Popeye Harris, the hitting star (4 RBI) left the game for Granny Hamner. But Granny muffed his first chance, McGriff\'s grounder leading off the 9th. Ralph Garr pinch ran. On the hit and run, Lloyd hit one into the right-center gap, scoring Garr to tie it, but Lloyd was cut down trying to win the game with an inside the park HR. I could hear Tim McCarver: "Well, it might have been worth the shot, Hamner was the cutoff man and had just made an error." But more likely, Tim would have screamed You can\'t do that, you can\'t get thrown out at third or at home with nobody out! For the record, this play was out of my control, I could not have held up Lloyd at third if I was John McGraw with a hook. What made the play especially terrible for Lloyd (even though he had tied the score with his hit) was that Alou followed with a double and was stranded.
Richie Allen opened the tenth with a HR off Smoltz, the only hit John gave up in his last two innings. So the Phils were up 6-5. McGraw had come in after Alou\'s double to walk Biggio ahead of Torre\'s DP ground ball. But he gave up a hit to Hugh Duffy to start the Braves\' 10th. Duffy stole second, and Torriente bunted him to third. The infield pulled in as Mathews faced McGraw. A shot to Hamner, but he speared it and tossed Duffy out at home (I see Daulton getting the best of that collision). Two out, and Hank Aaron up, but Tug gets him to pop up, and the Phils win it, 6-5, and go up 2-1 in games. The Braves really could be up 3-0 in games, having blown the 11-2 lead in game two, then missing their chances at the end in this one. Oh well.
GAME FOUR, AT MILWAUKEE
Tom Glavine yield three runs in the first on a Delahanty double, Klein\'s single and another Allen HR -- game-winning hits in consecutive at bats, as it turned out. Three more runs on five hits in the fifth chased Glavine. The Phils had 19 hits in all, with Delahanty, Thompson, Klein and Lundy getting three each.
GAME FIVE, AT MILWAUKEE
This game was a lot like Game Three, a see-saw battle that saw both starters (Alexander and Vic Willis) gone after five. The teams scored in 8 of 18 half-innings, but never just one run. Another oddity: a second game, in five, featuring three HRs by one player.
Phils on top first, Allen a double, moving to third on a grounder by Schmidt, and scoring when Lloyd\'s throw home is dropped by Torre. After Hamner\'s hit-and-run single, Daulton\'s sac fly, 2-0. In the Phils\' third, more defensive problems. Delahanty walked, and Thompson smashed a long fly to center that Torriente ran down -- Thompson advancing to second after the catch. Then the lapse, Alou botches a fly to left, 3-0. Richie Allen makes them pay more with a two-run HR, 5-0.
The Braves might have run up the white flag at this point. Two crushing losses, now down 5-0 on three unearned runs. But no. Torre walked and Duffy beat out an infield hit. Torriente then homered -- outside the park, making it 5-3. In the fifth, Richie Allen stroked another HR with a man on, 7-3. Allen\'s 4th HR is three games. (In the first game of the series, Allen fanned his first three times up and went 0-for-4.)
But it was not over. Torriente tripled in the 5th after Torre doubled, and Aaron singled Christobal in. 7-5. In the 7th, Torre walked, and Millan pinch-ran, scoring on Duffy\'s double. With two out, Aaron doubled and it was a new game, 7-up.
Niekro had taken over in the sixth and pitched two scoreless innings, but that ended when Mike Schmidt un-tied the game with a long HR leading off the 8th. Hamner walked with one out, Lundy ran, and moved to third on Daulton\'s hit. Daulton then stole second. Billy Hamilton squeezed in a run and Delahanty\'s hit made it 10-7. The Braves had scored their last two runs against Jim Konstanty, and Farrell end the 7th by fanning McGriff. He held the Braves in the 8th, aided by a DP.
In the Phil 9th, the Phils iced it against knuckler Niekro. Klein singled and Allen, who already had a double and two HRs, went deep again -- his fifth in five games, eleven RBI, MVP? Mike Schmidt followed with a solo HR, his second in two innings, and it was all over, 13-7. McGraw came in and made it interesting, loading the bases on two walks and Torriente\'s single. But Eddie Mathews flied to right and Aaron grounded into a 6-4-3 DP.
The Phils had the hot bats in this series, after Game One. Scoring in double-digits may not be rare in this crazy league, but few teams do it three times in four games, against a steady diet of Grade A pitching. For the Braves, a nightmarish collapse in Game Two, then losing two games in which they fought back, one on that do-or-die play by Lloyd. A game of inches. A roll of the dice. Onward, Phils.