August 23, 2017

Notes From the Shadows of Cooperstown: Second Time Around

November 12, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

SWEET SIXTEEN PLAYOFFS:

ROUND TWO, AMERICAN LEAGUE: SENATORS VS TIGERS

This is the seventh in a series of reports on a simulated playoff of the sixteen “original franchise” teams. The results of the first-round American League “brackets” are in NOTES 459-461. The first results of the NL brackets are in #462-464. See NOTES #459 for the background and “ground rules.”

The Senators upset the top-seeded Yankees in six games in the first bracket of the AL competition (see Notes #459 for details, and for a scouting report on the Washington/Minnesota all-timers). The Tigers knocked off the White Sox in five games to advance (see Notes #460). The Senators’ victory was sweet, but they lost a couple starters to injuries: Pepper Bassett, a catcher drafted from the Negro Leagues, would miss the next series; Gary Gaetti would miss the next two games. Both teams could make roster changes before the next round; both pitching staffs would be well-rested.

GAME ONE, AT TIGER STADIUM

The Senators sent Walter Johnson up against Denny McLain. Walter often pitched with terrible teams supporting him, so I imagine pitching with a crew of All-Timers gives him a thrill.

McLain is on, he mows down the first nine Nats he faces. But Walter is equally tough, giving up just a walk and a single while fanning four in his first three frames. Then the Senators break through: with two outs and none on, Rod Carew singles, and Griffey, Jr, takes McLain deep. Turkey Stearnes singles, then steals second, then walks home on Alex Rodriguez’ double, and the Nats are up 3-0.

McLain settles back into his groove, and Johnson continues to throw goose eggs. In the Tiger 5th, a leadoff single is erased on a steal attempt. Kell gets aboard on an error by Carew with two out, and Cobb singles Kell to third, then steals second, but Johnson bears down to get Gehringer on a fly to center. But in the 6th, Detroit erupts. Hank Greenberg doubles, and Johnson walks Norm Cash and Al Kaline. Harry Heilmann then connects for a triple, to tie the game, and Lou Santop follows with a HR, 5-3. That’s it for Walter, enter Al Crowder, and the General restores order.

Into the 8th, McLain has had only that brief lapse in the 4th. Then Kirby Puckett homers, 5-4, and Carew follows with a single to right. John Hiller comes on and ends the inning.

The Nats have one more shot, in their 9th. Hiller retires A-Rod, then fans pinch-hitter Goose Goslin. But Tony Oliva, also pinch-hitting, lofts one into the stands and it’s tied at 5. Earl Battey, the Nats’ catcher, was hit by a pitch in the 5th and removed, so sub Brian Harper is up next, and he doubles. Leadoff man Sam Rice draws a walk. Jeff Montgomery comes in and gets Puckett to ground out.

Crowder shuts down the Tigers in their ninth — he’s now faced 13 and given up a single. In the Nat 10th, Carew starts it off with a double, and Griffey, Jr, called on to sacrifice, bunts it perfectly, no play, first and third. But Stearnes and A-Rod fly out, too shallow for Carew to score, and so does Cecil Travis.

In the Tiger 10th, with one out, Norm Cash walks, for the 4th time in the game. Paul Molitor pinch-runs, and a moment later he scores when Al Kaline hits the gap in left center. The Nats out-hit the Tigers 10-8, but the final score is 6-5 Detroit.

GAME TWO, TIGER STADIUM

The Nats have another Johnson in their arsenal, Randy, and the Big Unit goes up against Prince Hal Newhouser in Game Two. Detroit draws first blood in the 2nd, Cash walks (again), and Harry Heilmann tags a long HR to left. Hrbek’s solo clout in the Nat 3rd makes it 2-1. Then both pitchers settle down. The Nats threaten when they start the fifth with two singles, but A-Rod is picked off third and they don’t score. The Tigers add a run in their 7th when Trammel’s fly is dropped by Rice, and George Kell doubles Tram home. Into the 9th, it remains 3-1.

But the Senators refuse to go quietly — again. Carew singles and is forced when Griffey grounds to second. But Kirby Puckett beats out an infield hit, and then Turkey Stearnes connects off Newhouser for a two-run double. Tie game, extra innings — again. Joe Cronin, who walked as a pinch-hitter in the 8th, starts the tenth with another walk. Brian Harper, forced into the starting catcher’s role, follows with a perfect bunt to third, and when no one covers, Cronin takes the extra base. Sam Rice makes the Tigers pay, driving a long fly to center, allowing Cronin to score easily. Randy Johnson takes the hill for the 10th and pitches a 1-2-3 inning, and the series is even at one game each. Both teams had nine hits in Game Two, a 4-3 Senator win.

GAME THREE, GRIFFITH STADIUM

I don’t remember Griffith Stadium much. I must have seen it on TV a few times. All I remember about it is that it was a pitcher’s park, a longer distance to the LF wall than Forbes Field, and a high wall in right. I believe that some “master version” of APBA factors in the ball park, or maybe just their computer version. I don’t use ballpark factors in my simulations, but I do allow for a wind factor, making HRs more or less likely. In any case, Griffith Stadium proved a stingy park indeed for the next game.

Frank Tanana for the Tigers, Bert Blyleven for the Senators. Blyleven gives up a triple to Heilmann in the second, but that’s all. But in the 3rd, Alan Trammell homers, and the Tigers go up 1-0. Tanana gives up three singles and no runs for the first five innings, then Rod Carew homers to tie it at 1-1. But the Tigers get to Blyleven in the 7th. With one out, Trammel singles and steals second, and Kell walks. Ty Cobb, who had two singles in Games One and Two, follows with a sharp single to left to put the Tigers ahead. After Cobb steals second, Charley Gehringer — who had been retired 13 straight times in the series — singles up the middle, scoring two and KO’ing Blyleven. And that’s the way it ended — no Senator comeback this time, Tanana goes nine and gives up just six hits; the Tigers get 8 hits in the 4-1 win.

GAME FOUR, AT GRIFFITH STADIUM

Fat Mickey Lolich on the hill for Detroit, Bret Saberhagen for the Nats. This time, the Senators get on the board first, Sam Rice a lead-off triple, and he scores when Trammell can’t handle Carew’s grounder, E-6, 1-0. In the second, after Lolich fans A-Rod and Harmon Killebrew, Gary Gaetti — he came off the DL for Game Three — doubles, and Brian Harper knocks him in, 2-0.

Then the roof fell in for Saberhagen and the Senators. Cobb started the 3rd with a one-out double, and Gehringer homered. Greenberg singled and came around on Cash’s double. Kaline’s hit made it 4-2, and after Mr Tiger stole second, Heilmann singled him in, 5-2. In the 4th, against Jim Kaat, more of the same. Kell singled and Cobb walked. They moved up a base on a groundout by Gehringer, and Greenberg grounded out, too. But successive RBI singles by Cash, Kaline and Heilmann made it 8-2. Trammell hit a solo HR in the 5th, and Heilmann and Bill Freehan connected back-to-back in the 6th, and the final was 11-3.

Lolich didn’t need all those runs, after giving up those runs in the first and second, he gave up exactly one single the rest of the way. That was by Rice, after Gaetti walked, and Gary scored on a grounder. More remarkable, Lolich fanned fourteen Senators. Even for a Grade A pitcher with an X (in APBA, the X pitchers get the most strikeouts, Y’s get more than average, and XY’s get more than anyone — there are not many XY’s), 14 is a lot. But this Senator team is a free-swinging bunch. But now they are down, 3 games to 1.

GAME FIVE, AT GRIFFITH STADIUM

It’s McLain against Walter Johnson again, just like Game One, but this time Walter is at home. The Tigers come out swinging, though, and it looks like it might be another rout. Cobb leads off with a double, Gehringer singles him home. Hank Greenberg tops a ball but the infield is deep and he beats out the hit. Cash follows with a two-run double and it’s 3-0.

Walter settles down, fanning Kaline and Freehan, and getting out of the inning. In the 2nd, Cobb singles and steals but is stranded. Johnson fans Greenberg and Cash in the 3rd, gives up a double to Kaline, but gets Heilmann to ground out. More trouble in the 4th: Freehan walks, Trammell singles him to third, then Tram steals second with Kell trying to bunt. Kell misses on a squeeze and Freehan is out at home. But then Kell walks, with Cobb coming up. Johnson gets Cobb to ground it to short and the Nats just nip him on the 6-4-3 DP, no further scoring. In the top of the fifth, Hank Greenberg connects to make it 4-0.

McLain is starting strong again. Over the first four innings, he gives up no hits and two walks. Hrbek starts the 5th by drawing the third walk, and A-Rod follows with a homer. After Gaetti singles, Earl Battey — fresh off the DL — clouts a long HR to right, to tie the game. That wind is blowing out today, and in the 6th, a long fly by Turkey Stearnes leaves the park. 5-4. A walk and Carew’s double in the 7th makes it 6-4 and chases McLain. Junior Griffey ends the scoring with an 8th-inning HR that needed no help from the wind. Walter Johnson scatters ten hits, gets the complete game, fans six, 7-4, and it’s back to Tiger Stadium with Detroit still needing a win.

GAME SIX, AT TIGER STADIUM

I like this Tiger team a lot, I managed them to a pennant over the Damn Yankees and everyone else in a simulated 154-game season. But I confess that the Senators play in this series has made them, well, an easy team to root for. They came back in their last ups in the first two games, and in Game Five, backs to the wall, came back again. Walter will be in the pen, and I’m hoping he might get a save today and send it to Game Seven.

But it’s Randy Johnson, winner in that 10-inning Game Two, on the hill against Hal Newhouser. And both pitchers start off well, Prince Hal yields just two singles in the first six innings, both runners erased, so he’s faced just 18 batters. The Big Unit retires the first seven, but the 8-9 batters strike for distance: Trammell a double, Kell a triple, and a 1-0 Tiger lead. In the fifth, the Senator defense leaks. With one out, Trammell’s grounder is muffed by Carew. Kell follows with an RBI double and after Johnson gets Cobb, Gehringer doubles to make it 3-0.

Griffey doubles for the Senators in the 7th, but is stranded. The Tigers almost broke it open in their 6th, loading the bases on a Cash double, a walk to Kaline, and an intentional pass, but Trammell’s DP grounder ended the threat. With two out and none on in the 7th, however, the dam bursts. Gehringer walks, and Greenberg smashes a long HR, 5-0. Cash singles, Kaline is hit with a pitch, and Johnson is gone. Crowder is greeted by Sam Crawford’s 2-run double, 7-0.

It ain’t over yet, but it’s close. In the top of the 8th, Hrbek walks, and A-Rod hits a two-run shot, ruining Newhouser’s shutout. Trammell’s HR in the home 8th ends the scoring, 8-2. Newhouser gets the CG, 7-K win. And the Tigers move on to the final bracket in the American League section of the Sweet Sixteen playoffs.

The above is an excerpt from Issue #465 of Gene’s Notes From the Shadows of Cooperstown. To read the rest of the issue (or past issues), click here.

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