We've made it through round one, or at least some of us have. Last week saw two hard fought series with the Phillies and Giants advancing to face the Twins and Cardinals, respectively.
Thursday night saw both series start with wild, one-run games. Over on diamond 4, the Phillies we able to overcome an incredibly gutsy performance by Waylen Nelson, who never approached 100% health all year. The playoff prowess of Alan Akselrod proved too much for the Pirates, as Aks earned his 8th playoff win since this time last year. It was a heartbreaking loss for the Pirates who left 15 runners stranded and saw the ageless Danny Alexander hobbled by a partially torn hamstring.
Losing the big bat and golden glove of Al Lunt for game two, the Pirates did indeed manage to put up a big number against Jordan Lipson who notched double digit strikeouts. However it was the Phillies who had more magic in their bats, ultimately blowing past the Buccos to the tune of 17-7. There were plenty of great plays and big hits, and word of Eric Seidel's self-proclaimed "series MVP" status surely made its way across The Green as his voice bellowed through darkened lot at diamond 7.
Staying with diamond 7, that's where the Rays and Giants did battle Thursday as rookie sensation Brock Wilimek and veteran James Allison authored an epic pitchers duel, eventually decided by an unlikely 'walk-off' passed ball as the killer speed of Kevin Rye snuck in to score, sealing the Rays' game one victory. Undetered the Giants gathered themselves and brought Jason Booth to the mound to take on Chris Bascom. With their playoff lives on the line, the Giants' bats all but guaranteed a victory scoring somewhere near 20 runs, as the Rays unfortunately lost their game 3 starter in the mix as then catcher Ryan Sourlis suffered a knee injury.
Now tied and taking things to a do or die Sunday afternoon game, Allison once again took to the mound two days after catching a complete game and three after tossing his own. Spot starter Jimmy Anderson Jr. kept his team close throughout the tight game, before the Giants finally broke through sending 10 men to the plate in the top of the 8th inning. Unfortunately for the Rays their final inning rally fell short, joining the already eliminated Pirates in heartbreak city losing 9-5.
Looking forward now, the second round is set to kick off Thursday with each series showing plenty of promise. Each team remaining has a shot, boasting brilliant batsmen and plenty of pitching. Pairity seems to be the theme of the Giants/Cards series, as Booth and Josh Winer will look to make waves with both their bats and arms alike, just as Allison and Jordan Winch will break out every trick in their impressive repertoires to retire hopeful hitters. The other series features the league's top two picks as friends turned foes Tal Grossman and Jordan Levy fight for their right to play for the Reaper Cup. Defense and depth should play an important role there as multi-time captains Richard Rendek and Pierre Abrahams have crafted rock solid rosters through and through.
Who will come out on top and reach the Championship Round? Only time will tell!