Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Duluth Advances: Home Sweet Home

by Michael Swanson

Ask the ‘87 and ‘91 Twins. Ask the ’01 Diamondbacks. And now ask the 2008 Dukes. I know it is only a divisional series, but ask all these teams how important it is to have home field advantage. The Duluth-Superior Dukes (106-56) won the divisional series over the East Lyme Crush (103-59), four games to three. This series was one of the closest series I have been a part of. One at bat could have changed the whole thing.

The games were hard fought and all but one statistic was the same.

Batting Average: D-S .254, EL .250.
Runs Scored: 30 each.
Doubles: D-S 12, EL 14.
Strikeouts by pitchers: D-S 37, EL 41.

I could go on. The one stat that jumps out at you are the homeruns. East Lyme connected 7 times while the Dukes were able to crush 14 times.

The big guys really came through! Justin Morneau led the Dukes hitting 4 homeruns and hitting in 7 runners. Albert Pujols hit 3 balls out of the yard and had 8 rbi, while Alex Rodriguez also connected 3 times but hit only 4 runners in. Beltran had 3 for the Crush.

Game 1:
The Crush got on the board right away in the first as Derek Jeter scored on a wild pitch. The Dukes came back in the bottom of the first plating 4 runs with the big hit from Morneau on a 3-run homer. Eventually the Crush tied the game 4-4 in the seventh on a single by Carlos Beltran. Alex Rodriguez then hit the game winning homerun in the bottom of the 8th off Joel Zumaya(0-1). The winning pitcher Mariano Rivera(1-0) pitched two innings and gave way to Joe Nathan to earn his first save.

Game 2:
The Dukes scored first in the bottom of the second with a Justin Morneau homerun. By the bottom of the fifth, East Lyme had built a lead of 3-1. The lead did not last long as in the bottom half of the inning, Duluth-Superior scored 3 runs. The big hit was a 3-run smash by Albert Pujols. The Dukes would go on to score 2 more runs to win 6-3 and to take a commanding lead of 2-0 in the series. The winning pitcher Freddy Garcia gave up 9 hits in 5 innings. Jon Rauch, Darren Oliver and finally Joe Nathan(save #2) needed to help out with 4 strong scoreless relief innings.

Game 3:
The next 3 games belonged to the crush. The crush took a 4 run lead in the first inning of game 3 and never looked back. Connor Jackson plated two runners with a first inning double and Mark Derosa had a solo shot in the 8th. The final score, 7-2 and East Lyme was back in it. Greg Maddox was the winner and Lackey was shelled for 9 hits and six earned runs in only 5 2/3 innings of work.

Game 4:
Again East Lyme got a four run inning but this time they had to wait until the 7th inning. The Dukes were enjoying a 3-2 lead thanks to two homeruns and three runs batted in by Alex Rodriguez. Carlos Beltran’s two run homer in the bottom of the 7th was the big blow and helped East Lyme to tie the series at 2-2.

Game 5:
Chris Young and C.C. Sabathia fought for 7innings and the game was still up in the air until the last out was recorded. Down 3-1 in the top of the ninth the Dukes sent up Tadahito Iguchi with one out. Iguchi bombs one off reliever D. Reyes to make the score 3-2 and then with two out and the tying run on first, Reyes is able to close the door by getting Randy Winn to fly out and secure a 3-2 game lead for the Crush. Other homeruns hit were Cuddyer(2nd) and Carroll(1st).

Game 6:
Game 6 pits Erik Bedard and Freddy Garcia and the Crush erupt with two first inning runs on a two-run bomb by Carlos Beltran(2nd). The Dukes not to be outdone comes back in the bottom of the 1st with two of their own to tie the game. The Dukes busted the game open when they were able to score four more runs in the third. Cuddyer was the star of the game: in the top of the third inning he robs Juan Rivera of an extra base hit, then in the bottom hits his 2nd double of the game to hit in his 2nd run of the game. East Lyme pecked away at the 6-2 lead the Dukes had scoring one in the fifth and two in the seventh. Joe Nathan was called on again to shut the door on the Crush and did just that. Nathan struck out Derek Jeter and Russell Branyon to end the game and force a game 7 in this Divisional series.

Game 7:
Game 7 starters were Greg Maddux and John Lackey. The first inning was exciting as Derek Jeter starts off with a base hit and eventually scores on Barry Bonds. Swanson was heard saying, “If you would have told me that our pitcher would hold Barry Bonds to a batting average of .048 in this series, I would have laughed in your face. Our pitchers pitched great to keep him off the board.”

The bottom of the first saw the Dukes score two with Pujols’ 4th homerun of the series. The Dukes would go on to score one in the second on a homer off the bat of Iguchi(2nd). Two more runs would be scored in the 4th inning and another in the 7th. In all the Dukes hit 3 homeruns and 4 doubles in this game and win the game 6-2 and the series 4-3. Lackey(1-1) was the winner and Greg Maddux(1-1) the losing pitcher.

Notable stats:
Pujols: 3 HR’s, 4 2B’s, 8 RBI, .333 BA.
Morneau: 4 HR’s, 7 RBI, .192 BA.
AROD: 3 HR’s, 4 RBI, .261 BA.
D. Oliver: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 K’s
Nathan: 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 7 K’s

Carroll: 7 RBI, .381 BA.
Beltran: 3 HR’s, 9 RBI, .370 BA.
C. Jackson: .360 BA.
Jeter: .333 BA., 4 SB’s, 6 runs scored.
Bonds: 1-21, .04 BA.

0 Swings of the bat: