And on the seventh day, we all rested. The League Division Series lasted a seemingly short six days this year with three of four series ending in a tidy sweep and the fourth taking but one extra game. Despite the utter dominance of the winners in the end results, almost every individual game was close; so tight, indeed, that all four clinching games featured a blown save by the losing closer in the ninth inning. (as per 'Duk).
So who better to feature today than those four closers? Last night, Rockies reliever Huston Street, who recorded 35 saves in 37 chances with his good 0.91 WHIP during the regular season, came out in the ninth inning for the second day in a row. This time staked to a two-run lead, Street struck out pinch hitter Greg Dobbs for the first out before Jimmy Rollins singled. Shane Victorino reached on a fielders choice and then Street walked Chase Utley on a full count.
At this point, with lefty world-beater Ryan Howard strolling to the plate, any sane manager would have relieved Street with a southpaw specialist to neutralize Howard's power. Jim Tracy is not necessarily such a creature. Instead of calling on Joe Beimel, Tracy stuck with Street. Howard smashed a double off the right field wall hard enough to score both runners and Jayson Werth followed with the go-ahead single. Street was finally pulled, but the day and the season were lost.
Throw Street into the same pot as Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, and Ryan Franklin (yes, he blew the save, not Matt Holliday) and you've got a fearsome foursome of folks who famously failed to finish. Shutdown closers are something we take for granted when we see a guy go a year with only a handful of blown saves. A two-run lead can sometimes seem insurmountable when a guy like Nathan is striking out more than a dude per inning, but then something like A-Rod's bat gets in the way, and your day is lost.
Face it, closers are fruitcakes in general and nobody, not even Mariano Rivera, is a sure thing. World champions aren't normally made by preserving one or two run leads in the ninth inning, they're made by blowing your opponent out in the first eight innings and then hoping for the best in the end.