Tue Oct 04 04:02am EDT
Call him "Smoltzstradamus."
TBS broadcaster John Smoltz(notes) obviously did his homework on Delmon Young(notes), the Detroit Tigers slugger who hit the deciding home run in a 5-4 victory against the New York Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS on Monday night.
"Be careful on the first pitch right here."
Well, Smoltz should have said it louder so the Yankees could hear, because Soriano rared back and threw a 95 mph cut fastball right down the middle and — boom! — Young sent it over the right-field fence. The timely hit enabled the Tigers to win and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, pushing the Yankees to the brink of elimination.
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Smoltz wasn't the only TBS announcer to step out by gazing into a crystal ball and making an informed guess. In the earlier AL playoff game, analyst Buck Martinez sounded like a guy making a great point when he said Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist(notes) should expect nothing but fastballs from Texas Rangers reliever Neftali Feliz(notes).
Martinez turned out to be wrong, but it was a reasonable and bold statement. That's what you want from your analysts.
Smoltz expounded matter-of-factually about his warning during the replay:
"He's a first-ball, fastball hitter. Really, a first-pitch anything hitter, and you had to throw in a little wrinkle right there."
No wrinkle. Just a smooth swing on a bad pitch.
A great and terrible thing about Young, who is playing for his third organization already in his fifth major-league season, is his notorious penchant for hacking first and asking questions later. But there's no denying how successful he is when swinging at the first pitch; he's batting .347 with 20 homers and 35 doubles in 516 career at-bats. That is why you don't split home plate with a fastball on your first challenge.
After the game, Soriano took no responsibility for his blunder, telling reporters that the pitch was "great" and that he approaches every batter the same way.
Yeah, you keep on doing that, Rafi.
And hopefully Buck Martinez will keep stepping out, even though he happened to be wrong about Feliz, who threw a wild pitch to put the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second with two outs. It made sense for Martinez to say that Feliz wouldn't risk another wild pitch by throwing a hard slider to Zobrist:
Instead, Feliz trusted his breaking stuff — not always his strong suit — and put Zobrist away with a hard slider to snuff what could have been a devastating rally. Also, it was a good move by Rangers manager Ron Washington to bring in Feliz in order to make Zobrist bat left-handed, where he is less successful.
Another great day of baseball, and some pretty good analyzing too. TBS announcers, you're 1 for 2 in predicting the future, but you're batting 1.000 in taking intriguing risks.
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