October 06, 2011
For the first time since 2001, baseball has three Game 5s on its hands in the LDS round. The Tigers and Yankees do their do-or-die thing tonight while Cards-Phillies and D'backs-Brewers will do their battle on Friday night.
Three teams, of course, will be headed home while the other three will join the Texas Rangers on the path to the World Series. But the storylines and implications go deeper than that. Here's a look at the possible future implications:
Milwaukee Brewers: If forced to choose, I'd say the Crew — the only team to take a 2-0 series lead in the LDS — has the most to lose if they get knocked out by Ian Kennedy(notes) and the D'Backs. Not only do they stand to lose Prince Fielder(notes) to free agency after the season, but they depleted their farm system in order to trade for Zack Greinke(notes) and Shaun Marcum(notes). The organization really shot for the moon in 2011, so it's imperative they win Game 5 and defend the distinct homefield advantage that they maintained all season.
Philadelphia Phillies: Make no mistake: The Fightins' aren't getting any younger and Philadelphia will be inconsolable if a 102-win season ends in a first-round loss to a team that needed all 162 games to gain a playoff bid. Given the strength of their pitching the last two seasons, another postseason disappointment might have some people calling them the Philadelphia Braves. (And here's guessing that's a T-shirt that Meech won't be offering.)
St. Louis Cardinals: A silly little squirrel erased any worries that Game 4 would be the end of an era in St. Louis. But it won't take long after a Game 5 defeat for people to start talking about the possibilities of Albert Pujols(notes) and Tony La Russa not returning in 2012. Their furious September comeback, the return of Adam Wainwright(notes), giving the Phillies all they could handle and being able to beat up on the Cubs, Astros and Pirates in future years might help ease the pain if they do go down.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Kirk Gibson's team has a lot of young talent and it can be argued that they were a couple years ahead of schedule with this NL West division title. So in that sense, you could argue the D'Backs are the team most likely to hold their heads high after a Round 1 loss. But playoff opportunities should never be taken for granted — and I doubt that Gibson's charges are ungrateful for this one.
Detroit Tigers: Winning the first-ever dual-elimination game in the new Yankee Stadium is going to be tough and it's going to sting like hell if the Tigers don't since they had a chance to end it in Detroit and failed to do so. But the Tigers have a good pitching staff and play in a weak division so the chances are good that they'll get another shot soon.
[Related: Yankees risk throwing it all away]
New York Yankees: Maybe people will feel sorry for Jorge Posada(notes) if Thursday night turns out to be his last game in pinstripes. But let's not act like this is the last October go-round for Derek Jeter(notes) and Mariano Rivera(notes). The last half of the core four might be getting older, but the younger part of their lineup will keep producing postseason trips as long as the Yanks can get C.C. Sabathia(notes) and Ivan Nova(notes) some help in that rotation.
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