Play 162 games to let a wildcard team sneak in and get hot, beat a team like the Mariners in their record wins year of 2001 have to play a wildcard team? But as a fan of a team that just sneaked into the wildcard play-in game, I must say I loved it. It was an exciting week no whether your team was playing or not.
And then as a fan of Dominican baseball I get this treat last night. Two Dominican starting pitches: Francisco Liriano versus Johnny Cueto. Johnny Cueto told MLB.com what the game means to him and his country:
I want to tell my people in the Dominican Republic to follow this game. "There are two Dominicans on the mound. I want to give advice to all the youth in the Dominican that you have to work hard and to continue working hard to do things like this.Francisco Lirano dominated, and the Pirates won easily. His up and down play has been well followed here at the Dominican Baseball Guy. A true natural in my opionion. A near Cy Young and Rookie of the Year sweep in 2006 before getting hurt in August. He never really recovered from Tommy John surgery...until 2010 really. An entire missed season (2007) and two bad years.
Then in 2010 he returned to the Dominican Republic to play Winter Ball. He had an insane winter season, leading Escogido to the championship and then pitched well in the Caribbean World Series. It was cool having a guy of his magnitude playing daily in the Dominican Winter League that year. But he was still erratic.
After another Cy Young-worthy year in 2010 he had a down year in 2011 and 2012, and then signed with Pittsburgh for this year. And everything seemed to click -16-8 and a 3.02 ERA. And last night in the NL Wildcard game was one of the good nights. His slider was as good as it has ever been, with Reds batters swinging at it in the grass two feet from home. Vintage Liriano, allowing one run in seven innings.
The Reds scored another run in the 8th, but they were never really in it. Andrew McCutchon was doing his thing running all over the bases. He had two hits and two walks. It seemed like he was on the bases all night. Marlon Byrd had two RBI and Russel Martin had two homers. The game was over by the 4th inning the way Liriano was pitching.
The other Dominican pitcher did not fair too well. Johnny Cueto was said to have been rattled by the raucous Pittsburgh crowd. To which manager Dusty Baker said at the post-game presser: "he did not get rattled he just couldn't hit his pitches. He played in the Dominican Winter League and all that, and if you have been down there you know how intense those games are."
Interesting side note. I love that quote. Baker insulting the reporter by implying that he has never been to a Dominican Winter League game at the same time as brushing off his questions as ridiculous.
In the end it was all Liriano. "We had the expectancy to win," Andrew McCutchen said to the AP. "When he showed up with his suit on, that got me hyped up."