Behind the Seams with Blake: MLB Playoff Scramble

Lightning-fast postseason rolls on as three of four LCS slots are clinched Thursday.

The Division Series round of the playoffs have lived up to our expectations, as there have been many fantastic games and hard-fought battles even through just the 2nd round of the postseason. As promised, the rounds are happening very quickly, due to the much more compacted schedule of the 2020 postseason compared to years past. Three of the four spots for the Championship Series round have already been filled, with the Dodgers, Braves and Astros all securing spots on Thursday. This leaves us with one spot left to be filled, which will go to either the Yankees or the Rays. Next, I will be breaking down each of these remaining playoff teams, along with which players to look out for when watching each game. 

Firstly, the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that it would be an outrage if this team did not make the postseason, as they are absolutely stacked top to bottom. The Dodgers ended up leading the MLB with 43 wins during the regular season, to go along with just 17 losses. Their big splash trade for OF Mookie Betts this offseason certainly paid off, as he is in the National League MVP discussion after posting 16 home runs and 10 stolen bases to go along with a .292 batting average in 55 games during the regular season. Betts and Co. have been hot out of the gates in the postseason, sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers in the best of 3 Wildcard Series, and then sweeping the San Diego Padres in a best of 5 Division Series. (Sheds tear) Like I was saying, they will look to keep the good times rolling in the NLCS against the next team I will be discussing; the Atlanta Braves.

The Atlanta Braves ended the regular season with the 3rd best record in the National League, going 35-25. They have gotten fabulous offensive performances from numerous players this season, such as OF/DH Marcell Ozuna, who led the NL with 18 home runs, 56 RBIs, .338 AVG, and a .636 SLG% in 60 games, and NL MVP candidate 1B Freddie Freeman, who hit 13 home runs, 53 RBIs, .341 AVG, and a .640 SLG% in 60 games. They have also gotten steady contributions from young OF Ronald Acuna and SS Swansby Danson (ahem, Dansby Swanson). They have also received some great pitching from Starting Pitchers Max Fried and Ian Anderson, as well as a rock-solid bullpen. The Braves have begun their postseason very much as strong as the Dodgers have, as they swept the Cincinnati Reds in the Wildcard round, and then in the Division round, they swept the Marlins, who were previously undefeated in a postseason series since the Marlins franchise began in 1993. The NLCS will surely be a great matchup, as both teams are yet to lose a game coming into the series. 

The third team that clinched a Championship Series spot on Thursday was the Houston Astros. This has been a very interesting year for the Astros, as their offseason was spent being the disgrace of MLB, after it was found that they cheated in various ways on the journey to their 2017 World Series victory over the Dodgers. They ended up with substantial fines and draft pick forfeitures and firing many coaches and front office workers as a result of the scandal. They decided to hire respected manager Dusty Baker in order to restore some order to their team. Though many of their superstars of prior years had worse than usual regular season performances, and ace pitcher Justin Verlander missed the rest of the season after just 1 start, they still were able to sneak into a playoff spot. The Astros have had a good postseason so far, with superstars SS Carlos Correa and OF George Springer coming alive on offense for the first 2 rounds, helping them to sweep the Minnesota Twins in the Wildcard Series and beat the division-rival Oakland Athletics 3 games to 1 in the Division Series. In the ALCS, they will take on the winner of the Yankees vs Rays, both of which I will discuss next. 

The New York Yankees started the 60 game season rather sluggish, as they were missing OF Giancarlo Stanton and/or OF Aaron Judge for the majority of the season. Things changed for the better for the Bronx Bombers in the final month of the season, however, as they finally started living up to their nickname, while getting outstanding hitting performances from 1B Luke Voit, who led the MLB with 22 home runs, and 2B DJ Lemahieu, who also led the MLB with a .364 average. The Yankees swept the Cleveland Indians in the Wildcard round, and have been led by OF Giancarlo Stanton thus far, as he has hit 6 home runs through 6 games. They will hope for more power out of his bat in game 5 of the ALDS against the Rays.

The Tampa Bay Rays are the final team I will be discussing, and they finished the 2020 regular season with the 2nd best record in the MLB, at 40-20. They employed their usual relatively low budget team with surprisingly great performances from players 95% of baseball fans have never heard of. The story of their postseason has been OF Randy Arozarena, who has 12 hits and 3 home runs through 6 games in the playoffs as of Thursday night. Arozarena’s magic bat has helped the Rays sweep the Toronto Blue Jays in the Wildcard round, and they will look to get a huge game out of him in the fifth and final game of the ALDS against the Yankees on Friday. 

Personally, I’d like to see a 2020 World Series Matchup of the Tampa Bay Rays against the Atlanta Braves.

Written By: Blake Koziel

Photo Source: CBS Sports




Behind the Seams with Blake: Postseason Preview

Hello readers, my name is Blake Koziel, and I will be coming at you with new insight about the baseball and football world in this non fan-friendly, crazy 2020 sports year.

Before we get started, allow me to catch you up on how I got here. I have been following baseball frighteningly closely since about age ten, and I quickly found myself obsessed with baseball statistics, while watching my local team, the San Diego Padres. My favorite player on the Padres was, understandably, Adrian Gonzalez, and I remember how amazed I was the first time I saw his statline of 40 home runs way back in 2009. I continued to be a huge fan of Age, as I called him, all the way through his post-Padres teams until he retired in 2018. You will find that I tend to follow and know how certain players are doing more than the teams they are playing for, and my love for certain players centers around the stats they put up.

In case you are wondering, I also played baseball myself. My main positions were centerfielder, first baseman, and pitcher, and I played up until sophomore year of high school, when I made the curious transition from JV baseball to D1 varsity tennis within a span of two weeks. However, my heart was still with baseball even as I aced 100mph serves past nationally-ranked tennis players (It didn’t go in quite that often, but hey, I had the velocity). I stopped playing tennis competitively after high school, but it was definitely a fun experience. I then moved on to just focusing my attention on studying baseball.

In future posts I will also be writing about football, a sport that I didn’t really follow at all until 2014, when my uncle got me to join a fantasy football league with him, and my study of the game and its players began. I adopted the Denver Broncos as my favorite football team, as they had my favorite player, running back CJ Anderson, to go with an amazing crop of wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and redzone monster tight end Julius Thomas. And who can forget living legend, quarterback Peyton Manning, whose forehead is as big as his accomplishments (I say it out of love, Peyton). I was not yet following football when the Broncos were in the Super Bowl to conclude the 2013 season, and I always wish I had seen that season, because Peyton threw a single season record 55 touchdowns that season, but I did get to watch my Broncos win against the Panthers in the 2015 Super Bowl, and it was simply wonderful. The Broncos have had a rough stretch of seasons since then as they’ve struggled to find an answer at quarterback after Peyton retired, but I believe in Drew Lock, and I hope he will finally provide the Broncos with some stability at the position once again.

Now for the present-day sports discussion. In this first post, I will be sticking to baseball, giving a quick rundown of the journey that the Padres have made to get to the postseason in this 60 game season. 

Major League Baseball decided to raise the number of postseason teams from 10 to 16 for this season, and Commissioner Rob Manfred says that he will consider making the change permanent for future seasons too. To be truthful, I do not like that idea, as I believe that the best of the best teams should be in the postseason, so a smaller number than 16 teams would be better in terms of the “they earned their postseason spot” argument.

As of this post, 11 of 16 spots for the postseason have been clinched, those 11 teams being the Dodgers, Rays, Twins, Padres, Athletics, Braves, White Sox, Indians, Cubs, Yankees, and Blue Jays. I will now break down some key players for the Padres that have helped them get there.

The San Diego Padres are one of four teams tied for the 4th best record in the league with 34 wins. I must admit I’ve spent 1000% more time watching the Padres this season than any other team, as I can count on one hand the number of their games I didn’t watch this season. The story of the Padres season has centered around 21 year old phenom shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., as he was pretty much the biggest story of baseball for the first month or two of the season prior to the cold stretch he is currently in. Even with his current cold streak factored in, Fernando has still hit .278 with 15 home runs, 11 stolen bases, and a .561 SLG% through 55 games this season. Third baseman Manny Machado has turned in quite the performance as of late, and is really starting to look like he’s worth the 10 year, $300m deal he was given prior to the 2019 season, as he has hit .313 with 16 home runs and a .603 SLG%. Other honorable mentions for this team are OF Wil Myers, 1B/2B/SS Jake Cronenworth, and Cy Young award candidate SP Dinelson Lamet, who have all turned in fantastic performances this season after coming into the season with perhaps much different expectations of them. On a different note, Mike Clevinger, one of the many players whom the team acquired during their busy trade deadline, has been diagnosed with a sprained right elbow, and it’s still unknown how long he will be out for. Fingers crossed he will be able to contribute for the Padres in the postseason this year. Optimism is high in San Diego for a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2006.

Written By: Blake Koziel

Photo By: Denis Poroy

Aztecs Lose In Overtime

San Diego State’s women’s basketball lost to Boise State 69-67 in overtime Saturday at Viejas Arena. With 3.1 second left, A’Shanti Coleman made the game-winning layup for the Broncos.

The lead up to the final shot and overtime didn’t lack excitement. 

Sophia Ramos ended the fourth quarter on a mission.  She stole the ball with less than a minute left and tied the game 57-57. 

On the next possession, SDSU forced a stop but allowed an offensive rebound which led to the Broncos regaining the lead. The Aztecs were outrebounded by 16 on Saturday . 

“We just made some defensive errors down the stretch.” head coach Stacie Terry-Hutson said, “We got killed on the glass, we lost the defensive battle and obviously we need to make our free throws.” 

Ramos was able to move past the mistake, get in the lane, and draw the foul. She knocked down both free throws and ensured overtime for the Aztecs.  

In overtime, the Aztecs trailed by four points but were able to tie the game 64-64. Tea Adams fouled a three point shooter with just over one minute left, but Riley Lupfer only made one of three.

On the Aztecs’ next possession they came up empty and the Broncos capitalized on a defensive lapse, which pushed their lead to three.

However, Ramos began to shine again. She hit a three with 28.5 seconds left and tied the game. 

Ramos finished the game with 25 points and 14 rebounds, which is a new career high in rebounds. 

“The posts are doing a great job of blocking out.” Ramos said, “I get to do the easy part, fly in and get the ball.” 

Coleman’s layup sealed the deal, but the Aztecs did have one more chance. Redshirt senior Taylor Kalmer threw up a floater but it didn’t draw iron. 

“That one sucks,” Kalmer said, “It’s a dagger.”

Kalmer finished with 19 points, which extends her streak of scoring at least 10 points per game to 21. The Aztecs have been led by Ramos and Kalmer all season, but the team lacks a consistent third scoring option. 

Today, they had one in Adams. She finished with 12 points on 14 shots. 

“I thought she was aggressive.” Terry-Hutson said, “When she does that, we can get into the high sixties or seventies. Having a third scorer will help us down the stretch.”

The Aztecs will play at UNLV next Saturday, then return home on Feb. 27 for senior night.

Written by: Daniel Farr

SDSU PULLS OFF DRAMATIC COMEBACK AGAINST WYOMING 26-22

San Diego State University improved to 5-1 after a stunning come from behind victory over the University of Wyoming 26-22 at SDCCU stadium.

Down three points late in the fourth quarter, SDSU quarterback Ryan Agnew avoided a sack and found tight end Daniel Bellinger for a touchdown that gave the Aztecs a 26-22 lead with just over two minutes remaining.

“Everyday at practice we go out and work as hard as we can,” Bellinger said, “When it comes down to that, we try to get open and that’s exactly what happened.”

The Aztecs defense stood tall and sealed the four point victory with an interception by cornerback Luq Barcoo. 

After a late hit out of bounds penalty was called on the Aztecs’ Dwyane Johnson Jr, the Cowboys took advantage of the mistake and scored a touchdown, which gave them a 22-19 lead after converting a two point conversion. 

“I didn’t agree with the call,” Rocky Long said, “I don’t think Dwyane did anything that would’ve caused a flag, but they threw it.”

Run plays and designed quarterback keepers nearly beat the Aztecs on Saturday night. Sean Chambers, the Cowboys quarterback had two rushing touchdowns and ran in a two-point conversion on 13 rushing attempts.

He had 14 passing attempts and only completed five of them, but threw for 94 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Wyoming tallied 39 rushing attempts and had three rushers combined for 157 yards.

“We missed two tackles that added up to over 100 yards rushing.” Long said, “So you miss tackles, you give up rushing yards. In the second half, we didn’t miss tackles.”

The Aztecs’ offense had a hard time scoring for the first half of the game, even trailing 14-3 at one point and continually settling for field goals. However, in the middle of the third quarter, the Aztecs seemed to establish their run game and rolled the dice twice on fourth down.

On a fourth-and-one, the Aztecs converted and set up a Juwaun Washington touchdown. Then, on a fourth-and-three late in the third, Agnew found Jesse Matthews for a first down, which set up a go-ahead touchdown run by Washington that gave the Aztecs a five-point lead.

“Anytime we have two teams with the same philosophy, you want to pound the rock and be physical.” Washington said, “It’s going to take some time to get going. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing.”

In the fourth quarter down by a score, the University of Wyoming had a chance to retake the lead, but the Cowboys fumbled the ball during a punt return and the Aztecs took over deep in Cowboys territory.

Kicker Matt Araiza had already made two field goals on Saturday, but missed a kick that would’ve pushed the lead to eight. His streak of seven straight made kicks was snapped, Arazia is now 9-for-12 on field goals this season.

The Aztecs will face San Jose State on the road next Saturday.

Written by: Daniel Farr
Photo by: Justin Neeley