Fatsis Discusses MLB Playoffs

Guy Raz talks to sportswriter Stefan Fatsis for an update on the Major League Baseball playoffs.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

The great industrial cities of the Midwest are back - on the baseball diamond at least. Detroit, Milwaukee and St. Louis are all in the playoffs. And no, we're not forgetting the Texas Rangers. In both the American and National League playoffs, the favorites are already history. And to fill us in, sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins us now, as he does most Fridays. Hey, Stefan.

STEFAN FATSIS, BYLINE: Hey, Guy.

RAZ: Can I just say before I ask you about this how delighted I am - and I'm going to upset a lot of people, including you - that the Yankees and the Red Sox are not in the playoffs?

FATSIS: Yeah. You are upsetting me a little bit, but, you know - and the Phillies, let's not leave out either.

RAZ: And the Phillies, right. Yes.

FATSIS: The three giant payrolls biting the dust this year, but that is the nature of baseball playoffs. It is not an equitable system. These are short series. The favorite doesn't always win.

RAZ: Thank God for that. OK. Let's talk about what's going on. Now, the St. Louis Cardinals are hosting the Brewers, the Milwaukee Brewers tonight. This is game five of the National League Championship Series. Tell us about this rivalry.

FATSIS: It's been pretty good. This is the 23rd time that the Cardinals and the Brewers will have met this season, and it seems like that familiarity is certainly breeding some contempt. During the regular season, the Brewers' outfielder Nyjer Morgan called the Cardinals superstar slugger Albert Pujols Alberta, which I thought was kind of, you know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FATSIS: ...silly because he's the best player in baseball. Then there was another occasion where Morgan touched off a brawl after throwing a wad of tobacco toward a St. Louis pitcher, Chris Carpenter. And then to cap it off, a few days ago, the Brewers starting pitcher Zach Greinke called Carpenter's behavior on the mound phony because he stares at batters and sometimes yells. Now, the Cardinals have implied that the Brewers are basically juvenile and disrespectful because they make this gesture after big plays that they call beast mode, which they borrowed from the kids movie "Monsters Inc."

And the Brewers, for their part, have implied that the Cardinals are old and boring. So you've got a rivalry on the field now and a rivalry with some history. These teams did meet back in the 1982 World Series, when the Brewers played in the American League.

RAZ: It sounds like they need a mediator there, like a psychiatrist maybe.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RAZ: Whether there's any cause or effect there, though, the baseball that is being played has really been fun to watch.

FATSIS: It has. And this series started with a home run barrage by the Brewers, including a 463-foot blast by Ryan Braun, who is having just a terrific series. St. Louis then won two games in a row, thanks to Pujols, good relief pitching and the appearance on the field of what has been dubbed the Rally Squirrel.

RAZ: Oh, yes, yes.

FATSIS: Remember the Rally Squirrel ran on the field?

RAZ: Oh, yes.

FATSIS: Last night, the Brewers got a surprising performance from a 35-year-old journeyman pitcher named Randy Wolf. He throws a curveball that averages an astonishingly slow 68 miles per hour.

RAZ: That's amazing, yeah.

FATSIS: And the win was real big because it guaranteed that Milwaukee will go back home for a sixth and possibly seventh game. The Brewers have won 61 out of 86 games at Miller Park this season.

RAZ: OK, Stefan, let's talk American League. The Texas Rangers are leading the Tigers, the Detroit Tigers three games to two right now. Game six scheduled for tomorrow night in Arlington, Texas. How is that one shaping up?

FATSIS: Like you hope it goes to a seventh game.

RAZ: Yeah.

FATSIS: This has been a fun and sometimes perplexing series. There have been some suspect decisions by both managers - Jim Leyland of Detroit, Ron Washington of Texas - and also some exciting turns of event. In game two, in Texas, the Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz hit a game-ending grand slam in the bottom of the 11th inning. It's the first time that's ever happened in a postseason game. Then in game four, in Detroit, Cruz hit a three-run home run in top of the 11th inning.

He's got just seven hits in nine playoff games. Five of them are home runs. The Tigers, though, extended the series last night, thanks to 133 pitches from their ace Justin Verlander. His fastball, by the way, tops 100 miles per hour. And Nelson Cruz hit one of those 100-mile-per-hour fastballs for a home run. But the cool sequence that won the game for the Tigers was in the sixth inning. They scored four runs on a single, a double and a triple and a home run all hit in a row.

RAZ: That's Stefan Fatsis. He joins us most Fridays to talk about sports and the business of sports. Stefan, thanks.

FATSIS: Thanks, Guy.

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