World Series Throws A Curveball

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The World Series that nobody expected is confounding pundits once again. The underdog San Francisco Giants have taken a 2 -0 lead over the Texas Rangers. It's not that the Giants are winning but how they are winning that's shocking everyone. Michele Norris talks with sportswriter Stefan Fatsis about that and the Rangers' chances of getting back into this very weird World Series.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Baseball's World Series takes a break today. After winning the first two games at their home ballpark, the San Francisco Giants are enjoying the day off. The Texas Rangers, meanwhile, are hoping home-field advantage works for them, too, when the series resumes tomorrow night.

Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins us, as he does most Fridays, to talk about all this.

Hey, Stefan.

Mr. STEFAN FATSIS (Sportswriter): Hey, Michele. Welcome back.

NORRIS: Good to talk to you. Now, the series hasnt exactly gone the way the pundits predicted. It's always interesting and particularly interesting when the prognosticators get it wrong.

Mr. FATSIS: Yup, but that is sports and thats why I dont make predictions about sports anymore.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FATSIS: And in this case, just when pitcher Cliff Lee of the Texas Rangers was anointed as possibly the greatest postseason pitcher of all time, he was knocked around by the Giants in a very slopping Game One on Wednesday, that ended with a score of 11 to 7. And someone tweeted during that game that the New York Yankees had just lowered their planned offer for Lee, who's going to be a free agent this winter, to just $119 million.

NORRIS: Hmm.

Mr. FATSIS: As for the Giants, they won again last night. And this game again defied the proscribed storyline. The Giants had built this reputation during the season for winning close, low-scoring games. Last night they battered Texas nine to nothing.

NORRIS: Now, let's talk about the pitchers. The pitchers in the first game were the aces for both teams: Cliff Lee for Texas and Tim Lincecum for San Francisco. But the guys who pitched in Game Two last night seemed to be a whole lot better.

Mr. FATSIS: Yeah, they pitched great. And the title of Best Pitcher of the Postseason now definitely belongs to San Francisco's Matt Cain. He pitched seven and two-thirds shutout innings last night. He hasnt allowed an earned run in 21 and a third innings in what is his first pro season. And that makes him just the fifth pitcher in baseball history to do that for at least 20 innings.

On the Rangers side, pitcher C.J. Wilson was excellent until he had to leave in the seventh inning with a blister. And then Texas's bullpen imploded. This has been a series full of interesting players. Wilson is one of them. He studies Taoism. He adheres to what's known as a straight edge life. No alcohol, no drugs, no promiscuity. He's willing to talk about politics and ideas. And he's a funny guy. Before yesterday's game he tweeted this: Rangers on the bus, random citizens/street people giving us salutes of some sort. A city this diverse united by hatred of buses.

NORRIS: All this tweeting - is anyone watching the game on the field or are they looking at that small screen?

Now, Stefan, you said that you don't much like looking into your crystal ball, but I have to ask - can Texas get back into this?

Mr. FATSIS: Well, you know, of the 52 teams that have taken a two games to none lead in the World Series, 40 have won the World Series, including 13 of the last 14, which of course has no real bearing on what could happen if Texas resumes pounding the baseball as they did in the first two rounds of this postseason.

I'm looking forward to it. You know, before the series there was much handwringing that Texas/San Francisco wouldn't be very interesting for most of the country. Not to get too midterm elections here, but the matchup has produced a very nice red state/blue state storyline.

You've got pundits' predictions that are being turned on their head and you've got decent turnout among viewers so far. It's actually been a compelling series to watch and I hope it continues that way.

NORRIS: So, Stefan, if there is a game five, it will played on Monday, which is November 1st. That's worth noting because there was talk this week in baseball about expanding the playoffs. We have hockey in June, baseball in November, isn't a bit late to be playing baseball?

Mr. FATSIS: This has been something that's happened over the last decade. You know, think back a decade ago, 9/11 was the reason baseball got pushed into November. And it seemed weird. Now the World Series regularly ends in the first week of November.

You know, in about half of Major League cities it's too late. And what happened this week is that the head of the player's union said that as part of talks with owners on a new labor agreement, players would be open to adding more wild card teams, teams that don't win the division, and expanding the first round of the playoffs from a maximum of five games to seven games.

It's not clear what that might mean practically, but in any scenario it's going to mean more games, which means you have to find a way to start the playoffs earlier. Couple of solutions: one would be shortening the regular season, but that's going to mean lost revenue for teams. One elegant solution might be adding more double headers. The double headers have pretty much been dead for the last three decades. You bring a few of those back, find ways to compensate teams and you can still play and finish by early November.

NORRIS: Stefan, always good to talk to you.

Mr. FATSIS: Thanks, Michele.

NORRIS: Stefan Fatsis, he joins us on Fridays to talk about sports and the business of sports.

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