Kevin Baxter: ‘Without Molina, Cards Aren’t The Same’

We’re not even to the World Series yet, and already it’s been one hell of a postseason.

A couple of facts:

Thirteen of 24 games have been decided by one run, and 16 of 24 have seen the winning run come in the seventh inning or later.

The Kansas City Royals have outscored their opponents 15-3 after the eighth inning and 12-2 after the ninth. They’ve won seven straight postseason games – and nine straight if you count two games from 1985.

Yes, it’s been a crazy postseason – and it hasn’t unfolded as many sabermetrics diehards would have thought.

“A lot of things aren’t going the way they predicted,” Los Angeles Times MLB writer Kevin Baxter said on Ferrall on the Bench. “You’re not supposed to steal bases and you’re not supposed to sacrifice. You’e giving away outs. Kansas City has 13 steals, but they also have eight home runs. The Nationals have the best ERA in the postseason – 1.32 ERA. They’re out. The Angels had the lowest opponents’ batting average – .198. They’re out. The Dodgers had the best batting average and I believe the highest on-base plus slugging percentage. They’re out.

“So (there have been) a lot of close games. A lot of teams (are) doing the little things right.”

The St. Louis Cardinals, meanwhile, lost a heartbreaker to San Francisco in Game 3 of the NLCS on Tuesday. The Cardinals trailed 4-0 after the first inning and fought back to the tie game in the seventh – only to lose it in the tenth on a throwing error by reliever Randy Choate.

The Giants now lead the series, 2-1, and the Cardinals must find a way to win without Yadier Molina, who is nursing an oblique injury.

Do you want to hear an amazing stat? The Cardinals’ catcher ERA is almost two runs higher when anyone other than Molina is behind the plate.

“It’s a big one,” Baxter said. “Yadi Molina is so important in talking to these young pitchers and keeping those guys from getting too flustered out there. The Cardinals have so many young pitchers that they really look to Yadi Molina like a quarterback, a coach on the field. Without him back there, it’s just not the same.”

Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to see how that series unfolds – just as it’s been interesting to see how every postseason series would unfold.

Scott Ferrall recalls being in a meeting with MLB Network this summer, and some of the television folks were fretting about a postseason without the Yankees and Red Sox because ratings would be down. Ferrall, however, doesn’t care about ratings. He just wants to see good baseball. Baxter agrees.

“It’s better to have different teams in it,” he said. “It’s been really exciting. People get caught up (in the notion that no one’s going to watch without big-market teams). Well, like you said, it’s their loss. You want to see a competitive baseball game. Does anybody really want to see the Yankees win 15-0 or the Red Sox lose 12-0? You want to see these kind of baseball games. There’s new stars.”

“These guys are not jaded,” Baxter continued. “A lot of the Yankees and Red Sox and even the Dodgers – guys who have been there a lot – you get the feeling that it’s just another day at the office for them. These Royals are really having a good time. It’s fun to watch.”

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