Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
We saw a number of firsts in the first round of the 2012 postseason -- all four divison series went to five games and a National League team came back from a 2-0 deficit in the NLDS -- and some repeats -- the Cardinals came back after being down to their final strike twice in an elimination game and two former Cy Young Award winners dominated in the decisive Game 5.
Talk about drama.
With New York facing Detroit in a rematch of the ALDS last season and the last two World Series Champions, San Francisco and St. Louis, opposing each other in the NLDS, the next round is shaping up to be just as entertaining.
Here are some fantasy notes from the division series:
Detroit's Justin Verlander and New York's CC Sabathia both went 2-0 in the ALDS and threw a complete game in Game 5. Verlander allowed just one earned run on seven hits and struck out 22 batters in 16 innings against Oakland, while Sabathia gave up three earned on 12 hits in 17 2/3 innings versus Baltimore.
But San Francisco's Matt Cain, Washington's Gio Gonzalez, St. Louis' Adam Wainwright and Cincinnati's Mat Latos each had difficulty matching their regular season success in the division series. Cain went 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA during the season but he failed to go more than 5 2/3 innings in either of his two starts. Gonzalez, the frontrunner for the National League Cy Young Award, had 21 wins and a 2.89 ERA this season but he walked seven batters in five innings in Game 1 and failed to go deep into Game 5 even after Washington staked him to a 6-0 lead (St. Louis ultimately came back and scored four runs in the ninth off Nationals closer Drew Storen to win 9-7 and move on to the NLCS).
The man on the other side of that 6-0 lead was Wainwright. The St. Louis hurler gave up three homers and six extra-base hits in 2 1/3 innings in Game 5. Meanwhile, Latos lost Game 5 by giving up five earned on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings after pitching four strong innings in relief in Game 1 following Johnny Cueto's first inning exit.
Speaking of Cueto, the Reds ace only pitched to one batter in the division series due to an ill-timed oblique strain. Cueto went 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA this season so his loss was a major one. The right-hander would have missed the NLCS too had the Reds advanced.
Cincinnati didn't make it past San Francisco however, losing three straight games at home after going up 2-0 in the series. Don't blame Ryan Ludwick and Brandon Phillips for that, though. Ludwick led all players with three homers and also hit .333 (6-for-18) with four RBIs and four walks while Phillips batted .375 with a homer and seven RBIs, most in the majors in the first round.
Over in the American League, the Orioles' best hitter in the ALDS was ... Nate McLouth? Believe it or not, McLouth led the AL with five RBIs in the division series, collecting at least one hit in all five games. McLouth was a former fantasy darling due to his power-speed combo but his career flamed out after he hit .203 in 566 at-bats with Atlanta and Pittsburgh from 2010 to May 2012. Baltimore gave him a chance, and he hit .268 with seven homers, 18 RBIs, 12 steals and a .777 OPS in 55 games with the team.
McLouth's success made up for the struggles of Chris Davis (.208 postseason average), Adam Jones (.077), Mark Reynolds (.136), Matt Wieters (.125) and J.J. Hardy (.185).
The Yankees had some big-time slumpers as well; Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano combined to go 9-for-75 (.120) with six RBIs and 26 strikeouts in the division series.
A-Rod was pinch-hit for in Game 3 and 4 and benched in Game 5. He looked abysmal at the plate against Baltimore's right-handers. The 37-year-old still has five years left on his contract. Yikes. Fantasy owners should stay away from this guy next year; he's played an average of 124 games over the past five seasons and hasn't homered in his last 22 games.
There's nothing wrong with 38-year-old Derek Jeter's bat, though. Jeter led The AL with eight hits in the first round after leading the big leagues in the regular season with 216.
Forty-year-old Raul Ibanez looked pretty good too. The outfielder only got nine at-bats in the series but he pinch-hit for A-Rod in Game 3 and hit a game-tying homer in the ninth before belting a walk-off blast in the 12th. The heroics didn't end there; Ibanez started Game 5 and put the Yankees ahead 1-0 in the sixth, a lead New York would never relinquish.
Bryce Harper will turn 20 on Oct. 16, but he won't be able to celebrate with an NLCS berth because of St. Louis' comeback. Harper was heavily involved in Washington jumping out to a 6-0 lead in Game 5 as he had an RBI triple and a solo homer early but he ended up stiking out twice and finished 3-for-23 (.130) with zero walks and eight strikeouts in his first postseason action.
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was a member of all those miserable Nationals teams that allowed Washington to get Harper and starter Stephen Strasburg via the draft so it was good to see him have success in his first taste of playoff competition. Zimmerman went 8-for-21 (.381) with two homers and four RBIs in the NLDS.
Playing in his first postseason since he struck out looking to end the 2006 NLCS against current teammate Adam Wainwright, Carlos Beltran was back to his old tricks. He went 9-for-22 (.409) with two home runs and four RBIS and now possesses a .375 batting average with 13 home runs, 23 RBIs and a 15/23 K/BB ratio in 104 career playoff at-bats.