Commentary

Olney tops Neyer in seven games

Updated: February 11, 2009, 9:46 AM ET
By Tim Kurkjian | ESPN.com

It's a small-market championship: Rob Neyer, with the lowest payroll in the tourney, against Buster Olney, with the second-lowest.

A portend of a 2009 Rays-Marlins World Series?

In Game 1, the score was tied 0-0 through nine innings, thanks mostly to the two starting pitchers, Olney's Tim Lincecum and Neyer's Felix Hernandez. But in the 10th, Neyer's team scored three runs off the Angels' Jose Arredondo on a single by Dustin Pedroia followed by a two-run homer by Grady Sizemore.

Team Olney won the next two games, both shutouts. The first was started by Cliff Lee and the second by Edinson Volquez, followed by four relievers.

Team Neyer won Game 4 by a score of 7-0 -- the first four games of the series all were shutouts (I'd better call The Elias Sports Bureau on that one).

Francisco Liriano threw seven scoreless innings in Game 4, and Brian McCann drove in three runs, including a homer off losing pitcher Joba Chamberlain. Olney's team won the pivotal Game 5 by a score of 6-1 as Lincecum beat Hernandez and Ryan Ludwick hit two homers.

Facing elimination, Team Neyer scored three runs in the ninth inning of Game 6, breaking up a scoreless tie to keep the series going. Nick Markakis' double was the instigator.

These are the most exciting words in baseball: Game 7. Neyer's team led 1-0 through six innings behind the brilliance of the Royals' Zack Greinke, who walked none and struck out 10. But Olney's offense woke up, with Geovany Soto hitting a three-run homer off Frank Francisco in the seventh for a 3-1 lead that the bullpen of Arredondo, Carlos Marmol and Joakim Soria protected.

It was Soria's third save -- no runs allowed -- in the series. Olney beat Neyer, setting up the most anticipated final series of all time in any sport. Buster Olney, a former New York Yankees beat reporter, facing, yes, the New York Yankees.

Tim Kurkjian is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His book "Is This a Great Game, or What?" was published by St. Martin's Press and became available in paperback in May. Click here to order a copy.


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