The Evster figures out who you should root for in the MLB playoffs

The Evster figures out who you should root for in the MLB playoffs

Even though most baseball fans could not tell you one player on the Oakland A's, people are going bonkers for this year's major league playoffs. Of the four teams left (the Cardinals, Dodgers, Red Sox and Tigers), all are legitimate clubs with rich histories, dope uniforms and no Chad Durbins. It's nice that we get to see October baseball without any of those newfangled weirdo teams like the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Marlins and Mets.

Who should we root for? I have no idea. Absolutely no idea. Up until a week ago I would've said the Montreal Expos, but since then I've seen a couple walk-off homers, a near no-hitter and a guy that looks and plays exactly like Shane Victorino. After a 162-game regular season snooze-a-thon, postseason baseball has roped me back in. So let's break down each club: analyzing their fans, their cities, their history and the guys who actually play baseball -- and then finally let my wife decide who we should root for because let's face it, she makes all of my important life decisions anyway.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Fans: The self-proclaimed "Best Fans in Baseball" are always optimistic, eternally loyal and absolutely insufferable. Every person from the Midwest is so nice it's disgusting. This lady Beverly who I work with (originally from Iowa, or Indiana, or some place where people drink milk with dinner) constantly brings baked goods into the office and leaves these little notes that say stuff like, "From my kitchen to your belly! Have a Terrific Tuesday!" and "Got the working week blues? Here's to a Wonderful Wednesday!" WHATEVER BEV, YOU NYMPH. 

The City: I don't know one human being who has technically been to St. Louis -- except for the Griswolds ("Roll 'em up!") who passed through on the way to Wally World. The town is a total snooze. Besides the Gateway Arch, the Mighty Mississipp and Anheuser Busch's headquarters, what do they have? NOTHING. Actually, they have really good ribs there too. And Darius Miles. Wow, St. Louis might be amazing. No wonder Scott Rolen wanted to go back there. 

Celebrity Fan: Jon Hamm is originally from St. Louis, but he's currently recovering from throat surgery so I doubt he'll make it to any of the games. Behind him on the Cards' fans depth chart is Maya Angelou (borrrrinnngggg), Scott Bakula (amazzzzinnnggggg), Chuck Berry (still alive!), Nelly (corny), Andy Cohen (nope!) and Tina Turner (BING BONG).

Coolest Cardinal Ever: Obviously Ozzie Smith is the man, but Vince Coleman and Keith Hernandez did way more coke than The Wizard and we all know that doing tons of coke = being really cool. But the coolest Cardinal of all time, despite his lack of a coke habit, is Willie McGee. Two-time batting champ, 1985 NL MVP and the closest thing the game has ever seen to a half-man/half-anteater. Love you Willie! Love those ears! Love that you wore #51! What a stupid number.

People Who Actually Play Baseball: The Cards are loaded with players you've actually heard of: Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Oneofthe Molinas, as well as the person with the shortest name in the history of names, Jon Jay. Try saying his name out loud: "JonJay." It's even shorter than Mark May. "JonJay." "MarkMay." "JonJay!" "MarkMay." "JonJay!" "MarkM'okay that's enough." Also their first baseman Matt Adams easily weighs over 400 pounds. This team is super adorable.

Let's kick it over to my wife to see what she thinks of St. Louis.

My Wife's Take: "Never been there, it's probably a fine place. Whatever. But I never liked how people who went to Washington University thought they were so great. Maybe it was just one person. It’s been pointed out to me that Jon Hamm is a fan, and any reason to see more of him is okay with me, so I’m pulling for St. Louis to get to the World Series and lose."

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Fans: An entire population of good-looking idiots trying to break into reality television. (SHAMELESS PLUG WORTH CLICKING ON). I was in LA last March and while strolling on the boardwalk/promenade/whatever they call that thing along Venice Beach, I overheard this ridiculous conversation between a chick rollerblading and a dude doing pushups with no shirt on: 

CHICK: Oh, hey Brad.

DUDE: Oh, hey Jen. Whutt're you up to?

CHICK: Oh, y'know, just rollerblading.

DUDE: That's cool.

I honestly don't remember what happened next. My mind was so blown away by how stupid their conversation was (PLUS THE FACT THAT SHE WAS ACTUALLY ROLLERBLADING) that I just stood there for ten minutes with my mouth open, catching flies. And Venice Beach has a lot of flies (and a lot of homeless people). Californians are nimrods. Mexicans are cool, though. I'll give 'em that.

The City: If you can overlook the glitz and the glamour and the fact that Californians use the word "rad" unironically, LA is actually a pretty cool town. It's got loads of palm trees and a beautiful ocean and the tacos are absolutely insane. Still, all that sun can't be good for anything. Look what it did to Will Smith.

Celebrity Fan: Alyssa Milano has dated like 50 different baseball players. Frankly, I always thought she was a bit overrated (not during the Who's the Boss days, obviously she was dope during the Who's the Boss days). But recently she's been getting out-Alyssa Milano'ed by Brooke Burke, who is essentially the same person. I also have no idea how Magic Johnson is still alive.

People Who Actually Play Baseball: Do you have any idea how low Clayton Kershaw's ERA was this year? Do you have any clue? 1.83. ONE POINT EIGHT THREE. Is ERA still a thing? Because that's really low. Since 1964, only Greg Maddux, Dwight Gooden, Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Ron Guidry, Vida Blue and Pedro Martinez have posted lower ERAs. (SOMEONE SHOULD PROBABLY FACT CHECK THAT BUT I'M PRETTY PROUD OF MYSELF FOR DOING ACTUAL RESEARCH.) The Dodgers also have Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, that Cuban guy, Zack Greinke, Brian Wilson, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, GEEZ THEY SURE DO HAVE A LOT OF GOOD PLAYERS, and Nick Punto.

Coolest Dodger Ever: It's Kirk Gibson. No doubt. His spiky, balding hairdo? Unstoppable. Forget about his walk-off blast vs. Eck, only he and Bruce Willis could've pulled off that hair. Also that walk-off!

Back to my wife!

My Wife's Take: "Eh, it’s LA. A place I would never want to live, and philosophically can’t support. So I can’t really get behind the team. But more importantly, the combination of sounds in Yasiel Puig’s name really gets to me and I don’t want to listen to people making those sounds with their mouths."

BOSTON RED SOX

Fans: Amazing how in one short decade, Boston fans went from lovable losers to intolerable pricks. "Boston Strong?" Shut up. Between their stupid accents and this dude I know who posts pics on Facebook of his fat, dumb baby, Boston fans might be (and I said "MIGHT BE") worse than Cowboys fans. HOW ABOUT THAT, 700 LEVEL READERS?

The City: Beautiful city! Clean, colonial cobblestone streets, extremely walkable downtown, charming parks and gardens -- it's a shame it's filled with so many blowhards.

Celebrity Fan: You do realize that at some point in the next few days we're going to see Ben Affleck and his kids on TV, right? I don't know why Ben Affleck has such a bad rep, he seems to be a nice guy, makes semi-decent movies and genuinely likes baseball. But why doesn't he ever hang out with Matt Damon? Something's not right there. And what's the deal with Stephen King's ENORMOUS cranium? Something's not right there either.

Coolest Red Sox Player Ever: Shane Victorino.

People Who Actually Play Baseball: Big Papi, Victorino and those two Japanese relievers are the only cool guys on this team. Everyone else -- especially Dustin Pedroia -- can take a shit. Also, I don't care who pays his salary, Jonathan Papelbon will always be a Red Sock to me, and that guy sucksssssssss.

Let's hear from Mrs. Evster!

My Wife's Take: "Obvs, ugh. Full disclosure, I’m a Yankees fan. And not a bandwagon Yankees fan. My dad grew up next to the stadium, I’m from NY, and I own a Yankees (and Knicks) Barbie. So, no I don’t want to watch the Red Sox and they annoy me. But it really comes down to their sloppiness, sartorially speaking. They pride themselves on being the anti-Yankees when it comes to beards, hair length, uniform tightness, etc. But you know what? That doesn’t make you cool – it just makes you look dirty and gross. And I have nothing against beards, in fact I prefer them. But these beards, and greasy hair, and stupid rope necklaces need to go."

I agree, honey. Sartorially of course.

Anyone else have to look that word up? Who am I even talking to?

DETROIT TIGERS

Fans: AN ENTIRE CITY ON SUICIDE WATCH. 

The City: The Motor City has become the undeniable armpit of America. There's a chance Detroit has been on fire for the last six months and no one is doing anything to stop it.

Celebrity Fans: It's a shame the A's lost, because Oakland has a major hip-hop triumvirate: MC Hammer, Del tha Funkee Homosapien and wait for it ... Tony! Toni! Toné! Detroit of course has the most embarrassing musician of all time, Kid Rock, as well the best rapper alive, Jalen Rose.

Coolest Tiger Ever: No disrespect to the original Beastie Boy, Hank Greenberg, but Miguel Cabrera is the coolest Tiger ever. I know, I know, "BUT WHAT ABOUT LOU WHITAKER, EV?" Sure, Sweet Lou and his little dipsy-do double plays were unbelievable, but Miguel Cabrera WON THE TRIPLE CROWN last year! I do not understand why we're still not talking about that. Every single day the lead story on The 700 Level should be "Hey everybody, remember when Miggy Cabrera won the Triple Crown last year?" HE LED THE LEAGUE IN ALL THREE MAJOR STATISTICAL CATEGORIES. Not even Hank Greenberg or Ty Cobb or RECORD SKIP -- (fact check shows that Ty Cobb won the Triple Crown in 1909) -- WHATEVER, TY COBB! No one could stand you when you were alive! So stick it!

People Who Actually Play Baseball: Am I the only person who is fascinated by Max Scherzer's two different colored eyes? The other night they showed him in the dugout and I paused my DVR for like a half an hour to stare at him. I would also pay big bucks to watch Prince Fielder eat a meatball hoagie. And Justin Verlander has the tightest little apple butt I've ever seen.

Over to you, honeybutt!

My Wife's Take: "Now here's a team I can get behind. Great history, like a “real” baseball team from days of yore. Great hats. Sad city. That's who I'm goin' with. The Dee-troit Tigers."

ME TOO, LOVEBUG.

Let's go Tigers!

Hooray for baseball!

Hooray for marriage!

Sorry, Tony Toni Toné, Motown Philly back again!

Follow The Evster @TVMWW.

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

LAS VEGAS -- New team. Same old result.

Full of new star power -- and dominant on the inside -- the U.S. men's basketball team opened its bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal Friday night with a 111-74 exhibition romp over Argentina.

A game that was over almost before it began showed the U.S. has to improve its shooting and conditioning. It also showed that there is plenty of talent among a group of players that seem to want to play well for each other and their country despite the absence of Olympic stalwarts Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

"There's a willingness from these guys to work on anything we need and to work hard," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "These are very good guys."

A U.S. team that hasn't lost a game in 10 years had little trouble with Argentina, which some consider a medal contender in Rio. Paul George scored 14 first-half points, Kevin Durant added 12, and the U.S. blew open the game early before an appreciative crowd on the Las Vegas Strip.

Even with Bryant retired and James taking this Olympics off, there was no real talent drop off on a team heavily favored to win gold once again. The depth of the U.S. showed as coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated players in and out, searching for the right combinations on a team with 10 new players from 2012.

"Nothing is for sure," Durant said. "We want to get this gold and right now we have a job to do. We have to prepare the right way."

Count the Argentines among those who were impressed at the first real game for the Olympic team.

"Obviously, they have the best talent and the best size in the world," Argentina's Luis Scola said. "That's a big difference in their favor."

The game was the first of five exhibitions the U.S. will play before traveling to Rio to defend the gold medal. The U.S. team has spent the last week practicing in Las Vegas in preparation for the tour and the games.

There weren't any opening night jitters, though the U.S. shot only 45 percent and missed all but 14 of 41 3-pointers. With DeMarcus Cousins pulling down 15 rebounds in just 16 minutes, the U.S. dominated inside, outrebounding Argentina 53-30.

"The big thing is getting in shape and they are not there where they will be," Krzyzewski said. "But we really have an inside presence on the boards."

For Durant the game was a chance to play with a pair of his new Golden State teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. It was also a chance for Durant and Carmelo Anthony -- the only two players from the 2012 team -- to demonstrate that this will be their team in Rio.

Both players cheered from the bench as the minutes were spread around, jumping up to clap for teammates. Every U.S. player got quality time, with Green's 12 minutes the least played by any American.

"We're going to have fun and we're going to enjoy ourselves," Anthony said. "If it's not fun it's not worth it. We're going to enjoy ourselves but at the same time we're going to be focused in trying to get that gold medal."

Durant finished as the game's high scorer with 23 points, while George had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17. Andres Nocioni had 15 for Argentina, while Manu Ginobili added 11 for Argentina, which lost to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics.

Though at times little defense was played, there was plenty of offense to keep the crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena happy. The teams combined to put up 70 3-point attempts, 41 of them from the U.S.

Oddsmakers had made the U.S. a prohibitive 29.5-point favorite in what at times looked a lot like an NBA All-Star game. But while the U.S. team is loaded with 12 NBA players, the Argentines had only three on their roster and the talent difference showed.

While the team is full of new players, the gold medal run will be the last for Krzyzewski, the national coach for the last decade. His teams have lost only one game during his reign, which will end after the Olympics with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich taking over.

Best of MLB: Yankees stay hot with win over sloppy Giants

Best of MLB: Yankees stay hot with win over sloppy Giants

NEW YORK -- Giants Gold Glove shortstop Brandon Crawford made three errors for the first time in his career, with his wild throw in the eighth inning giving the New York Yankees a 3-2 win Friday night that sent San Francisco to its season-worst sixth straight loss.

The Giants held the best record in the majors at the All-Star break, but haven't won since. They also lost catcher Buster Posey, who fouled a ball off his right foot and left with a bruise. X-rays were negative and he was listed as day to day.

Masahiro Tanaka shut out San Francisco for six innings, giving up four singles. Giants ace Madison Bumgarner went seven innings, allowing two runs.

The Giants nicked Dellin Betances in the seventh, pulling within 2-1 on a walk, a double by Denard Span and a wild pitch. That ended a streak of 31 scoreless innings by Yankees relievers.

A double by Giants pinch-hitter Mac Williamson off Andrew Miller (6-1) tied it in the eighth.

But the Yankees bounced back for the fifth win in six games, and didn't need to hit the ball hard to do it (see full recap).

Kemp homers twice in Padres' victory
WASHINGTON -- Matt Kemp homered twice and drove in four runs, rookie Luis Perdomo pitched seven solid innings and the San Diego Padres beat the Washington Nationals 5-3 on Friday night to snap a four-game losing streak.

Kemp hit a solo shot in the first inning and gave San Diego the lead for good with a three-run homer in the fifth. He has six homers in his last six games and the Padres have homered in 20 straight, the longest streak in the National League this season.

Perdomo (4-4) gave up two first-inning runs, then limited the National to two hits over the final six innings of his longest outing. Brandon Maurer pitched 1 1/3 innings for his fourth save.

Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy homered for Washington. The Nationals have lost four of five.

Tanner Roark (9-6) turned in his shortest outing since June 5, lasting just five innings. He allowed five runs on four hits and surrendered two homers in a game for the first time this season (see full recap).

Fowler sparks Cubs' win over Brewers in return
MILWAUKEE -- Dexter Fowler led off the first with a homer and drove in three runs in his first game back from the disabled list, powering the Chicago Cubs to a 5-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night.

Fowler went 3 for 4 with a walk and scored twice after being sidelined more than a month with a strained right hamstring. His two-run double to left with the bases loaded in the second drew rousing cheers from the bevy of Cubs fans visiting Milwaukee.

Jason Hammel (9-5) allowed four hits and two runs over five-plus innings for his second victory since the All-Star break for NL Central-leading Chicago. He never trailed after Fowler slugged a 3-1 pitch from Jimmy Nelson (6-8) over the center-field wall to lead off the game.

Hernan Perez had a run-scoring double for the Brewers, and Ryan Braun hit a solo homer.

There were so many fans in Chicago shirts that their boos drowned out cheers from Brewers backers when Braun stepped to the plate in fourth. Braun went deep to center on the first pitch of the at-bat from Hammel for his 14th homer of the year.

Hammel departed after allowing a leadoff double to Scooter Gennett in the sixth with the Brewers trailing 4-2. Reliever Carl Edwards Jr. then retired the Brewers' 3-4-5 hitters in order, capped by strikeouts of Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter on six pitches total (see full recap).

Zach Eflin tosses 1st shutout in Phillies' win over Pirates

Zach Eflin tosses 1st shutout in Phillies' win over Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH — Zach Eflin wasn’t the normal youth pitcher while growing up in Oviedo, Florida.

Though the lanky right-hander had the arm strength to overpower hitters, he concentrated more on pitching inside and keeping the ball low in the strike zone than trying to blow his fastball by everybody.
 
“I didn’t start throwing a slider or curveball until I was 16 or 17,” Eflin said. “I was taught at an early age that establishing the inside part of the plate allows you to throw your changeup effectively and opens things up so you can throw all your pitches. I wanted the changeup to be an effective pitch for me.”
 
The Phillies' rookie is showing in the early part of his major-league career that he learned his lessons well.
 
The 22-year-old had his best outing yet Friday night when he pitched a three-hit shutout — the first of his nascent career — to lead the Phillies to a 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a three-game series at PNC Park (see Instant Replay).
 
Eflin struck out six, had no walks and used an efficient 100 pitches to notch his second complete game. He also went the distance July 5 against the Atlanta Braves when he pitched a six-hitter and threw 92 pitches.
 
“One of the most exciting things about this season has been seeing the improvement of so many of our young pitchers,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “Zach has made such great strides in a short period of time.
 
“I’m happy for him. He’s a hard worker and a personable kid. He’s done a really good job.”
 
Eflin made his sixth straight quality start and is 3-3 with a 3.40 ERA in eight outings since being recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley. The consistency Eflin is showing at such a young age is quite surprising in light of getting rocked for nine runs in 2 2/3 innings in his major-league debut by the Blue Jays on June 14 at Toronto.
 
“What impressed me the most after that debacle in Toronto is that Zach came back the next day and knew exactly what he needed to do in order to be successful and that was keep the ball down,” Mackanin said. “He’s been keeping the ball down ever since.”
 
Mackanin then smiled.
 
“He’s becoming one of my favorite pitchers,” the manager said.
 
Coming off a 2-5 homestand, the Phillies started a stretch in which they play 16 of 19 games on the road. Elfin got them off on the right foot at a venue where the Phillies were a combined 0-6 during the previous two seasons.
 
“It was great to pitch a shutout, a lot of fun,” Elfin said. “Having been out on the mound in the ninth inning before really helped. I knew I could finish the game.”
 
All-Star centerfielder Odubel Herrera broke out of his slump with three hits and two runs scored and catcher Cameron Rupp hit a two-run home run.
 
Herrera had two singles and a double after going 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games.
 
Herrera singled to lead off the sixth inning and scored the game’s first run on a single by Rupp. Herrera then doubled and scored on Andres Blanco’s single in the seventh to make it 2-0.
 
Rupp’s two-run shot, his 10th of the season, off Jon Niese in the ninth inning capped the scoring. Rupp had two hits and three RBIs.
 
Second baseman Freddy Galvis also had two hits, as did Blanco, who replaced third baseman Maikel Franco in the bottom of the third inning.
 
Franco was hit in the left wrist in the first inning by a pitch from Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole (5-6). He then singled in the top of the third before undergoing X-rays that were negative.

Eflin hit Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen in the rear end with a pitch in the bottom of the first inning, causing home plate umpire Tony Randazzo to warn both teams. There were no further incidents.
 
Franco had his hand wrapped after the game and said he did not know if he would be able to play Saturday afternoon. The ball hit Franco in the same spot where he suffered a fracture last August that caused him to miss most of the last six weeks of the season.
 
“I was scared at first because it was sore and was getting puffy,” Franco said. “I felt better [after getting treatment], though. I think everything will be fine.”