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Wobbly fielding making for postseason bobbleheads
So much for Chase Utley, Josh Hamilton and their playoff pals handling every grounder, popup and throw with ease. So far, this October is all about those Es.
Placido Polanco, Scott Rolen and Evan Longoria were among a half-dozen Gold Glovers who turned into postseason bobbleheads during a first round that set a record for errors.
In all, 31 errors in only 15 games _ a mistake rate up an alarming 66 percent over the regular season.
"I think defense is huge right now," said CC Sabathia, who will start for the New York Yankees against Texas in Game 1 of the AL championship series Friday night. "I mean, you can't give away outs. You have to play solid defense. You see what happened in a couple of those games in the NL series."
No bad weather or twilight zones to blame, either. Instead, postseason newcomer Cody Ross offered a simpler explanation.
"Maybe just playoff nerves. I think that's all I can kind of chalk it up to," the San Francisco right fielder said. "Maybe coincidental. First round, you want to be perfect and try not to make any mistakes and sometimes when you try too hard that's when you make all your mistakes."
Whatever, there sure are a lot of them. The 31 errors were the most in any round of a baseball postseason. In fact, that matches the total from the entire 2009 postseason.
Last year, a missed fly ball by St. Louis left fielder Matt Holliday was the signature miscue of the playoffs. This year, the liner that Cincinnati right fielder Jay Bruce lost in the lights was the biggest misplay. So far.
The Reds made just 72 errors during the regular season, tied with San Diego for the fewest in the NL. Then Cincinnati made seven errors while getting swept in three games by the Phillies.
"I think that's something that just happens," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "All of a sudden we hit streaks where our defense kind of collapses or we start playing bad. I think that's all part of baseball and all part of, I would say, being excited about being there, at the same time, a little tight."
Atlanta second baseman Brooks Conrad had the roughest time, committing four errors in the Braves' four-game loss to the Giants. His three errors in Game 3 cost Atlanta a chance to advance.
Then again, it happened to another Brooks, too. In the 1970 World Series, Baltimore third baseman Brooks Robinson tossed away his first throw in Game 1 for an error. He recovered quickly, and put on one of the greatest defensive performances in Series history.
"You know, it's part of the game. This is pressure," Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval said. "It's way different from the regular season to the postseason. This is the time you try to do everything perfect and you start to make errors."
The Yankees were the only team to play flawlessly in the first round. They swept the Minnesota Twins, whose only error came from Gold Glove catcher Joe Mauer.
There were 10 errors in each of the other three series _ Texas-Tampa Bay, Phillies-Reds, Giants-Braves. Last year, there were a total of 13 errors in 13 opening-round games.
"We've got to be heads up. I think one thing we're very proud of with the Yankees is that we play good baseball," New York first baseman Mark Teixeira said.
"I'm not sure if you notice, but every time I catch a ball, every time I'm coming off first base, I run towards third because if a guy is rounding third, you never know what he's going to do, especially if the guy has speed," he said.
Texas basically stole its first three runs against the Rays in the deciding Game 5. Elvis Andrus and Vladimir Guerrero scampered home from second base on grounders and Nelson Cruz scored on a throwing error by catcher Kelly Shoppach.
"In this situation, it seems like a mistake really gives those guys a couple runs there," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said.
The defending World Series champion Yankees made only 69 errors this year, fewest in the majors.
"We preach it all year long," manager Joe Girardi said. "It plays an important role in games because you start making errors and giving extra baserunners, a lot of times it leads to runs. It leads to a longer pitch count for your pitcher and you go to your bullpen maybe sooner than you want.
"There's a lot of ways that it can affect the game," he said. "And, usually, when you see teams that have pitching and defense, usually they play a long time."
AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum, Janie McCauley and Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.
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