Today was anything but ordinary in the world of baseball. But let’s be honest, there’s nothing ordinary about the postseason. All 4 games pitted sheer rivalry against one another, and all 4 games defied the status quo to shake up the playoffs.
First game: Cardinals eked out a 2-1 win over the Pirates to tie up the series 2-2 and force a game 5. Honestly, it was a pitchers’ duel here from start to finish. The Cardinals only got 3 hits over the course of 9 innings and a 2-run home run for their only score, and the sole run the Pirates scored was a solo home run and the only hit on their side of the roster. At this point, let me just say this, whoever wins Game 5 will have fought very hard for this series and clearly deserves it. Both teams are pretty evenly matched at this point, and this has been one of my favorite Division Series to watch this year because of that.
Second game: Athletics kind of kept the bats alive and trumped the Tigers’ pitching staff with their 6-3 win, now leading their series 2-1. Three of the A’s runs were scored on solo home runs alone; the rest found themselves as results of small ball play. And while neither team is known for their passivity or lack of passion when it comes to baseball, it became all that much more apparent when there was a bit of a brawl on the field after what appears to be a miscommunication between an A’s pitcher and a Tigers’ batter in the 9th inning. Fortunately, it didn’t take much to quell the situations and continue with the game. But it certainly reminded me why these two teams don’t play each other very often, and why I’m very glad they don’t.
Third game: In what looked like the Red Sox were going to sweep, the Rays came back to tie up the game before walking off the heroes in their home stadium 5-4 and trailing the Sox 2-1 in the series. No, seriously, in a game I don’t think the Rays thought they could win after two rather awful defeats by the Red Sox, they go on to win it in spectacular fashion — two outs, bottom of the 9th inning, and their batter smacks a solid home run into the rays’ “touch tank” past the centerfield wall. (The Rays have an actual tank set up for fans to come and pet actual sting rays and manta rays and similar fish before the game. I’ve done it, and it’s pretty cool.) No worries, the ball floats and won’t ever really hit an animal. The rarity always freaks out some animal activists who don’t understand these kinds of animals, who are used to noise and human interaction and swim about a foot under water at all times. A baseball, because of its design, will hit the water and stay at the surface, right as the rays continue their circuit in their tank home.
Final game: We have a winner, albeit not the one I wanted, but still the Dodgers beat the Braves 4-3 tonight to take their series and await whoever will grab the series (Pirates or Cardinals) for the ALCS next weekend. It’s especially disappointing for three reasons: first, the Braves tied up the game after the Dodgers got an early lead and then tacked on their lead run and kept that tight score until a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 8th really sealed the game (and thus the series for the Dodgers); second, the Braves are actually a much better well-rounded team (which is why I picked them for my choice here), so it’s hard to see them fail where they should really be succeeding; and third, the Dodgers as a whole act like a bunch of diva frat boys, something I don’t think we should celebrate as professional athletic behavior. And thanks to the Dodgers, I’m 0-for-4 (so far) on my DS picks this postseason.
No word on Yankee legal matters yet. Girardi and Cano are still contemplating their contract offers, and Rodriguez is back in New York to continue arbitration after a weekend with his family at home in Florida. And that’s about everything in Yankee Universe that’s public knowledge. Here’s why: because immediately after the season, everyone retreats back to their family life and becomes regular people again, enjoying the luxury of not playing elite-level sports every single day and catching up on whatever trendy cable show they’ve missed from being on the road and busy working; they take vacations, visit relatives, and just take time to be guys instead of “Somebody”. And if they stay out of the news, off the back page of local newspapers, they can just enjoy the break before having to dive back into training for 2014.
Actually, baseball season is really set up rather good if you have a family because you basically return home just after the kids start school, nothing baseball-related over the major family holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and by the time the kids are winding down school activities, you’re back on the field so they can watch you be one of the “Boys of Summer”. And while there are definitely disadvantages for families of baseball players, I think this has to be a perk — quality family time during the biggest family season of the year.