Well, good news and bad news — good news, the Yankees have home team advantage for the Wild Card game this Tuesday; bad news, the Yankees end their regular season on a loss and a sweep.
All 30 teams played their final game of the regular season at the 3:00 pm EST hour (except a doubleheader in Atlanta due to the mess that is the hurricane in neighboring South Carolina), but it would be the Yankees-Orioles game that lingered on longer than all the rest. And the AL had lots of things riding on these games to determine final postseason standings, while the NL had 2 simple stipulations. (I’ll talk more about the results after the game recap.)
To be perfectly fair, neither team really had a great pitching day. Between the Yankees and the Orioles, their pitching staffs gave up a total of 22 hits, 13 runs, and 11 walks between their 14 total pitchers. Plus neither starter made it very far into the game for starters and both accumulated high pitch counts.
For the Yankees, Michael Pineda threw 83 pitches in just 3.2 innings, gave up 6 hits, no walks (one of the few to not walk a batter), and 4 runs, striking out 5 Baltimore batters. In the 1st, with 2 outs and 2 runners in scoring position, a long single scored the first 2 runs for the Orioles. Then in the 4th inning, a lead-off double scored on a 2-out single as Pineda’s day came to a close and the rotation of the Yankees’ bullpen began for the last time this regular season.
Chris Capuano came on to finish off the 4th inning but instead loaded the bases with a double and an intentional walk. A single then scored 2 more runners, but the inning was quickly over when the batter tried to make it to 2nd on the throw and was tagged out. The Orioles challenged the call, but the call on the field was upheld, and the inning was over.
In the 5th inning, Bryan Mitchell came on in relief. With a lead-off walk on base, a 2-run home run added to the Orioles’ easy lead. After just getting 1 out and walking another batter, James Pazos came on to get out of the inning with 2 strikeouts. Pazos threw to 2 more batters in the 6th inning before handing the ball over to Andrew Bailey to close out that inning and keep the Orioles from adding to their lead.
Branden Pinder continued such a trend through the 7th inning, as did Justin Wilson for the first batter in the 8th inning. Andrew Miller then walked one batter and got an out for his turn in the 8th. And Caleb Cotham was called on to finish the game off for the Yankees, though not before giving up a 2-run home run (to the same guy who did so earlier in the game). To give him credit, that particular batter is quite the power hitter, ending the season with a whopping 47 home runs after today’s game.
The Yankees weren’t exactly quiet on their side of things. Like I said, this wasn’t exactly the greatest pitching game. In the 2nd, Bird led-off with a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on one ground out, and then scored on Dustin Ackley’s ground out. Then in the 6th, Ackley hit a 1-out single and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ triple. This forced the Orioles’ starter out of the game after 103 pitches in less than 6 inning. And in the 7th, with 1 out and Beltran and McCann on base with singles, Greg Bird’s single scored Beltran. After a pitching change then loaded the bases on Headley’s walk, Ackley ground into a force out, which scored McCann. But that would be it for the Yankees’ offense today.
Final score in Baltimore: 9-4 Orioles, Orioles sweep Yankees this weekend 3-0.
And we have postseason final news.
- Wild Card Games: On Tuesday, the Astros will play the Yankees in the Bronx for the AL Wild Card. On Wednesday, the Cubs (yes, Back to the Future fans, your 30 year old dreams have a chance to come true!) will play the Pirates in Pittsburgh for the NL Wild Card.
- Division Series: Beginning Thursday, the best of 5 ALDS will start with the Rangers (the AL West champs) at the Blue Jays (the AL East champs) and the winner of the Yankees-Astros WC game at the Royals (the AL Central champs and highest seed in the AL); and starting Friday, the NLDS will be the Mets (the NL East champs) at the Dodgers (the NL West champs) and the winner of the Cubs-Pirates WC game at the Cardinals (the NL Central and highest seed in the NL). (This best-of-5 series runs 2 home, 2 away, and 1 home, if necessary.)
- Championship Series: the best of 7 ALCS will then be the winners of the Rangers-Blue Jays against the ALWC-Royals (if the Royals win their LDS, they maintain home-field advantage in the LCS), starting Friday, October 16; the NLCS will be the winners of the Mets-Dodgers against the NLWC-Cardinals (if the Cardinals win their LDS, they maintain home-field advantage in the LCS), beginning Saturday, October 17. (This best-of-7 series runs 2 home, 3 away, and 2 home, if necessary.)
- World Series: as usual, the NL Champion will play the AL Champion (at the AL home field, as a result of the All-Star Game) in a best of 7 series beginning Tuesday, October 27. (This series also runs 2 home, 3 away, and 2 home, if necessary, which also means we could have November baseball unless there is a sweep this year.)
I will be making my predictions as usual before each series. So here’s my Wild Card predictions:
- NLWC: Pirates over Cubs
- ALWC: Yankees over Astros
I have many reasons other than the obvious bias of one selection, but I think the teams I selected have been postseason contenders for longer and more consistent this season. And while both the Cubs and the Astros have truly fantastic starting pitchers, they don’t have that overall aspect (all parts of the team — offense, defense, starting pitching, bullpen, and base-running) that could make them last through the competitiveness of the postseason. And really, that’s what you want, a long, strongly competitive postseason.
And to those haters who doubt the longevity and validity of the Wild Cards, I want to remind you that last year’s World Series was played by two Wild Card teams — the Royals and the Giants. Like I’ve said before, it’s still anyone’s game to win, anyone’s championship to claim.