Bright blue wins the day, it seems. The AL West has been effectively eliminated from the postseason as of tonight, with 2 Texas teams flying back home with their hats in hand, but a ridiculously amazing fan base to greet and cheer them on and buck them up for “next year”. The winning team of the AL pennant won’t be from the Lone Star state this year as two very decisive games set that firmly into being.
Game 1: ALDS 5a — Rangers at Blue Jays
You know, I have this idea to visit all 30 major league ball parks for a game at some point in my life, maybe to see the Yankees play against them, maybe not. But I think I just crossed one off my list tonight. I’ve spent the last four hours trying to figure out how to put a positive spin on a rather disturbing scene, something more akin to the stereotypical NFL stadium or some soccer games in South America in the 1990s. And I just can’t find it. So I have to rely on my journalism training to be as objective as possible.
In this first game of “winner-take-all”, the Rangers actually had the Blue Jays for most of the game, thanks in large part to their starter Hamels. In fact, most of the game proceeded as usual and expected through the first six innings of the game. In the top of the 1st, the Rangers’ lead-off batter doubled, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and scored on a fielder’s choice to get the Rangers on the board early. In the 3rd, a 1-out solo home run added another run to the Rangers lead. The Blue Jays got on the board in the bottom of the 3rd with a 2-out RBI double, and then they tied the game in the 6th inning with a really nice solo home run.
And then Rogers Centre went all “hockey” on the game starting in the 7th inning. The Rangers led-off with a single who ended up on 3rd after a sacrifice bunt and a ground out. So then in a throw back to the pitcher, the ball hit the batter’s bat and rolled away, which the runner saw as an opportunity to take home plate. An umpire’s review to check the rules verified that the ball was in fact in play and that run scored is very legal, a really weird loophole akin to the rarity of stealing home, which is essentially what he did as if it was a passed ball.
Well, this caused a rather large upset among the already vocal and passionate crowd, enough to have them start littering the field with trash and empty beer cans, some of which were tossed from the upper deck onto families with small children in the stands below. The vocal displeasure was coupled with their obscene physical displeasure, which included plenty of your standard rudeness you can’t broadcast on national television accentuated with excessive drinking.
To make matters worse, the Rangers bullpen and players were subject to continuous pelting of everything from obscenities and insults to actual garbage, as the security at Rogers Centre tried to control what was quickly becoming a situation out of hand. Fans apparently booed their way through the 7th inning stretch, continuing to share their displeasure in as many ways as possible, despite even the Blue Jay players telling off the crowd from their dugout.
What didn’t help is that the Rangers stopped playing good baseball in the bottom of that inning, making the already “passionate” crowd practically salivating for more. Bases were loaded quickly with Blue Jays batters with 3 consecutive Rangers’ errors. A force ground out got the lead runner out at home, igniting the crowd even further, especially as they wanted an umpire review as to whether the runner had a clean slide or whether he took out the catcher intentionally to break up the double play. The call was upheld, but it was a close call, especially in light of recent “slides”.
After a pitching change took Hamels out of the game, a pop up still scored one run to tie up the game, but a 3-run home run pushed the Blue Jays ahead and into the lead. To be fair, it was a fairly evenly pitched night, but that home run there is what sealed the deal and gave the Blue Jays a shot at the ALCS this year.
And while I think it was a rather well-fought game in the end, it does irk me a bit to seemingly be rewarding such awful behavior with a chance to showcase even more of said behavior. I’ve experienced some of these “passionate” fans during Spring Training, which is about a fifth of the size of Rogers Centre. I cannot imagine the dynamics of the same fans times five. But it just confirms my initial reaction of steering clear of a Blue Jays home game any time in the near future.
Final score in Toronto: 6-3 Blue Jays, Blue Jays win series 3-2, advance to ALCS.
Game 2: ALDS 5b — Astros at Royals
And then it was to the Midwest for a rather normal, sedate game. In comparison, the rather “passionate” Kansas City crowd seemed almost angelic after the unruliness of the one north of the border. But upon second thoughts, they were just as loud, just no where near as obnoxious or obscene.
Bottom line in Kansas City — the Astros got out-pitched. Simple as that. The stats clearly favor the Royals tonight in that respect. Add to that their momentum was just on a roll, they were clearly going to win tonight’s game. The Astros’ lone offensive contribution was in the 2nd inning, with 2 outs and a runner on base with a single, a 2-run home run got the Astros on the board and into an early lead. But that wasn’t going to be enough tonight.
The Royals started in on their offense in the 4th inning. With 1 out and a runner on 1st with a single, another single plated that speedy runner all the way from 1st to get Kansas City on the board. A hit-by-pitch and ground-rule double forced the Astros’ starter out of the game and put the tying and winning runs in scoring position for Kansas City. And that they did on a 2-RBI double. A sacrifice bunt moved that runner to 3rd, and then he scored on a sacrifice fly.
In a bit of a desperate move, the Astros sent in their ace starter to pitch the 8th inning and try to tamp down the Royals’ momentum. But it didn’t work. A lead-off double and an intentional walk were hanging out on the base path with 2 outs when a big 3-run home run basically insured the Royals advancing. That would be it.
Final score in Kansas City: 7-2 Royals, Royals win series 3-2, advance to ALCS.
It will be the Blue Jays at the Royals for the ALCS. Royals have the higher seed (more winning games this season) and thus get home-field advantage. The ALCS begins on Friday.
And in Yankee Universe, manager Joe Girardi celebrated his birthday today, so we wish him a big Happy Birthday!