ALCS 5: CLE vs. TOR & NLCS 4: CHC vs. LAD — A shut out advance & a sloppy rout

Today held two really big wins in the baseball world. One team advances to the World Series next week. Another kept dreams of doing so alive and well, albeit through quite a bit of sloppy play along the way.

Game 1: Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays
There’s nothing about the Indians’ postseason that says predictable, but with a manager like Francona, it’s hard to imagine this team doing anything else. They are a mish-mash of veterans who’ve played all over the league and fresh-faced rookies. And yet, somehow they’re sneaking in and surprising the socks off of everyone, most of all the Blue Jays, who were clearly left stunned at the results of today’s game and the series in general.

The Indians sent up the rookie pitcher Merritt to start today’s game, who has a had grand total of one start prior to the postseason. And yet, he did an amazing job. He threw into the 5th inning, giving up just 2 hits and keeping the Blue Jays scoreless. Actually, he got 13 consecutive outs to kick off his postseason career before he gave up a single. And while the only cheering he got (other than his teammates) were the 12 Cleveland fans at Rogers Centre, I can guarantee a ton of them watching all over were just in awe of this kid.

In the mean time, the Blue Jays sent in veteran starter Estrada, who has been ridiculously reliable in the postseason, but had a bit of unfortunate luck today in his 6 innings. In the 1st, Lindor hit a 2-out single and then scored on Napoli’s double and a fielding error. Santana’s 1-out solo shot in the 3rd and Crisp’s 2-out homer in the 4th just further sunk Estrada’s efforts today.

However, following that last home run, the Blue Jays stopped the Indians’ runs when Estrada finally found his groove (4 innings too late) and Toronto’s outstanding bullpen kicked in and sailed through the final 3 innings of the game, combining with Estrada for an impressive 10 strikeouts in today’s game.

But they were no match once again for the Indians’ bullpen. Indians’ reliever Shaw came on to close things out for Merritt in the 5th inning, getting 2 crucial strikeouts before handing things over to the one and only Miller who threw just 21 pitches through 2.2 innings, effectively shutting down all hopes of the Blue Jays World Series dreams. Allen, of course, closed the 9th inning rather effectively and handed the Indians their victory and a trip to the World Series.

Final score: 3-0 Indians, Indians win ALCS 4-1.

Game 2: Chicago Cubs at LA Dodgers
Okay, let’s just clear something up right away. Despite the obvious score, Cubs didn’t really have a great game. No, it was sloppy and messy. The only advantage the Cubs had is that their sloppy mess happened when it didn’t matter (read: run scoring opportunities), but that doesn’t mean it was a “great game” for the Cubs. It was just a less worst game than the Dodgers had tonight.

Neither starting pitcher really had a great night. The Cubs’ veteran Lackey did a slightly better job at fending off the Dodgers, but it still wasn’t really as sharp or clean as he can be. His two allowed walks in the 5th, just before he was pulled from the game, ended up being the only runs the Dodgers scored thanks to his reliever Montgomery. Turner’s big bases-loaded single scored those 2 runners for the Dodgers. But that would be all for the Dodgers as the Cubs manager Madden cobbled together his bullpen in pieces from that point out. It didn’t help their sloppy playing, but it did stem the Dodgers from adding to their run total.

Now, much like the Cubs, the Dodgers’ pitching had a good start and a good finish. All of the Cubs’ damage was done in the middle third of the game. In the 4th, Dodgers’ starter Urias saw his messiest outing. After 3 consecutive singles, the Cubs had a run and runners were on scoring position due to a throwing error. A ground out scored another one, and Russell’s big 2-run home run pushed the Cubs into a comfortable lead. Then, under a new reliever, the Cubs kept adding to their lead. In the 5th, Rizzo led things off with a solid solo home.

And then there was the 6th inning. The Dodgers had a new reliever, Stripling, who just couldn’t seem to catch a break. Russell started things with a 1-out single, ending up at 2nd on a bad throwing error trying for the ground out play. Montgomery’s single moved him to 3rd, and Fowler’s single scored him as the Cubs’ 6th run. Then with Bryant’s walk, the bases were loaded so that Rizzo’s single scored 2 more runs.

A new pitcher was needed and called for. But Zobrist loaded the bases again with his single (a challenge overturned the original call to say he was safe). Baez hit a long fly ball for a sacrifice fly that scored both Bryant and Rizzo due to a (what else in this game?) throwing error. A ground out mercifully ended that inning, but the damage was thoroughly done.

Final score: 10-2 Cubs, series split 2-2.

Okay, some thoughts on today’s games. First, the Indians are going to the World Series for the first time since 1997 (where they lost to the Marlins, of all teams, in 7 games), which makes them the AL Champions. And this makes Andrew Miller the ALCS MVP. Rightly so, of course, as Yankee Universe knew what they had earlier this year. Usually the ALCS MVP goes to a power hitter, so Miller joins an elite group of relief pitchers who’ve won the honor — Uehara (Red Sox, 2013), Rivera (Yankees, 2003), and Eckersley (Athletics, 1988).

Seriously, 6 errors in the Cubs-Dodgers game is really not a good sign. I was having a conversation with a friend (who’s a huge Dodgers fan, from a family of Cubs’ fans coincidentally) during the game about this. Nothing about this game was really something to exalt. The Cubs took advantage of the Dodgers’ sloppy play, and the Dodgers’ didn’t take enough.

Of course, there was that oddball call in the 2nd against the Dodgers, where Gonzalez clearly tagged home before being tagged out but the call on the field was upheld. And for a moment, I thought there might be a revolt by Dodger fans. I usually agree with most replay calls because the video usually shows exactly what happened. But I got to give this one to the “bad call” bin. Sorry, Cubs fans, he was safe at home.

Go Yankees!

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