NLDS 2: CHC vs. WAS & ARI vs. LAD — Splitting one series, nearly dominating another

I’ve been an AL girl since forever, born into an AL family, followed only AL teams, so I find days when I have to follow NL teams rather interesting. I have zero investment, zero history with these teams on a fan level, so it’s fun for me as a basic baseball fan to watch. I can cheer on both teams, finding former Yankee players or players I know are nice guys, and cheer on them personally to do well for their team this postseason. I can be incredibly objective with NL teams, and that makes posts like today really easy. (Full disclosure: I find this also happens to me when there’s AL playoffs that don’t involve teams I’ve been invested in. But you’d be surprised how many AL teams I have some history with, either personally or against the Yankees. But that’s another post…)

Game 1: Cubs at Nationals
Once again, probably the best playing in the postseason is happening in this series (sorry, Yankees’ fans), but they get swept under the radar for a few reasons — they’re playing first or in the middle, and it’s less about the hits than about the pitching. And as we learn very early, crowds like big home runs but they don’t get good pitching. It’s usually why ignorant people think the game is “too slow”. So it’s ironic that these games tend to be the shortest games of the postseason, this one just 3 hours and 6 minutes.

Both starters fended off the other’s team pretty well for most of their outing, going 5 (Nationals) or 6 (Cubs) innings and giving up minimal hits (3/2) and runs (3/1) for a playoff game. The Nationals were on the board first with a 2-out solo home run in the 1st, but the Cubs were right on that with a lead-off homer in the 2nd. The Cubs then didn’t like the tie and pushed again in the 4th with a lead-off double that scored on a 2-run home run right into the waiting hand of a fan in the right field seats. And because of that, they wanted to review it for possible fan interference. But the ball was already over the wall by the time it reached the guy who caught it bare-handed with just one hand, so the Cubs fan got nice souvenir and calls from his friends back home.

Actually, it was the bullpen in a single inning that determined how the game would end and the series move to Wrigley. So in the 8th, with the Cubs looking just a few outs away from taking the series back to Wrigley in their favor, the Cubs bullpen stumbled, both relievers took too long to find control of the situation. A lead-off single scored as part of a 1-out 2-run home run to tie up the game, and after walking the next batter, the Cubs went to a new reliever. That, of course, didn’t help the momentum of the home team. After allowing another runner on base with a single, he gave up a 3-run home run to ensure the Nationals would split the series.

Final score: 6-3 Nationals, series split 1-1

Game 2: Diamondbacks at Dodgers
My friend (who is a huge Dodgers fan) was totally freaking about this game and texted me pretty much through the final half of this game. And I can understand why. The Dodgers’ starter only going 4 innings, and despite a pretty big lead, the Diamondbacks were hot on their tails (snake pun inferred) and chipped away every time they got a bigger lead.

Arizona had the first offensive shot and took it in the 1st inning with a 1-out walk scoring as part of the 2-run homer to get things started in LA. The Dodgers answered that with a bit of a whimper. In the 2nd, they worked a 2 walks that moved up to scoring position on a wild pitch before a ground out scored just 1 runner. But they came back in the 4th to load up the bases with 3 consecutive singles. A wild pitch (the D-backs starter really wasn’t any better tonight) scored the tying run and moved all runners up, and a 2-out single scored one more.

Oh, but the home team wasn’t done there. They came right back in the 5th to advance with 1 out, a runner on base, and facing a new Arizona pitcher, a single and messy throw ended with both runners in scoring position. Another single scored the lead runner, and a double scored 2 more. With yet another Arizona reliever on the mound, another single scored just one more that inning, giving the Dodgers a rather hefty lead.

Of course, then came the 7th inning, and the Diamondbacks saw an opportunity (as my friend anxiously texted me with every play). The Dodgers reliever gave up consecutive singles and was rightly replaced with a new reliever. Except then he gave up a perfect pitch that ended up in the left field seats for a 3-run home run, putting Arizona within 2 runs. The Dodgers’ offense did their best to piece together offense in the bottom of the inning by loading up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. A fielding error on the next batter’s hit scored 1 run so my friend could breathe a bit more. I didn’t get another text from my friend until the final out: “YASSSS!”

Final score: 8-5 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 2-0

Both teams will travel to their next stops — Chicago and Arizona, respectively — and play again on Monday, which could be another long day depending on how tomorrow’s ALDS goes and if the Indians and Astros sweep their series.

In Yankee news, because we all need that, here’s some quick bits: Girardi regrets not challenging that hit-by-pitch (as do we all, Joe), the Yankees are counting on Tanaka’s pretty good home record to see them through this crucial game tomorrow night, and being down 0-2 isn’t an impossible hurdle. For that last one, it’s good for Yankee fans to remember the 2001 ALDS against the Athletics (when “the Flip” came into Yankee vernacular and lore) over the 1995 one against the Mariners. However, fun fact, it would be that latter series that really made me see how good the Yankees were and cemented me as a fan. So not everything is lost.

Except for the Indians, they need to lose. Like they did in 1999 to the Red Sox. Let’s “party like it’s 1999”. And if you need a refresher course, who won the World Series in 1999? Oh, yeah, that would be the Yankees. Fingers and toes crossed, people.

Go Yankees!

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