With the start of the Division Series in the NL, October baseball is in full swing. So far, one series is going to reflect how tight the National League has been, especially leading up to the postseason. The other series seems to be showing the difference between a team that’s the best in the worst division and a team that had to battle for “best”. And I expect this same format in the AL starting tomorrow.
It appears the Rays were trend-setters in a way I don’t think they wanted to be. Their frequent use of the bullpen to piece together a full game is spilling over into the postseason. One team in both series used that strategy. It worked for one, barely, but not the other, drastically.
Game A: Rockies at Brewers
This is going to be one of those tight series because both teams could really pull this one off. And it’s evident how evenly matched they are in how close the game was. In the 3rd, Brewers worked a 1-out walk that scored as part of a 2-run home run to get them on the board early. And they defended their early lead for most of the game.
But the Rockies waited until they found their opportunity to strike. The Brewers just needed 3 outs to seal the win in the top of the 9th. But the Rockies were ready to pounce. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on another single. Another single scored the lead batter, and a fielding error allowed the bases to be loaded. A sacrifice fly scored the tying run before the defense finally snapped into action and got the lead runner out at home on the next play. A strikeout ended the inning.
In other words, the Brewers got sloppy, and they paid for it by sending the game into an extra inning. After they made sure the Rockies didn’t add anything in the top of the 10th with a quick 3 outs, the Brewers eyed their victory as the game stretched into 4 hours.
A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a wild pitch. After another out, the Rockies opted to intentionally walk the next batter, and the next batter hit into a fielder’s choice (a failed double play, as usual) that left runners on the corners. The next batter then singled his way into right field which allowed that lead runner to score the walk-off run.
Final score: 3-2 Brewers, in 10 innings, Brewers lead series 1-0
Game B: Braves at Dodgers
The Braves’ bullpen approach did not help their efforts to stop the Dodgers who have been on a roll lately. The Dodgers led-off the 1st inning with a solo home run. Then they loaded up the bases but couldn’t get anyone else home. At that point. With 2 outs in the 2nd, the Braves’ pitcher hit a batter, gave up a walk, and then allowed a 3-run home run up the middle to give the Dodger a solid early lead.
Then the Braves pitchers kept them to those runs for a bit, while the Dodgers’ starter sailed his way through 7 solid innings with 8 strikeouts. The Braves weren’t doing much of anything for most of the game.
The Dodgers got another chance to add to their lead with a 2-out solo home run in the 6th. And then in the 8th, with 1 out, the Dodgers worked a walk that ended up on 3rd on a sloppy pick-off error. Another walk ended up stealing 2nd to put 2 runners in scoring position. A pinch-hit sacrifice fly added one final run (and unearned) for the Dodgers.
Again, the Dodgers just needed 3 outs to finish out the game in the top of the 9th. But with 2 outs, their pitcher gave up consecutive singles. That wasn’t going to work for the home team. A new pitcher threw 2 pitches for a ground out to end the game.
Final score: 6-0 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 1-0
Tomorrow is a 4-game extravaganza with the ALDS also kicking off and the NLDS playing Game 2. And it’s really just beginning. First teams to 3 wins advance to their respective Championship Series.