NLDS & ALDS: ATL vs. STL, WAS vs. LAD & TB vs. HOU, MIN vs. NYY — 3 Game 5s & a 3-game sweep

There is nothing normal about the postseason most years, and this year continues to prove this once again. Three of the series went to a Game 5, and only one series was a sweep. And none of those is what you might expect.

NLDS A: The Cardinals and Braves duked it out through 5 games, and it wasn’t until the 5th that the Cardinals came on strong and just made the decision to win this series.

NLDS
Game 1: Actually, the Braves had this game right up until the final inning, when the Cards came out swinging. The Braves just could not catch up in the end. 7-6 Cardinals

Game 2:
The Braves decided they weren’t going to let the series head to St. Louis without a hometown win, using this game to prove why they came out on top of the NL East by blanking the visiting Cardinals. 3-0 Braves

Game 3: This was one of those super tight games, with the Cards eking a single run by the Braves until the 9th. The visitors scored 3 big runs in that inning and ended up taking the lead in the series. 3-1 Braves

Game 4: Another nail biter in the series, as the game was tied and went into the 10th inning before the Cardinals got a walk-off home run to tie up the series. 5-4, in 10 Cardinals

Game 5: Back in Atlanta, the Braves lost their home field advantage in that 1st inning, giving up 10 runs to the visitors, who ended up dominating this game. 13-1 Cardinals

Cardinals win the series in 5 games

NLDS B: Almost everyone “knew” who was going to win this series. Almost everyone “knew” they were going to sweep this series. Almost everyone was very wrong.

Game 1: However, after this first game, “they” were rather confident they “knew” how this was going to work as the Dodgers quickly shut out the Nationals. 6-0 Dodgers

Game 2: But then the Nationals came back and just edged out the home team. 4-2 Nationals

Game 3: In DC, the Dodgers came back just crushing the home team with a big 6th inning. 10-4 Dodgers

Game 4: And somehow, the Nats weren’t about to go away quietly, relying on some solid pitching to tie up the series again and force a Game 5. 6-1 Nationals

Game 5: Another nail-biter in the NL. The game was tied right into the 10th, right up until the Dodgers’ reliever gave up a huge grand slam. The deficit too big to overcome by the home team, costing them the rest of the postseason. 7-3, in 10 Nationals

Nationals win the series in 5 games

ALDS A: As with the other league’s version of this series, games between the league leader and the wild card winner aren’t anything normal or predictable. Especially as the Rays were on quite the tear this last month in their quest for a postseason. But in this series alone, it was all about the “home field advantage”.

Game 1: The Astros started the series strong, only giving up runs to the Rays in the 8th. 6-2 Astros

Game 2: The Astros’ starter the game was just amazing, streaming through the Rays’ lineup and collecting 15 strikeouts. Not that the Rays were slacking. The Astros just played better. 3-1 Astros

Game 3: Once the game was at the Trop, the Rays came out swinging and just didn’t stop. They certainly weren’t about to let the Astros just run away with this series. 10-3 Rays

Game 4: While this wasn’t as poweful in the end, the Rays still collected 13 total hits, giving them more opportunities to score and eventually tie up the series. 4-1 Rays

Game 5: Again, this series was all about home field advantage. Once they were back in Houston, the Astros took command again and showed their fans why they deserve to go to the ALCS once again. 6-1 Astros

Astros win series in 5 games

ALDS B: The one series nobody was really talking about. Outside Yankee Universe, that is. But this one was something to really watch, as the Yankees were about to show off a bit.

Game 1: The Yankees had some really big innings, including home runs by LeMahieu and Gardner. Though Paxton started, it was Kahnle who ended up with the win for his 5th & 6th inning stint to essentially save the game early on until the Yankees powered their way through with those big runs in the 6th. 10-4 Yankees

Game 2: It was Tanaka Time in the Bronx for this game. Aand once again, the Yankee bats came through to support their starter, including a big 3rd inning offense. And while most of their runs were off RBI singles, but i was Didi Gregorius’ grand slam to ensure the Yankees’ eventual win. 8-2 Yankees

Game 3: Home field advantage didn’t seem to matter to the Yankees this series, as they took their momentum on the road. They used an opener in Green, who showed his reliability with a strong start and set the pattern for the rest of the game, backed by a good offense with homers by Torres and Maybin. 5-1 Yankees

Yankees sweep series in 3 games.

An interesting article I found was the idea that no one gives an MVP award for the Division Series. This is one writer’s idea of who should get this hypothetical award. I agreed (or at least understood) his picks in most of these games. But what do you think?

Championship Series begins tomorrow night with NLCS and Saturday with the ALCS. It is a best-of-7 series, so the first team with 4 wins will move onto the World Series next week.

My predictions: So, this first round was a mixed bag. I completely blew the NLDS. First is my prediction, second is the outcome.

  • NLDS A: Braves over Cardinals in 5 games — Cardinals in 5
  • NLDS B: Dodgers over Nationals in 3 games — Nationals in 5
  • ALDS A: Astros over Rays in 4 games — Astros in 5
  • ALDS B: Yankees over Twins in 5 games — Yankees in 3

Now for the Championship Series: (Perhaps, I’ll be better this round.)

  • NLCS: Cardinals over Nationals in 6 games
  • ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7 games

It’s clearly going to be one of those postseasons. And let’s be honest, it’s really just beginning. But isn’t that what makes October Baseball more intriguing — that you don’t know what’s going to happen?

Go Yankees!

NLWC & ALWC: MIL vs. WAS & TB vs. OAK — 2019 Postseason Begins

It’s officially October Baseball. The regular season came to a close last Sunday, some teams headed into the postseason, some to their family vacations and couches for the duration of 2019. But either way, things are heating up if your team is one of the few who grace this month with its presence.

Tuesday: NL Wild Card (Brewers at Nationals)
The National League postseason began on Tuesday night as the Brewers challenged the Nationals for the final wild card spot. And at first, the Brewers looked to have a decided victory. They out-pitched the home team, with a strong showing, giving up a solo home run in the 3rd, sailing through most of the game in command.

The Nats’ ace had a bit of trouble keeping the Brewers’ bats under control. A lead-off walk in the 1st scored as part of a 2-run home run, getting the visitors on the board even before an out was recorded in the game. The Brewers tagged another run on with a lead-off solo shot up the middle in the 2nd. Things were looking great for the Brewers to advance to the NLDS.

Until that 8th inning. The Nationals figured out they weren’t going to let another October pass them by and took back the game. With 1 out, a challenged hit-by-pitch made it to base. After another out, the Nats gave up a single and a walk to load up the bases. Then a single and really sloppy fielding error cleared the bases, with the Nats scoring the go-ahead run. The Brewers’ defense snapped into action and got that runner trying to stretch into 3rd to end this messy inning, but the damage was done.

Final score: 4-3 Nationals, Nationals advance to NLDS to face the Dodgers

Wednesday: AL Wild Card (Rays at Athletics)
There was a lot of talk about which team might have the advantage in this game tonight. The A’s have had some pretty strong pitching, but the Rays are quite tenacious this season. It was going to be quite the toss-up, but the Rays really proved their mettle in the end, commanding the mound and the game.

The Rays’ pitchers walked away from tonight’s game with no earned runs, only one unearned run. In the 3rd, the lead-off batter hit into what looked like an easy grounder, but a throwing error allowed him to make it all the way to 3rd. A sacrifice fly then scored that runner for the A’s only run of the night.

Their pitching was uncharacteristically lacking in their starter tonight. He gave up a lead-off solo home run to the Rays right in the 1st. And then a single and 2-run homer in the 2nd. After another lead-off home run in the 3rd, they realized it wasn’t working and sent in their bullpen. They were markedly better, except a 2-out solo home run in the 5th to add just one more run for the visitors.

Final score: 5-1 Rays, Rays advance to the ALDS to play the Astros

Postseason Schedule: The Division Series starts tomorrow with the NLDS. The Braves will host the Cardinals, and the Dodgers host the Nationals to begin each of their series. The ALDS starts on Friday with the Astros hosting the Rays and the Yankees hosting the Twins. This series a “best of 5”, with the higher seed hosting for 2 games before the lower seed hosts 2, with an off-day between. A 5th game, if necessary, will be held back in the original stadium for a 2-2-1 possibility of the series.

The NLCS will begin next Friday, October 11, and the ALCS will start Saturday, October 12. That will be a “best of 7”, 2-3-2 hosting pattern.

My Division Series Predictions: I always hesitate to make my predictions known every year because it’s always with mixed results. Honestly, neither of my selected teams won their respective Wild Card games, but maybe I’ll have better luck in this next series.

  • NLDS A — Braves over Cardinals in 5 games
  • NLDS B — Dodgers over Nationals in 3 games
  • ALDS A — Astros over Rays in 4 games
  • ALDS B — Yankees over Twins in 5 games

It’s anybody’s guess how this season will turn out. It rarely goes as predicted. But such is life. At this point, truly anything is possible. Except for the fact that only one of these 8 teams will be crowned champions before the end of this month. Fingers crossed for your favorite team. I’ve got mine crossed for… well, you know…

Go Yankees!

Game 131: NYY vs. LAD — Close but just not enough in Saturday matinee

California native CC Sabathia got the start in this afternoon’s second game of this series against the Dodgers. Sabathia threw 78 pitches in 4 strong innings, gave up 5 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out an impressive 7 Los Angeles’ batters. And because of the lack of run support, he still ended up earning the loss.

Sabathia’s lone weak inning was the 3rd. A lead-off single scored on a 1-out 2-run home run for the Dodgers’ lone allowed runs today. The Dodgers, however, kept pressing on. Sabathia gave up a walk and single, and after a stolen base, both runners were in scoring position. But he and the defense got out of the threat with those necessary 2 outs.

The rest of Sabathia’s outing was nearly flawless. He handed things over to recently signed Cory Gearrin for 2 outs in the 5th and Green closed out that inning and pitched into the 7th. Ottavino closed out that one. Britton sailed his way through a 10-pitch 8th inning to close out the Yankees’ pitching show, together racking up 12 strike outs.

And as strong as they were, the Dodgers seemed to match them in nearly ever statistic. The Yankees did try to break through, but the only run they got was Aaron Judge’s lead-off solo home run in the 4th. There wasn’t much else the home team’s pitching staff allowed the Yankees to try to chip away at their minuscule lead.

Final score: 2-1 Dodgers

With Judge’s home run in the 4th, the Yankees officially tied the record for the most home runs in a single month with 58. That makes them even with the 1987 Orioles and the 1999 Mariners, which they both did in May of those respective years. And there’s still one more week left of August to officially set the record for future seasons and teams.

Roster moves: Yesterday, the Yankees sent Luke Voit to AAA Scranton for his rehab assignment. With a strong rehab, Voit will rejoin the Yankees when they return for their home stand next weekend.

They also claimed reliever Cory Gearrin off waivers from the Mariners, releasing Domingo Acevedo from the roster. Then today, they activated him to pitch in today’s game, optioning Jonathan Loaisiga back to AAA Scranton to make room.

Go Yankees!

Game 130: NYY vs. LAD — #BigMaple and Big Bats in LA

After closing the door on the disappointing Oakland series, the Yankees needed a good start to the weekend and this series in Los Angeles. And to do so against one of the best teams in baseball right now made things just a little bit sweeter.

James Paxton got the start and just dominated the Dodgers in this opener. He threw 109 pitches into the 7th, gave up 5 hits and 2 runs, and struck out an impressive 11 batters. A lead-off double in the 3rd moved to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt and then scored on an RBI single. A 1-out double moved to 3rd on a grounder. And with a high pitch count, his outing was over.

Kahnle came in and promptly gave up a double that scored that lingering runner. But Kahnle was able to get out of the inning with just 4 pitches. And Cortes sailed his way through the final 2 scoreless innings to keep the Dodgers from adding to their meager score.

Meanwhile, the Yankees gave “Big Maple” quite a bit of run support. In the 3rd, Aaron Judge hit a 1-out solo home run, and Gary Sanchez hit a 2-out solo home run to the same seats in left field. LeMahieu and Judge led-off the 5th with consecutive singles, and after an out, Sanchez was intentionally walked to load up the bases.

Then, with those loaded bases, on the first pitch he saw of the at-bat, Didi Gregorius smacked a big grand slam to ensure the Yankees’ eventual win. Urshela then doubled, and the Dodgers went to their bullpen. Brett Gardner quickly doubled home Urshela.

With 2 outs in the 6th, Gleyber Torres hit a solid home run up the middle. Ford led-off the 8th with a single, moved to 2nd on a grounder, and then scored on Aaron Judge’s single. Finally, Didi Gregorius smacked a solo home run to lead-off the 9th to cap off the Yankees’ big night in LA.

Final score: 10-2 Yankees

Gary Sanchez’s solo home run in the 3rd was his 29th of the season, but it was also his 100th homer of his career. And that made him the fastest catcher ever to hit 100 home runs, in just 355 games. It’s also made him the fastest AL player ever (regardless of position) to do so. (The record still stands for the Phillies’ Ryan Howard at 325 games.)

And we’re already one game into the Players Weekend. Teams across MLB are paired off, one team donning dark uniforms and one team in white. Fun nicknames emblazoned across their backs, and specially created cleats, gloves, sweat bands, batting gloves and accessories find a home on the field. Aaron Judge’s cleats are notable in that they got all 217 Little League World Series players to sign his specially designed shoes for the weekend.

Go Yankees!

Game 129: NYY vs. OAK — Swept away by the Bay

Well, that didn’t end well. But on the bright side, it’s only the second time this season the Yankees have been swept (the other time was back in April in Houston), and they’ve never been swept at home. And that remains solid.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start in this final game in Oakland this week. He threw 109 pitches through 6 innings, gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out 5 batters in tonight’s loss. In fact, all of the damage by the home team happened in the first third of the game under Tanaka’s watch.

He loaded up the bases in the 1st with a double and 2 walks. A fielder’s choice allowed the first runner to score, and a wild pitch moved the runners to scoring position. They did so on a 2-RBI single. And a lead-off triple in the 3rd easily scored on a single. After another single and a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners, another fielder’s choice allowed one more run for the home team.

And that was it for the A’s. So after Tanaka finished his outing strong, he handed the game over to Luis Cessa. He followed Tanaka’s later example and kept the Athletics from adding to their lead. The Yankees were hoping for the chance to play catch-up.

They got some chances, but not enough in the end. Torres hit a 1-out double in the 5th and then scored on Mike Tauchman’s single to finally get the Yankees on the board. Then in the 7th, with 1 out, Gleyber Torres smacked a solid solo home run to double the Yankees’ score. A final chip into the lead came with Torres’ 2-out solo home run in the 9th, a last-minute unsuccessful attempt to shift things into the Yankees’ favor.

And yes, that means that Gleyber Torres scored all 3 of the Yankees’ runs tonight.

Final score: 5-3 Athletics, A’s sweep Yankees 3-0

Next up: The Yankees travel down the Coast a bit to visit the Dodgers for the weekend. Starting Monday, they begin their series in Seattle before heading back home for a home stand against the Athletics and Rangers. Then they’ll hit the road again for a long road trip against the Red Sox, Tigers, and Blue Jays.

And this weekend is also Players Weekend. Yankee uniforms get their chosen nicknames along their back. Players wear specially designed cleats, gloves, and accessories. And many of the game-used special items are later auctioned off to raise money for things like community projects. Also, look for strong social media presence as players are encouraged to use their social media to help promote the weekend by posting pictures right from the dugout as the game happens, a great way to engage with all their fans in real time.

Go Yankees!

Game 128: NYY vs. OAK — Tauchman’s RBIs fall short of Happ’s allowed homers

The Yankees are having trouble finding traction in the Bay area in this midweek series. The Athletics are certainly attempting to close that gap in the AL West between them and the Astros and/or solidify their Wild Card status, and unfortunately, they’re using this series with the Yankees to do so.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees and had some trouble tamping down the home team’s bats. He threw 80 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs, and struck out just 4 batters. With 2 outs in the 2nd, he gave up a single that scored on a 2-run home run to put the A’s in the lead.

To lead off the 3rd, Happ gave up a walk and a 2-run home run to double the home team’s score. Then in the 5th, he loaded up the bases with a double, a hit-by-pitch, and a walk. So with that threat, the Yankees turned to Chad Green. Green quickly got consecutive pop-outs, but then a single scored one more run for the A’s before an easy grounder got him out of the jam.

Green continued on through the next two innings, giving up a lead-off solo home run in the 6th. But he was able to control the rest of his outing and hand the game over to Ottavino who breezed through the 9th in just 9 pitches.

The Yankees were first on the board again. In the top of the 2nd, Gregorius led-off with a double and scored on Mike Tauchman’s 1-out single. After the Athletics took a nice lead, the Yankees find meager opportunities to chip away at it.

In the 6th, with 1 out, they loaded up the bases with Urshela’s single, Gregorius’ walk, and Torres’ single. After the A’s went to the bullpen for a new pitcher, Tauchman hit a sacrifice fly deep in foul territory that scored a speedy Urshela. Mike Ford led-off the 7th with a strong solo home run. After 2 outs, Sanchez singled, moved to 3rd on Urshela’s single, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ double.

After that, the Yankees were kind of stifled by the A’s bullpen, falling just short tonight.

Final score: 6-4 Athletics

CC Sabathia is enjoying his final trip to his hometown area during the regular season. Originally from Vallejo, an area northeast of San Francisco and Oakland, Sabathia and his organization PitCChIn have partnered with the local Boys & Girls Club to help kids, much like a young Sabathia many year ago.

Relieved of the pressure of starting this series (on the basis of a scheduling fluke), Sabathia has been connecting with all his old haunts and encouraging kids (like him) that they can reach for their dreams. He visited a local elementary school, invited a large group of kids to the game, and received a donation from the Boys & Girls Club to help continue his foundation’s philanthropic work in the area and back in his now-home of New York.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 127: NYY vs. OAK — Not so bright side of the bay

The Yankees kicked off their West Cost trip with a 3-game series in Oakland. But while in the “Bright Side of the Bay“, they fell a bit short of the positive experience the nickname might imply for its visitors. Though I’m sure the green and yellow-donning fans were thrilled.

Domingo German got the start, throwing 99 pitches into the 6th inning. He gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs (5 earned) and struck out 7 Athletics’ batters along the way. In the 1st, he gave up a 1-out walk that scored on a 2-out 2-run home run. The next batter smacked a solo home run to add another run to the home team early.

With 2 outs in the 2nd, German gave up a single. A double then scored that runner, but the batter was thrown out trying to take 3rd in a great defensive play. After tamping down, German had some issues in the 6th at the end of his outing, giving up a single and double to put runners in scoring position. After an out, a single and fielding error allowed both runners to score to solidify the A’s eventual win.

That also ended German’s night. So, in came Jonathan Loaisiga for the rest of the game. He helped shut down the Athletics from further additions to their score. For the final bit of the game, he allowed a chance for the Yankees to catch up.

They didn’t.

Actually, the Yankees got on the board first. With 2 outs in the 1st, Gary Sanchez hit his 99th career home run, a big solo shot up the middle. And Aaron Judge led-off the 8th with a monster home run, lauching 467 feet. And that was it. They certainly had plenty of chances and base-runners in the game, but in a bit of a return of previous trends, they didn’t capitalize on many of those chances.

Final score: 6-2 Athletics

There’s a running article on the Yankees website that keeps fans updated on when every player on the current Injured List is scheduled to return to the team. The hardest part is seeing those who aren’t going to be back until next season. Here’s the good news: a huge chunk of players could potentially be back with the September call-ups. Players on that list include pitchers Betances, Heller, Holder, and Severino and position players like Encarnacion, Estrada, Hicks, and Stanton.

But the most solidly scheduled return is Luke Voit. Voit is recovering from a sports hernia. He will do his rehab this next week before rejoining the Yankees when they return to the Bronx next weekend (about August 30).

Go Yankees!