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!

Postseason wrap-up, looking to 2019, Gold Gloves 2018

Red Sox Nation spent their Halloween dressed up as Red Sox Nation as their championship team piled onto the city’s “duck boats” and paraded their way through the streets of Boston. The mayor, former champion alumni (like David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez), and fans singing along to “Sweet Caroline” (bah-bah-bah) came out to honor the World Series champions. The next day, some of the team took the championship trophy to a Celtics game in hopes of spreading their “good luck” to other Boston teams, which might have worked as the Celtics won that game.

Meanwhile, much of the talk this off-season already is about the big class of free agents. There’s a lot of conversation as to where big names like Harper and Machado will land, but the Yankees cleared the “luxury tax” (or the Competitive Balance Tax) ceiling for the first time in 14 years. The luxury tax was created in order to even out the balance between large-market teams (like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers) and small-market teams (like the Twins, Padres, and Orioles). The tax was set at $197 million in pay for the 2018 season. The Red Sox and Nationals, however, were forced to pay the tax this year.

So, without having to pay out millions of dollars to the luxury tax pool, the Yankees are free to explore a high-ticket free agent, especially to add to their starting rotation. But whether they choose to do so is still undecided. In the mean time, they have a few Yankees in the free agent pool that they could re-sign for the 2019 season, like CC Sabathia, JA Happ, Lance Lynn, Zach Britton, and David Robertson.

However, one free agent they snagged early was Brett Gardner. While the Red Sox were partying their way through Boston, the Yankees were solidifying one of the last remaining homegrown Yankees from the 2009 championship team to remain a Yankee for 2019. He had an option for the final year of his contract, but the Yankees declined it and instead offered him a 1-year $9.5 million contract.

Next season will be the veteran outfielder’s 12th year in pinstripes, though his 15th with the organization, making him the longest-tenured Yankee on the roster. He’s really the heart of the team and a leader in the clubhouse, a fixture for the Yankees on and off the field. Gardner said: “I wasn’t sure what kind of opportunities I was going to have with the Yankees beyond this year and what would have been out there for me in other places. To get this wrapped up early in the off-season, it’s great to know where I’ll be next year and obviously what to expect. I’m going back to a place where I’m comfortable and very familiar. I’m really, really excited.”

Gardner was nominated tonight for a Gold Glove, his 4th nomination (2011, 2015, 2017, 2018). The Gold Glove is an annual award given to the best defender at each position in each league. He joined Aaron Judge and Masahiro Tanaka as nominees this year. Judge was nominated last year, and Gardner won the award in 2016. None of the Yankee nominees took home the honor tonight, but all three recognitions are well-deserved.

But there’s more to come. The Silver Sluggers, the award for the top offensive contibutor at each position, will be announced Thursday. The big honors (Cy Young, MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc.) will be announced the week of November 12-15, with the Players Choice Awards announced November 27. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are nominated for AL Rookie category in the Players Choice Awards and are up for the AL Rookie of the Year in the other awards next week. In other words, while the Yankees didn’t pick up any mantle hardware tonight, there’s still time to collect some bragging rights.

And speaking of bragging rights, today is also the 9th anniversary of the Yankees’ 27th championship. Back in 2009, Yankee Universe watched as Mariano Rivera got the batter to hit a baby grounder to Robinson Cano, who threw to a waiting Mark Teixeira for the final out of Game 6 against the Phillies. It actually came up on my “memories” feed today before veterans from that game like Swisher and Rodriguez posted their own memories online of that fateful day.

Finally, our hearts go out to the Reds organization tonight. Yesterday, three players, all 19 years old, in their minor league system were involved in a serious car accident in the Dominican Republic. Pitcher Jairo Capellan was killed in the incident, pitcher Raul Hernandez is in critical but stable condition, and outfielder Emilio Garcia is still receiving treatment for his injuries at the hospital but conscious and alert. Capellan was laid to rest this afternoon, his funeral attended by Reds players, coaches, and staff.

We join sports fans online as we extend our sympathies to Capellan’s family and friends and their prayers for Hernandez and Garcia.

Go Yankees!

World Series 5: BOS vs. LAD — Freshly minted #WorldSeries Champions

And just like that, the 2018 season is over. With a swinging strikeout from a potential free agent trying a bit too hard against a starter masquerading as a closer.

To be fair, tonight’s game was the kind of game you’d expect at a World Series. Both starters were ace pitchers, pretty evenly matched, going deep into the game. Kershaw of the Dodgers throwing 7 strong innings, and the Red Sox’s starter Price throwing into the 8th but dominating tonight’s game.

Now, Price used to have troubles in the postseason with other teams but has seemed to find his momentum with this team and this season, giving up just 3 hits and the Dodgers’ only run in his outing tonight. That run was a 1st pitch lead-off solo home run in the bottom of the 1st, so between Price and his two stellar relievers and the defense, the Dodgers weren’t doing much of anything tonight.

Kershaw had more trouble keeping the Red Sox from advancing and maintained a decent hold on the game that in another situation might have been enough for them to bounce back. But the visiting team got thing started early in the 1st when a 1-out single scored as part of a big 2-run home run to put the Sox in an early lead they’d not surrender.

Later in the game, they added a few exclamation points to their score in the form of solo home runs, one in each of the 6th, 7th, and 8th. In fact, the home run was how both teams scored all their runs tonight, and the Red Sox player that kicked things off in the 1st was the same guy who closed it for them in the 8th, the first age 35+ player since 1959 to have a multi-home run game in the World Series (joining Yankees legend Babe Ruth and Reds/White Sox infielder Ted Kluszewski).

Final score: 5-1 Red Sox, Red Sox win series 4-1

Despite some conversation that the MVP could be Price, they chose the other player who clearly impacted this series and this game in particular. That player, Steve Pearce, blasted those two big home runs tonight and ended up being crowned the Willie Mays World Series MVP, complete with a new bright red Chevy truck and a cool trophy for his mantle. Pearce has played for the Yankees among many other teams in his career before being traded to the Red Sox mid-season this year from the Blue Jays.

And because they’re not above trolling their opponents, the Red Sox blasted both “New York, New York” and “California Love” during their champagne celebrations in the visitors’ clubhouse of Dodgers Stadium. The latter song is one of the Dodgers’ relievers walk-up songs and a classic rap song. While I certainly thought it was good they didn’t linger too long on their host team’s field, this level of trolling is a bit low. Even for the Red Sox.

But that’s why we’re Yankee fans…

Go Yankees!

World Series 4: BOS vs. LAD — Late inning heroics

Well, the Dodgers now have quite the uphill battle if they want their first championship since 1988 (30 years). But the Red Sox are just a game away from their 4th victory this century (2004, 2007, and 2013). After an 18-inning marathon, the Red Sox found their old momentum again from this postseason to right their ship and rock the Dodgers’.

Actually, both teams held each other to limited offense for most of the game. In fact, the game was scoreless though 5 full innings. It wasn’t until the bottom of the 6th that the Dodgers got through first. They loaded up the bases with 1 out. The next batter hit into a weird play. A fielder’s choice and fielding error got one runner out at home but allowed the next runner to score and leave runners on the corners. Then a big 3-run home run pushed the Dodgers into a comfortable lead.

But it wasn’t comfortable enough for the visiting Red Sox as they started chipping away at that lead. The Dodgers gave up a couple of walks before a 2-out, 3-run home run put the Red Sox within a run. But then in the 8th, a 1-out solo home run tied up the game. But the Red Sox kept charging forward. With 1 out in the 9th, a double scored on a pinch-hit single before loading the bases again. A bases-clearing double ensured a nice cushion for the Red Sox before a single later scored that runner to cap off the Red Sox late comeback rally.

So the Dodgers put in their best effort for their own comeback rally in the bottom of the 9th with a lead-off walk followed promptly by a 2-run home run. But despite a 1-out single, the home team just ran out of outs to come back.

Final score: 9-6 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 3-1

But for those Dodgers fans (read: my good friend) who are feeling a little despondent after tonight’s game, a great trivia nerd put together an inspiring list of teams who were down 3-1 in past postseasons and still came back to win their series, including the 2016 Cubs (World Series over Indians) and (the headache of all Yankee fans) the 2004 Red Sox (ALCS over Yankees). In other words, it’s possible and it’s dramatic, both something we’ve seen a lot of this postseason.

Go Yankees!

World Series 3: BOS vs. LAD — Extra innings marathon milestones

The one advantage of tonight’s game is that it was played on the West Coast, or 3 hours behind the fans in Boston (or those of us on the East Coast in general). So an 8pm start time is just 5pm in Los Angeles. Thus a 7 hour and 20 minute game means a bit after midnight, or a fairly normal time for most Californians. Unfortunately, for most of the country and half of the fans of tonight’s game, it meant the game wrapped up at 3:40 am.

Actually, the Dodgers held a slim lead for much of the game thanks to a 2-out solo home run in the 3rd. But the Red Sox kept things close, both teams putting on a great defensive and pitching show to keep the game tight. When the Red Sox tied up the game with their own 2-out solo home in the 8th, the game going into extra innings was basically inevitable. I just don’t think they thought it would be so many innings.

Both teams were given a few opportunities for the “go-ahead run” but didn’t capitalize on base runners until the 13th inning. The Red Sox worked a lead-off walk that promptly stole 2nd and then scored on a single and throwing error. Finally, the Sox had broken the tie and put themselves in the lead for the first time tonight. With a new pitcher for the Dodgers on the mound, he jammed himself up by giving up a 2-out double and intentionally walking a batter before getting out of it with a ground out.

But the home team wasn’t out of the game. In the bottom of the 13th, a lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a pop-up and then scored on a 2-out single and throwing error. There was a brief challenge on a boundary call to see if the ball was thrown into the “stands” (or rather camera area) which is an automatic trip to 2nd for the runner. But the call was upheld and the runner went back to 1st where he ended up stranded there.

And the game played on. A 14th inning stretch ensued. Dodgers’ fans still stayed to watch the final out. Or rather they prayed for a walk-off. And they got it. In the bottom of the 18th, Dodgers’ infielder Muncy stepped into the batter’s box, worked himself up to a full count and then pummeled the fast ball just over the left field fence. And the stadium erupted in joy.

Final score: 3-2 Dodgers in 18 innings, Red Sox lead series 2-1

Being as there was 7 hours and 20 minutes of conversation during the game, there was a lot of things to talk about, compare tonight’s game to, and come up with fun trivia bits. It is both the longest (general) postseason game and longest (specifically) World Series game in MLB history. The previous record holders: the 2014 NLDS Game 2 when the Giants bested the Nationals 2-1 in 18 innings in 6 hours and 23 minutes; and the 2005 World Series Game 3 when the White Sox beat the Astros 7-5 in 14 innings, 5 hours and 41 minutes.

Tonight’s game also utilized 46 total players, including a Dodgers’ pitcher as a pinch-hitter, and both teams sent 9 pitchers each to the mound over the 18 innings. The latter stat tied previous World Series records set by the 2017 Dodgers in that Game 2 and the 2005 White Sox in that Game 3 (the aforementioned long game).

And in Yankee Universe news: The finalists for the Gold Glove awards were announced yesterday. And the Yankees have 3 names on that list. Masahiro Tanaka is nominated for his defensive skills as a pitcher, as is outfielders Brett Gardner (left field) and Aaron Judge (right field). The winners of each position in both leagues will be announced on November 4 as part of a string of postseason awards. Of those three, Gardner is the only one who’s won a Gold Glove before (in 2016), though he certainly deserves some major recognition as one of the most underrated outfielders in the MLB.

Go Yankees!

World Series 2: LAD vs. BOS — Dodgers’ 3-hit chilly stumble

The World Series is headed to the West Coast (where it’s 30+ degrees warmer, by the way) with the Red Sox in a strong lead over the Dodgers. After a chilly night in Fenway, the bats weren’t as loud as previous nights in the park, but it didn’t stop either team from trying their hardest to shift the game their way.

For 9 postseasons in his career, the Red Sox’s starter (formerly with the Rays and Tigers) hasn’t done really well. But this postseason has been quite successful for him, shutting down the Yankees and Astros to get to the point to limiting the Dodgers to just 3 hits in tonight’s game. Meanwhile, the Dodgers’ starter certainly limited the damage, but the Red Sox offense were just stronger tonight. In the 2nd, the Red Sox got a 1-out double that scored on a 2-out single to kick off their limited night.

The Dodgers finally found their opportunity in the 4th loading up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. A sacrifice fly scored a run, and a 2-out single scored one more to put the Dodgers in their first lead this series. It didn’t last long, as the Red Sox loaded up the bases themselves in the bottom of the 5th. A walk scored the run that tied up that game and a single scored 2 extra runs to ensure the Red Sox’s eventual victory.

Once both starter were out of the game, their respective bullpens kept the score as is and sent this Series to Los Angeles with the Red Sox firmly in the lead.

Final score: 4-2 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 2-0

In an interesting note, Jackie Robinson died on this day 46 year ago. He is most remembered as being the first player of color to play MLB professionally. It’s noteworthy that both managers in this World Series are former professional MLB players of color. The Red Sox’s Alex Cora is from Puerto Rico (and later South Florida), and Dave Roberts was born to his African-American dad and his Japanese mother in Japan.

It only took 71 years from when Robinson “broke the color barrier” to having both World Series managers be people of color with careers they can credit to Robinson’s own stellar career. Both managers, by the way, were born in the mid-1970s, thus their entire baseball lives from Little League to pro-ball was an open door for people of all races. And if you just take a passing glance at both rosters, you can see they are diverse in a way most people could only dream of back in 1947.

With one major exception… they’re still all men. Don’t at me. Don’t tell me that women can’t compete with men one day. A League of Their Own and the recent short-lived Fox drama Pitch touched on this issue, as well as the rise of Mo’ne Davis and these five women. A few years ago, the Dodgers had a female athletic trainer and other women are spread around baseball as the next crop of General Managers to scouts, trainers, coaches, and other predominantly male-only jobs at the Park.

Lament about the “good old days” if you want. But I think baseball became a better game when it integrated. I think it can only get better if it continues to evolve to allow the best players to play regardless of race, sex, or any other social division. Only when the world is represented can we truly enjoy the concept of a “World Series”.

Go Yankees!