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!

ALDS 4: BOS vs. NYY — Early stumbles, failed late rally end season

Sorry, Yankee Universe. The postseason continues without you. I guess for those of you who are “Yankees Only”, you’ll be focusing now on already-in-progress football (or even futbol). But the postseason continues on and there’s still a Championship Series to determine who is the “best” in each league and a World Series to see who’s “best” in MLB this year.

I put “best” in quotes because the teams with the best records have only won the World Series in 12 of 48 postseasons, since they introduced a play-off form of a postseason. By the way, the Yankees were that actual best (no quotes needed) team in 1978, 1998, and 2009.

Prior to 1969, each league just sent their team with the best record to the World Series. But then they introduced the Championship Series in 1969, when the leagues created East and West Divisions. So, naturally, the leaders of each division would play each other in the Championship Series. The league decided it needed a Division Series playoff in 1981 due to a players strike that split the season. But it was for only that year.

Then in 1994, the league expanded into 3 divisions and thus created the role of the Wild Card to fill the 4th team for the Division play-offs. But the 1994 season ended early due to another players strike, so the first regular Division Series wasn’t until the 1995 season. And they introduced the concept of the 1-off Wild Card game in 2012 to bring us up to the current postseason design. Which means “best” is actually rather vague if the 5th best (out of 15) team in a league actually has a chance to be crowned World Series championship.

And before this sounds like a bitter rant (though it’s not, I swear), there was a game to finalize who would play in the Championship Series of each league. The Yankees and Red Sox got down to the bitter end of tonight’s game before the Yankees really just ran out of outs.

CC Sabathia actually did pretty well as tonight’s starter, staying strong through his first 2 innings. He had a bit of trouble in the 3rd, but he also didn’t seem to have much defensive support to get him out of the trouble. He hit the first batter that moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a sacrifice fly. The runner then moved to 2nd on a ground out and then 3rd on a wild pitch (that might have been a passed ball). A double that dropped just short in the outfield scored that runner, and a single that found a hole scored the other before a grounder finally ended the inning.

Zach Britton came into the game in the 4th and promptly gave up a lead-off solo home run before he breezed his way through the rest of the inning and the 5th. David Robertson continued his pattern through a scoreless 5 outs, 4 of which were solid strikeouts.

Dellin Betances finished the 7th and then got into a bit of a jam in the 8th with a double, a fielding error, and an intentional walk loading the bases, but he too worked himself out of the threat. Aroldis Chapman was on fire tonight and needed just 10 pitches to shut down the Red Sox in the 9th inning and help bring the Yankees’ pitching total to 12 strikeouts tonight.

The Red Sox pitching staff, meanwhile, kept the Yankees to limited in their offense as well. Their starter only went 5 innings, with the Yankees finally poking through in his final inning. With 1 out, Sanchez hit a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on Torres’ single, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly.

But the Yankees had a hard time adding more to their lone run through the next few innings of the bullpen (including a starter), so down to the last chance in the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees came on strong and took advantage of a closer having a weak night. He promptly walked Judge in 4 pitches and gave up a single to Gregorius. After a strikeout, Voit worked a walk to load up the bases and spark the still full stadium, who were waiting for this moment. Hechavarria was called in to pinch-run for Voit, a speedier option to score the tying run if possible.

So, Neil Walker stepped into the plate, who had a really good night, but then he was hit by a pitch. That still scored Judge and kept the bases loaded. Gary Sanchez was next and battled his way to a long sacrifice fly, caught on the warning track, to score Gregorius to inch the Yankees within a single run of the Red Sox’s lead. It was down to Gleyber Torres, who ended up hitting into a ground out. The challenged the call at 1st, saying Torres beat out the ball, but a brief review upheld the call.

Final score: 4-3 Red Sox, Red Sox win series 3-1

Postseason Predictions: It’s review time, to see how accurate my predictions have been so far and make new ones for the next round of playoffs.

(Key: *winner right, game count wrong; **winner and game count right; ~winner wrong, game count right; ~~both wrong.)

  • Division Series:
    • Predictions/Results:
      • NLDS 1: Brewers over Rockies in 4 games* (3 games)
      • NLDS 2: Dodgers over Braves in 4 games**
      • ALDS 1: Astros over Indians in 3 games**
      • ALDS 2: Yankees over Red Sox in 5 games~~ (Red Sox in 4)
  • Championship Series:
    • NLCS: Dodgers over Brewers in 5 games
    • ALCS: Astros over Red Sox in 5 games

Yes, I’m looking at a World Series between the Dodgers and Astros, in a fun rematch of last year’s Series.

But for Yankee fans, the “Chase for 28” continues, with the team regrouping next season to start the push all over again in Spring Training.

Go Yankees!

 

NLDS 4: LAD vs. ATL & ALDS 3: HOU vs. CLE, BOS vs. NYY — One solid win, one strong win, one sloppy loss

Okay, after today’s games, the Division Series is down to just one series to determine which teams advance to the Championship Series. And today’s games just kept the drama of the postseason rolling. In the end, three teams emerged as overwhelmingly powerful.

NLDS: Dodgers at Braves
First, the NLDS is over thanks to the Dodgers emerging as the clear winner of that series. Mostly, this afternoon was a show of the solid Dodgers’ bullpen who held the Braves to their 2 runs scored in the 4th. The Braves put consecutive walks on the bases that moved to scoring position on a sacrifice bunt and then both scored on a long single to get the home team on the board.

But the Dodgers were the ones with the advantage. They also struck first with a 2-out walk that scored on an RBI double in the 1st. But their big inning was the 6th. With 2 outs and runners in scoring position, a new reliever for the Braves gave up a 2-run single to put the Dodgers back in the lead. Then, a lead-off single and walk scored as part of a 3-run home run to kick off the 7th to ensure their victory and advance to the next round.

Final score: 6-2 Dodgers, Dodgers defeat Braves 3-1

ALDS A: Astros at Indians
Despite the hometown fervor, the Astros would not be deterred from sweeping the Indians in this series. The Indians got a few runs early. In the 3rd, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a single, then to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, before scoring on a sacrifice fly. And a 2-out solo home run in the 5th doubled the home team’s score. But while their starter held the Astros off for most of the game, I can’t say the same about their bullpen.

The Indians’ starter gave up a 1-out solo home run to the Astros. But then their bullpen crumbled. In the 7th, a single moved to 2nd on a pick-off error, to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a fielder’s choice out to tie up the game. The next batter made it to 1st on a throwing error, and a walk loaded the bases. A double then scored 2 more Astros runs.

A 1-out solo home run in the 8th kept the ball rolling, as the Astros loaded the bases with a double, a walk, and an intentional walk. A single allowed from a new pitcher scored just one run, and a wild pitch scored another, before a 3-run home run pushed them further in the lead. And a lead-off walk in the 9th moved to 2nd on a balk, made it to 3rd on a ground out, and scored on a single to cap off the Astros’ big scoring afternoon.

The Indians at least made a small effort to reclaim some of the gap in the bottom of the 9th with a last-ditch effort. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a single. A double play moved the lead runner to 3rd before he scored on a wild pitch. But they ran out of outs.

Final score: 11-3 Astros, Astros sweep series 3-0

ALDS B: Red Sox at Yankees
And up in New York, the Red Sox showed up to reclaim their lost game on Saturday, and the Yankees forgot how to play baseball. The Red Sox clearly were in command of tonight’s game from start to finish, only giving up a single run to the Yankees in the 4th. Voit led-off with a single (that the Red Sox unwisely challenged). Stanton’s single moved Voit to 3rd, and Didi Gregorius hit into a grounder at 2nd that still scored Voit. Now, it would have scored Voit either way, but the call was originally a double play. The Yankees challenged the call at 1st, and it was rightly overturned.

Now, the Yankees pitching just wasn’t working tonight, as every pitcher gave up at least one run, most multiple runs. Luis Severino wasn’t in the kind of shape we recently saw in the Wild Card game, instead struggled his way into the 4th inning, giving up 70 pitches, 7 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs, and striking out just 2 Boston batters. In the 2nd, a lead-off single stole 2nd on a strikeout, moved to 3rd on a grounder, and then scored on a single to kick off Boston’s big night.

A lead-off single in the 3rd ended up on 3rd on a single and sloppy throw and then score don a sacrifice fly. Another single left runners on the corners, and a fielder’s choice out scored a run. But it was the 4th inning that made the difference. Severino came back out for the 4th to load up the bases with 2 singles and a walk.

It was Lance Lynn’s turn. He promptly gave up a walk to score 1 run and a bases-clearing double to score 3 more. After finally getting an out in the inning, he gave up a single before trudging his way to the dugout and handing the ball to Chad Green. Green got another out but then gave up an RBI single and a 2-RBI triple.

Jonathan Holder had a better time in the 6th but then struggled on his own in the 7th, giving up 1-out ground-rule double and a 2-out walk. A single scored that lead runner. Then Jonathan Tarpley had his own troubles in the 8th. He gave up consecutive singles that scored one on a ground-rule double. A 1-out wild pitch scored the other, and a walk loaded the bases before a single scored one more run.

And in the 9th, with the Yankees so far behind, the opted to do something they’d never done before — send in a position player to pitch the final inning. This time, it was Austin Romine. And honestly, Romine had a decent outing for a non-pitcher, 10 of his 18 pitches being strikes. He got 2 quick outs before giving up a walk that scored as part of a 2-run home run to end the Red Sox’s big night.

Final score: 16-1 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 2-1

A few game notes from the Yankees-Red Sox game: the Red Sox player that homered off Romine in the 9th (Holt) actually hit for the cycle in tonight’s game. Doing so means that he hit a single, a double, a triple, and a home run all in one game. This made his the first player in MLB history to hit for the cycle in a postseason game.

Also, 1st base umpire Angel Hernandez had a bit of trouble with some key calls there. Already notorious for his style and skills, Hernandez made 4 calls that were challenged. Of those, 3 were overturned on replay. And they weren’t even close calls. It certainly set social media on fire, which quickly dubbed tonight’s game the “Angel Hernandez game”.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 2: CLE vs. HOU, NYY vs. BOS — Drama in the AL

The NLDS teams travel today to their next stop, the lower seed’s home field for what may be the final game. Both higher seed teams are leading their series 2-0 and just need one more win to advance to the NLCS to play each other. But that “home field advantage” may alter some things for those series.

ALDS A: Indians at Astros
Meanwhile, the ALDS continued to shake things up with some drama. The Astros continued to come out strong mostly due to their solid starter, who got the Indians to strikeout 12 times in his 7 innings, only giving up a 2-out solo home run in the 3rd. The Indians couldn’t seem to pierce through much more of the Astros’ defense.

The Astros were held off from the board by a good start by the Indians’ starter Carrasco. It wasn’t until the 6th that they finally got a score. After Carrasco gave up a single and walk and got an out, the Indians called on their bullpen. But it collapsed. A double promptly scored both runners to jump the Astros ahead.

After loading up the bases and no additional outs, they went to the bullpen again. That new pitcher got out of the jam. And then with 2 outs in the 7th, he gave up a solo home run to add just one more run for the Astros. Despite the small lead the Astros held, the Indians just weren’t coming back with any kind of last-minute rally.

Final score: 3-1 Astros, Astros lead series 2-1

ALDS B: Yankees at Red Sox
With last night’s game being rather tight at the end of it all, the Yankees just running out of outs really, tonight’s game was going to be just as dramatic. Because the rivalry… And it’s clearly 2003 and 2004 all over again.

Masahiro Tanaka had a great night, throwing 78 pitches in 5 innings, giving up 3 hits, a walk, and 1 run, and striking out 4 batters along the way. His lone allowed run was a 1-out solo home run in the 4th. Dellin Betances came on for a quick 6th inning, but he had some trouble in the 7th. A lead-off single scored on a 1-out double to double the Red Sox’s score. Britton and Chapman closed out the game without allowing the home team anything further.

In a series that could end up being really close, the Yankees kind of proved they deserved to be playing in the postseason. Fortunately, they faced a familiar face on the mound, who does not seem to pitch well against the Yankees ever. Price gave up a 1-out solo home run right in the 1st inning.

Then Gary Sanchez led-off the 2nd with a monster solo home run. Two outs later, Price walked Torres and Gardner. Torres then scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single to end Price’s night. His relievers, oddly, had a pretty good night keeping the Yankees from adding to their score for most of the game.

In the 7th, Judge led-off with a single and moved to 2nd on Voit’s walk. Then in a play that ended up being far too talked about online, Stanton hit into a fielder’s choice out at 2nd. Originally ruled safe, the Red Sox challenged it, and for some reason, HQ thought there was enough evidence to overturn it. A huge shame because the next batter, Gary Sanchez, hit his 2nd homer of the game, a monster 3-run home run (thus a base runner shy of a grand slam) to ensure the Yankee victory, thus sending the series back to the Bronx on an even playing field.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees, series split 1-1

And to commemorate the Yankees’ victory, Aaron Judge felt it was necessary to use his personal sound system to make sure the Yankees left their victory to the tune of “New York, New York“. While they play it after every game at Yankee Stadium regardless of the outcome, it’s especially sweet after a win. Which, as you know, happens a lot.

It’s worth noting the only time that song was actually played at Fenway was the first game back after 9/11. The Yankees later returned the honor by playing “Sweet Caroline” following the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. For all the bluster of the “rivalry”, when it matters, when it’s truly baseball at its finest, the heart of the true sports fans is shown.

Like the Boston fan that got Judge’s home run ball. He even ripped his jeans and skinned his knee, but he got it. He kept it (and didn’t throw it back). He showed it off. And he’s going to give it to his friend who’s a huge Yankees fan. Because that’s baseball.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 1: CLE vs. HOU, NYY vs. BOS & NLDS 2: COL vs. MIL, ATL vs. LAD — A very busy but predictable Friday

It’s days like this, with the flurry of activity, that really amp up the drama that leads up to the final bit of this season. For those of us who follow the entire day, it’s quite overwhelming at times. But oddly, it ended up being kind of predictable.

NLDS 2a: Rockies at Brewers
The Brewers and Rockies continue to prove they are pretty evenly matched in this postseason series. But the Brewers found their opportunities and capitalized on them well. In the 4th, a 1-out double scored on a ground-rule double to get the home team on the board. But then, they were held to that lone run for most of the game.

Then in the 8th, the Brewers loaded the bases with no outs. A single scored one runner. And 2 outs later, a single scored 2 more runs. That and some really tight pitching ensured the Brewers’ shutout victory.

Final score: 4-0 Brewers, Brewers lead series 2-0

NLDS 2b: Braves at Dodgers
The Dodgers sent their ace pitcher for tonight’s game and he just breezed his way through 8 scoreless innings allowing just 2 hits. The Braves’ offense just struggled their way through the whole game.

The Dodgers’ offense, however, found an early chance to ensure their lead in the game and series. They gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a ground out. A 2-out 2-run home run gave them that early lead. And a lead-off solo home run in the 5th added that extra insurance run for them they wouldn’t need in this game. And the Braves’ bullpen actually snapped into action to keep the Dodgers to that small early lead.

Final score: 3-0 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 2-0

ALDS 1a: Indians at Astros
The ALDS series began today and had the Indians and Astros show off their strong pitching rotations. Seriously, of all the teams in the postseason, the two teams with the strongest starting pitching are these two teams. And while they certainly showed off their stuff, there was enough early on to give both teams hope. And then the Astros pulled away and showed why they won 103 games this season.

The Astros struck first with a lead-off solo home run in the 4th. Then a walk moved to 2nd on a 2-out single and then scored on another single to double their score. Then they came back in the 5th with consecutive solo home runs to lead-off that inning to again double that score.

The Indians finally answered back in the 6th by loading up the bases and pushing out the Astros’ starter. A wild pitch by the reliever moved all the runners up and scored the Indians’ first run. Another run scored on a ground out to half the Astros’ lead.

But the home team got both of them back in the 7th with a lead-off solo home run. Then a single moved to 2nd on a grounder and scored on a single. And a 1-out double in the 8th scored on an RBI single to finish the game on a strong note for the Astros’ fans packing their hometown park.

Final score: 7-2 Astros, Astros lead series 1-0

ALDS 1b: Yankees at Red Sox
And up in Boston, the Yankees just had a series of miscues that didn’t make tonight work in the end. JA Happ, the assumed Wild Card starter, got the start and just flustered his way into the 3rd inning. A 1-out single and walk in the 1st scored as part of a 3-run home run to get the Red Sox on the board in a hurry. After giving up a double and single to put runners on the corners, the Yankees turned to Chad Green.

Green had his own issues keeping the home team’s momentum down. He gave up a single that easily scored the runner from 3rd. A fly out moved the other runner to 3rd so that he could then score on a sacrifice fly. But then Green held them off for the 4th inning. Lynn, Britton, and Robertson then finished off the final 4 innings and kept the Red Sox to those early runs.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox has a strong starting rotation, and their ace pitcher Sale started tonight’s game and held the Yankees off until the 6th inning. Judge led-off the inning with a single but then was out on Gardner’s fielder’s choice grounder. And Stanton then singled. That was the end of Sale’s night, but he was responsible for Gardner and Stanton.

Luke Voit then hit a nice single to score Gardner, and Didi Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice grounder at 2nd that still scored Stanton. Walks to Andujar and Sanchez loaded up the bases to prove the Red Sox’s bullpen isn’t as strong as their starters. But the Yankees also started a pattern that wasn’t going to work out well for them — load up the bases and leave them stranded.

In the 7th, they loaded up the bases with singles by McCutchen and Judge and a walk to Gardner. With 1 out, Voit hit into a ground out at 2nd that still scored McCutchen. But they left runners in scoring position again. When the Red Sox needed just 3 outs in the 9th to close out their game, Aaron Judge put a slight kink in that with a lead-off solo home run to trim the Red Sox lead down to just 1 run.

But 3 strikeouts later, the game was over. It’s just going to prove this series is going to be super

Final score: 5-4 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 1-0

Quick side note: in the Yankees-Red Sox game, Aaron Hicks came out of the game in the 4th after hitting a single and kind of lightly running to 1st base. Replaced by Gardner (who definitely impacted the game), Hicks seemed to re-injure his hamstring injury that plagued him late last month. He will go for an MRI to figure out his postseason future. If he is out for this series, like they put him on the DL, he will be ineligible for the rest of the postseason. Hopefully, that won’t happen. But the best outcome is always the healthy outcome.

Go Yankees!

2018 Postseason Preview

And with the finishing of the tie-breaker games in the National League, we now have a postseason set and ready to go.

In the National League, the Wild Card game on Tuesday will be the Cubs hosting the Rockies. The winner of that game will face the team with the highest number of game wins the Brewers for the NLDS. The other NLDS will be between the Braves and Dodgers, starting at Dodger Stadium.

Over in the American League, Yankee Universe will be watching expectantly as the Athletics play the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The winner of that game will face the game leaders of MLB, the Red Sox, for the ALDS. The other ALDS game will be the Indians and Astros in Houston.

The NLDS begins on Thursday, the ALDS on Friday. The pattern once again is 2 games (at the higher seed’s stadium), travel day, 2 games (at the lower seed’s stadium), travel day, 1 game (back at the higher seed). The first team to 3 wins takes the Division Series and advances to the Championship Series. That is a 7-game series, pattern of 2-3-2, first to 4 wins. The winners of those advance to the World Series.

And we’re at that time of year that I start making foolish predictions. I’ve learned my lesson, and I will only take this one step at a time.

So, for the Wild Card games:

  • NL Wild Card (on Tuesday) — Rockies over Cubs
  • AL Wild Card (on Wednesday) — Yankees over Athletics

This means that I think the Rockies will end up facing the Brewers in the NLDS and the Yankees will face the Red Sox in the ALDS. But then I’ve been wrong before. I’ll be wrong again. And I’ll be wrong this postseason.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 5: NYY vs. CLE, NLDS 4: WAS vs. CHC — Hometown losers, Yanks to ALCS, NLDS to Game 5

Today was easily two of the most interesting games in the entire postseason, but for two very different reasons. Except they had one thing in common — both home town crowds walked away very disappointed.

Game 1: Nationals at Cubs (make-up for rainout on Oct. 10)
In the longest game (nearly 4 hours) these teams have played this postseason, it was like watching a very different pair of teams than any of the previous three games. And I think I could blame the mold in the A/C in the Chicago hotel the Nationals are staying in  if the mold was something out of a comic book. Because the Nationals were clearly the strongest team today in nearly every possible way. (By the way, I don’t doubt there’s a mold problem as I stay in lots of hotels and have run into this problem many times, even in high-end establishments like I’m sure the Nationals are staying in.)

Their starter threw a really great outing, going a solid 7 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 12 Cubs’ batters. And the final 2 innings and relievers kept the scoreless streak going. But the Cubs’ pitchers just didn’t have it at all today. Their starter only went 4 innings, and their relievers each had shaky outings of their own. In the 3rd, a 1-out double moved to 3rd on a wild pitch and then scored later on a fielding error to get the Nats on the board with an unearned run early.

Despite the unsurity of the Cubs’ pitchers, they were able to hold off the Nationals from scoring for most of the game. But then came the 8th inning, and things just didn’t get better for the home team. With 1 out, a batter worked a walk and then got picked off of 1st, thanks in part to a Cubs’ challenge that overturned the original safe call. Then after a batter singled, the Cubs went back to their bullpen. But the bases were quickly loaded with consecutive walks. A new reliever then gave up a big grand slam to solidify the Nationals win and nearly silence the entirety of Wrigley Field. Literally, fans were headed for the exits after that hit.

Final score: 5-0 Nationals, series split 2-2, NLDS heads back to D.C. for Game 5

Game 2: Yankees at Indians
The Yankees and Indians entered tonight’s game with that winner-take-all attitude that is so wonderful in the postseason. I had a conversation with my mother (who you might remember grew up an Indians fan), and we concluded that the winner of this game would be the team that really deserved it, the one that played better at the end of the day. And they did.

The Yankees seem to have the Indians’ ace starter’s number and began their advance early in the game thanks solely to Didi Gregorius, who hit a 2-out solo home run in the 1st. And then he came back in the 3rd, with 1 out and Gardner on 1st with a lead-off single to hit another home run to give the Yankees an early lead. The Indians’ starter left the game in the 4th inning and their bullpen held the Yankees off for most of the game.

In the mean time, CC Sabathia got the start tonight, throwing just 69 pitches into the 5th inning, striking out 9 Cleveland batters, and fending them off for the first 4 innings. It wasn’t until the 5th that the Indians started to chip away at Sabathia’s strong outing and the Yankees’ lead. With just 1 out, Sabathia gave up 4 consecutive singles to score 2 runs before David Robertson came on to relieve him and promptly got the next batter to ground into a beautiful double play to end the threat. Robertson breezed his way through the next 2 innings, handing things over to Aroldis Chapman for the final 2 innings.

The Yankees held onto that minuscule lead for most of the second half of the game until the 9th inning when they had a bit of fun. Aaron Hicks hit a 1-out single and ended up at 2nd on a sloppy fielding error. Todd Frazier worked a 2-out walk to join Hicks on the baseline. Then after a really big nail-biting 12-pitch at-bat, Brett Gardner hit a solid single that scored both Hicks and Frazier thanks to a throwing error that allowed Gardner to land at 2nd on the play. It was enough of a lead to make the crowd at Progressive Field feel a whole lot like the crowd at Wrigley.

Final score: 5-2 Yankees, Yankees win ALDS, advance to ALCS

Yes, that’s right, the Yankees, the team everyone thought would barely break even in the regular season just beat the best team in the American League. Sorry to all my family who are huge Indians fans (and still follow my Yankees-centric blog, because … family), but you’ll have to try again next year to break your now 70 year championship drought.

Okay, so Game 5 of the NLDS is tomorrow night to decide how the Championship Series will look. (And I’ll do my Division Series’ bracket outcome and predict the next series.) The Yankees will face off the Astros in Houston starting on Friday night. The winner of the Cubs-Nationals series will face off against the waiting Dodgers in LA starting Saturday. So things are really just getting started, folks!

Go Yankees!

ALDS 4: HOU vs. BOS & CLE vs. NYY, NLDS 3: WAS vs. CHC & LAD vs. ARI — Halfway to a Championship Series

Two Championship Series teams are ready to go, and two are still battling it out. And two teams are now officially in their off-season.

Game 1: Astros at Red Sox
It took over four hours, a managerial ejection, and 4 starters to determine this afternoon’s game. Both teams sent in 2 starters for long-term stints to try to push their respective causes — the Red Sox needing to win to stay alive for Game 5, and the Astros ready to win to close out this series and focus on the next. After the Astros got on the board in the first when a lead-off double scored on double play, the Red Sox answered back with a 1-out solo home run.

The Astros’ lead-off triple in the 2nd scored on a 2-out single, putting them ahead by a slim margin. The Red Sox found their opportunity to strike back in the 5th. A 1-out walk ended the Astros’ starter’s outing and the reliever promptly gave up a 2-run home run to put the Red Sox in the lead for the first time today. But then the Astros bounced back with a lead-off solo shot in the 8th to tie up the game. And then they continued their push forward. A batter ended up singling on fan interference, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on an RBI single. They added another one in the 9th when a hit-by-pitch later scored on a 2-out double for the insurance run they would need.

In a last-ditch effort, the Red Sox had the final half-inning to make up the difference to say alive. It was suddenly electric at Fenway when the lead-off hitter hit an inside the park home run after the Astros’ outfielder had trouble fielding the long hit ball. But then the Astros’ closer ended the Fenway faithful’s hopes, as the rain dripped into the stadium and the stadium organist played what can only be described as funeral music.

Final score: 5-4 Astros, Astros win series 3-1, Astros advances to ALCS

Game 2: Nationals at Cubs
Another pitchers’ duel between these two teams keeps things interesting and tight in this series. And rather short, just over 3 hours. Both starters pitched well into the game with minimal offense allowed. It really is a rather well-matched series. It wasn’t until the 6th inning that the Nationals broke through the scoreless game. With 2 outs, a batter ended up all the way at 3rd by a single fielder making 2 errors in a single play. He then scored on a double when the first reliever came into the game.

But this kind of game keeps things far too close, and an unearned run wasn’t going to go unanswered for long. In the bottom of the 7th, a Cubs batter hit a 1-out double. And with the Nationals going to their bullpen, a similar thing happened — a single scored that runner to tie up the game. In the 8th, the Cubs came back again to break the tie. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt. After a strikeout and a new reliever, another Cubs’ batter singled to score that runner, but then ended up getting thrown out going for 2nd to end the inning.

Final score: 2-1 Cubs, Cubs lead series 2-1

Game 3: Indians at Yankees
The Yankees weren’t about to let the Indians take the series, at least not on their home turf. Which came at a slight advantage to them when the Indians couldn’t pitch or defend tonight for anything. Meanwhile, Luis Severino held the Indians off enough for the Yankees to do something amazing. Severino threw a solid 113 pitches in his 7 innings, gave up just 4 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and struck out 9 batters. Actually, all of his allowed runs were off home runs — a 2-out walk and 2-run homer in the 4th, and a 1-out solo shot in the 5th. Dellin Betances had trouble in the 8th, walking his 2 batters, so the Yankees opted for a surprising choice — Tommy Kahnle — for the final 6 outs of the game. Of those 6 outs, 5 of those were strikeouts. Kahnle was just as strong as we’ve seen him all year.

On the flip side, the Indians couldn’t pitch or defend their way out of a paper bag tonight. Their starter (on short rest from Game 1) only pitched into the 2nd inning, but the Indians went through 7 relievers. In the 2nd inning, the Yankees started their offensive dominance thanks to some defensive incompetence. With 1 out, Castro made it safely to 1st on a fielding error. He moved to 2nd on a passed ball and then scored on Todd Frazier’s double. Frazier then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single, who then moved to 3rd on Gardner’s single. After Gardner moved to 2nd on a stolen base, both he and Hicks scored on Aaron Judge’s double.

And that was just the start of it. In the 3rd, Bird walked and moved to 3rd on Castro’s double, and with 1 out, Frazier worked a walk to load the bases. A ground out finally snapped the Indians’ defense into high gear and got the out at home, but kept the bases loaded. Brett Gardner hit into what should be an easy grounder, but once again, a throwing error worked into the Yankees’ advantage, scoring Castro for an extra run.

And into the 5th inning, Frazier hit a small grounder that was fielded by the pitcher and poorly thrown to the waiting 1st baseman, ending with Frazier at 2nd due to that throwing error. Frazier moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly. And Gary Sanchez hit a big 1-out solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ offense tonight.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees, series tied 2-2

Game 4: Dodgers at Diamondbacks
The NL is traditionally known for its pitchers, and both NLDS games featured some pretty good pitching. Both pitchers in this late game threw into the 6th inning, though the better outing was easily on the Dodgers’ side. That included the offense too. The Dodgers led-off the game with a double that later scored on a ground out. Later, they doubled that scored with a 2-out solo home run.

The Diamondbacks did their best to come back, but the Dodgers’ pitching staff was really good today, showing why the Dodgers were the best team in the league. The D-backs got a single shot with a 2-out solo home run in the 5th inning to get them on the scoreboard. The Dodgers, however, answered back in the 6th with a lead-off solo home run.

Final score: 3-1 Dodgers, Dodgers sweep series 3-0, advance to NLCS

So, there we have it: the Astros and Dodgers each await the results of the other 2 Division Series to see who they’ll face off in the next series. Yankees pushed a Game 5, and the Cubs-Nationals are going to duke it out to the end.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 3: HOU vs. BOS & CLE vs. NYY — Sweeps denied!

Two teams were headed into enemy territory on the East Coast looking to sweep their respective series and head into the ALCS to face each other. But both home teams were like, “Sweep denied!”

Game 1: Astros at Red Sox
Fenway was rocking for their home team, as only Fenway can do. And the Red Sox, who had been out scored by the Astros 16-4 in the last 2 games, were ready to make up some of that ground on their home turf. So they did.

Once again, neither starter had much success, the Red Sox starter only making it into the 2nd inning, the Astros’ starter only the 3rd. Which meant again that the bullpen would be the deciding option, and today that would be the Red Sox’s bullpen to show off, thanks in part to a former starter going 4 scoreless innings through the middle of the game, keeping the Red Sox in command of the game.

The Astros got on the board first in the 1st inning. A lead-off single stole 2nd and then scored on an RBI single. That runner then scored on a 1-out 2-run home run to give the Astros a nice early lead. But that home team bullpen wouldn’t let them add to their lead, and the Red Sox offense caught up and then surpassed. Big time.

First, loading up the bases in the 2nd, but only scoring 1 run on a single. In the 3rd, with 2 outs, a batter doubled and then scored on an RBI single. With the starter now out, the next batter hit a big 2-run home run to suddenly shift the narrative. The Red Sox were in the lead. And then they had the 7th inning, loading up the bases again so that a double would score 2 of those runners and a single the third. One out later, a 3-run home run cemented the Red Sox’s big victory.

Final score: 10-3 Red Sox, Astros lead series 2-1

Game 2: Indians at Yankees
Three people are to blame for tonight’s game in the Bronx — Tanaka, Judge, and Bird. First, Masahiro Tanaka threw an absolute gem, breezing through the Indians’ roster with a near perfect outing. He threw 92 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, gave up 3 hits and a walk, and struck out 7 Cleveland batters. He sped through the power-hitters, pushing the game at a pace that is very familiar when it’s Tanaka Time in the Bronx. At one point, Tanaka’s scoreless outing was saved by all 6-feet 7-inches of Aaron Judge jumping and grabbing a fly ball from crossing into the right field seats (and landing in the clutches of an infamous ball “collector”).

David Robertson threw only 9 pitches in the 8th, but with a runner on base with a walk, the Yankees needed to shut things down. They asked Aroldis Chapman to come on for a 5-out save, 4 of his outs would be strikeouts, topping out at 104 mph at one point, despite getting 2 base runners in the 9th.

The Yankees faced off against the Indians’ starter, who pretty much shut them down for most of his outing, into the 6th inning. But they started hitting and getting base runners, so the Indians went to their bullpen to save the day. That, of course, didn’t help when Greg Bird led-off the 7th inning with an absolute bomb into the 2nd deck of the right field seats. That would be the only run scored tonight, but all the winner needs is one more run than their opponent to win the game.

Final score: 1-0 Yankees, Indians lead series 2-1

There’s a tomorrow in Boston and New York. Both teams forced at Game 4, so tomorrow will be packed again with 4 games. (And a semi-blown bracket for me!) In other words, there’s still so much baseball left to play this year.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 2: BOS vs. HOU & NYY vs. CLE, NLDS 1: CHC vs. WAS & ARI vs. LAD — Home field advantage… and the Cubs

Big day in the world of baseball with four consecutive games. Well, there was quite a bit of overlap for a couple of games thanks to a bad call and far too many extra innings. And because there’s some games out West, one game lasted well into the next morning, making today far longer than this East Coast girl is used to.

Game 1: ALDS 2 — Red Sox at Astros
It took exactly 4 hours for the Astros to dominate the Red Sox and send the series to Fenway in their favor. The Astros called on their ace starter to pitch into the 6th inning, and he really stepped up to the plate (so to speak), fending off the Red Sox batters for most of the game, only giving up 3 hits, 3 walks, and a run and striking out 7 batters. His allowed run was in the 2nd when a lead-off double stole 3rd and later scored on a 1-out single. The Astros’ bullpen kept that momentum going until the 9th inning, when a 1-out single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single.

The Red Sox’s pitching was pretty much on line with their offense. For example, their starter only went 2 full innings (and 3 batters in the 3rd) and their bullpen followed that example. In the 1st, with 2 outs and a man on base with a single, a 2-run homer got the Astros on base early. A lead-off homer in the 3rd added to the score. A double followed that only to score on the next player’s single. Despite loading the bases, the Red Sox finally got some outs in the inning to get out of the jam.

To finalize the game, the Astros roughed up the Red Sox again in the 6th. With runners on the corners and 1 out, a fly ball and throwing error allowed the runners to advance and thus score an extra run. After intentionally walking the next batter, the Red Sox gave up a double to score 2 more and a single to score the last one. The reality is that the Red Sox are rather out-matched by the Astros, and this series shows it very well. However, anything can happen in Fenway… just ask the Yankees.

Final score: 8-2 Astros, Astros lead ALDS 2-0

Game 2: ALDS 2 — Yankees at Indians
The problem with tonight’s game is that it was actually a really good game for the Yankees, but then things happened that shouldn’t have happened, decisions will be permanently and suitably questioned, and the game spiraled out of control. As evidenced by the 5 hour and 8 minute game time and 13 innings played. CC Sabathia threw a great game, just 77 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 3 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs (only 2 earned), and struck out 5 Cleveland batters.

In the 1st, Sabathia loaded up the bases with a fielding error, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch. A single scored 2 runners before the next batter lined into a double play as the runner at 2nd double off base. That runner also badly sprained his ankle. And a lead-off batter in the 2nd moved to 2nd on a questionable throwing error, ended up at 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on an RBI single.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were actually hitting off the Indians’ ace starter, knocking him out after 76 pitches in the 3rd inning after racking up 7 hits, a walk, and 6 runs. In the 1st, Judge worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of Gary Sanchez’s 2-run home run straight up the middle. In the 3rd, Sanchez hit a 1-out single, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on Starlin Castro’s single. Bird then singled, so that would make Aaron Hicks’ big hit a 3-run home run. That ended the Indians’ starter’s night and really set the Yankees with a big lead. Gregorius later worked a lead-off walk in the 5th and then scored as part of Greg Bird’s big 2-run home run.

Okay, so the 6th inning… known forever now as the inning that changed everything. Sabathia was still pitching and gave up a lead-off walk and got an out. That was it for Sabathia, so the Yankees called in Chad Green. This is decision to question #1. Why remove Sabathia when he’s having a great outing and has such a low pitch count? Okay, so Green gets out #2, but then gives up a double to put runners in scoring position.

Then things get weirder. The next batter is “hit-by-a-pitch”, or rather his bat was. He was awarded 1st base (to load up the bases), which was a surprise even to the batter. Gary Sanchez stood up to alert Girardi that it wasn’t a HBP and should be challenged on a replay. By he was practically ignored (questionable decision #2), so the bases were loaded. The next batter promptly hit a home run, a grand slam to put the Indians within a run of the Yankees’ lead. Well, the entire sold-out crowd at Progressive Field certainly loved it. Most of Yankee Universe took to social media (including myself) to express their displeasure.

It was on to David Robertson for the next 5 outs, closing out the 6th and through the 7th and into the 8th. In the 8th, he gave up a lead-off solo home run to tie up the game right there. After another out, the Yankees flipped the game to Tommy Kahnle for the final 2 outs of the inning before turning to Aroldis Chapman in the 9th.

It is worth noting that the Cleveland fans treated every out after that run tying home run as if it was the last one of the game. Chapman actually pitched through the 9th and then the 10th as the game went into extra innings. The Yankees’ batters were able to get runners on base, but they weren’t able to finish the job and score a run. Dellin Betances came on in the 11th and pitched 2 scoreless innings, and for some reason (questionable decision #3), came out for the 13th inning. A lead-off walk stole 2nd and then promptly scored on a single to score the walk-off run for the home team.

Final score: 9-8 Indians, Indians lead ALDS 2-0

Game 3: NLDS 1 — Cubs at Nationals
About the time the Yankees began their spiral into the “questionable decisions” territory, the Cubs-Nationals game began in the nation’s capital. It was a quick 3 hour and 2 minute game that began with a ceremonial first pitch by Representative Steve Scalise, who was seriously injured earlier this year when a gun man opened fire on a Congressional baseball practice. Scalise threw a great first pitch and set the tone for the game to come.

Both teams sent in some stellar pitchers, who were pretty much locked in a pitching duel for a the first half of the game. Honestly, I didn’t realize how evenly matched the Cubs and Nationals were until this game. Both starters went a full 7 innings, gave up minimal hits, and kept the score low. Their 2 respective relievers followed suit in their single innings.

But it would the Cubs to buck today’s trend of home field advantage and come out on top thanks to their gift of small ball tonight. In the 6th, the lead-off batter reached on a fielding error, moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on an RBI single and throwing error that moved that batter to 2nd. Then he scored on another RBI single to give the Cubs a solid lead. With new pitching in the 8th, the lead-off batter for the Cubs doubled, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a 2-out double for that insurance run they’d never need tonight.

They finished their game just a few minutes after the previous one did in extra innings. It wasn’t as talked about post-game, but the pitcher’s duel was something in the postseason, a season so far dominated by home runs and sloppy pitching. It was nice to see starting pitchers duke it out old-school.

Final score: 3-0 Cubs, Cubs lead NLDS 1-0

Game 4: NLDS 1 — Diamondbacks at Dodgers
This game started about 10:30 pm Eastern Time, roughly 11 minutes after Cleveland scored its walk-off run three time zones away. And in regular postseason fashion, it would last 3 hours and 37 minutes because the Dodgers came to play ball, thanks mostly to their ace starter who threw into the 7th inning (100 pitches) and struck out 7 Arizona batters along the way. Over on the other hand, the Diamondbacks’ starter only threw 1 inning, but racked up a whopping 48 pitches.

Here’s how: the Dodgers hit a lead-off single and worked a walk which both scored as part of a big 3-run home run to kick things off in Los Angeles. The next batter singled and then scored on a double before the pitcher finally got an out. He would get all 3 outs as strikeouts, but the damage was done awfully early. The Diamondbacks answered back in the 3rd with a 2-out solo shot, a mere blip on the scoreboard at that point. And their pitchers weren’t doing the greatest job of fending off the power-hitting Dodgers. In the 4th, with 1 out and 2 runners on base, consecutive singles scored 2 more runs for the home team.

The Diamondbacks chipped away at the Dodgers’ lead the only way they could — with home runs. With 2 outs in the 6th, they launched one into the left field seats to double their score. And in the 7th, with 1 out, they hit back-to-back left field solo home runs. That was it for the Dodgers’ ace, but not for the rest of the game. As the Dodgers got those 2 runs back in the 8th. A lead-off single later scored on a 1-out triple, and then that runner scored on an easy single.

Finally, playing a little small ball, the D-backs made the 9th inning a little interesting. A 1-out single moved to 2nd on defensive indifference and later scored on a fielder’s choice and throwing error of sorts.

Final score: 9-5 Dodgers, Dodgers lead NLDS 1-0

The ALDS teams head to the East Coast to continue their series on Sunday, with the Astros and Indians hoping for an easy 3rd game. The NLDS plays their second game tomorrow. But clearly, there’s nothing easy about the postseason. What’s that old phrase? Or it might be called “football”? Yeah, something like that…

Go Yankees!