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!

NLDS 3: MIL vs. COL, LAD vs. ATL — One in, one to Game 4

As much as we like to pretend to know exactly how things will turn out based on patterns we’ve seen or statistics on paper, things in this life rarely turn out to be so predictable. Yes, people themselves are predictable, but collective results are often far from it. Baseball is a great example of this. It’s a team sport that celebrates the individual accomplishment. Which means as predictable as it is, it’s just not so predictable.

Now, as the Yankees travel home to continue their now even series against the Red Sox and the Astros follow the Indians back to Cleveland hoping to sew up Game 3 tomorrow, the postseason is really just beginning in many ways. And after today, only one team has a place in the next series, but that’s all going to change over the next few days.

NLDS A: Brewers at Rockies
After a tight first game, the Brewers have come out swinging strong and not slowing down. The bottom line is that the Brewers outpitched and outplayed the Rockies once again. The Brewers pitchers only gave up 4 hits, while they hit 12 of them. In the 1st, the Brewers got an early lead when a 1 out walk moved to 3rd on a single and then scored on a ground out fielder’s choice. And a 1-out solo home run in the 4th doubled that score.

But then the Rockies got sloppy in the 6th. With 1 out, the reliever gave up a single and a double to move runners in scoring position. After another strikeout, a balk moved the runners up and scored the lead one. A wild pitch then scored the other runner. Then consecutive solo home runs led off the 9th inning just for a bit more cushion to secure their Game 3 victory.

Final score: 6-0 Brewers, Brewers sweep series 3-0 and advance to the NLCS

NLDS B: Dodgers at Braves
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the Dodgers were hoping the same momentum they had in their first 2 games and seal up their spot in the NLCS by sweeping the Braves on their own turf, much the like Brewers did to the Rockies above. But they stumbled out of the gate, as the Dodgers starter had some trouble. He loaded up the bases with a walk, a 2-out single, and an intentional walk before another walk scored their first run. Then he gave up a monster grand slam to push the Braves into a quick, early lead.

The Dodgers relievers did better at keeping the Braves from adding to their lead, and their offense finally kicked in and chipped away at the Braves’ lead. The lead-off batter worked a walk in the 3rd and ended up at 2nd on a sacrifice bunt. After a 2-out walk, the Braves pulled their starter, and the new reliever gave up a 2-run single, thanks in part to a fielding error. Then in the 5th, with 1 out and a runner on 1st with a walk, a 2-run home run put the Dodgers within 1 run. And a 2-out solo home run tied up the game.

It would be a lead-off solo home run in the 6th by the Braves that would break the tie. And the Dodgers never did have them in it to come back after that.

Final score: 6-5 Braves, Dodgers lead series 2-1

In Yankees news: it looks like Aaron Hicks‘ hamstring issue isn’t terrible or season-ending. He could even be available tomorrow off the bench. Hicks has been a valuable part of the team both defensively and offensively, and hopefully will continue to do so in this postseason. But the Yankees also have enough power on the roster to compensate for a Hicks-sized loss.

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!

NLDS 1: COL vs. MIL, ATL vs. LAD –Just a Thursday night of October baseball

With the start of the Division Series in the NL, October baseball is in full swing. So far, one series is going to reflect how tight the National League has been, especially leading up to the postseason. The other series seems to be showing the difference between a team that’s the best in the worst division and a team that had to battle for “best”. And I expect this same format in the AL starting tomorrow.

It appears the Rays were trend-setters in a way I don’t think they wanted to be. Their frequent use of the bullpen to piece together a full game is spilling over into the postseason. One team in both series used that strategy. It worked for one, barely, but not the other, drastically.

Game A: Rockies at Brewers
This is going to be one of those tight series because both teams could really pull this one off. And it’s evident how evenly matched they are in how close the game was. In the 3rd, Brewers worked a 1-out walk that scored as part of a 2-run home run to get them on the board early. And they defended their early lead for most of the game.

But the Rockies waited until they found their opportunity to strike. The Brewers just needed 3 outs to seal the win in the top of the 9th. But the Rockies were ready to pounce. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on another single. Another single scored the lead batter, and a fielding error allowed the bases to be loaded. A sacrifice fly scored the tying run before the defense finally snapped into action and got the lead runner out at home on the next play. A strikeout ended the inning.

In other words, the Brewers got sloppy, and they paid for it by sending the game into an extra inning. After they made sure the Rockies didn’t add anything in the top of the 10th with a quick 3 outs, the Brewers eyed their victory as the game stretched into 4 hours.

A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a wild pitch. After another out, the Rockies opted to intentionally walk the next batter, and the next batter hit into a fielder’s choice (a failed double play, as usual) that left runners on the corners. The next batter then singled his way into right field which allowed that lead runner to score the walk-off run.

Final score: 3-2 Brewers, in 10 innings, Brewers lead series 1-0

Game B: Braves at Dodgers
The Braves’ bullpen approach did not help their efforts to stop the Dodgers who have been on a roll lately. The Dodgers led-off the 1st inning with a solo home run. Then they loaded up the bases but couldn’t get anyone else home. At that point. With 2 outs in the 2nd, the Braves’ pitcher hit a batter, gave up a walk, and then allowed a 3-run home run up the middle to give the Dodger a solid early lead.

Then the Braves pitchers kept them to those runs for a bit, while the Dodgers’ starter sailed his way through 7 solid innings with 8 strikeouts. The Braves weren’t doing much of anything for most of the game.

The Dodgers got another chance to add to their lead with a 2-out solo home run in the 6th. And then in the 8th, with 1 out, the Dodgers worked a walk that ended up on 3rd on a sloppy pick-off error. Another walk ended up stealing 2nd to put 2 runners in scoring position. A pinch-hit sacrifice fly added one final run (and unearned) for the Dodgers.

Again, the Dodgers just needed 3 outs to finish out the game in the top of the 9th. But with 2 outs, their pitcher gave up consecutive singles. That wasn’t going to work for the home team. A new pitcher threw 2 pitches for a ground out to end the game.

Final score: 6-0 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 1-0

Tomorrow is a 4-game extravaganza with the ALDS also kicking off and the NLDS playing Game 2. And it’s really just beginning. First teams to 3 wins advance to their respective Championship Series.

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!

Home Run Derby 2018 — Hometown Heroics at Workout Day

At the end of the first half of the season, the leading players in home runs were dominantly in the American League, but many opted out of the special event tonight either in favor of the rest that comes with the All-Star Break or to focus on the big exhibition game tomorrow night.

Instead, 43,698 fans crowded into Nationals Park in anticipation of seeing the star slugger they see at every home game hit his way into victory. Nationals’ outfielder Harper was the only veteran of the Home Run Derby, having lost in the final round in 2013 to Cespedes. The seven other batters in tonight’s event were news and all but one from National League teams.

The All-Star players had their Workout Day earlier in the day, running drills, seeing where they land on the roster, connecting with former teammates and friends, meeting the media and fans, and then congregating for the Home Run Derby. The Derby is set-up like in a bracket system, where the player with the highest number of home runs (Seed #1) faces off against the player with the fewest homers (Seed #8) and other similar pairings for the first round for four pairings, a sort of “homer-off”, in just 4 minutes.

The player with the most homers of the pair advance to the next round. So, the winners of that first round meet up with another winner for two more pairings for another round of “homer-off”. And the 2 winners of those pairings meet in the final round to see who hits the most homers in just 4 minutes. An extra 30 seconds is awarded if the batter hits 2+ homers at least 440 feet.

The first round kept close for the most part, with a strong start by the first pairing. The Phillies’ Hoskins kicked off the evening with 17 home runs that beat his opponent, Aguilar (Brewers), who hit just 12 despite being the furthest apart in regular season homers. Then it was close — Schwarber (Cubs) beat Bregman (Astros) 16-15, Muncy (Dodgers) over Baez (Cubs) 17-16, and Harper (Nationals) over Freeman (Braves) 13-12.

The next round continued the trend, with Schwarber powering 21 runs, edging out Hoskins (20). Muncy had a good start but faltered in the end to be surpassed by Harper (13-12). For the final round, Schwarber again kicked things off with a big show at 18 runs, and despite some momentum loss, Harper came back and tied it up at 18 in the final second. But he had those 30 extra seconds due to some pretty monster homers. He just needed 1, and he got it. And the hometown crowd went crazy, waving giant Harper faces and making the stadium nearly shake.

{Media note: Still waiting on a recap video of the Derby, will add shortly.}

And if you’re wondering, at the All-Star Futures Game, Team USA out-powered Team World 10-6 yesterday, though each team got 4 solid home runs in the process. Yankees prospect pitcher Justus Sheffield got time on the mound and really had a less-than-ideal outing. Pitching for Team USA, Sheffield came out in the 2nd and promptly gave up a solo home run to allow Team World on the board. After allowing a 1-out single in the 3rd, they went to another pitcher, but that runner scored on a 2-run home run that gave Sheffield a second earned run. But in the end, it was Team USA to power through and come out victorious.

Tomorrow, the All-Stars(often with their families) will walk down the eed carpet to meet their fans, chat with media, and take pictures just outside Nationals Park for the annual Red Carpet Parade before they take batting practice inside the park before the big game. Torres and Chapman will not be playing due to injuries. Severino is slotted as a reserves pitcher, which means he’ll pitch an inning somewhere in the middle of the game. And upon revealing the starting rosters, the AL coaching team has Judge batting 6th and playing left field. Because clearly they’ve never seen the right fielder and the Yankees’ #2 hitter play baseball.

Can’t wait to see Judge and Severino in the game tomorrow night!

Go Yankees!

Game 84: ATL vs. NYY — #CCStrong + 3 homers = #HappyIndependenceDay

America is celebrating its birthday today, and the sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium (and at stadiums all over this country) did so in the most American way — watching a great baseball game with family and friends. Another strong game by the Yankees helped conclude this series against the Braves and this final home stand before the All-Star Break.

CC Sabathia threw 103 pitches in his 6 strong innings, giving up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs and striking out 5 Atlanta batters along the way to earning his 6th win. In fact, Sabathia held the Braves scoreless through most of the game. In the 5th, with 1 out and runners on the corners, a ground out scored the Braves’ first run. And a 2-out solo home run in the 6th scored the other. Green, Betances, and Holder closed out the final third of the game and kept the Braves to those 2 runs.

The Yankee batters felt at liberty (pun intended) to show off why they’re one of the most talked about teams in baseball right now (at least in the positive way). In the 2nd, Gregorius hit a 1-out double and scored on Greg Bird’s 2-out single to kick things off. Walker led-off the 3rd with a single, and Hicks worked a 2-out walk. They both then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s big 3-run home run.

Kyle Higashioka continued to make a splash with his 3rd MLB hit becoming his 3rd home run, a 4th inning 2-out solo shot into (where else with him?) the left field seats. And in the 7th, with 1 out, Aaron Judge capped off Yankee scoring with a 1-out solo home run, his 24th on the season.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1 (and the home stand 4-2)

Next up: after an off-day/travel day tomorrow, the Yankees will play a 3-game weekend series against the Blue Jays before heading down to Baltimore. There, they begin with a doubleheader, the first game a make-up from a rain out in May. After 4 games, they travel to Cleveland for a 4-game weekend series against the Indians before the All-Star Break. (Did you vote for your favorites yet? Time’s up tomorrow at midnight.)

And there has been some discussion about Gleyber Torres. Torres recently confided that his right hip flexor has bothered him for some time and just “lived with it”. He was noticeably absent from Tuesday’s game after feeling hurt following Monday’s game. Then, after being pulled from today’s game in the 4th inning and taking time for extra warm-up stretches, as a precaution (and in case it’s something worse), the Yankees will send him for an MRI. Fingers crossed it’s just a little overuse that a couple of days rest will heal.

Finally, the Yankees honor two legendary figures in their Universe born today — former owner George Steinbrenner would have been 88 today, and long-time radio broadcaster John Sterling celebrated his 80th birthday. His former partner and current YES Network broadcaster (and friend) Michael Kay honored him in a very John Sterling kind of way, with a special “home run call”. Happy birthday to them and to America today!

Go Yankees!