World Series 1: LAD vs. BOS — Fall ball begins with rain and the Fenway Faithful

I think oddest moment of tonight’s game was in the introductions, when the manager of the visiting Dodgers, Dave Roberts, got a huge ovation from the Fenway Faithful. For those who aren’t familiar with the why, it’s pretty simple — Roberts was a key part of the 2004 “Break the Curse” championship Red Sox team and Boston fans never forget their heroes, even when they don other team uniforms.

But tonight’s game was actually pretty threatened by earlier thunderstorms over Boston for most of the day, followed by a few rain bands that continued to sprinkle chilly rain on Fenway. But it cleared just in time for first pitch, a crisp 53°. Note: tomorrow will also be wet all day in Boston, with first pitch temperature coming in about 46°. Talk about “fall ball”.

This wasn’t exactly the cleanest game. Both teams dismissing their ace starters early in the game, neither completing the 5th inning, and depending on their bullpens for most of the night. In the 1st, the Red Sox got on the board first. A lead-off single stole 2nd and then scored on an RBI single. That batter ended up at 2nd on the throw to try to get either runner out. In fact, the Dodgers challenged the call at 2nd but there wasn’t enough to overturn it and thus it was upheld as safe. A 1-out single then scored that runner to give the Sox an early lead.

But the Dodger came back right away with a 1-out solo home run in the 2nd. And a 1-out single in the 3rd moved to 2nd on a single and then scored on another single to tie up the game. That didn’t last long when the Sox broke the tie in the bottom of that inning. With 1 out, a batter singled. The next batter hit into a double play that was challenged by the Red Sox and overturned in favor of a fielder’s choice out at 2nd only. Then a double scored the lead run.

Finally, in the 4th inning, neither ace pitcher gave up a run. In the 5th, the Dodgers tied up the game again when a lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a single, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on a ground out. The Red Sox bounced back in the bottom of the 5th. They loaded up the bases with a walk, a single, a wild pitch, and a walk. After a strikeout, a fielder’s choice allowed the Sox to score the tie-breaking run and then a single scored an insurance run.

After sailing through the 6th, the Dodgers found their next opening in the 7th. They loaded up the bases with 1 out before scoring a run on a sacrifice fly to put them within 1 run of the Red Sox’s lead. But then in the bottom of the 7th, the Sox surged ahead. A lead-off ground-rule double and an intentional walk scored as part of a 2-out pinch-hit 3-run Green Monster home run.

Neither team gave the other another opportunity to advance their cause.

Final score: 8-4 Red Sox, Red Sox leads series 1-0

And here’s some Yankee news: the Arizona Fall League is in full swing for prospects from each team to fine-tune their skills and become better players. Yankee AFL alumni include Gardner, Betances, Bird, and Judge. This year, the Yankees join the Indians, White Sox, Dodgers, Orioles to form the Glendale Desert Dogs and are represented by pitchers Jordan Foley, Hobie Harris, Matt Wivinis, and Kyle Zurak; infielders Thairo Estrada and Steven Sensley; and outfielder Estevan Florial. Highly touted prospect Florial is coming off surgery earlier this year, but it’s the Yankees prospect pitchers who are making the biggest impact in the AFL.

Also, if you’re interested in some of the conversations about what might happen for the Yankees in the off-season, there’s an interesting article breaking down the latest free agents (like Sabathia, Happ, and Walker), what they could do while waiting for Gregorius’ return from surgery (like Hechavarria or Torreyes or help from the outside), which players could be traded (like Gray), and more. It’s all still conjecture until there’s anything to announce.

Go Yankees!

ALCS 5: BOS vs. HOU — Priced out of the Series

One series down, one series to be decided before we have a World Series match-up. The Dodgers are one game away from the World Series for their second year in a row, but the Brewers are one game away from elimination. However, should the Brewers persevere, it will not only be their first NL pennant but also their first trip to the World Series since 1982. (They won the AL pennant that year when they were still an AL team, switching to the NL in 1998.)

ALCS: Red Sox at Astros
In a match-up of former teammates, the pitcher I thought would win, the one who’s done better in postseason history, didn’t. And that’s why the postseason isn’t so predictable. The Red Sox starter Price held the Astros scoreless for 6 innings, sailing through 93 pitches, just 3 hits and 9 strikeouts. He really just dominated the game, similar to how he did for the Rays a decade ago, but really not since.

While the Astros starter Verlander also went 6 innings, but he gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and struck out just 4 batters along the way. The Red Sox batters still only eked out those runs off 2 home runs. The first was a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd. Then in the 6th, a lead-off double and single scored on a 1st pitch 3-run home run.

The Astros finally found their lone opportunity to impact the score in the 7th with a new reliever on the mound for the Red Sox. With 2 outs, a solo home run finally got the Astros on the board. But then both teams battled it out to the final out, and the Red Sox celebrated on the Astros’ turf.

Final score: 4-1 Red Sox, Red Sox win series 4-1 and advance to the World Series as the AL champions

The Red Sox have had a pretty dominant season, so it’s really not surprising they ended up dominating in the postseason. Not to say that the Astros didn’t have a strong season, with their 103 wins, but they really weren’t the aggressive team they were last year. So the Red Sox move onto the World Series (last seen there in 2013), and the Astros miss their chance to have successive years in the Series.

Also, the Red Sox manager celebrated his birthday tonight and was serenaded to by his team as part of the clubhouse champagne celebrations. Not a bad way to celebrate your birthday.

Go Yankees!

NLCS 5: MIL vs. LAD, ALCS 4: BOS vs. HOU — “The show must go on”, an apt motto for this dramatic postseason

“Emotion, excitement, farce, melodrama, scene, spectacle, tension, tragedy, crisis, histrionics, theatrics, turmoil in life” — all synonyms for “drama” that would still fit whatever is going on this postseason, especially in the ALCS. It also kind of feels like the beginnings of a new rivalry between the Red Sox and Astros. But the NLCS is certainly seeing its share of the dramatics too.

NLCS: Brewers at Dodgers
The Brewers’ starter only threw to one batter this afternoon (just 5 pitches) before being pulled from the game. They later announced he will actually start the next game (Game 6), so they didn’t want to exhaust him today. So their first reliever ended up throwing into the 6th inning, more of a starter than the starter, with 70 pitches and 8 strikeouts. But none of that or the supporting relievers seemed to stop the Dodgers offense today.

Actually, they were held off until the 5th inning when the lead-off batter singled and ended up at 2nd on a throwing error. He then stole 3rd and scored on a 1-out single. And a lead-off single in the 6th moved to 2nd on a hit-by-pitch and then scored on a 1-out single. That was the end of the pseudo-starter’s outing, and his new reliever gave up a 2-out single that scored one more run but also got the other runner out trying to go to 3rd in a great defensive play. In the 7th, with 1 out, a walk and double put runners in scoring position. The first runner scored on a single, the next on a ground out.

And the Dodgers sent in one of their best starters, who went a full 7 innings and only gave up 3 hits and 2 walks, striking out 9 Milwaukee batters. He only gave up 1 run to the Brewers under his tenure. In the 3rd, a 1-out single moved to 2nd on a walk and then scored on a double. A 2-out walk loaded up the bases but Kershaw got out of that jam. It wasn’t until the 9th that the Brewers got another offensive shot. With 2 outs and the 2nd reliever of the inning, a batter doubled, moved to 3rd on defensive indifference, and then scored on a pinch-hit double. It wasn’t enough.

Final score: 5-2 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 3-2

ALCS: Red Sox at Astros
Meanwhile, in Houston, things are getting ugly. Fast. The teams went back-and-forth in offensive strength, no thanks to some pretty heated debates over some questionable calls — like a probable home run call that was ruled (and later somehow “upheld” but notably not “confirmed”) as “fan interference”. It immediately drew comparisons to the whole Jeffrey Maier incident from the 1996 ALCS, though it was much closer to other potential fan incidents.

Beyond that, each team pretty much let in to each team’s pitchers to advance their cause. In the 1st, the Red Sox’s lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, then he and a 1-out walk moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. They both scored on a single. The Astros got one of those runs back in the 2nd when a lead-off double scored on an RBI single.

The Red Sox’s lead-off double ended up scoring on a double to take back their run in the 3rd. But the Astros came back in the bottom of that inning with a lead-off solo home run and a double that later scored on a 2-out single to tie up the game. A 1-out solo home run put the Astros in the lead for the first time tonight. But the Red Sox tied it up again in the 5th with a 1-out double scoring on a 2-out single.

The Astros pushed on ahead in the bottom of the 5th when their 1-out single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single. The visitors flipped the story again in the 6th. With 2 outs, they got a double that scored as part of a big 2-run home run. Then the Red Sox kept going. In the 7th, they loaded up the bases with 2 outs before the Astros’ reliever walked in a run. And in a similar story of the night, a 1-out single in the 8th moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single.

The home team got one more chance to make an impact in the bottom of the 8th. A lead-off single was tagged out trying to make it a double. Then a hit-by-pitch and double moved runners to scoring position. A ground out scored the lead runner, but a strikeout ended the Astros chance at a comeback.

Final score: 8-6 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 3-1

In Yankee Universe news: Didi Gregorius had his surgery on his partially torn UCL, also known as Tommy John surgery. It went “as expected”, and if his recovery progresses “as expected”, Gregorius should be back in pinstripes around the All-Star Break, as early as June, as late as August.

Of course, this has fueled rumors about potential replacements. However, I’m guessing that because Gregorius is scheduled to comeback next season that they might see how in-house talent progresses in Spring Training before going fishing for a replacement. I mean, they already have Walker, Wade, Torreyes, Hechavarria, Torres, and Andujar (as well as Voit and Bird at 1st) on the roster. It’s not like they’re hurting for talented infielders.

And as Yankee baseball season is over, it seems the Yankees themselves have turned to being fans of other sports. Aaron Judge (and friends) were court side for Knicks’ home opener (and eventual victory) at Madison Square Garden. A crowd scan found his face on the big screen, much to the glee of other fellow New Yorkers. Judge was also the answer to a clue on Jeopardy! two nights ago. In other words, the season may be over, but the Yankees aren’t exactly “out of sight, out of mind”.

Go Yankees!

ALCS 3: BOS vs. HOU, NLCS 4: MIL vs. LAD — One blowout, one walk-off

And the drama continues. This postseason is proving that there is going to be nothing boring about October baseball this year. Neither series is showing they are short on flair for dramatic victories, but clearly each series will do so in their own way.

ALCS: Red Sox at Astros
The ALCS is in Houston for this next part of their series, though the hometown crowd is clearly less thrilled with the outcome. The Red Sox and Astros actually started off the game fairly evenly, both starters giving up just 2 runs each. The Red Sox beat up the Astros’ starter in that first inning, getting consecutive singles, an RBI double, and an RBI grounder to start the game. But the Astros answered back in the bottom of the inning, with 3 singles, one of which scored a run to keep the game close.

An Astros’ 2-out walk scored on an RBI double in the 5th to tie up the game, which means they kept the game close while the starters were in command of the game. Once they stepped into the bullpen, the game drastically shifted in the visiting team’s favor, thanks to the shutout nature of their bullpen.

Their offense broke the tie right in the 6th with a 1-out solo home run. But it was the 8th that really quieted the home crowd. With 2 outs, the Red Sox loaded up the bases thanks to a challenged hit-by-pitch. Another hit-by-pitch scored an insurance run for the Sox, but it would be the next batter’s grand slam that left everyone talking and ensured the Red Sox’s victory in this afternoon’s game.

Final score: 8-2 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 2-1

NLCS: Brewers at Dodgers
Over on the West Coast, it was much more edge of your seat kind of action. The Brewers’ starter only went 1 inning, leaving the game with a high ankle sprain that could be the end of his season. That left them with the only option of piecing together their bullpen for the rest of the game. The Dodgers had a more traditional pitching night, but their own bullpen got quite the workout.

In total, both pitching staffs worked 32 strikeouts, an insane statistic, especially for a postseason game. But then, this also ended up being a 13 inning, 5 hour and 15 minute game, early into the morning for those of us here on the East Coast.

In the 1st, the Dodgers got on the board first. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a grounder and later scored on a 2-out RBI single. But the Brewers tied things up in the 5th when a 1-out single scored on a pinch-hit double. And on they fought into extra innings.

There was a bit of a scuffle in the 10th when a batter tried to beat out a simple ground out at 1st and ended up almost spiking the first baseman. Understandably, the infielder had some heated words for the runner, and the benches cleared to stick up for their respective teammates. It wasn’t terrible, but it certainly proved this series is far too tense with all the notable “dirty plays” lately. Though to be fair, it only seems to be one player at the center of these plays. So perhaps, the Dodgers need to dump and run for next season?

Then in the 13th, the Dodgers hit a 1-out single that moved to 2nd on a wild pitch, survived a pick-off attempt, and then scored on a 2-out single to score the walk-off run.

Final score: 2-1 Dodgers, in 13 innings, series tied 2-2

And the Yankees announced that they are donating $100,000 to support relief efforts helping those affected by Hurricane Michael earlier this month. Divided evenly, funds will go to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. While currently known more as a New York team, the Spring home of the Yankees and permanent residence for most of the Steinbrenner family is in Florida, so their hearts are with their fellow Floridians as they rebuild and recover from the devastation.

Most of the damage from the major hurricane winds of 155 mph and severe flooding is along the northern Gulf Coast and Panhandle region of the state, about 350 miles (or 5 hours) northwest of the Tampa Bay area (where Steinbrenner Field hosts the Yankees Spring Training). Our hearts continue to be with those who are focusing on rebuilding their homes and lives after the storm.

Go Yankees!

ALCS 2: HOU vs. BOS — Evening up a well-matched series

Another game is now tied up as it heads back the other team’s home for the next few games of their series. Yes, both the ALCS and NLCS are all evened up in the series. The first team to win 4 games will advance to the World Series, so it’s interesting that both series are going to be rather tight.

Though if we’re looking at their history through the season, this makes sense as both series are pretty well-matched in wins, defense, hitting, and pitching. And that means it literally could be either team to advance to the World Series. It certainly makes it a more interesting postseason.

ALCS: Astros at Red Sox
Actually, the most interesting part of tonight’s matchup (at least to a nerd like me) is that the Red Sox’s insurance runs were actually unearned runs. To me, that reflects how rather evenly the Astros and Red Sox may actually be matched. It also shows how the Astros could improve (defensive errors). And it gave the Red Sox’s starter a little hope as it was the first postseason game he didn’t lose.

The Red Sox got things started early. A lead-off double in the 1st scored on a single. One out later, a throwing error and a walk loaded the bases, but a single only allowed one more run to score as the Astros stranded the rest of the runners. The Astros answered back in the 2nd with a 1-out single and double scoring on a 2-out double to tie up the game.

In the 3rd, a 1-out single scored as part of a 2-out 2-run home run to put the Astros in the lead. But the Red Sox loaded up the bases in the bottom of the 3rd and all 3 runners scored on a 2-out double to push them in a slim lead.

In the final third of the game, the Red Sox added a few more runs to delight their hometown crowd. In the 7th, the lead-off batter worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a strikeout, advanced to 3rd on a passed ball, and then scored on another passed ball (thus unearned). The lead-off single in the 8th moved to 2nd on a 2-out single and then scored on a double.

So, down to their last out in the 9th, the Astros doubled, moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on a single before a fly out closed the door on their rally.

Final score: 7-5 Red Sox, series split 1-1

Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz are both old rivals and old friends, and now they both frequent broadcasts about baseball, especially in the postseason. Well, apparently, they made a bet when their former teams Yankees and Red Sox were playing against each other in the previous series — the loser would have to don the winner’s team uniform and get sprayed by a champagne shower. The Yankees lost, Rodriguez came out in full Red Sox regalia, and Ortiz sprayed as Rodriguez ripped open the jersey to reveal… a Yankees t-shirt and screamed “Yankees for life!”

Bet fulfilled, but once a Yankee…

Go Yankees!

NLCS 2: LAD vs. MIL, ALCS 1: HOU vs. BOS — Saturday baseball, overcompensating, trudging, weak, and sloppy

Sometimes, it was hard to believe we were watching the supposed four best teams in baseball. The Brewers were trying too hard, the Dodgers played like they were walking through mud, the Astros are a shadow of their World Championship selves, and the Red Sox were just sloppy. Now, truth be told, the Yankees certainly could claim every one of those descriptions at various points this season, so I guess the positive spin is that the Yankees weren’t playing today.

NLCS: Dodgers at Brewers
Actually, neither team in this NL series gave up much for the first half of the game. Both starters only threw 70-something pitches into the 5th and 6th innings, the Dodgers limited to just 2 allowed hits, while the Brewers managed 6 off the Dodgers’ starter. So as the teams pieced together their bullpen to finish the game, the respective opponents nicked away at the scoreboard.

The Brewers struck first with a 1-out solo home run in the 5th. They then loaded up the bases with a single, a double, and a walk before a ground out scored another run. And a 1-out solo home run in the 6th added one more to their side of things.

But then the Dodgers came back in the 7th with a walk, a single, an RBI single, and another single to load the bases. After an out, another walk scored one more run for the Dodgers. In the 8th, a lead-off single scored as part of a big 2-run home run to suddenly put the Dodgers into the lead. That ended up being enough for the Dodgers to tie up the series and take it home with them.

Final score: 4-3 Dodgers, series tied 1-1

ALCS: Astros at Red Sox
The AL teams seemed to continue the drama we last saw in the ALDS between the Red Sox and Yankees. So much for just being part of the rivalry drama. It now seems like it’s just a Red Sox thing this postseason and they’ve invited the Astros to participate now.

It should have been a battle of the aces in Fenway, but the Red Sox’s ace struggled his way through 4 innings, and despite only giving up 1 hit, he allowed also 4 walks. His counterpart breezed through 4 innings before struggling in the 5th and then cleaning it up in the 6th. He only allowed 2 hits and 4 walks. Yes, these ace starters only gave up 3 total hits, but 8 walks between the 2 of them.

In the 2nd, the Astros struck first. With 2 outs, they loaded up the bases and then a single scored 2 runs. But the Red Sox answered back in the 5th by loading up the bases. A walk scored their first run, and a wild pitch scored the tying run. But when the Red Sox batter struck out in the bottom of the 5th, the batter didn’t like the call. The Red Sox manager came out to argue the call and ended up being ejected.

That didn’t help things. The first Astros batter in the top of the 6th was hit by a pitch (one of three tonight) and the next batter made it to 1st due a fielding error. Two outs later, a single scored the run that put them in the lead. Then in a final push for insurance, the Astros led-off the 9th with a solo home run. Then consecutive 1-out walks scored as part of a 3-run home run to complete the victory for the visiting team.

It’s worth noting that collectively the teams only got 8 hits, but still walked 14 batters and struck out 20, plus there were 3 batters hit by a pitch. There was nothing pretty about tonight’s game. Except perhaps if you were rooting against the Red Sox.

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

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!