NLCS & ALCS: STL vs. WAS & NYY vs. HOU — A sweep & a struggle

Predicting baseball, especially in the postseason, is like predicting life — there’s never going to be an exact science.

NLCS: High off their power through the best team in baseball (Dodgers), the Nationals just came in and dominated the favored Cardinals in this series to sweep through their way to their first World Series.

Game 1: Honestly, this was going to be a close game either way, but the Nationals eked out a win by being the only team to actually score in this game. Part of the reason this worked in the Nats’ favor was their starter, only giving up a single hit the entire game and not until a pinch-hit single in the 8th inning. 2-0 Nationals

Game 2: The Nationals continued their strong show this postseason, but the Cards certainly showed up to play today. The Cardinals certainly had the opportunity, with their starter getting 11 strikeouts to match the Nats’ starter. But the Nats’ edged over the Cards holding them to just 3 hit and a run, with the Nats managing 3 runs off 7 hits overall. 3-1 Nationals

Game 3: Now back in their home, the Nationals began a pair of games that delighted their hometown crowd. The Nats continued their strong starters, a clear sign they might have “stacked the deck”, so to speak for this postseason in particular. But this night in particular, the bats also showed up big. 8-1 Nationals

Game 4:  This game was a little more evenly matched, with the Nationals showing their weakness a bit in a missing 4th starter. However, the Cards proved their bullpen is quite the strength for them. It was a bit of a lopsided series in that respect, with the Nationals riding the backs of their starters to the World Series. 7-4 Nationals

Nationals sweep the series 4-0 and head to the World Series.

ALCS: This was going to be a battle regardless of who was going to end up on top. The top 2 teams in the AL battling for their spot in the Series, both Championship veterans with championship-worthy teams to face off against the rookie Nationals.

Game 1: Actually, this was a great game for Yankee Universe. After sweeping through the Twins, the Yankees had quite a bit of rest to gear up for the game that ended up being “Tanaka Time”, thanks to his 1-hit wonder through 6 innings. The Yankees shutout the Astros, to the dismay of the Houston crowd, with some power homers from Torres, Stanton, and Urshela.  7-0 Yankees

Game 2: This game was actually more indicative of how this series felt and ended up. Each team duking it out behind stellar pitching, the Yankees using a compilation of throwers like Paxton, Green, and eventually Sabathia out of the bullpen. The Astros’ star starter got a bit rattled with a 2-run home run by Judge in the 4th. As the game went into extra innings, this game proved it was going to be this kind of series, with the Astros hitting a walk-off homer in the 11th to give them the game. 3-2, in 11 Astros

Game 3: The series headed to the Bronx split. The Astros got to starter Severino with a pair of early home runs in the 1st and 2nd. After a wild pitch and sac fly doubled their lead, the visitors were looking to skate their way into a shutout. But the Yankees broke that with one swing from Torres, an 8th inning solo shot into right field. They just didn’t much else. 4-1 Astros

The series had a day’s rain delay due to a freak autumn storm off the coast that brought flooding and high winds to the area. And I think all of Yankee Universe was hoping the long rest would spur a bit of deja vu, with the Yankees coming out like they did in Game 1.

Game 4: But it was not to be, despite the pitching match up being the exact same starters. After a rough 1st inning, with the Yankees scoring their first run on a walk by Gardner, the Astros collected 2 big 3-run home runs in the 3rd and 6th to take charge of the game. Tanaka was hit hard and the Yankee bats just weren’t there to support him. Sanchez added a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 6th to edge the Yankees closer, but the Astros were determined to take this game. 8-3 Astros

Game 5: Part of me did not want to watch this game for fear the Astros would win the series on New York’s turf, which is really the ultimate hardship for fans in the area. And yet, I was proved wrong. Paxton commanded from the mound, out-dueling an Astros’ star for the win. A solo homer from LeMahieu to lead-off the 1st, followed by a 3-run home run by Hicks in the same inning, handed the Yankees their eventual victory thanks to great pitching and defense for the next 8 scoreless innings. 4-1 Yankees

Game 6: Once they were back in Texas, the Astros pressed in for their home field advantage. The Yankees again used an “opener”, but the usually unflappable Green gave up 3 runs that 1st inning. And yet, the Yankees came back to tie up the game, including a 4th inning solo shot by Torres and the big 2-run homer by LeMahieu to tie it all up in the 9th inning. The Yankees were looking at winning the game in extra innings right up until Chapman left a high slider up for the Astros’ batter to hit a walk-off 2-run home run. This stunned the entire Yankee team, after they battled back to tie up the game, especially Chapman, who barely moved from the mound until the batter was rounding 2nd. 6-4 Astros

Astros win in 6 to advance to the World Series.

My predictions: So, I’m not getting any better at this predicting thing this season. I knew the ALCS was going to be a struggle this season, but I can honestly say I never saw the Nationals coming. Partly because I don’t follow the NL that closely, and partly because they’ve been such a mixed bag of a team in recent seasons.

  • NLCS: Cardinals over Nationals in 6 games — Nationals in 4
  • ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7 games — Astros in 6

Now for the World Series: (And let’s be honest, I’ve got no horse in this race any more.)

  • Nationals over Astros in 6 games

The hardest part about this postseason now is not watching the final lap of CC Sabathia. This weekend, he wrote a touching note to the fans to say “goodbye” and posted it on his social media as a final farewell to baseball. No final ride through the canyon of heroes, no extra ring for the souvenir cabinet, no last chance for a Bronx victory. No, next stop for the great pitcher will be that special weekend in Cooperstown.

Go Yankees!

NLCS 7: LAD vs. MIL — Home runs into the World Series

And we have a World Series. After tonight’s game, the Dodgers advance to face the Red Sox in the 2018 World Series.

NLCS: Dodgers at Brewers
The last few games, the one thing that a few friends and I have remarked is how sluggish the Dodgers seem, as if they lost their tenacity they had in the earlier series. But tonight, they only needed a few moments to ensure their continued spot in the postseason. Neither pitching staff was particularly dominant, giving up far too many hits but also collectively earning 26 total strikeouts.

In fact, all the runs tonight were a result of home runs. The Brewers went first with a 1-out solo home run in the 1st. But the Dodgers answered back with a lead-off single and 2-run home run in the 2nd to get the lead. They then ensured their victory in the 6th. Consecutive singles led off the inning. After an out, a fielder’s choice left runners on the corners and then a stolen base put runners in scoring position, which they then did with a big 3-run home run.

Final score: 5-1 Dodgers, Dodgers win series 4-3 and advance to the World Series.

Postseason Predictions: So, this round didn’t go as predicted in many ways.

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

  • Championship Series:
    • Predictions/Results:
      • NLCS: Dodgers over Brewers in 5 games* (7 games)
      • ALCS: Astros over Red Sox in 5 games~ (Red Sox)
  • World Series:
    • Dodgers over Red Sox in 6 games

I might be slightly jaded by not wanting the Red Sox to win, and truthfully, they are technically the best team in baseball (with 108 regular season wins). As a Yankee fan, I just can’t find it in myself to hope for a Boston victory. That, and I really do think that the Dodgers could beat them if they keep up their momentum they seem to have rediscovered tonight. It’s going to be quite the battle, but it’s going to be one of those series.

Go Yankees!

NLCS 6: LAD vs. MIL — Forcing a NL Game 7

I texted a friend of mine, a big Dodgers’ fan, early on in tonight’s game: “It really seems like the Dodgers want to play 7 games.” And then they proved me right.

NLCS: Dodgers at Brewers
The Dodgers actually started off the game with a lead-off solo home run, but really stalled trying to keep up that lead. They promptly lost that in the bottom of the 1st as the Dodgers’ starter just started giving away runs.

A lead-off single and 1-out walk ended up scoring on a 2-out double. Then a double and a single scored 2 more runs for the Brewers. Then in the 2nd, a double scored on an RBI double just to add one more run to the Brewers’ lead.

The next time the Dodgers got a chance was in the 5th. A 1-out walk scored on a double to double the Dodgers’ score, but still kept them at a distance from the Brewers’ strong lead.

In fact, the home team kept piling on the runs with an extra run in each of the 7th and 8th innings. A (challenged, but upheld) double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a wild pitch in the 7th. And a single that led-off the 8th moved to 2nd on a walk, to 3rd on a grounder, and scored on a single.

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

So, it looks like the Red Sox need to wait another day before they know who they’re playing in the World Series. The Series starts on Tuesday, and it’s still anyone’s game.

Except the Yankees. They’re enjoying the off-season already. Including time with their rather large dogs in their laps while watching television. See you in Florida in February!

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!

NLCS 3: MIL vs. LAD — Dodging the scoreboard

The postseason continues, and after all the drama earlier, tonight’s game felt a little mundane at times. As the Red Sox had a workout day in Houston, while the Astros had a day-off, the NL continued their series in LA. And yet, it seemed to leave all the dramatics of the postseason back in Milwaukee. Well, except for one incident.

NLCS: Brewers at Dodgers
Actually, the most interesting part about this post season, as I mentioned yesterday, is that these two series have well-matched teams. And their stats pretty much prove that, but tonight’s match-up came down to a few moments of weakness by the Dodgers’ starter and the defense.

In the 1st, a 1-out walk scored the Brewers’ first run on an RBI double. A 2-out triple in the 6th then scored on a wild pitch. And with 1 out in the 7th, a double scored as part of a 2-run home run to cap off the Brewers’ night. All of these runs were off the Dodgers’ starter.

The Brewers’ starter threw into the 6th inning and started the momentum that would carry them through the game — keeping the Dodgers scoreless. It wasn’t like the Dodgers were giving away runs, but the Brewers played smart enough to grab the opportunities when they came.

Final score: 4-0 Brewers, Brewers lead series 2-1

One interesting thing that happened during tonight’s game was a questionable slide in the 4th inning. Newish Dodger Machado made a dash for 2nd when his teammate Bellinger hit into what could have been a double play grounder. Initially, the only out was made at 2nd on Machado, but the Brewers challenged it calling on the “Chase Utley” rule, which prevents intentionally harmful slides into 2nd base meant to “break up a double play”.

Utley’s incident in the 2015 postseason fractured the leg of the Mets’ infielder in the process, proving just how dangerous these now illegal slides can be. Coincidentally, Utley is on the active roster for the Dodgers, a teammate of the challenged players. The rule was implemented for the 2016 season and has been in effect since, though there hasn’t been many incidents, fortunately.

Upon review, they overturned the call and declared a violation of the slide rule. Machado raised his arm and slid away from the bag, thus impeding the fielder’s ability to complete the play (which I know is the whole point, but a violation). The call immediately became a double play. The worst part for the Dodgers is that the speedy Bellinger would probably have been safe at 1st if Machado hadn’t interfered.

Look, the reason for this rule and those like this, like the one about collisions at home, is to prevent people from getting hurt. Do you want to stop the defense from doing their job? Of course, but at the risk of hurting someone? Not worth it. Never worth it to intentionally injure someone or put someone at risk of injury. Baseball is a very short part of a player’s life, so the least amount of time spent on the DL, the better for everyone.

Play clean, play with integrity. You’ve got to be better than that.

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!