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!

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!

NLDS 5: CHC vs. WAS — And we have a Championship Series, just 4 wins to the World Series…

I really should stop saying things like “yet” in posts. Yesterday, I posted that the Cubs-Nationals game was the longest one yet, and then they go and make it even longer tonight. Four hours and 37 minutes for Game 5 of the NLDS. And it was definitely a battle to the very end.

Well, mainly it was a battle because neither team could rely on the thing that was carrying them through most of the series — pitching. Pitching was just terrible on both sides tonight — 23 allowed hits, 15 walks, and 17 allowed runs. Both starters left early in the game (the 3rd and 4th innings), giving up 3-4 runs each and still most of the runs were scored by both bullpens. And the only innings in which anyone didn’t score runs were the 4th and 9th. It was messy.

In the 1st, the Cubs’ lead-off batter doubled (though it was challenged by the Nationals but rightly upheld as safe), moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on a ground out. The Cubs then loaded up the bases but couldn’t get anyone else home. In the bottom of the 2nd, the Nationals came back strong starting with a lead-off home run to get them on the board. After consecutive singles, another batter hit another homer, a 3-run shot into the left field seats to push the Nats into the lead.

But to set a pattern, the Cubs came charging back, loading the bases in the 3rd and then scoring 2 runs on a ground out and a wild pitch. Then in the 5th, with 2 outs, the Cubs got 2 singles that promptly scored on a double and put the Cubs back in the lead. After the Nationals intentionally walked the next batter, they got a strikeout but it was a passed ball so the batter took off for 1st. The catcher over threw the ball, so the batter made it to 2nd while the other runner scored another run (also another example of sloppy game play tonight). And the inning continued on. The next batter reached on catcher’s interference (and it wasn’t Ellsbury, Yankee Universe!) to load up the bases, so the next batter being hit by a pitch scored yet another run for the Cubs.

And then into the 6th, the Cubs worked a 2-out walk that scored on a double. And the Nationals answered back in the bottom of that inning with their own 2-out walk. A double moved runners to scoring position, and a walk on a wild pitch moved the runners up and scored a run. A double scored one more to chip off the Cubs’ lead. But the Cubs held on tight in the top of the 7th with 2 1-out singles putting runners on the corners. A fielder’s choice out at 2nd scored one run, despite the Nationals’ challenge of a possible slide interference with the runner at 2nd (they ruled it wasn’t, but I think it really was because of how he swung his feet in the slide).

So the Nationals pieced together some offense in the final third of the game to chip away at the Cubs’ lead. In the bottom of the 7th, they loaded the bases, but only one run scored on a long sacrifice fly. And then in the 8th, they got 2 walks and one of them ended up at 3rd on a double play. He then scored on a single. Another single had 2 runners on bases and threatening. So the Cubs fired over to 1st base at one point to pick off the runner there. It was ruled safe, but challenged by the Cubs and then overturned (though I’m not sure how).

And with that, the Nationals just ran out of outs. Much to the Cubs’ sheer glee.

Final score: 9-8 Cubs, Cubs win NLDS 3-2, advance to NLCS

Okay, so a wrap up of the ALDS… my predictions (last week) were actually pretty good this year (bold is the actual result):

  • ALDS 1 — Yankees over Indians in 5 games (Yankees over Indians in 5 games)
  • ALDS 2 — Astros over Red Sox in 4 games (Astros over Red Sox in 4 games)
  • NLDS 1 — Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 3 games (Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 3 games)
  • NLDS 2 — Nationals over Cubs in 5 games (Cubs over Nationals in 5 games)

The final one, of course, I obviously got wrong as of tonight. But for the first time since I’ve been doing this, even the game numbers were right! Not to pat myself on the back, but pat-pat. Actually, after being so very wrong for five years, it’s nice to have a moment of right before I get to be so very wrong all over again. (Believe me, it always happens this way, so it’s why we cherish the momentary times of right.)

Okay, so now that we have a Championship Series, here’s where I’m predicting:

  • ALCS — Yankees over Astros, in 6 games*
  • NLCS — Dodgers over Cubs, in 4 games

*Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean this is who I’m “rooting for” in each game, just which team I think will win each series. I mean, of course, I’m always “rooting for” the Yankees. But for me, the Yankees-Astros series all comes down to pitching. If the Yankees’ starters have strong outings, this will be the result. If they don’t, the Astros will win in 6 games. And I’m aware that I’ll probably be very wrong now as I’m now overdue for wrong.

The ALCS starts tomorrow (Friday) night in Houston for 2 games there before it heads for possibly 3 games in the Bronx. It would then head back to Houston for the final 2 games if necessary. The NLDS begins Saturday night in the same pattern (LA-Chicago-LA, 2-3-2). First team to win 4 games goes onto the World Series, so Yankee fans, the Yankees are 4 wins from being back in the World Series (last appearance was when they won the 2009 one). Fingers crossed.

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!

NLDS 2: CHC vs. WAS & ARI vs. LAD — Splitting one series, nearly dominating another

I’ve been an AL girl since forever, born into an AL family, followed only AL teams, so I find days when I have to follow NL teams rather interesting. I have zero investment, zero history with these teams on a fan level, so it’s fun for me as a basic baseball fan to watch. I can cheer on both teams, finding former Yankee players or players I know are nice guys, and cheer on them personally to do well for their team this postseason. I can be incredibly objective with NL teams, and that makes posts like today really easy. (Full disclosure: I find this also happens to me when there’s AL playoffs that don’t involve teams I’ve been invested in. But you’d be surprised how many AL teams I have some history with, either personally or against the Yankees. But that’s another post…)

Game 1: Cubs at Nationals
Once again, probably the best playing in the postseason is happening in this series (sorry, Yankees’ fans), but they get swept under the radar for a few reasons — they’re playing first or in the middle, and it’s less about the hits than about the pitching. And as we learn very early, crowds like big home runs but they don’t get good pitching. It’s usually why ignorant people think the game is “too slow”. So it’s ironic that these games tend to be the shortest games of the postseason, this one just 3 hours and 6 minutes.

Both starters fended off the other’s team pretty well for most of their outing, going 5 (Nationals) or 6 (Cubs) innings and giving up minimal hits (3/2) and runs (3/1) for a playoff game. The Nationals were on the board first with a 2-out solo home run in the 1st, but the Cubs were right on that with a lead-off homer in the 2nd. The Cubs then didn’t like the tie and pushed again in the 4th with a lead-off double that scored on a 2-run home run right into the waiting hand of a fan in the right field seats. And because of that, they wanted to review it for possible fan interference. But the ball was already over the wall by the time it reached the guy who caught it bare-handed with just one hand, so the Cubs fan got nice souvenir and calls from his friends back home.

Actually, it was the bullpen in a single inning that determined how the game would end and the series move to Wrigley. So in the 8th, with the Cubs looking just a few outs away from taking the series back to Wrigley in their favor, the Cubs bullpen stumbled, both relievers took too long to find control of the situation. A lead-off single scored as part of a 1-out 2-run home run to tie up the game, and after walking the next batter, the Cubs went to a new reliever. That, of course, didn’t help the momentum of the home team. After allowing another runner on base with a single, he gave up a 3-run home run to ensure the Nationals would split the series.

Final score: 6-3 Nationals, series split 1-1

Game 2: Diamondbacks at Dodgers
My friend (who is a huge Dodgers fan) was totally freaking about this game and texted me pretty much through the final half of this game. And I can understand why. The Dodgers’ starter only going 4 innings, and despite a pretty big lead, the Diamondbacks were hot on their tails (snake pun inferred) and chipped away every time they got a bigger lead.

Arizona had the first offensive shot and took it in the 1st inning with a 1-out walk scoring as part of the 2-run homer to get things started in LA. The Dodgers answered that with a bit of a whimper. In the 2nd, they worked a 2 walks that moved up to scoring position on a wild pitch before a ground out scored just 1 runner. But they came back in the 4th to load up the bases with 3 consecutive singles. A wild pitch (the D-backs starter really wasn’t any better tonight) scored the tying run and moved all runners up, and a 2-out single scored one more.

Oh, but the home team wasn’t done there. They came right back in the 5th to advance with 1 out, a runner on base, and facing a new Arizona pitcher, a single and messy throw ended with both runners in scoring position. Another single scored the lead runner, and a double scored 2 more. With yet another Arizona reliever on the mound, another single scored just one more that inning, giving the Dodgers a rather hefty lead.

Of course, then came the 7th inning, and the Diamondbacks saw an opportunity (as my friend anxiously texted me with every play). The Dodgers reliever gave up consecutive singles and was rightly replaced with a new reliever. Except then he gave up a perfect pitch that ended up in the left field seats for a 3-run home run, putting Arizona within 2 runs. The Dodgers’ offense did their best to piece together offense in the bottom of the inning by loading up the bases with 2 singles and a walk. A fielding error on the next batter’s hit scored 1 run so my friend could breathe a bit more. I didn’t get another text from my friend until the final out: “YASSSS!”

Final score: 8-5 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 2-0

Both teams will travel to their next stops — Chicago and Arizona, respectively — and play again on Monday, which could be another long day depending on how tomorrow’s ALDS goes and if the Indians and Astros sweep their series.

In Yankee news, because we all need that, here’s some quick bits: Girardi regrets not challenging that hit-by-pitch (as do we all, Joe), the Yankees are counting on Tanaka’s pretty good home record to see them through this crucial game tomorrow night, and being down 0-2 isn’t an impossible hurdle. For that last one, it’s good for Yankee fans to remember the 2001 ALDS against the Athletics (when “the Flip” came into Yankee vernacular and lore) over the 1995 one against the Mariners. However, fun fact, it would be that latter series that really made me see how good the Yankees were and cemented me as a fan. So not everything is lost.

Except for the Indians, they need to lose. Like they did in 1999 to the Red Sox. Let’s “party like it’s 1999”. And if you need a refresher course, who won the World Series in 1999? Oh, yeah, that would be the Yankees. Fingers and toes crossed, people.

Go Yankees!