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!

NLWC & ALWC: MIL vs. WAS & TB vs. OAK — 2019 Postseason Begins

It’s officially October Baseball. The regular season came to a close last Sunday, some teams headed into the postseason, some to their family vacations and couches for the duration of 2019. But either way, things are heating up if your team is one of the few who grace this month with its presence.

Tuesday: NL Wild Card (Brewers at Nationals)
The National League postseason began on Tuesday night as the Brewers challenged the Nationals for the final wild card spot. And at first, the Brewers looked to have a decided victory. They out-pitched the home team, with a strong showing, giving up a solo home run in the 3rd, sailing through most of the game in command.

The Nats’ ace had a bit of trouble keeping the Brewers’ bats under control. A lead-off walk in the 1st scored as part of a 2-run home run, getting the visitors on the board even before an out was recorded in the game. The Brewers tagged another run on with a lead-off solo shot up the middle in the 2nd. Things were looking great for the Brewers to advance to the NLDS.

Until that 8th inning. The Nationals figured out they weren’t going to let another October pass them by and took back the game. With 1 out, a challenged hit-by-pitch made it to base. After another out, the Nats gave up a single and a walk to load up the bases. Then a single and really sloppy fielding error cleared the bases, with the Nats scoring the go-ahead run. The Brewers’ defense snapped into action and got that runner trying to stretch into 3rd to end this messy inning, but the damage was done.

Final score: 4-3 Nationals, Nationals advance to NLDS to face the Dodgers

Wednesday: AL Wild Card (Rays at Athletics)
There was a lot of talk about which team might have the advantage in this game tonight. The A’s have had some pretty strong pitching, but the Rays are quite tenacious this season. It was going to be quite the toss-up, but the Rays really proved their mettle in the end, commanding the mound and the game.

The Rays’ pitchers walked away from tonight’s game with no earned runs, only one unearned run. In the 3rd, the lead-off batter hit into what looked like an easy grounder, but a throwing error allowed him to make it all the way to 3rd. A sacrifice fly then scored that runner for the A’s only run of the night.

Their pitching was uncharacteristically lacking in their starter tonight. He gave up a lead-off solo home run to the Rays right in the 1st. And then a single and 2-run homer in the 2nd. After another lead-off home run in the 3rd, they realized it wasn’t working and sent in their bullpen. They were markedly better, except a 2-out solo home run in the 5th to add just one more run for the visitors.

Final score: 5-1 Rays, Rays advance to the ALDS to play the Astros

Postseason Schedule: The Division Series starts tomorrow with the NLDS. The Braves will host the Cardinals, and the Dodgers host the Nationals to begin each of their series. The ALDS starts on Friday with the Astros hosting the Rays and the Yankees hosting the Twins. This series a “best of 5”, with the higher seed hosting for 2 games before the lower seed hosts 2, with an off-day between. A 5th game, if necessary, will be held back in the original stadium for a 2-2-1 possibility of the series.

The NLCS will begin next Friday, October 11, and the ALCS will start Saturday, October 12. That will be a “best of 7”, 2-3-2 hosting pattern.

My Division Series Predictions: I always hesitate to make my predictions known every year because it’s always with mixed results. Honestly, neither of my selected teams won their respective Wild Card games, but maybe I’ll have better luck in this next series.

  • NLDS A — Braves over Cardinals in 5 games
  • NLDS B — Dodgers over Nationals in 3 games
  • ALDS A — Astros over Rays in 4 games
  • ALDS B — Yankees over Twins in 5 games

It’s anybody’s guess how this season will turn out. It rarely goes as predicted. But such is life. At this point, truly anything is possible. Except for the fact that only one of these 8 teams will be crowned champions before the end of this month. Fingers crossed for your favorite team. I’ve got mine crossed for… well, you know…

Go Yankees!

Game 159: NYY vs. TB — Yankees shut-out loss at the Trop

The Yankees faced the Tampa Bay Rays tonight at Tropicana Field for a disappointing shut-out loss. Even with 5 walks, New York had little opportunity to score, earning only 1 hit and 16 strikeouts, and leaving 9 men on base.

After last night’s marathon game that went to the Rays, tonight’s game wasn’t much better for the Yankees in the end. Giving up 9 hits and 4 runs, New York pitching was not its usual stellar self. Jonathan Loaisiga started for New York and promptly gave up a home run to center to the lead-off batter. He followed that up with 3 singles that scored another run before striking out the side.

In the 2nd, JA Happ replaced Loaisiga for a strong out of long-term relief — 6 strikeouts through 5 innings. It wasn’t until the 6th that the Rays broke through again. Happ allowed a single to center that scored on an RBI double. Kahnle replaced Happ in the 7th inning. After a throwing infield error and a walk that put 2 men on base, Kahnle was replaced by Gearrin. He then faced just one batter before turning over the ball to Tarpley for the final out of that inning.

With the Yankees still scoreless in the 8th, Tarpley came back out to face a batter for an out before being replaced by Luis Cessa. Cessa, however, gave up a home run to put the Yankees even further behind. Chapman replaced Cessa for the final 2 strikeouts of the 8th inning.

Yankee batters also struggled tonight, only earning one hit, but no runs. New York had a couple opportunities to score when batters like Voit and Wade worked walks in the 3rd, but a double play ended that hope then. A single by LeMahieu in the 6th broke the Rays’ no-hitter bid tonight, but it wasn’t much more for the Yankees. And by the 9th, the Yankees got three strikeouts in a row in this shutout loss to the Rays.

Final score: 4-0 Rays, Rays win series 2-0

Next up: The Yankees take an off-day tomorrow to travel across the Gulf of Mexico to Arlington to face the Texas Rangers for the final series this regular season. They will close out 2019 with a 3-game series this weekend.

Injury update: Gio Urshela is expected to be back in the lineup for Friday’s game in Texas facing the Rangers. Urshela did not play tonight, but the team fully expects him to be ready for this last regular season series for the Yankees this weekend.

Yankee batting record update: So far this season, the Bronx Bombers have certainly earned their nickname with a current MLB record of 299 home runs in a single season, and there’s still 3 games to be played. Also, this season, 14 Yankees have earned double-digit homers this year.

Go Yankees!

 

Game 158: NYY vs. TB — 12 inning pitching exhibition

The Yankees traveled to Florida for a 2-game series in Tropicana Field to face the Tampa Bay Rays. While the Yankees have secured their spot in the post-season as the AL East Champs, the Rays are still working for their chance in the wild card race.

Yankee pitchers were out in force tonight as the Tampa crowd witnessed outings from 11 New York pitchers. To start the game, Jordan Montgomery took the mound for 2 innings and faced 9 batters for 3 strikeouts, giving up 3 hits, but no runs. In the 3rd, Ben Heller took the mound, also facing 3 batters, giving up a single, but no runs.

CC Sabathia replaced Heller in the 4th inning for his first regular season appearance as a reliever. Sabathia threw 13 pitches to 3 batters for 3 outs, including 2 strike outs. In the 5th inning, Tarpley took the ball and gave up a home run to right field that tied the game, followed by a single that reached base safely, but was called out trying to steal 2nd.

Another pitching change in the 6th brought Lyons to the mound to face one batter for a walk. Lyons was then replaced by Luis Cessa who allowed 2 more walks to load the bases before a ground out ended the inning with no runs. Kahnle took the mound in the 7th for quick 3 outs, followed by Britton for another 3 up 3 down. In the 9th, Ottavino replaced Britton and threw 11 pitches to 3 batters for 3 outs.

With the score still tied 1-1, Green replaced Ottavino at the helm for the 10th and 11th innings, facing 6 batters for 6 outs, 5 of which were strikeouts. In the bottom of the 12th, Green was replaced by Cory Gearrin who gave up a lead-off home run that broke the tie in favor of Tampa Bay.

Yankee batters had several chances to score tonight, but even with 7 solid hits, only 1 run scored for New York. After a scoreless first 2 innings, the 3rd inning lead-off batter Cameron Maybin sent a solo home run to center field. But then the opportunities started stalling. Like in the 4th, Judge led off with a single infield grounder, but was left stranded when the next 3 batters failed to reach base, an unfortunate pattern the Yankees would continue in nearly every inning.

Stanton earned a walk in the 6th inning, and moved to 2nd when Gio Urshela was hit by pitch and awarded 1st, but, again, all runners were left stranded. With the score tied at the end of 9 innings, the game dragged on for 3 more innings. The Yankees had a couple more opportunities to break the tie in the top of the 12th inning, but they ended up stranding the base runners. A lead-off homer by the Rays in the bottom of the 12th finally ended the game and gave the game to Tampa Bay.

Final score: 2-1 Rays

CC Sabathia’s call to the mound tonight was his first appearance as a reliever in regular season play in his long career. But it wasn’t the first time ever as a reliever. The last time Sabathia had a reliever appearance was in Game 5 of the 2011 ALDS. In tonight’s game facing the Rays, Sabathia threw his 1700th strikeout as a Yankee, for a career record of 3091.

Injury update: Gio Urshela was hit by a pitch in the 6th inning and attempted to stay in the game before being replaced to have his sore hand checked. Thankfully, x-rays on his hand were negative except for a bad bruise.

Go Yankees!

Game 136 — OAK vs. NYY: Pinstripes plagued by pitching problems

The Yankees returned to the Bronx today after a successful West Coast run, winning 5 of their last 6 games, scoring 35 runs, including 18 homers. Despite being hounded by injuries this season, the team has focused on staying the path to the playoffs and the World Series.

CC Sabathia started strongly today, pitching well for three full innings, despite giving up one home run in the 3rd. This was Sabathia’s third start since returning from the IL, yet unexpectedly left the game and was replaced at the top of the 4th by Luis Cessa. (More below.)

Cessa threw 37 pitches through two solid, scoreless innings. A pitching change in the 6th gave the ball to Tommy Kahnle, who just struggled and gave up 3 runs on 3 hits, a rarity for the reliever. Both Gearrin (7th) and Cortes (8th and 9th) also had difficulty with command of the mound, collectively giving up 4 more runs, including another home run, for the eventual disappointing loss for New York.

The Yankees were scoreless in the first two innings, finally getting on the board in the 3rd. Didi Gregorius grounded into a force out that scored DJ LeMahieu to tie the game at that point.

The 4th inning began well with singles by Voit and Gardner. Romine then reached 1st on a fielder’s choice. And after an overturned call, the bases were loaded. Mike Tauchman grounded into a double play, scoring just Voit, giving New York a brief lead. The last four innings were scoreless for the Yankees, who were never able to get on base again the rest of the game against the strong A’s bullpen.

Final score: 8-2 Oakland

Injury update: After just 3 innings today, CC Sabathia left the game due to some discomfort in his right knee. Though no tests are scheduled at this time as this is a lingering issue for the star pitcher. He’s hoping that resting the knee will solve the issue, and he can return to the mound soon as the race for pennant draws near.

Roster updates: Before the game, the Yankees placed Gio Urshela on the IL with a left groin strain and activated Luke Voit back to the roster, to score one of the Yankees’ two runs tonight. The Yankees also officially sent pitcher Jordan Montgomery to his rehab assignment at AAA Scranton as his recovery from Tommy John surgery is complete.

Looking ahead, it seems likely that outfielder Clint Frazier will get a call up for the September roster. According to Aaron Boone, they are impressed to see how Frazier has been working successfully on his defensive skill set at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Finally, our hearts continue to be with the family of Rays’ minor league pitcher Blake Bivens, who lost his wife, 10-month old son, and mother-in-law in an absolute tragedy earlier this week. Our prayers are with you and your family and friends.

Go Yankees!

Games 94 & 95: TB vs. NYY — A rain delay, an ejection, a doubleheader, and an anniversary

Thanks to the rain out yesterday, today’s scheduled got packed. And the Yankees still somehow managed to amp up the drama and make the final 2 games against the Rays all the more interesting. The afternoon game of the doubleheader was first delayed by lingering afternoon rain, pushing the start time back 1 hour and 26 minutes.

Game 1 (make-up game from July 17)
Domingo German got the start for the first game of today’s doubleheader and threw a pretty good game despite what became the major talking point — a terrible strike zone set by the home plate umpire. German threw 90 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and struck out 5 Rays’ batters.

The allowed runs were consecutive solo home run to kick off the game. After that, German buckled in and really set a strong pattern to pass the game off to his relievers. Kahnle, Britton, and Hale threw a strong scoreless inning of their own, keeping the visitors to those early runs.

The Yankees answered back to the Rays’ early lead by tying up the game right in the turbulent 2nd inning. Didi Gregorius led-off the inning by getting all the way to 2nd on a fielding error. He then moved to 3rd on a ground out and scored on Gio Urshela’s 2-run home run.

Now, after a questionable strikeout and some bad calls on the at-bat of the two most chill guys on the team (Gardner and LeMahieu), Aaron Boone had to step in. Leading up to this, Sanchez questioned some calls, especially lower in the strike zone, for their inconsistency. The rookie home plate umpire didn’t seem to adjust, and the continuation of the questionable calls was starting to fluster everyone.

Boone did what managers need to do — take one for their guys. Several choice words later (like “savages”), Boone watched the rest of the game from the clubhouse, and the Yankees (and their fans) applauded his efforts and ended up winning the game. And I looked at the strike zone graphics following the game, it wasn’t good. Far too many called strikes were out side the box, and too many called balls were inside it. Boone and company were right to have issues with the calls.

In the 5th, Judge led-off with a single, moved to 3rd on Hicks’ ground-rule double, and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s 1-out single. After another out, Luke Voit’s single scored Hicks, and Urshela’s double scored Sanchez. And Aaron Hicks’ 2-out solo home run in the 6th capped off the Yankees’ dominant afternoon.

Final score: 6-2 Yankees

Game 2 (regularly scheduled game)
After a brief clean-up and resetting the field, the second half of today’s doubleheader was ready to go. The Yankees opted to use an “opener”, the ever reliable Chad Green, who despite throwing 31 pitches in the 1st inning, kept the Rays from scoring.

Nestor Cortes Jr came on for the 2nd inning and kept things strong through most of his outing, into the 5th inning. But in the 3rd, a lead-off walk scored on a double. But he handed the ball over to Luis Cessa in the 5th, who carried things scoreless into the 8th. Ottavino closed out the final 4 outs with just 17 great pitches.

So, the Yankees were late to get on the board. Luke Voit hit a 1st pitch solo home run in the 5th inning to tie up the game. Then in the 6th, Austin Romine led-off with a double and moved to 3rd on a ground out. Walks to Judge and Encarnacion loaded up the bases, and a balk moved all the runners up and scored Romine.

Then Didi Gregorius’ single and a throwing error allowed both Judge and Encarnacion to score. After another out, the Yankees loaded up the bases again with Torres’ single and Urshela’s walk. The Rays made a pitching change, but he promptly walked Mike Tauchman to score Gregorius before finally getting out of the inning.

Final score: 5-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees continue their home stand with a weekend series against the visiting Rockies. The Yankees will spend next week on the road, first against the Twins and then in Boston for a long weekend, including a make-up game as part of a Saturday doubleheader.

Before the later game tonight, the Yankees celebrated the 20th anniversary of David Cone’s perfect game. It was a perfect day in many ways, honoring the perfect game of Don Larsen and caught by Yogi Berra. And then Cone spent most of the day just playing catch with his catcher Joe Girardi. So, in addition to the now standard commemorative bobblehead of David Cone, Cone also threw out the ceremonial first pitch, a strike of course.

And also coming up this weekend is Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, New York. The ceremonies will include Yankee alum like Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera. There are many activities this weekend leading up to the main event of induction ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Rivera’s unanimous election to the Hall is really the biggest topic of the weekend, though for Yankee fans (and really any decent general baseball fans), it was inevitable. Our hero, our legend, our Hall of Famer.

Go Yankees!

Game 93: TB vs. NYY — #CCStrong and a #DidiSlam

In tonight’s second game of this 4-game series against the visiting Rays, the drama continued as it only can in these division rivalry games. The Rays are still trying to do all they can to chip away at the Yankees’ lead in the AL East. With the Yankees currently looming over the Rays at 6 games, the Rays were hoping to use this longer series to make up the deficit. And last night’s come from behind rally certainly helped. Tonight’s, however, did not.

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s game, throwing a strong 79 pitches in 6 innings. He gave up 5 hits and 3 runs and struck out 6 Rays batters. In both the 2nd and 4th, the Rays hit 2 solo 2-out home runs to get them on the board early and into the lead. In the 6th, with 2 outs, a single scored on an RBI double.

The Yankees were able to tie up the game briefly with Edwin Encarnacion’s lead-off solo home run in the 2nd. But once the Rays took their small lead, they were held off until the 6th when DJ LeMahieu hit a 1-out solo home run into the right field seats.

With the Rays still in a slim lead over the Yankees, the bullpen had to step in to do a better job. Cortes, normally a stalwart in the ‘pen, struggled tonight and loaded up the bases in the 7th with just 1 out. So, they called in David Hale. Hale’s first batter was last night’s hero, and he got him to hit into a great double play to get out of that jam.

Hale continued on through the scoreless 8th and into the 9th. After giving up 2 singles and just 1 out, they called in Britton to close out the game with 2 solid strikeouts.

The Yankees needed to find any weakness to charge through and flip the script. In the 8th, Torres led-off with a walk and, 2 outs later, scored on Aaron Judge’s 2-run home run to finally give the Yankees the lead. Then Voit singled, Sanchez doubled, and Encarncaion was intentionally walked to load up the bases. And Didi Gregorius, who has been still trying to find his footing after returning from the IL, seemed to find it with a monster grand slam into the right field bleacher seats.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

Okay, so there was a bit of a scuffle in the 6th inning. Sabathia struck out the final batter he faced, and the Rays’ batter said something. Sabathia heard it and questioned it. The Rays batter hostilely deflected. Tempers rose, Gregorius intercepted Sabathia, the benches cleared, some shoving ensued, heated words were exchanged, and then it fizzled out. No one was ejected. Just a “misunderstanding“, apparently.

Of course, the best part was the offended Rays player jogged out to right field for the bottom of the inning. He heard from the fans for his participation and then watched Judge’s 2-run home run “sail over his head” and into the stands to those same fans. Home field advantage indeed.

Go Yankees!