Games 68 & 69: NYY vs. WAS — “Let’s play one and a half”?

Last month, the Yankees traveled to the nation’s capital to play a short series, the now popular 2-game series of this year’s schedule. But lingering showers and storms that plagued much of the country made playing in some games almost like chasing or avoiding the weather its own sport. Such delays seem to have trickled out (pun intended), so that means that we’re now in the making all those missed games up part of the schedule.

Anyway, despite over an hour delay last month, the Yankees and Nationals played 5 1/2 innings of their first game of the series before seemingly unending showers forced the powers that be to suspend the game as it was. They were supposed to pick up that game before the next game on the following day, but those same storms continued on into the next day. And it forced them to do a sort of doubleheader make-up game tonight. Or rather about a game and a half.

Game 1: The Suspended Game
The two players that made the most impact on this first game are no longer on the active roster. Now on the DL due to some hamstring strains, Masahiro Tanaka started the game for the Yankees, and all the Yankees’ runs were due to Tyler Austin’s bat. Austin is back in AAA due to some overcrowding on the Yankees’ bench.

Tanaka threw 72 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up just 4 hits, no walks, and 3 runs, and struck out just 2 batters. He gave up a 2-out solo home run in the 1st to get the Nats on the board early. And in the 2nd, a lead-off double scored on a 1-out single, who then scored on an RBI double.

The Yankees chipped away at that lead, as I said before, thanks to Tyler Austin. In the 4th, Gregorius made it all the way to 2nd on a Little League-style fielding error before scoring on Austin’s big 2-run home run. Then in the 5th, the Yankees loaded the bases — Judge walked, Stanton singled, and Sanchez walked. Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice, getting Judge out at home, and then Austin’s sacrifice fly scored Stanton to tie up the game.

As the rain came down in the top of the 6th, the Yankees left a man stranded as the middle of the inning came and they suspended the game. So, coming back tonight to resume the game (and keep up with roster moves of pinch-hitters and replacements), Chad Green came out for the Yankees and got into a bit of trouble. With 1 out, he gave up a single and 2-run home run to give the lead back to the Nationals.

Shreve and Warren each took an inning, while waiting for the Yankees to face the Nationals’ bullpen and find the strength possibly lingering from Austin’s power last month. It wasn’t going to happen.

Final score: 5-3 Nationals

Game 2: The Rain Delay
About 30 minutes after the conclusion of game one, enough time for the grounds crew to make the field all pretty again (and the guys to change uniforms for a clean one), the game that was delayed due to rain started. There’s been a lot of talk about how bad Sonny Gray does at home in stark contrast to how well he does on the road. Tonight, he proved the formula true again. Gray threw 86 pitches in his 5 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out 7 batters.

In the 2nd, he gave up consecutive singles that moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. A ground out scored the lead runner and moved the other one to 3rd. The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice that had the runner caught in a brief rundown for the out. A lead-off double in the 4th moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a sacrifice fly.

Holder, Robertson, Betance, and Chapman closed out the final 4 innings for the Yankees, collectively (with Gray) getting an impressive 15 total strikeouts and keeping the Nats to those 2 runs. Though they threatened at bit in the 9th inning, a long fly ball run down and captured on the warning track by Judge handed Chapman his 21st save.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually struck first. Hicks led-off the game with a double, and 2 outs later, scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single. In the 5th, down by just a run, the Yankees came back. Romine led-off with a single but was out when Gray bunted into a bad grounder. Gray then scored as part of Aaron Hicks’ big 2-run home run to give the Yankees back the lead.

Clint Frazier led-off the 7th by being hit by a pitch and then moved to 2nd on a sloppy pick-off error. Two outs, a walk to Judge, and a pitching change later, Stanton doubled and scored Frazier. Torres was intentionally walked to load the bases, but they ended their rally this inning with just one insurance run. It would be all they needed.

Final score: 4-2 Yankees, the short make-up series was split 1-1

Roster moves: Before the game, Clint Frazier was recalled, Ronald Torreyes sent to AAA Scranton, and Giovanny Gallegos was recalled as the Yankees’ 26th man for the doubleheader. Gallegos will be on his way back to Scranton now.

Next up: the Yankees head back to the Bronx where the Mariners await their 3-game series with them there tomorrow. After they close out this home stand, they hop a flight down to St. Petersburg to face the Rays this weekend and then up to Philadelphia for 3-games next Monday. Then home again for the final home stand before the All-Star Break.

It’s worth noting that what most people talked about for the first game was the player who hit the winning home run was not yet with the team when the game was suspended. He wasn’t called up to the main team until May 20 (5 days after the originally scheduled game). Now, because of how they have to score this, as being played on May 15, they marked this as his 1st home run. But it’s actually his 6th home run since his call-up. So, everyone is making bad jokes about time travel and pointing out the obvious problems and loopholes of how records are kept in the league.

Go Yankees!

Game 63: WAS vs. NYY — Splitting the mini-series during #HOPEWeek

The Yankees conclude their brief series with the visiting Nationals by splitting it with the visitors. Sonny Gray got the start tonight and continued his struggles at home, throwing 89 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and striking out just 1 batter.

In the 1st inning, the lead-off batter got a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a sacrifice fly to get the Nats on the board early. Later, in the 4th, with 2 outs, Gray gave up a walk and a single to put runners on the corners before giving up a line drive bouncing off the left field wall for a 3-run home run to put them in the lead again.

Meanwhile, the Yankee batters weren’t exactly sitting on their laurels. In the bottom of the 1st, Gardner led-off with a single and then stole 2nd, but ended up at 3rd on a throwing error. He then scored on Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly to tie up the game at that point. Greg Bird’s 1-out 2nd inning solo home run put the Yankees in the lead.

In the 3rd, Judge hit a 1-out double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single. Down by a run after that 4th inning homer, Gleyber Torres led-off the 5th inning with a game-tying solo home run.

After Gray’s night was over, the Yankees handed the ball to Chasen Shreve, who kept things as is in the 6th, but then gave up a big 1-out solo home run in the 7th to give the Nationals a slight lead again. Robertson and Holder each took an inning to keep them from adding to their lead and waiting for the Yankee bats to reawaken.

But it was the Yankee defense that was clicking in the latter part of the game. Romine and Torres teaming up to catch a runner stealing 2nd in the 8th, and Didi Gregorius being a defensive icon and throwing to 1st in the midst of falling to the ground to make the out in the 9th. Even when the Yankees did get on base, they just weren’t collecting enough to get any further runs.

Final score: 5-4 Nationals, series split 1-1

Next up: the Rays come to visit the Bronx tomorrow to start their 4-game weekend series. Remember, the Yankees will travel to D.C. to see the Nationals again on Monday to play 1 1/2 games to make up the rainy mess of last month before returning to the Bronx to finish up their homestand against the Mariners.

HOPE Week Day 3: HOPE Week continued today, with a strong theme of the week repeated again in today’s honoree. The Yankees joined Brian Williams, founder of “Think Kindness“, for a special assembly at a local elementary school. Since 2009, Think Kindness is an anti-bullying organization the runs special assemblies and programs in schools nationwide (and a few internationally) with the intent not to focus on bullying but rather on being a facilitator of kindness in your world.

Fourth and fifth graders at P.S. 73 in the Bronx were invited to a special assembly hosted by Williams and featuring Aaron Hicks, David Robertson, CC Sabathia (a clear favorite), Luis Severino, 3rd base coach Phil Nevin, and GM Brian Cashman. Williams, a former martial arts instructor, challenged P.S. 73 to be the school that does the most acts of kindness and then gave every student a journal to record their completed acts. Williams hopes display at least a million documented acts of kindness and has already has 2.4 million at their headquarters in Reno.

As with every HOPE Week honoree, Williams later threw out the 1st pitch before tonight’s game and accepted the $10,000 donation on behalf of his organization.

Once again, kindness matters. Those little moments of kindness add up. They make a difference. One moment, one act, one kindness at a time. Those matter to someone. And because they matter to someone, they matter, they count, they are necessary.

Kindness matters.

Go Yankees!

Game 62: WAS vs. NYY — #HOPEWeek Starts, #CCStrong & #SirDidi shut out Nationals

The Yankees are back in the Bronx, and it’s HOPE Week. While the Yankees face the Nationals tonight and tomorrow before starting their series against the Rays, they are also using their days to give back to their community in their 10th Annual HOPE Week. (More on that after the game recap.)

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s game and zoned into a strong momentum to keep the visiting Nationals scoreless. He threw 101 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 4 hits and 3 walks, and struck out 3 batters. Also, he hit an amazing milestone in the 4th inning — his 1,500th strikeout with the Yankees. They stopped the game for a moment to allow the 44,000 fans at the stadium to give him a nice audience.

Sabathia has 2,893 in his career, making him 17th in the overall list of pitchers and the leader among active pitchers. And it’s worth noting that all but 2 listed above Sabathia on that list are in the Hall of Fame.

With 2 outs and a runner on 1st with a single, Sabathia handed the ball to Chad Green. While he was dealing with the next batter, the runner took off for 2nd, and Romine fired the ball to a waiting Torres at 2nd to make the tag. Originally ruled safe, the Yankees challenged the call and after review, the play was overturned. Then Green’s 7th inning followed Sabathia’s clean sheet, before Betances and Chapman’s 8th and 9th innings just got cleaner and cleaner.

While the Yankees’ pitching was strong, the Yankees’ batting needed to step it up and take advantage of the opportunities they could. In the 2nd, Didi Gregorius hit a solid 1-out solo home run to get things started fairly early. Aaron Hicks then worked a walk, and Walker’s single and a bad throw moved both runners into scoring position. Hicks then scored on Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly. Didi Gregorius later led-off the 6th with another solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ scoring.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees

Today, MLB released the first results of fan voting for the AL nominees of All-Star Game, and there were a lot of Yankeesa lot of Yankees that could make the roster this year if fans continue to pull through. Gary Sanchez leads all Catchers by about 13,000 votes; Gleyber Torres is a distant 2nd at 2nd; Miguel Andujar is a distant 2nd at 3rd; Didi Gregorius is 3rd in a tight field at Shortstop; and Giancarlo Stanton is a distant 2nd at Designated Hitter. Plus, all Yankee Outfielders are found in the top 15 — Aaron Judge is 3rd, Brett Gardner is 7th, and Aaron Hicks is 11th.

Based on current patterns and numbers, Sanchez and Judge are almost locks for the starting roster, so Yankee fans, do your stuff and vote!

HOPE Week is back for its 10th year. Helping Other Persevere and Excel is the motto of the Yankees annual community outreach for the last 10 seasons. It’s easily my favorite week of the year, and it’s something Yankees Director of Media Relations Jason Zillo calls “The greatest thing we do all year.”

Yesterday, during the Yankees off-day, the Yankees sent 3 of their biggest stars to the TODAY Show to preview HOPE Week and meet with the fans that pack Rockefeller Center every morning. Brett Gardner (a HOPE Week veteran since Day 1), Aaron Judge (in his 2nd HOPE Week), and Giancarlo Stanton (a HOPE Week rookie) went on the show to promote HOPE Week and talk about “bringing light to some special situations and meeting some really cool people”.

HOPE Week, Day 1: Monday, the Yankees visited Cindy and Louis Campbell who founded the “Muddy Puddles Project“, hosting the annual Mess Fest at Mohawk Day Camp (about an hour north of the City). The Campbell’s lost their 5 year old son Ty to brain cancer 6 years ago and his greatest wish before he died was just to jump in the mud puddles. So in his honor, they founded this messy, fun opportunity for children with cancer and their families to enjoy a day, raise money for pediatric cancer research (over $800,000 in five years).

Manager Aaron Boone, Bench Coach Josh Bard, Brett Gardner, Sonny Gray, Didi Gregorius, and Yankees General Partner Jenny Steinbrenner brought a $10,000 donation and Ty Campbell’s favorite cartoon Peppa Pig to join in today’s festivities. They got messy in the mud and then clean thanks to a big soapy washing station and a water balloon fight. Children from all over the area being treated for various forms of cancer got to hang out with the Yankees (and Peppa Pig), including one kid celebrating his 8th birthday. It was definitely a day to remember. (And now, I want to go jump in a bunch of mud puddles!)

HOPE Week Day 2: Today, the Yankees invited a special girl named Cassidy Warner to hang out with them. Many of you may remember Cassidy as the young girl who posted a video earlier this year about being bullied in her school and then asking people to just be nice to each other. The Yankees responded to her video with one of their own, inviting her to come and have lunch with them some time. That came true today.

Cassidy joined Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, AJ Cole, Neil Walker, a handful of coaches, and a group of local 6th graders from a national anti-bullying organization called “No Bully” to play kick ball at the field across from Yankee Stadium (where the old stadium used to stand). Cassidy then joined the Yankees for lunch at the Stadium and later joined Cindy Campbell to jointly throw out the 1st pitch before the game.

No Bully’s Vice President Erik Stangvik personally encouraged Cassidy for sharing her story and challenged the whole group to be an “upstander” instead of just being a “bystander” and stand up for people. He said, “Ultimately, it’s just being kind. It’s a pretty simple way to walk through the world.”

 

And that, I think, is the ultimate message of HOPE Week — that kindness matters. And that being kind is a lifestyle choice, something we all can choose every day. Kindness impacts our own little corner of the world and ultimately lands like ripples on the pond to affect further than we can possibly imagine.

Kindness matters.

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!