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!

2018 Wild Cards: COL vs. CHC & OAK vs. NYY — October baseball, a little wild

If the Wild Card games are any indication of how the 2018 postseason is going to be, it’s going to be one wild ride this October. The National League Wild Card reflected how tight the NL has been and ended up going down to the wire before the postseason began. And the American League Wild Card showed off the Yankees.

NL Wild Card: Rockies vs. Cubs (Tuesday)
This game was one of those super dramatic, tight games that makes these one-off games worth the effort. Both teams sent in their ace pitchers, Freeland and Lester, who both pitched deep into the game. Both only gave up 4 hits and a walk. But the Rockies got one run early in the game.

In the 1st, a lead-off walk moved to 3rd on a ground-rule double and then scored on a sacrifice fly. But then the Cubs held off the Rockies for the rest of the regular game. The Rockies pretty much matched them in offense and defense, which resulted in this insane, edge-of-your-seat kind of game.

But then, in the bottom of the 8th, with 2 outs, a Cubs’ batter singled, stole 2nd, and then scored on a double to finally tie up the game. And the hometown crowd went wild. And the game eventually went into extra innings. 13 of them.

In the 13th, with 2 outs (again), the Rockies’ batter singled, moved to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a single to break the tie. The small contingent of Colorado fans were suddenly excited. Their wish came true when their pitcher breezed his way through 3 strikeouts in the bottom of the 13th to send the Cubs back to their clubhouse to watch the rest of the postseason from their couches.

Final score: 2-1 Rockies, in 13 innings

AL Wild Card: Athletics vs. Yankees (Wednesday)
The next night, the AL Wild Card teams were ready for their own dramatic one-off game. And while the Yankees certainly outshone the Athletics in the end, the A’s weren’t exactly sitting on their hands. They are a good team. The Yankees are just better.

The A’s decided to piece together their bullpen to see if that could stop the Yankees. Yeah, it didn’t. Andrew McCutchen led-off the 1st with a walk and then scored when Aaron Judge hit a nice 2-run home run into the left field seats. But then the A’s pitchers did a good job of keeping the Yankees to those early runs.

Then in the 6th, Judge led-off with a double and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ double. After a new reliever came into the game, a wild pitch moved Hicks to 3rd and Stanton worked a walk. Stanton then stole 2nd putting both runners in scoring position. Then they did so on Luke Voit’s big triple, just inches shy of a 3-run homer in right field.

A sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius then found Voit hustling home, barely touching home plate before being tagged. The A’s challenged the tag, but it was upheld. It wasn’t quite clear if he was tagged just before he touched the plate, but there was no proof he wasn’t either. So, the run stood. Not that it mattered. The Yankees kept rolling. And Giancarlo Stanton led-off the 8th inning with a monster solo home run into the corner of the left field seats.

Luis Severino was tapped for the start, which based on his second half showing, had many in Yankee Universe nervous. But they made it clear that if he fell apart like last year’s Wild Card game, there was a enough power in the bullpen to cover him. He didn’t really need it much because he was off to a stellar start, mostly breezing his way through the first 4 innings, including 7 sharp strikeouts.

Then in the 5th, he gave up 2 singles, his first allowed hits of the night, and instead of waiting to see if Severino could pull it together, they the Yankees went to the bullpen and called in Dellin Betances, who worked his way out of Severino’s trouble in the 5th and then sailed his way through the 6th. David Robertson followed this momentum with a clean 12-pitch 7th inning.

Zach Britton came in for the 8th and became the first Yankees pitcher to really struggle this game. He gave up a lead-off single. The next batter hit into what was originally called a double play, but the Athletics challenged and it was clear that the runner beat out the ball at 1st. So it ended up overturned as just 1 out. But then the next batter hit a 2-run home run to finally get the Athletics on the board. But then Britton tamped down and got himself out of the inning.

And Aroldis Chapman, postseason veteran, came out for the 9th and came out clean, even fielding the final out himself, helping seal the win for the Yankees to advance.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

This means that the Division Series are set. Thursday, the NLDS games start. The Brewers host the Rockies, and the Dodgers host the Braves. The ALDS starts Friday — the Astros host the Indians, and the Red Sox host the Yankees. The Divsion Series games run 2 games, travel day, 2 games, travel day, 1 game. The first team to 3 wins win the series and advance to the Championship Series that begin on Friday, October 12.

Postseason Predictions:

  • Wild Card
    • Predictions: Rockies over Cubs, Yankees over Athletics
    • Results: Rockies over Cubs, Yankees over Athletics
    • Success (in batting average): 1.000
  • Division Series:
    • NLDS 1: Brewers over Rockies in 4 games
    • NLDS 2: Dodgers over Braves in 4 games
    • ALDS 1: Astros over Indians in 3 games
    • ALDS 2: Yankees over Red Sox in 5 games

This means I am hoping for an NLCS between the Brewers and Dodgers, and an ALCS between the Astros and Yankees. And with my track record, chances are at least 1 or 2 of my predictions will be wrong. I’m ready for it. But fingers crossed that it won’t be the Yankees-Red Sox one.

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!

NL Wild Card: COL vs. ARI — Another messy start, “wild” cards indeed, and postseason is just beginning

So, if one thing watching these last 2 wild card games has taught me, it’s that starters really don’t have it for the 4th and 5th place teams in either league. Tonight in Phoenix, the Diamondbacks faced off against their geographic rivals, the Rockies, for the one-off NL Wild Card title. Despite rather disappointing starts once again, neither team was willing to give up so easy. Neither team had really great bullpens either.

That would explain the 30 total allowed hits and 19 total allowed runs scored tonight. For the playoffs, you want and usually see low scores more like international football) and not like American football type scores. Tonight was definitely not usual.

The Rockies starter was pushed out of the game in the 2nd inning (and 41 pitches), after giving up 7 hits and 4 runs, and striking out just 2 batters; comparatively, the Diamondbacks starter threw 58 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 6 hits, 4 runs, and struck out a single batter. And then, like last night’s game, both teams had to rely on their bullpens to pick up the game. But neither bullpen was really built for such an event, and both bullpen certainly dropped the ball. One team would rack up the points, and then the other team would catch up, and they basically did this all night long.

The Diamondbacks really commanded the game from the start offensively. In the 1st, with consecutive singles, a big 3-run home run got them on the board before an out was recorded against them. A 1-out single in the 2nd scored on a big triple, that kicked the Rockies’ starter out of the game right there. A new reliever in the 3rd gave up a single that scored as part of a 2-run home run to give the D-Backs a really big lead for the first third of the game.

Down 6-0, the Rockies had quite a bit to catch up. But they did, starting in the 4th inning. With 1 out, and 2 runners on base with singles, another single scored the lead run. A ground out moved both runners to scoring position which they promptly did on an RBI double and RBI single. That would be it for the D-backs starter at that point.

Things settled down somewhat for the middle section of the game until the Rockies found another opportunity in the 7th. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then later scored on a sacrifice bunt. But that reduced gap didn’t last long. In the bottom of the inning, a lead-off Arizona batter singled and another batter worked a 1-out walk. They opted to send up their reliever, despite 2 outs on the board, to save their bench guys for bigger options. Which worked out well, as the reliever hit a big triple that scored both runners. It was his first professional extra-base hit ever.

He then struggled once he got back out on the mound (talk about a rollercoaster of emotion). He gave up consecutive home runs to put the Rockies back within striking distance again. But then the D-backs answered back, almost as if in revenge, in the bottom of the 8th. With 2 outs, 2 runners on base, and the 2nd reliever of the inning on the mound, a wild pitch moved both runners to scoring position before they did just that on yet another solid triple. That batter then later scored on an RBI single.

The D-backs called on their closer, who had his own issues but was able to rein them in just in time. A lead-off single advanced 2 bases on defensive indifference and then scored on a 2-out single. A little dribbler up the middle allowed for an easy force out at 2nd and to hand the Diamondbacks the win after a big battle back-and-forth.

Final score: 11-8 Diamondbacks, they advance to NLDS and will face the Dodgers in LA on Friday.

Okay, so I did well in my predictions for the Wild Card games. So far batting 1.000, but this will definitely change. Now that we know which teams are facing each other in the next stage of the postseason, I have my next phase of predictions:

  • ALDS 1 — Yankees over Indians, in 5 games
  • ALDS 2 — Astros over Red Sox in 4 games
  • NLDS 1 — Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 3 games
  • NLDS 2 — Nationals over Cubs in 5 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. In fact, in one series, I’m hoping for the result to be reversed. Full disclosure: it’s not the Yankees-Indians series.

During their warm-up day at Progressive Field in Cleveland, the Yankees took some time to meet with the media, and they announced their starters for the ALDS. Game 1 will be Sonny Gray, followed by Sabathia, Tanaka, and Severino. Tanaka is being saved for when the series moves back to the Bronx as his home record is way better than his road record. And if they hit Game 5, the Yankees will announce their starter then. It could be Montgomery or Garcia, or they could call on Gray on short rest or one of the long-relief guys in the bullpen like Cessa. It really depends on how big of competition the Indians will be in the first few games.

Also, you can now “Vote Gardy” for Brett Gardner to win the Roberto Clemente Award, an honor given to a single player from all across the league who exemplifies excellence on the field and integrity and philanthropy off the field. Gardner is the Yankees nominee this season and deserves the recognition for being an excellent outfielder but also for his generous spirit and compassion in giving back to his home community in South Carolina and his work with the Yankees in the local New York area.

Go Yankees!


2017 Postseason Preview

Okay, here’s the annual blog post to wrap up the recent season and give a brief overview of what to expect in the postseason. And you’ll even get to hear my personal hopes (much more than predictions if I’m being honest) for how 2017 will turn out.

First up, the Wild Card games. Yes, the Yankees are back in the postseason again and will face the Twins tomorrow night. If you remember, the Yankees swept the Twins just 2 weeks ago, outscoring them 18-6 over 3 games. The most consistent starter Luis Severino will start for the Yankees. Severino had 14 wins and 6 losses in 31 games (and 193.1 innings), with an ERA of 2.98 and 230 recorded strikeouts just this season. If Severino and the Yankees’ offense work out like they’ve been known to work this season, the Yankees will be ready to face the Indians.

Okay, so here’s how the American League is set to play their Division Series. Boston, ending up 2 games over the Yankees, will face the Astros for their Division Series games. The Astros missed being the AL team with the most wins by a single game, falling short to the Indians who will face the winners of the Wild Card game.

The National League games will start just a day after the AL games. The Wild Card game will be played between the Diamondbacks and the Rockies, who ended up just a game ahead of the Brewers for that spot. Like with the Twins, the second spot for both Wild Card games went to teams that were exactly 6 games behind the first spot teams (Yankees and Diamondbacks).

The Cubs will play the Nationals in the NL Division Series, neither team coming close to the stellar season of 104 game wins the Dodgers had this season. So the Dodgers will face the winner of the NL Wild Card game.

And you know how the season proceeds from there. The winner of the best-of-5-game series of each set will face each other for the best-of-7 championship series to figure out the winner of each league. And those two winners will face each other in the Fall Classic, also known as the World Series.

Now, I don’t want to make my predictions too far in advance, so I’ll follow last year’s model and do a bit at a time. The AL Wild Card game is tomorrow night, and the NL Wild Card is Wednesday night. So we’ll start there.

  • AL Wild Card — Yankees over Twins
  • NL Wild Card — Diamondbacks over Rockies

Once we have winners from each of those categories, it will be easier (or let’s be honest, usually less humiliating) to predict the next set of games beginning Thursday with the ALDS games and Friday with the NLDS games. Those games are of the 2-2-1 layout, so 2 games played, a travel day, 2 games played (if necessary), a travel day, and 1 game played (if necessary). The team that wins 3 games advances to the next round (the ALCS/NLCS).

What’s your predictions? I try to remove my own bias (which is pretty much that the Yankees should be champions every single year), and be as objective as possible. However, this is my 5th year doing this blog, and honestly, this is the first year since 2012 that I’ve had any kind of hope that the Yankees could actually do something. Unfortunately, it’s all down to a game at a time, starting with tomorrow’s winner-take-all Wild Card Game.

Go Yankees!

As a postscript to this post tonight, I am saddened that I must once again express my sympathies after another tragedy. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and the families off all those affected by the terrible tragedy in Las Vegas last night.

The Mets’ AAA team plays in Las Vegas, the Vegas 51s, and several known current MLB players around the league grew up playing ball in its suburbs — Bryce Harper (Nationals), Kris Bryant (Cubs), Joey Gallo (Rangers), and the Yankees’ own Chasen Shreve. With three of those players heading into the postseason, I know their hometown isn’t far from their minds and hearts this October, as it won’t be from any of our own.

We will continue to pray for healing, comfort, and peace for all those injured or affected by last night’s events as both the city and the nation recovers from this latest horror.

And may I never have to write another condolence message like this one for as long as I live.

NL Wild Card: SF vs. NYM — A pitching duel at its finest

Man, I am not doing well at all this postseason for my predictions. Though to be perfectly fair, all 4 Wild Card teams were relatively evenly matched with their opponent, so predicting which team for both wild card games was basically a toss-up anyway. And as is the case with any game, one team always has a 50-50 shot at winning and (oddly enough) a 50-50 shot at losing.

So, the Giants flew across the country to visit the Mets for the NL Wild Card tonight in Queens. And it was a battle of the pitching greats: postseason icon Bumgarner vs. one of New York’s aces Syndergaard, or more commonly “Bum v. Thor”. And boy, was this a pitching duel, if I’ve ever seen one. It was just ridiculous. The first hit of the game wasn’t until the bottom of the 3rd off Bumgarner. But the first hit off Thor wasn’t until the 6th inning.

Now, Thor (Syndergaard) threw 108 pitches through his 7 innings, giving up just 2 hits, 3 walks, and no runs, but what’s most impressive is his wicked 10 strike outs. Mets’ reliever Reed got himself into a bit of a jam in the 8th, precariously loading the bases in his inning, but getting out of it in the end.

But then reliever Familia got into his own set of trouble in the 9th that had more disastrous consequences for the Mets. A lead-off double and a 1-out walk put runners on base so that a big 3-run home run by Gillaspie broke the 0-0 tied game.

Two outs later, and the Giants were looking for their needed 3 outs to grab the win. They turned to the only person who can help them sail through this postseason. Their starter Bumgarner. Yes, Bum threw a beautiful complete game — 119 pitches, 4 allowed hits, 2 walks, 6 strike outs, and no runs for the win. Scary impressive for anyone who doesn’t remember the 2014 postseason.

Final score: 3-0 Giants.

Tomorrow, the ALDS begins as the Wild Card champs Blue Jays face the AL leaders Rangers in the afternoon, and the Red Sox face the Indians for the night game. Friday the NLDS begins with tonight’s Wild Card victors Giants facing the Cubs in Chicago, and the Dodgers against the Nationals.

And here’s my predictions for the Division Series (a best-of-5 game series):

  • ALDS: Rangers over Blue Jays in 5 games, Red Sox over Indians in 4 games.
  • NLDS: Cubs over the Giants in 4 games, Dodgers over the Nationals in 5 games.

And after the start of the postseason, I’m prepared to be really wrong again.

So we have some Yankee news too, Yankee Universe. First, the special committee for the Hall of Fame has nominated 10 players, managers, and executives for a special vote this December during the Winter Meetings. (Nominees: players Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, and Mark McGwire; managers Davey Johnson and “Sweet” Lou Piniella; and executives John Scherholz, Allan H. “Bud” Selig, and George Steinbrenner.) Yes, Steinbrenner and Piniella are nominated for the Hall of Fame, and deservedly so. Nominees who receive at least 75% of the vote will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame next summer.

Also, today, Yankees GM Brian Cashman gave his annual “State of the Yankees” address for the media to give a few updates. CC Sabathia will get some corrective surgery on his knee. It’s been scheduled for some time to clean-up the area that was previously repaired in 2014. Other than Sabathia, Tanaka and Pineda are expected to fill 2 other starter spots next season, leaving 2 more vacancies on the rotation. Cashman expects to look for some arms in the off-season to fill these spots with some fresh talent.

As previously predicted, there will be a few positions during Spring Training that will be a competition of sorts. First base is expected to be between Tyler Austin and the returning Greg Bird. And right field is up for grabs, between Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Rob Refsnyder. There’s always something else that no one expects to happen during Spring Training. It’s what makes March kind of fun — the unexpected. But I do expect a few interesting moves this off-season and a really good Spring. Expect the unexpected? Every day!

Go Yankees!

AL Wild Card: BAL vs. TOR — Extra innings walk-off homer

Okay, so far, batting .000 here at Yankees Life for the postseason. But to be fair, I kind of struggled with my choice for the AL Wild Card prediction because both the Orioles and Blue Jays are fairly even matched. And this was certainly proved correct tonight where they were pretty even in every aspect — hitting, pitching, base-running, defense, relievers, and bench players.

In fact, while some people were quipping this a “pitchers’ duel”, I couldn’t find myself supporting that moniker as it wasn’t about the pitchers for either team, as they relied rather heavily on their defense, which seemed well-versed in the other team’s nearly predictable play. Maybe this is the problem with having division rivals face off for these kinds of games, as they’ve faced each other quite a bit and are used to each other’s tactics.

Anyway, the Baltimore starter Tillman got less out of the game than Toronto’s Stroman, only going into the 5th inning, while the Blue Jays starter threw 6 complete innings. Both managed to give up 4 hits and 2 runs in the process (evenly matched). In the bottom of the 2nd inning, the Blue Jays were the first to get on the board with a 1st pitch solo home run by one of their star hitters Bautista. It was a no-doubter right off the bat as it powered its way to the upper levels of the left field seats, and the nearly 50,000 blue-clad fans at Rogers Centre went crazy.

The Orioles did what they do and came back in the top of the 4th to one up that. Jones led off the inning with a single, and then 2 outs later, Trumbo hit a 2-run home run, also to left field to give the Orioles a slight lead. But the Blue Jays didn’t let that sit long. In the 5th, a 1-out ground-rule double moved to 3rd on a double and then scored on an RBI single. The Orioles, feeling a bit threatened with just 1 out and runners on the corners, took their starter out and in one pitch got the next batter to ground into a double play to end the threat. (Defense.)

And then the bullpens battled it out. And the tied game continued. The O’s cycled through 6 relievers for the rest of the night, while the Jays needed 5, and neither team was willing to go quietly into the night, though it felt like they might as they went into extra innings.

In the bottom of the 11th, the Baltimore specialist reliever Duensing came on to strike out his batter, and then it got messy. The new reliever Jiminez threw just 5 pitches that changed the entire landscape of the game (much to the enjoyment of the Queen City sold-out crowd). The third pitch in an at-bat to Travis became an easy single. The next batter Donaldson turned the first pitch he saw into a single that put runners on the corners. And even a brief visit from the pitching coach could change what happened next. First pitch to the next batter Encarnacion became a 3-run walk-off home run to give the Blue Jays the Wild Card spot.

Final score: 5-2 Blue Jays over Orioles in 11 innings.

Now, even if there hadn’t been a Wild Card play-off game, the Blue Jays and Orioles would still need to have had a tie-breaker game for the Wild Card spot because they finished the season tied. So basically, this game was inevitable. And of the two teams, the Blue Jays are certainly known for their dramatics (can anyone say “bat flip controversy”?), so I guess it really makes sense. If they won it more traditionally, I think I’d almost be disappointed in them.

Toronto’s fans and players have a tendency to bring the stereotypical exuberance of a hockey game to their baseball game, including things like trash-talking and showmanship. I don’t mind either in context, but I do mind when the trash-talking gets mean or at worst racist (as it did tonight when some fans hurled insults at black and Asian Baltimore outfielders, including actually throwing a full can of beer at them). And I do mind when showmanship becomes arrogant and like an 8-year-old taunting a kid on the playground. But you can be excited and cheer and even jeer without lowering yourself to levels beneath you. And that is class and keeps the game clean and fun for everyone.

So, tomorrow is the NL Wild Card one-off game. And the Mets and Giants were really tight too and would’ve needed their own tie-breaker game. It was just this kind of season for most of the league. Okay, and I really hate that everyone keeps talking about how these Wild Card games are “winner take all” games. No, it’s not. That implies the winner of the game wins everything, and they don’t. They just get the chance to face the best team in their respective leagues. It’s a one-off game. And in this season, it’s much more of tie-breaker than it is anything else.

Not that I’m bitter about losing my prediction (or postseason bracket already) or that the Yankees aren’t in it at all…

Go Yankees!

Postseason Preview 2016

Okay, today is the last day before we dive into the postseason. And while the Yankees aren’t in it, baseball continues on, and so must we.

Here’s the basic picture:

Tomorrow, the AL Wild Card game will be the Orioles against the Blue Jays in Toronto. Wednesday, the NL Wild Card game will be the Giants and Mets in New York.

Then Thursday begins the AL Division Series. The winner of the AL Wild Card game will go play 2 games in Arlington against the AL leaders, the Rangers, while the Red Sox and Indians battle their first 2 games in Cleveland. The third game will switch back to the Wild Card winner and Boston, where they will continue until one team in each series wins 3 of the 5 games.

On Friday, the NL Division Series starts following the same 2-3 location pattern, just a day later (mostly for broadcasting reasons). The Dodgers will face the Nationals in D.C. to start their series, and the winner of the NL Wild Card will play the Cubs first in Chicago.

Looking ahead, the winners of the ALDS will play off in the ALCS beginning October 14, and the winners of the NLDS play off in their NLCS starting October 15. And the winners of each of those best-of-7 games will meet in the World Series, which begins October 25.

Now, I’ve been having lots of conversations about my own predictions for this postseason. This is a bit difficult because most of the teams are pretty even in their potential to win this month. But I’m pretty sure I have a predicted winner, begrudgingly, I’ll admit. (But complete honesty here: when it’s not the Yankees, it’s always “begrudgingly”.) Before I jump too far ahead, we’re going to do this a series at a time.

So, for the one-off Wild Card games (which I still have mixed feeling about the concept, though I understand the profitability and transitional emotions between the regular and post seasons), I am making these predictions:

  • AL Wild Card: Orioles over Blue Jays
  • NL Wild Card: Mets over Giants

I say this every year, but these are just my own predictions, based on what kind of team I think these teams are both overall this season and where they are at this point. I’ve been really right, and I’ve been really wrong. And oddly, I’m okay with being wrong. It’s just personal opinion based on my observations (and often my own bias). And baseball is anything but predictable.

So watch out, Chicago! You may have the only 100+ game wins in the league, but there are lot of games between now and that ring. There’s not one team that’s playing October baseball that’s going to let you have it so easily. And isn’t that how it should be anyway?

Go Yankees!

2015 NLWC: CHC vs. PIT — A water cooler, a brawl, a shutout, and a complete game

So much drama in Iron City tonight. While the game last night started electric and progressively petered out, tonight’s Wild Card game just showed off the passion that is the Pittsburgh fan base. Tonight’s game was between division rivals Cubs and Pirates, and the winner will go on to play their other division rival — the Cardinals in the Division Series this weekend. So basically, this week is heaven on earth for NL Central fans.

Well, not so much for Pirates fans after tonight. And those fair-weather Cubs fans (I’m looking at you Back the Future fanatics) are going bonkers with the fans from the North Side finally praying the Curse of the Goat is on its way to being over. And after watching this game, I can’t tell you how glad I am that I’m a Yankees fan. Oh, the drama, the “passion”, the Gatorade? We’ll get there…

So as per tradition, both the Pirates and Cubs sent up their best pitchers from their rotation. And while both pitchers tended to be fairly even through the regular season, the Cubs’ starter certainly edged out the Pirates tonight. The Pirates’ starter Cole threw 78 pitches through 5 innings, giving up 4 runs and striking out just 4 Cubs’ batters.

In the 1st inning, a Cubs’ lead-off single stole 2nd and then scored on an RBI single to get the scoring started for the evening. Then in the 3rd, with 1 out and a Cubs’ batter on 1st with a single, a batter then hit a 2-run home run to increase the Cubs’ lead. And finally, a 1-out solo home run in the 5th inning capped off Chicago’s scoring.

After that, the Pirates went to their bullpen for assistance in tamping down the Cubs’ offense. Bastardo, Watson, Soria, and Melancon all kept the Cubs from adding to their score for the Pirates, throwing 4 rather impressive innings for the home team. It was unfortunately not enough, as the Pirates never capitalized on their few opportunities to do something about their zeroes winking down at them from the scoreboard at PNC Park.

The Cubs’ starter Arrieta threw at complete game, 9 innings, 113 total pitches, giving up just 4 hits, and striking out 11 Pittsburgh batters.

But oh, you can’t forget the drama…

So being hit by a pitch seemed to be a pattern tonight. Arrieta hit catcher Cervelli (yes, the former Yankee) in the 5th and then infielder Harrison in the 6th, though I don’t think either was intentional. And in the 7th, the Pirates’ reliever Watson plunked Arrieta (remember, in the NL, pitchers bat too), though I don’t think that was intentional either, but the home plate umpire took the initiative (finally) and warned both benches.

This started a staring contest as Arrieta tried to glare-down Watson, who was more concerned in his conversation with Cervelli on the next batter. This set off some words exchanged between the dugouts, and the Cubs jumped their fences which prompted the Pirates to jump their fences. And suddenly the first base line looked like an odd mix of black and blue as the words heated up and shoving commenced.

The cooler heads on both teams, the coaching staffs, and the 6-man umpire crew managed to get control of the situation and send everyone back to their respective areas. The umpire staff conferred with each other and then with Hurdle and Maddon (the Pirates and Cubs’ managers respectively). No immediate ejections were made.

However, one particularly “passionate” player found himself in a bit of a conundrum. So, yes, he was one of the more “passionate” guys mouthing off from the Pirates’ dugout to the Cubs players and then almost frenetic in the scrum. But this guy was riding high having been pulled from the game before his first at-bat earlier in the game, and then after the benches-clearing, he was still rather hot under the collar. So he promptly returned to the dugout and took out his anger on a Gatorade cooler. (Some fan capitalized on the meme and marketing possibilities and created a Twitter account for the cooler; within minutes of it being active, the cooler had over 4500 followers.) He was then escorted back to the clubhouse and informed that he alone would face ejection for his over-the-top antics as part of the brawl.

Final score in Pittsburgh: 4-0 Cubs. Cubs will face the Cardinals in St. Louis beginning Friday.

My postseason predictions: so, I’m 0-for-2 now in the postseason and starting off October baseball well, as you can see. And yet, I’ll continue with my postseason predictions. I should note that some of my choices are based on personal biases (what I hope will happen) and some are based on stats or intuition (what will probably happen). I’ll let you figure out which ones are which.

  • ALDS 1: Texas over Toronto in 5 games
  • ALDS 2: Houston over Royals in 4 games
  • NLDS 1: Cardinals over Cubs in 3 games
  • NLDS 2: Mets over Dodgers in 4 games

Word is already circulating in Yankee Universe about off-season free agents and contract negotiations for the 2016 Yankees. Right now, it’s just chatter as the season just ended yesterday for the Yankees. But I’ll let you know when I know something.

Go Yankees!

2015 ALWC: HOU vs. NYY — Bittersweet shutout of the postseason

Bittersweet. For some reason, this was the word that was going through my head even before the game in the final moments between the opening ceremonies, the national anthem, and Tino Martinez’s ceremonial first pitch and the time when the boys in pinstripes would take the field for what would be the final time in 2015. Bittersweet. I don’t know why. It just seemed like the right emotion.

And I blame Bud Selig. A few years ago, former MLB Commissioner Selig decided that the league could use one more playoff game and created the one-off Wild Card game. So technically then, according to the previous way of doing things, the Yankees would be the ones facing the Royals in the ALDS later this week. To be fair though, I’ve respected the hardworking Astros since the beginning of the season, and they deserve to be in the postseason. But I was counting on them being the AL West leaders and not facing the Yankees for this one-off game.

It was a rather electric atmosphere in the Bronx leading up to that first pitch by Tanaka. Fans trying to get in before first pitch found themselves stuck in huge pedestrian traffic as Gate 6 was temporarily closed due to a medical emergency with a fan. People in line took to social media to vent their frustrations about their nearly an hour wait to get into the park. To be fair, it’s the playoffs, and the gates open early for things like batting practice. Even at a regular game (especially during special promotional gift nights like those silly bobbleheads), lines getting in at just before game time are rather packed.

Even still, it was a sell-out crowd with 50,113 fans crowding into the stadium, making it the largest attendance this season. And for the first few innings, most people were on their feet and cheering at everything from a nifty fly out to a 2-strike pitch count to a great double play. But then the game looked less and less in the Yankees favor, but still the people lingered, hoping for Yogi’s famous saying to come to fruition. It wasn’t going happen though. Final game for the pinstripes ended with a near-silent crowd brokenhearted.

Whittled down to 25 men, many veteran Yankees (like Betances) made their postseason debut tonight, and eight rookies appeared on the roster — Mitchell, Pazos, Severino, Sanchez, Bird, Refsnyder, Heathcott, and Noel (Bird and Refsnyder also started tonight’s game at 1st and 2nd, respectively).

Masahiro Tanaka was pegged to start tonight’s game, going head-to-head with an easy Cy Young contender this year, the Astros’ ace (Dallas Keuchel). And honestly, with a couple of perfectly placed pitches, the two pitchers were rather evenly matched tonight. Tanaka went 5 innings, throwing 83 pitches, giving up 4 hits, 2 runs, and 3 walks, and striking out 3 Houston batters. On the other side of things, Keuchel struck out 7 Yankees batters in his 6 innings, though in all fairness, the strike zone after the first 2 innings was rather generous for the Astros pitching as it was back in June when the Astros were last in the Bronx (with the same home plate umpire and same Astros starter, by the way). Tanaka’s runs allowed were both 1st pitch lead-off home runs in the 2nd and the 4th innings.

The Yankees were able to get on base and set up some good opportunities for their batters to do something, anything really. But like so frequently these last few weeks, leaving their players stranded on the bases continued to be a pattern tonight as well. When fans at the stadium realized this, it was getting harder to stir the fans into a frenzy only to be disappointed once again.

Reliever Justin Wilson came on for Tanaka in the 6th and threw into the 7th, getting a good 4 outs and keeping the Astros from adding to their lead. Dellin Betances came on in the 7th and promptly walked his first batter. That runner stole 2nd and then scored on an RBI single to give the Astros their 3rd and final run of the evening. Betances buckled down through the 8th inning, and save that allowed run, he threw a decent game, including 4 (of his 5) outs as strikeouts.

Though Andrew Miller clearly had the best inning — 11 pitches in the 9th, including 2 strikeouts. As everyone crossed their fingers for a last-minute rally at the bottom of the 9th. It was not to be, as the Yankees went down in order — 2 strikeouts and a ground out to end the game.

Final score in the Bronx: 3-0 Astros, Astros advance to the ALDS to face the Royals.

My postseason predictions: I’m 0-for-1 so far this October. Still have Pirates over Cubs for tomorrow night. And I’ve picked out my Division Series teams. The hardest part about picking out my teams for the postseason is deciding which teams I want to win over which teams probably will win (basically, do I admit I could be very wrong?). Okay, maybe that’s not the hardest part — that would easily be rooting for a team that isn’t the Yankees.

Oh well, what a sad way to end 2015 for the Yankees. What’s that word again? Bittersweet. Yes, very bittersweet evening. And like I said on Twitter, see those boys next year at Spring Training.

Is it March yet?

Go Yankees!