Friday, October 7, 2016

MLB Playoffs: Day 1

So for reasons that I don't understand, the folks at MLB have decided that Major League Baseball will be the only sport to decide its championship without televising any of the playoffs on ABC, CBS, NBC, or ESPN.  (Technically, they played one of the Wild Card games on ESPN, but I don't recognize the Wild Card games, so that doesn't count for me.)  Instead, it's all Turner and FOX for the baseball fan, and most sports fans respond to this by simply ignoring the baseball playoffs altogether.  But I love baseball in October, and I've been engaged in this little ritual since about 1972, and I'm not likely to change any time soon.  They could put these games on FX -- and they probably will, at some point -- and I would still tune in.

Today we started with the American League.  For the second straight year, the Rangers are meeting the Blue Jays in the series where all the games are played in the afternoon because MLB has no hope of anyone tuning in.  The Rangers had an odd season -- they finished with the best record in the American League, but they only outscored their opponents by eight runs.  Anyway, today they were humiliated at home by the Blue Jays, who scored five runs in the top of the third and never looked back.  Marco Estrada, who went 9-9 for the Blue Jays in the regular season, dominated the Rangers for 8 1/3 innings, and Team Canada rolled to a 10-1 victory.

The nightcap featured two great old franchises, the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians.  They met in front of a rabid crowd in Cleveland, and they played a rare old game.  Boston sent out its ace, Rick Porcello -- who went 22-4 (!) in the regular season -- and staked him to a 1-0 lead after one.  But Porcello looked more like the guy who went 9-15 last year than the guy who went 22-4 this year.  He gave up three home runs, and five total runs, in only 4 1/3 innings, and left the proceedings with his team down 5 to 3.  Of course, the Red Sox have an explosive offense, and they kept threatening to explode for the rest of the game.  It finally came down to Cleveland closer Cody Allen against Boston hero Dustin Pedroia in a 5-4 game with two outs in the top of the ninth.  The tying run was on first, and Pedroia himself was the potential lead run.  The Clevelanders frantically waved red towels, hoping to get one more out.  The canny Pedroia put up a huge fight, battling Allen for seven pitches to set up a 3-2 count:  foul, ball, swinging strike, foul, ball, ball, foul.  Finally, just as Allen and the crowd appeared to be exhausted, Pedroia lunged awkwardly at a pitch that was plainly in the dirt.  He acted as though it was ball four, and headed for first -- but the first base umpire ruled that he had swung, and the game was over.  The cameras showed Pedroia and Boston manager John Farrell disputing with the umpires as the Men in Blue walked off the field and roughly 40,000 folks from Northern Ohio went nuts.

Tomorrow the Senior Circuit will swing into action, and the day will look like this (all times Central):

Noon:  Toronto @ Texas (TBS)
3:30:  Boston @ Cleveland (TBS)
4:30:  Los Angeles @ Washington (FOX Sports 1)
8:00:  San Francisco @ Chicago (FOX Sports 1)

So you can go watch a high school football game and still get home in time to catch the end of the Giants and the Cubs -- if you can find FOX Sports 1.

Meanwhile, here's where we stand:

Texas 1 - 10 Toronto
Cleveland 5 - 4 Boston

National League Division Series (best of 5):
Chicago and San Francisco tied 0-0
Washington and Los Angeles tied 0-0

American League Division Series (best of 5):
Toronto leads Texas 1-0
Cleveland leads Boston 1-0


  1. So far, the Blue Jays have beaten the Rangers 5-3, the Indians lead Boston 5-0 after 4, and the Dodgers lead Natstown 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning.

    The Nats have the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the 2d. I have been watching the Nats for 11 seasons, and I'm pretty sure they've never gotten a hit with the bases loaded and two outs.

  2. Max Scherzer, the Nats' ace pitcher, is batting with the bases loaded and two outs. Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers' ace, throws him two balls, and then two strikes. Scherzer, realizing that this is probably his only chance to get any runs today, fouls off the next pitch. And the next one. Kershaw comes inside with ball three. AND THEY'RE GOING CRAZY IN NATS' PARK!

    Can Scherzer draw a fourth ball? No. He pops out to short. And that's probably it for the Nats this season.

  3. The Dodgers got their run in the top of the first off of a home run by their shortstop, Corey Seager.

    Every year, I complain about the teams that reach the playoffs and just swing for the fences. No two teams are more committed to this philosophy than the Dodgers and the Nats. The Dodgers have gotten their home run, and in Kershaw they have a pitcher who can probably make it stand up.

  4. By the way, the Dodgers last won the pennant in 1988. Since then, this is the tenth time they have reached the playoffs. In six of those appearances, they were eliminated in the Divisional Series. In the other three, they lost the NLCS by a total of 12 games to 4. It is an amazing display of terrible post-season play. But this time they have drawn the Nats, who have appeared in two prior Division Series, who had the best record in the National League both times, and who lost both series.

    It's really amazing to think that one of these teams will actually reach the NLCS. And their poor record in post-season play underscores the importance of the Cubs/Giants series. I just can't imagine either of these teams beating the Cubs or Giants over the course of seven games.

  5. But they are my two favorite teams, and I have spent almost my entire life rooting for one or the other of them. So I'm happy to see them here.

  6. Scherzer has been a workhorse for the Nats all year, and had a great season, with a record of 20-7 with an ERA of 2.96. But this isn't his day. In the bottom of the third, he gives up a single, a sacrifice bunt (by Kershaw), and a single by the Dodgers' 37-year-old leadoff man, Chase Utley. Excellent small ball by the Dodgers. They lead 2-0, and now the Nats will need two home runs to get back in this game.

  7. And there's a two-run homer by Justin Turner, and the Dodgers are up 4-0. Well, that's a real shame. The Nats waited two years to get back to the playoffs, and now after three innings they are basically done. They have lost this game, they have lost home field advantage, and they have already used up Scherzer.

    The good thing for Washington is that no group of fans on earth are more optimistic than Washington fans. They will continue believing that the Nats have a chance right up until they are eliminated -- just as they still expect the Redskins to win the NFC East.

  8. With one out in the bottom of the third, Bryce Harper lines a double, and Jayson Werth draws a walk. That brings of Daniel Murphy, who has been Natstown's best hitter all year. THEY'RE GOING CRAZY IN NATS PARK!

    Kershaw v. Murphy:

    Pitch 1: strike
    Pitch 2: ball low
    Pitch 3: Murphy flies out to left

    Same as it ever was.

  9. But then the Nats pull off a double steal, and Harper and Werth are on second and third. And Anthony Rendon works the count to 3-1 -- Kershaw appears to be laboring -- and lashes a TWO-RUN SINGLE to left. Nats Park is transported with joy.

    Dodgers 4, Natstown 2

  10. And now Old Hero Ryan Zimmerman whacks a single to left, and the Nats have runners on first and second with two outs.

    So it's up to Danny Espinosa, who always strikes out or hits for power.

  11. Espinosa takes one pitch, and then swings as hard as humanly possible three times in a row. He misses every time, and that's the story of Danny Espinosa. He had 24 home runs this year -- which is a lot for a shortstop. But he batted .209.

  12. After 3, the Dodgers lead 4-2. I'm going home, so my blogging is finished for awhile.

  13. Kornheiser says he leads the league in meaningless solo home runs.

  14. The Kornheiser podcast is fantastic.