Monday, October 11, 2021

MLB Playoffs, Day Four

For the first time in two years, MLB is able to run its odd playoff system, which consists of playing the most important games of the year in the middle of the night before wildly enthusiastic fans.  The TV ratings indicate that most Americans simply ignore the baseball playoffs these days unless their team is involved.  But for the eight teams that make it, playoff baseball is a tremendous experience.  Even the biggest squads can't be certain of making it every year -- for example, neither the Yankees nor the Cardinals made it this year, while the Giants are in the playoffs for the first time since 2016.  And it goes very quickly -- if you get swept in the first round, your town may only get one playoff game.  So it's incredibly intense for the teams that are in it -- the Nats' run through the 2019 playoffs was one of the most thrilling and excruciating experiences of my life as a fan.  But most fans will be content to stick to football, and maybe catch a highlight here or there.

I am an exception.  I'm a night owl, and I enjoy playoff baseball, so I usually spend a lot of time in October grinding through this saga.  In fact, this is usually when I start to lose track of what's happening in the NFL, and I won't really catch up until the bye weeks end.

The MLB playoffs are very different from the NFL and NBA playoffs -- not only because they seem to mostly take place after midnight, but also because you never know what you're going to get.  Even the most casual fan has known that Tom Brady and LeBron James are names to conjure with in the other sports, but with baseball you never know how it will go.  For example, I certainly didn't foresee the Red Sox crushing everyone with so much ease in 2018, nor did I see the scrappy Nats pulling upset after upset in 2019.  Really odd stuff happens every year, and you won't know the whole story until the very end.

The MLB playoffs usually feature a mix of ongoing dynasties and one-year wonders, and this year is no different.  The Dodgers are trying to win the pennant for the fourth time in the last five years, while the Cheating Astros are trying to reach the ALCS for the fifth year in a row.  The Rays are trying to defend the pennant they won last year, while the Braves have won the NL East for the fourth consecutive season.  The Giants and Red Sox -- great powers over the last decade -- were not supposed to be very strong this year, but rebuilt more quickly than expected.  And the White Sox (led by 77-year-old Tony LaRussa) and the Brewers -- who have combined to win only one pennant since 1982 -- will try to bring joy to their long-suffering fans.

Because the playoffs last for weeks, and because this was an excellent weekend for college football, I decided to ease into the playoffs this year.  Here's what has happened so far:

On Thursday, the Astros rolled over the White Sox 6-1, while the Rays had an easy time in a 5-0 win over Boston.

On Friday, the Astros blitzed the White Sox 9-4, while the Red Sox rebounded with a 14-6 win at Tampa.  The NL playoffs got underway with a pair of pitching duels:  the Brewers edged the Braves 2-1, while Giants' pitching dominated the Dodgers 4-0.

On Saturday, the NL series got evened up.  The Braves' pitchers out-dueled Milwaukee, 3-0, and the Dodgers cruised to a 9-2 win in San Francisco.

Today, for the first time, we had some real drama.  In Boston, the Red Sox and Rays were tied at four after nine innings.  Since we don't have ghost runners in the playoffs, they had to keep playing real baseball.  It looked like Tampa Bay had taken the lead in the top of the 13th, when a two-out double appeared to score a runner from first.  But the ball bounced off the wall -- hit the Red Sox outfielder -- and bounded over the wall.  I've never seen that play before, but the rules are pretty clear that if that happens, it is a ground rule double.  The Rays' runner had to stop at third, and the next batter got out to end the inning.  In the bottom of the 13th, the Red Sox put together a walk and a home run over the Green Monster to send all the Bostonians home happy.

In Chicago, Houston jumped out to an early 5-1 lead and the season appeared to be over for the ChiSox.  But cheered on by one of the best crowds I've ever seen at a baseball game, the Pale Hose scored five runs in the bottom of the third, and three more in the bottom of the fourth to take control.  They rolled to a 12-6 victory, which means that all eight teams have now won at least one playoff game.

So Monday will see the last day of the year with four games on the same day, including the last true day game.  Here is the schedule for tomorrow (all times Central):

Noon:  Milwaukee at Atlanta (TBS), series tied 1-1.
2:30 P.M.: Houston at Chicago White Sox (Fox Sports 1), Houston leads 2-1.
6 P.M.:  Tampa Bay at Boston (Fox Sports 1), Boston leads 2-1.
8:30 P.M.:  San Francisco at Los Angeles (TBS), series tied 1-1.

25 comments:

  1. One of the good things about the MLB playoffs is that it gives you a chance to figure out how to get TBS on your television, and that comes in handy when the NCAA Tournament rolls around.

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    1. TBS is one of the first channels I check when I turn on a TV because it sometimes shows Seinfeld reruns.

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  2. You also get a chance to figure out how to get Fox Sports One, but that doesn't come up again for the rest of the year.

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  3. We will not get four games today -- the Astros/White Sox game is rained out and will be played tomorrow.

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    1. Oh, I'm disappointed to learn this, but thanks for this note and the whole report.

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  4. Atlanta and Milwaukee appear to understand that they are just here as a curtain-raiser, and so far we have three quick scoreless innings.

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  5. Milwaukee takes out its pitcher for a pinch hitter in the top of the 5th, but the gambit backfires. The Brewers don't score, and in the bottom of the 5th the Braves greet Milwaukee's new pitcher with two singles. That brings up Joc Pederson, pinch hitting for the pitcher, and blasts a three-run homer to right. Braves lead 3-0.

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  6. The Braves win 3-0 in a game with almost no drama, and they are one game away from the NLCS.

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  7. Fox Sports One has the most annoying scorebug I have ever seen. It's huge, it's down in the lower right corner of the screen, and it's hard to read.

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  8. The Red Sox are wearing their red jersey at home during the playoffs this year. I don't agree with this decision -- but it worked in the Wild Card game against the Yankees, and it worked last night, so you can see why they would stick with it.

    The Rays, as usual, look like a made up team from the future in a 1980's movie. Or a league softball team.

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  9. In the bottom of the third, Rafael Devers blasts a three-run homer to put the Bostons up 3-0. Tampa Bay beat Boston by eight games in the regular season, and won 100 games for the first time in its history. But if the Rays don't get going soon, their season will end tonight.

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  10. Since Devers's home run, the BoSox have gotten four hits in a row, including three line drives off of the Green Monster. They now lead 5-0 and have men on second and third with two out.

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  11. The Rays finally get out of the inning, but they trail 5-0 after 3. FanGraphs now gives the BoSox a 93 percent chance of winning.

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  12. Personally, I like the Rays' players, and I admire their management, but I will be very happy if we don't have to watch another game in their stadium.

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  13. In their typical never-say-die fashion, the Rays came back and tied the game 5-5 after 8. But the BoSox pushed across the game-winner in the 9th for a 6-5 win. So after a 6-4 win in 13 innings on Sunday, and a walk-off win today, the BoSox become the first team to advance to the LCS. The Rays are the first team to be eliminated.

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    1. So I watched this game right up until the Rays were finally retired in the eighth after tying things at 5. It was a very exciting game, and I was really enjoying it.

      But my wife at this moment was pulling back in the driveway after being gone to Russellville all afternoon and evening. And even though I ended up futzing around the house for another hour or so after she got home and was catching up on email and stuff, I just totally forgot about the existence of this game and, I guess, baseball generally. Didn't think about it again at all until I was having coffee with some guys this morning and one of them mentioned it. I find being 53 to be a dramatically different experience than being 43.

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  14. Back to the National League, where the Giants and Dodgers are hooked up in another NL pitching duel. In the top of the 5th, Evan Longoria of the Giants homered to left off of Max Scherzer of the Dodgers. As we go into the bottom of the 8th, that run remains the only run of the game so far. It's Giants 1, Dodgers 0.

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  15. We have seven teams left, and four of them spent decades competing against each other in the old National League West. What a division that was.

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  16. Dodgers go down 1-2-3 in the 8th, and they are in big trouble.

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  17. This will be a heartbreaking loss for either team. The Dodgers have given up only three hits to a team that won 107 games, but they are losing. The Giants have completely dominated Dodger hitting the whole game, but they won't feel safe until the game is over.

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  18. In the top of the 9th, Kenley Jansen strikes out the side, and the Giants will settle for 1 run on 3 hits for the night. It's not much, but it may be enough.

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  19. In the Braves/Brewers series, the scores have been: 1-2, 3-0, 3-0.
    In this series, the scores have been: 4-0, 2-9, and now 1-0.
    Unless the Dodgers score in the 9th, four of the six NL playoff games will have been shutouts.

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  20. The Dodgers go down 1-2-3 in the ninth, and the game is over.

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