Division Series AL1a: TEX vs. TOR, AL1b:HOU vs. KC — Lone Star Strong Apparently

So apparently, this whole “home field advantage” thing is completely bunk this postseason. Because for the four games played so far, every single home team has lost. Decidedly.

The American League Division Series games began today — first game was the Rangers at the Blue Jays, then the Astros at the Royals. And boy, was there a lot of blue! Seriously, I always forget how many teams use a shade of blue for their base color. The only stand out among these four is the Astros with their blue shade being more navy. The other three are that crisp crayon blue. Which means if you’re donning your team’s colors, the only way most people will be able to tell (at a distance or among 40,000 fans) which team is yours is when you cheer during the game. This also meant that a lot of fans in bright blue (and the odd powder blue in the Royals’ palate) weren’t exactly cheering through much of the day.

Game 1: ALDS 1a — Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays

Texas took on Toronto and really kind of outflanked them. Toronto acquired today’s starter in a deal with Detroit (who acquired him from his original team, the Rays, the previous year) after some really stellar seasons, mostly with the Rays, even winning the Cy Young Award in 2012. However, Price wasn’t exactly at his 2012 form for this postseason appearance, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs and striking out just 5 batters in his 7 innings. Not that Gallardo, the Rangers’ starter, was exactly pushing up the stats either — 4 hits, a walk, 2 runs, and a single strikeout in his 5 innings today. But that’s where the defense steps in, to fill in the lack of strength from the mound.

To be fair, both teams lost their starting 3rd basemen (both rather big “names” to each franchise too) during the course of the game with slides into bases, though both infielders should be fine for the rest of the series. (Better cautiously safe than regrettably sorry, no matter what former scandal-plagued pro-ball-player-turned-talking-head mouths off in his 15 second window to blab.) But both offenses put up a pretty decent attempt to do some damage on their scoreboard.

The Rangers struck first and kept in control of the scoreboard from the 3rd inning on. Their lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on an RBI single; then that runner repeated that pattern exactly — to 2nd on a ground out and scored on an RBI single. The Blue Jays got one run back in the bottom of the 4th — a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a walk, then to 3rd on a force out, and scored on an RBI single. (The injury to the Blue Jays player occurred on that force out; as he slid into 2nd, his head knocked into the infielder’s knee, knocking off his helmet and sending him in for a concussion test, which is standard policy for potential head collisions.)

But that slim lead didn’t last long as the lead-off Rangers batter in the 5th inning was hit by a pitch (yes, it was the same player) and then scored on a big 2-run home run. In the bottom of that inning, a lead-off double later scored on an RBI double to gain back another run for the Blue Jays. But it seemed like the Rangers were forever a few steps ahead of the Blue Jays all night.

Dipping into the Rangers’ bullpen, a 6th inning lead-off solo home run for the Blue Jays gave the rabid Canadians something to cheer for once again, but the Rangers gained that one back in the top of the 7th with a 1-out solo home run (by the same guy who was hit by 2 pitches and scored 3 of the Rangers’ runs tonight).

The bullpens of both teams proved rather stellar, efficient and for the most part keeping runners off the bases. In this alone were these two teams rather well-matched. This could prove to be an interesting series. (Though I couldn’t seem to find any Rangers representation in the crowd at Rogers Centre. Are they being stopped at security? Or at immigration? Are Texans even allowed in Canada?)

Final score for Game 1A: 5-3 Texas.

Game 2: ALDS 1b: Houston Astros at Kansas City Royals

And in the City of Fountains, overcast skies threatened and then down-poured a bit to join in the festivities in another rabid fan base. A 49 minute (according to MLB records) rain delay shut down the game in the middle of the 3rd inning and proved to be part of what shut down the Royals in many ways. If we learned one thing from the Royals’ run for the World Series is that they do better with momentum and any break-up of that momentum will break them. (One of several reasons the Giants won last year’s Series, by the way, but that’s for another time.)

Not that the Royals starter Ventura was having a very good day to begin with — 42 pitches in his 2 innings, giving up 4 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and striking out just 2. In the 1st inning, Ventura quickly loaded with no outs with 2 singles and a walk, which meant 2 runs could then scored on consecutive ground outs (the first, the second). A 2-out double in the 2nd inning scored on an RBI single to give the Astros a very early 3-0 lead.

The Royals earned back one run in the bottom of the 2nd with a lead-off solo home run. But the Astros’ starter McHugh is what helped seal the deal for Houston’s win tonight. Even after the rain delay, he was still on track to pitch through the 6th inning, the other run given up a 2-out solo home run in the 4th inning (by the same guy from the one in the 2nd). The Astros’ relievers certainly made their mark on Kansas City tonight, finishing off the Royals batters with a swift kick, keeping the Royals to their 2 lone runs.

The Astros cemented their offensive dominance of the Royals’ pitching staff in the 5th inning with a 1-out solo home run and a lead-off solo home run in the 8th. Though to give them credit, overall, the Royals got the Astros to strike out 14 times in tonight’s game. And somehow, that really didn’t even matter. Odd thought there.

Final score in Game 1B: 5-2 Houston.

So, I’m feeling a bit better about my postseason predictions. I’m 2-for-2 tonight. But it’s still a long month ahead of me.

Okay, everyone is talking about the whole Back to the Future hope or whatever. I do have a comment/opinion/explanation/reality check forthcoming. But when there’s not a lot of game to talk about…

It should be worth noting that on the pre-printed scorecards in each dugout and the press box and other important areas of the stadium, the visiting team was listed as the “New York Yankees” (though the players listed below that title were clearly Astros). I guess we know who the Royals expected to be playing this week…

Go Yankees!

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