13 hours of baseball. Actually, it was 13 hours of broadcasted baseball, but in reality it was 14 hours and 25 minutes of actual play time thanks in large part to the 5th longest postseason game ever played that just kept everyone on edge through 14 innings in Toronto. And really, that wasn’t even the best part of the day. There’s a lot to cover today, so bear with me…
Game 1: ALDS 2a– Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays
Well, the nicest thing I can say about this game is that certainly know how to keep things relatively interesting through their 4 hours, 57 minute 14 inning game. And while both pitching staffs did a pretty good job maintaining the give-and-take scoring through the first part of the game, it was really the Rangers’ pitching staff that came out on top, including their starter, Hamels (a recent acquisition from the Phillies).
In the 1st inning, Texas batters led-off with a double, an RBI single, a single putting runners in the corners, and a fielder’s choice that scored another run all before the first out was recorded. Toronto got one of those runs back in the bottom of the 1st with a 1-out solo home run. But the Rangers would push back in the 2nd — a lead-off walk ended up all the way at 3rd on a ground out (a replay challenge even upheld his speediness on the base paths) and then scored on a sacrifice fly.
But the Blue Jays weren’t about to go quietly into the night (not if their frenzied home fans have anything to say about it). In the bottom of the 2nd, the lead-off batter reached on a fielding error and moved to 3rd on a ground-rule double. An RBI single scored one and another scored on a ball hit into a double play to tie up the game. And setting things up for later in the game, the game sat tied 3-3 for a bit. Until the Blue Jays started their 5th inning with a double that scored on a 1-out RBI single. Oh, but don’t count the Rangers out just yet. A single to start the 8th inning forced the Blue Jays starter out of the game. A sacrifice bunt moved that runner to 2nd where he could score on a 2-out RBI single to tie the game back up.
And that’s where they sat. (I should note that the other ALDS game was halfway into their game by the time this one was finally over.) On into extra innings, both teams burning through their bullpen (and grateful for the travel day/rest day tomorrow). This is where the Rangers started showing their dominance — their pitchers were much more efficient in their pitches, with lower pitch counts and higher strikeouts. And as exhaustion started to creep in and tempers began to be testy, things started to get dramatic. Words exchanged between the Rangers’ reliever and a Blue Jays’ batter actually cleared the benches. No punches thrown (not even at innocent water coolers), but it was enough to prove someone needed to do something to end this game and quickly.
So they did. In the top of the 14th, the Rangers’ offense took the game back into their hands. A new reliever from the Blue Jays’ bullpen quickly got 2 outs but then let the game slip away from him fast. Consecutive singles set up the right runners to then score on consecutive RBI singles and leave the Rangers with a slim 2-run lead over the home team (and their increasingly disquieted crowd). A fairly quick bottom of the 14th inning sealed the deal and handed the Rangers the lead in the series on their way back to Arlington.
Final score: 6-4 Rangers, Rangers lead ALDS 2-0.
Game 2: ALDS 2b — Houston Astros at Kansas City Royals
Like I said, by the time most people tuned into this game after the other ALDS game, the Astros and Royals were already about halfway through their relatively short game (in comparison). Which is a shame because most of the good stuff happened in the first half of this game too.
Technically, neither starter had a very successful start, neither drawing a decision in today’s game either thanks to their respective bullpens. And today, that would be what decided the game — the one ineffective cog in the Astros’ bullpen ultimately handed the game to the Royals even though the Astros played a better game for most of their nearly 3 1/2 hours.
In the 1st, a 1-out walk scored the Astros’ first run on an RBI double before the Astros came back in the 2nd to load the bases and score 2 more runs on a deep 2-RBI single. The Royals got one run back in the bottom of the 2nd with a 2-out solo home run. But then the Astros fired back with a lead-off solo home run of their own in the 3rd. A lead-off double for the Royals in the 3rd moved to 3rd on a bunt and then scored during a double play. So when the other ALDS game was over, this was where the score was 4-2 Astros, with Houston poised to take the lead back home.
But like I said, it was not to be today. Into the 6th inning, a 1-out double saw the end of the Astros starter, which now seems clearly like a mistake (but hindsight and all…). His reliever gave up a single that scored the runner, and then loaded the bases with another single and a walk (and just that 1 out from the starter earlier in the inning, I should add). That was it for him, and Houston brought on a new reliever who promptly walked the next batter to tie up the game before getting 2 really solid strike outs (with the bases loaded and the overly passionate crowd cheering at full pitch).
And so it would be a lead-off triple in the 7th that would score the Royals’ winning run on an RBI single. And the Royals sent in their better end of the bullpen to seal the deal and keep that slim lead intact to send this ALDS to Houston split.
Final score: 5-4 Royals, series split 1-1.
Game 3: NLDS 1a — Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals
Okay, maybe it was because this was game between actual division rivals, but this one felt like the only “regular” game of today’s unremitting string of baseball. And it was the shortest, by nearly a half-hour at 2 hours, 47 minutes. But I think part of the feel of this game was how quickly and efficiently the Cardinals really shut down the Cubs, despite this being a bit of a pitching duel (from 2 former Red Sox pitchers by the way).
The Cardinals’ offense struck first in the 1st inning with a 1-out ground-rule double that scored on an RBI double. And that would be it for most of the game. Both starters, Lester for the Cubs and Lackey for the Cardinals, just plowed through the other’s batters, but honestly, Lackey just did it better and more efficiently, which really matters in a long postseason. (For comparison — 86 to 115 pitches in 7.1 innings, 2 to 5 hits allowed, and 9 to 5 strikeouts.)
Both were replaced in the 8th inning after 1 out, but only Lester saw his end because the Cardinals’ lead was increasing. A 1-out solo home run added another run to the Cardinals’ score. Then a walk ended Lester’s night, but it didn’t help when a 2-run home run pushed the Cardinals solidly into the win category and just shut out the Cubs with St. Louis’ bullpen.
Final score: 4-0 Cardinals.
Game 4: NLDS 1b — New York Mets at LA Dodgers
Okay, this was the game I was looking forward to all day, and it certainly did not disappoint. Being that I mainly follow the AL through the season, which is known more for its power-hitters, I always hear about these great games thrown by this ridiculously amazing power-pitchers in the NL. Two of those names are highly circulated — deGrom of the Mets and Kershaw of the Dodgers. Kershaw is a 3-time Cy Young Award winner, while deGrom is nearly a shoo-in for the NL Rookie of the Year this year. This was not to be missed.
Though to be fair, Kershaw hasn’t had the best luck in the postseason, and tonight didn’t help things as deGrom was just on point all night. deGrom went 121 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up just 5 hits and 1 intentional walk, and striking out a whopping 13 batters on his own. (This performance alone should earn him the RotY title.) However, Kershaw was no slouch himself, keeping the Mets to just 4 hits and 4 walks, with his own impressive 11 strikeouts.
The Mets’ offense struck first with a lead-off solo home run in the 4th to break-up the scoreless pitching duel. And then in the 7th, they came back to load the bases with 3 walks and 2 outs. With that staring down at the Dodgers and Kershaw’s pitch count at 113, his night was over. But his reliever was just what Mets’ team captain Wright needed for a solid single that scored 2 runs to ensure the Mets’ lead.
A new pitcher was what the Dodgers needed too to at least prove they can be a threat offensively. A 1-out double scored on a 2-out single to at least keep the Dodgers from being shut out. But a new Mets reliever shut the door quickly and then kept control of the situation through the 9th to seal the Mets’ win.
Final score: 3-1 Mets.
And in Yankee Universe, Girardi gave his End of the Year press conference, discussing the 2015 season, the new guys’ contributions, and what he feels is the future of the Yankees (and I’m glad to see he’s on the same page as us with thinking positively).