World Series 1: HOU vs. LAD — Heat wave invokes quickest WS game in 25 years

2:28. Two hours and twenty-eight minutes. Normally, postseason games are usually pretty long. Last year, most of the World Series games ran about 3 1/2 hours (which is very much on point for the average postseason game), with the shortest game clocking in at 3:16. But two went over 4 hours long, and only one (Game 7) went into extra innings (and lasted 4:28). The average regular season game is 3 hours and 5 minutes (in 2016), so this game being just 2 1/2 hours was insane by even regular season standards.

Of course, it could also be an answer to the over 50,000 fans who showed up for the LA game, with the first pitch temperature measuring in at 103°. Southern California is under an “excessive heat warning”, so a bunch of people went out and played a sport an elite level. Because it’s the World Series. (It should be noted that it was a lovely 71° in New York today.)

Anyway, so on a super hot day in LA, first game of the World Series, both teams had pretty much identical plans — send out their amazing ace pitchers to face off. And they did, and it was amazing, as promised. The Dodgers’ Kershaw pretty much sailed his way through his 7 innings, with just 83 pitches. In a normal setting, they probably would have let him go a full 9 innings and add to his 11 strikeouts. But 3 hits and 1 allowed run and a killer Dodgers’ bullpen was enough to not overwork him. Besides, they’ll want to use him again if the series lasts that long.

Meanwhile, over with the visiting Astros (who are fortunately used to the heat like tonight, thanks to their Texas home base), their starter Keuchel had a rough start but ended up finding his well-known momentum and pretty much matched his counterpart — 84 pitches into the 7th inning, 3 hits, 1 walk, and 3 runs, but just 2 strikeouts. The Astros turned over the 7th and 8th to their bullpen to close out the game and match the Dodgers’ 8th and 9th, with neither bullpen giving up a hit or run.

Like I alluded to above, the Dodgers got on the board right in the 1st inning. Co-winner of the NLCS MVP award Taylor liked the 1st pitch of the inning and hit it into the left field seats. The lone real slip up for Kershaw was allowing a solo home run in the 4th to Bregman to tie up the game. But that didn’t last long. The Dodgers came back in the bottom of the 6th, with 2 outs. Taylor worked a walk and then scored as part of the 2-run homer hit by Turner (the other co-winner of the NLCS MVP award).

All runs were scored on home runs tonight, so the results of this game came down to pitching. And honestly, Kershaw led the Dodgers to the win with his truly excellent pitching.

Final score: 3-1 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 1-0

The next game is tomorrow afternoon/night (5 pm local/8pm EST), and better news for tomorrow night’s crowd is that the forecast is sitting at 91° at first pitch. So much for the “Fall Classic”, huh? But the Astros are smart, and they’re sending in the ALCS MVP Verlander to start tomorrow’s game, the one Astros starter that certainly had the Yankees’ number in that series.

And in Yankee news (because that’s still my priority): a bit of news online featured the impact this year from the “Baby Bombers” and what we could expect from them next year. Though the author also makes an insinuation that calling them such might be over now, as this year just maybe they “came of age”.

So, can we really stop calling them that now? I mean, these are men in the mid-20’s, grown adults, many with wives and children of their own. And they’ve clearly proven themselves on the level (or even far above in some cases) their fellow teammates who are considered regular players or even veterans. I mean, it was cute when they were all just breaking out last season, but they’re just Yankees now. And they deserve that title, to wear those pinstripes proudly, to be the ambassadors of the organization, of the City, and of baseball. They’ve earned it fair and square. And they deserve it. Every single accolade, every success, every honor.

Go Yankees!

{Media note: I will add video links the morning following the game when the team at MLB releases the highlight reel for the game. It’s much easier for non-Yankee games for my primarily Yankee Universe audience.}

ALCS 7: NYY vs. HOU — Once again, home field advantage prevails, shut out from the World Series

To come so close and yet be denied entry to the promised land… the Yankees are the Moses of this postseason this year. Though by all accounts, to get so far in what was supposed to be a “rebuilding year”, is rather impressive. Imagine if they were an “established team”.

CC Sabathia got the final start of the season, throwing 65 pitches into the 4th inning, giving up 5 hits, 3 walks, and a run, yet not striking out a single batter. Though to be fair, neither team was completely in love with the strike zone tonight. Sabathia’s lone allowed run was in his final inning, the 4th — a lead-off solo home run. After giving up a walk, a ground out, and a single, the Yankees weren’t taking any chances and opted for going to the bullpen for Tommy Kahnle. A single pitch later, Kahnle hit into a rather routine double play.

Kahnle, of course, came out for the 5th but got into trouble himself, giving up a 1-out solo home run followed by 2 singles that promptly scored on a 2-out double. That was it for Kahnle and onto Adam Warren, who breezed his way through the next 4 outs in just 17 pitches. David Robertson held the Astros from adding to their lead for the next 2 innings, adding 3 strikeouts to the minimal total for the pitching staff tonight.

Meanwhile, the Yankees only got 3 total hits and 2 walks off the Astros’ starter and his lone reliever who split the game pretty much in half between the two of them. The Yankees had few opportunities all night, but were stymied at every turn, including when Bird tried to come home in the 5th and was instead tagged out. That would be the closest the Yankees came to doing much of anything tonight, despite some really great defense, like Judge’s masterful catch right against the right field wall to bring a home run ball back over the wall.

Final score: 4-0 Astros, Astros win series 4-3

Yes, that means the Astros will now face the Dodgers in the World Series starting on Tuesday. The series will be 2 games in LA, then a travel day, then potentially 3 games in Houston, a travel day, and then potentially 2 final games back in LA. The first team to 4 wins will be the World Champions this year.

Time for the postseason prediction update. My predictions this time around were a mixed bag (bold is the actual result):

  • ALCS — Yankees over Astros in 6 games (Astros over Yankees in 7 games)
  • NLDS — Dodgers over Cubs in 4 games (Dodgers over Cubs in 5 games)

Honestly, that home field advantage certainly came into play this postseason. One statistic I read was that tonight’s game made the final record 23-8 for home team wins this postseason. In a conversation with a friend, we commented that maybe home field advantage should go to the underdog or lesser team to even things out. I mean, if you look at the Dodgers as an example, they were able to be spectacular in Wrigley regardless of the rabid Cubs’ fan base there (see their NLCS Game 5). So, if you’re really a good team, you should be able to win anywhere. It would be the great equalizer to rid the best team of the advantage. If anything, it would certainly make things more interesting.

Okay, looking toward the final series this 2017 season, here’s my World Series predictions:

  • Dodgers over Astros in 5 games

Repeated Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean this is who I’m “rooting for”, just which team I think will win. (Though I think I am rooting for the Dodgers in this case, if only for the extreme Dodger loyalty of a good friend.)

And to be perfectly honest, I’ve said for most of the season (at least since the All-Star Break) that the Astros were the AL team to beat and the Dodgers were going to be unstoppable. In a way, I’ve been preparing for this match-up of the Series, but I can’t deny I’m rather disappointed that the Yankees aren’t the ones to face the Dodgers in the Series. On the other hand, I’m glad I don’t have to make that prediction (Yankees vs. Dodgers) because I cannot honestly say that I think the Yankees would win the series over the Dodgers. So my disclaimer would feature many more caveats to justify my prediction.

Maybe it’s a good thing that the Yankees aren’t in the World Series this year. Maybe waiting for a year where they’re not “rebuilding” is a great idea, so that home field advantage is in their advantage and they’re the “unstoppable” ones.

There’s always next year.

Go Yankees!

ALCS 6: NYY vs. HOU — Forcing a Game 7

To be totally fair, the Astros’ strategy was very smart — for this crucial game, start the only pitcher that’s been able to really stop the Yankees all series. And once again, he did just that. Except the Yankees also did that — send up their best starter, Luis Severino.

Neither teams really broke through much until the 5th inning. Technically, the Yankees were hitting off the Astros’ starter, but they weren’t getting any runs. Thanks in part to the Astros’ defense that suddenly remembered this game that they won 101 games this season for a reason. The Yankees got 5 hits and a walk off the Astros’ starter through his 7 innings, but could not score a run.

Okay, so that 5th inning was messy for the Yankees. Severino was coasting through the game quite a bit, only giving up a walk and a single in the first 4 innings. But then he got into trouble, giving up 2 walks and 1 out. A ground-rule double scored one run and a walk loaded the bases. Another out gave the Yankees hope to minimize the damage, but then that little power-hitting infielder smacked a big 2-run single.

The Yankees called on Chad Green to complete the inning and then sail his way through the next 2 innings. With a minor lead, the Yankees were just looking to get on the board and make their advances. The Yankees got a single shot in the 8th when the Astros finally went to their bullpen and then Aaron Judge hit a 1-out solo home run straight up the middle. The Yankees got another hit and a walk in the 9th off another reliever, but they never crossed the plate again, thus stuck at that lone run today.

Of course, keeping the Astros’ score to a minimum didn’t help as David Robertson was having that rare off-day, unable to record a single out in the 8th inning. He gave up a lead-off solo home run to kick off his bad inning. He then gave up a double and a single to put runners on the corners, and a long double ended up at 3rd when the throw home was a bit off-center and Sanchez couldn’t handle the bad throw and 2 runs scored.

So, the Yankees went back to the bullpen for Dellin Betances, who got a strikeout before giving up a sacrifice fly to score the runner at 3rd to cap off the Astros’ runs tonight. Which means that the Yankees and Astros must now play a winner-take-all Game 7 tomorrow night.

Final score: 7-1 Astros, series tied 3-3

I was reminded that lots of things happen in Game 7 — Reggie Jackson, Aaron Boone, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, and Madison Bumgarner are probably the most familiar to Yankee Universe and in recent series. Game 7 of last year’s World Series went into extra innings, keeping both Midwestern fan bases on the edges of their seats for a truly deserved Game 7. Either way, it’s bound to be another one of those nail-biters. And this postseason has been full of them for the Yankees — the Wild Card game, the full 5 games of the ALDS, and now this ALCS.

It’s going to be interesting either way. Because that’s the postseason for you…

Go Yankees!

NLDS 5: LAD vs. CHC — Halfway to a World Series

Well, we have half of a World Series now. The Dodgers have obliterated the Cubs’ chances and hopes and dreams of making it to the Series in consecutive years.  Tonight, the Cubs just fell incredibly short in every area — starting pitching, hitting, bullpen, and defense. I’d say base-running too, but they barely had anyone on base to figure out whether they were lacking here. The pitching was especially bat tonight, with the pitching staff giving up a total of 16 hits; that is never a good statistic. The Dodgers, on the other hand, were just dominate from start to finish; by the way, their pitchers only gave up 4 total hits.

The Cubs’ starter threw 50 pitches into the 3rd inning, giving up 6 hits, a walk, and 6 runs, striking out just a single batter. The Dodgers began the game by working a lead-off walk that scored on a 1-out double. They doubled their scored with a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd. But then they really hit big in the 3rd, starting with a lead-off ground-rule double that scored on a single. Two singles later, the bases were loaded with no outs, and the Cubs’ starter clearly wasn’t having a great night and got the hook.

A new reliever got a strikeout, but then gave up a big grand slam to just solidify the Dodgers’ lead. It certainly silenced Wrigley from that point on. In the 4th, the Dodgers kept charging forward. With 1 out and runners in scoring position, a batter hit into a fielder’s choice out, getting the runner out at home. Then a double scored 2 runs.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers sent in their ace starter to command tonight’s game. He threw 89 pitches through his 6 inning, giving up just 3 hits, a walk, and a run and striking out 5 Cubs’ batters. But he was running a no-hitter through the first third of the game. His first allowed hit was a 1-out solo home run in the 4th, the lone allowed run to the Cubs all game. The final 3 relievers each took an inning and kept the Cubs from even dreaming of a possibility of ever catching up to the dominating Dodgers.

And just when you think it was over, the Dodgers came back in the 9th to add just a bit more. A 1-out single scored on a 2-out 2-run home run, the 3rd home run hit by this particular player tonight. That stat means he’s in the company of greats like Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth, who hit 3-runs in a single postseason game.

Final score: 11-1 Dodgers, Dodgers win series 4-1

Now, the Dodgers await their next opponent as the Yankees and Astros play on back in Houston. The Yankees need just a single win, which they could do tomorrow night to make it back to the World Series. And wouldn’t it be kind of fun to have a New York-Los Angeles World Series?

Fun trivia: we all know the last time the Yankees were in the World Series was when they won it all in 2009 over the Phillies (4-2). The Dodgers’ last appearance was 1988 when they won over the Athletics (4-1). The last (and only) time the Astros were in the Series was 2005; they were still in the National League and they got swept by the White Sox (4-0). So, the Astros have never won a World Series. By the way, neither have the Padres, Rockies, Rangers, Rays, Brewers, Mariners, and Nationals. But the Mariners and Nationals (and their former incarnation, the Expos) have also never made it to the World Series to even compete for the title.

But there’s always next year, right? Not for the Yankees… they’re in it to win it all again! (Here’s to #28!)

Go Yankees!

ALCS 5: HOU vs. NYY, NLCS 4: LAD vs. CHC — #TanakaTime dominates, Cubs beat the sweep

One coast is very happy tonight, one coast is not, the city by the lake is ecstatic, and the city on the gulf is not. Basically, we’ve got four parts of the country covered during this Championship Series, and there will always be a two that will go home unhappy.

Game 1: ALCS — Astros at Yankees
The Yankees were up against the Astros’ ace pitcher tonight, and fortunately, he wasn’t so ace-like tonight, despite still getting 8 strikeouts in just 5 innings. But the Yankees seemed to have his number. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Castro doubled and then scored on Greg Bird’s single to get the Yankees on the board early. With 1 out and Gardner on 1st, Aaron Judge hit a big double that scored Gardner all the way from 1st.

And in the 5th, Headley hit a 1-out single and ended up at 2nd on a throwing error, and then Judge worked a 2-out walk. Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius hit consecutive RBI singles to score Headley and Judge. That was the end of the Astros’ ace starter’s night. And the bullpen had a bit of a better time against the Yankees. Until the 7th inning, when Gary Sanchez capped off the scoring with a 1-out solo home run into the left field seats.

Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka just dominated the Astros lineup today. He threw 103 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up just 3 hits and a walk and striking out 8 batters of his own. Tommy Kahnle also gave a great out, breezing through his 2 innings in just 20 pitches and keeping those Astros totally shutout of the game.

Final score: 5-0 Yankees, Yankees lead series 3-2

Game 2: NLCS — Dodgers at Cubs
The Cubs knew it was now or never if they wanted a shot at the World Series for the second year at a row. So, they sent in their ace. And unlike the earlier game, their ace actually came through for them. He threw 111 pitches into the 7th inning, only giving up 3 hits, but walking 5 batters, and striking out 9 Dodgers. But the Dodgers’ pitcher, who’s been pretty good through most of the season, certainly didn’t come through for them in this game, only pitching into the 5th inning. The Cubs relied on just 2 relievers, their final one going having a bit of struggles through his 2 innings. But the Dodgers’ bullpen was much stronger and was pieced together.

It was a bit of give and take all game. The Cubs got on the board first in the 2nd — a 1-out solo homer and a 2-out solo homer. The Dodgers answered back with a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd to get themselves on the board. The Cubs got another run in the 5th with a 1-out solo shot. And the Dodgers got a lead-off solo shot in the 8th.

And then the Dodgers just ran out of outs. Sweep denied. The Cubs are still alive and kicking.

Final score: 3-2 Cubs, Dodgers lead series 3-1

So, now the Cubs are still in that all-or-nothing mode because if the Dodgers have one good night, the Chicago team is done this year. And now, with the Yankees in the lead, the Astros are in the same position. That series is headed back to Houston (starting Friday) to battle it out in front of the Houston hometown crowd, including a former Yankee (and an Astro briefly) Andy Pettitte. Pettitte actually threw out the first pitch before today’s game and has been at several of the games this series. He and his family live outside of Houston, but based on his sonssocial media accounts, they’re pretty much still solidly Yankee fans.

Both the Yankees and Dodgers are simply one win away from facing each other in the World Series. The Astros are still at 2 wins, and the Cubs are sitting at needing all 3 remaining games for their shot. The odds are clearly in favor of the first scenario, but this is the postseason. And weird things happen in the postseason.

Go Yankees!

ALCS 4: HOU vs. NYY, NLCS 3: LAD vs. CHC — The 6’s have it today

One series is now all tied up, and another is just one win away from being over. The Yankee were looking to eventually send the series back to Houston, now hopefully in the lead after a successful campaign at home. The Dodgers are on the way to sweeping their series, despite the rabid Wrigley crowd.

Game 1: ALCS — Astros at Yankees
Sonny Gray got the start in today’s game, and kept the Astros scoreless through 5 innings, matching the Astros’ starter for much of the game. Both gave up just 2 hits, 2 walks, and an earned run during their outings. Gray got into a bit of trouble once he came on for the 6th giving up 2 runners due to a walk and catcher’s interference (and it wasn’t Ellsbury!). And despite no runs allowed at this point, the Yankees went to their bullpen, calling on David Robertson.

Robertson promptly loaded up the bases with a walk before getting the first out of the inning, a great strikeout. But then he allowed a bases-clearing double. And in a great teamwork, the Yankees got the runner out trying to stretch it to a triple. Chad Green came on for the 7th inning and gave up a 1-out double that scored on fielding error. Green kept the Astros scoreless in the 8th before Aroldis Chapman breezed through the 9th in just 10 pitches. Overall, Yankee pitchers only gave up 3 hits to the Astros’ batters, which certainly helped their own offensive cause.

But their offense didn’t really make a dent until the 7th inning themselves. After the Astros’ starter gave up a lead-off solo home run to Aaron Judge, the Astros went to their own bullpen, and it certainly worked out in favor for the Yankees once again. Gregorius tripled and then scored on Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly.

It would be the 8th inning that would really make all the difference. Frazier led-off with a single, ended up at 3rd on Headley’s single, and then scored on a ground out. Ellsbury then pinch-ran for Headley and scored rather easily on Aaron Judge’s double. After Gregorius’ single put runners on the corners, both he and Judge scored on Gary Sanchez’s double. An intentional walk and walk loaded the bases with just 1 out and the Stadium was alive and electric. But a ground out snapped the Astros’ defense into action and get the out at home.

Final score: 6-4 Yankees, series split 2-2

Game 2: NLCS — Dodgers at Cubs
Once again, the Dodgers dominated the Cubs in nearly every aspect of the game. In fact, the only score the Cubs got all night was a 1-out solo home run far too early in the 1st inning. The Cubs just weren’t really hitting much off the Dodgers’ pitching staff after that, at least nothing that they could convert into runs. So when the Dodgers tied it up in the 2nd with a lead-off homer, they just kept going, adding another run in the 3rd with a 1-out solo home run.

In the 5th, the Dodgers led-off with a double that scored on a long triple. The lead-off batter in the 6th reached on a fielding error, moved to 2nd on a single, and after the Cubs’ starter left the game, ended up at 3rd on a ground out. A walk loaded the bases, and after another out, the Cubs walked the Dodgers’ pitcher in just 4 pitches, scoring yet another Dodgers’ run. And to cap off the night, a lead-off walk, moved to 2nd on a single, made it to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on a passed-ball strikeout. A sacrifice fly scored a final run.

Final score: 6-1 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 3-0

So, tomorrow, the Yankees are looking for a win to take the series back to Houston with just a single win left. Of course, the Astros are doing the same thing. Either way, the winner of this series will be determined in Houston either in Game 6 or 7 depending on the next 2 games go. And over in the NL, the Dodgers need just one more win to seal their ticket to the World Series, so the Cubs are looking to win their next 4 games so they can return to the series. And in the postseason, anything is possible, so who knows?

Go Yankees!

ALCS 3: HOU vs. NYY — #CCStrong, Judge-power, Home Sweet Home

If any of the games this postseason can be credited with a home field advantage, it would easily be tonight’s game. Yankee Universe knows there’s nothing like Yankee Stadium.

I took my diehard Indians’ fan uncle (and yes, he’s a little bitter after the ALDS) to see a Yankees game this year, his first in Yankee Stadium ever (it was also Old Timers’ Day, by the way). We entered the stadium from the main gate (Gate 6) and into the Grand Concourse, and I took him to view the field from the main level’s concourse. He got chills, literal goosebumps. I thought taking him to Old Timers Day would make up for not seeing the Indians play, which was true as he loved the legends and silliness of the pre-game game.

There is nothing like Yankee Stadium. We all have those stories about our first visits or a memorable visit or special moment in the stadium. The stadium basically is a collection of stories, both for the guys on the field and the fans in the stands.

Anyway, one of those veteran players got the start in this crucial game against the Astros. CC Sabathia came out strong and just powered his way through the game, boosted by a great defense (like Judge slamming into the right field wall or diving in the outfield to make a stellar catch) and some just powerful run-scoring. Sabathia threw 99 pitches through his 6 scoreless innings, gave up 3 hits and 4 walks, and struck out 5 Houston batters. Adam Warren followed him up with 2 more scoreless innings.

Okay, in the mean time, the Yankees racked up that run-support for their pitchers off the Astros’ starter. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, Castro and Hicks worked back-to-back singles. Next batter Todd Frazier had a kind of sloppy swing and promptly sent the ball into the right field seats for a 3-run home run to get the Yankees on the board.

The Yankees came back in the 4th to add to their lead, starting with Bird’s lead-off ground-rule double. After Frazier worked a walk, Bird then scored on Chase Headley’s single, and Sanchez was hit by a pitch to load up the bases. That was also it for the Houston starter’s night. The Astros had enough and dipped into their bullpen to stem the tide, though it certainly didn’t help at first. A wild pitch promptly scored Frazier from 3rd, moving all the runners up. The rest of them scored when Aaron Judge fired a long line drive into the left field seats for a 3-run home run to seal the Yankees’ victory.

So with that huge lead, the Yankees kept the Astros totally scoreless until the 9th inning. Dellin Betances had a bit of an off-night, walking his first 2 batters. So it was on to Tommy Kahnle to clean things up, but he promptly gave up a single to load up the bases before finally getting a much-needed strikeout. So a walk scored the Astros’ lone run before a double play ended the inning and the game.

Final score: 8-1 Yankees, Astros lead series 2-1

Now, that’s exactly what the Yankees needed to restart their momentum. The Yankees need 3 more wins this series and are hoping to continue the win streak with Sonny Gray’s start tomorrow afternoon. First pitch for the ALCS is 5:08 EST, with the NLCS first pitch in Chicago at 7:08 CST (8:08 EST).

And in other news (and I guess we’re starting news relating to “End of the Season”): MLB announced its nominees for the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award. (History of the award here including past 3-time winner Rivera.) Winner will be awarded at Game 4 of the World Series (October 28). Fans can add their voice via Twitter until October 26, but finalists are also voted on by a panel of former relievers including both Rivera and Hoffman, who will be on hand to present the winners of their namesake awards.

AL finalists are the Astros’ Ken Giles, the Red Sox’s Craig Kimbrel (who has won the NL award when he was with the Braves in 2014), and the Yankees own David Robertson. NL finalists are the Cubs’ Wade Davis, the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen, and the Brewers’ Corey Knebel. It is worth noting that all but Knebel are making postseason appearances this season as well. The Yankees’ former closer (now with the Indians) Andrew Miller won the award in 2015; Miller was also nominated last year.

Go Yankees!