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 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 1: NYY vs. HOU — A game of ‘almosts’

In the scope of things, it looks like the Astros and Yankees are actually pretty well-matched. Which means that the ALCS is going to be an interesting series. Except that for most of the game, it really wasn’t. It was actually kind of boring, much like a regular season game.

Look, tonight’s starters were both amazing. The Astros’ ace starter was about as sharp as we’ve seen him before, throwing 109 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, giving up 4 hits and a walk, and striking out 10 Yankees’ batters. And that was the biggest reason why the Yankees’ offense was virtually silenced — those strikeouts.

Masahiro Tanaka was as “Tanaka Time” as he’s been all season, throwing just 89 pitches in his 6 strong innings. He gave up 4 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and struck out just 3 Houston batters. Actually, Tanaka didn’t even give up a hit until the 4th inning — a 1-out single. That player (who is also up for MVP this year and could likely win over Judge, by the way) then stole 2nd, sliding under Castro’s leg just before the tag. He then scored on an RBI single. Another run scored on a 2-out single later in the inning. By the way, other than the 4th inning, Tanaka only allowed 1 hit and 1 walk during his tenure.

But that would be it for runs for the Astros. Chad Green held the Astros back, throwing 2 scoreless innings to keep them from adding to their score. I want to add that the biggest defender for the Yankees was tonight’s center fielder Aaron Hicks, who at one point was basically making all the defending outs.

The Yankees had a few opportunities, like in the 5th, for some offensive advancement, but they couldn’t seem to put anything much together as actual run-scoring including a called out at the plate. The reality is that if the Yankees could get into the bullpen earlier, they could score some runs. Which is why it isn’t surprising that they found their actual run-scoring when a reliever was on the mound. It was Greg Bird to hit a big 2-out solo home run to get the Yankees on the board in the 9th. But the Yankees ran out of outs.

Final score: 2-1 Astros, Astros lead ALCS 1-0

“Wow, this is a game of ‘almosts‘. Isn’t it?” Pretty much. The Yankees almost scored a run in the 5th on a long single, but then got tagged out in the last minute. The Yankees almost got out of the game scoreless, but then Bird hit that homer. The Yankees almost gave a Tanaka a no-hitter, but then the potential MVP broke his momentum. The Yankees almost kept the Astros off the board entirely, but then came the 4th inning. A lot of almost.

The Yankees will face off against the Astros for Game 2 tomorrow afternoon, followed by the Cubs and Dodgers in LA tomorrow night to kick off the NLCS. Hang on tight, people, we’ve really only just began…

Go Yankees!

ALDS 3: HOU vs. BOS & CLE vs. NYY — Sweeps denied!

Two teams were headed into enemy territory on the East Coast looking to sweep their respective series and head into the ALCS to face each other. But both home teams were like, “Sweep denied!”

Game 1: Astros at Red Sox
Fenway was rocking for their home team, as only Fenway can do. And the Red Sox, who had been out scored by the Astros 16-4 in the last 2 games, were ready to make up some of that ground on their home turf. So they did.

Once again, neither starter had much success, the Red Sox starter only making it into the 2nd inning, the Astros’ starter only the 3rd. Which meant again that the bullpen would be the deciding option, and today that would be the Red Sox’s bullpen to show off, thanks in part to a former starter going 4 scoreless innings through the middle of the game, keeping the Red Sox in command of the game.

The Astros got on the board first in the 1st inning. A lead-off single stole 2nd and then scored on an RBI single. That runner then scored on a 1-out 2-run home run to give the Astros a nice early lead. But that home team bullpen wouldn’t let them add to their lead, and the Red Sox offense caught up and then surpassed. Big time.

First, loading up the bases in the 2nd, but only scoring 1 run on a single. In the 3rd, with 2 outs, a batter doubled and then scored on an RBI single. With the starter now out, the next batter hit a big 2-run home run to suddenly shift the narrative. The Red Sox were in the lead. And then they had the 7th inning, loading up the bases again so that a double would score 2 of those runners and a single the third. One out later, a 3-run home run cemented the Red Sox’s big victory.

Final score: 10-3 Red Sox, Astros lead series 2-1

Game 2: Indians at Yankees
Three people are to blame for tonight’s game in the Bronx — Tanaka, Judge, and Bird. First, Masahiro Tanaka threw an absolute gem, breezing through the Indians’ roster with a near perfect outing. He threw 92 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, gave up 3 hits and a walk, and struck out 7 Cleveland batters. He sped through the power-hitters, pushing the game at a pace that is very familiar when it’s Tanaka Time in the Bronx. At one point, Tanaka’s scoreless outing was saved by all 6-feet 7-inches of Aaron Judge jumping and grabbing a fly ball from crossing into the right field seats (and landing in the clutches of an infamous ball “collector”).

David Robertson threw only 9 pitches in the 8th, but with a runner on base with a walk, the Yankees needed to shut things down. They asked Aroldis Chapman to come on for a 5-out save, 4 of his outs would be strikeouts, topping out at 104 mph at one point, despite getting 2 base runners in the 9th.

The Yankees faced off against the Indians’ starter, who pretty much shut them down for most of his outing, into the 6th inning. But they started hitting and getting base runners, so the Indians went to their bullpen to save the day. That, of course, didn’t help when Greg Bird led-off the 7th inning with an absolute bomb into the 2nd deck of the right field seats. That would be the only run scored tonight, but all the winner needs is one more run than their opponent to win the game.

Final score: 1-0 Yankees, Indians lead series 2-1

There’s a tomorrow in Boston and New York. Both teams forced at Game 4, so tomorrow will be packed again with 4 games. (And a semi-blown bracket for me!) In other words, there’s still so much baseball left to play this year.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 2: BOS vs. HOU & NYY vs. CLE, NLDS 1: CHC vs. WAS & ARI vs. LAD — Home field advantage… and the Cubs

Big day in the world of baseball with four consecutive games. Well, there was quite a bit of overlap for a couple of games thanks to a bad call and far too many extra innings. And because there’s some games out West, one game lasted well into the next morning, making today far longer than this East Coast girl is used to.

Game 1: ALDS 2 — Red Sox at Astros
It took exactly 4 hours for the Astros to dominate the Red Sox and send the series to Fenway in their favor. The Astros called on their ace starter to pitch into the 6th inning, and he really stepped up to the plate (so to speak), fending off the Red Sox batters for most of the game, only giving up 3 hits, 3 walks, and a run and striking out 7 batters. His allowed run was in the 2nd when a lead-off double stole 3rd and later scored on a 1-out single. The Astros’ bullpen kept that momentum going until the 9th inning, when a 1-out single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single.

The Red Sox’s pitching was pretty much on line with their offense. For example, their starter only went 2 full innings (and 3 batters in the 3rd) and their bullpen followed that example. In the 1st, with 2 outs and a man on base with a single, a 2-run homer got the Astros on base early. A lead-off homer in the 3rd added to the score. A double followed that only to score on the next player’s single. Despite loading the bases, the Red Sox finally got some outs in the inning to get out of the jam.

To finalize the game, the Astros roughed up the Red Sox again in the 6th. With runners on the corners and 1 out, a fly ball and throwing error allowed the runners to advance and thus score an extra run. After intentionally walking the next batter, the Red Sox gave up a double to score 2 more and a single to score the last one. The reality is that the Red Sox are rather out-matched by the Astros, and this series shows it very well. However, anything can happen in Fenway… just ask the Yankees.

Final score: 8-2 Astros, Astros lead ALDS 2-0

Game 2: ALDS 2 — Yankees at Indians
The problem with tonight’s game is that it was actually a really good game for the Yankees, but then things happened that shouldn’t have happened, decisions will be permanently and suitably questioned, and the game spiraled out of control. As evidenced by the 5 hour and 8 minute game time and 13 innings played. CC Sabathia threw a great game, just 77 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 3 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs (only 2 earned), and struck out 5 Cleveland batters.

In the 1st, Sabathia loaded up the bases with a fielding error, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch. A single scored 2 runners before the next batter lined into a double play as the runner at 2nd double off base. That runner also badly sprained his ankle. And a lead-off batter in the 2nd moved to 2nd on a questionable throwing error, ended up at 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on an RBI single.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were actually hitting off the Indians’ ace starter, knocking him out after 76 pitches in the 3rd inning after racking up 7 hits, a walk, and 6 runs. In the 1st, Judge worked a 1-out walk and then scored as part of Gary Sanchez’s 2-run home run straight up the middle. In the 3rd, Sanchez hit a 1-out single, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on Starlin Castro’s single. Bird then singled, so that would make Aaron Hicks’ big hit a 3-run home run. That ended the Indians’ starter’s night and really set the Yankees with a big lead. Gregorius later worked a lead-off walk in the 5th and then scored as part of Greg Bird’s big 2-run home run.

Okay, so the 6th inning… known forever now as the inning that changed everything. Sabathia was still pitching and gave up a lead-off walk and got an out. That was it for Sabathia, so the Yankees called in Chad Green. This is decision to question #1. Why remove Sabathia when he’s having a great outing and has such a low pitch count? Okay, so Green gets out #2, but then gives up a double to put runners in scoring position.

Then things get weirder. The next batter is “hit-by-a-pitch”, or rather his bat was. He was awarded 1st base (to load up the bases), which was a surprise even to the batter. Gary Sanchez stood up to alert Girardi that it wasn’t a HBP and should be challenged on a replay. By he was practically ignored (questionable decision #2), so the bases were loaded. The next batter promptly hit a home run, a grand slam to put the Indians within a run of the Yankees’ lead. Well, the entire sold-out crowd at Progressive Field certainly loved it. Most of Yankee Universe took to social media (including myself) to express their displeasure.

It was on to David Robertson for the next 5 outs, closing out the 6th and through the 7th and into the 8th. In the 8th, he gave up a lead-off solo home run to tie up the game right there. After another out, the Yankees flipped the game to Tommy Kahnle for the final 2 outs of the inning before turning to Aroldis Chapman in the 9th.

It is worth noting that the Cleveland fans treated every out after that run tying home run as if it was the last one of the game. Chapman actually pitched through the 9th and then the 10th as the game went into extra innings. The Yankees’ batters were able to get runners on base, but they weren’t able to finish the job and score a run. Dellin Betances came on in the 11th and pitched 2 scoreless innings, and for some reason (questionable decision #3), came out for the 13th inning. A lead-off walk stole 2nd and then promptly scored on a single to score the walk-off run for the home team.

Final score: 9-8 Indians, Indians lead ALDS 2-0

Game 3: NLDS 1 — Cubs at Nationals
About the time the Yankees began their spiral into the “questionable decisions” territory, the Cubs-Nationals game began in the nation’s capital. It was a quick 3 hour and 2 minute game that began with a ceremonial first pitch by Representative Steve Scalise, who was seriously injured earlier this year when a gun man opened fire on a Congressional baseball practice. Scalise threw a great first pitch and set the tone for the game to come.

Both teams sent in some stellar pitchers, who were pretty much locked in a pitching duel for a the first half of the game. Honestly, I didn’t realize how evenly matched the Cubs and Nationals were until this game. Both starters went a full 7 innings, gave up minimal hits, and kept the score low. Their 2 respective relievers followed suit in their single innings.

But it would the Cubs to buck today’s trend of home field advantage and come out on top thanks to their gift of small ball tonight. In the 6th, the lead-off batter reached on a fielding error, moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored on an RBI single and throwing error that moved that batter to 2nd. Then he scored on another RBI single to give the Cubs a solid lead. With new pitching in the 8th, the lead-off batter for the Cubs doubled, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on a 2-out double for that insurance run they’d never need tonight.

They finished their game just a few minutes after the previous one did in extra innings. It wasn’t as talked about post-game, but the pitcher’s duel was something in the postseason, a season so far dominated by home runs and sloppy pitching. It was nice to see starting pitchers duke it out old-school.

Final score: 3-0 Cubs, Cubs lead NLDS 1-0

Game 4: NLDS 1 — Diamondbacks at Dodgers
This game started about 10:30 pm Eastern Time, roughly 11 minutes after Cleveland scored its walk-off run three time zones away. And in regular postseason fashion, it would last 3 hours and 37 minutes because the Dodgers came to play ball, thanks mostly to their ace starter who threw into the 7th inning (100 pitches) and struck out 7 Arizona batters along the way. Over on the other hand, the Diamondbacks’ starter only threw 1 inning, but racked up a whopping 48 pitches.

Here’s how: the Dodgers hit a lead-off single and worked a walk which both scored as part of a big 3-run home run to kick things off in Los Angeles. The next batter singled and then scored on a double before the pitcher finally got an out. He would get all 3 outs as strikeouts, but the damage was done awfully early. The Diamondbacks answered back in the 3rd with a 2-out solo shot, a mere blip on the scoreboard at that point. And their pitchers weren’t doing the greatest job of fending off the power-hitting Dodgers. In the 4th, with 1 out and 2 runners on base, consecutive singles scored 2 more runs for the home team.

The Diamondbacks chipped away at the Dodgers’ lead the only way they could — with home runs. With 2 outs in the 6th, they launched one into the left field seats to double their score. And in the 7th, with 1 out, they hit back-to-back left field solo home runs. That was it for the Dodgers’ ace, but not for the rest of the game. As the Dodgers got those 2 runs back in the 8th. A lead-off single later scored on a 1-out triple, and then that runner scored on an easy single.

Finally, playing a little small ball, the D-backs made the 9th inning a little interesting. A 1-out single moved to 2nd on defensive indifference and later scored on a fielder’s choice and throwing error of sorts.

Final score: 9-5 Dodgers, Dodgers lead NLDS 1-0

The ALDS teams head to the East Coast to continue their series on Sunday, with the Astros and Indians hoping for an easy 3rd game. The NLDS plays their second game tomorrow. But clearly, there’s nothing easy about the postseason. What’s that old phrase? Or it might be called “football”? Yeah, something like that…

Go Yankees!

AL Wild Card: MIN vs. NYY — Rough start, solid finish thanks to big bats

The last time the Yankees won a postseason game was the 2012 ALDS, game 5, against the Orioles, Raul Ibanez was dubbed “King of New York” for his postseason heroics, and Derek Jeter would break his ankle diving for a ball in the 12th inning in the next game, game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers. In other words, things were very different five years ago.

Tonight, the Yankees moved onto the ALDS after defeating the Twins in the winner-take-all Wild Card Game. It took nearly four hours in front of a sold-out crowd in the Bronx, and it took all of the energy and emotions to electrify the fans during the game.

We are all human and thus have off-nights. But for Luis Severino, tonight was one of the worst possible times to experience an off-night. And Girardi continued his recent short-leash for the pitching staff. Severino threw just 29 pitches in the 1st inning, giving up 4 hits, a walk, and 3 runs. He didn’t make it out of that 1st inning.

Severino gave up a lead-off home run, a 1-out walk, a 2-run home run, a single, and a double before Girardi had enough. With runners firmly in scoring position and just 1 out, Severino’s outing was over. So Chad Green was called in early to do Chad Green things. He quickly got out of the 1st inning with 2 solid strikeouts to strand the Twins runners. He breezed his way through the 2nd inning, but found some trouble in the 3rd inning loading up the bases with a single and 2 walks (and just 1 out).

While Green was responsible for all the runners as he passed the torch to David Robertson. The first batter hit into a fielder’s choice (a late double play) that scored the lead runner, but then Robertson got the first of his 5 strikeouts (of his 10 total outs) in his outing tonight. And Robertson’s outing was easily the best thing from the mound today, throwing 52 pitches over 3.1 pitches. It was stellar and ended up being the perfect recipient for the eventual win.

Tommy Kahnle was called on to close out the 6th for Robertson and then breeze his way through the 7th and 8th innings in just 29 pitches. Aroldis Chapman’s 9th inning was pretty good too, hitting 103 mph pitches as if they were nothing, and getting all 3 outs as strikeouts. The final out came as a beautiful swing, the whole stadium on its feet, the place alive with energy and hope.

Now, beyond the great job of the bullpen, which had to start so very early tonight, the Yankees’ offense actually worked tonight too. The Twins’ starter had his own rough night, only lasting 2 innings and throwing a whopping 64 pitches over that short time span. In the 1st, Gardner led-off with a walk, and Judge singled to put runners in the corners. With 1 out, it would fall to Didi Gregorius to his a big 3-run home run to tie up the game at that point, so very early on in the night.

Brett Gardner added a run in the 2nd with a 2-out solo home run that bounced off the front row barrier of the 2nd deck of the right field seats. With the starter out, the Yankees faced the Twins bullpen, which clearly isn’t nearly as good as the Yankees’, so the Yankees kept adding to their score.

In the 3rd, Sanchez led-off with a double and then scored on Greg Bird’s 2-out single. And Gardner hit a 1-out single in the 4th and then scored on Aaron Judge’s first postseason homer, a 2-run home run bouncing off the top of the left-field wall for a couple more insurance runs.

The Twins bullpen was able to focus in and keep the Yankees from adding more to their score. Until the 7th inning, that is. Judge led-off with a walk and then ended up at 3rd on Sanchez’s single and a throwing error. Gregorius was intentionally walked to load up the bases, and the Twins got their first out of the inning. A new reliever got a strikeout, and another new reliever promptly walked Aaron Hicks to walk in Judge to add just one more run to the score.

Look, both teams started off really messy and shaky, but both teams pulled it together to show how matched they really were. And it ended Yankees-side up.

Final score: 8-4 Yankees

So, now the Yankees advance to the ALDS against Indians in Cleveland on Thursday, for the best-of-5 game series. Just a reminder, the format goes 2 games in Cleveland, 2 games in the Bronx, and 1 game back in Cleveland, if necessary. The first team to win 3 games advances to the ALCS. But first, tomorrow night, we shift to the National League to watch their Wild Card game between the Rockies and Diamondbacks.

Before tonight’s game, the Yankees held a moment of silence for the victims of the Las Vegas tragedy. They asked reliever and Las Vegas native Chasen Shreve to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in their honor.

Go Yankees!

Game 160: TOR vs. NYY — #TanakaTime x15

There’s no other way to say it — Tanaka was just spectacular to watch this afternoon. In this first game of the final series of the season, the Yankees need every player to be at their absolute best. And today, Tanaka, who’s had mixed results all season, was just back to the Tanaka that Yankee Universe fell for a few years ago.

Masahiro Tanaka threw 103 pitches in his 7 scoreless innings, only giving up 3 hits while striking out a career-high 15 batters in a single game. This set him up for what would become his 13th win of the season. Tanaka’s pitches were just on point, and that was the baseline that the Yankees needed to spur them on to push for the win.

Robertson took over in the 8th to keep the Blue Jays from scoring. And then they handed the game over to Betances. But he didn’t have control today, promptly giving up a single, a passed ball, and a walk to allow 2 base runners. That put things into a save situation, so the Yankees called out their closer. Aroldis Chapman needed just 9 pitches to breeze through 3 outs (including 2 strikeouts) and earn his 21st save of the season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees just needed a single run to win. They did slightly better than that, though not much. They had “bookend” opportunities against the Blue Jays’ starter, only scoring in his beginning and ending innings. In the 1st, Ellsbury hit a 1-out single and stole 2nd. Judge worked and walk, and Gregorius singled to load up the bases. Starlin Castro hit a single to scored Ellsbury, keeping the bases loaded, and Greg Bird’s sacrifice fly scored Judge. But a strikeout ended any further chance to add to their score then. Then, in the 5th, with 2 outs and Hicks on 2nd base, Aaron Judge singled. That scored Hicks, but Judge was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.

{Media note: sorry, but there’s some missing available highlights for this game as the focus was clearly on Tanaka’s strikeout frenzy rather than the runs scored.}

With a new reliever, the Yankees found one more opportunity to add an insurance run in the 6th. Gregorius led-off with a single, stole 2nd (the 4th stolen base of the game) on Castro’s strikeout, and then scored on Greg Bird’s single. Once the Blue Jays went to a new reliever, the Yankees saw their chances to add to their lead evaporate, starting with a double play to end that inning.

But it was more than enough. Especially as the Yankee pitching staff racked up 18 total strikeouts, 15 of those from Tanaka alone this afternoon.

Final score: 4-0 Yankees

Postseason prep: because the Yankees played a day game, in part due to Yom Kippur beginning at sundown (Gmar tov or Yom tov to all who are observing the holiday tonight), there isn’t a lot of postseason updates to talk about so early in the day. Fingers crossed for the Astros to just continue to dominate the Red Sox this weekend (go Astros!).

However, it should be noted that with today’s win, the Yankees officially hit 90 wins this season. And as there were a number of “talking heads” that thought the Yankees would be lucky to hit 80-something, this number feels pretty good.

Okay, everyone, hold tight, there’s just 2 more games to win (and 3 games for the Sox to lose). It’s sad when I have to write that we’ve hit 100 games, but it’s worse when I hit 150 because we’re almost done. So at 160, and still a minute chance at the division title, it’s like holding my breath, crossing fingers and toes, and praying for every measure of favor possible. This just makes it all the more interesting.

Go Yankees!