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!

NLCS 2: CHC vs. LAD — Another walk-off wonder

Look, the fact that this game was tied for most of the game says a lot for the tenacity of the Cubs because the Dodgers clearly outplayed them in every turn. Dodgers’ pitchers were almost perfect and quite efficient, while the Cubs’ staff racked up their pitch counts and gave up a total of 9 walks.

Okay, the Cubs’ starter threw 103 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 3 hits, 5 walks, and a run, and striking out just 2 batters. His bullpen had a bit of a better time trying to keep the game under wraps, thanks mostly to the defense. On the other side, the Dodgers’ starter threw just 79 pitches in his full 5 innings, giving up 3 hits, a walk, and a run, and striking out 8 Cubs’ batters. Then his bullpen was flawless and efficient, adding 4 more strikeouts.

The Cubs actually got on the board first in the 5th inning with a lead-off solo home run, but the Dodgers immediately answered back in the bottom of the 5th. A lead-off double moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on a 2-out single to tie up the game. So, leading up to the 5th, the game was tied at 0-0, and after the 5th, it was 1-1.

And then came the bottom of the 9th where the Dodgers were looking for just a single run to win the game in walk-off fashion. They didn’t get that. They worked a lead-off walk, and 2 outs and a new reliever on the mound, they worked another one to put 2 runners on base. Again, with 2 outs, the Dodgers needed just one run. They would get three when the next batter hit a big homer up the middle to score a 3-run home run for the walk-off victory.

As you can imagine, the crowd (and Dodgers fans everywhere) went crazy.

Final score: 4-1 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 2-0

Now, those teams are headed to Chicago for next 3 potential games. Again, being the best-of-7, it’s the first one to win 4 games, and the Dodgers are halfway there. As are the Astros, if we’re being frank tonight. So both the Cubs and the Yankees have quite a bit of work ahead of them, but they’re both headed to their hometowns which means about 40,000 screaming fans (a little less in Wrigley, a little more in the Bronx) are behind them in person, and millions more from their couches or bar stools.

The Yankees have certainly done it before — the come from behind to go on and win it all. Take the 1996 Championships. The Yankees actually lost the first 2 games of the World Series in the Bronx (if you can believe it) against the Braves. Then they went down to Atlanta and won all 3 games there, much to the disappointment of that hometown crowd, then they came back on their momentum and won Game 6 in the Bronx and began their championship dynasty of the late 90’s.

Fun random fact: the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was the home of the Braves for that season as Turner Field (located pretty much next door) was currently being converted to a baseball stadium after serving as the city’s Olympic stadium just a few months early. The last game the Braves played there was Thursday, October 24, 1996, losing to the Yankees 1-0, and after the lights went out that night, the stadium was permanently closed and later became a parking lot. In 2016, with the Braves moving uptown to their new field, Georgia State University purchased the former stadium site (the parking lot) and Turner Field and will build a new baseball park for its baseball team on the now-former parking lot and Turner Field is being transformed into a football stadium for the college team.

Anyway, all that to say, the Yankees can totally pull this off. (As can the Cubs, by the way, sorry, Dodger fans!) But literally, it’s game-by-game. Take it a day at a time. Remember what happened when the Yankees were up 3-0 over the Red Sox in the ALCS in 2004? Yeah, literally, anything is possible. Sorry, for that mournful trip down memory lane, Yankee Universe, but it totally fits and you know it.

Go Yankees!

ALCS 2: NYY vs. HOU, NLDS 1: CHC vs. LAD — Home field advantage?

Another day where home field advantage meant both nothing and everything. Once again, the Yankees are playing like the postseason we all knew they were, only to be edged out at the very end by the Astros… again. And on the West Coast, the Cubs found out why the Dodgers have the best record in the league.

Game 1: ALCS — Yankees at Astros
Honestly, it was quite the pitching duel between the Yankees and Astros for a good portion of the game. Both starters gave up just 1 run each to tie up the game for most of it. Let me be perfectly frank, the Astros’ starter is a recent acquisition and former foe of the Yankees in previous postseasons. And I haven’t seen a postseason starter this strong since the Giants’ ace in the 2014 postseason. The Astros’ starter threw 124 pitches in the full 9 innings, striking out 13 Yankee batters, and only giving up 5 hits and a walk.

The Yankees got on the board in the 5th. With 2 outs, Aaron Hicks hit a solid double and then scored when Todd Frazier hit a ground-rule double. The best part about Frazier’s double was that the ball flew out of the stadium and then lodged itself in the chain-link fence by the Yankees bullpen in center field. Now, it was about 10 feet up from the ground and about 10 feet below that tell-tale yellow line that circles the stadium to signify how high a ball must travel to be counted as a home run. The center fielder tried throwing his glove up to dislodge it, and most long-term Astros’ associates and beat reporters have never seen a ball lodged there before.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were a little hurt when their starter was a little hurt. Luis Severino got the start and was very sharp again. He threw 62 pitches through his 4 innings, giving up just 2 hits and 2 walks, but not striking out any Houston batters. His lone allowed run came in the 4th when a long ball landed in a kid’s glove right at the top of the right field wall for a home run. Judge seeing the kid, slowed down and braced himself for impact against the wall. I believe that had that been an adult (like the kid’s dad) instead, Judge would have jumped and grabbed that ball back. An umpire review proved that the ball was definitely out, the kid’s glove was right at the top of the wall not over into the field. But Judge’s caution due to it being a kid was clearly evident.

But after 4 innings, Severino was having shoulder issues on his throwing arm. He said he felt fine, but the shoulder just wasn’t loosening up. And with Severino’s potential for some great outings in the future, the Yankees weren’t taking any chances and pulled him. Of course, Severino wanted to stay in and finish his job like a professional, but the bullpen was ready to do their job and do it well in such cases. And there didn’t seem to be anything obviously wrong upon some initial tests, but they will keep an eye on him over the next few days.

Tommy Kahnle breezed his way through the next 2 innings, and David Robertson got the next 2 innings. Both relievers kept the Astros from adding to their score and the game stayed tied, both waiting for the Yankees’ breakthrough that just never came. As once again, they just ran out of outs.

In the bottom of the 9th, the sold out crowd of hometown fans got what was clearly their wish, as Aroldis Chapman clearly did not. Their star player hit a solid 1-out single and then when the next guy doubled, the Astros’ star raced all the way from 1st to slide in home. Judge fielded the ball in right field and fired it to Gregorius at 2nd (who sort of stumbled over the runner sliding into 2nd for his double). Gregorius, unable to make the play at 2nd, fired the ball to Gary Sanchez at home, but either due to Gregorius’ stumble or Sanchez’s over-excitement. But Sanchez dropped the ball as he was trying to make the tag at home.

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

Game 2: NLCS — Cubs at Dodgers
Both starters in the first game of the NLCS were pretty evenly matched, going 5 innings each, throwing 87-89 pitches, giving up minimal hits (2-4) and walks (1-2), striking out 4 batters, and each giving up 2 runs. And that makes sense as the Cubs’ starters and power-hitters are pretty comparable to the Dodgers.

In the 4th, the Cubs got on the board first with a lead-off single and then scored as part of a 2-run home run. But the Dodgers tied it up in the bottom of the 5th. With 1 out, they worked 2 walks who then both scored on a double and sacrifice fly to tie up the game. So it would be down to the bullpen for the difference of the game. And that’s where the Dodgers clearly outshone the visiting Cubs, keeping the Cubs to those 2 runs.

In the 6th, the Dodgers led-off with a solo home run to break the tie. And then did it again in the 7th. With runners in the corners thanks to a double and single (and another new reliever), a single score another run. But initially, the run was declared out. The Dodgers challenged the call on a possible violation of the home plate collision rule, and it was overturned. Of course, that made the Cubs manager hopping mad, and he hopped right out of the game when he was ejected. Much to the delight of the home crowd in LA.

Final score: 5-2 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 1-0

The Dodgers-Cubs continue tomorrow (Sunday) for Game 2 in their series. And the Yankees head back to the Bronx to hopefully redeem the series (starting Monday). The Yankees are still 4 wins or 2 losses away from either going to the World Series or watching it from their couches.

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!

NLDS 5: CHC vs. WAS — And we have a Championship Series, just 4 wins to the World Series…

I really should stop saying things like “yet” in posts. Yesterday, I posted that the Cubs-Nationals game was the longest one yet, and then they go and make it even longer tonight. Four hours and 37 minutes for Game 5 of the NLDS. And it was definitely a battle to the very end.

Well, mainly it was a battle because neither team could rely on the thing that was carrying them through most of the series — pitching. Pitching was just terrible on both sides tonight — 23 allowed hits, 15 walks, and 17 allowed runs. Both starters left early in the game (the 3rd and 4th innings), giving up 3-4 runs each and still most of the runs were scored by both bullpens. And the only innings in which anyone didn’t score runs were the 4th and 9th. It was messy.

In the 1st, the Cubs’ lead-off batter doubled (though it was challenged by the Nationals but rightly upheld as safe), moved to 3rd on a wild pitch, and then scored on a ground out. The Cubs then loaded up the bases but couldn’t get anyone else home. In the bottom of the 2nd, the Nationals came back strong starting with a lead-off home run to get them on the board. After consecutive singles, another batter hit another homer, a 3-run shot into the left field seats to push the Nats into the lead.

But to set a pattern, the Cubs came charging back, loading the bases in the 3rd and then scoring 2 runs on a ground out and a wild pitch. Then in the 5th, with 2 outs, the Cubs got 2 singles that promptly scored on a double and put the Cubs back in the lead. After the Nationals intentionally walked the next batter, they got a strikeout but it was a passed ball so the batter took off for 1st. The catcher over threw the ball, so the batter made it to 2nd while the other runner scored another run (also another example of sloppy game play tonight). And the inning continued on. The next batter reached on catcher’s interference (and it wasn’t Ellsbury, Yankee Universe!) to load up the bases, so the next batter being hit by a pitch scored yet another run for the Cubs.

And then into the 6th, the Cubs worked a 2-out walk that scored on a double. And the Nationals answered back in the bottom of that inning with their own 2-out walk. A double moved runners to scoring position, and a walk on a wild pitch moved the runners up and scored a run. A double scored one more to chip off the Cubs’ lead. But the Cubs held on tight in the top of the 7th with 2 1-out singles putting runners on the corners. A fielder’s choice out at 2nd scored one run, despite the Nationals’ challenge of a possible slide interference with the runner at 2nd (they ruled it wasn’t, but I think it really was because of how he swung his feet in the slide).

So the Nationals pieced together some offense in the final third of the game to chip away at the Cubs’ lead. In the bottom of the 7th, they loaded the bases, but only one run scored on a long sacrifice fly. And then in the 8th, they got 2 walks and one of them ended up at 3rd on a double play. He then scored on a single. Another single had 2 runners on bases and threatening. So the Cubs fired over to 1st base at one point to pick off the runner there. It was ruled safe, but challenged by the Cubs and then overturned (though I’m not sure how).

And with that, the Nationals just ran out of outs. Much to the Cubs’ sheer glee.

Final score: 9-8 Cubs, Cubs win NLDS 3-2, advance to NLCS

Okay, so a wrap up of the ALDS… my predictions (last week) were actually pretty good this year (bold is the actual result):

  • ALDS 1 — Yankees over Indians in 5 games (Yankees over Indians in 5 games)
  • ALDS 2 — Astros over Red Sox in 4 games (Astros over Red Sox in 4 games)
  • NLDS 1 — Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 3 games (Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 3 games)
  • NLDS 2 — Nationals over Cubs in 5 games (Cubs over Nationals in 5 games)

The final one, of course, I obviously got wrong as of tonight. But for the first time since I’ve been doing this, even the game numbers were right! Not to pat myself on the back, but pat-pat. Actually, after being so very wrong for five years, it’s nice to have a moment of right before I get to be so very wrong all over again. (Believe me, it always happens this way, so it’s why we cherish the momentary times of right.)

Okay, so now that we have a Championship Series, here’s where I’m predicting:

  • ALCS — Yankees over Astros, in 6 games*
  • NLCS — Dodgers over Cubs, in 4 games

*Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean this is who I’m “rooting for” in each game, just which team I think will win each series. I mean, of course, I’m always “rooting for” the Yankees. But for me, the Yankees-Astros series all comes down to pitching. If the Yankees’ starters have strong outings, this will be the result. If they don’t, the Astros will win in 6 games. And I’m aware that I’ll probably be very wrong now as I’m now overdue for wrong.

The ALCS starts tomorrow (Friday) night in Houston for 2 games there before it heads for possibly 3 games in the Bronx. It would then head back to Houston for the final 2 games if necessary. The NLDS begins Saturday night in the same pattern (LA-Chicago-LA, 2-3-2). First team to win 4 games goes onto the World Series, so Yankee fans, the Yankees are 4 wins from being back in the World Series (last appearance was when they won the 2009 one). Fingers crossed.

Go Yankees!

 

ALDS 5: NYY vs. CLE, NLDS 4: WAS vs. CHC — Hometown losers, Yanks to ALCS, NLDS to Game 5

Today was easily two of the most interesting games in the entire postseason, but for two very different reasons. Except they had one thing in common — both home town crowds walked away very disappointed.

Game 1: Nationals at Cubs (make-up for rainout on Oct. 10)
In the longest game (nearly 4 hours) these teams have played this postseason, it was like watching a very different pair of teams than any of the previous three games. And I think I could blame the mold in the A/C in the Chicago hotel the Nationals are staying in  if the mold was something out of a comic book. Because the Nationals were clearly the strongest team today in nearly every possible way. (By the way, I don’t doubt there’s a mold problem as I stay in lots of hotels and have run into this problem many times, even in high-end establishments like I’m sure the Nationals are staying in.)

Their starter threw a really great outing, going a solid 7 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 12 Cubs’ batters. And the final 2 innings and relievers kept the scoreless streak going. But the Cubs’ pitchers just didn’t have it at all today. Their starter only went 4 innings, and their relievers each had shaky outings of their own. In the 3rd, a 1-out double moved to 3rd on a wild pitch and then scored later on a fielding error to get the Nats on the board with an unearned run early.

Despite the unsurity of the Cubs’ pitchers, they were able to hold off the Nationals from scoring for most of the game. But then came the 8th inning, and things just didn’t get better for the home team. With 1 out, a batter worked a walk and then got picked off of 1st, thanks in part to a Cubs’ challenge that overturned the original safe call. Then after a batter singled, the Cubs went back to their bullpen. But the bases were quickly loaded with consecutive walks. A new reliever then gave up a big grand slam to solidify the Nationals win and nearly silence the entirety of Wrigley Field. Literally, fans were headed for the exits after that hit.

Final score: 5-0 Nationals, series split 2-2, NLDS heads back to D.C. for Game 5

Game 2: Yankees at Indians
The Yankees and Indians entered tonight’s game with that winner-take-all attitude that is so wonderful in the postseason. I had a conversation with my mother (who you might remember grew up an Indians fan), and we concluded that the winner of this game would be the team that really deserved it, the one that played better at the end of the day. And they did.

The Yankees seem to have the Indians’ ace starter’s number and began their advance early in the game thanks solely to Didi Gregorius, who hit a 2-out solo home run in the 1st. And then he came back in the 3rd, with 1 out and Gardner on 1st with a lead-off single to hit another home run to give the Yankees an early lead. The Indians’ starter left the game in the 4th inning and their bullpen held the Yankees off for most of the game.

In the mean time, CC Sabathia got the start tonight, throwing just 69 pitches into the 5th inning, striking out 9 Cleveland batters, and fending them off for the first 4 innings. It wasn’t until the 5th that the Indians started to chip away at Sabathia’s strong outing and the Yankees’ lead. With just 1 out, Sabathia gave up 4 consecutive singles to score 2 runs before David Robertson came on to relieve him and promptly got the next batter to ground into a beautiful double play to end the threat. Robertson breezed his way through the next 2 innings, handing things over to Aroldis Chapman for the final 2 innings.

The Yankees held onto that minuscule lead for most of the second half of the game until the 9th inning when they had a bit of fun. Aaron Hicks hit a 1-out single and ended up at 2nd on a sloppy fielding error. Todd Frazier worked a 2-out walk to join Hicks on the baseline. Then after a really big nail-biting 12-pitch at-bat, Brett Gardner hit a solid single that scored both Hicks and Frazier thanks to a throwing error that allowed Gardner to land at 2nd on the play. It was enough of a lead to make the crowd at Progressive Field feel a whole lot like the crowd at Wrigley.

Final score: 5-2 Yankees, Yankees win ALDS, advance to ALCS

Yes, that’s right, the Yankees, the team everyone thought would barely break even in the regular season just beat the best team in the American League. Sorry to all my family who are huge Indians fans (and still follow my Yankees-centric blog, because … family), but you’ll have to try again next year to break your now 70 year championship drought.

Okay, so Game 5 of the NLDS is tomorrow night to decide how the Championship Series will look. (And I’ll do my Division Series’ bracket outcome and predict the next series.) The Yankees will face off the Astros in Houston starting on Friday night. The winner of the Cubs-Nationals series will face off against the waiting Dodgers in LA starting Saturday. So things are really just getting started, folks!

Go Yankees!

ALDS 4: HOU vs. BOS & CLE vs. NYY, NLDS 3: WAS vs. CHC & LAD vs. ARI — Halfway to a Championship Series

Two Championship Series teams are ready to go, and two are still battling it out. And two teams are now officially in their off-season.

Game 1: Astros at Red Sox
It took over four hours, a managerial ejection, and 4 starters to determine this afternoon’s game. Both teams sent in 2 starters for long-term stints to try to push their respective causes — the Red Sox needing to win to stay alive for Game 5, and the Astros ready to win to close out this series and focus on the next. After the Astros got on the board in the first when a lead-off double scored on double play, the Red Sox answered back with a 1-out solo home run.

The Astros’ lead-off triple in the 2nd scored on a 2-out single, putting them ahead by a slim margin. The Red Sox found their opportunity to strike back in the 5th. A 1-out walk ended the Astros’ starter’s outing and the reliever promptly gave up a 2-run home run to put the Red Sox in the lead for the first time today. But then the Astros bounced back with a lead-off solo shot in the 8th to tie up the game. And then they continued their push forward. A batter ended up singling on fan interference, moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on an RBI single. They added another one in the 9th when a hit-by-pitch later scored on a 2-out double for the insurance run they would need.

In a last-ditch effort, the Red Sox had the final half-inning to make up the difference to say alive. It was suddenly electric at Fenway when the lead-off hitter hit an inside the park home run after the Astros’ outfielder had trouble fielding the long hit ball. But then the Astros’ closer ended the Fenway faithful’s hopes, as the rain dripped into the stadium and the stadium organist played what can only be described as funeral music.

Final score: 5-4 Astros, Astros win series 3-1, Astros advances to ALCS

Game 2: Nationals at Cubs
Another pitchers’ duel between these two teams keeps things interesting and tight in this series. And rather short, just over 3 hours. Both starters pitched well into the game with minimal offense allowed. It really is a rather well-matched series. It wasn’t until the 6th inning that the Nationals broke through the scoreless game. With 2 outs, a batter ended up all the way at 3rd by a single fielder making 2 errors in a single play. He then scored on a double when the first reliever came into the game.

But this kind of game keeps things far too close, and an unearned run wasn’t going to go unanswered for long. In the bottom of the 7th, a Cubs batter hit a 1-out double. And with the Nationals going to their bullpen, a similar thing happened — a single scored that runner to tie up the game. In the 8th, the Cubs came back again to break the tie. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt. After a strikeout and a new reliever, another Cubs’ batter singled to score that runner, but then ended up getting thrown out going for 2nd to end the inning.

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

Game 3: Indians at Yankees
The Yankees weren’t about to let the Indians take the series, at least not on their home turf. Which came at a slight advantage to them when the Indians couldn’t pitch or defend tonight for anything. Meanwhile, Luis Severino held the Indians off enough for the Yankees to do something amazing. Severino threw a solid 113 pitches in his 7 innings, gave up just 4 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and struck out 9 batters. Actually, all of his allowed runs were off home runs — a 2-out walk and 2-run homer in the 4th, and a 1-out solo shot in the 5th. Dellin Betances had trouble in the 8th, walking his 2 batters, so the Yankees opted for a surprising choice — Tommy Kahnle — for the final 6 outs of the game. Of those 6 outs, 5 of those were strikeouts. Kahnle was just as strong as we’ve seen him all year.

On the flip side, the Indians couldn’t pitch or defend their way out of a paper bag tonight. Their starter (on short rest from Game 1) only pitched into the 2nd inning, but the Indians went through 7 relievers. In the 2nd inning, the Yankees started their offensive dominance thanks to some defensive incompetence. With 1 out, Castro made it safely to 1st on a fielding error. He moved to 2nd on a passed ball and then scored on Todd Frazier’s double. Frazier then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single, who then moved to 3rd on Gardner’s single. After Gardner moved to 2nd on a stolen base, both he and Hicks scored on Aaron Judge’s double.

And that was just the start of it. In the 3rd, Bird walked and moved to 3rd on Castro’s double, and with 1 out, Frazier worked a walk to load the bases. A ground out finally snapped the Indians’ defense into high gear and got the out at home, but kept the bases loaded. Brett Gardner hit into what should be an easy grounder, but once again, a throwing error worked into the Yankees’ advantage, scoring Castro for an extra run.

And into the 5th inning, Frazier hit a small grounder that was fielded by the pitcher and poorly thrown to the waiting 1st baseman, ending with Frazier at 2nd due to that throwing error. Frazier moved to 3rd on a ground out and then scored on Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly. And Gary Sanchez hit a big 1-out solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ offense tonight.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees, series tied 2-2

Game 4: Dodgers at Diamondbacks
The NL is traditionally known for its pitchers, and both NLDS games featured some pretty good pitching. Both pitchers in this late game threw into the 6th inning, though the better outing was easily on the Dodgers’ side. That included the offense too. The Dodgers led-off the game with a double that later scored on a ground out. Later, they doubled that scored with a 2-out solo home run.

The Diamondbacks did their best to come back, but the Dodgers’ pitching staff was really good today, showing why the Dodgers were the best team in the league. The D-backs got a single shot with a 2-out solo home run in the 5th inning to get them on the scoreboard. The Dodgers, however, answered back in the 6th with a lead-off solo home run.

Final score: 3-1 Dodgers, Dodgers sweep series 3-0, advance to NLCS

So, there we have it: the Astros and Dodgers each await the results of the other 2 Division Series to see who they’ll face off in the next series. Yankees pushed a Game 5, and the Cubs-Nationals are going to duke it out to the end.

Go Yankees!