Fast Five: Greatest Moments of 2016 MLB Postseason

It’s baseball season.

Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training for a few teams on Monday, and most report today.  All of them have one goal in mind:  playing (and winning) in October.

Sure, the 2017 postseason is a long way off, and while many (including me) will try to predict who will reach the playoffs, there are always surprise teams, especially in baseball.

Whoever makes the playoffs will have a tough act to follow, after so many great moments in the 2016 postseason, culminating with the first Chicago Cubs World Series title in 108 years.

As we look ahead to the 2017 season, here’s a look back on the best moments from last October (and early November):

5.  The Cubs comeback to win NLDS

After the Cubs led the best-of-5 NLDS 2-0, the San Francisco Giants came back to win Game 3 in extra innings and stay alive.

In Game 4, the Cubs trailed 5-2 after eight innings, and Giants starter Matt Moore looked unstoppable.  However, Moore due to a high pitch count Moore had to come out after the eighth, handing the game over to the shaky Giants bullpen.  A pair of Giants relievers allowed four Cubs to score, including a game-tying 2-RBI single by Willson Contreras and a go-ahead RBI single by Javier Baez.

When Aroldis Chapman got the save, the Cubs had completed the largest ninth-inning comeback in a series-clinching game in MLB history, and ended the Giants run of “even year” dominance (they won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014).


4.  Two Blue Jays walkoff clinchers

The Toronto Blue Jays reached the ALCS, doing so on the strength of walk-off wins to clinch both the AL Wild Card Game and the ALDS.

In the Wild Card Game, with lights-out Orioles closer Zach Britton still in the bullpen in the 11th inning, Edwin Encarnacion hit a 3-run homer off Ubaldo Jimenez, giving the Blue Jays a 5-2 win to advance to the ALDS.

In Game 3 of the ALDS, with Toronto leading the series 2-0, a Russell Martin grounder seemed poised to send the 6-6 game to the 11th.  But after a bad throw pulled Texas Rangers 1B Mitch Moreland off the base, Josh Donaldson broke for the plate, beating the throw to score, winning the game and the series.

This play had some additional procedural drama, as the Rangers appealed that there had been obstruction at second base on Encarnacion.  When the play was reviewed and upheld, the top-seeded Rangers had been swept, and the Blue Jays were in their second straight ALCS.


3.  Indians shutout wins pennant

The Cleveland Indians progressed through the playoffs on the strength of their incredible pitching.  After ousting the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS to end David Ortiz’s career, the Indians took a 3-0 lead in the ALCS against Toronto.

The Blue Jays won Game 4, and many favored Toronto to win Game 5, as Cleveland turned to rookie Ryan Merritt, who had just one regular season start.

Merritt, who inherited a 1-0 lead after a run scored on an error in the top of the first, went 4.2 scoreless innings (falling one out short of qualifying for the win), and the Indians bullpen finished the job (one inning by Bryan Shaw, 2.2 innings by Andrew Miller, one inning by Cody Allen).

All told, it was a six-hit shutout of a potent Blue Jays lineup, as Cleveland clinched their first pennant in 19 years.  They would eventually fall just short in the World Series, and enter 2017 seeking their first title since 1948.


2.  Kershaw saves Game 5

The winner-take-all Game 5 of the NLDS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals was the longest nine-inning game in MLB postseason history–and was well worth the time investment to watch.

Starters Max Scherzer (WAS) and Rich Hill (LAD) both pitched well, allowing a single run.  Scherzer’s run was a game-tying homer in the seventh by Joc Pederson.

That only began the wild seventh–after Scherzer was relieved, Carlos Ruiz gave the Dodgers a lead with an RBI single, and Justin Turner stretched it to 4-1 with a 2-RBI double.  In the bottom half, Chris Heisey hit a 2-run pinch-hit homer to make it 4-3.

After the homer, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen entered with no outs in the seventh.  He stranded the bases loaded in the seventh, and another runner in the eighth.

With two on and one out in the ninth, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered the game on one day rest.

Kershaw got Daniel Murphy to pop up, then struck out Wilmer Difo to end the game, earning his first major league save to clinch a postseason series (and his first save at any level since 2006 in rookie ball).


1.  Cubs win first World Series since 1908 in Game 7 for the ages

After six thrilling games, the 112th World Series between the Indians and Cubs was tied at 3-3.  The Indians had led the Series 3-1, but the Cubs had come back to force Game 7.

Before Game 7, I called it baseball’s “game of the century” thus far, fully expecting that it would not live up to that lofty level of hype.  And yet, the game far surpassed it, legitimately becoming the greatest baseball game played in the 21st century.

Game 7 had everything.  Dexter Fowler led off the game with a home run, and Javier Baez and David Ross added solo homers for the Cubs, with Ross’s coming in the final at-bat of his career.  Cubs starter Jon Lester came in in relief, giving up one earned run in three innings.

The Cubs committed three errors, and two Indians scored on a wild pitch, the first such play in a World Series game since 1911.  Cubs leads of 5-1 and 6-3 evaporated almost instantly in the eighth, with Rajai Davis tying the game with a 2-run homer.

It became the first Game 7 to go to extra innings since 1997 (which the Indians lost to the Florida Marlins), and that was put on hold for 17 minutes by a passing shower (the first World Series rain delay since 2008).

Ben Zobrist’s RBI double put the Cubs ahead, and Miguel Montero added an RBI that turned out to be a big insurance run.  In the bottom of the 10th, Davis singled to pull to within 8-7, before Mike Montgomery came in to pitch and took just two pitches to record his first professional save, a final out that will be replayed forever.

A story that many veteran writers called the best story they had ever covered–the Cubs finally winning the World Series–was an appropriate end to an insane 2016 MLB postseason.  After Cubs fans waited 108 years,

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Trends of a World Series Champion, Revisited

As the MLB Postsesason moves into series play today following a couple of fantastic Wild Card Games, many will try to take their pick of who is best equipped to win the World Series.

Last year, I did this by statistically putting the playoff teams up against the previous 20 World Series champions based on the trends that the majority of those champions showed, in a post called “Trends of a World Series Champion.”

Every world champion did not necessarily fit every one of the 10 criteria, but most were within the trend in a majority of the categories.  Last year’s Kansas City Royals fit eight of the 10 criteria and won the World Series.

Eight teams are still alive in the chase for the Commissioner’s Trophy:  The Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants from the National League, and the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, and Toronto Blue Jays in the American League.

Here is how each of the eight fit the trends of a World Series champion:

 

Trend:  Team batting average of .250 or better
Within the trend:  Red Sox (.282), Rangers (.262), Indians (.262), Giants (.258), Cubs (.256), Nationals (.256)
Outside the trend:  Dodgers (.249), Blue Jays (.248)

Trend:  Number of offensive starters hitting .290 or better (min. 50 games)
Within the trend:  Red Sox (5), Indians (3), Nationals (3), Cubs (2), Rangers (2)
Outside the trend:  Dodgers (1), Blue Jays (1), Giants (0)

Trend:  Team ERA of 4.00 or better
Within the trend:  Cubs (3.15), Nationals (3.51), Giants (3.65), Dodgers (3.70), Blue Jays (3.78), Indians (3.84), Red Sox (4.00)
Outside the trend:  Rangers (4.37)

Trend:  Starting rotation ERA of 4.25 or better
Within the trend:  Cubs (2.96), Nationals (3.60), Blue Jays (3.64), Giants (3.71), Dodgers (3.95), Indians (4.08), Red Sox (4.22)
Outside the trend:  Rangers (4.38)

Trend:  Bullpen ERA of 3.92 or better
Within the trend:  Dodgers (3.35), Nationals (3.37), Indians (3.45), Red Sox (3.56), Cubs (3.56), Giants (3.65)
Outside the trend:  Blue Jays (4.11), Rangers (4.40)

Trend:  Home winning percentage of .550 or better
Within the trend:  Cubs (.704), Rangers (.654), Indians (.654), Dodgers (.654), Nationals (.617), Red Sox (.580), Blue Jays (.568), Giants (.556)
Outside the trend:  none

Trend:  Away winning percentage of .520 or better
Within the trend:  Cubs (.575), Red Sox (.568), Nationals (.556), Blue Jays (.531)
Outside the trend:  Rangers (.519), Giants (.519), Indians (.513), Dodgers (.469)

Trend:  Win percentage after Sept. 1 of .500 or better
Within the trend:  Red Sox (.655), Cubs (.621), Indians (.621), Nationals (.586), Dodgers (.586), Rangers (.536), Giants (.500)
Outside the trend:  Blue Jays (.448)

Trend:  Baseball-Reference.com Simple Rating System of 0.2 or better
Within the trend:  Cubs (1.3), Red Sox (1.3), Blue Jays (0.8), Nationals (0.6), Indians (0.6), Dodgers (0.4), Giants (0.3), Rangers (0.2)
Outside the trend:  none

 

Here are how many of the criteria each team fits the trend:

Nationals 10
Cubs 9
Indians 9
Red Sox 9
Giants 8
Dodgers 7
Rangers 6
Blue Jays 5

By this token, the Nationals should be the favorites to win the 2016 World Series.  But as I mentioned, last year’s Royals only fit eight of the criteria, so that would suggest that the top five all have a legitimate chance to win it all.

With five teams qualifying so well to make a deep run, and four rating better than the Royals (or anyone else) did last year, it shows the strength of this year’s playoff field.

In other words, it should be quite a postseason.

MLB Playoffs: ALDS Preview

After two fantastic Wild Card Games, League Division Series play begins this afternoon in the MLB Postseason.  The American League is up first, with a pair of series openers in Arlington and Cleveland.  National League Division Series matchups will start tomorrow, so stay tuned for a preview of those matchups as well.

Toronto Blue Jays (89-73 AL Wild Card Game winner) vs. Texas Rangers (95-67, AL West champion)
(Game 1:  Thursday, 4:38 pm ET, TBS)

This series, a rematch of last year’s contentious ALDS matchup won in five games by Toronto, matches two strong lineups against each other.  The Rangers were fourth in the AL in runs, and the Blue Jays fifth, and both teams are also among the top five in the AL in home runs.  Texas is led by Adrian Beltre (.300 BA, 32 HR, 104 RBI) and midseason acquisition Carlos Beltran (.295 BA, 29 HR, 93 RBI), two of the five players with 81 or more RBI.

Toronto counters with Wild Card game hero Edwin Encarnacion (.263 BA, 42 HR, 127 RBI) and 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson (.284 BA, 37 HR, 99 RBI).  The Rangers do have a better team batting average at .262, compared to .248 for the Blue Jays.

Overall team ERA favors Toronto (3.78) over Texas (4.37), but both sides have some solid pitching in the rotation, with Cole Hamels (15-5, 3.32 ERA) leading Texas in Game 1, and Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.48 ERA) getting the Game 1 nod for Toronto over Cy Young contender Aaron Sanchez (15-2, 3.00 ERA).  The experience factor favors Texas pitching, and neither bullpen has a great ERA, with Toronto at 4.11 and Texas at 4.40.

There are definitely some similarities between these two teams, and last year’s series went the distance, including a classic Game 5 at the SkyDome.  This time around, with Toronto on an emotional high after their Wild Card Game win, I think Texas, with the slightly better team, will get down to business and get revenge on the Blue Jays.

Prediction:  The Rangers will win the series, 3-1.

Boston Red Sox (93-69, AL East champion) vs. Cleveland Indians (94-67, AL Central champion)
(Game 1:  Thursday, 8:08 pm ET, TBS)

These two franchises met four times in the postseason between 1995-2007.  After the Red Sox won the season series, 4-2, this series matches two “even teams,” but two teams who aren’t necessarily even in every facet of the game.  Boston has a great offense, with good pitching sufficient to support the offense.  Cleveland has a strong pitching staff, with the sufficient offense to support that.

The Red Sox offense leads the AL in runs, hits, and batting average, and features five players with 87 or more RBI, and three with 111 or more in David Ortiz (.315 BA, 38 HR, 127 RBI), Mookie Betts (.318 BA, 31 HR, 113 RBI), and Hanley Ramirez (.286 BA, 30 HR, 111 RBI).  The Sox have five starters hitting at .290 or better (well within the categorical trend of teams that normally do well in the playoffs), and their .282 team batting average is 20 points higher than the Indians (.262).

On the mound, the Red Sox team ERA is 4.00, but 3.50 since the All-Star Break.  Starter Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.15 ERA) has had a breakout year, while David Price (17-9, 3.99 ERA) pitched very well down the stretch (8-2, 3.24 since July 28), and the bullpen (3.56 ERA) is anchored by one of the game’s best closers in Craig Kimbrel (31/33 saves, 3.40 ERA).

The Indians pitching staff is led by Corey Kluber (18-9, 3.14 ERA), the 2014 AL Cy Young winner who is one of the favorites for that award this season.  A very strong bullpen is led by closer Cody Allen (32/35 saves, 2.51 ERA), and setup men Dan Otero (5-1, 1.53 ERA), Bryan Shaw (25 holds, 3.24 ERA), and Andrew Miller (for the season with NYY/CLE combined: 12 saves, 25 holds, 1.45 ERA).  This relief corps collectively has a very good 3.45 ERA, the best among AL playoff teams.

The Indians offense is nothing historic, but is solid, led by former Red Sox 1B Mike Napoli (.239 BA, 34 HR, 101 RBI).  Two great young players, Francisco Lindor (.301 BA, 15 HR, 78 RBI) and Jose Ramirez (.312 BA, 11 HR, 76 RBI), hit ahead of and set the stage for Napoli.

The Boston offense against the Cleveland pitching and the Cleveland offense against the Boston pitching is each an even matchup, making this an even series.  More often than not in these kinds of series, the team with the better pitching staff is the one that prevails.  Add to that Cleveland’s home-field advantage, plus their better win percentage in one-run games (.571 for Cleveland, .455 for Boston), and the Indians will narrowly find a way to win the series.

Prediction:  The Indians will win the series, 3-2.

Fast Five: World Series Favorites After the All-Star Break

Play resumes tonight in MLB after a four day break for the league’s All-Star Game in San Diego.  Roughly 21 of the 30 teams still have a realistic chance at making the playoffs (exactly how many depends on your definition of realistic), but a few stand out at the most likely teams to make a deep run come October.  Here are my five biggest favorites to win the World Series:

5. Cleveland Indians (52-36)
Over the last few years, my biggest point of skepticism with the Indians has been whether they could score runs, because they’ve had the pitching to contend for a while.  This year, while the pitching continues to be strong (the staff leads the AL with a 3.63 ERA), the offense is beyond just a complement to the pitching, as the Indians have become a force on both sides of the ball.  The Tribe scored 5.4 runs per game during a recent 14-game winning streak, and are led by SS Francisco Lindor (.306 BA, 10 HR, 45 RBI).  While Lindor leads the club in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), however, the next five are still pitchers (Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin), showing that the pitching staff is still the foundation as the club tries to make its first World Series trip since 1997, and tries to win it for the first time.  The Indians currently have a comfortable 6.5 game lead in the AL Central over the Tigers.

4. Washington Nationals (54-36)
Last year the Nats were a team of dysfunction, but under new manager Dusty Baker they have, at least thus far, realized their potential in 2016.  Bryce Harper, the defending NL MVP, is having somewhat of a down year, at least by his lofty standards (.256 BA, 19 HR, 52 RBI), and is seventh on the team in WAR.  Like the Indians, the Nationals are built with pitching; four of the top five in WAR are pitchers (Steven Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, and Joe Ross, with 2B Daniel Murphy being the exception), and the team leads all of baseball with a 3.29 ERA.  Offensively, it is Murphy who is putting up MVP numbers (.348 BA, 17 HR, 66 RBI), as part of an offense that is sixth in the NL in runs and first in homers.  This team, who leads the Mets and Marlins by six games in the NL East, has the talent to win it all in October, although they have never even won a playoff series, something they would have to do twice to reach the Fall Classic.

3. Texas Rangers (54-36)
Last year, the Rangers made a surprise run in the second half to reach the postseason after many pundits thought they were best positioned for a run in 2016.  Well, they have an excellent chance at another playoff opportunity this year, as they sport the best record in the AL and have a 5.5 game lead on the resurgent Houston Astros.  The scary thing for the rest of baseball is that this team, as good as they have been, has not been completely healthy at any point yet this season.  Ian Desmond (.322 BA, 15 HR, 55 RBI) is a candidate for the MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award after a very poor 2015 campaign with Washington, although Matt Bush (3-1, 2.49 ERA) also has an exceptional comeback story as a key contributor on the AL favorites just months after his release from a 39-month prison term.  This particular year, the AL field in the playoffs will likely not be as strong as the NL field, something that could play right into the Rangers’ hands as they try to win their first World Series title.

2. San Francisco Giants (57-33)
Yes, it is an even-numbered year, but that is not the main reason the Giants are on this list.  The team has a remarkable stretch of winning the World Series the last three even years (2010, ’12, ’14), and they are contenders to do it again in 2016, currently leading the Dodgers by 6.5 games in the NL West.  The Giants are fourth in the NL in runs, despite ranking next to last in homers, and are still doing well at the plate despite three offensive starters on the DL.  But like most of the teams on this list, the Giants’ strength is their pitching, with a 3.55 team ERA that is fifth in MLB, and two bona fide aces leading the staff in All-Star starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (13-1, 2.47 ERA) and Madison Bumgarner (10-4, 1.94 ERA).  10 teams do not yet have a complete game, yet Cueto has four and Bumgarner three.  The team is 40-15 (albeit against a weak schedule) since May 10, and has the best record in baseball at the All-Star break for the first time since 1993, although just six of the last 30 teams to lead baseball at the break have followed in the fall with a title (and the ’93 edition is the last team to miss the playoffs with 100+ wins).  Only time will tell if this even year plays out like the last three.

1. Chicago Cubs (53-35)
In April I picked the Cubs to end their infamous 108-year championship drought, and I am sticking with it despite their recent 6-15 midseason swoon.  This team is simply too good for this slump to continue, and while I am not explicitly saying they will definitely win the World Series, I do still believe they have the best chance of anyone in baseball.  The Cubs are built differently than the other teams on this list, as five of their top six in WAR are position players, including their leaders in 3B/OF Kris Bryant (.286 BA, 25 HR, 65 RBI) and 1B Anthony Rizzo (.299 BA, 21 HR, 63 RBI).  That being said, their pitching has (for the most part) been outstanding as well, led by defending NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.68 ERA) and Jon Lester (9-4, 3.01 ERA).  This team is much better than recent form would indicate, and this rough patch is not likely to be anything more than a blip on the radar screen and is something every team goes through at some point.  The Cubs still lead the NL Central by 6.5 games over the Cardinals, and to me are still the World Series favorites just as they have been all along in 2016, as they try to do something that very few living souls have ever seen and win their first title since 1908.

 

 

 

MLB Standings

AL East
1. Baltimore 51-36
2. Boston 49-38, 2 GB
2. Toronto 51-40, 2 GB
4. N.Y. Yankees 44-44, 7.5 GB
5. Tampa Bay 34-54, 17.5 GB

AL Central
1. Cleveland 52-36
2. Detroit 46-43, 6.5 GB
3. Chi. White Sox 45-43, 7 GB
3. Kansas City 45-43, 7 GB
5. Minnesota 32-56, 20 GB

AL West
1. Texas 54-36
2. Houston 48-41, 5.5 GB
3. Seattle 45-44, 8.5 GB
4. Oakland 38-51, 15.5 GB
5. L.A. Angels 37-52, 16.5 GB

NL East
1. Washington 54-36
2. N.Y. Mets 47-41, 6 GB
2. Miami 47-41, 6 GB
4. Philadelphia 42-48, 12 GB
5. Atlanta 31-58, 22.5 GB

NL Central
1. Chi. Cubs 53-35
2. St. Louis 46-42, 7 GB
3. Pittsburgh 46-43, 7.5 GB
4. Milwaukee 38-49, 14.5 GB
5. Cincinnati 32-57, 21.5 GB

NL West
1. San Francisco 57-33
2. L.A. Dodgers 51-40, 6.5 GB
3. Colorado 40-48, 16 GB
4. San Diego 38-51, 18.5 GB
5. Arizona 38-52, 19 GB

Column: Retaliation Is Not Good For Baseball

Baseball in 2016 is as hostile as it has been at any point in my lifetime, and that’s not good.

Saturday night, Chase Utley became the latest target of the beanball game, as the Los Angeles Dodgers veteran infielder was thrown at (actually thrown behind) by New York Mets pitcher Noah Snydergaard.

This latest incident of belligerence in the American pastime came just 13 days after a horrific brawl between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays, which resulted in discipline for 14 players and coaches.  In that instance, Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista was thrown at, then took his frustration out on second baseman Rougned Odor with a malicious slide, and Odor, in turn, landed a punch in Bautista’s jaw, and within seconds a near-riot had broken out.

While the specifics of the Mets-Dodgers situation were far different from the Rangers-Blue Jays duel, the two incidents had something in common:  both altercations pointed back to things that happened in the 2015 MLB Playoffs.

The Mets retaliation against Utley was after Utley, in Game Two of last year’s NL Division Series, slid past the second base bag to try and break up a potential double play, and upended Ruben Tejada, resulting in Tejada breaking the leg he had planted near the base as he tried to throw to first.

Utley was suspended two games my MLB, but the suspension was later overturned on appeal.  As it would turn out, the Mets would eliminate the Dodgers three games later, and did just fine with Tejada out with his injury, reaching the World Series.  If you ask me, the Mets had already gotten the ultimate revenge by beating the Dodgers and ending their season, and their shot at a title, and the matter should have remained in 2015.  Unfortunately, that was apparently not the case.

Hostilities between the Rangers and Blue Jays were rooted in their heated meeting in the AL Division Series, and particularly in a decisive fifth game that will go down in the annals of baseball as one of the most unbelievable–and unusual–playoff games in history.

Emotions were incredibly high after Texas took the lead on a controversial play in the top of the seventh, then after three errors by Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus helped Toronto tie the score, Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer to take the lead–and flipped his bat in celebration.  Benches cleared moments later, but nothing else happened and cooler heads prevailed.

While I understand the Mets frustrations that Utley’s slide resulted in one of their players being injured, and lost for the duration of the playoffs, a player who has always shown some level of swagger flipping his bat after one of the biggest homers in the history of the game is no reason to get up in arms and retaliate.

That being said, while the Rangers were unable to win the series to get the level of revenge the Mets got by simply winning the series, the situation should have been put to rest over the offseason by both teams.  Why?  Both instances happened last year, in a different season, and should not have been carried over into the 2016 campaign, regardless of the circumstances.

Retaliation during the same game is one thing.  While I don’t like it, I understand that sometimes players and teams are upset at each other, although that doesn’t make it right to throw a 95-mph missile at someone.  But something that happened last season should be the last thing on anyone’s mind as they focus on playing their best in 2016.

To drive this point home even further, it is ironic that the Mets retaliated against Utley now, since Ruben Tejada is no longer part of the Mets organization.  I understand sticking up for your teammates, but isn’t it going a little far when the person being stuck up for, for something that happened seven months ago, was released by the team doing the sticking up 10 weeks ago?

Worse yet, in the Rangers-Blue Jays debacle, the pitcher who threw at Bautista, Matt Bush, was not on the Rangers last year, and was actually in prison when the bat flip happened (Bush signed with the Rangers in December after his release, and was making his second MLB appearance when he hit Bautista).  After the brawl, Jesse Chavez of the Blue Jays threw at Rangers designated hitter Prince Fielder, and was promptly ejected.  Chavez, who was stupid to throw at Fielder in the first place (did he not think he would get ejected?), was a member of the Oakland Athletics in 2015.

Another issue I have with each situation is that both teams had played multiple games in 2016 before their respective retaliations.  The Mets and Dodgers actually played three games in the playoff series after Utley’s slide, and were playing their sixth game against each other in 2016 when Snydergaard drilled Utley.  The Rangers and Blue Jays were in their seventh and final meeting of the 2016 season when Bautista was hit.

While the teams shouldn’t even be doing this to begin with, waiting through several games against each other before retaliating is just silly.  Bautista called it “cowardly” that the Rangers waited until his last at-bat of the season against them to get some level of revenge.

The day after the Rangers-Blue Jays brawl, I was in the waiting room at a doctor’s appointment when, on a TV in the room, I saw The View discuss what had happened the previous day between the two teams.  While it was fairly comical to hear these women who don’t know much about the game talking about the fight, and the reasons for it, Aisha Tyler made a very good point, saying that when a professional athlete, who is making millions of dollars to play the game, engages in such retaliatory behavior, it makes them look childish.

I’d agree with that statement.  The revengeful climate in today’s game of baseball often makes the grown men who play it look immature, and can’t be good for the game.  I get that conflict sells tickets, and raises ratings, but the game today is not the same game that was handed down from the last generation to this one, and that’s really a shame.

ALDS Recap: Blue Jays, Royals Advance

Toronto Blue Jays def. Texas Rangers, 3-2
Game 1: Texas 5, Toronto 3
Game 2: Texas 6, Toronto 4, 14 innings
Game 3: Toronto 5, Texas 1
Game 4: Toronto 8, Texas 4
Game 5: Toronto 6, Texas 3

Starting Point:  The Blue Jays .171 average in Games 1-2
The Blue Jays entered the playoffs as World Series favorites, and were picked on this blog to sweep the Rangers.  However, a team that had been such an offensive juggernaut all season struggled offensively in their first two games at home.  The bottom third of the Texas order led to a 5-3 Game 1 win, as the Blue Jays were held to six hits.  In Game 2, the two-through-five hitters in the Blue Jays order were a combined 2-for-22, as the Blue Jays were held scoreless for the final nine innings of a 14 inning marathon, as Texas won 6-4.

Turning Point:  The Blue Jays’ .309 average in Games 3-4
Facing elimination in Game 3, the Blue Jays took a 5-0 lead through six innings, with the big blow coming in the form of a three-run homer by Troy Tulowitzki in the sixth, as the Blue Jays won 5-1.  In Game 4, early homers by Josh Donaldson, Chris Collabello, and Kevin Pillar helped the Blue Jays to a 7-0 lead, and they cruised to an 8-4 win, using ace David Price in relief to ensure a Game 5.

Ending Point:  Three 7th inning errors by the Rangers in Game 5
Game 5 was a crazy back-and-forth game, with too many twists and turns for me to describe in a paragraph (although you can read a recap here).  After a 2-2 tie through six innings, and a 3-2 Texas lead after a controversial run in the top of the seventh, the Rangers defense began the bottom of the seventh with three straight errors, with two of them by shortstop Elvis Andrus, becoming the first team in history to make three errors in an inning in a winner-take-all postseason game.  An additional mistake, although it wasn’t an error, was made by second baseman Rougned Odor, as he misjudged a floater off Donaldson’s bat, which tied the game.  The next batter, Jose Bautista, hit a long three-run homer to give the Blue Jays a 6-3 lead they would not relinquish.  The homer got a lot of attention in the game’s aftermath, and rightfully so, but Bautista would have never been at the plate in the inning if the Rangers had made the defensive plays they normally make.  With the three straight wins, the Blue Jays became the third team to win a Division Series after losing the first two games at home (2001 Yankees, 2012 Giants).

Kansas City Royals def. Houston Astros, 3-2
Game 1: Houston 5, Kansas City 2
Game 2: Kansas City 5, Houston 4
Game 3: Houston 4, Kansas City 2
Game 4: Kansas City 9, Houston 6
Game 5: Kansas City 7, Houston 2

Starting Point:  The Astros’ 2-1 series lead
Houston won the opener, despite two homers by Kansas City’s Kendrys Morales, on the strength of an early 3-0 lead, and two late solo homers by George Springer and Colby Rasmus to seal a 5-2 win.  Early in Game 2, Rasmus had an RBI double and a homer, and Springer had an RBI single, leading the Astros to a 4-1 lead.  The Royals fought back with small ball, scoring runs on a double play, an Eric Hosmer RBI single, a Salvador Perez RBI walk, and a Ben Zobrist RBI single to win 5-4.  In Game 3, Kansas City led early after a Lorenzo Cain solo homer, but Houston took a 2-1 lead on a Jason Castro 2-RBI single, extending the lead on an RBI single by Carlos Gomez and a solo homer by Chris Carter, enough for probable Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel to win 4-2, giving the Astros a 2-1 series lead.

Turning Point:  The Royals’ epic Game 4 comeback
Although a Perez homer gave the Royals an early 2-0 lead in Game 4, and a Gomez solo shot cut the gap to 2-1, Carlos Correa practically single-handedly led the Astros to the brink of advancing, with homers in the third and seventh, and an RBI double in the fifth, totaling four RBI.  Rasmus’s third homer of the series gave Houston a 6-2 lead with six outs to get to advance, but the Royals had other plans.  After consecutive singles by Alex Rios, Alcides Escobar, Zobrist, Cain, and Hosmer, then a fielder’s choice by Morales, suddenly the game was tied, 6-6.  An Alex Gordon groundout later in the inning scored Hosmer, and the Royals led 7-6 in front of a stunned Houston crowd, which had been ready to celebrate.  A two-run homer by Hosmer in the ninth increased the lead to 9-6, and the Royals had forced a winner-take-all Game 5 at home.

Ending Point:  Kendrys Morales’ dagger in Game 5
Luis Valbuena hit a two-run homer in the second inning of the deciding game, giving Houston a 2-0 lead, but from that point it was all Royals.  Johnny Cueto allowed just two baserunners–Valbuena and Evan Gattis, who scored on Valbuena’s homer–all game, in eight innings of work.  Hosmer’s RBI single cut the Royals’ gap to 2-1 in the fourth, and Rios’ 2-RBI double gave the Royals a 3-2 lead, before Rios scored on a sacrifice fly by Zobrist, making it 4-2.  That score left the Astros within reach, however, in the eighth inning.  With Escobar and Rios on the base paths in the bottom of the eighth, Morales gave Houston the dagger with a three-run homer, giving the Royals a 7-2 lead.  The Astros led in all five games, but the Royals came back to win three of the five to win the series and advance to the ALCS.