Breaking down the strengths, weaknesses, injuries, and managers for the seven-game American League slugfest.
The Red Sox were the best team in the American League during the regular season and the Rangers had the best record. If the idea was to have a series that best encapsulated the 2016 season on the junior circuit, though, this is about the best we could have hoped for. Both the Blue Jays and the Indians bear the marks of a long season, and both have holes that would be notable and somewhat glaring even if they’d had perfect health. The two best teams left in the postseason, by a wide margin, are playing for the National League pennant. This has been an odd, sloppy slugfest of a season in the AL, and these are the perfect clubs to finish it off.
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Just when it looked like the Giants were doing their usual October thing, the Cubs came back to win Game 4 and the NLDS.
For eight innings, this was a boring game. It’s playoff baseball, so there’s a pretty high floor in terms of interest level, but if a playoff game can be boring, this was. Maybe Monday night's 13-inning fever dream just set the bar too high, but for whatever reason, not much stood out. John Lackey versus Matt Moore didn’t seem like it was going to be a marquee matchup, and it wasn’t; aside from the occasional moment of Javier Baez brilliance, the innings seemed filled with forgettable moments.
Clayton Kershaw as human and the Dodgers' bullpen imploded, but Los Angeles still forced a Game 5.
Dave Roberts had a decision to make. The Dodgers found themselves in a win-or-go-home Game 4 and Kenta Maeda had given a poor, three-inning effort in Game 3 which burned a total of seven bullpen arms. Julio Urias, the talented but still raw rookie lefty was slated to start Game 4, but Roberts took a gamble and decided to start Clayton Kershaw on short rest.
Must-win home games for the Dodgers and the Giants.
The Nationals moved up 2-1 on the Dodgers with Monday’s decisive 8-3 victory. To celebrate, both teams have decided to make my life a living hell and put off announcing their Game 4 starters until well after my deadline. Seriously, we don’t know which of Best Pitcher in the World Clayton Kershaw or Wunderkind Julio Urias will be taking the ball for Game 4, nor do we know if Dusty Baker will line up Joe Ross or Reynaldo Lopez to face L.A. We don’t know anything, other than that the Dodgers are in the hot seat.
Jake Arrieta and Kris Bryant provided big homers, but the Giants found a way to keep the NLDS alive.
It was supposed to be a pitchers’ duel, and at the very beginning, there was a hint of that sheen. Game 3 looked early on like the sort of tight contest that perhaps would cause you to squint hard, watching for tiny hairline cracks to appear in each ace’s performance.
Cleveland swept Boston out of the playoffs in David Ortiz's final game.
It's not hard to see that the postseason magnifies every little thing, including your mistakes. Sure, it glorifies your successes, but for every pitch that kinda sorta seems down the middle, you'll get a thousand exasperated sighs in response, and unless you're an all-time great, people will remember your mistakes, your missteps, and your blunders. To this end, baseball is not a fair game.
Washington grabbed a 2-1 series lead as the two managers handled Game 3 much differently.
The final score hardly told the full story, and yet it was far more representative of the game as a whole. A four-run ninth turned what was a tense, belabored slog into a laugher. The Dodgers got off to a quick start, as for the third straight game their starting pitcher struck out Trea Turner in his first at-bat and, for the third straight game, Corey Seager drove in a run in his first at-bat. It was downhill from there, though, as the Nationals worked counts, driving Kenta Maeda’s pitch count up.
The team with the AL's best record was sunk by a great offensive team and a narrative they couldn't escape.
If there’s one annoying thing about being a baseball fan, in my experience, it’s dealing with the expectation of narratives. Baseball, especially over a long 162-game season, has such a granular quality that defining any team with a sentence or two glosses over so much as to be barely descriptive. You get the feeling, as a fan, that the way the media, other fans, heck even your own family understands your local team is so detached from reality as to be barely recognizable. You’re telling me the team I’ve lived and died with since April chokes in big spots, or doesn’t have the pitching they need for October, or needs more pop to really succeed in a short series? Hoo boy, we’re going to have to settle in for a long talk about how wrong you are!
Washington evened the NLDS at 1-1 thanks to Los Angeles repeatedly failing with the bases loaded.
As Game 2 between the Nationals and Dodgers got underway Sunday, it would’ve been reasonable to believe that Los Angeles was feeling good about themselves and their chances of going back to the West Coast with a 2-0 lead. After all, they’d managed to snatch a victory in Game 1 when the Battle of the Aces fizzled into a bullpen duel. So, it didn’t come as much of a surprise when the Dodgers stormed out of the blocks early against Tanner Roark and Washington.
Gio Gonzalez vs. Kenta Maeda in Los Angeles, Josh Tomlin vs. Clay Buchholz in Boston, and Jake Arrieta vs. Madison Bumgarner in San Francisco.
The first two games of this series have been long and somewhat messy, but they’ve both been close and competitive. The starting pitchers haven’t been so dominant as to choke off the action of the game. Neither game has seemed to get away from either team. The depth of each team, in the lineup and on the mound, has been on display. That’s why this series is tighter than any of the other three Division Series have been through two games. Now both sides will have their depth tested even further, having traveled across the country without a day off, and having used six pitchers apiece on Sunday.