2019 Baseball Post-season

Mister Tee
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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Oct 16, 2019 12:53 pm

I've got busy, and fallen behind here. An update:

The Nationals/Cards series unfortunately turned dull. Strasburg was nearly as untouchable in Game 3 as Sanchez/Scherzer had been, and the Nats ran off to an early, ultimately decisive big lead. 3-0 series advantages are, as we know, nearly always impregnable, and whatever doubt we had about the Nats' ultimate triumph seemed to vanish in the first inning of Game 4, as the Cards experienced an almost-karmic reversal of their Game 5 first inning vs. the Braves, surrendering 7 runs (helped along by two grisly errors). The Cards did, in fact, nobly rally, getting it to 7-4, then loading the bases with two out in the 8th. But a weak groundout ended the threat and, in effect, the series. I'm certainly happy for a franchise that's never been to the World Series -- whether in its current DC incarnation or its earlier Montreal form; 50 years of waiting. But I always hope for a little better competition.

By the way, post-game analysis last night noted that, since the Championship Series was extended to 7 games (in 1985), teams that have swept have surprisingly done quite poorly in the subsequent World Series -- the 1995 Braves are the only team (of 8 such) to win the final trophy. (The weirdest part: the McGwire/Canseco A's swept in both 1988 and 1990, but won their only championship in 1989, when they went 4-1.) So, in a sense, the Nats are fighting history.

We're getting competition in the ALCS, but the results so far leave my Yanks on the downside. For the second consecutive game, the Yankee line-up put pressure on the Cole/Verlander monster -- 9 base runners in the first 5 innings -- but this time couldn't quite push a run across. (Didi Gregorius' 5th inning fly ball, with two runners on, caught just at the wall was thisclose to putting the team in the lead.) At the same time, the supposedly so inferior Yankee pitching held its own: Severino, after surrendering two solo home runs and throwing 62 pitches through the 2nd inning, survived till the 5th with only those 2 runs -- not so bad under the circumstances. But the end result -- a 4-1 Astro win -- was as damaging as if the game had been the mismatch pundits thought. The Yankees have not only relinquished home-field edge...they've faced the Astros' most formidable pitchers and lost to them in winnable games. Whether that's something from which they can recover is something we'll find out over the next several days. (Today not included, as the game is postponed by rain -- causing everyone to wonder who that advantages in pitching terms. My take: it helps whichever team wins.)

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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Oct 14, 2019 1:48 pm

Yankee fans are in "is the glass half-full or half-empty?" mode today.

Empty: the team had the lead in a game Verlander started, but lost it. The Astro bullpen won in the end over the Yankee one, with the Yankee offense almost silent between the 7th and 10th innings. The Yanks are still in the position of having to win at least one game started by Verlander or Cole.

Full: the Yanks only needed to win one game in Houston to grab home field advantage, and they had that in hand before last night. It took the Astros 11 innings to get a win in a game where Verlander started and the Yankee pitcher was knocked out in the 3rd inning. The Yankee uber-bullpen did give up a run, but in the 5th inning, so it wasn't the kind of devastating blow an 8th/9th inning blown lead would have been. It took a pretty spectacular play by Correa in the 6th to prevent the Yankees going ahead and probably winning in regulation. No one ever thought this was the sort of series either team would sweep; for the Astros to go 0-for-2 at home would have been hugely unlikely. (ON EDIT: Forgot to mention: they also played the game a man down, as Giancarlo Stanton was scrapped from the line-up due to injury. If that even registers, given how many injuries the team has incurred this year.)

We'll see as the week goes on which take has more validity.

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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby danfrank » Sun Oct 13, 2019 3:43 pm

A quality start is less likely to cut it in the postseason, especially with an unreliable bullpen. I’ve never liked Greinke personally, so my heart’s not breaking too much. Three LCS games so far, three road wins. I like it.

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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Oct 13, 2019 2:07 pm

I might as well sneak in at this optimistic moment, since there's no guarantee it'll last.

The Yankees got pretty much everything they could have hoped for out of Game 1. Masahiro Tanaka actually managed to lower his post-season ERA with 6 shutout innings over the powerful Astros -- now, only Koufax and Christy Mathewson stand above him. The Yankees didn't pummel Greinke the way the Rays had -- his 6 innings/3 runs was a quality start. But they scored 4 more off the suspect Houston bullpen, and coasted so easily they threw Loiaisiga instead of Chapman in the 9th. Gleyber Torres continued his hot play from the Twins' series, knocking in 5 runs all sorts of ways (RBI double, home run, two-out bloop single, infield grounder). But there was offense pretty much up and down the line-up.

I presume the Astros and their fans are telling themselves the Yankees got lucky facing Greinke rather than the two-headed monster of Verlander/Cole...though one might note the July acquisition of Greinke was thought to assure an Astro world series. But it's true enough that the Yanks will have to win at least one game started by those two in order to advance. The Yankee side if this will be that, given how the 2017 ALCS turned out, home field advantage was supposed to be decisive in this series, and the Yanks have, for the moment, grabbed it, with an exclamation point (it was pointed out last night that in 2017, the Yanks only scored 1 run per game in the four Houston games, so they've put that ghost solidly to bed). Each team seems to feel it's a team of destiny, and we'll know within a week or so which one has it correct.

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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Oct 12, 2019 6:32 pm

Unfair it may be, but Sanchez's near no-hitter felt diminished a bit by the fact that Scherzer more or less echoed it today, not giving up his first hit until the 7th inning. For context: this was one of those late-afternoon-shadows games that always make pitchers look better, and the Cards' Wainwright was in many ways matching Scherzer -- each of them racked up 11 strikeouts before being relieved. Much like Friday night, the Nats led 1-0 most of the way, until, also like Friday, they added on in late innings -- 2 runs this time, as opposed to Friday's 1. Which was helpful, because the Cards did manage to finally score their first run of the series in the 8th (though only because Taylor in center-field misplayed a hard-hit fly ball). That was it, though, and the Nats will head home with a 2-0 lead.

Which sounds -- and is -- ominous for St. Louis, but such lose-the-first-two-at-home leads have been come back from before...I can easily recall the Mets in the '86 World Series and the Yankees in the '96 one achieving the feat. But it's clearly not a spot the Cards would have aspired to.

And now, on to the series in which I have a rather deeper emotional investment.

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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby danfrank » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:56 pm

Great outing by Anibal Sanchez. My theory is that the Nats have had their postseason curse lifted because they unloaded Bryce Harper, he of the bad mojo. They’re off to a good start with the road win.

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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:49 pm

And then there were four.

The Astros did a smaller-scale version of what the Cards did Wednesday -- came out swinging in the first and, though it was only 4 runs rather than 10, with Gerritt Cole on the mound, it seemed a mountain for the Rays to climb. (The 4th run crossing felt especially deadly.) The rest of the game was almost an afterthought.

So, despite the near-detour, the AL has the match-up people have foreseen essentially all year (at least since the Red Sox fell so far behind). The ESPN/MLB Network folk seem to view Houston as their Platonic ideal of a baseball team, with the Yankees seen as crude pretenders, but the Yankees have defied expectation all year. And, of course, these are two teams who played extremely close to even two years ago, and have both improved since (Houston by adding Cole and Alvarez, the Yanks by including Torres, Stanton, Encarnacion, LeMahieu, Paxton). I'm reminded of Stanley saying to Blanche, "We've had this date with each other from the beginning" -- it ought to be some match-up.

The NL seems an undercard by comparison, with the two by-record lesser teams surviving the Division Series. Many are thinking the Nats' one-two punch of Scherzer and Strasburg -- plus wunderkind Soto -- gives them a leg up, but the Cards have surpassed their seeming limits so many times in this millennium that I wouldn't bet against them.

In any case, two series we can hope are fun to watch.

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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby dws1982 » Thu Oct 10, 2019 7:22 am

My nephew and brother-in-law were at that Braves game yesterday. Several other people I know were there as well. One person wrote on Facebook, "I have lost more games than any other coach in the history of basketball but today was about the least amount of fun I've had at a sporting event", which captured the general feeling of Braves fans pretty well.

My nephew caught a ball (I think during pre-game warmups) and gave the ball to a younger kid, so that was nice.

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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Oct 10, 2019 12:07 am

Today's been a symposium on different forms of agony. And I think most would probably agree, the worst was the kind the Dodgers just experienced.

They and their fans entered the 8th inning thinking they were moving on. But Kershaw once again fails them in the big spot. And from there, the team's biggest Achilles heel -- the bullpen -- becomes crucial. Having watched all too many Dodger games in the past few post-seasons, I fully understand not using Jansen -- I feel like I've seen him surrender late-runs routinely, and one was going to be enough to end the Dodger season. But Joe Kelly isn't my idea of a great alternative, either, and I can't say I'm shocked he botched it so badly. Though I was startled it was Kendrick who provided the big moment, since he'd been pretty much series goat till then. (Norm Ornstein tweeted two hours ago that he didn't understand why Kendrick was still in the game. A tweet he gleefully retracted in the past half hour.)

I'm no more a Dodger fan than danfrank, and in fact I've been sentimentally attached to the Nats, having watched them get cruelly crushed in several high-profile moments. But, while I'm happy for them, I also register the pain of the Dodgers. (As I registered the pain of the Twins the other night -- I was honestly thinking, I wish you guys were playing a team other than mine, so I could root for you.)

So...exactly the opposite NLCS most were expecting. We'll see tomorrow night if there's another post-season shocker to come.

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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby danfrank » Wed Oct 09, 2019 11:44 pm

Clayton Kershaw: the greatest regular season pitcher of his time. Ouch. Not sure why Roberts thought it made sense to use him there. Or why he didn’t put his closer in there for the 10th. I’m supposed to be gleeful as a Giants fan, but I love too many people who are diehard Dodger fans to be especially happy about it. Cards-Nationals in the NLCS? Anything can happen, but I think it’s looking good for an AL champion this year.

Sonic, I knew it was a long drought for the Twins, but I didn’t realize it was 13 postseason games in a row. That truly is agonizing, no matter how grizzled a fan you are. Similarly my local A’s have lost 9 postseason elimination games in a row. This game can be killer.

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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Oct 09, 2019 7:24 pm

A different kind of agony, indeed, for Braves fans today. That pitcher whose name I said I couldn't spell took the mound again, with an altogether opposite result: before the first inning was ended, the Cardinals had put 10 runs on the board. It must have been excruciating to keep playing for several more hours, knowing your fate was already sealed.

This is why no team really wants to play a Game 5 (or, later, 7). Anything can happen.

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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby Sonic Youth » Wed Oct 09, 2019 5:13 pm

I've mentioned before that my wife is an Atlanta Braves fan, haven't I?

Please send your thoughts and prayers, both for her and for me, the Yankee fan.

As for "agony," to misquote Bette Davis, being a baseball fan ain't for sissies. Often it's agony up to the point where you actually win. I do feel for the Twins fans, though. A great season can go up in smoke just like that, as it might for the Dodgers tomorrow.


danfrank, if that was all there was to it, then fair enough. But the Twins haven't won a single post-season game in years. They've lost 16 in a row.* That was the saddest game I've seen in years... although it's going to lose that distinction in a few hours.

*ETA: Correction, 14 in a row.
Last edited by Sonic Youth on Thu Oct 10, 2019 12:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Oct 09, 2019 1:42 pm

Quick interim note, a few hours ahead of the first of three game 5's:

Unexpectedly, the Rays have rallied for two wins at the Trop, forcing Houston to play a do-or-die game. Verlander on 3 days rest turned out to be a bad idea -- he was gone before the end of the 4th, having left his team in a 4-0 hole. But I'm not sure you can say Hinch made the wrong move starting him. Were his team's odds any better with what amounted to a 5th starter pitching (4th starter Miley having been consumed in relief in Game 3)? They still have Cole ready to go, on full rest and at home, in Game 5. Granted, Game 5's are always an anything-can-happen crapshoot, but unless you think Verlander on full rest is a surer bet than Cole, there's no particular reason to question yesterday's choice.

Especially since the onus was mostly on Houston's offense, who managed only one, 9th inning run (though they were denied an earlier score on a super relay that nipped Altuve at the plate).

Question: was this the first time an opener strategy won a post-season game? I'm talking officially: I'm sure there've been games over the years where a starter flamed out quickly but his team rallied for a bullpen win. But this was a planned use of the opener, and it succeeded fully. If it's the first time, I'd say it ought to be noted as a landmark.

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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby danfrank » Tue Oct 08, 2019 6:00 pm

Congrats, Tee, on your team being the first one through to the LCS. If the Yankees can keep hitting the way they have, or have even a short lead at the point that it becomes a bullpen game (I'm terribly envious of that bullpen), I like their chances. However, the talented Astros starters, assuming they get through, might have something to say about that. As for "agony," to misquote Bette Davis, being a baseball fan ain't for sissies. Often it's agony up to the point where you actually win. I do feel for the Twins fans, though. A great season can go up in smoke just like that, as it might for the Dodgers tomorrow.

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Re: 2019 Baseball Post-season

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Oct 08, 2019 2:47 pm

All four series began yesterday with the chance for one team to clinch. Only one team succeeded -- and, hey: it was mine!

Save that for later. Begin with the National League, and go back a day.

The Cardinals carried a 1-0 lead Sunday as far as is humanly possible without a win: 2 outs into the 9th. Then, with the tying run sitting on 2nd, they defied one of the oldest of baseball dicta ("never put the winning run on base"), intentionally walking lefty-swinging Brian McCann to face a right-hander. The baseball gods punished them mightily, as the next batter not only delivered the tying base-hit, the one following delivered a 2-run double to put the game away.

It's hard to come back from such a blow, and when, yesterday, an Albies 3-run home run put the Braves up 4-3 in mid-innings, it seemed St. Louis had used up its mojo for the season. But it turned out it was their day for a late comeback, as Molina delivered first the tying run (on a single that just eluded the second baseman with 2 out in the 8th), then the game-winning sac fly in the 10th.

How will Game 5 go? I think most people still think the Braves are the better team -- the one with the best chance to keep the Dodgers from another Series appearance -- but it's worth noting that the St. Louis franchise has a history of succeeding in post-season, while Atlanta's last three decades have mostly been marked by under-achieving.

The Dodger/Nats face-off was less dramatic -- both Games 3 and 4 were decided by large margins -- but the result was the same 1-1 split. The Nats actually led Game 3 through middle innings, but the Dodgers teed off on starter-playing-reliever Patrick Corbin, and won easily. Davey Martinez has apparently concluded from this that Scherzer and Strasburg are his only reliable moundsmen, so Scherzer started and won yesterday (helped by a 3-run homer from team mainstay Ryan Zimmerman), and Strasburg will helm Game 5. This over-reliance on two starters carries queasy echoes of Gene Mauch's Bunning/Short rotation in 1964 that's still a Philadelphia nightmare...but the Nats have not much to lose by trying it.

On to the AL.

The trading-deadline acquisition of Zack Greinke was supposed to have been the final piece to put the Astros over the top this year, but yesterday it appeared he missed the memo, as he gave up one long bomb after another, and had to be removed in the 4th. Putative fourth starter Wade Miley fared no better, and, despite the Astros driving Charlie Morton out by pitch-count after 5, the Rays coasted to a 10-3 win.

With Miley out of the picture, the Astros are opting to go with Verlander in Game 4, on short rest, and no one knows how that'll go. Verlander is an immortal, but apparently not very used to pitching that way. The Rays are still pretty deep underdogs, but while they breathe, they hope.

Finally, my Yankees. I'll echo Sonic's take, and in fact confide that "agony game" is my long-preferred nomenclature for games just like last night's. I think this was a game danfrank would have loved -- even though it ended 5-1 -- because 1) the Yankees' last 2 runs scored in the top of the 9th, so it was much closer all the way; 2) it featured Severino wriggling out of a bases-loaded/no out situation in the third; 3) 2 of the Yankees' 3 early runs were scored on 2-out singles; and 4) there were something like five exceptional plays in the field -- by LeMahiieu, Torres, Judge, Britton, Gregorious -- the last in the 9th, putting a dagger through the Twins' last-ditch rally. It was a game worthy of a series win.

So, we Yankee fans sit and wait to see who else will advance, while feeling good about what's come so far, and excited about what might follow.


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