The MLB Postseason is down to four teams with the American and National League Championship Series beginning this weekend. October baseball has not disappointed, as the divisional series featured three game 5’s, a 7th inning to remember between Toronto and Texas, and the first series clincher at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The Toronto Blue Jays became the third ever team to overcome a 2-0 deficit in the division series and win three consecutive games. After losing the first two games at home versus the Texas Rangers, Toronto avoided elimination by winning two on the road before defeating the Rangers in Game 5 at Rogers Centre.
The 7th inning of the win-or-go-home matchup between the Blue Jays and Rangers was one of the most bizarre innings of recent memory. A 2-2 tie was broken in the top of the inning after Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin hit the batter’s bat on his throw back to the pitcher. The ball ricocheted off Shin-Soo Choo’s bat and into the infield, allowing Rougned Odor to score and give the Rangers a lead. Anarchy would ensue at Rogers Centre, as fans began throwing trash and beer onto the field.
The Rangers were then just nine outs from advancing to the next round when their infield defense would fail them. Three consecutive batters reached on an error, two of which came from shortstop Elvis Andrus. Before the Blue Jays even hit the ball out of the inning, they were in business with bases loaded and no outs. A misplay on Josh Donaldson’s blooper resulted in a run-scoring single to tie the game. Chaos would soon ensue when Toronto slugger Jose Bautista turned on a fastball and drove it deep into the Canadian sky to give the Jays a commanding 6-3 lead that they would never relinquish. Bautista’s bat flip was one for the ages, and may be the reason for at least one of the three bench clearings.
The Blue Jays moved onto the ALCS, seeking to break a 22-year World Series drought. They will have to beat the defending AL Champion Kansas City Royals, who defeated the Houston Astros in Game five of the ALDS. Houston was up 2-1 in the series, with an opportunity to clinch at home in Game 4. The Astros were up 6-2 entering the eighth inning, and a mere six outs from advancing to the ALCS, before their bullpen blew up and gave the Royals life.
Kansas City went on to win Game four 9-6, stunning the Astros and forcing a winner take all Game five in Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Royals pitcher Johnny Cueto was on top of his game, retiring the final 19 batters he faced along the way to pitching a marvelous eight innings. Wade Davis closed out a 7-2 Royals victory to advance to the next round.
In the National League, the Cubs homered their way to a 3-1 series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Chicago won Game four at Wrigley Field in Illionios, clinching a series for the first time in Wrigley’s history.
The Mets and Dodgers traveled to Los Angeles for a Game five matchup on Thursday after Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw threw seven brilliant innings at Citi Field in Game four to force an elimination game. Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom opposed potential Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, and outdueled the Dodgers right-hander. deGrom battled through six tough innings, working around trouble constantly and showing true grit. Daniel Murphy has been the king of Queens thus far in the postseason, stealing a key base in the fourth inning before hitting the game winning home run in the sixth inning. It was Murphy’s third of the postseason, after hitting two off of Kershaw. Murphy became the first player in the National League to homer off both Kershaw and Greinke this season.
The two top teams in the American League face-off in a best of seven series to determine the pennant. The Toronto Blue Jays travel to Kansas City to begin the quest for the franchise’s third World Series title. Marco Estrada will oppose Royals right-hander Edinson Volquez in Game one, on Thursday at 8:00 p.m.
The Blue Jays will need ace pitcher David Price to make a big impact in this series. Price was ineffective in the ALDS, losing Game one as the starter. Price did earn the win out of the bullpen in Game four, albeit after allowing three runs in as many innings. Look for Marcus Stroman, the Long Island native, to continue his stellar postseason.
As Price is to the Blue Jays, Johnny Cueto is to the Royals. Cueto was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds at the trade deadline, and had been disappointing during the regular season. Cueto underachieved in the Royals Game two victory over the Astros, allowing four runs over six innings pitched. Kansas City will need Cueto to pitch as he did in Game five, where he tossed eight spectacular innings.
The Royals will be challenged to outslug a Blue Jays lineup that features Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarnacion and Bautista. If Kansas City can get through the sixth with the lead, Royals manager Ned Yost would be happy to be able to hand the ball to the pen.
Prediction: Blue Jays in 6.
The Chicago Cubs are seeking to end a drought of 107 years without a World Series title. They’ll have to defeat the New York Mets in a best-of-seven series to advance into the World Series and get an opportunity to end the elongated drought. Both teams travel to New York to begin the series on Saturday at Citi Field. Jon Lester of the Cubs will oppose the Dark Knight of Queens, Matt Harvey, at 8 p.m.
Both teams have lost for years, turning over their roster during a rebuilding period. They are littered with young talent. The Cubs have oodles of young sluggers while the Mets stockpile of young stud arms is equally as impressive. The Cubs swept the season series from the Mets, defeating them all seven times. This is a particularly different Mets lineup than the one Chicago saw in the regular season, as all seven games came before Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson brought up Michael Conforto and made trades for Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and Yoenis Cespedes.
Still, the Cubs lineup has the edge. Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have been raking, along with Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant. These power bats will face the power arms of Queens. The Mets edge out the Cubs in comparison of pitching staffs.
Prediction: Mets in 6.
Just four teams left to play. Who wants it more?