What an exciting week of baseball! I’m sure if you’re a fan at all, and I mean that to include the fan who turned it on for three seconds, you have truly enjoyed this week of baseball. I turned on the TV to catch three seconds of a game and Jayson Werth of the Washington Nationals just so happened to hit a walk-off home run. It was intense.
It all started with those one-game playoffs. It is absurd that baseball, of all sports, would let a whole season of series come down to a one-game playoff, but dang, were those not exciting?
Game one: Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. The scoreboard does not do that game justice and those umpires did Chipper Jones no justice in his last Major League game, except maybe for calling him safe on that last “single” of his. The infield fly rule being called in left field was laughable, but it was torturous to see that happen to a surging team. That is precisely why baseball plays a series: One awful call can change the entire landscape of an inning and a game.
Game two: Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers. Texas was basically destined to fail at this point. This is precisely why Major League Baseball wanted the wild card playoff: to stress the importance of winning the division. Texas, on the last game of the season, relinquished the American League West to Oakland, who not only had been 13 games back at one point in the season, but also had been down five to one in the final game of the season. When the Texas fans began to boo Josh Hamilton, it was understood their season was over.
So the division series began and they just did not seem to want to end. Every series went to the maximum fifth game and the journies to those game fives were purely unbelievable. The Giants saw the Reds’ ace, Johnny Cueto, exit with an injury in the first inning of game one and still lost. In the second game, they were crushed 9-0. And all of this was at home. But somehow they rallied down from a 0-2 deficit to win three games on the road, thanks to a grand slam by MVP candidate Buster Posey in game five.
New York dealt with the Fighting Showalters by pinch-hitting for their uber-star Alex Rodriguez to perfect success. Raul Ibanez hit a game tying home run in the bottom of the ninth and a game winning walk off in the twelfth. That game was followed by an Orioles’ win in 13 innings when 20-year-old Manny Machado led off with a double and scored on a J.J. Hardy double.
The impossibly successful Athletics lost the first two games and seemingly were done in game four, only to rally back and score three runs in the bottom of the ninth on the former closer supreme Jose Valverde.
The Nationals, who were knotted up in the bottom of the ninth, saw Werth battle 12 pitches before crushing a walk-off home run on the next pitch to keep their season alive just one more game. The following night, Washington would blow a six run lead and relinquish four runs in the ninth to witness the Cardinals move on to the League Championship Series for the second straight year from the wild card position, a position made even more difficult to succeed from this year.
Now the LCS is underway and already we have nail-bitters. The Tigers and Yankees kicked it off with an extra inning battle where two run home runs against Valverde (again in the bottom of the ninth) by Ichiro and postseason hero Ibanez tied it up. The Yankees, though, are set for a fall as Derek Jeter fractured his ankle. Without Jeter, the struggling Yankee offense will drop to an utter standstill.
For the NLCS, the Giants and Cards showdown in a battle of World Series champions — the Giants in 2010 and Cardinals in 2011. The two teams have already split the first two games, and the series is looking like it will come down to game seven. Both teams have the postseason experience to reach the World Series once again.
To this point I am immensely pleased with this postseason. The only thing to make it better would be an East Coast-West Coast battle: the pitching-dominated NL West San Francisco Giants and the hitting-dominated AL East New York Yankees. The baseball gods have been kind to us for the exciting moments to this point. So, whatever the matchup, I am sure to enjoy and hope we all do.