Don’t Mess with Texas, or Houston

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Both of the visiting teams, the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers won the first game of their respective American League Division Series yesterday. The Rangers topped the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3, while the Astros defeated the Royals 5-2 in Kansas City.   In a 3 out of 5 series, winning the first contest is even more vital than it is in a longer series. The Rangers and Blue Jays got things started at Rogers Center, which since its opening as The SkyDome has been Toronto’s home park since 1989. Unlike domes built before it, this one has a retractable roof, and somehow escaped the problems that beset the MetroDome in Minneapolis, the KingDome in Seattle and Tropicana Field  in St. Petersburg. The Rangers got off fast, scoring two runs in the third inning. Delino DeShields JR. and Adrian Beltre put up RBI singles to make it 2-0 Rangers. DeShields had been an Astros’ draftee who the Rangers got last winter in the rule 5 draft, so had he not been taken he might have been on the Astros’ playoff team. In the home 4th, Edwin Encarnacion singled home the Jays’ first run. The gamebreaker came half an inning later when Robinson Chirinos uncorked a two-run home run to left center, scoring Rougned  Odor ahead of him to make it 4-1 Texas. Chirinos had 24 home runs this season. Yesterday’s jolt was against the team he hit his first MLB home run against, the Jays while  the Venezuelan Chirinos played for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Jays showed some life against a Rangers team that had lost Adrian Beltre to a back injury earlier in the day. In the last of the fifth, Kevin Pillar singled home Russell Martin, and an inning later Jose Bautista slammed a home run making it 4-3 Rangers. In the visiting 7th Rougned Odor hit a home run off starter David Price to close the scoring. As bad as the loss was, the injuries sustained by   two of the Jays best players were  even more distressing.  Their league MVP candidate Josh Donaldson left early after taking a knee to the head while running the bases. Jose Bautista left in the eighth with hamstring tightness. They’re both day to day for this afternoon’s matinee at 12:45 Eastern Time.

Later in the evening, the Astros and Royals opened their series at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. As in their wild card win Tuesday night the Astros got ahead early. They put up a pair in the first and one in the second to gain a 3-0 lead against Royals’ starter Yordano Ventura. Both first inning runs scored on RBI ground balls, one by Colby Rasmus, one by Evan Gattis. Jose Altuve singled home their third run an inning later. Kendrys Morales made it 3-1 Astros by hitting a home run off Houston starter Collin McHugh. It was one of two homers the Cuban defector Morales would hit, good for the only two Royals’ runs. In the third inning came the first rain delay of this postseason. The delay of 49 minutes caused Royals’ starter Ventura to leave, while McHugh worked six innings for the Astros. Chris Young, the extremely tall pitcher who played his college ball at Princeton came on for the Royals. Young kept the Houston bats quiet for two innings while Morales swatted his second home run, making it 3-2. But George Springer hit a four-bagger off Young in the visiting 5th making it 4-2. Young left in the 7th in favor of Kelvin Herrera, who gave way to Ryan Madson in the 8th. The first batter Madson saw was Colby Rasmus who hit the evening’s longest home run putting the Astros up 5-2, a lead they would hold until the end.  The second game in the series will be played at 3:45 today in Kansas City. The first NLDS game will be at 6:45 with the Cubs taking on the Cardinals.

There’s a Hole in the Booth Tonight

When tonight’s final NLDS game gets underway between the Mets and Dodgers in Los Angeles,  the most important Dodger of all won’t be on hand. He’s not on their 25-man roster, not a coach, not even their skipper Don Mattingly. Tonight, and for the entire postseason Vin Scully’s voice will not be heard on Dodgers radio or on Scully, who will be 88 next month had missed the last 7 regular season games on the Dodgers’ slate, games he normally would have done. They were a series of 4 in San Francisco and the season ending 3-game series at Dodger Stadium against the Padres. The official word was that he had a cold. Yesterday though, it was announced he had undergone a medical procedure that would keep him sidelined for the entire postseason, even though said postseason could well extend to Election Day or beyond. I am one fan who counted on hearing Scully broadcast this series although I’ve listened to Howie Rose on the Mets radio network all season long.  Even without mentioning  his legion of fans in Los Angeles, there are enough Vin Scully fans around the country to populate several large states. His first year was the year of the Philadelphia Whiz Kids when anybody suggesting the Dodgers might leave Brooklyn would be considered nuts. Until they left the Dodgers were on WOR-TV channel 9 in New York which would later carry the Mets for decades, and Scully was one of the TV voices as well as one of the radio voices. When the show moved west Scully quickly became the voice of the Dodgers in L.A. It appears 2016 will be his final year behind the microphone. As much as his fans want to hear him next year, he will be missed as the Dodgers take on the Mets, and possibly other opponents this postseason.   Speedy recovery, Vin Scully.


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