How can you describe a day of four excellent playoff baseball games? One of the beer companies had a slogan which murdered the King’s English but would have described yesterday well. “It don’t get no better than this.” I’ve tried unsuccessfully to find out which beer company that was. And a fan couldn’t have watched yesterday’s 4 games without thinking of “Field of Dreams,” quite possibly the best baseball movie ever made.
The first game was in Toronto, and may have been the best although the last game in Los Angeles was right up there. The Rangers have a 2-0 lead in the playoffs now, thanks to their 6-4 victory in 14 innings over the Blue Jays. The game got off to a quick start and was tied 3-3 after 2 innings. Ben Revere’s RBI-single in the fifth gave the Jays a 4-3 lead which they held until the 8th. Pinch-hitter Mike Napoli singled home Delino DeShields to tie it. In that inning the human toll this series has taken rose again. Pitcher Bret Cecil of the Jays tore a calf muscle, which will likely end his postseason. Game 1 produced an injury to Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre who sat out yesterday, and minor injuries to Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista of the Jays, both of whom played in game 2. The Rangers claimed the game in the visiting 14th inning. Beltre’s replacement, Hanser Alberto who won’t be 23 until a week from today, singled in a run off LaTroy Hawkins who broke into the majors when Alberto was two years old. Alberto has come a long way since playing for class A Myrtle Beach in 2013. DeShields drove in an insurance run and the game belonged to the Rangers. Both teams get a badly needed day off before meeting Sunday in Arlington, Texas.
The second of Friday’s 4 games took place in Kansas City, and for the first time this postseason a home team won. The Royals took the Astros 5-4, but had to rally to do it. The Astros had a 4-1 lead early on, getting the better of KC hired gun Johnny Cueto. But Scott Kazmir didn’t survive the sixth inning when the Royals tied it at 4 all. Ben Zobrist singled home what would prove to be the game winner. This was a vital win for Kansas City. Going to Houston down 2-0 and facing Dallas Keuchel who is 15-0 in his home park would have been as good as a death sentence for the defending league champion Royals. Now the series is even, and the two teams have an off day before they meet tomorrow. Edinson Volquez has the unenviable task of facing Keuchel on his home ground. Volquez has been on the big stage before. In both 2009 and 2013 he pitched for his native Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Last year he started for the Pirates in the wild card game against the Giants.
The first NLDS game was next, and it matched the Cubs against the Cardinals, the team with the best record in the game. The homestanding Cards got a run in the first and left it to John Lackey from there. He didn’t give up a hit until Addison Russell singled in the sixth. Lackey left with one out in the 8th, still up 1-0. The Cards put up 3 more in their half, featuring a solo home run by rookie Tommy Pham and a 2-run shot by fellow rookie Stephen Piscotty. When he was carried off on a stretcher on Sept. 28 following a collision too violent for local TV to show, nobody thought Piscotty would be heard from during this postseason. Following his two-run shot last night, Cardinals and Cubs fans won’t forget him soon. Their next matchup is the early game tonight, at 5:30 PM Eastern.
The late game was as good a pitching duel as a baseball fan could hope for, if he could stay up past the 9:45 PM starting time. Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Jacob DeGrom faced young veteran lefty Clayton Kershaw. The two are nearly the same age, but DeGrom’s career was delayed by Tommy John surgery in 2010 that cost him the 2011 minor league season. Kershaw was born in March,, 1988 three months before DeGrom, but was drafted out of high school and reached the bigs in 2008 at age 20. He was a pitcher from the word “go.” By comparison DeGrom was a shortstop and reluctant pitcher. He once turned down a chance to play in a college summer league when they told him they wanted him only to pitch, not play shortstop and hit. By his junior year with the Stetson Hatters college team he was a full time pitcher. In last night’s game, not one of his 75 fast balls came in under 94 MPH, leaving the Dodgers asking themselves what that was flashing by. He struck out 13 in 7 scoreless innings, tying a Mets postseason record set by Tom Seaver in game 1 of the 1973 NLCS against the Reds, a game Seaver would lose 2-1. Daniel Murphy gave DeGrom a run to work with on a solo home run in the 4th inning. Kershaw struck out 11 Mets and giving up 4 hits, but walked himself into trouble in the 7th. He walked the bases loaded and was taken out by manager Don Mattingly. With righthanded hitting David Wright coming up he turned to righty pitcher Pedro Baez. Wright turned a 1-0 lead into a 3-0 Mets cushion by hitting a frozen rope to center field good for two runs. The Dodgers’ only run came on an RBI single by Adrian Gonzalez, but Jeurys Familia locked the game down for DeGrom and the Mets. The Mets and Dodgers are again the late game tonight, starting at 9 PM, marginally earlier than last night’s start. Zack Greinke of the Dodgers faces the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard. Greinke is a real veteran at 31, joining the Royals in 2004. Syndergaard is another of the Mets’ seemingly endless supply of talented rookie or near-rookie pitchers. In a rare display of good casting, TBS selected Ron Darling, one of the regular Mets’ broadcasters to work with their own play-by-play man Ernie Johnson and analyst Cal Ripken. Today and tomorrow will each feature two games, with possibly as many as four on Monday depending how the Texas-Toronto game turns out tomorrow.