On a day of 4 MLB playoff games, the hitters carried the day. 21 home runs were hit across the 4 games, a record for any single day of MLB postseason play. The 21 total home runs shattered the old record of 15, set on Oct. 3, 1995. The Cubs hit 6 in their game, a feat they had never done. In game 1 of the 1984 NLCS, they hit 5 en route to a 13-0 demolition of the Padres.
Nobody advanced to their league championship series because both the Royals and Blue Jays won, forcing a fifth and deciding game in each of their series. The Royals and Astros played the first game of the 4 played yesterday, with the Royals needing a major late-inning comeback to gain a 9-6 win. Salvador Perez gave the Royals an early 2-0 lead with a two-run home run. Those were the only runs the Royals would get until the 8th. Meantime, Houston had built a 6-2 lead. Carlos Gomez and Carlos Correa hit home runs to tie it, Correa doubled home George Springer in the fifth to make it 3-2, then Correa and Colby Rasmus hit home runs in the home 7th for a 6-2 lead. Finally the Royals offense came alive in the 8th off Will Harris, who had relieved starter Lance McCullers JR. an inning earlier. There were no home runs in the Royals’ rally. The tying runs scored on one play when Houston shortstop Correa made two errors. What proved to be the winning run scored in that inning on an RBI ground out. An inning later Royals’ Eric Hosmer hit a two-run home run to pad the Royals’ lead and end the scoring. So it’s back to Kansas City for the Royals and Astros for game 5 tomorrow.
Tomorrow will also feature a “survive and advance” game 5 between the Rangers and Blue Jays at Rogers Center in Toronto. Their 8-4 win over Texas was the least competitive of the day, and since it had the least excitement the home fans in Arlington, TX had little to cheer about. Their starter Derek Holland watched runs flood across the plate like the North Sea flooding the country of Holland, and this time there was no boy to put his finger in the dike to save Holland. He was gone after 2 innings, having retired neither of the two men he faced to start the third. He gave up six earned runs including 3 of the day’s home runs, hit by Josh Donaldson, Chris Colabello and Kevin Pillar. By the end of the third it was 7-1, and the Rangers’ fate was basically sealed.
A much different game was played at Wrigley Field in Chicago, where 42,000 North Side die-hards packed the antique ballpark for game 3 of the Cubs-Cardinals series. When the wind blows out, as it did last night to the tune of 17 miles an hour, anything can happen and usually does. Good pitching wasn’t a feature in this 8-6 Cubs win. Michael Wacha’s late-season woes continued, as the Cubs knocked him out of the box with one out in the fifth. Four Cardinals relievers followed him and none came away unscathed, not even Adam Wainwright, the once and hopefully future ace of the Cardinals staff. Meantime Jake Arrieta, while getting the win for the Cubs wasn’t the Arrieta who no-hit the Dodgers in August and crushed the hopes of the Pirates in last week’s wild card game. He gave up 4 runs before leaving in the sixth with his team ahead 5-4. The Cubs opened the scoring in the second with Kyle Schwarber powering a solo shot to left center. The Cards put up 2 in the 4th to take the lead. This was erased in the home half by a giant jolt from Starlin Castro. An inning later, Chris Bryant put up a two-run shot and Anthony Rizzo hit the game’s longest wallop 430 feet to right center to put the Cubs up 5-2. The cardinals showed there was still hope in the visiting sixth when Jason Heyward cleared the lot with Matt Holliday on base making it 5-4 and sending Arrieta to the showers. The Cubs bull pen stood firm, and in the home sixth Jorge Soler crushed one nearly 400 feet with a man aboard giving his team a 7-4 advantage. Dexter Fowler hit the Cubs’ sixth and last home run in the 8th. Rookie Stephen Piscotty hit a two-run home run in the 9th, but for the visiting Red Birds it was too little, too late. The two teams meet in the first of 2 NLDS games today, starting just after 4:30 PM Eastern. With the season at risk John Lackey, the Cardinals game 1 starter comes back on 3 days rest. In his career he’s been called on to do this 4 times, 2 in postseason. His signature victory in game 7 of the 2002 World Series for the Angels came with just 3 days rest. He faces Jason Hammel, who the Cubs traded to Oakland in 2014 to get Addison Russell, their present shortstop. The Cubs signed the South Carolina native to a new contract during the winter, after Oakland had been eliminated in the wild card game by the Royals.
The night’s final game had by far the most fan drama of any postseason game in years. If anybody thought two days was enough time for Mets’ fans to forgive and forget the fact that chase Utley broke Ruben Tejada’s leg with an illegal slide, that person was dreaming. Hours before game time, the local TV pregame show was filmed among the crowd, which would turn out to be the largest crowd to see a Mets’ game at Citi Field. The boos were constant even then. They were louder when the start of the game was delayed while the Dodgers’ dugout phone had to be replaced. Without it they could not have called for an umpire review if one was needed. The crowd, ignorant of this believed the umps were warning starter Matt Harvey about taking revenge for Tejada before a pitch was thrown. Such a chorus of boos had never been heard in this relatively new ball park. There was only one way the Mets could satiate their fans and leave Utley with a whole skin at the same time, and the Mets’ hitters did what the fans wanted. They scored early and often in a 13-7 victory, battering starter Brett Anderson and his reliever Alex Wood who followed Anderson into the danger zone in the fourth inning. It seemed at first like the 44,276 in attendance might have cause for alarm. Matt Harvey had such a bad inning in the second it put Mets fans in mind of a recent start in Washington where the Dark Knight gave up 7 runs. The Dodgers loaded the bases on singles by Justin Turner, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. With the bases full, Yasmani Grandal, who had 4 hits in his last 86 atbats singled h ome two runs, and a third scored on a throwing error by Curtis Granderson in right. Bad as that was, another run might not have scored had not David Wright snagged Howie Kendrick’s hard line drive to end the inning. In May, June or July a 3-0 deficit, no matter how early would spell Doom for the Mets. But as they’ve shown repeatedly since the beginning of August, these aren’t the Mets against whom a nonentity like Chris Henson might pitch a no-hitter. Their response was instantaneous. Their first 4 batters reached on singles, and after two batters were retired Curtis Granderson cleared the bases with a ringing double to right center. An inning later, Yoenis Cespedes got his second single of the night, and was driven home on a 2-run belt by catcher Travis D’Arnaud. In the Dodgers’ 4th Anderson was hit for, and Alex Wood took the hill. His first batter Juan Lagares doubled. After Wood got the next two men he intentionally walked the Mets’ captain David Wright to face Daniel Murphy, who singled Lagares home. Throughout the home second and third innings the crowd had madly roared the old Mets’ chant “Let’s Go Mets,” first heard in 1963 when the Mets played in the Polo Grounds. When Yoenis Cespedes clouted a Wood pitch 440 feet into the night, the enormous crowd collectively went ballistic. From there, what chanting the drained crowd could muster was an occasional “We Want Utley” chant, to which Don Mattingly, the Dodgers’ manager paid no heed.
I couldn’t have been the only one surprised when Matt harvey was hit for in the last of the fifth. As bad as the Mets’ bull pen has been, even a 10-3 lead seemed risky to entrust them with. Howie Rose in the radio booth theorized that, by removing Harvey early he might be available for relief Thursday if a game 5 should be needed. At first it looked like the move was a stroke of genius. Bartolo Colon struck out all 3 men he faced in the sixth, prompting Howie to jokingly call him “Mariano Colon,” after the Yankees’ incomparable closer Mariano Rivera. In the 7th Adrian Gonzalez homered to make it 10-4, but in the home half the Mets put 3 up, spearheaded by a Granderson two-run double. Addison Reed pitched a scoreless 8th for the Mets, but Eric Goeddel who followed him in the 9th didn’t have Reed’s luck. All 4 hitters he saw reached base, including a 3-run home run by Howie Kendrick to make it 13-7 Mets. Finally their closer Jeurys Familia came in and restored order, getting all 3 men he saw on 11 pitches.
Tonight, starting at 8:07 PM the Mets and Dodgers meet again in game 4. The Dodgers are in the same fix the Cardinals are in. One loss ends their season. So on short rest they’re turning to the terrific lefty Clayton Kershaw who started game 1. It took a phenomenal effort by Mets’ starter Jacob DeGrom to outduel Kershaw last Friday night. With a deeper starting staff and a somewhat larger margin for error, Mets’ manager Terry Collins counters with Steven Matz, the kid from Long Island who is 4-0 since making his mets debut at the end of June. He needed Tommy John surgery before ever throwing a pitch as a pro, and his back has troubled him twice this season. But when he can pitch he’s been dynamite.
As for the combustible Chase Utley, who is public enemy number 1 to every Mets fan, the last word I heard was his appeal would be heard tomorrow. This means, if the Mets win tonight his suspension, if it happens at all will not take effect until 2016. The entire concept is insane. The only sensible thing is to suspend him without pay until or unless Ruben Tejada recovers. If Tejada can never play again Utley should get a lifetime ban, like the bans on Shoeless Joe Jackson or Pete Rose. The object of the game, unlike boxing is not to destroy a man’s career. It is to win by scoring more runs than your opponent. Pete Rose never figured this out. his teammate Hal McRae, as a member of the Royals so far forgot himself as to uproot Willie Randolph at second base. Utley, who did this to Tejada in 2010 without the injury happening, and Cubs’ Chris Coughlan who recently broke Jung-Ho Kang’s leg need to be told this is baseball, not football or the WWE. Thanks to the union, this will never happen and injuries to infielders caused by base runners will continue unchecked. That’s just baseball as I see it.0