Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday, Oct. 6.
This postseason has already had two memorable games-and officially the postseason hasn’t started yet. Both wild card games were pulsating baseball at its best, the kind that is rarely if ever seen during the regular season. In both Toronto and New York, the noise level during the games tickled the Richter scale and deafened dogs on other continents. And the ALDS begins today.
Following Tuesday night’s 5-2 11-inning win by the Blue Jays over the Orioles, I asked what could possibly follow such an opening act. We fans found out from the very first pitch. Citi Field was so jammed it would make the A-train at rush hour seem vacant. From Noah Syndergaard’s first pitch the fans were engaged in a way they were only during a few games of the regular season. Syndergaard gave a mighty effort. He struck out 10 men and surrendered but 2 hits in 7 innings. In past decades he would have carried on, since only in the last quarter of a century have pitch counts become reason to compromise the game and the season itself. He left with 108 pitches thrown. 40 years ago Luis Tiant of the Red Sox was barely warmed up after 100 pitches. Meantime, Madison Bumgarner, who got the Mets to pop up repeatedly in the early innings went the distance and won a 3–0 shutout over the Mets. With starters Robert Gsellman and Bartolo Colon available, Mets’ manager Terry Collins went to Addison Reed who barely survived the 8th, and Jeurys Familia who didn’t survive the 9th. He gave up a 3-run home run to Conor Gillaspie, who was only in the lineup because Eduardo Nunez was injured. What Familia was doing in a tie game at 0-0 with Bumgarner still on the mound for the Giants is unknown to anybody but his manager.
The Giants move on to play the Cubs tomorrow night at 9 PM Eastern, while all the Mets can do is hope all their injured pitchers mend in 2017. If they do, you have a pitching staff of Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, Robert Gsellman, Seth lugo and possibly Bartolo Colon. Also Zack Wheeler is expected to return next year, after a midseason setback ended a 2016 that never began for him following 2015 Tommy John surgery. As for position players, David Wright may or may not return, considering the same operation he had ended Prince Fielder’s career at the same age. Lucas Duda, Neil Walker and Wilmer Flores ended the season injured. Asdrubal Cabrera played gamely on a hurt leg in the last month. Yoenis Cespedes, who may opt out of his contract played hurt but played poorly in September and Jay Bruce was an unmitigated disaster. Some men are simply incapable of playing in New York, and he turned out to be one, like another former Reds’ star George Foster and a very good Pirates’ third baseman Richie Hebner. So the 2017 Mets look to be the Mets of early 2015 with excellent pitching but a ton of work to do behind those pitchers.
The first of today’s two ALDS games will be played in Arlington, Texas where the Blue Jays travel to take on the Rangers at 4:30 PM Eastern. In a best 3 of 5, it’s interesting that 20-game winner J.A. Happ isn’t starting. Instead it’s Marco Estrada who finished 9-9 on the season for the jays. He faces Cole Hamels, who the Rangers got for postseason games last year and this. At 8 PM Eastern in Cleveland, the Red Sox face the Indians to start their series. The Red Sox do the obvious by pitching Cy Young award shoe-in Rick porcello with his 22 wins against just 4 defeats. Trevor Bauer goes for the Indians, whose former Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber hasn’t been up to standard this year.
Ruben Sierra is 51 today. While he was never drafted, he lasted 20 years in the game from 1986 to 2006. He was an All-Star 4 times, the last in 1994. He played 3 different times for the Rangers, most notably between 1986–92. He was part of the Yankees’ wild card run in 1995 but was traded to the Tigers for Cecil Fielder at the trade deadline in 1996.
Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd is 57 today. He was the Red Sox’ 16th-round choice in the 1980 draft, and played for a decade in the majors. He was with the Red Sox through 1989, then the Expos and Rangers. He won 15 in 1985 and 16 in 1986, the year the Red Sox won the pennant and lost the World Series in 7 to the Mets.
The Mets’ starter in game 3 of the 1969 World Series, Gary Gentry is 70 today. Gentry had been drafted in the third round in 1967 from Arizona State, and made a meteoric rise to the majors by 1969. Sadly, by May 1975 he was finished before turning 30. He pitched the game that clinched the NL East for the Mets, a 6-0 beating of the Cardinals. He also started game 3 of the first NLCS leading up to game 3 of the World Series. Gentry hit a 2-run double and Tommy Agee made two catches that come to mind following the catch Curtis Granderson made in center field for the Mets last night.
Gentry’s battery mate in New York, Jerry Grote is 74 today. Grote was a September call-up in 1963 for the Houston Colt .45’s and lasted into 1981 with the Dodgers. But bulk of his career was spent with the Mets from 1966–77. He was an All-Star twice, in 1968 and 1974. Besides the 1969 Series he played 4 years later when the Mets lost to Oakland in 7. Since 2010 he and Mike Capps have been the broadcast team for the Round Rock Express AAA team. Capps, who has the delivery of a newscaster (which he has been) was a voice I heard in Sioux Falls while I broadcast for the St. Paul Saints. Grote does the color commentary.