When the powers that be dreamed up this expanded playoff system/money hunt for baseball’s season-in-a-can, this was the day they were probably thinking of most. The full March Madness treatment in September, with playoff games from noon until past midnight with no break (hell, even the NCAA Tournament has that lull right around the evening news). It would be a first, though one might wonder when baseball made the choice to have a day or two when they were completely saturating the sporting world with their product, why they wanted that day on a Wednesday afternoon. That afraid of the limited college football on Saturdays? Based on some of the ratings from Tuesday, they probably should be.
Anyway, what happened? Did we all survive? Are we forever changed? Have we seen a new, brighter future or a vision of our demise? Maybe all of it?
The day started at noon ET with the Braves and Reds, who gave everyone a sample of modern baseball right to the face. The two teams combined to strike out 32 times, and sifted through relievers until they could find one who gave up just enough contact to let someone finally score out of sympathy.
That said, it was utterly hilarious to watch the Reds — who certainly have talked and swaggered a lot for a barely .500 team that’s won exactly dick in 30 years and can’t string more than two hits together most of the time — find the most ingenious ways to not score. They left an entire squad on base over 13 innings (26 in total), and left the bases loaded in both the 11th and 13th and blew having two on and no out in the 12th. A nightmare indeed.
The wave rolled onto Minneapolis, where the Twins rolled over and became a bloated corpse, as is their natural state this time of year. A team that set a record for homers last year and had an obscene slugging percentage managed two runs over 18 innings to a team that didn’t have Justin Verlander. While being bamboozled by Zack Greinke is one thing, yesterday it was Jose Urquidy and his 12 career starts and then three guys who would merit an “already in the ring” announcement.
As we said yesterday morning, the Twins should be running for purse money only from here on out.
Next into the pool were the Cubs and Marlins, and the Cubs now three-year long desire to act out Brad Pitt’s line as Billy Beane from Moneyball, “If he’s a good hitter how come he doesn’t hit good?” The Cubs have been pointing at the back of their baseball cards while they continue to whiff at any fastball in the zone, put up no or one run in make-or-break games, and then act as if they don’t know what happened and assure everyone the next day will be better. And then it’s the same day.
That was combined with their first-year manager, David Ross, transfixed by headlights only he could see, which prevented him from seeing that Kyle Hendricks was not his normal self, and getting him through the six shutout innings he did was something of a break. In a mean Grady Little impression, he sent Hendricks out for the 7th to top 100 pitches, and then remained transfixed by the prog-rock song in his head as Hendricks gave up three rockets, including a three-run homer to a left-handed batter in Corey Dickerson. It was some excellent Cub-ing from another era.
Next to jump off the diving board was Chicago’s other half, as the A’s set their fans up for another deciding game scrotum-punch by taking Game 2. What the A’s will do in Game 3 is up for grabs, as they had their closer Liam Hendriks out for 50 pitches to watch him not close the game. But hey, you can’t get through to tomorrow without today. “Figure it out later” is a national policy, anyway.
Down the coast, we re-learned the lesson that if there’s something fun and bright in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals will show up and kill it. The Padres were baseball’s new hotness, but without their two best pitchers they were up against it. Chris Paddack promptly hurled up four runs to the Cards and San Diego was chasing the rest of the game. Being young and brash as they are, the Padres made it harder on themselves with some baserunning that would be politely described as exuberant.
It’s no use fighting it, the Cardinals will always be the smudge or crack on something better.
On the other coast, the Rays put the Jays — or as they should be known, the Flounder All-Stars — out of their misery. The playoffs might soon be a realm for these young men of Ontario, but this was a bridge too far for them.
The game of the day by far was in Cleveland, which for some reason was delayed when there wasn’t rain and then started when there was. After a brief delay, Cleveland put up four on Masahiro Tanaka, only to watch the Yankees push and prod Carlos Carrasco out in the 4th inning and then put up a five-spot when Gio Urshela sent James Karinchek’s offering to a ring of Saturn. Cleveland would tie the game two separate times, at six and then eight, before taking the lead in the bottom of the eighth off Aroldis Chapman, still intent on reliving his Rajai Davis nightmare. But then Brad Hand went Three Mile Island in the top of the ninth, and the Yankees took the lead on a Gary Sanchez (we already made a scrotum-punch joke) sac fly and then an apologetic DJ Lemahieu dribbler up the middle.
So the Yankees win, and are free to meet the team that dribbled the Bombers’ head like a basketball this season in the form of Tampa, though it’ll take place in San Diego. Because 2020.
Capping it all off was the Dodgers making an angry face at the Brewers and the Brewers shrieking and running off in terror. This was a mismatch before, as the Dodgers are one of the best teams ever and the Brewers suck deep pond scum, but now the Brewers have been shorn of three of their best four pitchers and even during the game they had to remove Ryan Bruan due to a stiff back. This was the Dodgers not even looking up from their sandwich while the Brewers attempted to poke them in the ribs to get them to notice.
So there you have it. There were a ton of strikeouts, a lot of walks, not as many home runs as you’d come to expect, but more than enough, and TV executives sacrificing squirrels to their gods in the hopes that it ends up Dodgers-Yankees.
We made it, people.