Thursday, October 6, 2016

MLB Wild Card Games Deliver

Well, those Wild Card games certainly lived up to the hype.
Earlier this week when I posted about the upcoming MLB Wild Card games, I was half-expecting one or both of them to be a blowout. In the AL, you had a ton of run-scoring potential on both sides. The NL looked like a great pitching matchup on paper, but how often do those actually work out in real life? Fortunately, both games turned out to be great baseball.

The AL game did come down to home runs, though it wasn't the high-scoring shootout you might expect. Six of the seven runs in the game came off the long ball, including the final three on a walk-off blast by Edwin Encarnacion in the 11th inning. The big story in this game was Oriole manager Buck Showalter choosing not to use Zach Britton, the best reliever in the game this year, with baserunners on in that final inning. But well before that, the Orioles had plenty of chances to go ahead...always the case when a game goes into extra innings...but Toronto was able to hold them off.

In the NL game, the pitching was as good as advertised. Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard matched zeros through seven innings. The Mets went to their bullpen after that, and Giants third baseman Conor Gillaspie drove in the only runs of the game with a home run off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in the top of the ninth inning. Bumgarner ended up closing out the game with yet another shutout performance in an elimination game...he did the same thing to the Pirates in 2014.

So we had one game where the manager chose not to use his best reliever, and lost the game on a home run...and one game where the manager chose to use his best reliever, and lost the game on a home run. Managing a baseball game is no easy task.

While I like the Orioles and would have liked to see them advance, I'm not unhappy that the Blue Jays are moving on to face the Texas Rangers in the AL division series. Who doesn't want to see those two meet up again in the playoffs, after last year's dramatic division series and the bad blood from earlier this year? I'll be pulling for the Blue Jays to win again.

Cleveland and Boston are playing in the other AL division series. I don't particularly care for one or the other, but I suppose I'd rather see the Indians win. Better another midwest team advancing than the Red Sox, if only to avoid hearing endlessly about David Ortiz in his last postseason. I do hope ex-Detroit-Tiger Rick Porcello does well for Boston, though.

As for the NL, can't say I'm enthusiastic about the Giants going to Chicago to face my Cubs. San Francisco can't seem to lose every other season, having won the last 3 World Series in even-numbered years. And it sure would have been nice to have a chance for revenge against the Mets after they eliminated the Cubs last year. But it's the Giants now, and this year's statistics do favor the Cubs. Here's hoping they can live up to it.

In the other NL division series, I don't really have a particular favorite. Regardless of who wins between Washington and Los Angeles, I'll be hoping they lose in the next round, ideally to the Cubs.

Should be quite a week of baseball in the division series. Looking forward to all the dramatics!

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