Remember that song, What A Difference A Day Makes? The same is true in baseball about a week, only more so.
A week ago today, the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tiger and Los Angeles Angels had won the American League pennant races and the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals had won the National League Divisions. Those six teams along with the Wild Card teams, the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics from the American League and the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants from the National League would begin the journey towards the World Series where the last two left standing would meet.
The Athletics and the Pirates were the first two to go, being eliminated by the Royals and the Giants in the Wild Card games. That left eight teams left to start the five game Division Series in each league. In the American League, it was the Tigers against the Orioles and the Angels against the Royals. In the National, the Nats would face the Giants and the Dodgers would meet the Cardinals.
The schedule makers anticipated that the American League Series could last until October 8 and the National until October 9. The experts and those people like myself, who think they have the ability to predict what will happen in baseball, could not have anticipated where we would find ourselves a week later.
For myself, in this spot, a week ago today, I had predicted the Tigers and Dodgers would make it to the World Series. Oh, well!! But I also said that ‘…anything can happen, especially in the short, five game, Division Series…’ . At least I was right there.
The Tigers, whose pitching staff boasted the last three American League Cy Young Award winners, who would pitch the first three games against the Baltimore Orioles, were gone after those three games, having lost 12-3, 7-6 and 2-1.
Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander left games 1 & 2 behind, Scherzer down 4-3 after 7 1/3 and Verlander 6-3 after 5. In both games, the Tigers bullpen imploded, giving up 7 runs in 2/3 of an inning in game 1 and 4 runs in 3 innings in game 2. David Price pitched well for eight innings in game 3 but gave up a two run homer to Nelson Cruz for all the runs the O’s would need. On the other side, the Orioles starters in games 1 and 3, Chris Tillman and Bud Norris pitched well, giving up just 2 runs in 11 1/3 innings and, in game 2, Wei-Yin Chen gave up 5 runs in only 3 2/3 innings but the bullpen gave up only three runs in 12 innings.
Meanwhile, two time Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw was proving it was a bad week for Cy Young winners, giving up 8 runs in 6 2/3 innings while the Dodgers were losing Game 1, to the Cardinals 10-9. The Dodgers came back to win game 2, 3-2, behind Zack Grenke who proved that big name pitchers can pitch in October by shutting out the Cards for seven innings en route to a Dodger 3-2 win tying that series at one game each. As this is being written, the Dodgers and Cardinals are warming up for game 3.
In the other American League series, Kansas City who had barely made it to the playoffs, sent the California Angels home after three games, holding them to just six runs in the three games. The Royals bullpen gave up one run in 12 innings while the starters gave up five in 19 innings. The first two game went 11 innings with a solo home run in the eleventh of game 1 by Mike Moustakos and a two run homer in the eleventh of game 2 by Eric Hosmer providing the game winning runs for the Royals.
The Orioles and Royals will be the opponents in the American League Championship series which starts on Friday, October 10.
In the other National League series, the Wild Card San Francisco Giants won two thrillers over the Nationals in games 1 and 2, by scores of 3-2 and 2-1. In game 1, Jake Peavy, who came over from the Red Sox at the trading deadline with a 1-9 record, pitched two hit, shutout ball for 5 2/3 innings to best Stephen Strasburg who went 5 innings and gave up 2 runs, 1 earned. The Nats narrowly avoided elimination in game 3 before breaking a scoreless tie with 3 runs in the seventh to win, 4-1, and stay alive.
This has not been a good post season for the Aces. Collectively, the top pitchers on each of the eight teams in the Division Series won 141 and lost only 56 during the 2014 season. As of this writing, only two of the eight, Shields and Fister have wins in the Division Series.
What will happen from here on? If the first week is any indication, there are a lot of surprises left. There is a good chance at this point that both wild card teams will make the Championship Series, the Giants are up 2-1 against the Nats and the Royals are already in. My advice is, don’t try to predict the outcome, just sit back and enjoy it.