This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: October, 2015
Is the “Ruben Tejada Rule” Coming? Come Back to Wrigley, Steve Bartman
The Strangest Seventh Inning You'll Ever See What's Up With Daniel Murphy?

Best and Worst of the Week

Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

.297 122 184 41 2 41 123 73 0 6 6

The Blue Jays and their fans will be happy to send history’s biggest Christmas gift basket to Billy Beane after the Oakland GM gifted the talented and loyal third baseman to Toronto four full years before he became a free agent; the deal is officially termed a steal until if and when Kendall Graveman becomes the next Clayton Kershaw in Oakland. Donaldson is now the odds-on favorite to win the AL MVP with 41 homers, AL highs in 123 RBIs and 352 total bases, and a major league-leading 122 runs. Beyond that, his stellar defense at third and overall dedication made him, clearly, an immediate fan favorite at Rogers Centre.

Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

.330 118 172 38 1 42 99 109 15 5 6

It wasn’t a question of whether the über-talented kid from Vegas would break out, but when. And on the fourth year, he did: In a season in which the Nationals disappointed, Harper thrived—breaking out with a .330 average that brought him oh-so-close to a batting title, 42 homers and major-league bests in on-base percentage (.460), slugging percentage (.649) and, thus, OPS (1.109). That the often reckless outfielder managed not to get hurt was, perhaps, a more impressive achievement. Harper may still be learning the ropes on how to become the perfect clubhouse guy (a test Jonathan Papelbon has apparently failed to pass), but he’s getting there. And he’s still only 23. Scary.

Rene Rivera, Tampa Bay Rays

.178 16 53 14 0 5 26 11 0 3 0

The Rays got the 32-year-old backstop in part because they had gotten rid of Jose Molina, who had gotten too old and unable to hit. But after a decent 2014 batting .252 with 11 homers (in tough-hitting San Diego, no less), Rivera performed an unfortunate impression of old Molina that was so effective, his sub-Mario Mendoza play even enraged Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash into a rare, public postgame rant over another lousy day at the plate. Rivera’s top contribution was his deft handling of pitcher Chris Archer (he essentially was the ace’s personal catcher), but that left the Rays to plug their noses and look away whenever he came to bat.

Casey McGehee, San Francisco-Miami

.198 14 47 12 0 2 20 21 0 0 0

After winning the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award with Miami in 2014, McGehee was brought on by the Giants as their answer at third base to the departed Pablo Sandoval. Instead, the 32-year-old Santa Cruz native became a problem of atomic-sized proportions, hitting just .213 with a stunning 15 double play grounders in just 127 at-bats before the Giants dumped him in favor of Matt Duffy, who shined as a top rookie. The Marlins brought back McGehee in hopes of reviving the magic of 2014, but he descended even further—hitting .182 with nary a home run. Nice guy, awful results.

Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros

20-8 232 185 68 64 51 2 9 0 216 2.48

The long bearded one—he could crash the stage at a ZZ Top concert and nobody would know it—completed a stunning four-year rise that began as just another Astros pitcher who couldn’t find the strike zone (39 walks and 38 strikeouts in his 2012 rookie year) to a likely date at the Cy Young Award podium. The 27-year-old southpaw marveled from start to finish, notching an AL-best 20 victories, 232 innings and 1.02 WHIP while showing command of the zone with just two walks allowed per nine innings pitched. Astros fans certainly loved Keuchel, and why not: He was 15-0 at Minute Maid Park, the most home wins without a loss in one year by any pitcher, ever. Continue to love him, Astros Nation: He doesn’t become a free agent until 2019.

Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers

19-3 222.2 148 43 41 40 5 7 0 200 1.66

Everyone’s talking Jake Arrieta as the NL’s elite of the elite after his jaw-dropping second-half performance, but when you consider the 2015 season as a whole, Greinke’s your guy. Beyond the above numbers, the right-hander who just turned 32 produced a 1.66 ERA that’s the lowest since Greg Maddux posted 1.63 in 1995, and a 0.84 WHIP that’s the 11th best in modern (post-1900) history. Strength and consistency went hand in hand for Greinke; only twice did he allowed more than three runs—they were games at offensive-minded Colorado and Philadelphia which, by the way, the Dodgers both won—and he put together a streak of 45.2 straight scoreless innings, the longest since Orel Hershiser’s record 59 in 1988. Adding intrigue to the offseason, Greinke just opted out of his current contract and became a free agent. Want a guy who opponents hit just .187 off of in 2015, is 82-26 over his last five years, and won’t shake your hand unless he knows you washed up after using the bathroom? Greinke’s your guy.

Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers

4-8 83.2 103 67 64 27 6 1 0 50 6.88

Shortly after receiving the 26-year-old sophomore in a three-team preseason trade, the Tigers felt they got the best of the deal when Greene won his first three starts, allowing a single earned run over 23 innings. Then, just like the Bluesmobile in front of that Picasso, Greene’s season suddenly broke into a million pieces. He won just one of his next 13 starts, a dreadful period that included a 9.20 ERA, a month-long demotion to the minors, and revelations of blood flow issues that made his throwing arm and hand numb at times and ultimately required season-ending surgery. If Greene can rebound from all that misery and return to his early early-season glory, more power to him. He certainly doesn’t want to repeat this ride.

David Buchanan, Philadelphia Phillies

2-9 74.2 109 60 58 29 3 2 0 44 6.99

The nothing-to-lose Phillies ushered in the future by bringing in a bunch of young pitching cadets, with some plusses—and some minuses. Buchanan represented the worst of the latter, struggling mightily in his second year as control issues and a penchant for sudden collapse dogged him; it all hit rock bottom on August 11 at Phoenix when he yielded 11 runs in less than two innings. As Dallas Keuchel above showed us, you can emerge from rotten beginnings to become a stud in this game, so there is hope for the 26-year-old Atlanta native—and his final four starts (five earned runs allowed in 22.1 innings) may be proof of that. So maybe in four years, when Buchanan wins NL Cy Young honors, we’ll look back at this and go, “Remember when?”

Kansas City Royals (95-67)

Angered by endless preseason prognostications saying their 2014 pennant run was a fluke and they’d be lucky to return to .500 (let alone the playoffs), the Royals went on a mission to prove everyone wrong—and succeeded. Along the way, they made enemies with their brash method of pitching inside (the A’s and Blue Jays certainly can attest), but you have to admire the aggression, grit and determination of this ballclub to remind us all that they are still champion-worthy—which the Royals once again proved by collecting their second straight AL pennant.

St. Louis Cardinals (100-62)

The Redbirds may have wilted early in the postseason against the frisky Cubs, but we must be reminded of an impressive regular season in which they managed to stay heads (and at times shoulders) above very tough divisional opposition in Chicago and Pittsburgh, thanks to brilliant pitching that posted the lowest team ERA (2.94) since the 1988 Mets and an influx of rookie saviors (Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham) who kept the lineup more than solvent in the face of numerous injuries to everyday starters. The clockwork ease of their success was, once again, a reminder of how the St. Louis organization may just be baseball’s best.

Oakland A's (68-94)

The A’s made the postseason—some of them anyway. Ex-A’s, actually, like Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays), Yoenis Cespedes and Tyler Clippard (Mets), Scott Kazmir (Astros), Addison Russell (Cubs) and Ben Zobrist (Kansas City). Billy Beane’s latest sell-off of talent did not result in positive dividends as most of his trades so maddening to Oakland fans manage to do—and though at some point Beane may stand tall and puff out loud, “I told you so,” this season yielded no evidence whatsoever that such a statement is forthcoming. Oakland’s record was its worst since 1997, with lousy fielding, lousy pitching (especially at year’s end) and loyal fans finding it hard to name three current A’s. But at least they know all those ex-A’s battling it out for a World Series trophy.

Philadelphia Phillies (63-99)

As expected, the Phillies hit rock bottom as the last of the tired vets of better years gone by breathed their final breaths of life in a Phillies uniform while a new wave of youngsters learned on the fly and did their best to keep this team from becoming the 1962 Mets (or the 1961 Phillies, whose 47-107 record was the only one worst than this year’s edition over the past 70 years). Cliff Lee never pitched, Ryan Howard hit like a burned-out warrior, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Ben Revere all escaped by midseason and Jonathan Papelbon followed suit only after throwing endless public fits about wanting to leave. (He soon became the Nationals’ problem.) There is promise among the young ones, so perhaps the parabolic turns in the Phillies’ favor next year. Can’t be any worse than this.

Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(October 2015 Edition)

The Ace in Center Field
Pitchers aren’t the only ones throwing baseballs at 100 MPH. Tampa Bay outfielder Kevin Kiermaier gunned down Miami’s J.T. Realmuto at home plate with an accurate 100.4-MPH throw from center field on October 1.

The King of Speed
The 62 fastest pitches in 2015 were all thrown by the same guy: Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman, who threw each of those deliveries anywhere between 102.36 and 103.92 MPH. The Yankees’ Nathan Eovaldi threw the 63rd fastest at 102.35 MPH.

Don’t Blame Dave Winfield For This One
On the final day of the regular season in Philadelphia, a hawk fell out of the sky and died on the Citizens Bank Park field during the Phillies-Marlins game. Witnesses say it died after being was attacked by another bird.

Return of the Ironmen?
In an unexpected reversal of a trend that began nearly 20 years earlier, 77 players logged at least 150 games during the 2015 regular season—a jump from 56 the year before. It’s the highest number since 1998 when 90 players played at least 150 contests. (Side note: Baltimore’s Manny Machado was the only major leaguer to play in all 162 games this season.)

Just Call Him Mr. 278
Toronto outfielder Kevin Pillar hit .278 for the season, which in itself sounds pretty ordinary, but here’s the curious bit: Pillar hit .278 against righties, .278 against lefties, hit .278 before the All-Star Break and .278 after.

You Start, We Finish
Three teams—Baltimore, Miami and Pittsburgh—did not have one pitcher throw a complete game in 2015. They’re the first three teams without anyone going the distance since 2012; only one other time (in 2007) has three major league teams gone an entire season without a complete game from a starter.

The King of Irony
A press conference with manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman to discuss CC Sabathia’s admittance into an alcohol rehab center took place in front of a wallpapered backdrop featuring Budweiser’s logo.

So This is What Baseball Looks Like in October
The four players with the most career games logged without a postseason appearance—Alex Rios, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Chase Headley—all made it to the playoffs this year. That leaves Adam Lind (1,102 games) as the new guy at the top of the list.

I’m Daniel Murphy, and I Approve of This Home Run
The NLDS Game One homer by the Mets’ Daniel Murphy—his first of many this postseason—against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw was struck so hard, the ball was branded with the word “Daniel” from Murphy’s bat.

Premature Exaltation
With the Astros up four runs and six outs away from winning Game Four and the ALDS over Kansas City, Texas governor Greg Abbott tweeted a note of congrats to the Astros for winning the series. After it posted, the Royals scored seven unanswered runs to deny Houston the victory—and then won Game Five to send Houston home..

Caught Wet-Handed
In the midst of California’s worst drought in memory, it was made public that top Oakland exec Billy Beane was using a daily average of 6,000 gallons of water at his home. He claimed it was all due to leaky pipes and that they’d be fixed.

That’s Entertainment, C-Span Style
U.S. House Representative Adam Schiff (D-California) lost a bet with fellow Congressman Steve Israel (D-New York) over the Dodgers-Mets NLDS and, as a result, was forced to take the podium and sing Meet the Mets.

The power outage in the Fox broadcasting truck during Game One of the World Series led to some sharp retorts from Tweeters, like:

Harold Reynolds is on the domestic feed because putting him on the international feed would be an act of war.”—Nathan Bernhardt

“TV watchers are actually getting a benefit. (Matt) Vasgersian and (John) Smoltz are 100x better than (Joe Buck, Reynolds and (Tom) Verducci.”—Craig Calcaterra

“Harold Reynolds gonna be Wally Pipped.”—Justin McGuire

Don’t be Predicting My Weather
Moments before the start of World Series Game Two, a Fox graphic listed the forecast in Kansas City as “clear.” An hour later, it started raining.

This Year’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
Yet again, the bar was raised on the total number of strikeouts in the majors—but just barely. There were 37,446 K’s registered in 2015, which topped the previous record set the year before—by just five. Perhaps it’s a sign that the trend is slowing, but we’ll know for sure a year from now.

And Yet More Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out (And Not Walking, Either)
In 1988, there were four games where a team struck out 16 or more batters without a walk. That was the record…until this year, when it happened seven times.

And Still More Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
The Cubs (1,518) and the Astros (1,392) struck out more times than any other playoff team, ever.

Next Year’s Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Seattle’s Robinson Cano finishes the 2015 season with the longest active hitting streak at 16 games, meaning he has to hit safely in the first 40 games of 2016 to tie the Yankee Clipper’s fabled record—all while MLB officials, media and fans would argue over the validity of a mark accomplished over two seasons. (At present, MLB does not officially acknowledge hitting streaks that begin one year and continue into the next—which is silly.)

League vs. League

It's a 12th straight year of dominance for the American League over the National in interleague play, wrapping up the 2015 regular season with a 167-133 record against the Senior Circuit. The resulting .557 winning percentage is the fourth best during its dozen-year run of success; and the best since 2012. During these same 12 years, the AL has won nine All-Star Games—but only six World Series.

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Bushers Book

Thursday, October 1
The Yankees solidify a playoff spot by defeating the Boston Red Sox at New York, 4-1, behind homers from rookies Greg Bird and Robert Refsnyder—the first time multiple Yankee rookies have gone deep against Boston since 1962. On an even more cherished historical note, the Yankees win their 10,000th game since relocating from Baltimore for the 1903 American League season.

This Great Game and other sources acknowledge the Yankees’ franchise beginning in 1901 as the Baltimore Orioles, who were cannibalized from within over a feud with AL czar Ban Johnson and were moved to New York under new management in 1903. But other sources, including official MLB historian John Thorn, believe that the Orioles were disbanded after 1902 and the Yankees (or Highlanders, as they were initially called) established shortly thereafter as an expansion team. Say what they want, but one thing doesn’t happen without the other; it is our belief through our voluminous research that the Orioles essentially became the Yankees. And we know that’s a hard thing for Baltimore baseball fans to swallow.

So following our beliefs, the Yankees as a franchise actually has 10,118 wins. Either way, they have 10,000—and no other AL team is close to reaching the milestone; the Red Sox are next in line, but it will take them roughly another ten years to get there.

The Texas Rangers join the Yankees in earning a spot for October by defeating the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 5-3, at Arlington—leaving only one AL wild card spot up for grabs between the Angels, Houston and Minnesota. The killer blow for the Rangers is a fifth-inning, bases-clearing double by Adrian Beltre—the 560th of his career, placing him in a tie for 26th on the all-time list.

It’s a day of goodbyes in San Francisco as the Giants lose to Los Angeles, 3-2. Tim Hudson makes the final appearance of his 17-year career, and although it’s not a memorable start—he allows three runs on three hits and two walks through a short 2.1 innings—the 40-year-old righty ends his esteemed career with a 222-133 record and 3.49 ERA. Before the game, another veteran pitcher, Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt, announces that he will also retire at the end of the season.

Who will Hudson root for in retirement? Try Mike Mussina, who finished his career in 2008 with similar numbers (270 wins, 153 losses and a 3.68 ERA) but yet has barely earned 25% of the vote in his first two years of Hall of Fame eligibility. If Mussina can’t break through and earn a plaque at Cooperstown, there’s zero chance that Hudson will.

Affeldt will certainly be an outsider in any attempt to make the Hall, but the Giants will hold a special place in their heart for him; in winning three World Series rings, Affeldt was 2-0 in 26 postseason appearances for San Francisco (one of those wins being Game Seven last year against Kansas City) with a fantastic 0.69 ERA over 26 innings. His pregame retirement presser was bound to yield some juicy quotes given his outgoing, outspoken nature, and he didn’t disappoint—believing that 40% of major leaguers were on steroids early in his career and affected his ability to make better wages, and that fans in Philadelphia were “repeatedly vile and borderline threatening” and that kept free agents from wanting to go there. (We’ll expect a rebuttal from Cliff Lee soon.)

The sinking Cincinnati Reds lose to the high-flying Chicago Cubs, 5-3 for their 12th straight loss—and their eight straight at home to finish off their schedule at Great American Ball Park. It’s the longest losing streak at home to end a season in the National League since the New York Mets lost their last 13 games at Shea Stadium in 1979.

Friday, October 2
Twenty, and then some, is the big number for Houston tonight in Phoenix. The Astros clobber the Diamondbacks and set a franchise record for runs in one game with a 21-5 rout; the winning pitcher is Dallas Keuchel, who becomes the American League’s first 20-game winner on the year; and Carlos Correa hits his 22nd home run, breaking the club record for a rookie previously held by Lance Berkman. At age 21 and ten days, Correa also becomes the youngest major leaguer ever to score and knock in four runs each in a game.

In the White Sox’ 2-1 win over Detroit, Chicago ace Chris Sale finishes his season strong, throwing seven solid innings while striking out seven to finish the year with 274 K’s and break the club mark held by White Sox legend Ed Walsh, who had 269 in his unbelievable 40-win, 464-inning campaign of 1908.

Chicago’s other ace, the Cubs’ near-flawless Jake Arrieta, finishes his 2015 regular season with six scoreless innings and his major league-leading 22nd win as the Cubs ease past the Brewers at Milwaukee, 6-1. Arrieta’s 0.75 ERA after the All-Star break is the lowest in major league history.

As the Cubs prepare for the postseason, fans in Chicago are raising money to encourage Steve Bartman, the vilified fan unfairly blamed for the Cubs’ 2003 NLCS loss to the Florida Marlins when he “interfered” with Chicago outfielder Moises Alou on a fly ball down the left-field line (the umpires, by the way, never thought so), to appear at Wrigley Field during the playoffs. Even as the $5,000 and counting raised would have gone to a charity fighting Alzheimer’s, Bartman through his lawyer declines the request.

Memo to Bartman: Relax, chill and get over it. The Cubs fans, by and large, have done the same. You were probably traumatized by the vicious heckling you received that fateful night while being escorted out by Wrigley Field security, for your own safety, and in the days afterward. We know that things got so bad that even Bud Selig tried to cheer you up, which is like asking John Wayne Gacy to help you get over your fear of clowns.

But nothing heals wounds better than time, and your time has come to step back into the spotlight, smile a little and accept what will likely be a antihero’s welcome back to Wrigley. (Just leave the headphones at home this time.) You represent the Curse of the Cubs just as much as that silly Billy Goat back in 1945 does, and perhaps your appearance back within the Friendly Confines—yes, Steve, they can be very friendly on occasion—might help to exercise the evil ghosts of Cubs baseball past.

So please, Steve, stop living in 2003, grow a pair, get yourself a media coach and enjoy life with Cubs fans, just once. You might be surprised by how they greet you.

Saturday, October 3
With one no-hitter already in the books this season, and coming off a previous start in which he took a no-no into the eighth inning, Washington’s Max Scherzer gets it done today in the second game of a doubleheader at Citi Field, no-hitting the Mets with 17 strikeouts, 2-0. Scherzer is the fifth pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters in a year, joining Johnny Vander Meer, Allie Reynolds, Virgil Trucks and Nolan Ryan; his 17 K’s tie for the most thrown by a no-hit pitcher since Ryan’s second gem of 1973.

What keeps Scherzer from a perfect game? A sixth-inning error by Yunel Escobar. In fact, in both of Scherzer’s no-hitters this season, he did not allow a walk—hitting the Pirates’ Jose Tabata with two outs in the ninth during his first no-no back in June.

Several major league records are broken on the day at New York. While Scherzer strikes out 17, four Mets pitchers combine to strike out 18 Nationals; the 35 combined smash an all-time mark for a nine-inning game. With 24 strikeouts in the first game, another record is set for a doubleheader with 59. The parade of whiffs help set yet another record: That of the most strikeouts for all major league games played on a single day, with 310 going down on strikes in 17 total games.

Only four teams have been no-hit twice in a year in which they went to the postseason, and two of those are from this season: The Mets and the Dodgers.

By dropping the first game as well, 3-1, the Mets lose out on home-field advantage in the NLDS as the Dodgers defeat San Diego 2-1 behind Zack Greinke, who secures the NL ERA title with a 1.66 mark while improving to 19-3.

Down four runs down and three outs away from likely postseason elimination, the Angels pull off a remarkable ninth-inning rally in Arlington. Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun hit homers on consecutive pitches to lead off the inning, Albert Pujols’ bloop down the right-field line is dropped by colliding Texas infielders, and a series of singles to follow results in a five-run rally and an 11-10 win for the Angels over the Rangers. Texas fails to clinch the AL West, and their magic number remains one hours later when Houston wins again out at Arizona, 6-2.

It’s the first time in over five years that the Rangers have blown a ninth-inning lead of over four runs; and according to Elias, it’s the biggest ninth-inning margin given up by any team during the last week of a season when it could have clinched a postseason spot, eclipsing the three-run lead famously lost by the Brooklyn Dodgers to Bobby Thomson and the New York Giants in 1951.

The events in the AL West spell doom for the Minnesota Twins, who lose at home to Kansas City, 5-1, and become officially eliminated from the playoff picture. For many who gave the Twins no chance in their preseason predictions, it’s a big surprise to see the Twins stay alive for the postseason until the regular season’s penultimate day.

Miami’s Dee Gordon collects two hits in the first game of a doubleheader against Philadelphia to become the majors’ first 200-hit player on the year; his two knocks in the second game brings him to within a fraction of a point behind the Nationals’ Bryce Harper in the race for the NL batting title, while his two steals give him 58 to take over the major league lead from the injured Billy Hamilton. The Marlins’ sweep of the Phillies also features a Miami-record eight straight hits for Christian Yelich, and it secures Philadelphia’s position as the majors’ worst team in 2015—assuring the Phillies of the #1 pick in the 2016 amateur draft.

Meanwhile, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera wraps up the AL batting title with three hits (including his 18th homer) in the Tigers’ 4-3 loss to the White Sox. Cabrera currently leads by 18 points with a .338 mark; it will be his fourth batting title in the last five years.

If anyone in baseball today is considered a future shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, it has to be Cabrera. Although he will not knock in 100 runs for the first time since his rookie year (missing some 40 games to injury has everything to do with that), he has wielded power (he hit his 400th career homer this year at age 32) and currently holds the highest career batting average among active players at .321. Barring major injury issues or sudden decay in his play, expect Cabrera to end his career with over 3,000 hits, 500 (maybe 600) homers and close to 2,000 RBIs. That, folks, is greatness.

On the day Cincinnati management announces that skipper Bryan Price will be back for the 2016 season, the Reds snap a 13-game losing streak—their longest since 1945—with a 3-1 win at Pittsburgh, upsetting the Pirates’ plans to grab home-field status for their upcoming wild card contest against the Cubs.

Ironically, as the Reds finally win, first baseman Joey Votto cannot reach base and ends his streak of consecutive games doing so at 48—which had tied the franchise record set by Pete Rose in 1978.

Sunday, October 4
There will be no comeback for the Angels at Arlington today—and thus, no postseason as well. The Rangers take a 3-2 lead in the fifth and then pound out six runs of insurance in the seventh to breeze to a 9-2 victory, clinching the AL West a year after finishing with the AL’s worst record amid a M*A*S*H-like environment of endless injuries. Cole Hamels goes the distance for Texas; the Rangers won each of their last ten games when Hamels, traded from the Phillies at the end of July, got the start.

The Angels’ loss clinches Houston’s first postseason appearance since winning the NL pennant in 2005, but the Astros still have incentive to beat the Diamondbacks as a win would give them home-field advantage for the AL Wild Card game—but they fall short in a 5-3 loss, meaning they’ll have to play at New York against the Yankees instead of at Minute Maid Park.

In the Dodgers’ 6-3 home win over San Diego, Clayton Kershaw strikes out seven Padres over a short 3.2-inning outing, pushing him to 301 K’s for the season—making him the first major leaguer since Randy Johnson in 2002 to reach 300. Kershaw gets there in 232.2 innings, the fewest by anyone striking out 300-plus outside of Pedro Martinez in 1999.

The Phillies avoid a 100th loss on the year by defeating Miami at Philadelphia, 7-2. In defeat, smiles still abound for the Marlins as Dee Gordon notches three hits to win the NL batting title over Bryce Harper (who goes 1-for-4 with the Nationals in a 1-0 loss at New York) while Ichiro Suzuki is given a feel-good assignment of pitching relief in the eighth, allowing a run on two hits.

Why pitch the 41-year-old Suzuki on the last day of the year while a bevy of call-up relievers sit idly by in the pen? Because the Marlins and Suzuki have had mutual interest in pulling off the stunt ever since the team noticed him throwing warm-up tosses at 90 MPH. He tops the radar gun today at 88.

Guess who won today? Shelby Miller! After 24 winless starts, the luckless Atlanta pitcher earns a victory and finally, actually gets credit for it—throwing eight shutout innings while his teammates actually drum up enough support to bless him with a 6-0 win over St. Louis. Miller, an All-Star, finishes the year at 6-17 and a highly respectable 3.02 ERA.

Atlanta, which shuts out the Cardinals both times in a season-ending doubleheader sweep (winning the second game, 2-0) barely avoids being the only team in the majors with less than 100 homers when they hit three on the day to finish the year with exactly 100.

The Blue Jays, hoping to grab home field advantage with a win at Tampa Bay and a Kansas City loss at Minnesota, make an odd decision: Start 36-year-old veteran Mark Buehrle, who had just pitched 6.2 innings two days before. The idea seems to be more sentimental than strategic; Buehrle will not be part of Toronto’s playoff roster, and he needs to pitch just two innings to reach 200 for a 15th straight season—something accomplished by only four other major leaguers. It all backfires: The Rays jump on Buehrle for eight first-inning runs—all unearned—with half of them coming off a Joey Butler grand slam that’s the first hit all year by Tampa Bay. Buehrle fails to reach his milestone when pulled before the end of the inning, and the Blue Jays ultimately get pounced on, 12-3. It all becomes moot anyway; the Royals will win their game, 6-1, to earn home field and the AL’s best record at 95-67.

Reports are that Buehrle is considering retirement.

By the way: Butler’s grand slam leaves the Texas Rangers as the only team to not hit a bases-clearing shot all season long. On the other end, the Giants hit nine to lead all teams.

Baseball’s aim to initiate pace-of-play regulations and speed up the game yields a mild positive. The average time of a nine-inning game in the majors this season winds up at two hours and 56 minutes, a six-minute drop from 2014.

Monday, October 5
On the eve of the AL Wild Card game between New York and Houston, veteran Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia announces that he’s checking himself into an alcohol rehab center. The 35-year old was 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA this past season, but the Yankees were counting on his postseason sage (9-5 in 19 career playoff appearances with a middling 4.53 ERA) to help boost their chances in October.

The Day After is not a good one for Matt Williams, who is fired as manager of the Washington Nationals following an 83-79 record amid expectations to win the World Series. He is the first skipper to win a Manager of the Year award in his first season, only to be fired the next.

Williams is not the only casualty in Washington on the day; his entire coaching staff is sacked as well.

The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear the case of San Jose, which had sued MLB over its refusal to allow the A’s to move to its city because its territorial rights belong to the Giants. San Jose will likely build an mixed-use “urban village” on the propose ballpark site near downtown, while the A’s will continue to slough through the process of getting a new ballpark deal done with Oakland.

Tuesday, October 6
Pitching on three days’ rest, 20-game winner Dallas Keuchel stays sharp and throws six shutout innings; three Houston relievers follow his lead and maintain the zeroes as the Astros neutralize the Yankees at New York in the AL Wild Card game, 3-0. Offensively, the Astros rely on their M.O. for much of the year—home runs—with Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez smashing deep flies over the wall on the first pitch of the second and third innings, respectively.

Keuchel has won all three starts against the Yankees this year with 22 innings pitched—and no runs allowed.

It was not an admirable finish for the Yankees, even beyond the loss to Houston—having lost six of their last seven regular season games.

The Marlins make news here and there throughout the day. Ichiro Suzuki, 42 years young, 65 hits shy of 3,000 and coming off a below-par (.233) season with a terrible finish, is nevertheless resigned by Miami so he can continue his pursuit of the milestone. And in what’s considered hopeful news for the team’s hitters, the Marlins announce that they’ll very likely reduce the heights of Marlins Park’s far-fetching outfield walls—and might even bring them closer to home.

Oh yes, one more thing: That Marlins Guy is back, sitting behind home plate at the Astros-Yankees game, the first of many postseason games he’ll be watching from premium seats behind home plate.

Wednesday, October 7
Jake Arrieta easily tops Gerrit Cole in a highly anticipated pitching duel, and his Cubs cruise to a four-hit shutout of the Pirates in the NL Wild Card game at Pittsburgh, 4-0. Arrieta possesses sharp control throughout, striking out 11 while walking none—yet he hits two batters, infuriating the Pirates to the point that he’s hit with a retaliatory pitch in the seventh, resulting in a benches-clearing scrum for which only one player (an overly feisty Sean Rodriguez for the Bucs) is ejected.

The wow moment for the Cubs, offensively, is rookie Kyle Schwarber’s two-run homer in the third, launched well over PNC Park’s right-field bleachers and into the night, toward the Allegheny River—although no one can verify if it lands in the water on the fly. (MLB’s Statcast app has the homer measured at 449 feet, which would keep it short of the river.) Only two other deep flies have ever hit the water on the fly from PNC Park, including one earlier this year from the Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez.

TBS, our least favorite MLB broadcast network, does it again by not putting a camera at the end of the first base-side seats to show the flight of the ball as even RSNs do at, say, San Francisco’s AT&T Park to get an unadulterated view of a “splash hit.”

Both wild card hosts—the Yankees and Pirates—are shut out this season. It’s also the second straight year in which the Pirates have been blanked at home in the NL Wild Card game to end their season. Last year, they were silenced by the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner; this year, it’s Arrieta. Life just isn’t fair sometimes.

Thursday, October 8
It’s quite possible that the Royals look at the Astros and see themselves from last year. In Game One of the ALDS at Kansas City, the favored, AL record-best Royals are taken care of by the upstart, wild card Astros, 5-2. Houston sticks to its script, hitting two home runs and striking out 14 times, while 19-game winner Colin McHugh survives an hour-long rain delay and throws inspired baseball for six innings, allowing only two runs on a pair of Kendrys Morales solo shots.

Texas’ other postseason participant, the Rangers, all but mimic the Astros’ ALDS start in Toronto. The AL West champs quell the Blue Jays’ bats, 5-3, as Yovani Gallardo and three relievers combine to allow six hits. David Price, pitching for the first time in 11 days, is charged with his sixth postseason loss in as many starts—four of those to Texas; the real thorn in his side is Rougned Odor, who scores twice after getting hit by pitches before shooting out a solo homer.

The game is marred by injuries to key players on both sides. The Blue Jays lose two of their boppers, with Josh Donaldson leaving after his head makes hard contact with Odor while sliding into second, while Jose Bautista leaves late with tightness in his back; both are expected back in the Toronto lineup for Game Two. The long-term news is not so good for the Rangers, who lose third baseman Adrian Beltre after straining his back with a slide into second. Beltre will miss the next two games.

Folks hoping to turn the sound down on the network broadcasts and listen to Vin Scully during Dodgers postseason games are in for sad news: The 87-year-old booth legend will not cover the playoffs after undergoing an unspecified medical procedure. He is expected to return for his 67th—and final—year doing play-by-play for the Dodgers in 2016.

Friday, October 9
It takes 14 innings and a little luck from the replay gods, but the Rangers make it two in a row at Toronto and have the Blue Jays on the ropes. After Mike Napoli’s eighth-inning RBI single ties the game at 4-4, things stay the same until the 14th when Texas strikes for two runs—but only after avoiding an embarrassing third out when Rougned Odor, after taking a lazy turn around second on a Chris Gimenez single, barely gets back to the bag on a throw by Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista. The Blue Jays ask for a replay as it appears that Odor’s foot bounces off the bag and is tagged out, but replay officials—after a long look—refuse to overturn. Hasner Alberto, playing in place of the injured Adrian Beltre, next breaks the tie with a single—atoning for a costly, earlier error.

Although it appeared that Odor’s foot does briefly lose contact with the second base bag, replay officials correctly conclude that there is no clear evidence that it does at the same time Troy Tulowitzki’s glove is touching it.

The Royals, like the Blue Jays, appear headed for a 0-2 hole at home in their ALDS against Houston, trailing 4-1 headed into the bottom of the third—but Kansas City tallies for four unanswered runs the rest of the way, and the Astros’ chances of a ninth-inning rally are killed when Carlos Gomez is picked off first base on a play initially ruled safe before the Royals successfully challenge the call and have it overturned via replay.

It’s the first time that a baserunner has been picked off in the ninth inning of a tight postseason game since Oakland’s famed “designated runner” Herb Washington (a former All-American sprinter with little baseball experience) was nailed off first in the 1974 World Series against Los Angeles.

After an electric wild card win at Pittsburgh, the Cubs fall briefly back down to Earth and St. Louis, as the Cardinals’ John Lackey no-hits them through five innings before he and two relievers complete a three-hit, 4-0 shutout. A pair of home runs from St. Louis rookies Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty opens up a tight game in the eighth.

Clayton Kershaw has terrific stuff in the Dodgers’ NLCS opener at home against the Mets, but Jacob deGrom is better—striking out 13 through seven shutout innings as New York takes Game One, 3-1. Kershaw is now 1-6 in eight career postseason starts.

Both deGrom and Kershaw have ten strikeouts each after just five innings; in fact, they’re the first pair of starters to have at least ten in the same game since the Cardinals’ Mort Cooper (12) and the St. Louis Browns’ Denny Galehouse (10) did it in Game Five of the 1944 World Series.

deGrom’s 13 K’s ties a Mets franchise record for a postseason game, matching Tom Seaver from Game One of the 1973 NLCS against Cincinnati.

After the game, a Mets fan from Bakersfield is critically injured during a fight in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. Although troubling in itself, it is especially so as the Dodgers have gone to great pains to improve security since a similar incident in 2011 permanently disabled Giants fan Bryan Stow. (The vast, rolling lots are still poorly lit.) Four months later, police will make an arrest of two alleged assailants—a man and his mother.

Lloyd McClendon is fired as manager of the Seattle Mariners in one of the first acts of newly hired general manager Jerry Dipoto. After a promising first year leading the M’s to an 87-75 record in 2014, McClendon and his team disappointed amid preseason World Series buzz by finishing 76-86 in 2015.

McClendon’s dismissal leaves the majors without a black manager, something MLB is trying hard to avoid as people continue to criticize the decline of involvement of African-Americans in the game.

Saturday, October 10
The Dodgers even up their NLDS against the Mets, 5-2, behind a four-run rally in the seventh—but not without major controversy. With Los Angeles trailing 2-1 with one out and runners at the corners, Howie Kendrick hits a sharp grounder up the middle that’s gloved by Daniel Murphy and flipped to Ruben Tejada for what appears to be a force out on Chase Utley, running from first—but Utley slides hard and late to the right of the bag, flipping Tejada into the air and fracturing his leg. Adding insult to injury, the Mets lose the out when the Dodgers successfully challenge the call via replay, as umpires rule that Tejada never had his foot touch the bag—and even though Utley never touched it, either, he is still rewarded the base by rule. From there, the Dodgers strike three more times to take a lead they will not relinquish.

With the home plate collision effectively banned, the most dangerous play in baseball has now become the take-out slide at second base. Middle infielders are sitting ducks for hard-charging baserunners whose goal sometimes is to go after the infielder and not the base—and it’s all legal, so long as the runner is within arm’s length of the bag. Will baseball do anything about it? Perhaps, but likely not, because it’s “common player” Tejada who’s lost for the postseason and not, say, an All-Star like Troy Tulowitzki. Folks at MLB will not be wild about creating a “Tejada Rule” the way the elimination of the home plate collision was termed the “Buster Posey Rule.”

Reaction to the play is not unpredictable. The Dodgers believe it was good, hard play. The Mets do not. The media, paid, social and otherwise, chime in mostly on the side of the Mets. Utley—who, by the way, angered the Mets five years ago when he laid down a similar hard slide into Tejada while playing for Philadelphia—will be suspended two games by MLB, although he will appeal to delay the start of the penalty. Maybe he should take off the next two games since both are scheduled in New York—where Mets fans will hardly be gracious at his every appearance.

The Cubs even their series at St. Louis, 8-6, with the help of five second-inning runs—all gifted by the Cardinals thanks to two throwing errors. Three Chicago relievers rescue starter Liam Hendricks (who leaves before the fifth is done, albeit with a lead) with 4.1 scoreless innings to keep the Cardinals in check.

Sunday, October 11
The Astros leave it up to Dallas Keuchel—undefeated all season long at Minute Maid Park—to deliver in Game Three against the Royals, and the AL Cy Young Award candidate doesn’t disappoint, firing seven solid innings to give Houston a 4-2 win and a 2-1 advantage in the ALDS. The Astros’ offensive hero is Chris Carter, a .199 hitter during the regular season—but 5-for-11 in the series after a three-hit day that includes a home run and double.

Playing the first of three must-win games if they have any expectations of advancing to the ALCS, the Blue Jays come to Arlington and avoid a series sweep by defeating the Rangers, 5-1. Troy Tulowitzki’s three-run homer in the sixth is the backbreaker.

One bit of good news for the Rangers in defeat: Josh Hamilton singles twice, breaking a 0-for-32 postseason slump dating back to his first stay with Texas during the 2011 World Series.

Dean Chance, one of the greatest pitchers to grace the uniform of the Angels, dies in Ohio at the age of 74. An original member of the franchise that began play in 1961, Chance turned in five years in the Southland that ranged from solid to magnificent—the latter adjective applied to his 1964 Cy Young Award-winning performance, securing a 20-9 record, 11 shutouts and a 1.65 ERA. He clashed often with Angels management, partly because he was underpaid and partly because of his nightlife escapades with teammate and fellow social rebel rouser Bo Belinsky. Traded to Minnesota, Chance gave the Twins two more years of excellence (including a 20-win campaign in 1967) before his arm gave out shy of turning 30. But Chance remains second in Angels history with a 2.83 career ERA, and is listed at #3 on our list of the greatest Angels pitchers.

Monday, October 12
Down four runs and six outs from elimination before an ear-shattering Houston crowd rooting on the opposing Astros, the Royals beat all the odds and plate five runs in the seventh before adding two insurance tallies in the ninth to come away with a stunning 9-6 victory to even the ALDS at two games apiece. The rally comes just one inning after the Astros had appeared to take all the steam out of the defending AL champs on back-to-back homers from Carlos Correa (his second of the game) and Colby Rasmus (his fifth of the postseason); but the first six Royals reach in the eighth, the last on a double-play grounder that glances off the glove of Correa at shortstop for a critical error.

For the second straight year, the Royals avoid being eliminated from the postseason by bouncing back from a four-run deficit in the eighth inning or later, having done it last year in the AL Wild Card game against Oakland. No other postseason team has done that even once.

Also for the record: The Astros did not blow a four-run lead during any regular season game.

The Blue Jays also force Game Five in their ALDS against the Rangers, powering out to a 7-0 third-inning lead with the help of three homers before finishing with an 8-4 victory at Arlington. R.A. Dickey start for Toronto but is removed one out shy of the minimum five innings to record the win; that honor goes to ace David Price, who takes over and, although he gives up three runs in three innings, still is credited with his first career postseason win.

Question for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons: With Game Five back in Toronto all but a certainty, why throw your best pitcher (Price) into Game Four with a six-run lead when he could start the winner-take-all on regular rest? Some say it’s to save Price for an ALCS Game One start, but isn’t that kind of, sort of, putting the cart before the horse?

The Cubs come to Wrigley Field thinking: We got the wind behind our backs, Jake Arrieta on full rest, it’s dark, and we’re wearing eyeblack. Hit it. And that’s exactly what the Cubs do against the Cardinals in Game Three of the NLDS. The young Cubbies drill a postseason-record six home runs into the jet stream, outpunching St. Louis (which adds two of their own) while overcoming Arrieta’s most mortal start in months—he allows four runs in 5.2 innings—to take the NLDS lead with an 8-6 win. Three of the six Chicago long balls come off of Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha.

The Mets, already mad, get even to boot and then some, pounding the Dodgers at New York, 13-7 to take a 2-1 lead in the other NLDS. Curtis Granderson knocks in five runs on a pair of doubles while Yoenis Cespedes hits a tape-measure shot high over the left-field wall.

Chase Utley, eligible to play after being granted an appeal of a two-game suspension (which he will win five months later) for his rough slide into the Mets’ Ruben Tejada, does not participate in the game—but he’s in the hearts and minds of Citi Field fans who vociferously boo him in pregame introductions and, later as the Mets take a commanding lead, chant, “We want Utley!”

Overall, there are 21 home runs hit on the day, the most in a postseason since 15 were hit on October 3, 1995.

Tuesday, October 13
Cubs clinch! Cubs clinch! Okay, so the young Cubbies may have two series to go before dispensing of the Billy Goat Curse, but their NLDS triumph over archrival 100-game winner St. Louis feels satisfying enough for the moment. Chicago’s 6-4 win to take down favored St. Louis was only the Cubs’ second postseason series victory since winning it all in 1908, and the first time they have ever clinched a series at 102-year-old Wrigley Field.

The Cubs’ winning run comes in the sixth inning when Anthony Rizzo goes deep off the Cardinals’ Kevin Siegrist to break a 4-4 tie. Having homered off Siegrist in Game Three, Rizzo becomes the first player ever to do so in consecutive postseason games off the same pitcher.

Chicago’s triumph ensures that, for the first time this decade, neither the Cardinals nor Giants will represent the NL in the World Series.

Pitching on three days’ rest, Clayton Kershaw shakes loose the reputation of a postseason choke and stifles the Mets through seven innings, as three second-inning runs off New York rookie Steven Matz is all the Dodgers need to win 3-1 and force a Game Five back at Los Angeles.

Wednesday, October 14
A tight ALDS Game Five between the Rangers and Blue Jays at Toronto turns tense and downright wacky in a seventh inning that lasts nearly an hour. With Texas’
Rougned Odor at third, Shin-Soo Choo stretches his arm outward with the bat after taking a pitch, and accidentally deflects Toronto catcher Russell Martin’s return throw to the pitcher down the third-base line—and springing Odor, believing it’s a live ball, toward home plate to score a go-ahead run. The umpires initially call it dead but, upon further review—both from the New York replay war room and numerous huddles with on-field officials—they decide that Choo did not intentionally interfere, and that the run counts. The Blue Jays hoot and holler in protest—pitcher Mark Buehrle, not even on the postseason roster, is ejected from the Blue Jays’ dugout—and a sellout Rogers Centre crowd registers its displeasure by throwing numerous objects on the field, some of it beer that dumps on the heads of babies seated near the Toronto dugout. (A man is later arrested for doing so, while the Jays announces that they’ll no longer allow beer cans in the upper deck.)

Gifted the run, the Rangers regift and then some in the bottom of the seventh. The first three Blue Jays reach base on Texas errors—two of them by shortstop Elvis Andrus—and Jose Bautista makes them pay with a monster three-run shot that caps a four-run rally and puts Toronto in front to stay, 6-3. But more controversy erupts when Bautista’s epic bat flip enrages the Rangers, leading to not one but two dugout-clearing confrontations between the teams before the eighth inning begins.

The Rangers end up as their own worst enemy. They blew a 2-0 series lead, unable to clinch in either Game Three or Four in their own home ballpark while committing three errors in one inning that lead to the ultimate series-winning runs back in Game Five at Toronto.

Our opinion on Bautista’s bat flip: We think it was done in defiant anger over the controversy that gave the Rangers their brief lead in the top of the seventh. The Rangers and their fans will obviously beg to differ.

In the other winner-take-all scheduled for the day, the Royals clinch a spot in the ALCS by knocking out the Astros at Kansas City, 7-2. Johnny Cueto gives Houston an early 2-0 lead when Luis Valbuena belts a second-inning homer, but Cueto settles in and retires 19 straight Astros at one point, while the Royals rally several times to take the lead and then build upon it; Kendrys Morales’ three-run, eighth-inning home run acts as the final nail in the Astros’ coffin.

Thursday, October 15
The Mets punch their ticket to the NLCS by edging out
Zack Greinke and the Dodgers at Los Angeles in NLDS Game Five, 3-2. The hero for New York is David Murphy, whose sixth-inning home run—his third of the series—serves as the ultimate game-winning run; but it’s his on-base dramatics in the fourth that help tie the game. At first base, Murphy moves to second after a Lucas Duda one-out walk and, noticing that Dodger infielders are still milling around in a right-side defensive shift, makes a break for an unoccupied third base. Only Greinke, spotting him out of the corner of his eye with the ball, makes a futile attempt to run him down. Travis D’Arnaud next brings home Murphy on a sacrifice fly.

The loss to New York will eventually spell the end for Don Mattingly as Dodgers manager, as he again fails to bring his high-priced team a NL pennant, let alone a world title. It doesn’t help that outfielder Andre Either is seen screaming at him in the Los Angeles dugout during the third inning, though Mattingly later passes it off as Either venting about the umpires, not him.

Friday, October 16
Meeting for the first time since a tense showdown on August 2 that featured numerous hit batsmen and a few ejections, the Royals and Blue Jays square off in ALCS Game One at Kansas City. Royals starting pitcher Edinson Volquez—who was at the center of that earlier game in Toronto and later tweeted that Blue Jays star Josh Donaldson was a “cry baby” for arguing for Volquez’s ejection—stifles the Jays on two hits and four walks through six shutout innings, and Kansas City’s bullpen takes it from there for a 5-0 win.

Saturday, October 17
Shut down for the first six innings by Toronto’s David Price (who at one point retires 18 straight batters), the Royals once again play comeback kids and rally from a 3-0 deficit to plate five runs in the seventh—it all starts with a catchable pop fly in short right that drops after Ryan Goins and Jose Bautista fail to communicate properly on who will take it. Price is knocked out of the game and the Royals and roll to a 6-3 ALCS Game Two victory.

Price, by the way, is 75-2 during the regular season when given a three-run lead.

It’s the second time this postseason that the Royals have bounced back to win when trailing by three or more runs in the seventh inning or later. The only other team to do that in one postseason is the 1998 New York Yankees.

In NLCS Game One, Matt Harvey reins in the red-hot Cubs with 7.2 innings of solid work, and he’s backed by solo home runs by Daniel Murphy and Travis D’Arnaud (whose blast hits off Citi Field’s “Big Apple” situated behind the center field wall) to give the Mets a 4-2 win. Murphy has now hit four homers in the postseason, three of them against left-handed pitching; he hit only one off southpaws through the entire regular season, and 12 in seven career seasons.

Combining regular season and postseason activity, Harvey has now thrown 202 innings this year—well past the 180 “hard limit” prescribed by his Tommy John surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

As a cute gesture, the Mets place a band-aid on the Big Apple where D’Arnaud’s homer struck.

Sunday, October 18
On yet another chilly night at New York with temps dropping into the low 40s, Jake Arrieta is anything but his spectacular second-half self (and this time he can’t blame hitter-friendly winds) as the Mets rack up four runs over the first three innings, and that’s all rookie flame-thrower Noah Syndergaard needs to confound the Cubs as he allows but a run with nine strikeouts through 5.2 innings to help give the Mets a 4-1 win and a 2-0 NLCS lead. Daniel Murphy continues to smoke the ball, homering for the fifth time in the postseason to cap a three-run first inning.

The three runs posted against Arrieta were the first tallies he’s allowed in the first inning in his last 25 starts.

Murphy’s five playoff homers to date have come off of Arrieta, Jon Lester, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw (twice).

Monday, October 19
In ALCS Game Three at Toronto, the Blue Jays strike early and often—as they did often during the regular season—with nine runs in the first three innings, eight of them off Kansas City rent-an-ace Johnny Cueto, in an 11-8 rout. Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson and Ryan Goins all go deep for Toronto; the Royals only make it sound close with four ninth-inning runs, though they never get the tying run to the plate.

Despite a 10-4 Toronto lead, Tulowitzki is ejected at the start of the eighth inning for mouthing off too much about a generous strike called against him by home plate umpire John Hirschbeck—back at the scene of his infamous, spit-induced run-in with Roberto Alomar in 1996. Many in the media believe Hirschbeck should have turned his back, let Tulowitzki cool off and not eject him. But where is the wisdom in arguing a strike call so vehemently late in a playoff game when you’re already six runs up? If it’s a tight game, then Tulowitzki’s passion for arguing the call rings more true. But this was needless overkill on the part of the star shortstop, not Hirschbeck. (Best advice the next time for Tulowitzki: Just calmly tell the umpire to call it the same for the other team.)

Daniel Norris, the 22-year-old Detroit pitcher sent to the Tigers as the top prospect in the David Price trade, publicly announces that he has a malignant tumor in his thyroid and knew about it all year—but is only now getting surgery because he wanted to stay “sane” and concentrate on baseball. Norris had already made plenty of news in the “isn’t it strange” department this season, including living out of a van (despite a generous draft bonus), denting the brand new Wrigley Field scoreboard with a batting practice blast, and pitching five perfect innings in a September game for Detroit before being removed because he was on a strict pitch count of less than 70 pitches.

If you’re wondering if the Tigers knew of his condition before trading for him…they did.

Barry Zito officially announces his retirement from the game, after a 2015 season spent mostly in the Oakland farm system with three forgettable appearances (10.29 ERA) late in the year for the A’s. Zito took 2014 off after finishing a cushy seven-year, $126 million deal with San Francisco for which he underperformed—except during a 2012 campaign in which he finished 15-8 and pitched gallantly during the postseason, helping the Giants win their second of three world titles this decade. Zito’s best years took place for the A’s from 2000-06, furnishing a 102-63 record and winning the 2002 AL Cy Young Award with a 23-5 record and 2.75 ERA. He will get a few Hall-of-Fame votes but likely will not end up being enshrined in Cooperstown with a career 165-143 mark and 4.04 ERA.

Tuesday, October 20
Kansas City scores early (5-0 after two innings) and late (nine runs in the last three frames) to demolish the Blue Jays at Toronto, 14-2, and take a 3-1 ALCS series lead. Knuckler
R.A. Dickey starts for the Jays but can’t make it past the second; in an attempt to preserve their bullpen for three must-win games to come, the Jays send infielder Cliff Pennington to the mound to secure the final out of the ninth (he allows two hits in the process).

Pennington is the first position player to pitch in a postseason game.

The Royals’ Alcides Escobar becomes the first player ever to produce first-inning, lead-off hits in the first four games of a playoff series.

The Mets and Jacob deGrom put a muzzle on the raucous Wrigley Field atmosphere with a 5-2 victory over the Cubs to extend their NLCS lead to 3-0. deGrom pitches seven solid innings, allowing four hits (including a pair of home runs to Chicago rookies Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler) while Daniel Murphy goes deep for the fifth straight game—tying the all-time postseason mark held by Carlos Beltran for the 2004 Astros.

If it’s any cold comfort for the Cubs, it serves to remind them that the Red Sox ended their “curse” in 2003 when they came back from a 3-0 ALCS deficit against the New York Yankees. The Boston GM at that time? Current Cubs GM Theo Epstein.

Wednesday, October 21
It’s a NLCS sweep and a first trip to the World Series since 2000 for the Mets with an 8-3 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Lucas Duda supplies the early charge by driving in five of six runs scored by New York over the first two innings (including a three-run homer in the first), and David Murphy makes it six straight postseason games with a round-tripper—a postseason record—as the Cubs can never bounce back. Steven Matz starts for the Mets on the mound but is removed one out shy of pitching the minimum five innings for the win; his successor, 42-year-old Bartolo Colon, ends up getting credit for the victory—his first postseason win since 2001 for Cleveland.

The Cubs never led at any point during the series. They were swept after going 7-0 against the Mets during the regular season.

Ironically, this is the date in Back to the Future II in which Marty McFly travels to the future Hill Valley and reads a USA Today newspaper saying that the Cubs have swept the World Series—in five games. Chalk it up as a failed prophecy.

The Cubs’ Curse of the Billy Goat may have transcended itself with the name “Murphy.” The last World Series won by the Cubs came under the ownership of scalawag owner Charles Murphy; the name of the infamous Billy Goat refused permission into Wrigley Field during the Cubs’ last Series appearance, in 1945, was named Murphy; the Cubs lost the final two games of the 1984 NLCS against the Padres at San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium; and the man doing in the Cubs in 2015 is one Daniel Murphy for the Mets (9-for-17, including four homers).

Also interesting to note: The machine-like destruction by Murphy can be analogized with Robocop, the machine-like policeman built from the weakened human remains of an officer who went by the name of…Murphy.

Toronto stays alive in the ALCS, pummeling Kansas City 7-1 to take the series back to Missouri down three games to two. Marco Estrada keeps the Royals at bay with just a run on three hits allowed in 7.2 innings, while Troy Tulowitzki’s bases-clearing double in the sixth pulls the Jays away toward a strong finish.

Thursday, October 22
Don Mattingly and the Dodgers part ways, as Los Angeles’ manager of the last five seasons steps down in what is described by both sides as an “amicable” split—though neither refuse to get into the specifics of why the split occurs. Perhaps it has something to do with this: Even though the Dodgers sported winning marks in each of Mattingly’s five seasons (including divisional titles in his last three), he was 8-11 in the postseason and failed to reach the World Series.

Dan Haren announces his retirement after a 13-year career with 153 wins, 131 losses and a 3.75 ERA. A three-time All-Star, the 35-year-old Haren was a reliable workhorse who never quite reached the level of Cy Young Award worthiness but was good enough for 200-plus innings and 10-to-16 wins—generally with fewer losses. Haren seemed to lose the fire in 2015, grudgingly accepting a trade to Miami after insisting that he would only play if based on the West Coast. Instead, he went 7-7 for Miami before being dealt to Chicago, where he contributed to the playoff-bound Cubs (but did not make a postseason appearance).

Friday, October 23
The Royals take their second straight AL pennant with a 4-3 win over the Blue Jays at Kansas City, but it takes a controversial home run call in their favor, a 41-minute rain delay, a game-winning mad dash and survival of several late Toronto rallies to do so. Mike Moustakas’ second-inning home run follows Ben Zobrist’s in the first to give the Royals a 2-0 lead, but it takes several minutes for replay officials to verify the call after it appears that a young fan may have reached over the railing to snare the ball off the top of the right-center field wall. The Jays’ Jose Bautista counters with a solo homer in the fourth and, then, just moments before the rains arrive, a two-run shot in the eighth to tie the game at 3-3.

Video reviewers back in New York determine that the review of Moustakas’ home run does not provide ample evidence to justify overturning the original call.

Following the rain delay, Lorenzo Cain leads off the bottom of the eighth with a single and makes like Enos Slaughter on the next play, scoring from first on Eric Hosmer’s single down the right field line; Bautista, fielding the ball, assumes Cain will stop at third and throws to second to keep Hosmer from stretching the hit into a double, but Cain chugs past third and easily beats the frantic relay from Troy Tulowitzki to give the Royals the lead into the ninth.

It’s the second time this postseason that Cain has scored from first on a single. Only 20 players did it once during the entire regular season.

The Blue Jays put themselves in supreme position to tie the game in the top of the ninth against Kansas City closer Wade Davis, as Russell Martin bloops a single to center and Dalton Pompey, pinch-running, steals both second and third base with no one out. But Davis strikes out the next two batters and then induces Josh Donaldson into a ground out to secure the Royals’ date with the Mets in the World Series.

The failed Toronto ninth-inning rally is symptomatic of the Blue Jays’ struggles on the night and the ALCS in general; they’re 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position in Game Six, and hit just .190 in said situations for the whole series. The Royals, on the other hand, hit .417 with RISP.

Alcides Escobar, who hit .257 with a .293 on-base percentage during the regular season as the Royals’ primary leadoff hitter, is rewarded the ALCS MVP with a .478 batting average. For the postseason, Escobar is hitting .386 in 44 at-bats—with no walks.

The Royals are the sixth American League team to return to the World Series a year after losing in seven. The previous five teams all won in their return engagement.

This will be the first World Series without representation from one of the “Original 16” teams. The Mets (born 1962) and Royals (1969) are both expansion-era franchises.

Seattle hires at its manager Scott Servais, who worked with new Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto back in Anaheim with the Angels. Servais is now the 14th ex-catcher currently listed as a major league manager; ten of those are in the AL alone.

Saturday, October 24
The Philadelphia Phillies hire 35-year-old Matt Klentak, their assistant general manager of the last five seasons, to take over for the fired Ruben Amaro Jr. as the club’s new GM.

While it’s not uncommon to see assistant GMs promoted to the top spot, it does seem a little odd to see a GM make his next gig as a base coach, but that’s what Amaro Jr. will be doing next year, as the Boston Red Sox announce that they’ll hire him as their first base coach for 2016.

Monday, October 26
Torii Hunter announces his retirement from baseball, having played his 19th big-league season knowing it would be his last—though he never bothered to formally tell anyone because he didn’t want to publicize any ‘retirement tour’ that could have turned into a distraction for his young Minnesota teammates. At age 40, Hunter hit .240 for the Twins with 22 homers and 81 RBIs; he wraps his career with 2,452 hits, 498 doubles, 353 home runs, 1,391 RBIs and 195 steals. Defensively, he won nine Gold Gloves (all consecutive, from 2001-09), playing in the outfield.

Tuesday, October 27
Eric Hosmer’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly off the Mets’ Bartolo Colon in the bottom of the 14th brings home Alcides Escobar to give the Royals a 5-4 win in Game One of the World Series at Kansas City. The marathon matches Game Two in 1916 (with the Red Sox’ Babe Ruth and Brooklyn’s Sherry Smith both going the distance) and Game Three in 2005 as the longest World Series game by innings; at five hours and nine minutes, it’s the second longest in elapsed time, after the 2005 White Sox-Astros affair.

Escobar had opened the scoring in the first when, on the very first pitch he sees from Mets starter Matt Harvey, he races out an inside-the-park home run that glances off the side of New York center fielder Yoenis Cespedes and rolls all the way to the left-field corner. It’s the 12th inside-the-parker in World Series annals—and the first since Mule Haas accomplished it way back in 1929, during the Philadelphia A’s historic ten-run rally against the Cubs in Game Four. It’s also only the second such homer as a lead-off in a World Series game; the Red Sox’ Patsy Dougherty did it in Game Two of the very first Fall Classic in 1903.

The Mets, who never trailed once in the NLCS, are down 1-0 after throwing one pitch in Game One.

After the Mets take a 4-3 lead in the eighth on a rare Hosmer error, the Royals force extra innings in the ninth when Alex Gordon’s solo homer off New York closer Jeurys Familia ties the game. It’s Familia’s first blown save since July 30.

Royals starter Edinson Volquez allows three runs in six innings—but as he pitches, the social media world is abuzz with news that his 63-year-old father passed away just hours before his first pitch. There are conflicting reports of whether Volquez is aware of the news, but Kansas City manager Ned Yost says after the game that he himself was told beforehand and, at the request of Volquez’s family, withheld the information until Volquez exited the game.

A sixth-inning sac fly by the Mets’ Michael Conforto makes him the first player ever to knock in a run in a World Series, Little League World Series and College World Series.

In the fourth inning, both the main and back-up power generators in the Fox broadcast “compound” fail, shutting down coverage to viewers watching nationwide. The game is stopped briefly—not so that fans miss any action, but because Fox controls the video feed to replay officials in New York, and umpires want to get clearance from both managers to continue play without the possibility of reviews. They do, and as Fox scrambles to get the game back on the air, it taps into the MLB Network’s international feed, with play-by-play given by Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz, before getting its own power back in the sixth.

This is the Mets’ fifth trip to the World Series, but they’ve never won Game One.

Game One takes place 30 years to the day that the Royals won their first and only World Series title—and 29 years to the day that the Mets won their last.

Wednesday, October 28
Johnny Cueto allows just two hits in going the distance while the Royals peck away, frustrate and knock out the Mets’ Jacob deGrom with a four-run, fifth-inning rally to give the Royals a 7-1 Game Two victory and take a 2-0 World Series lead back to New York. It’s the first time an AL pitcher has gone the distance in a Series game since Jack Morrislegendary ten-inning effort in Game Seven of the 1991 Fall Classic.

Fox analyst Tom Verducci all but obsesses over this stat on air, but it is worth mentioning: The Royals do not swing and miss once in 37 strike-two pitches thrown at them, cementing their reputation as the game’s best contact team.

Meanwhile far, far to the east, the SoftBank Hawks defeat the Yakult Swallows 5-0 behind six scoreless innings from former major leaguer Jason Standridge to win the Japan Series in five games.

Yet here’s another reminder why Japanese baseball is unarguably inferior to MLB: Standridge, a 3-9 pitcher with a 5.80 ERA in 80 career major league appearances; is a standout in Japan’s biggest game of the year.

Thursday, October 29
It’s a busy day of front office transactions across the majors as the Royals and Mets travel to New York for Game Three of the World Series:

The Miami Marlins hire Don Mattingly as their new manager, giving him a chance to prove he can do more with less after being criticized for doing less with more in Los Angeles. Mattingly, fired last week after five years with the Dodgers, will be the eighth manager the Marlins have fielded since 2010.

Meanwhile, it’s announced that the Marlins have fired Dan Jennings, who started the year as their general manager, was plunked in May into the role of manager (a job for which he had no experience) and then briefly back to the GM spot after the end of the campaign. This can only happen in Jeffrey Loria’s world.

The San Diego Padres, meanwhile, hire 38-year-old Andy Green to take over as their new manager. A former lightweight utility player with a lightweight career average (an even .200 in 140 games), Green spent the previous three years in the Arizona organization, including a stint as the Diamondbacks’ third base coach this past season.

On the day he’s named as The Sporting News’ MLB executive of the year, Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos announces he is stepping down. To many, this makes little sense as the Blue Jays have just completed their most successful season in over two decades, but it’s widely reported that recently hired Toronto president Mark Shapiro wanted greater control of roster decisions over Anthopoulos, which included a slimmer payroll and retention of top prospects—something Anthopoulos ignored in order to get the Blue Jays back into the postseason.

Shapiro, by the way, had previously served at the top of the Indians’ front office totem pole since 2001, a period in which the Tribe went from an expensive roster that consistently won in front of sold-out crowds to a consistently mediocre unit performing in front of a fan base that’s now among the majors’ smallest.

Friday, October 30
The Mets get a much-needed Game Three win behind rookie Noah Syndergaard—whose very first pitch buzzes the head of the Royals’ Alcides Escobar (a notorious first-ball swinger who’s having a terrific postseason) and settles down after a rough start for six satisfactory innings as New York rolls, 9-3. David Wright hits a towering first-inning homer for the Mets, and a four-run rally in the sixth—to pull the Mets away for good—includes a gift from Royals reliever Franklin Morales, whose brain locks up on a bases-loaded comebacker and can’t decide where to throw it (he ends up throwing late and wild past second).

Morales, who also pitched for Colorado in the 2007 World Series, now has allowed 11 runs over 3.1 innings in three Fall Classic appearances for a 29.70 ERA.

Syndergaard made it clear after the game that his high-and-tight first offering to Escobar—at 98 MPH—was intentional and meant to send a message that he, not the Royals, would own the plate. “If they have a problem with me throwing inside, then they can meet me 60 feet, 6 inches away,” Syndergaard said. “I've got no problem with that.” Escobar, on the other hand, did have a problem. “I didn’t like it,” he said, “No pitcher should throw a 98-MPH pitch at the head of a batter in the first at-bat…That’s just wrong.”

The game is notable for the pinch-hit appearance of the Royals’ Raul Mondesi Jr., who strikes out in the fifth inning. After playing 81 games at the Double-A level this season, the 20-year old becomes the first player to make his major league debut in a World Series game. He is added to the roster because the Royals feel he is faster than the man he’s replacing, Terrance Gore.

Saturday, October 31
The Mets are looking good through seven innings with a 3-2 lead behind a pair of Michael Conforto homers, but they become their own worst enemy in the eighth when two walks and a Daniel Murphy error contribute to a three-run Kansas City rally to give the Royals a 5-3 lead they will hold to the finish. The Royals now lead the World Series three games to one; the Mets need to win the final three games, including the last two in Kansas City, to win the championship.

It’s the sixth time that the Royals have won this postseason after trailing by at least two runs, an all-time major league record.

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