This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: October, 2016
Cubs-Indians: The Combined 176-Year Wait When Vin Scully Began...
The Marathon Madness of Playoff Baseball Dusty Baker's Latest Collapse

Best and Worst of the Week

Mike Trout, L.A. Angels of Anaheim

.315 123 173 32 5 29 100 104 12 11 30

Point blank: Where would the Angels be without this guy? Trout clearly remained baseball’s best all-around offensive threat while his team limped to a sub-.500 finish, providing power (29 home runs), discipline (116 walks) and speed (30 steals, 123 runs), while hitting .315 to pace fifth in the AL. He may find it tough netting a second AL MVP because his team is lousy, but name us one guy you’d rather take ahead of him in a fantasy draft. The only way that Angels owner Artie Moreno, trapped in a payroll pickle, can build a team around Trout is to trade him—and he could command an entire farm system in return. So the question becomes: Keep Trout—who’s still just 25—or rebuild?

Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

.294 116 182 35 6 41 133 58 10 2 2

Close call here considering the contributions of Kris Bryant, Daniel Murphy and Joey Votto, but we’re giving it to Arenado, Coors Field splits and all. In some ways, the 25-year-old third baseman’s performance was a repeat of 2015, once again passing north of 40 homers and 130 RBIs—and by the way, the only two other guys to do that before turning 26 were Chuck Klein and Jimmie Foxx, way back when—but in other ways, he proved even more dangerous, mostly by not chasing bad pitches which led to him drawing double the walks (68) over last year. Yes, it’s scary to consider: He could get better.

Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians

.167 22 42 11 1 9 34 9 0 2 0

We always try not to pick on catchers, but Gomes was a legitimate hitting threat not too long ago. But he had a statistical setback in 2015, and his 2016 got off to a horrendous start that, complicated by shoulder pains, he never was able to bounce back from. Gomes’ funk was so low, his teammates tried to cure him with a voodoo-like ritual straight out of Major League. It didn’t work; a few days afterward, he was placed on the disabled list, where he would remain for the rest of the regular season.

Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs

.230 61 122 27 1 7 49 54 0 5 11

There may have been other National Leaguers who had worse numbers in 2016, but no one was more disappointing than the once-fearsome slugger who, when he broke out as a rookie with Atlanta in 2010, was being compared to Willie Mays. But instead of the second coming of the Say Hey Kid, the Cubs paid $184 million over eight years to get Say Heyward Wayward. Okay, so he’s not a total disaster, yet; his outfielding remains among baseball’s best, and he still is young enough (27) to turn his offense around—but if it doesn’t happen soon, the Wrigley fans who kindly gave him a mulligan this past year will start sharpening their tongues.

Rick Porcello, Boston Red Sox

22-4 223 193 85 78 32 13 3 0 189 3.15

Yes, the 27-year-old New Jersey native didn’t have the best ERA or best WHIP or best opposing average, and he got a billion runs of support from a exceptionally potent Red Sox offense, but he was near the top in most every major category and, as such, his package of metrics and clutch efforts merit him this honor. Porcello’s career year to date is all the more impressive when you consider he was coming off his worst season in 2015 (9-15, 4.92 ERA), so this is surely one time when all the critics can quiet down over that $20 million-a-year deal he recently snagged.

Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants

18-5 219.2 195 71 68 45 8 3 1 198 2.79

Yet another tight call, and on this one we’re tightening our seat belts in preparation for a bit of feedback. Some will debate us on all the great numbers put up by the Cubs’ aces—heck, some Madison Bumgarner lobbyists will argue than Cueto wasn’t even the best on the Giants—but again, look at the overall, and you’ll find it hard to delete Cueto from the top of the discussion. His record, his durability (NL-best five complete games), his low slugging percentage against (15 homers allowed), his ability to keep baserunners on edge (five pickoffs, seven of 11 basestealers nabbed)—it all adds up to the best value. Remember, Giants fans, he can opt out after 2017—so enjoy him for another year.

James Shields, Chicago White Sox

4-12 114.1 139 89 86 55 7 7 0 78 6.77

Ah, Big Game James—just because you started the year in the National League doesn’t mean you get off the hook here. Shields did pitch well to begin the year with San Diego, but after allowing ten runs in a May 31 start, the Padres’ front office flipped out—trading him to the White Sox and publicly bad-mouthing him as he walked out the door. If you think the Padres were upset with Shields, imagine how the White Sox’ brass reacted when he gave up 21 runs over just 8.2 innings through his first three outings in Chicago. Overall, Shields had nine starts for the White Sox in which he surrendered more runs than innings pitched, and combined between the Sox and Padres he finished 6-19 with a 5.85 ERA. After all of this, Shields had the option to opt out of his contract, which pays him $42 million over the next two years; he decided against it. Gee, what a surprise.

Shelby Miller, Arizona Diamondbacks

3-12 101 127 72 69 42 2 3 0 70 6.15

Experts were calling the Diamondbacks’ preseason trade for Miller—in which they gave Atlanta three players including outfielder Ender Inciarte and #1 2015 pick Dansby Swanson—one of the worst in recent times. But Miller made it even more atrocious with an awful early season in which he had little control, big numbers allowed and a nasty habit of scraping his knuckles on the mound with his follow-through. It got so bad that, by the end of May, he was sent down to the minors. Meanwhile, Enciarte batted .291 and Swanson catapulted from Class A to the majors and hit .302 for the Braves. Miller eventually did return to the Snakes and threw 11 straight scoreless innings to end the year, but that was far too little, far too late to avoid this stink blot.

Texas Rangers (95-67)

Despite a skimpy outfield, a patched-up rotation, the permanent loss of its preeminent slugger (Prince Fielder) and an imploding closer, the Rangers somehow tight-roped their way to the league’s best record thanks to an amazing ability to come from behind and secure the close wins; in fact, their 36-11 record in one-run games was the best such mark since the beginning of the post-1900 modern era. Adrian Beltre (.300-32-104), Rougned Odor (33 homers) and Ian Desmond (.285-22-86, 107 runs) rescued the ninth inning on offense, while Sam Dyson rescued it from the pitching side by saving 38 games after Steve Tolleson fell apart. The bullpen in general was a saving grace, leading the majors both in wins and saves. It’s too bad for Rangers fans that the Blue Jays, once again, messed with Texas in the postseason and denied the team yet another shot at winning it all for the very first time.

Chicago Cubs (103-58)

Like the 1927 and 1998 Yankees, 1984 Tigers and 1986 Mets, this Chicago team seemed to have destiny on its side. Kyle Schwarber’s torn ACL aside, everything went right for the 2016 Cubs. They had twin MVP threats in sophomore slugger Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo; twin Cy Young threats in MLB ERA leader Kyle Hendricks and 19-game winner Jon Lester; more call-up magic with catcher Willson Contreras arriving on the scene; and when the bullpen became suspect, the Cubs nabbed Aroldis Chapman at the trading deadline to extend their invincibility to the ninth inning. The Cubs were clearly the majors’ most dominant team in the regular season, and with virtually everyone locked in contractually, they could become the NL’s most powerful dynasty since the Reds of the mid-1970s.

Minnesota Twins (59-103)

Minnesota: Land of 10,000 lakes, and 100 losses. Never have Twins fans seen their team perform worse than this season, and that’s going back 55 years now. So, after a surprising 83-79 finish in 2015, what the heck happened? For starters, there were the starters—an awful rotation (5.39 ERA) that was the majors’ worst—and a bullpen that lacked a true closer once Glen Perkins quickly went down for the season after just two appearances. But perhaps more disappointing than a staff that was never considered the team’s strength was that the Twins’ young, blossoming offense stayed stagnant; Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Byung-ho Park were among those who never clicked into gear. Minnesota lost its first nine games on the year, and later suffered separate skids of seven, eight and 13 games—the latter representing the longest for the franchise since 1959.

Cincinnati Reds (68-94)

The Reds knew they were going to be burdened with a badly inexperienced (and just plain bad) pitching staff, and thus they suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune by giving up more home runs (258) than any team in major league history, setting another (and more obscure) mark when their bullpen allowed a run in 23 straight games, and gave up ten-plus runs 13 times before the All-Star break. There was light at the end of the second-half tunnel; the Reds played just a scooch under .500 as some of their raw pitching talent slowly began to earn their stripes—and, holy cow, Joey Votto hit over .400—so it’s a possible sign that the worst has come and gone in Cincinnati. For Reds fans, let’s hope so.

Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(October 2016 Edition)

Twit of the Month
While watching the Giants-Mets NL Wild Card playoff, Astros farmhand Brooks Marlow tweeted that ESPN female analyst Jennifer Mendoza had no place commenting on a major league game for the network. He quickly deleted the message and made his account private—before making it public again when the Astros told him to apologize.

Those Two Broke Girls Must Have Been Running the Booth
Graphic shown on TBS telecast of Indians-Red Sox game as Cleveland rookie Tyler Naquin came to bat: “First outfielder to start postseason game since 1948 (in Cleveland franchise history).” (To be fair, this was pointed out by the same people at SB Nation who late this summer shouted, quite erroneously, that Naquin had hit the Indians’ first inside-the-park homer in over 100 years.)

At Least it’s Clean
The Orioles auctioned off Zach Britton’s “game-used” uniform that he wore in the AL Wild Card game against Toronto—you know, the 3-2 loss Britton never was asked to pitch in at any point.

Spelling Beef
Somewhere, Hall-of-Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven must have looked at all those “Believen” signs hoisted by Giants fans and said, “I appreciate that you’re thinking of me, but that’s not how you spell my name!”

You Know, Those Cleveland Guys
You would never know that Cleveland is named the Indians by only listening to Toronto play-by-play man Jerry Howarth, who has refused to use the name during broadcasts since 1991 out of respect for members of the Native American community who find the term demeaning—or, perhaps the team’s tie to its long-used but undoubtedly offensive “Wahoo” caricature.

St. Louis Will Sue You Next
A Canadian named Douglas Cardinal filed a human rights complaint against the Indians’ use of their name and the Wahoo icon. The question is: Has any aviary group filed a complaint against his last name?

We’re Going to Write A Song About You Over This
The Giants didn’t make it four straight even-year world titles with their NLDS exit to Chicago—so naturally, they’re blaming Taylor Swift. Huh? You see, she didn’t release an album this year, whereas she did in 2010, 2012 and 2014. So clearly, it’s her fault.

Too Hot a Hot Mic
All those obvious cut-offs (read: bleeps) of the field mic on the NL side of the playoffs suggest that perhaps Fox Sports should get their sounds from somewhere other than home plate or the dugout.

You’re Number One, TBS
Cleveland manager Terry Francona apparently isn’t the only person not so wild about Ernie Johnson calling postseason games on TBS.

Would He Have Made Mexico Pay for the Outfield Wall?
In the weeks prior to Election Day, Steve Garvey recalled to USA Today that Donald Trump was briefly interested in buying the San Diego Padres in the 1980s.

When It’s Been 71 Years Since Your Last World Series…
The median ticket price for the first World Series game at Wrigley Field since 1945 was $3,000.

They Go Low, We Go Lower
After the Bay Area band Smash Mouth responded to ex-Oakland A Coco Crisp’s game-winning hit in World Series Game Three for Cleveland by tweeting, “The A’s are a joke,” the A’s played their response anything but diplomatically—saying, “Guess you’ve got it all figured out. Except how to make a hit since 1999.”

This Great Game at CafePress

Bushers Book

The Ballparks on This Great Game

Saturday, October 1
It’s not a good day for Detroit and Seattle, the two remaining outsiders in the AL Wild Card race. The Tigers lose at lowly Atlanta, 5-3, meaning everything has to go right for them on the next day—and on Monday, with a rescheduled make-up day if needed against Cleveland—to make the playoffs. The Mariners, meanwhile, are eliminated from postseason contention with a thrilling 9-8 home loss in ten innings to the Oakland A’s. The knockout extends Seattle’s absence from the postseason to 16 years, the longest active streak of any major league team.

The St. Louis Cardinals stay alive in the NL Wild Card hunt with a come-from-behind 4-3 victory at home against Pittsburgh. But like the Tigers, the Cardinals too will need everything to go their way on the season’s final day and beyond as the Giants, later in the afternoon, shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw 3-0 in San Francisco behind an impressive eight innings of shutout work from rookie Ty Blach, making only his second major league start.

Sunday, October 2
On the regular season’s final day, the Cardinals finish off a three-game sweep of the Pirates with a 10-4 rout—but it’s not enough to secure a sixth straight postseason berth, as the Giants defeat the Dodgers with ease, 7-1, and finish off their own sweep to claim the NL’s second wild card spot. Despite the importance of San Francisco’s win for the present, it’s mere sidebar material from a historical perspective as it’s the last game called by legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully after an astonishing 67 years in the booth. (Scully has said he will not do play-by-play in the postseason for the NL West-winning Dodgers.) The archrival Giants and their fans, who find rare love for a long-time Dodgers man in Scully, give several in-between inning tributes to the 88-year-old broadcaster, and the Giants’ sports network (CSN Bay Area) taps into its Los Angeles counterpart (SportsNet LA) and lets Giants fans listen to Scully do his thing during the third inning.

Here’s a little perspective for anyone yawning at the fact that Scully began broadcasting in 1950. When he began:

There were 65 Civil War veterans still alive.

Connie Mack was in his 50th and final year of managing the Philadelphia A’s.

The average cost of a home was $1,940.

Bobo Newsom, who began his major league career in the 1920s, was still pitching.

The Interstate Highway System was still six years from being approved by Congress.

Credit cards were used for the first time.

It had only been two years since the Indians won their last World Series.

There will be no convoluted three-way tie for the two AL wild card spots. Baltimore rides on Matt Wieters’ two homers and four RBIs to defeat the Yankees at New York, 5-2, while Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez takes a no-hitter into the seventh at Boston and emerges the victor as the Blue Jays tip the Red Sox, 2-1, to capture the second wild card. (Though both teams have identical 89-73 records, the Blue Jays get home field for the one-game playoff against the Orioles by virtue of a better head-to-head record during the regular season.)

The Boston loss is the last regular season game for David Ortiz, who still has playoff work to attend to for the AL East-winning Red Sox. Ortiz is hitless with two strikeouts in four at-bats against Toronto, but his .315 average, 38 home runs and 127 RBIs will surely go down as the best performance by a retiring major leaguer.

Ortiz finishes his career 17th on the all-time home run list with 541, 22nd with 1,768 RBIs, and tenth with 632 doubles. Only Ted Williams has more homers in a Boston uniform, while he and Carl Yastrzemski have more RBIs.

The Red Sox announce that they will retire Ortiz’s #34 jersey next season.

The wins for the Orioles and Blue Jays knock out the Tigers from contention, as they bow to the Atlanta Braves and Julio Teheran (seven shutout innings with 12 strikeouts and only three hits allowed), 1-0 in the final game played at 20-year-old Turner Field. The sellout crowd of 51,220 includes former President and Georgia native Jimmy Carter, along with the Braves’ Hall-of-Fame aces from the ballpark’s glory days of the 1990s: Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.

Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander is solid but suffers a rare interleague loss; he’s now 27-5 against National League competition. Still, the American League in general wraps up its 13th straight year of dominance against the NL in league vs. league play, winning 165 of 300 games in 2016.

Max Scherzer allows five runs in five innings but gets credit for his 20th win of the year, becoming the NL’s only pitcher to reach the milestone this season, as the Nationals outlast the Miami Marlins at Washington, 10-7. NL MVP candidate Daniel Murphy, sitting out much of the previous week with injury, comes up as a pinch-hitter with a chance to win the NL batting title over Colorado’s DJ LeMahieu (resting on the bench for the Rockies’ final game), but flies out to finish just one batting point behind.

The Marlins’ Tom Koehler starts on the mound but lasts only three innings, as Miami finishes its second straight season without a complete game—running its streak without any starter going the distance to 428, an ongoing major league record. In fact, there are only 83 complete games thrown in the majors in 2016—the first time that fewer than 100 have ever been recorded.

Baseball is already less one major league manager as the regular season ends. Chicago White Sox skipper Robin Ventura announces he’s stepping down after five seasons—the last four of which resulted in losing records—following a 6-3 defeat to Minnesota.

Monday, October 3
As ten teams ready for the postseason, some of the other 20 begin a painful postmortem. To wit:

The Arizona Diamondbacks, arguably the majors’ most disappointing team after accruing such high hopes in the spring, clean house—with manager Chip Hale and general manager Dave Stewart both given their walking papers. The Diamondbacks finished fourth in the NL West at 69-93 despite a noticeable effort to spruce up their starting rotation with Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, neither of whom pitched anywhere near as expected.

SB Nation’s Marc Normandin believes the final straw for the Diamondbacks with Stewart came when he traded closer Brad Ziegler to Boston for the wrong player—acquiring Luis Basabe, for whom Stewart might have mistaken for his more talented twin brother with the same name, also in the Red Sox organization.

Also from the NL West, Colorado manager Walt Weiss says he’s not interested in renewing his contract with the Rockies after three tough years in which he never was able to achieve a winning record despite the usual, explosive mile-high offense and an evolving, young rotation.

In Miami, the Marlins are done with Barry Bonds as their hitting coach after just one season. The team hit well under his guidance, but insiders say that he didn’t display a level of commitment hoped for from the front office.

Tuesday, October 4
The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles were so comparatively tight during the regular season; they both finished with 89-73 records, and the Jays only won the season series (at 10-9) because they played an odd number of games and someone had to win one more. Tonight, in the AL wild card playoff, the Blue Jays and Orioles expectedly keep it knotted throughout, taking a 2-2 tie into the bottom of the 11th inning…and that’s when Edwin Encarnacion unloads a three-run, no-doubt-about-it home run off Ubaldo Jimenez to give Toronto the winning burst, 5-2, and advance to the ALDS for a highly anticipated rematch with Texas.

For Orioles fans and pundits, the question is: Where was Baltimore closer and AL MVP candidate Zach Britton (47 saves in 47 chances, 0.54 ERA)? Orioles manager Buck Showalter might have been preserving Britton for the chance to preserve an Orioles lead, but the opportunity never came up—and Showalter decided to go with Jimenez because, as he said after the game, “Nobody has been pitching better for us.”

A packed house of Toronto fans, much like last year, shows off a passion that currently may be second to none in baseball—but once more, a few bad apples nearly ruin the vibe. As Baltimore left fielder Hyun Soo Kim lines up to make a seventh-inning catch of a Melvin Upton Jr. fly ball on the warning track, a loaded beer can is thrown from the bleachers behind and barely misses him. Fellow Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones, one who’s not afraid to speak his mind, comes over and angrily shouts and point toward the stands before an umpire calms him down. The fan, later described as a 41-year-old copy editor for the corporation that owns the Toronto Sun, eludes security and flees the stadium. He’ll later surrender to police and charged with mischief after his photo appears on a ‘wanted’ poster. Perhaps on a related note, he’ll soon lose his job, too. This is the fourth time a winner-take-all postseason game has been decided by a walk-off home run.

Wednesday, October 5
The New York Mets, roaring into the postseason on a 27-13 run after falling a couple of games below the .500 mark in August, get a terrific start from Noah Syndergaard in the NL Wild Card playoff as he takes a no-hitter into the sixth inning and strikes out 11 overall through seven. But there is no give on the other side from the Giants and Madison Bumgarner, who have a bit of playoff pressure knowledge under their belt. And with Syndergaard out and the game still scoreless in the ninth, the Giants rally and Conor Gillespie—given the start because Eduardo Nunez is hurt—drills a three-run homer off Jeurys Familia, all that Bumgarner will need to finish off his second wild card road shutout in three years as San Francisco advances to Chicago, 3-0. The Giants have won their last nine postseason games when a loss would have knocked them out of the tournament.

It’s the first time since 1991—when Minnesota’s Jack Morris and Atlanta’s Tom Glavine memorably dueled in Game Seven of the World Series—that both starting pitchers have exchanged zeroes for seven innings of a winner-take-all playoff game.

ESPN’s telecast of the game garners a 5.8 rating, the network’s highest for a MLB game in 16 years.

Thursday, October 6
The Blue Jays take the momentum of their AL wild card victory and plow through an ice-cold Texas team in ALDS Game One, 10-1 at Arlington. A restless crowd of 47,000 is quickly quieted by seven early Blue Jays runs off Cole Hamels, and Jose Bautista—everyone’s favorite in Texas—provides the cherry on top in the ninth with a three-run shot that’s the sixth of his postseason career to tie Joe Carter’s Toronto record. Marco Estrada takes a shutout into the ninth before departing one out in after giving up his sole run of the game.

The Indians beat the Red Sox at their own game, belting three solo homers within four at-bats off 22-game winner Rick Porcello and holding on for dear life with a 5-4 victory in their first ALDS game at Cleveland. Reliever Andrew Miller stabilizes the Indians mound with two shutout innings after the departure of somewhat shaky starter Trevor Bauer, and Neil Allen records a five-out save—throwing a season-high 40 pitches in the process—to preserve the win.

It’s the first time that Porcello has allowed three homers in one inning.

Friday, October 7
The National League portion of the LDS begins with a bang—or, at least in Chicago, not until the bottom of the eighth inning when the Cubs’ Javier Baez launches what appears to be a no-doubt-about-it, tape-measure blast that the wind attempts to knock back before barely clearing the “basket” above Wrigley Field’s brick ivied wall in left. The home run accounts for the only tally of the game as the Cubs beat the Giants 1-0, with Jon Lester outdueling Johnny Cueto.

An expected pitching duel between the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and the Nationals’ Max Scherzer devolves into an early slugfest as every run of Los Angeles’ 4-3 win at Washington is scored before the end of the fourth inning. Ironically, it’s the bullpens that star, as four Dodgers relievers combined to allow just on hit over the final four frames to preserve the win.

This game marks the first playoff contest in which both teams are led by a black manager—Dusty Baker for the Nationals, and Dave Roberts for the Dodgers.

It’s a different year, a different uniform and the same result for David Price, who still can’t get it right in the postseason—and because of that, the Red Sox are now in a 2-0 hole against Cleveland in the ALDS. Pitching for his fourth different team in his fourth straight playoff appearance, Price only lasts 3.1 innings and gives up five of the Indians’ six runs on the day, while Corey Kluber shuts down the potent Boston offense for seven innings in an easy 6-0 triumph for the Tribe.

Price is 0-8 in nine career postseason starts; he does have one victory pitching out of the bullpen for Tampa Bay in 2008.

The Blue Jays also make it two straight to start their ALDS at Texas, busting up Rangers starter Yu Darvish for four homers—three in the fifth inning alone—before holding off a late Texas rally to win, 5-3. The Rangers lose despite outhitting the Jays, 13-6.

Toronto pitcher Francisco Liriano, performing relief duties in the eighth, suffers a concussion after getting hit by a comebacker in the upper neck. He is declared out for the rest of the series.

Saturday, October 8
The Cubs take a 2-0 NLDS lead over the Giants at Wrigley with the help of the Chicago bullpen, which rescues starter and major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks after an Angel Pagan line drive takes a direct hit off his arm in the fourth inning. Six relievers combine to shut down San Francisco on two hits over the final 5.1 innings, including Travis Wood—who gets credit for the win and caps the scoring on a 5-2 win in the fifth inning with a solo home run, making him only the second reliever in postseason history to go deep.

The other reliever with a home run was the New York Giants’ Rosy Ryan, in Game Three of the 1924 World Series against the Washington Senators.

Sunday, October 9
The Blue Jays are the first to advance to the LCS, sweeping Texas at Toronto by winning at the Rangers’ game, triumphing by a single run in walkoff fashion. The 7-6, 10-inning triumph is secured when the Rangers’ desperate double play attempt leads to a wild throw to first—allowing Josh Donaldson, at third, to make a winning escape for home as Mitch Moreland’s throw from first is late and wild. It’s fitting heroics for Donaldson, who has a terrific series—going 7-for-13 with four doubles. For the Rangers, it’s the second straight year that they’ve been ousted in the ALDS—again by the Blue Jays.

At least the Rangers will always have Rougned Odor’s punchout of Jose Bautista back in May.

A day after being rained out, the Nationals win a belated NLDS Game Two over the Dodgers at Washington, 5-2. After trailing early 2-0, backup Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton drills a three-run homer to give Washington a lead it will never relinquish.

Monday, October 10
The Giants stay alive in the NLDS with an absolutely exhausting 6-5, 13-inning marathon victory over the Cubs at San Francisco. Just getting to extra innings is not for the faint of heart; a two-run triple by wild card playoff hero Conor Gillaspie in the eighth off Chicago closer Aroldis Chapman (called on for a six-out save) is the major strike in a three-run rally, but the Cubs tie it in the ninth on Kris Bryant’s homer that bounces off the top of the fence and into the bleachers. Numerous overtime rallies are squandered until Joe Panik’s deep double to right-center scores Brandon Crawford (who himself had doubled to lead off the Giants 13th) to finally win it for San Francisco.

In defeat, the Cubs at least do finally make Giants ace Madison Bumgarner look mortal in the postseason. In five innings, Bumgarner throws 101 pitches and concedes three runs—all of them coming off the bat of opposing pitcher Jake Arrieta in a stunning three-run blow that accounts for all of the Cubs’ runs until Bryant’s homer in the ninth. Bumgarner had thrown 24 straight scoreless innings when dealing in postseason elimination games.

The Indians finish off a surprising three-game sweep of the Red Sox with a 4-3 victory at Fenway Park. Two-spots in the fourth and sixth, the latter courtesy of a Coco Crisp home run, is all the offense Cleveland will need; a somewhat wild Neil Allen (40 pitches, only 19 for strikes) still manages to shut the door on Boston’s season by securing the final four outs as the Red Sox hit him hard, but also right at Cleveland gloves.

In the final game of a career that will likely put him into Cooperstown, David Ortiz walks twice, hits a sacrifice fly and grounds out. He is in the hole, hoping to get in one more at-bat, when Travis Shaw flies out to end the game. In 82 career playoff games, Ortiz hits .289 with 17 homers and 61 RBIs.

The Indians do a masterful job of quelling the high-powered Red Sox offense. Boston hits just .214 and scores only seven runs in their three-and-out.

The Nationals snag the NLDS lead at Los Angeles with an 8-3 victory as Dodgers starter Kenta Meada lasts only three innings and gives up four runs. The Japanese rookie’s last two starts (this, and his 2.2-inning stint against San Francisco on October 2) are his two shortest by innings this season.

The game is played in four hours and 12 minutes, eight minutes shy of the longest nine-inning postseason game. Part of the reason is Los Angeles reliever Pedro Baez, who works slower than any major league pitcher; the MLB Network, covering the game, even puts a clock on him to show how long he’s taking between pitches.

Tuesday, October 11
Up by three runs and three outs away from forcing a winner-take-all Game Five back in Chicago, the Giants’ bullpen fatally implodes for a final time in 2016. Five San Francisco relievers combine to allow four runs on four hits, a walk and a rare Brandon Crawford error to give the Cubs a 6-5 win and 3-1 NLDS series victory, knocking out the Giants and ensuring that someone else will win it all in an even year for the first time in the 2010s.

The comeback spoils a four-hit night for Giants postseason hero Conor Gillaspie and a brilliant start for Matt Moore, who allows just two runs (one earned) on two hits through the first eight innings. (At 120 pitches, Moore was not invited back to the ninth.) Only three times previously in postseason history has a team come from three runs down in the ninth to win—all of those games taking place in the crazy 1986 playoffs—but the Cubs are the first not to have to finish the victory in extra innings.

The Giants’ quest for a fourth world title in seven years ends fittingly, via a bullpen that lacked a true closer and could not hold a ninth-inning lead if its life depended on it. The loss to the Cubs may very well spell the end in San Francisco for aging, long-time Giants relievers Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla—all three of whom each have three World Series rings to show for the past efforts in San Francisco.

The Dodgers stay alive and take the NLDS back to Washington as Chase Utley’s two-out single in the eighth brings home Andrew Toles to break a tie and give Los Angeles a 6-5 victory. Clayton Kershaw, starting on three days’ rest, allows five runs through 6.2 innings but strikes out 11 Nationals.

Five players—including four Nationals—are hit during the game, with two of them coming with the bases loaded; the 11 for the series is a postseason record.

Atlanta manager Brian Snitker is rewarded for his late-season success guiding the rebuilding Braves by having the “interim” tag removed from his business card and being given a one-year contract plus a one-year option for 2018. Snitker took over for the fired Fredi Gonzalez after a 9-28 start in 2016, and although the Braves finished at 68-93, they were 50-47 over their last 97 games under Snitker.

Wednesday, October 12
San Diego president Mike Dee is out after a disappointing and at times controversial campaign that saw a month-long suspension to GM A.J. Proller. But the Padres are not saying whether Dee has stepped down or was fired; managing partner Peter Seidler will only say to the Associated Press that Dee’s departure “had nothing to with Proller.”

Thursday, October 13
In another nine-inning marathon—at four hours and 32 minutes, this one is the longest in postseason history—the Dodgers stamp their ticket to the NLCS and oust the Nationals at Washington in NLDS Gave Five, 4-3.

The game turns on consecutive pitches: one to end the sixth, when Jayson Werth inexplicably tries to extend a 1-0 Washington lead by scoring on a Jordan Zimmerman double and is out by at least 40 feet; the other on Joc Pederson’s leadoff homer in the seventh, which impulsively leads Nationals manager Dusty Baker to pull Max Scherzer despite an otherwise strong night and 99 pitches. The Dodgers tally three more runs in the inning as Baker rides a merry-go-round of five relievers.

It gets weirder: After the Nationals quickly pull back to within a run to start their half of the seventh, Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts decides to bring in his closer, Kenley Jansen, for what appears to be a rare three-inning save. Jansen doesn’t get that far, but he holds the fort down for 2.1 innings, through four walks, a hit and 51 pitches, for the next guy—Clayton Kershaw, making a very rare relief appearance just two days after throwing 120 pitches as the Game Four starter. Kershaw guns down the next two batters to nab the save and lock down the series for the Dodgers.

The loss extends Washington’s postseason misery that’s beginning to edge toward the level of any curse that fans will doctor up. The Nationals, and the Montreal Expos before them, still have only one playoff series win to boast—the strike-induced divisional series win over Philadelphia in 1981. Otherwise, they’ve lost four other series, all of them in painful fashion: The 1981 NLCS on a home run from Rick Monday of (yes) the Dodgers; the 2012 NLDS, blowing a 6-0 Game Five lead at home against St. Louis; and a 3-1 NLDS loss to the Giants in 2014, with all three defeats by a single run—including an 18-inning, 2-1 home defeat in Game Two.

Then there’s the extended personal playoff angst of Baker. Perhaps only Gene Mauch has endured more constant, shocking setbacks in October. Baker led the Giants to the 2002 World Series and was five runs up and nine outs away from winning it in Game Six before it all disintegrated; he was at the helm of the 2003 Cubs in the NLCS when Steve Bartman got in the way of Moises Alou and Alex Gonzalez botched a double-play ball that led to a Game Six meltdown against the Florida Marlins; and he blew a 2-0 NLDS lead against the Giants in 2012. His career postseason record currently stands at 21-28.

Kershaw’s save is the first as a pro since pitching in the Gulf Coast Rookie League in 2006. His catcher that day? Kenley Jansen.

Friday, October 14
Corey Kluber escapes numerous jams early on and throws 6.1 shutout innings, while Francisco Lindor’s sixth-inning, two-run blast accounts for the only offense as the Indians stymie the Blue Jays at Cleveland in ALCS Game One, 2-0. At 22, Lindor is the youngest player ever to homer in the first game of a team’s first two playoff series.

Saturday, October 15
A wild eighth inning becomes the main course in NLCS Game One at Chicago. The Cubs lead the Dodgers entering the frame, 3-1, but Adrian Gonzalez’s two-run, two-out single off Chicago closer Aroldis Chapman—who blows his second attempt at a one-inning-plus save in less than a week—ties the game. The Cubs start a response against Los Angeles reliever Joe Blanton in the bottom of the inning by putting runners at first and second with two outs; Dodgers manager Dave Roberts next orders an intentional walk of Jason Heyward to load the bases and force Chicago skipper Joe Maddon to pinch-hit for Chapman, due up next in the order. The move backfires; Miguel Montero, one of the few Cubs to underperform this season, takes his .217 batting average to the plate and launches a grand slam well into the right-field bleachers to shatter the tie; Dexter Fowler’s solo shot on the very next pitch makes it 8-3. The Cubs withstand a minor Los Angeles rally in the ninth to take the game, 8-4.

Cleveland takes a 2-0 ALCS lead over Toronto with a 2-1 Game Two home victory. Francisco Lindor is once again the key on offense, as his third-inning single unlocks a 1-1 tie and becomes the eventual winning RBI. On the mound, Josh Tomlin—moved up to start because scheduled starter Trevor Bauer cut his hand fixing a drone at his home—delivers 5.2 sound innings, allowing a run on three hits, while reliever Andrew Miller continues his throwback routine of setting up closer Neil Allen with multiple, stifling innings worked over the Blue Jays’ potent offense.

Miller is the first pitcher in history—regular season or playoffs—to throw two perfect innings with five strikeouts on back-to-back days. In 7.2 postseason innings thus far, he’s allowed no runs on three hits and two walks while striking out 17.

Sunday, October 16
In NLCS Game Two, Clayton Kershaw continues his magnificence this postseason with seven shutout innings (allowing just two hits and a walk), and Adrian Gonzalez’s second-inning solo shot just over the Wrigley Field basket in left-center accounts for the only run of the game as the Dodgers tie up the Cubs at a game apiece.

This is only the second time the Cubs have lost a postseason game by a 1-0 count, The other time? In 1918, when Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth got the better of them in a first game of the World Series played at Comiskey Park, which the Cubs used because it had more seats at the time than Wrigley.

Monday, October 17
The Indians have the Blue Jays on the ropes. Despite facing the raucous Rogers Centre environment—and losing starter pitcher Trevor Bauer after just two-thirds of an inning when his stitched-up, drone-induced pinky fails and bleeds all over the place—Cleveland builds up a slight 4-2 lead and holds it once again through its bullpen to take a 3-0 ALCS lead. Six relievers combine to keep Toronto from getting on track in the 8.1 innings after Bauer’s departure, while Mike Napoli and Jason Kipnis launch solo homers to help the Indians’ cause on offense.

A number of other teams have won their first six games of a major league postseason, but none have given up fewer runs than the ten thus allowed by the Indians.

BTW: Didn’t the Indians say that they would not wear the Chief Wahoo caps on the road this season? That edict seems to have gone out the window so far in the postseason, where the controversial caricature has been displayed on Cleveland hats for every road playoff game thus far.

Tuesday, October 18
Rich Hill and three relievers combine to shut out the Cubs on four hits and two walks, while Jake Arrieta—making his first start at Dodger Stadium since throwing a 2015 no-hitter—concedes four runs (three on two home runs) over five innings as the Dodgers take a 6-0 victory and a 2-1 NLCS lead over Chicago.

It’s the first time a team has been shut out on four or fewer hits in consecutive postseason games since the 1919 Chicago Black Sox. Among those teams who were at least trying in whole, you have to go further back to the 1908 Tigers, shut down as such by the Cubs during their last World Series triumph.

Toronto stays alive in the ALCS, taking Game Four by outlasting Indians ace Corey Kluber (pitching on three days’ rest) and pulling away late for a 5-1 victory. Aaron Sanchez is terrific for six innings, allowing just a run on two hits.

Wednesday, October 19
The Cleveland Indians capture their first AL pennant since 1997—and their sixth in 116 years of play—with a 3-0 victory over the Blue Jays at Toronto in ALCS Game Five. Rookie Ryan Merritt, with all of four regular season appearances and one start to vouch for in his career, gets the call for Cleveland and takes the Tribe through 4.1 shutout innings (allowing just a pair of hits and no walks) before the bullpen takes it the rest of the way.

It’s the second straight ALCS defeat for the Blue Jays, whose vaunted offense is silenced with a .201 average and eight runs over five games. Toronto’s pitching was not the problem—and as heralded as the Indians’ bullpen was, it should be noted that Blue Jays relievers did not allow a run in 12.2 innings pitched during the series.

The challenge now for the Blue Jays will be to keep slugger Edwin Encarnacion, outfielder Jose Bautista and knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey—all of whom are free agents after the season.

The Cubs’ bats make up for lost time, pounding the Dodgers at Los Angeles in NLCS Game Four, 10-2, after being shut out in the previous two games. Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell—who had combined for only three hits in Chicago’s first seven postseason games—break out with three hits (including a home run) each. The Cubs’ win now ensures that the series will be decided at Wrigley Field (where Games Six and, if necessary, Seven) will be held.

A four-run outburst in the fourth that initiates the Chicago scoring is preceded by a controversial play to end the third, when Adrian Gonzalez is initially called out at home, a ruling that will be upheld by replay officials back in New York despite strong evidence that Gonzalez slid his hand across the plate before being tagged. The reviewers’ justification is that they did not have clear evidence that Gonzalez’s hand actually touched the plate—that it may have been hovering over it instead. Gonzalez tweets a photo of the play after the game, captioned with, “Us against the world.”

Just 68 days past his 20th birthday, the Dodgers’ Julio Urias becomes the youngest-ever pitcher to start a postseason game, breaking by 107 days the mark set by Bret Saberhagen in 1984. He’s outstanding to start—striking out four and walking two through the first three innings—before fading in the fourth, leading to his departure.

Thursday, October 20
The Cubs take charge of the NLCS, bursting out late against the Los Angeles bullpen to secure an 8-4 Game Five triumph and take a 3-2 series lead heading back to Chicago. Addison Russell goes deep for the second straight night, while postseason marvel Javier Baez has three more hits including two doubles—the second of which clears the bases in the eighth and puts the Cubs into cruise control for the rest of the evening.

At four hours and 16 minutes, this is the third postseason game involving the Dodgers to go over four hours; two others have come within five minutes of being added to that list.

Saturday, October 22
One long drought down, one more to go. The Cubs grab their first NL pennant since 1945 by downing Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers in NLCS Game Six, 5-0. Chicago jumps on the Dodgers ace with two quick runs in the first, then gradually adds on the other three before he departs after five innings. Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks is at his best, stifling the Dodgers with just two hits allowed through 7.1 innings before Aroldis Chapman takes it the rest of the way, surrendering only a walk.

All three Los Angeles baserunners on the night are erased on double play grounders, making the Cubs only the second team in postseason history to face the minimum 27 batters. The other time? When the New York Yankees’ Don Larsen threw a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1956 World Series.

Since winning the 1988 World Series, the Dodgers are 22-37 in postseason games.

Monday, October 24
As the Indians and Cubs prepare to face off in the World Series, one would-be-member of the Indians who’s missing out on the party is Texas catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who vetoed his trade from Milwaukee to Cleveland in late July and later favored one to the Rangers. Lucroy did well for the Rangers, hitting .276 with 11 homers in 47 games, but was 1-for-12 in their three-and-out ALDS loss to Toronto. Meanwhile, the Indians are going to the World Series.

Writing for ESPN after the trade, Lucroy lined out his reasons for nixing the Indians—chief among them was that he wasn’t given assurance of being their everyday catcher in 2017. The Indians, for their part, aren’t missing Lucroy, either. “Hopefully, we can win the World Series and we’ll be laughing at him,” said backup Cleveland catcher Chris Gimenez.

Tuesday, October 25
Corey Kluber throws six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts through the first three—a postseason first—catcher Roberto Perez strokes two home runs from the #9 spot, and Andrew Miller survives a somewhat shaky two innings to help preserve a 6-0 Game One victory in the World Series over the Cubs at Cleveland. Chicago hitters strike out 15 times in all, and are just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

Perez, who’s probably only playing because Jonathan Lucroy rejected a trade to the Indians as noted above, is the first World Series hitter to have two homers in a game from the #9 spot in the order.

The Cubs are shut down for the third time in their last six postseason games despite the presence of Kyle Schwarber, who returns to the Chicago lineup for the first time since tearing his ACL in an outfield collision on April 6. Playing DH, Schwarber has one hit—a double that nearly clears the right-center field wall—and a walk in four trips to the plate. After going hitless in six at-bats to start the year before getting hurt, Schwarber becomes the first player ever to record his first major league hit of a season during the World Series.

Wednesday, October 26
A day after Kluber’s excellent start, Jake Arrieta responds in kind for the Cubs. The All-Star pitcher takes a no-hitter into the sixth—the longest such bid in a World Series game since 1969—and the Chicago offense gets to Indians starter Trevor Bauer and the first few relievers to follow him with five runs through the first five innings to take a 5-1 Game Two victory and even the World Series.

The game is started an hour earlier than scheduled as MLB tries to rush things in advance of a cold rain expected to hit Cleveland late in the evening. There are no delays, but it’s not for a lack of trying; the nine-inning game lasts four hours and four minutes. Somewhere, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred must be banging his head against a wall.

Yoenis Cespedes is due to earn $47.5 million from the Mets over the next two years—but he thinks he can make more. The star slugger announces he will exercise his opt-out clause and test the free agent market this coming winter. Part of the reason may be that he wants to take advantage of a thin market for hitters, and not wait until his contract runs out after 2018—when he’ll have competition from the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson.

Thursday, October 27
On the eve of the first World Series game to be held at Wrigley Field since 1945, the New York Post asks: Where’s Steve Bartman, the infamous fan burdened with all the blame for the Cubs’ 2003 NLCS loss? Answer: He’s still in Chicago, but good luck to anyone trying to find him. Bartman’s reclusiveness is so inflexible, even Greta Garbo would be scratching her head over it were she still alive.

Thirteen years after he legally but stupidly interfered with outfielder Moises Alou on a fly ball down Wrigley’s left field line, Bartman remains impossible to return to the public light, even as most Cubs fans are ready to forgive him. He currently uses the same spokesman who once represented Yankee manager Joe Girardi and Hall-of-Fame pitcher Randy Johnson, but he never, ever grants interviews or makes public appearances (and he has been offered plenty of money to do so). Most of the media requests now come outside of Chicago, as those in the Windy City have “given up” trying to get his attention. One other interesting nugget: Sources close to him say that he’s actually has been to a few Cubs games at Wrigley since that fateful day back in 2003. That must have been some disguise he wore.

Friday, October 28
The Indians overcome winds blowing out of Wrigley Field and a tense ninth-inning Cubs rally to shut down Chicago and take World Series Game Three, 1-0. Josh Tomlin (4.2 innings), Andrew Miller (1.1), Bryan Shaw (1.2) and Cody Allen (1.1) combine to blank the Cubs on five hits and a walk; it’s Cleveland’s fifth postseason shutout, breaking a MLB record. The only run of the night comes on pinch-hitter Coco Crisp’s two-out single in the seventh, sending home pinch runner Michael Martinez. It took the Indians 11 postseason games to earn their five shutouts; of the four teams who had four, only one—the 1905 Giants—did it within one series, during the World Series against the Philadelphia A’s.

The Mets’ Curtis Granderson is named the 2016 recipient of the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, given to major leaguers who excel in their work with the community. In Granderson’s case, it’s his continued drive to make sure inner-city kids in Chicago get a chance to play ball, through his Grand Kids Foundation (established in 2007) and more recently with a $5 million donation to the University of Illinois at Chicago to build an indoor/outdoor baseball complex for city youth to have a place to play.

Saturday, October 29
In World Series Game Four, Corey Kluber—pitching on three days’ rest—concedes a first-inning run but then burrows in for six strong innings, allowing the Indians’ bats to respond in kind; they do, and then some. Home runs by Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis—the latter a three-run bomb in the seventh—pulls Cleveland away to an easy 7-2 victory over the Cubs at Chicago. The Indians now have three games to win just one and wrap up the series.

Kluber is the first pitcher to start and win Games One and Four of a World Series since Cincinnati’s Jose Rijo in 1990.

Never mind all the pomp and circumstance over who was at Wrigley Field for the last World Series in 1945. Retired Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens, 95, attends Game Four as he did Fall Classic games involving the Cubs in 1929 and 1932—including the famed “Called Shot” game in 1932 in which Babe Ruth arguably told Chicago pitcher Charlie Root he would plant the next pitch over the Wrigley wall, which he did in the Yankees’ sweep of the Cubs.

Sunday, October 30
The Cubs avoid being swept in their World Series homestand and stay alive with a 3-2 Game Five victory over the Indians to move the series back to Cleveland. All three Chicago runs score in the third off Indians starter Trevor Bauer—initiated by a leadoff home run for Kris Bryant, followed on the very next pitch by a Anthony Rizzo drive that hits off the ivy in right for a double; David Ross’ sac fly later completes the scoring. From there, Jon Lester takes over and completes six solid innings to improve to 4-1 with a 1.65 ERA in five career Fall Classic starts; Aroldis Chapman finishes the contest with a 2.2-inning save consisting of 42 pitches, allowing one hit, hitting one and striking out four.

The three Cubs home games draw over 120,000 to Wrigley Field—and 65,000 to Progressive Field in Cleveland, where excited Indians fans came to watch their team on the giant hi-def scoreboard. The 22,000-per-game average is higher than what they drew when there was an actual game at the ballpark this year. On TV, Game Five draws 23.6 million viewers on Fox.

Not only is it the largest audience for a major league game since Game Seven of the 2011 Fall Classic between the Rangers and Cardinals, it easily outdraws an exciting Sunday Night Football contest taking place between two popular NFL teams (the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles).

The extension of the series means there will be meaningful baseball in November. Brrr.

The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.

share this page with a friendShare this page with a friend.

Have a comment, question or request? Contact us at This Great Game.

© 2018 This Great Game.