This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: October, 2017
The Rise of the Postseason Bullpen Game Poor Dusty Baker
Everybody’s Digging the Home Runs, Postseason Edition


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.284 155 154 24 3 52 114 116 11 5 9

We’ll spare you the “judge” analogies (you know, “all rise,” etc.) because they’ve all been used to death by now, and just admit that the king-sized rookie’s display arguably ranks as baseball’s greatest debut. You name it, Judge did it; he broke Mark McGwire’s home run rookie record, scored and knocked in over 100 runs, walked over 100 times, won the Home Run Derby, and so on. Once the awards season kicks in, he’s a shoo-in for AL Rookie of the Year and a strong candidate to win the AL MVP. Granted, he’s a late bloomer of sorts—at age 25, he’s older than Bryce Harper—but opposing pitchers must shudder to think what this guy has in store as he likely matures. Perhaps the Yankees will be a stronger magnet for top free agent pitchers—not for the money or pinstriped prestige, but because they won’t have to face this guy.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.331 137 213 35 14 37 104 56 9 10 14

Yes, we know—take the lumberjack-bearded center fielder out of Coors Field and put him in, say, San Francisco, and he doesn’t post the kind of numbers as he did in a Rockies jersey. Or maybe he would; we’ll just never know until he gets traded to the Giants. In the meantime, we’ll acknowledge the mile-high advantage but still put our faith in a guy who sparked the Rockies to their first postseason since 2009 with prodigious, all-around flair. While Blackmon did hit better at Denver—everybody does—he still was strong enough on the road to merit this honor. Has he peaked? He turns 32 in 2018, his walk year before becoming a free agent; now that Colorado has wiped Jose Reyes off the books, it might be a good time to lock Blackmon up.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Adam Engel, Chicago White Sox

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.166 34 50 11 3 6 21 19 0 8 8

If Rookie of the Year awards were handed out solely for defensive excellence, then the 25-year old outfielder would be a lock. But you got to hit, too—and that’s where Engel’s contributions to the rebuilding White Sox hit a brick wall. His batting average and on-base percentage were the lowest among major leaguers with at least 200 at-bats, and nobody struck out more (117) in as few at-bats (301). Here’s some advice for Engel when he shows up in Arizona for spring training: Skip the fielding drills and spend lots of time in the batting cage.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Michael Saunders, Philadelphia Phillies

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.205 25 41 9 2 6 20 11 2 1 0

After putting up productive numbers for Toronto in 2016, Saunders was grabbed by the Phillies for $8 million as part of their veteran stability movement for 2017. Like most of those moves, it failed—but in Saunders’ case, it failed spectacularly. The 30-year-old outfielder started off okay, but his game collapsed to the point that the Phillies released him by mid-June. He went back home again to Toronto to end the season, but his Philadelphia tenure is one he would have to file under ‘repressed memories.’


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
18-4 203.2 141 56 51 36 4 5 0 265 2.25

The 31-year-old Indians ace may have laid an egg in the postseason, but they give Cy Young honors for what you do in the six months prior—or four months, in Kluber’s case. After an iffy April and an absent May owing to back issues, the right-hander righted the ship and was dominant through September, posting a 15-2 record with a sensational 1.59 ERA over his last 23 starts. It gets better; he struck out 224 batters during this stretch—while walking just 23. His five complete games and three shutouts tied Ervin Santana for the major league lead, and he might have won 20 for the first time had it not been for the month-long layoff. To all those Indians fans brooding over how soon it will be before Kluber becomes too expensive to stay, relax; he’s under Cleveland control through 2021.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
16-6 200.2 126 62 56 55 4 11 0 268 2.51

This was a very tight call with Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg in the mix, but in the end we had to give it to Scherzer, who sabermetrically owned the edge over the other two. Yes, Kershaw had more wins and a lower ERA, but Scherzer had the majors’ lowest opposing average (a remarkable .178) while only Corey Kluber had a lower WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning) than Scherzer’s 0.90. Finally, the 33-year old’s fastball remained ablaze, averaging near 95 as he led the NL with 268 strikeouts. All this, while battling various maladies and lack of run support, posting seven quality starts without a win. Let’s hope the arm doesn’t blow out anytime soon, because he’s a marvel to watch.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Chris Tillman, Baltimore Orioles

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
1-7 93 125 86 81 51 11 4 0 63 7.84

In the four years prior to 2017, when all else failed for the Orioles’ rotation—and it failed often—there was Tillman, a stabilizing presence with a knack for picking up wins. The 2017 campaign was to be the championing crescendo for the Anaheim native, ready to further impress at age 29 before hitting free agency. Then came this. He missed April with a shoulder injury, returned in May and won his first start with five shutout innings—and then failed to win any of his remaining 18 starts as he got lit up on a regular basis. The Orioles’ faith in Tillman became so tentative that they moved him to the bullpen toward season’s end, with little rebound. All along, Tillman has contended that he’s felt good—which might only scare potential bidders this coming winter even more.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jordan Lyles, Colorado-San Diego

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
1-5 69.2 96 61 60 22 4 4 0 55 7.75

The right-hander from South Carolina manages to stick around the big leagues because of a tantalizing fastball, but at some point all the ugly numbers that surround his velocity will lead teams to start shying away from him. That point may be near. Lyles started the year demoted from the rotation in Colorado, and struggled from the bullpen—allowing 11 homers in 46 innings—before being released in July; the Padres picked him up, exiled him for a month at Triple-A El Paso, then auditioned him in the San Diego rotation in September with disastrous results (five starts, 9.39 ERA). The best hope for Lyles, who’s been spinning his wheels on the mound for seven years, is to be reinvented as a hard-throwing set-up reliever. But it’s just not going to happen until he simply figures how to get guys out.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Cleveland Indians (102-60)

Cleveland’s early exit from the postseason certainly is the sour cherry on top of a 2017 regular season campaign full of sweet memories. And the later in the year it got, the sweeter those memories were. After playing musical chairs with AL Central foes for first place through the season’s first half, the Indians grabbed the top spot late in June, barely hung onto it for a few weeks and then, boom—the team charged up the afterburners with a record 22-game win streak so dominant, they hit more home runs than they allowed total runs. Likely AL Cy Young recipient Corey Kluber highlighted a staff that nearly became the first in major league history to average 10 Ks a game while walking fewer batters than anyone else; at the plate, Jose Ramirez’s continued maturation reached MVP levels to lift the offense. Unlike Indians teams of recent past, the core of this unit isn’t due to be broken up by budget restrictions, so expect this roster to remain quite competitive for a few years to come.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58)

The Dodgers were supposed to be good this year, but not like this. The extra boost didn’t come from Logan Forsythe (.226) or teenage pitching phenom Julio Urias (0-2, 5.40 ERA in five starts), but instead they came completely out of nowhere with Seattle reject Chris Taylor and rookie basher Cody Bellinger, whose sweet, upper-cut swing broke the NL rookie record for homers with 39. With these two firmly in tow—and sophomore pilot Dave Roberts deftly exploiting the minimized DL timespan to give players crucial rest—the Dodgers became a force that simply could not be reckoned, turning a middling start into an uncanny midseason burst of supremacy in which at one point they won 52 games in a 61-game stretch. A head-scratching slump (16 losses in 17 games) to start September took them off a record pace for wins, but they quickly bounced back from it and secured the majors’ best record.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Detroit Tigers (64-98)

At the beginning of the year, we picked the Diamondbacks, Royals and Tigers as three teams we felt would go into full-bore tank mode if they didn’t get off to an inspiring start. So, one out of three ain’t bad. Hard to believe this was a team that clung to the .500 mark as late as June 7, but an eight-game skid later in the month was the signal for Tigers management to start dismantling—and boy, did they ever. Before you knew it, their two top hitters (J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton), top ace (Justin Verlander) and top reliever (Justin Wilson) were all gone, traded to better teams. And that’s not saying much, because by season’s end, everyone else was better than the Tigers, thanks to a woeful (13 wins in their last 53 games) finish. The silver lining: They get the #1 pick in the amateur draft next spring.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
San Francisco Giants (64-98)

The Giants’ season looked good for about eight innings, before Mark Melancon wasted two Madison Bumgarner homers and blew a save on Opening Day. It went all downhill from there. Bumgarner inexplicably jumped on a dirt bike and crashed, costing him three months; the rest of the rotation heavily underperformed; the bullpen sagged as Melancon was never 100%; and the offense never got the memo that home runs were back in vogue, as 126 major leaguers went deep more than Brandon Belt, who led the Giants with a paltry 18. The team got so desperate, it brought back Pablo Sandoval—who rewarded them with a franchise-record string of 39 hitless at-bats. It’s a miracle that manager Bruce Bochy’s fragile heart didn’t totally give out after all of this. Overall, it’s such a shock that a highly revered organization has dropped into such an abyss.


Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(October 2017 Edition)

Where Have All the Ironmen Gone?
As major leaguers continue to appear more fragile and the reduced 10-day disabled list encouraged more managers to give players “rest” as an excuse to hit the shelf, only 36 players across baseball logged 150 or more games in 2017—down from 49 the year before. Three players—the Rangers’ Rougned Odor and the Royals’ Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer—played all 162 games this season.

Bubba the Saint
Top Milwaukee pitching prospect Bubba Derby used his body as a shield to successfully protect others while attending the Route 91 concert in Las Vegas on October 1, which ended in terror when a gunman opened fire from a nearby hotel and killed 58 and wounded nearly 500 in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Shock Jacque
Washington assistant hitting coach and former star outfielder Jacque Jones was suspended during the NLDS after it was revealed he posted nude photos of an ex-girlfriend on Facebook as revenge, after he broke up with her.

Um, It Could Stand for “Washington”…
After losing NLDS Game One at home to the Cubs, the Nationals prohibited Cubs fans from bringing in flags with “W” (which stands for wins) on them.

Not This Time
To make sure that the Dodgers didn’t celebrate their NLDS victory over Arizona by jumping into the Chase Field pool, the Diamondbacks planted police on horseback in front of the right-center field fence.

Agony 101
A Red Sox fan in a college class managed to stay quiet—though expressed some torturous body English—as he watched his team get eliminated by the Astros via laptop.

Did Bobby Valentine Also Make the Cut?
A poster-sized 2018 calendar featuring Red Sox players includes, for April, Pablo Sandoval—who was released by the team this past June.

Please Pay for my Mistake
An Indians fan began a GoFundMe drive to remove a tattoo of Chief Wahoo, which he got 20 years ago when he was less politically correct.

A Baseball Game Only John Madden Would Love
A Nippon Professional Baseball playoff game in Japan was played on an absolutely muddy and soggy field, leading to plays like this

That’s One Way to Take the Bat Out of his Hands
A man was arrested for stealing the bat from the Ken Griffey Jr. statue outside of Safeco Field.

Off With his Head!
A superimposed ad shown on the Fox telecast of the World Series knocked out the head of Astros center fielder George Springer as he made a catch in Game Two.

This Must be Some Mis-Steak
Before Wikipedia editors removed it, a passage on the site’s page for Astros pitcher Charlie Morton claimed he was the owner of the restaurant chain Morton’s the Steakhouse and that his routine was “to eat a (two-pound) steak before each start.”

Dodger Blight
A Los Angeles “artist” went full pro-Dodger graffiti on a local house soon to be demolished.



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The Ballparks on This Great Game


Sunday, October 1
Even when the Giants win—and they haven’t won much this year—they still lose. In the season finale at home against the San Diego Padres, once-and-current Giant Pablo Sandoval smokes a walk-off homer to give San Francisco a 5-4 victory—and in the process lose next year’s #1 pick in the amateur draft to the Tigers, who lose at Minnesota 5-1. While both teams finish at 64-98, Detroit gets the #1 nod because they had a slightly worst record the year before—slightly, as in half a game.

The Toronto Blue Jays edge the Yankees at New York, 2-1, on two hits, none of them triples—meaning they establish the record for the fewest triples hit in one season with five. The old record of six was set just a year earlier by the Baltimore Orioles, who this season have the next fewest number of three-baggers with 12. No Blue Jays individually has more than one triple on the year.

The regular season ends with batting titles going to Houston’s Jose Altuve (whose .346 average tops all major leaguers) and Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon, the 11th Rockie to win a NL batting crown in the franchise’s 25 years of existence. It’s the third time Altuve has led the AL, while it’s Blackmon’s first stand atop to the podium.

The Rangers’ Joey Gallo appears as little more than a pinch-runner in Texas’ 5-2 home loss to Oakland, but he finishes the season with 41 homers—on just 94 hits, and with just 80 runs batted in. Those latter two figures are the lowest ever produced by a major leaguer with 40 or more home runs.

One hundred of the Rangers’ 237 home runs hit in 2017 came from three players—Gallo, Rougned Odor and Mike Napoli—who hit a collective .203.

Monday, October 2
Managers no longer get fired; they get named assistant to the general manager. A few days after Philadelphia’s Pete Mackanin is “kicked upstairs” to take such a position, the New York Mets do the same as Terry Collins is removed from the skipper’s post to look after GM Sandy Alderson’s back. Collins managed the Mets for the past seven years, with winning records in two of them, from 2015-16—the first year of which resulted in the Mets’ first NL pennant since 2000.

Atlanta general manager John Coppolella resigns after it’s uncovered that he’s being investigated by Major League Baseball for numerous violations in regards to the scouting and signing of international players. Veteran exec John Hart, 69, takes over on an interim basis.

Bill Shanks of the Macon Telegraph sheds no tears for Coppolella but broods over the Braves’ current culture and short-term fate. “This is the Braves’ equivalent of Watergate.” he writes. “Make no mistake about it. This is a horrible stain on a once-proud franchise that now must answer questions about why and how this happened.”

Tuesday, October 3
Maybe it’s time for folks in Minnesota to stage a revival of Damn Yankees! The Twins’ remarkable turnaround from 103 losses last year to a wild card entrant this season hits its coda as it runs into the same brick wall: The Yankees, who deal the Twins their 13th straight postseason loss to tie an all-time major league record. The 8-4 defeat starts well for Minnesota, as they knock budding New York ace Luis Severino out of the game after he retires just one batter—while giving up three runs on homers to Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario. But the Yankees strike back with three runs of their own against Twins starter Ervin Santana (who himself lasts 2.1 innings), and the New York bullpen clamps down from there, with 3.1 perfect innings and a career-high 52 pitches from David Robertson (who earns the win). A two-run homer in the fourth from super-rookie Aaron Judge adds distance to the Yankee lead, while the Twins do not score after the third.

This is only the second time in postseason history that both teams scored at least three runs in the first inning, the other occurrence taking place when Philadelphia took a 4-3 lead over Toronto after the first frame in Game Four of the 1993 World Series.

One would have hoped that Derek Jeter’s arrival as part of the new Miami Marlins ownership group would provide a breath of fresh air after Jeffrey Loria’s turbulent reign, but there’s already a developing stench. As the team’s CEO, Jeter reportedly asked Marlins president David Samson, in one of his last acts before being shown the door, to fire four highly renowned special assistants to the team: Former World Series-winning manager Jack McKeon, “Mr. Marlin” Jeff Conine, and Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez. Now, Jeter’s having a change of heart—in part because of a public backlash—and personally calls all four to tell them that it was a misunderstanding, and that they can stay.

If it’s true that Jeter told Samson, who knew he was getting fired, to do his dirty work for him, then this is just plain wrong. Jeter has always been known for his privacy, but this reeks of the kind of chicanery that Loria built a rotten reputation upon. Be careful, Derek.

Wednesday, October 4
The Arizona Diamondbacks outlast the Colorado Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game at Phoenix, 11-8, as the matchup generates exactly what viewers expected from two high-powered offenses. After taking an early 6-0 lead, the Diamondbacks hold on tight as the Rockies narrow the lead down to a single run—but Arizona reliever Archie Bradley extends the lead back out to three (at 8-5) in the seventh with a two-run triple, one of four hit by the Diamondbacks on the night and the first ever hit by a reliever in a postseason game. Bradley will allow back-to-back homers to Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story an inning later to make the game tight once more, before the Diamondbacks open it back up with three in the bottom of the eighth.

This is the third time a team has hit four triples in a postseason game. The Boston Americans (Red Sox) were the authors of the other two performances, both during the very first World Series in 1903. Two of Arizona’s three-baggers are supplied by Ketel Marte, hitting one from each side of the plate.

Thursday, October 5
The Astros open the ALDS with a historic day for MVP candidate Jose Altuve, wo hits three solo homers in their 8-2 thumping of the Boston Red Sox at Houston. It’s the tenth time that such a hat trick has been recorded in the postseason, and the first since Pablo Sandoval in the 2012 World Series against Detroit and Justin Verlander, who today is the beneficiary of Altuve’s blasts. Chris Sale takes the loss for Boston, allowing seven runs over five innings; he allows two of Altuve’s homers, and three overall.

Trevor Bauer takes a no-hitter into the sixth inning and settles for 6.2 innings of two-hit shutout ball as the Indians take Game One of their ALDS against the Yankees at Cleveland, 4-0. The Yankees can only muster three hits while striking out 14 times; Aaron Judge strikes out all four times he comes to the plate.

Friday, October 6
Corey Kluber fizzles, Edwin Encarnacion exits with a sprained knee and the Indians trail the Yankees at Cleveland in ALDS Game Two after five innings, 8-3—but Francisco Lindor’s grand slam in the sixth ignites a comeback from which the Indians will take a 2-0 series lead in 13 innings, 9-8. After both teams stall at 8-8 into overtime, the Indians crack the game open in their favor when Austin Jackson induces a leadoff walk, steals second and scores on Yan Gomes’ single. It’s the biggest comeback in Indians postseason history.

Lindor’s two-out slam was immediately preceded by Lonnie Chisenhall being hit by a pitch—though replays showed the ball hitting the barrel of the bat instead. Incredibly, the Yankees did not ask for a review. Manager Joe Girardi later remarks, “I screwed up.”

Later, Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman publicly apologizes after he was caught liking an Instagram post calling Girardi an “imbecile.”

Houston clones its Game One performance with another 8-2 victory over the Red Sox at Minute Maid Park in Game Two. Carlos Correa and George Springer hit early home runs off of Boston starter Drew Pomeranz, who manages only six outs, and Dallas Keuchel keeps the Red Sox easily at bay with 5.2 solid innings.

In sharp contrast to the disappointing performances of starting pitchers thus far in the postseason, Game One of the NLDS between Chicago and Washington finally gives us a legitimate pitchers’ duel. The Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg takes a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but an untimely error from Anthony Rendon—making his first gaffe at third base in his last 56 games—gives birth to a Cubs rally that culminates in a pair of two-out RBI singles from Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to break a scoreless tie. Kyle Hendricks takes it from there for the Cubs, tossing seven shutout innings before the bullpen completes a 3-0 Cubs victory.

The Dodgers jump on Arizona starter Taijuan Walker—who lasts just one inning—for four runs and add another three in the fourth, enough to absorb a less-than-stellar (but decently long, at 6.1 innings) start from Clayton Kershaw, who surrenders four homers but takes the victory in a 9-5 triumph at Los Angeles. Justin Turner drives in a franchise postseason-record five runs to give the Dodgers a 1-0 NLDS lead

Saturday, October 7
Behind six strong innings from Jon Lester and early home runs from Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs look to be on their way to a 2-0 NLDS advantage with a 3-1 lead in the eighth at Washington. And that’s when the Nationals come exploding to life. Bryce Harper’s two-run shot ties the game, followed by a three-run blast by Ryan Zimmerman (barely clearing the left-field wall) to give Washington a 6-3 victory to tie the series.

All nine runs score on home runs, tying the postseason record set in Game Seven of the 1956 World Series when the Yankees pounded the Brooklyn Dodgers, 9-0.

The Diamondbacks’ Robbie Ray had gone 3-0 in five starts against the Dodgers with 53 strikeouts in 31.2 innings this season, but October is a whole new ballgame. The Arizona pitcher is staked to an early (albeit slim) lead at Los Angeles but his wildness gets the best of him, as he lasts but 4.1 innings with four runs allowed on four walks, three wild pitches and a hit batsman. Arizona relievers fare no better as they lose to the Dodgers, 8-5, and trail 2-0 in the NLDS.

Sunday, October 8
Both ALDS series are extended another day thanks to outfielding heroics which save trailing teams from likely three-and-out doom.

In Boston, the Astros jump on Boston starter Doug Fister (who lasts only 1.1 innings) for a 3-0 lead, and it looks like it will be 6-0 in the second—but Josh Reddick’s bid for a three-run homer is denied by the Red Sox’ Mookie Betts, who corrals Reddick’s deep fly just over the short right-field wall at Fenway Park. The turnabout gives the Red Sox life, and they respond; they notch a run in the second, three in the third and explode for six in the eighth to put away the Astros in Game Three, 10-3. Hanley Ramirez goes 4-for-4 with three RBIs for Boston, while David Price—still confined to relief duty after an early-season injury—sparkles with four shutout innings midway through to keep the Astros off the scoreboard following their fast start.

In New York, the Yankees hold off elimination over the Indians with a slim 1-0 win thanks to contributions from their two giant youngsters, Aaron Judge and Greg Bird. As a pitchers’ duel breaks out between the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka and Indians’ Carlos Carrasco, a scoreless tie is preserved in the sixth when Francisco Lindor’s wannabe two-run home run is stolen over the right-field fence by Judge, who at 6’7” barely has to jump to bring in it. An inning later, it’s the 6’4” Bird who massacres an Andrew Miller pitch high into the second deck in right to provide the lone scoring on the night. Aroldis Chapman, registering as high as 104 MPH on the radar, throws 34 pitches to record a five-out save for New York.

Judge not only stole Lindor of a home run, but kept ball hawk king Zack Hample (leaning in the first row behind with glove) from collecting the souvenir.

Monday, October 9
The Astros and Dodgers punch their tickets to the League Championship Series with road victories to finish off their first-round.

At Boston, the Astros overcome a squandered early lead, an effective long relief effort by Red Sox ace Chris Sale and a ninth-inning inside-the-park home run from rookie Rafael Devers to win Game Four and the ALDS, 5-4. Earning the win for Houston is Justin Verlander, who pitches 2.2 innings midway through in his first career relief appearance; Josh Reddick’s two-out RBI single in the eighth caps a two-run rally off Sale to put Houston ahead to stay.

The Astros’ Yuli Gurriel, officially a rookie at age 33, runs up a streak of six straight hits (started in the previous game) to break a postseason record among first-year players.

At Phoenix, the Dodgers make it a three-game NLDS sweep over the Diamondbacks with a 3-1 victory before a sellout Chase Field crowd more than dotted with fans wearing Dodger Blue. Yu Darvish and four relievers combine to allow just three baserunners on the night, while rookie Cody Bellinger drives in two of Los Angeles’ three runs, one on a towering home run in the fifth.

So much for the Diamondbacks’ 11-8 regular season record versus the Dodgers. Arizona’s potent offense could only .189 in the series.

The Cubs take a 2-1 lead in their NLDS against Washington with a 2-1 home victory despite being no-hit into the seventh by Max Scherzer, and four early errors—two on a totally botched play by catcher-turned-outfielder Kyle Schwarber, leading to the Nationals’ first (and only) run of the night. But after Ben Zobrist doubles for the Cubs’ first hit, Scherzer is yanked by Nationals manager Dusty Baker for Sammy Solis, who promptly gives up a single to Albert Almora Jr. to score Zobrist and tie the game. An inning later, Anthony Rizzo’s seeing-eye pop fly, which falls within a Bermuda Triangle of Washington defenders in left-center, brings home the go-ahead run. Chicago now has won two straight games over Washington despite being no-hit into the sixth inning or later in each.

Once again, Baker feels the wry tap of the shoulder from the ghost of Gene Mauch as his postseason misfortune continues. The 68-year-old manager is criticized in some circles for removing Scherzer, who had been humming along—but with 98 pitches in the book on top of recent fragility, Baker guessed the time was right to remove him; we’ll never know, but the failure of his bullpen opened him up to criticism.

Like the Cubs, the Indians commit four errors in ALDS Game Four at New York—but unlike the Cubs, they do not prevail as the miscues cause six unearned runs in a 7-3 loss to the Yankees to force Game Five back at Cleveland. Luis Severino, in his first start since lasting less than an inning in the AL Wild Card playoff, looks strong for seven frames while the Indians’ Trevor Bauer, pitching on three days’ rest, can’t make it past the second as he allows four early runs. Yankee reliever Tommy Kahnle, doing his best Aroldis Chapman impersonation with 100-MPH gas, fires two perfect innings with five strikeouts to end the night.

Wednesday, October 11
Say goodbye early to the Cleveland Indians. Even with ace Corey Kluber on the mound at home for the decisive ALDS Game Five, the Indians bow to the Yankees, 5-2, behind two early homers from New York’s Didi Gregorius. Kluber lasts 3.2 innings—in two ALDS starts he concedes nine runs over just 6.1 frames—while CC Sabathia, before a minor breakdown in the fifth which leads to his exit, is flawless early on for the Yankees. A key insurance hit in the ninth from Brett Gardner—surviving a 12-pitch at-bat in which he fouls off six Neil Allen pitches—brings home the final two runs and saps whatever life remains from the 102-60 Indians.

The Indians extend their recent image as postseason choke artists. They blew a 2-1 ALDS lead to Seattle in 2001; a 3-1 ALCS lead against Boston in 2007; and a 3-1 World Series lead to the Cubs last year. They have now lost six straight games in which they could have clinched a playoff series.

The Indians have something in common with the 2002 Oakland A’s, whose 20-game win streak Cleveland broke this year: Neither team made it past the first round of the postseason.

The Yankees win the series despite an awful time at the plate for rookie Aaron Judge, who is 1-for-20 with 16 strikeouts—the most by any player in a postseason series, regardless of length. In fact, in three of the five ALDS encounters, he struck out four times—already establishing himself as the all-time postseason leader in such performances.

The 30 strikeouts overall between both teams in Game Five are the most for any nine-inning contest in postseason history.

At Chicago for NLDS Game Four, Stephen Strasburg is, in a word, sick. After the sports blogosphere goes wild over claims that the star Washington pitcher was begging out of starting because he felt too ill, he revives in time to take the hill on a damp, dreary, windy day at Wrigley Field and delivers yet another sensational effort—throwing seven shutout innings with 12 strikeouts and three hits allowed—to give the Nationals a 5-0 victory and extend the series to a winner-take-all back in Washington. Michael Taylor provides copious insurance for the Nationals with an eighth-inning grand slam to provide the final four runs.

Two straight AL East titles apparently isn’t enough to impress the Red Sox regarding manager John Farrell, who gets canned two days after Boston bows out of the postseason via the ALDS for the second straight year. According to Boston president Dave Dombrowski, even a World Series triumph wouldn’t have been enough for Farrell to save his job. The reasons as to why are not made clear, but it is assumed that Farrell didn’t have strong control of the clubhouse, while his on-field decisions left much to be desired.

Thursday, October 12
The Chicago Cubs advance to the NLCS for the third straight year, edging the Nationals at Washington in a thrilling—to say nothing of wild—9-8 victory in the winner-take-all Game Five. The Nationals take an early 4-1 lead on Michael Taylor’s three-run homer in the second, but then concede seven unanswered runs over the next four innings as they prove to be their own worst enemy. This is no more illustrated than in the fifth, when the Cubs rally for four runs—all with two outs—off Max Scherzer, performing rare relief; the inning includes, in succession, an intentional walk, a passed ball, a strike three-wild pitch (with an error by catcher Matt Wieters, who throws wildly past first), a catcher’s interference and a hit batsman. An inning later, the Cubs get another gift run when Addison Russell’s catchable line drive to left is lost in the lights by Washington’s Jayson Werth, scoring Ben Zobrist.

The Nationals rally and, by the eighth, are within a run at 9-8 with two runners on base—but after Willson Contreras’ snap throw to first in an attempt to tag out Washington baserunner Jose Lobaton is initially ruled safe, the Cubs challenge and, via review, the call is overturned, ending the inning. Chicago closer Wade Davis—who hadn’t thrown more than two innings in any appearance since he was a starter for Kansas City in 2013—gets the final seven outs for the Cubs, including a strikeout of Bryce Harper to end it all in the ninth.

At four hours and 37 minutes, NLCS Game Five is the longest nine-inning game by time in postseason history, breaking last year’s marathon NLDS Game Five between the Dodgers and Nationals—which also eliminated Washington from the playoffs.

Wieters becomes the first catcher with two errors and a passed ball in one postseason inning since the Boston Americans’ Lou Criger in the very first inning of the very first World Series game in 1903.

The Nationals have lost four straight series-clinching games at home, a major league first. The franchise has also lost five straight playoff series after winning its only one to date—the 1981 NL East divisional series, especially created as a result of that season’s work stoppage, when the Montreal Expos topped the Philadelphia Phillies, three games to two.

The four teams headed to the LCS—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston—represent America’s four largest cities by population. This will no doubt please MLB execs hoping for big TV ratings. It might help if they didn’t put the ALCS on FS1.

Major League Baseball announces that the qualifying offer to lure potential free agents back to their incumbent teams for 2018 will be set at a record $17.4 million.

Friday, October 13
In an ALCS opener in which many fans were tempted to bet the over, the Astros edge the Yankees at Houston, 2-1, behind a sterling effort from Dallas Keuchel, who dials seven shutout innings with 10 Ks and just four hits allowed. Jose Altuve collects three more hits to raise his postseason average to .579 (11-for-18); Marwin Gonzalez makes a critical throw from left field on Aaron Judge’s single to nail Greg Bird at home in the fifth; and Ken Giles earns a five-out save, allowing the only New York run on Bird’s titanic solo shot with two outs in the ninth.

The New York Daily News reveals portions of a transcript for an upcoming interview with Alex Rodriguez on Undeniable with Joe Buck In which he discusses his year-long steroids suspension in 2014. “I remember sitting there at night, at 4 or 5:00 in the morning—I probably did this 100 times,” Rodriguez tells Buck, “and I would look up with tears and say, ‘How the f*** did I get myself in this position?’ I’m the only jackass that has pocket aces and figures out a way to lose the hand.” Rodriguez claims in the interview that it was hip issues that led him to go back on the PEDs, even after he’d been outed and shamed back in 2009 for earlier steroid use. He also says the Biogenesis suspension cost him $40 million, his reputation and “may have” cost him his Hall-of-Fame chances.

Saturday, October 14
Amid a postseason of bullpen games and abundant home runs, finally there’s a game to thrill the likes of Christy Mathewson and Enos Slaughter. At Houston for ALCS Game Two, the Astros edge the Yankees by a 2-1 count for the second straight day, this time in much more thrilling fashion. Justin Verlander goes the distance with 13 strikeouts—one shy of his career high—as he’s the first pitcher this October to even take a game past the eighth, but whether he can get credit for a complete game or win depends on what the Astros do in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied at 1-1. That’s when Jose Altuve takes over. He singles with one out off of Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman; Carlos Correa next lines a base hit to the right-center field gap which is cut off by Aaron Judge. Altuve sprints and dares to score; his mad dash succeeds when the relay throw home—which easily beats Altuve—is mishandled by New York catcher Gary Sanchez, giving Altuve and the Astros the winning run.

The Dodgers overcome an early two-run deficit (supplied by the Cubs on a two-run Albert Almora Jr. homer) by scoring five unanswered runs in their final four ups to defeat Chicago in NLCS Game One at Los Angeles, 5-2. The final run of the night for the Dodgers causes controversy when Charlie Culberson (in place of shortstop Corey Seager, out of the series with a back injury) is initially called out at home plate on a Justin Turner single—but the decision is overruled via replay because Chicago catcher Willson Contreras extended his left leg outward to block Culberson’s lane to the plate, which is now illegal per the “Buster Posey Rule” established a few years back. Cubs manager Joe Maddon doesn’t like the rule nor the reversal, vehemently argues it to umpires and gets ejected. The dust-up becomes much ado about nothing in the final analysis, as the Dodgers’ bullpen throws four perfect innings after the departure of ace Clayton Kershaw to easily protect the Los Angeles margin.

Whoever has won the first game of the last 16 postseason matchups involving the Dodgers has gone on to win that series, so this is a good sign for Los Angeles.

Sunday, October 15
In NLCS Game Two, the Dodgers break a 1-1 tie in the ninth when Justin Turner launches a three-run homer with two outs to give Los Angeles a 4-1 victory and a 2-0 series lead over the Cubs. It’s only the second time the Dodgers have won a playoff game on a walk-off homer, after—but of course—Kirk Gibson’s legendary knock to end Game One of the 1988 World Series against Oakland. Lending a strong assist, once again, is the Dodgers’ bullpen—which for the second straight night provide four hitless innings to shut down Chicago bats.

People want to ask: Why, in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game, did Cubs manager Joe Maddon go with Brian Duensing and John Lackey over closer Wade Davis? Because he was trying to preserve him for a save situation—one that never came.

Walks have been a big problem for the defending champion Cubs in this series. In the first two games, they’ve given 13 passes—four of which have resulted in Dodgers runs.

Daniel Webb, a relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox from 2013-16, dies in an ATV accident in Tennessee at the age of 28. Three others sustain “significant injuries” in the crash, including Webb’s wife. In 94 career appearances, Webb posted a 7-5 record and 4.50 earned run average; after being released by the White Sox last year, he did not play any organized ball in 2017.

Monday, October 16
CC Sabathia throws six shutout innings, while Houston counterpart Charlie Mortion endures a frustrating night in which he’s charged for seven runs on six hits—almost none of them hit very hard—in the Yankees’ 8-1 drubbing of the Astros in ALCS Game Three. Todd Frazier’s three-run homer, an opposite field shot that barely clears the wall in right on a defensive swing, opens the scoring in the third; two innings later, Aaron Judge caps a five-run rally with a three-run shot off of reliever Will Harris. Judge also makes two terrific plays defensively in right field to keep the Astros off the scoreboard.

Tuesday, October 17
The Astros are smelling victory and a 3-1 ALCS lead as they head into the seventh-inning stretch with a 4-0 advantage over a listless Yankees team—but Aaron Judge’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the frame instantly recharges New York. An additional run scores in that seventh, and in the eighth the Yankees plate four more—including two off Houston closer Ken Giles—to stun the Astros, 6-4, and tie the series.

For all the postseason games the Yankees have played, they had never won at home after trailing by four or more runs after seven innings. The Astros, meanwhile, relive the nightmare of 2015 ALDS Game Four when they blew a four-run lead (and a chance to take the series) at home against Kansas City.

The NLCS moves to Chicago, but the Cubs continue to look DOA. The Dodgers easily overcome an early solo homer from the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber, scoring six unanswered from that point on to defeat a sleepwalking Chicago unit, 6-1. Early home runs from Chris Taylor and veteran Andre Ethier (earning a rare start) erase the initial Cubs lead, and they get help once more from Chicago pitching and defense that continues to be charitable to the Dodgers. The Cubs commit two errors and walk five—one of those a bases-loaded pass to Dodgers starter Yu Darvish, the first such walk to a pitcher in the postseason since 1977. Los Angeles takes a 3-0 series lead.

Wednesday, October 18
The Yankees make it a three-game sweep of their home portion of the ALCS and take a 3-2 series lead with a 5-0 blanking of the high-powered Astros at New York. Masahiro Tanaka throws seven sharp shutout frames for the Yankees, while the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel—so dominant in past outings against the Yankees, especially at Yankee Stadium—is pecked about for four runs over 4.2 innings.

In a game of dueling solo home runs, the Cubs barely stay alive in their NLCS fight with the Dodgers (who now lead the series, 3-1) with a 3-2 win at Chicago. Javier Baez, who entered the day 0-for-the-postseason (20 at-bats), belts two of three Cubs homers; closer Wade Davis needs 48 pitches to record a six-out save, though it’s not pretty—he allows an eight-inning shot to Justin Turner and walks three. All five runs come courtesy of solo home runs, the most in a postseason game without any other scoring.

The win goes to Jake Arrieta, who may have pitched his last game for the Cubs as free agency looms. Arrieta’s five postseason wins match Three Finger Brown for the most in Chicago postseason history.

No one saw this coming: The guy who made a nice catch in the Dodger Stadium bleachers on Turner’s walk-off homer in Game Two is in Chicago for Game Five—and snares Baez’s first blast of the night.

A controversial postseason involving umpires and replay continues in this game. In the Dodgers eighth, Davis appears to strike out Curtis Granderson, who claims he got a piece of Davis’ curveball. An ensuing discussion between the umpires results in a reversal in favor of Granderson’s assessment—though how anyone could see the foul tip while close-up, super slo-mo replays showed no contact is startling. An understandably irate Joe Maddon bolts out of the dugout and is ultimately ejected, for the second time in this series; the whole saga comes to an anticlimactic end when Granderson, given new life, strikes out on the next pitch. After the game, home plate umpire Jim Wolf will fess up and admit that he was “dead wrong” to make the reversal.

Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa is leaving his post in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ front office after three seasons, saying that the job was “more demanding than I realized.” But under his watch, the Diamondbacks rebounded from recent rough times to record an impressive 93-69 record and wild card spot in this year’s postseason. Two weeks later, he'll join the Red Sox as a special assistant.

Thursday, October 19
The Dodgers waste no time rebounding from their Game Four loss to the Cubs, running up a 9-1 lead after four innings on the strength of two Kiké Hernandez homers; he’ll add a third in the ninth to provide the cherry on top of an 11-1 rout at Chicago to give Los Angeles its first NL pennant since 1988. Hernandez’s hat trick makes it two (after Jose Altuve in the ALDS) in this year’s postseason, a major league first; his seven RBIs tie Boston’s Troy O’Leary (in the 1999 ALDS against Cleveland) for the most by a player in a series-clinching win.

The Year of the Home Run is illustrated by more than just Hernandez’s three homers. In losing the NLCS, the Cubs score eight runs—all of them via the home run. It’s the first time that’s happened in a best-of-seven series.

Here’s the hot-and-cold facts about the Dodgers since June 7: From that date to August 25, they were 56-11, then went 1-16, and have since gone 19-7 (postseason included).

As good as the Dodgers were in their NLCS revenge against Chicago, the Cubs were just awful—playing the role of hungover defending champions. Although the Cubs scored first in four of the series’ five games, they had nothing else to show, hitting .156; they scored no runs off the Los Angeles bullpen in 17 innings while their own pitching staff was sloppy, walking 28 and throwing five wild pitches over 43.2 innings.

A few days after their NLCS exit, the Cubs will fire pitching coach Chris Bosio.

Friday, October 20
The Astros force ALCS Game Seven with a 7-1 victory over the Yankees at Houston in Game Six. Justin Verlander overcomes numerous jams and is the benefactor of some fine Astros defense to hurl seven shutout innings; on offense, Jose Altuve’s two-run single caps a three-run, ice-breaking rally in the fifth, and his solo homer ignites a four-run eighth to pull the Astros into the comfort zone. This is the first time in six tries that Houston has won a home game when facing elimination in the postseason.

Verlander runs up a streak of consecutive scoreless innings in elimination games to 24—tying the postseason record held by Madison Bumgarner.

Dusty Baker, after leading the Nationals to two straight NL East titles—but early NLDS exits—is notified of his release. Currently 14th on the all-time managerial list with 1,863 wins, Baker is 23-32 in the postseason and has lost his last five playoff series. Reached for comment, a frustrated Baker replied, “They just told me they wanted to go in a different direction. I’m surprised and disappointed…It’s hard to understand.”

Baseball’s punditry doesn’t understand it either—and they spare little grace toward the Nationals. “Washington’s baseball club was up to its old, stupid tricks,” wrote USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “Firing Dusty Baker creates more problems for Nats than it solves” shouts the headline of a Peter Schmuck opinion piece for the Baltimore Sun. “There’s confirmation bias in place before the postseason series even begin,” pens CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder. “If his team ends up advancing, it’s in spite of Baker. If they lose, though, it’s see! I told you he sucked!

Saturday, October 21
The Astros take their second-ever pennant—and become the first to win flags for both the American and National Leagues—with a 4-0 ALCS Game Seven victory over the Yankees at Houston. Two Astros starters—Charlie Morton (five innings) and Lance McCullers Jr. (four) combined to nullify New York on three hits, two walks, 11 strikeouts and 108 pitches; at the plate, all nine Astros in the lineup register at least one hit—including Josh Reddick, breaking a 0-for-22 ALCS slump. Evan Gattis homers to start the scoring in the fourth, and Jose Altuve adds his fifth of the postseason an inning later as part of a three-run rally.

This is the fifth time that the home team has won every game in a best-of-seven postseason series; the last occurrence took place when St. Louis won the 2004 NLCS…over the Astros.

There’s a bit of controversy early on as Morton continually moves a wad of gum to the front of his mouth and rubs it with his pitching fingers, assumedly to forge a better grip on the ball; home plate umpire Mark Carlson, after being alerted to the gum by Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, approaches Morton and likely tells him that, no, you can’t do that.

The Yankees scored just three runs in four losses at Houston, the fewest by a team playing four away games of a postseason series.

Rookie of the Year/MVP candidate Aaron Judge finishes his October with hit four home runs in 13 games, but batted just .188 and struck out 27 times—the most ever by a player in one postseason.

Somebody must tell Fox to get its priorities straight. ALCS Game Seven airs on FS1—still too buried away for casual viewers to spot—while the main Fox network airs a midseason Big-12 college football “thriller” in which TCU routs Kansas, 43-0.

The World Series between the Astros and Dodgers will be the first between two 100-win teams since the 1970 Fall Classic, won by the Baltimore Orioles over Cincinnati in five games. These two teams have met before in the postseason; the Dodgers overcame the Astros in the strike-induced 1981 NL West series, winning the final three games to advance to the NLCS after losing the first two. All five of those games were also won by the home team.

The Detroit Tigers go old school and hire Ron Gardenhire as their new manager. The 60-year-old Gardenhire guided the Twins from 2002-14, winning five divisional titles.

The Giants, whose front office went deaf as fans screamed for more outfield firepower before a season in which none came—leading to a 64-98 collapse in the standings—blame it all on the coaching staff. Three coaches, including Dave Righetti—the longest active tenured pitching coach in the majors, having served the Giants since 2000—are “reassigned” to the front office; Ron Wotus, often rumored as manager Bruce Bochy’s heir apparent, is also rumored to be on his way out of the dugout. Bochy remains—but after the rotten 2017 showing and three heart procedures, one wonders how long he’ll remain in the good graces of San Francisco management.

Sunday, October 22
The Red Sox hire Alex Cora as their new manager, replacing John Farrell. The 42-year-old Cora, who played as recently as 2011 and was a member of the 2007 champion Red Sox, has served as the Astros’ bench coach in 2017 after four years of on-air analysis for ESPN.

Monday, October 23
The New York Mets name Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway as their new manager. The 42-year-old Callaway may not have known how to pitch well—he posted a 4-11 record and 6.27 ERA over 40 career major league appearances from 1999-2004—but he apparently knows how to teach it, overseeing an Indians staff that led the majors with the lowest ERA, most strikeouts and fewest walks in 2017.

The Braves announce that they will not pick up the 2018 option worth $8 million for pitcher R.A. Dickey, who at age 42 was 10-10 with a 4.26 ERA—the lowest of any Atlanta starter in 2017.

Former big leaguer and current Washington Nationals analyst Ray Knight is arrested in Alexandria, Virginia, charged with assault and battery on a 33-year-old male acquaintance in his home. Both he and the alleged victim had to be sent to a hospital with “visible injuries.”

Tuesday, October 24
On a hot night in Los Angeles with the first-inning temperature at 103 degrees, Chris Taylor belts Dallas Keuchel’s first pitch of the World Series deep into the left-field bleachers; another two-run shot in the sixth from Justin Turner breaks a 1-1 tie to ultimately give the Dodgers a 3-1 Game One victory over the Astros. Dodgers pitching is once again splendid, from Clayton Kershaw’s starting effort (seven innings, one run, three hits, 11 Ks), to a perfect inning of relief each from Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen to wrap the victory up.

This is a Fall Classic game only commissioner Rob Manfred could love, because it’s quick; at two hours and 28 minutes, it’s the shortest World Series game by time since 1992.

In their last eight games of the playoffs, the Astros have not scored in the first three innings. That’s a postseason first.

Wednesday, October 25
A tight but rather blasé Game Two turns into an unprecedented home run derby—and the Astros’ first ever Fall Classic victory, defeating the Dodgers at Los Angeles in Game Two, 7-6 in 11 innings to even up the World Series. The Dodgers lead after seven, 3-1, but the Astros pull to within a run in the eighth—and in the ninth, Marwin Gonzalez’s leadoff homer off Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen ties the game.

But things are just warming up. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa hit back-to-back homers to give Houston a 5-3 lead to start the 10th. The Dodgers counter with a leadoff dinger from Yasiel Puig, and an ensuing rally helps tie the game as Kiké Hernandez delivers a run-scoring single. In the 11th, George Springer goes deep, bringing home two runs to propel the Astros back on top; the Dodgers try again to punch back, but run out of gas after Charlie Culberson’s solo shot cuts the deficit to one.

Naturally, in the Year of the Home Run, a World Series record is set for the most taters in a game with eight. Five of those come in extra innings—something never previously done not just in a World Series or postseason game but, according to Elias Sports Bureau, in any regular season game as well.

Someone asks Keuchel after the game about all the home runs, and he says, “Obviously, the balls are juiced…100% percent.…That’s what Major League Baseball wants.” The next day, commissioner Rob Manfred will, once again, publicly and vigorously restate that this year’s baseball has been continuously tested and that there is no difference between it and the ball used in the previous few years.

Correa’s single in the eighth that cuts the Dodger lead to 3-2 breaks a string of 28 straight innings in which Los Angeles relievers hadn’t allowed a run.

Including the postseason, the Dodgers had been 98-0 when leading after eight innings in 2017.

The proactive managerial tactics of Los Angeles skipper Dave Roberts backfires in Game Two. Dodgers starter Rich Hill is removed after just four innings despite having allowed just a run on three hits (and perhaps more tellingly, three walks) as Roberts rests his hopes on a bullpen that has rarely failed him this season. But the plan goes awry when Jansen—the Dodgers’ seventh pitcher of the night—blows the save, leaving it up to the team’s last two (and little-used) relievers, Josh Fields and Brandon McCarthy, the latter making his first appearance of the entire postseason, to hold down the fort. They don’t, as both pitchers each give up a pair of runs to help Houston complete the victory.

There’s a nice touch before the game as Vin Scully, as sharp as ever and a month shy of his 90th birthday, walks out to the mound with microphone and baseball in hand to emcee a first-pitch ceremony that’s not unlike an extended stage skit. Scully ultimately gives the ball to former Dodgers ace Fernando Valenzuela, who throws the ball to former teammate Steve Yeager.

Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia undergoes knee surgery which will require a recovery period of seven months—which would force him to miss the first two months of the 2018 regular season.

Thursday, October 26
After 10 seasons with the Yankees, Joe Girardi will not be asked to come back to manage an 11th. The team releases a statement that they will not resign the 53-year-old Girardi as his contract is set to expire. No reason is given as to why the Yankees want to go in a different direction, so the rumor mill takes over: Girardi was going to ask for a big raise, he didn’t communicate, he was too intense. Given his track record, it’s hard to believe that he’ll stay unemployed for the long term.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner will later state that even had the Yankees won the World Series, they still would have let Girardi go. General manager Brian Cashman will offer that the team needed someone fresh to lead the many new young faces on the roster.

Friday, October 27
Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts was criticized for prematurely lifting Rich Hill in Game Two, but he has no chance but to give Yu Darvish the early hook in Game Three at Houston. Darvish never has control of his off-speed deliveries and pays the price, allowing four runs on six hits in just 1.2 innings of work. The Astros make him pay for it, as their damage on Yarvish represents the bulk of their offense in a 5-3 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the World Series. Brad Peacock takes over for Lance McCullers Jr.—who is just good enough to keep the Dodgers at bay—and pitches no-hit ball for the final 3.2 innings to get the save.

Part of the Dodgers’ failure to win certainly can be attributed to rookie slugger Cody Bellinger, who earns the golden sombrero for striking out four times in as many at-bats.

The Astros’ Yuli Gurriel, who homers and doubles in game Three, is seen in the dugout after his homer off Darvish taking fingers to the outer sides of his eyes and stretching them outward—which many take as a racist gesture toward Darvish. Worse, the Cuban-born Gurriel is heard at the same time uttering the Spanish word “chinito,” which is said to mean “little Chinese boy.” Darvish calls the gestures “offensive” after the game, while Gurriel struggles to explain and fails to justify his actions when he later tells reporters, “In Cuba, we call everybody who’s from Asia, ‘China.’…I know it is offensive to them and they don’t like that, but I didn’t mean to do it.” A day later, commissioner Rob Manfred will suspend Gurriel for five games...all at the beginning of the 2018 regular season.

Peacock’s 3.2-inning save is tied for the second longest in World Series competition (after Madison Bumgarner’s wowing five-inning stint in Game Seven of 2014)—but only since the save became an official statistic in 1969. If you count pre-save times, there were three pitchers who preserved Fall Classic victories working four innings: the Yankees’ Joe Page in 1947 (Game One), the Yankees’ Jim Coates in 1961 (Game Four), and the St. Louis Cardinals’ Ron Taylor in 1964 (Game Four). Taylor didn’t allow a hit in his relief role, making him—not Peacock—the one with the longest hitless relief appearance to earn a save, officially or unofficially, in a postseason game.

Saturday, October 28
The Dodgers break up a taut, well-pitched 1-1 tie in the ninth inning at Houston by piling five runs upon Astros closer Ken Giles and rescue reliever Joe Musgrove to win Game Four, 6-2, and even the World Series at two games apiece. Both starting pitchers, the Dodgers’ Alex Wood and the Astros’ Charlie Morton, are magnificent—Wood takes a no-hitter two outs into the sixth—but both are yanked at the first sign of trouble. Wood goes after giving up his first hit—an ice-breaking homer from George Springer—and Morton follows in the seventh after the Dodgers tie the game. Cody Bellinger, breaking out of a 0-for-13 World Series funk, doubles in the seventh and moments later scores the tying run; in the ninth, he doubles again to being home the go-ahead run. Joc Pederson caps the five-run rally in the ninth with a three-run smash over the right-center field wall.

Giles, who had given up a run just four times in his last 43 appearances of the regular season, has now allowed a run or more in six of his seven postseason outings. He has an 11.74 ERA in October.

When the Astros fall behind in the ninth, it marks the first time in 71 innings at home this postseason that they have trailed at home.

The Year of the Home Run continues. Alex Bregman’s too-little, too-late homer in the bottom of the ninth, off Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen, makes the Astros the first team in postseason history to have two hits in a game, with both hits as home runs.

A cap worn circa 1948 by Jackie Robinson—which included metal plates to protect him from beanings—sells in an online auction for $590,994. That makes it the highest sum paid for a baseball cap, exceeding the $537,278 paid in 2012 for a Babe Ruth lid from 1934.

Sunday, October 29
Just when you think the World Series can’t get any more exciting, it does. In one of the most exhilarating, exhausting and longest games in the history of the Fall Classic, the Astros take 10 innings to edge the Dodgers, 13-12, at Houston. The Dodgers score three quick runs in the first inning and add another in the fourth off Houston starter Dallas Keuchel, whose night soon ends. Normally, a four-run cushion should be quite enough for Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw, but these are the Astros he’s facing, this is the World Series and it’s 2017, the Year of the Home Run. Kershaw can’t hold the lead as Yuli Gurriel’s three-run homer ties the game. But Colin McHugh can’t hold down the Dodgers—few relievers can hold anyone down on this night—as the suddenly alive Cody Bellinger matches Gurriel with his own three-run shot to put the Dodgers back in front. Given another shot at a shutdown inning, Kershaw instead is knocked out as he walks two Astros with two outs—and Jose Altuve makes him and reliever Kenta Maeda (who relieves Kershaw) pay with the third three-run homer in two innings to once more tie the game at 7-7.

Of the 19 hits Kershaw has allowed in 29 October innings, eight have gone over the fence—setting a major league record for a single postseason.

The Dodgers scratch a run in the eighth to retake the lead at 8-7, and the ball is entrusted to Los Angeles reliever Brandon Morrow, who for the first time in his career is pitching a third straight day. Uncharted territory becomes bad news for Morrow, as the first four batters he faces in the Houston seventh all reach via hit and score—the final three on Carlos Correa’s three-run homer to give the Astros an 11-8 advantage.

Along with George Springer’s solo shot that precedes Correa’s blast, the two homers allowed by Morrow are the first two he’s given up all year.

After the teams trade runs in the eighth to up the score to 12-9, the Dodgers strike back against Houston closer de jour Chris Devenski in the ninth. Yasiel Puig’s two-run homer cuts the lead to one, and after Austin Barnes doubles, Chris Taylor shoots a two-out single up the middle to score Barnes and knot the game back up at 12-12. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen keeps Houston from winning in the ninth—but not the tenth. After retiring the first two Astros batters, he hits Brian McCann with a pitch, walks Springer, then gives up a soft single to left from Alex Bregman; Derek Fisher, running for the slow-footed McCann, sprints home ahead of the throw with, finally, the game-winning run. The 13-12 victory gives Houston a crucial 3-2 edge in the series.

This is the fifth time a team has erased three deficits in the same World Series game. The last team to do this was the Cardinals in their memorable Game Six triumph over Texas in 2011.

The Year of the Home Run continues to show its teeth. The seven home runs hit in Game Five up the series total to 22, eclipsing the all-time Fall Classic mark previously set by the Giants and Angels in 2002—and those two teams needed the full seven games. The 101 hit thus far this postseason also establishes a record.

Had the game ended in the ninth, it would have set an all-time record for the longest regulation game—postseason or regular season—surpassing the 4:45 in an August 2016 matchup between the Red Sox and Yankees. As it is, the 5:17 to complete the 10-inning affair is the second longest by time in World Series annuls, outpaced only by the 5:41 it took the Astros and White Sox to complete a 14-inning, Game Three contest won 7-5 by Chicago in 2005.

The Astros have a thing for going the extra mile in the postseason. Besides this game and the 14-inning affair with the White Sox in 2005, there was their very first postseason series in 1980 when four of the five games against Philadelphia in the NLCS went extra innings; the last two games of the 1986 NLCS, against the New York Mets, went overtime—with the Game Six finale reaching 16 innings; and in their NLDS-clinching 7-6 win over Atlanta in 2005, the Astros and Braves went a postseason-record 18 frames.

In other news, Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell—who made a name for himself in September by becoming the first major leaguer to take a knee during the National Anthem to protest social injustice in America—is arrested in Scottsdale, Arizona after he allegedly points a gun at the head of a woman delivering take-out food to his home.

Monday, October 30
The Washington Nationals name Dave Martinez as their new manager, signing a three-year deal with an option for a fourth. An outfielder of 16 seasons with 1,599 career hits, the 53-year-old Martinez has served the last 10 years as a coach for Joe Maddon—first in Tampa Bay, then with the Cubs. The Nationals are hoping that Martinez has learned enough of Maddon’s managerial and cheerleading instincts to guide Washington back to the playoffs—and beyond the first round.

The NL East sees another managerial hiring with the announcement that Gabe Kapler will lead the Philadelphia Phillies. The 42-year-old Kapler has worked in the Dodgers’ front office as director of player development since 2014; it is hoped that his impact on the current Los Angeles roster will parlay itself to helping to evolve the many young potential stars in Philadelphia. Kapler played as recently as 2010, wrapping a career as a part-time outfielder lasting 12 years for six different teams.

Tuesday, October 31
There will be November baseball and a Game Seven of the World Series, as the Dodgers stay alive with a 3-1 victory over the Astros in Game Six at Los Angeles. Houston starter Justin Verlander pitches well and is staked to a slim 1-0 lead into the sixth, but that’s when the Dodgers rally for a pair of runs (capped by Corey Seager’s sacrifice fly). Joc Pederson’s solo homer—his third of the series—gives the Dodgers insurance in the seventh, and Kenley Jansen, refreshed after a couple of so-so outings in Houston, closes out the game with a perfect two-inning save.

Rich Hill gets a second World Series start for the Dodgers but once again fails to finish five innings—despite allowing only one run in each outing. After the first two Astros reach scoring position off him to start the fifth, Hill strikes out the next two batters and gives George Springer (who earlier homered) an open first base—but that’s enough for Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts, who pulls him for Brandon Morrow. While Morrow induces a ground out from Alex Bregman to end the threat, Hill is smashing a Gatorade cooler in the dugout.

In stark contrast to the hot weather for the first two games of the series in Los Angeles, Game Six is played under much cooler conditions thanks to coastal marine layer; a light rain even falls in the early innings.


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