The regular season is over, 4,860 baseball games are in the books, and frankly, nobody was sure who the AL Wild Card spots would belong to until the very end. One thing, however, was certain: The pressure was on the Red Sox and the Yankees.
Things were looking rather bleak for Boston as they faced a 5-0 deficit in Washington, but that wouldn’t last, no siree. The bats came alive in a 5-run 6th inning for the Red Sox, capped off by a beautiful piece of hitting from Alex Verdugo, who stung a double into the right-center field gap to tie the game at 5-5. Three innings later, Jordy Mercer botched a grounder for the Nats, and the man, the myth, the legend, Rafael Devers, made ‘em pay with his second home run of the day – an absolute moonshot to dead center. Just like that, the Sox are in the Wild Card. That’s baseball, baby.
The Yankees didn’t have an easy run themselves. They needed a win over the first place Rays to avoid the sweep and to clinch a Wild Card spot. Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela’s inspired defensive play maintained the Yankees hold, dead even with Tampa Bay at 0-0 until the bottom of the 9th. In an uncharacteristic small ball display, the Bronx Bombers kept pressure on the Rays’ defense. With a man on first, the fleet-footed Tyler Wade was called on to pinch run. A line-drive single from Anthony Rizzo moved him over to third, and Aaron, The Judge, brought him home with a weak, but effective ground ball up the middle, resulting in a play at home plate. Wade dove in head first, beat the tag and “thuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh Yankees win” *John Sterling voice.*
It is easy to pity the Toronto Blue Jays, who checked all the boxes to make it to the playoffs, only to be ousted by forces beyond their control. Or for the Mariners, whose improbable run at
the end of the season had T-Mobile Park packed and roaring like Seattle hadn’t seen in a long time. But ultimately, here we sit on October 5 with happy hearts, knowing that the classic AL rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox will write yet another chapter on Tuesday evening. It’s even more fitting that the setting will be the great cathedral of baseball, Fenway Park. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.
On the less exciting end of things, the Astros remain quietly and undeniably good at baseball. The White Sox are slumping a tad here at the end of the season, but hold firm to the top spot in the AL Central, and the Rays, though dropping the last game to New York, are still one of only 3 teams (and the only team in the AL) that has 100 wins on the season.
In the National League, the Giants, led by incredible-genius-manager-person Gabe Kapler, still have a stranglehold on the top spot in the best division in baseball, the NL West. San Francisco holds the top spot in the MLB at 107-55, which is the most wins in the history of the franchise. It’s also the first time they’ve clinched the division since 2012. Their 162nd game against the Padres was highlighted by phenomenal hitting, something we’ve seen time and time again this season. Pitcher Logan Webb, who had 9 strikeouts on 2 earned runs, hit a home run in the 6th inning to put the Giants up 9-1.
Given those swinging bats, it’s hard to bet against San Francisco in the playoffs, but Vegas is doing just that. They have the Los Angeles Dodgers as the World Series favorite even without Max Muncy and Clayton Kershaw for the Wild Card game. The Dodgers have the second best record in baseball at 106-56 after defeating the #1 team in the NL Central, the Milwaukee Brewers, in their final game of the year. The Dodgers will have a Wild Card match-up against the semi-hot St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
Though on the NL side the Giants and Dodgers will get the lion’s share of the attention going into the postseason, the Cardinals are certainly nothing to scoff at – nor are the Atlanta Braves, who have handled their business here at the end of regulation, or the Milwaukee Brewers, who have plenty of weapons that could make them viable contenders.
All in all, what I’m trying to say is: I’m excited and It’s going to be fun. It’s October. Let’s get after it, boys.