By Andrew Kahn
Baseball’s final four is set: Blue Jays and Royals in the American League and Mets and Cubs in the National League. The fun continues tonight in Kansas City.
Ridiculousness at the Rogers Centre
Let’s be real, all “Five Things” could have been about the seventh inning of Game 5 in Toronto—and the column still would have left out approximately 97 crazy things that happened in that inning. Here’s a video that includes Russell Martin hitting batter Shin-Soo Choo with his attempted throw to the pitcher, Joey Bautista’s mammoth home run and equally impressive bat flip, and some of the behavior from the crowd (disappointing) and Rangers reliever Sam Dyson (bizarre):
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Bautista’s home run was the moment—the game-winner, the most exciting from a pure baseball standpoint, the highlight that will be replayed for many years—but none of the wildness should be forgotten. Elvis Andrus inexplicably forgot how to catch the ball and was in the middle of the three straight errors that started the inning and loaded the bases. And somehow, other than home plate umpire Dale Scott initially ruling Martin-Choo play dead, the umpires didn’t get anything blatantly wrong. By the way, the Blue Jays’ playoff drought was well documented, but as soon as St. Louis was eliminated (see below) on Tuesday, Toronto became the most recent World Series champion left in the playoffs.
A first at Wrigley
If the Cubs sweep the Mets/Dodgers, they’d qualify for the World Series on the same date Back to the Future II predicted they’d win it. This would be about half as absurd as the aforementioned seventh inning in Toronto. The Cubs lost Game 1 to St. Louis and won the next three, culminating in Tuesday’s 6-4 win at Wrigley. It was, improbably, the first time the Cubs had clinched a playoff series victory at home. It only took 100 seasons. Chicago advanced because of its prolific power. Coutting the two homers they hit in the wild card game, they’ve blasted 12 this postseason. Kyle Schwarber has three, including one that’s still on top of the Wrigley scoreboard:
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He is part of the reason that rookies have totaled more dingers in this postseason than any other in history (they set the record on Monday and keep adding to it).
Think the Royals run to the World Series last season was a fluke? After beating Houston in Game 5, they’re one series win away from returning. Kansas City overcame multiple-run deficits in all three of their wins. Trade deadline acquisition Johnny Cueto pitched eight innings in the clincher, allowing a single and a homer in the second inning and no other baserunners. Kendrys Morales made sure it would take a lot more than one baserunner to bring the tying run to the plate when he delivered a three-run blast in the eighth:
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And if you have a problem with his reaction, we’ll have to agree to disagree. Many times we criticize players for caring only about a paycheck. And yet when they prove they really care, some people disapprove. Unwritten rules are open to interpretation, I guess, but where’s the harm in celebrating an achievement?
To win the best-of-5 series, the Mets had to at least split against reigning MVP Clayton Kershaw and possible 2015 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke—twice. They did just that, beating Kershaw in Game 1 and Greinke in Game 5 last night, both in Los Angeles. Mets manager Terry Collins has little trust in his bullpen past closer Jeurys Familia—who can blame him?—so after Jacob deGrom labored through six innings and left with a 3-2 lead, he turned to Noah Syndergaard, making his first relief appearance, for the seventh. Then he brought in Familia for the eighth, despite the good chance that his spot in the order would come up in the top of the ninth (and it did). The duo combined to allow just one baserunner, striking out four. It was a series of strikeouts: the two teams combined for 111 in the series. Daniel Murphy hit three homers in the series, including a go-ahead blast in the sixth. His heads-up play two innings prior helped tie the game. He was on first with one out when Lucas Duda, a lefty pull hitter, walked. The Dodgers had a big shift on for Duda, and nobody rushed to cover third after ball four; Murphy made a dash for third and made it easily. The next batter drove him in with a sac fly.
Championship Series preview
Billy Beane said the playoffs are a crap shoot, more or less. Certainly the Rangers (up 2-0 with Games 3 and 4 at home), Astros (up 2-1, Game 4 at home), Cardinals (1-0 lead with home field advantage), and Dodgers (lost Game 5 at home) are feeling the pain of a short series. All but the Astros were division champs, and the Cardinals won an MLB-best 100 games. So it goes. The Royals and Blue Jays were the two best teams in the AL this season. Toronto took four out of seven in the regular season matchups. The season series between the Mets and Cubs was not nearly as competitive. The Cubs went 7-0. Four were one-run games, and all came before the Mets added Yoenis Cespedes and turned their offense around. It will be fun to watch New York’s young power pitchers against Chicago’s young power hitters.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about baseball and other sports at http://andrewjkahn.com and his Scoop and Score podcast is on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn