And Then There Were Five

Both NLDS games five (is that grammatically correct?) happened yesterday and oh my dear ever-loving lord you guys, that was just… what’s the word I’m looking for? I don’t even know.  Shocking? Surprising? Pants-shittingly exciting? Disappointing? Exhilarating? Awesome? Pick one of those.  It probably applies.

Cardinals/Braves

Let’s start with Atlanta/St. Louis, shall we?  My husband got home from work yesterday as I was just wrapping up work myself.  He went into the other room, flipped on the TV, and yelled “Are you watching the game?” And when I responded that I was not yet, he said “You need to come in here – right now.”  I thought something scary had happened, like an injury, or maybe there was a flash mob of streakers, something not-baseball-ey, since I knew it had just started not long before and when I had briefly glanced at my app, I knew it was just the top of the first inning.

I came into the room and saw that the Cardinals had taken a lead of 10-0.  I had to double check what inning it was because, like I said, the game had just started.  WHAT THE HELL DID I MISS?

So I looked.  Holy buckets.  Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, who during game two on Friday had a stellar shut-out seven-inning outing, had completely fallen apart.  I’ll explain by giving you the first inning play-by-play:

  • Dexter Fowler walks to start the game. 0-0, 0 out.
  • Fowler then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt.  0-0. Ok, one out, a sac bunt is no big deal.  
  • Paul Goldschmidt singles, and there are now runners on the corners. 0-0, one out.
  • Marcell Ozuna singles, Fowler scores.  Goldschmidt advances to 2nd.  Still no reason to panic, they’ve only scored one run. 1-0, one out.
  • With Yadi coming up, there’s a visit to the mound.  But whoopsie! Freddie Freeman errors and Molina makes it to first, bases now loaded with Goldschmidt on third, Ozuna on 2nd and Yadi at 1st.  Still 1-0. Oh, and there’s still just one out.
  • Foltynewicz is panicking now, because he walks in a run.  Matt Carpenter is now at first, bases still loaded. 2-0. STILL just one out.  
  • A second mound visit doesn’t do much for Foltynewicz, because he gives up a double to Tommy Edman, scoring Ozuna and Yadi.  4-0. Still. Just. One. Out.
  • Paul DeJong is intentionally walked, and with bases loaded again, the Braves put Foltynewicz out of his misery and bring in Max Fried. Still 4-0, still one out.   
  • Except… Fried walks in another run, and now Jack Flaherty is at first, DeJong is at 2nd.  5-0.  Oh, and there is still just one out.
  • Dexter Fowler comes up for the second time in the inning and laces a double to left.  Edman and DeJong score, Flaherty is held up at 3rd.  7-0, and STILL just one out.
  • The Braves are at this point realizing the game is getting away from them with just a third of an inning played, but still don’t replace Fried.  Rather, they keep him in and Kolten Wong, who had been the only out thus far with his sacrifice bunt, lined a double to center, scoring Flaherty and Fowler.  9-0, and STILL. JUST. ONE. OUT.  
  • Goldschmidt comes back up and lines out to right.  Still 9-0. Finally, we have just a second out.  
  • Marcell Ozuna strikes out swinging, so out number 3.. right? Except the pitch is wild, and Wong scored and Ozuna made it to 1st anyway.  10-0, 2 outs.  If ever there was a time for MLB to implement a mercy rule, this might be the catalyst making it happen.
  • Yadier Molina grounds out.  The Braves come limping off the field.
  • The Braves finally come up in the first, and Acuna walks.  Ooh! This might start a rally!
  • Ozzie Albies flies out, and manages to not advance Acuna.  Hope starts to deflate just a bit.
  • But wait! Freeman lines a single! Acuna to 2nd! Two on, one out. Hope starts to swell in the hearts of the Atlanta crowd.
  • Josh Donaldson strikes out. Hope slowly dying.
  • Nick Markakis comes up, promptly grounds out on a 1-0 pitch.  So much for that first inning rally.

The rest of the game was considerably less exciting.  The Cardinals added insult to injury with a run in the 2nd and two more in the 3rd.  The Braves managed to get their lone run in the 4th.  They failed to get the other 13 runs needed to jump back into the game, and the Braves’ season came to a heartbreaking end at home.  I feel you, Atlanta.  I really do.  Remember when my Twins just rolled over and died?  That shit still kills me three days later, and will until at least mid-February.

Nationals/Dodgers

In a much closer game, the heavily favored home-team Dodgers faced the Wild Card winning Nationals. The Dodgers, with their NL leading 106 wins and players like Cody Bellinger, Clayton Kershaw, Joc Pederson, and other terrifyingly good ballplayers, were expected to be gearing up for their third trip to the World Series in as many seasons. The national baseball media was chomping at the bit to have a Yankees/Dodgers matchup in the Series. Think of the ratings! Think of the star power sitting in those highly visible seats behind home plate during each of those games! The Nats made it an exciting season and a fun NLDS, but now it was time for the Dodgers to stop toying with them and go in for the kill.

Except… like the proverbial Tortise and Hare, the Dodgers exhausted themselves. At the end, the underdog ended up with the victory at the finish line.

One would have expected the blowout from the Cardinals/Braves game to happen here, and this nail-biting close game to happen in Atlanta. But as it turned out, this game was so close until the end. The Dodgers struck first with a two-run homer by Max Muncy in the 1st, and then followed it up with another home run by Enrique Hernandez in the 2nd. But the Nationals refused to quit, just as they had pretty much all season. Juan Soto, their 20-year-old firecracker that has kept them very much alive during post season play, finally got things rolling in the 6th with an RBI single. Anthony Rendon got a solo home run in the 8th, but then it was the aforementioned that Soto tied it up with a solo shot of his own on the very next pitch.

So, with the game tied, we head into the top of the 10th at Dodger Stadium. Howie Kendrick blows the game open with a grand slam and the score is now 7-3. The Dodgers got a quick two outs from A.J. Pollock and Max Muncy. Justin Turner flied out to center, but there was some question as to whether the Nationals’ Michael A. Taylor actually caught the ball or if it bounced into his glove during the diving catch. After review, the Dodgers’ season ended with the upheld call.

Baseball fans now turn their attention to Game Five of the ALDS between Houston and Tampa Bay. Houston, take note: just because you have the best record in your league, it means absolutely nothing in post-season play. They’ll be sending Gerrit Cole, fresh off of his 15-strikeout Game Two performance to the mound against Tyler Glasnow and the Rays. And considering how hungry the Rays are for legitimacy in this race, they’re not going to go down without a fight. How crazy would it be to have both Wild Card teams knocking out the league-leading favorites? I love the Astros, but also secretly hope for two smaller markets to make the World Series. The Rays, however, would be very unlikely to advance past the ALCS against the Yankees, so go Houston. Or Rays. Honestly, I like both teams and would love them to make it to the final game of the season. So, I guess rather than cheering for one or the other, I’ll just say May the Best Team Win.

What say you, readers? Leave a comment below.