By Andrew Kahn
It’s a happy Thanksgiving day in Canada, as the Toronto Blue Jays are headed to the American League Championship Series for a second straight year. They await the winner of the Cleveland-Boston series; the Indians are going for the sweep in Boston tonight. In the National League, the Dodgers and Nationals are tied 1-1 heading into this afternoon’s game; the Cubs will try to sweep the Giants in San Francisco tonight. It’s been a wet and wild postseason so far.
1) Blue Jays back in ALCS
In May, Rougned Odor punched Jose Bautista in Texas. Last night in Toronto, the Blue Jays knocked out the Rangers and punched a ticket to the ALCS. Odor’s error helped end the game. His throw to attempt to complete a double play that would have sent the game to the 11th was errant, and first baseman Mitch Moreland couldn’t pick it cleanly. Josh Donaldson, who started the play on second, raced home and beat the throw, also not handled. The Jays walked off in their wild card game, too.
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They advanced with power—at the plate and out of the pen. Toronto relievers pitched 4.1 scoreless, retiring the last 13 Rangers to end the game. Roberto Osuna struck out two over the final two innings to get the win. Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin homered, two of the eight the Jays hit in the three-game sweep (they have 10 total in the postseason). The fans were rowdy at Rogers Centre and could buy beer only in cups.
2) Aces beaten
The Rangers paid a lot of money for Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, two aces that, in theory, could carry a team through the playoffs. Last season, Darvish was hurt and Texas split Hamels’ two starts in the division series against Toronto, losing the deciding Game 5. This year, while they had strong regular seasons, they were touched up to open the ALDS against Toronto. They combined to surrender the same number of homers as strikeouts (five) and allowed a total of 12 runs (11 earned) over just 8.1 innings as Texas fell behind 2-0 at home.
David Price introduced himself to MLB fans when he pitched crucial playoff innings out of the bullpen for the Rays in 2008. Since, he’s made nine postseason starts and is 0-8. His latest flop, for Boston, came in Game 2 on Friday in Cleveland, in which he lasted just 3.1 innings (six hits, five earned runs). Price has won a Cy Young. He deserved the big money he got from Boston this past offseason. Thing is, postseason baseball can be cruel.
3) Cubs pitchers hit
The team with the best regular season record usually doesn’t win the World Series. Just four times (out of 22) since the playoffs expanded to include the divisional round in 1995 has the winningest team won it all. (Again, playoff baseball, cruelty.) The Cubs have not won the World Series, but their fans can exhale, though maybe only a tiny bit, after taking a 2-0 series lead on the Giants.
Chicago took Game 1 on Friday 1-0 thanks to eight scoreless from Jon Lester and an eighth-inning homer by Javier Baez. In Game 2, Kyle Hendricks left the game in the fourth after getting in his pitching arm hit by a line drive (X-rays were negative; he’s day to day). Earlier in the game, he’d singled home two runs. Travis Wood relieved him and homered in his only at-bat, becoming just the second reliever ever (and first since 1924) to homer in the playoffs. Aroldis Chapman has saved both games so far.
4) New and old
Corey Seager, who will be the NL Rookie of the Year, became the youngest position player to start a playoff game in Dodgers history last year. He’s 22 now, with a full season under his belt (instead of just a month, like last year), and he’s belted two homers in the first two games of the NLDS against Washington. The shortstop took the first pitch he saw from Max Scherzer over the wall in dead center on Friday. Yesterday, he ducked as the first pitch he saw went over his head, then swung 3-0 and went yard again. The blasts are his only two hits in the series so far, but Gio Gonzalez better be careful with him tonight, especially in the first.
Daniel Murphy, who helped eliminate Seager’s Dodgers last year, has picked up where he left off in the postseason. He had a hit and a walk in Game 1 and went 3-for-3 with a walk yesterday, driving in two. Murphy was known for his power with the Mets last October, but his soft liners have been getting the job done for Washington so far:
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5) Wetness means waiting
Two games were postponed due to the remnants of Hurricane Matthew: the Dodgers and Nationals played Game 2 yesterday instead of Saturday, meaning they’ll lose their travel day to Los Angeles and play three straight days starting tonight. The Indians and Red Sox were rained out in Boston yesterday, pushing Game 3 to tonight. If Boston were to force a Game 5, it would be the third straight game of the series without a break. We’ll see how the unexpected schedule affects pitching—both starters and bullpen arms.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about baseball and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn