Braves, Red Sox, Padres go home
There haven't been any huge surprises in the first-round playoffs thus far, and this may turn out to be one of the most "normal" postseasons in several years. Once again, the Braves failed to make it to the second round, but this afternoon's game was perhaps the one truly extraordinary showdown of the first round. Two grand slams in a single playoff game for the first time ever, and at 18 innings, it was the longest playoff game ever. Surprisingly, the often-shaky Atlanta bullpen performed magnificently (in the ten innings after Kyle Farnsworth gave up the grand slam by Lance Berkman, that is), but the Jones brothers and the various newer sluggers just could not come through in the clutch at Minute Maid Park. Suffering such heartbreaking twists of fate as the game-tying bottom-of-the-ninth-inning home run by Brad Ausmus (which cleared the yellow line in left center by only an inch or two), the Braves are in danger of feeling as hopelessly jinxed as the Red Sox once thought they were.
It was no surprise that the top-seeded Cardinals swept the Padres, who won only two more games than they lost this season, but one would have expected the Red Sox to win at least one or two home games against the top-seeded White Sox. Indeed, the Red Sox themselves seemed to expect it. Were they counting on the Fenway Park magic of last year to save them this year? At least they've got proud memories of 2004 to keep them happy through the off-season. This was the first time since 2001 that both wild card teams did not make it to the second round.
Yankees hang in there
The LAnaheim Angels surprised the Yankees by winning games two and three (the latter at Yankee Stadium!), and took an early lead in game four tonight, but the Bronx Bombers eked out a victory by uncharacteristic "small ball" tactics of good base running. Jorge Posada's extra hustle in throwing out would-be base stealers and sliding into home made the difference. It was nice to see the ovation for Bernie Williams, who may have played his last game at Yankee Stadium tonight. Mike Mussina wisely stayed behind in the L.A. area when the rest of his team went back to New York on Friday, and will be well rested to start tomorrow night's deciding game.
D.C. baseball news
The D.C. government estimates it has brought in about $500,000 less tax revenue than it had projected, because so many of the tickets sold to Nationals games this summer were no-shows, a.k.a., "phantom fans." Whereas about 10-15 percent of the tickets most teams sell are no-shows, for Washington, the figure was over 25 percent, meaning that the average "turnstile" attendance at RFK Stadium was probably about 25,000, compared to nearly 34,000 tickets sold per game. This revenue shortfall may affect the scheduled construction of the new stadium. See Washington Post. A recent change in city personnel may end up having the same delaying effect: Andrew Altman has resigned as head of the public/private Anacostia Waterfront Development Corporation, leaving that institution without a strong driving force at the top. This may make it easier for bureaucrats and various parochial interest groups to hold things up as that stadium project trudges forward. Three more years at RFK!?