Divisional series come to an end
Out of the ten teams that reached the postseason (not including the Rangers, who lost the AL wild card tie-breakeer game to the Rays), only four teams are now left. There were no really big surprises in the divisional series, and the remaining contenders are all worthy of a shot at the championship title.
It wasn't a good sign when the L.A. Dodgers beat the Braves in NLDS Game 1 in Atlanta. The Braves bounced back in Game 2, but then back in Los Angeles the Dodgers beat them 13-6 in Game 3. In Game 4, the Braves had a 3-2 lead going into the eighth inning, whereupon the Dodgers' Juan Uribe hit a two-run homer, and that's how L.A. won the series. I was hoping the Braves would go further in the playoffs this year, but they kept true to form. The last time the Braves made it to the NLCS was 2001.
The Pittsburgh Pirates bounced back from an ugly 9-1 loss to the Cardinals in the other NLDS Game 1 (in St. Louis) [to win Game 2 by nearly as big a margin, 7-1], and the two teams likewise split the next two games in Pittsburgh. It was the first-ever postseason series in PNC Park, and the fans were understandably thrilled. Attendance was over 40,000 in both games, but the Pirates could quite deliver in Game 4, missing a chance to clinch the series at home. Instead, those stubbornly resilient Cardinals survived and then handily won Game 5 back home in St. Louis.
In the American League, the Boston Red Sox dominated the Tampa Bay Rays in the first two games, which were held in Fenway Park. Facing elimination in ALDS Game 3, the Rays came back from a 3-0 deficit, finally winning the game in the bottom of the ninth inning on a walk-off home run by Jose Lobaton. That ball sailed right into that aquarium where the rays swim around, a perfect symbolic finale that gave the home town fans a memory they will savor for years to come. (Hopefully none of them were hurt.) Final score: 5-4. In Game 4, the Rays took a 1-0 lead, but a wild pitch by Joel Peralta and an infield single by Shane Victorino allowed the Red Sox to take the lead in the seventh inning, and they ended up winning, 3-1. (NOTE: I previously had the score for that game backwards on the postseason scoreboard, and just corrected it.)
The final divisional series to be decided was between the Tigers and the Athletics, two proud but frustrated teams from medium-small urban areas that have suffered economic decline in recent years. It went back and forth, a full five games before the Tigers emerged triumphant in tonight's game (in Oakland), thanks to splendid pitching by Justin Verlander (who had a perfect game going into the sixth inning), as well as the slugging of Miguel Cabrera, who hit a two-run homer. The Athletics finally got a few base runners in the late innings, but nobody made it past second, and the Tigers won the deciding game, 3-0.
And so, the teams in this year's league championship series will be
almost the same as in similar to those of 2006, with the Tigers facing the Athletics again Red Sox this time, rather than the Athletics, and with the Cardinals facing the Dodgers this time, rather than the Mets. A complete postseason baseball schedule can be found at MLB.com.
[FACT CHECK: I was pretty tired when I wrote the previous paragraph, so I have corrected the obvious mistakes in it. I also made a couple of clarifications elsewhere on this blog post.]
Converting the coliseum
Thanks to Patrick McAtee for bringing to my attention this awesome time-lapse video (via brightcove.com, via SFGate.com) of "O.co Coliseum" being converted from baseball to football use. Apparently, "O.co Coliseum" is being considered a full-fledged legitimate name now.
I have received a number of fan tips with news about other stadiums, and I'll get to those this weekend.
The one-game "play-ins"
I have mixed feelings about the additional wild card team, and the one-game "play-ins" that come with it. There is a big risk of turning the postseason into a joke, with so many teams qualifying that the regular season almost doesn't matter. (NBA? NHL? NFL, even?) But this year, those games were pretty exciting and more or less validated the idea. The Tampa Bay Rays spoiled the first postseason game in Cleveland since 2007, beating the Indians 4-0. Just a hundred or so miles away in Pittsburgh, meanwhile, the crowd relished the triumph as the Pirates beat the Reds 6-2. Not only did the Pirates have their first winning season in 20 years, they came very close to reaching the NL Championship Series.
Nats' daily winning %
A few days ago I finished the graph with the Washington Nationals' winning percentages for 2013:
That graph is now part of the Washington Nationals page.