2016 postseason is underway!
All ten teams that made the 2016 playoff series have now played at least one game, and one of them (the Toronto Blue Jays) has already played three games, winning each one. On Tuesday night, the Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles in the AL wild card game on a walk-off home run by Edwin Encarnacion in the 11th inning. (The "bird" team that has made the playoffs more frequently than any other team other than the Yankees over the past decade -- the St. Louis Cardinals -- failed to qualify this year.)
At Citi Field in New York on Wednesday night, the San Francisco Giants beat the New York Mets in the NL wild card game. It was a classic pitchers' duel in which Noah Syndergaard faced off against Madison Bumgarner, but one swing of the bat in the top of the ninth inning by Conor Gillaspie (who?) made all the difference. With a comfortable 3-0 lead, Bumgarner pitched the bottom of the ninth to get a rare postseason complete-game shutout.
In the ALDS on Thursday, the Blue Jays stunned the host Texas Rangers, winning by a 10-1 margin. (It was the most lopsided margin in a postseason game since Kansas City Royals beat the Blue Jays in ALCS Game 4 last October, 14-2.) The score was 7-0 going into the top of the ninth, when Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer to put icing on the cake. The Rangers' sole run in the bottom of the ninth was merely symbolic. This afternoon, [the Blue Jays] won ALDS Game 2 by a more "conventional" score of 5-3. When the series shifts to Toronto on Sunday, the Rangers will have their backs to the wall, with bleak prospects in a hostile environment.
In Cleveland, the Indians have likewise taken a 2-0 series lead (in the other ALDS) over the Boston Red Sox, winning by a slim 5-4 margin yesterday and by a 6-0 margin today. Lonnie Chisenhall's three-run homer in the second inning was all "The Tribe" needed for the victory. Their starting pitcher Corey Kluber prevailed over David Price, whose performances in recent postseasons (Detroit 2014 and Toronto 2015) have not exactly lived up to the expectations he set during his earlier years with the Tampa Bay Rays. Now the Red Sox are in an unexpected "do-or-die" situation just like the Rangers, but with home field advantage -- magnified by the unique and historical Fenway Park. Of note to fans of the Nationals is that their former rookie catcher Sandy Leon hit a home run, and has done very well for the Red Sox since being called up from the minors in late June.
In Washington this evening, the Nationals had high hopes for NLDS Game 1 with Max Scherzer on the mound, but the Dodgers' second batter, rookie Corey Seager jumped on the first pitch and smashed a home run over the center field wall. In the third inning, the Dodgers added three more runs, two of which came on a home run by Justin Turner that just barely eluded the glove of Jayson Werth in left field. The Nationals fought back hard, getting three runs and putting heavy pressure on Clayton Kershaw, but couldn't quite get hits in the clutch situations. They ended up with more hits than the Dodgers (8 vs. 9), but neither team scored in the latter innings, and the Dodgers won it, 4-3.
And at Wrigley Field in the late game this evening, the Chicago Cubs edged the San Francisco Giants 1-0, as Javier Baez homered off Johnny Cueto in the bottom of the eighth inning, after a long at-bat. Jon Lester got the win for the Cubbies. Could this be "The Year"??? I have strong sympathies for the Cubs, who have not won the World Series since 1908, and have not even won the National League pennant since 1945. My dear departed dad Alan "Cub" Clem (see April 18 obituary blog post) waited his whole life for his team to win it all...
Citi Field update
Based on my thorough inspection of the innards thereof during my visit last month, I made some updates to the diagrams on the Citi Field page. (I was hoping I could finish this in time for some Mets home games in the postseason, but couldn't get it done before the Mets were eliminated.) Most of the changes involve details in the peripheral structures such as exit ramps, and the profiles changed slightly, especially in the lower-deck diagram, the profile of which depicts the area around the left field corner. Based on a photo I took from the rear of the bullpens, where there are some picnic tables, I ascertained the precise alignment of the fence between the two teams' bullpens, which is angled slightly more toward home plate than I had previously estimated.