This is likely a recap that you already know, if you follow baseball regularly. If you do not that’s ok. Last night’s American League Wild Card Game – while intense – is somewhat easy to condense (not meant to rhyme – sorry).
The AL Wild Card one-game playoff between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles took place at the Rogers Centre in Toronto last night. The weather was nice and for the first time since 1985 (when Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox was the Jays’ skipper) the Blue Jays hosted an open air postseason game.
According to Jerry Crasnik of ESPN, the Blue Jays had hosted 24 playoff and World Series games in the Rogers Centre (formerly named the SkyDome) since its inception in 1989 and not one of them had been played with the roof of the dome open.
There were some worries that the ball wouldn’t carry as far and that the two teams, both known for their home run hitters, would be locked in a “who scores first wins” battle. It’s the same thing they are saying about Wednesday night’s NL Wild Card game, but for a different reason.
There were not a ton of home runs slugged in Toronto Tuesday night, however, the home team did score first. When 11 innings were said and done, the home team was victorious.
With one-out in the second inning Jose Bautista, better known as “Joey Bats,” hit a solo shot to put the Blue Jays out in front early. The American League regular season leader in home runs, Mark Trumbo, answered back in the top of the fourth inning with a two-run home run that scored Adam Jones.
The Blue Jays tied it up in the bottom of the fifth inning. Ezequiel Carrera plated Michael Saunders with a single to center field off of O’s starter Chris Tillman. Tillman was replaced later in the inning by reliever Mychal Givens.
The score remained tied until the bottom of the 11th inning. With one out Devon Travis singled to left off of Ubaldo Jimenez and, after him, the reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson also singled to left, moving Travis to third base.
When it came down to it those singles to left field didn’t matter. Slugger Edwin Encarnacion stepped up to the plate and hit a first pitch 91 MPH fastball into the left field seats, leaving the Blue Jays the winners of the AL Wild Card game and sending them on to Arlington to play the AL Western Division Champion Texas Rangers.
There’s a history there from last season but it’s for another time (likely my next post). The other notable issue with the game was why Zach Britton, the relief pitcher who this season posted the lowest ERA for a pitcher with at least 50 innings in MLB history (0.54), was not pitching in the top of the 11th inning in a 2-2 tie. According to manager Buck Showalter,
“It didn’t work out.”
There was speculation that perhaps the star closer, who had converted 49 saves in 49 opportunities during the regular season, may have been injured but both Showalter and Britton told the press that he was physically fine.
Wednesday night the San Francisco Giants travel to New York to take on the Mets in the National League Wild Card game. Again it will likely be the team that scores first, or at all, that lives to fight another day.
One of the best pitchers in postseason history Madison Bumgarner of the Giants will be facing the Mets’ ace Noah Syndergaard, aka “Thor”. Thor, you ask? It’s probably because not only does Syndergaard look like a god of Norse mythology and a superhero created by Marvel Comics, he pitches like one too.
Bumgarner’s many postseason accomplishments, including being named MVP of the 2014 World Series, make him a formidable opponent for Syndergaard but as “MadBum” said in a tv interview yesterday – he isn’t pitching against Noah Syndergaard, he is pitching against the Mets’ lineup and Syndergaard is pitching against the Giants’ lineup.
Seemingly, despite MadBum’s past, this would give the advantage to the Mets who have Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and other sluggers in their lineup, at least more than the Giants have in theirs. However, the first two hitters for the Mets are going to have to get on base in order for the Mets’ sluggers to get their jobs done. Something easier said than done when you are facing MadBum.
Still, Syndergaard said (also in a TV interview) that he’s been listening to advice from his teammate, mentor and seemingly bff – 43-year-old starting pitcher Bartolo Colon – in order to prepare for the match up. Syndergaard is very good and with a little help from the man New York calls “Big Sexy,” he may just stop the “even year” Giants in their tracks, especially at home playing at Citi Field.
The outcome is really one that is up in the air at this point. MadBum vs. Thor.
It’s very different from last night’s game. Each team’s strength there lay in their offense’s hands. Tonight it’s going to be a pitcher’s duel that will keep fate hanging in the balance.