Installment #34: October Baseball
It is indeed October, and for sports fans like myself, that means it is time for playoff baseball. At this point in my life, I watch most if not all of the baseball season, especially the Atlanta Braves games. But when I was younger, I wouldn’t begin to keep up with what was going on in the major leagues until playoff time. Even after taking in a long, 162-game season though, October baseball is special because the regular season is just a memory and it is now down to the best ten teams competing for a World Series championship at the end of the month.
The drama got started on Tuesday night when the Boston Red Sox hosted the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card game. This is one of the most storied, passionate rivalries in sports and it was the game that the Yankees wanted. The two teams traded places a couple of times during the last ten games of the regular season, starting with the Yankees sweeping three games from the Red Sox in Boston September 24-26 which moved them into the first wild card spot. At one point, Major League Baseball ran through different tiebreaker scenarios and the Yankees had to choose whether they wanted to play in Boston or Toronto to break a four-way tie. They chose Boston. The tiebreakers ultimately weren’t necessary when the Sox and Yankees both finished ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners on the final day with identical 92-70 records. The American League wild card game ended up in Boston by virtue of the Red Sox 10 games to 9 edging in their head-to-head matchups this year.
Things got going early for Boston when in the first inning, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts sent a ball sailing over the center field fence and landing 427 feet from home plate. That home run gave the Sox a 2-0 lead. Then in the third inning, left fielder Kyle Schwarber hit another home run off Yankees ace Gerrit Cole adding to the Red Sox lead. Boston starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi only allowed two hits and no runs through five innings before giving up a solo home run to Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo in the sixth. With Boston up 3-1, Eovaldi then gave up an infield single to Aaron Judge which finished him, then reliever Ryan Brasier gave up a wall single to Giancarlo Stanton. However, Judge was thrown out at the plate by Bogaerts when he was mistakenly waved home by third base coach Phil Nevin.
This sequence of plays possibly changed the game and gave the Red Sox momentum for good. Red Sox center fielder Alex Verdugo hit an RBI double in the bottom of the sixth to drive in Bogaerts, making it 4-1 Boston. Verdugo then drove in two more runs with a single in the seventh making it 6-1. Stanton hit a home run in the ninth making the score 6-2 Boston. But Joey Gallo’s deep drive to right field was caught by Hunter Renfroe at the warning track and Gleyber Torres popped up to center field, ending the game and sending the New York Yankees to an early exit from the MLB post season.
The Yankees, who lead the majors with 27 championships all-time have not won a World Series since 2009. It is also the third-straight time that the Red Sox have beaten the Yankees in the playoffs. The Sox will move on to the next round where they will face the Tampa Bay Rays in a best of five series beginning Thursday night. As for the Yankees, who have not won against the Red Sox in the post season since 2003, they have some serious questions to be answered to see if they can make it back to the Fall Classic. I’m not a Yankees fan but I was going for them to beat the Red Sox on Tuesday night. That’s all right though. I’m thinking the Red Sox get swept by the Rays, who are the defending American League champions from last year and who look to be well on their way to another World Series appearance. Maybe the Sox get one game, but I promise you, no more than that. That’s what I think!