If there was ever a reminder of what makes baseball the most perfect sport, it was yesterday. Three of the four playoff games were masterpieces in baseball beauty.
The Astros and Mariners locked in a battle pitch for pitch for seventeen scoreless innings. It was 0-0 after nine, and 0-0 after seventeen. It was a reminder of why they came up with the automatic runner in extra innings in the first place. Because without it, it’s swing-for-the-fences mode. And both pitching staffs took full advantage of that. The Astros got just two hits in the final nine innings of the game. The Mariners, three. Unfortunately for the Mariners, one of those two Astros hits left the yard and their playoff hopes left with it.
But, all in all, an eighteen-inning nail-biter is compelling sport.
Meanwhile, in Cleveland, the Yankees played Yankee baseball for eight innings. Five runs scored on the back of three homers. Unfortunately, for them, there are nine innings in a game.
The Guardians played their brand of baseball as well. A ton of hits. Mostly singles. They came into the bottom of the ninth down 5-3. After their first batter got out, Myles Straw hit a blooper to left that, because the Yankees had a kid playing there who was unfamiliar with the outfield, the ball fell in for a single. Rangers baseball where you just stick a glove on a guy and stick him out there somewhere does not play well in the playoffs. Then Steven Kwan dropped a single in left. Then, Amed Rosario slapped a single to left to make it 5-4. But there was still a mile’s worth of real estate to make up. Jose Ramirez then hit a tailor-made double play to short. Except, the Yankees shortstop wasn’t there. He was shifted over to the right side of the infield. Now the Guardians had bases loaded. Their next batter struck out. Then, Oscar Gonzalez stepped into the box. With a one-and-two count, he lined a single up the middle to score two and give the Guardians the win, and a 2-1 lead in this best-of-fiver. In the end, Cleveland had fifteen hits to the Yankees five. Thirteen of Cleveland’s hits were singles, two doubles. Three of New York’s hits were home runs.
And that was just the second breathtaking game of the day. Meanwhile, in San Diego, the Dodgers were cruising. They had Tyler Anderson on the mound, and he was dealing. He had allowed just two hits to the Padres and he was suffocating them. But, never underestimate the stupidity of Dave Roberts and his slavish devotion to analytics. Needing a win to stave off elimination, Roberts decided to hand the game to the Padres. He took out his dominating starter because, well, because why? San Diego pounced on the Dodgers bullpen, scoring five runs in the seventh to take a 5-3 lead, which they would hold on to, sending the Dodgers and their 111-win and their analytical department back home.
The only game that had no drama was the first game of the day in Philadelphia. The Phillies jumped all over the shell-shocked Braves, knocking them out of the playoffs and setting up a match up with the Padres in the next round.
Baseball is glorious.