The World Series is on the verge of playing game 6, with the Rangers leading 3 games to 2. The Rangers could end it tonight, or the Cardinals could force a game 7. Based on the way this postseason has gone so far . . . my money’s on the Cardinals. Have you noticed just how intense this postseason has been? Have you noticed how many times the losing team has had a chance to tie or win the game in their final at-bat? Here’s a run-down of each postseason series so far, with an added emphasis on just how tight the games have been:
ALDS – Yankees vs. Tigers, Tigers win 3-2. In the two games the Yankees won, they outscored Detroit 19-4. But, Detroit’s three wins were by 2 runs, 1 run, and 1 run. In game 2, the Tigers were ahead 5-1 going into the bottom of the 9th, and the Yankees put 2 runs on the board by the time there was one out! Jeter came to the plate with one out and one on, and struck out. Cano came to the plate with two out, and two on (a chance to win with one swing), and grounded out to second. Game 3 was tied in the bottom of the 7th when Delmon Young hit a solo home run that ended up being the game winner. Jose Valverde walked two in the 9th, but escaped with a deep fly ball to right off the bat of Martin, and a strikeout by Jeter to end the game. The game 5 win ended with a 1-2-3 9th inning, but against the heart of the Yankee lineup (Granderson, Cano and A-Rod). So, two of the three Tiger wins could have been losses with one swing of the bat, and the other could have been tied by the Yankees’ final batter.
ALDS – Rangers vs. Rays, Rangers win 3-1. Don’t let the fact that this series didn’t go 5 games fool you. The only lopsided score was the game the Rays won – a 9-0 domination in game 1. After that, the Rangers won by 2 runs, 1 run, and 1 run. Game 2 saw the Rays creep back into a game they trailed 7-3 in the 7th inning. It was 7-6 in the bottom of the 8th when the Rangers’ Mitch Moreland hit a solo home run for some insurance. In the 9th, the Rays had B.J. Upton on with one out, but couldn’t do anything about it. The Rays led Game 3 1-0 going into the 7th inning, but the Rangers exploded for 4 runs. Tampa Bay got one run back in the bottom of the 7th thanks to three straight singles. But, despite a solo home run followed by three walks in the bottom of the 8th, they couldn’t capitalize, so it was 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th. After a single with just one out, Kelly Shoppach (the home-run hero of game 1) came to bat. But, after an 8-pitch duel, he grounded into a double-play to end it. Game 4 saw the Rangers go into the bottom of the 9th with a 4-2 lead. With one out, they saw that lead drop to 4-3 after a walk, defensive indifference, and a single. But, Neftali Feliz did his job getting the next two out, and the Rangers moved on to the ALCS. Every loss by the Rays saw them miss an opportunity to tie or win the game in their final at-bat.
NLDS – Cardinals vs. Phillies, Cardinals win 3-2. This series saw three one-run games, and a two-run game. The only blowout was the Phillies’ 11-6 win in game 1, which was 11-3 going into the 9th inning. Game 2 saw the Cardinals come back from being down 4-0 to eventually take a 5-4 lead in the 7th inning. And, the Phillies never were able to do anything more about it, with the Cardinals pitching getting the last 6 outs without allowing anyone on base. Game 3 was 0-0 in the 7th when the Phillies scored 3 runs. It was 3-1 in the 9th when Pujols led off with a double. Berkman followed with a deep flyball to center, but it was only a loud out. Molina singled Pujols home with two outs, but it was too little too late as Theriot grounded out to end it. Game 4 saw the Cardinals take a 5-2 lead in the 6th, and the Phillies could do very little about it, getting just two singles and one run across in the final 3 innings. Game 5 was an epic pitchers’ duel – Carpenter vs. Halladay. Halladay allowed 1 run in the first inning, and that’s all Carpenter needed, as he allowed just 2 base-runners in the last 4 innings. Still, the Phillies had a chance to tie with one swing in games 2 and 5, while the Cardinals could have won game 3 with a home run in their last at-bat.
NLDS – Brewers vs. Diamondbacks, Brewers win 3-2. Saving the best for last. The Brewers charged out to a 2-0 series lead accumulating 21 hits and 13 runs in the first two games. Then, the Diamondbacks’ offense caught fire in Arizona, where they scored 18 runs on 26 hits in the next two games to tie the series. While neither team had much chance to come back in the end of the first 4 games, game 5 of this series is one of the best series-deciding games I’ve ever seen in the postseason. The Diamondbacks took a 1-0 lead in top of the 3rd. The Brewers tied it in the bottom of the 4th. The Brewers took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 6th. In the top of the 9th, the Diamondbacks tied it up by putting their first three batters on base with a double, single, and single. But, they could do no more as the next three batters struck out, and then hit two ground-balls to end the inning. It was still 2-2 in the bottom of the 10th inning when the Brewers’ Gomez singled with one out, and then stole second on the second pitch to Morgan. On a 2-2 count, Morgan singled up the middle, and Gomez scored the winning run (for more on this game, check out my post – https://baseball-brains.com/2011/10/07/for-the-love-of-the-game-2/). What a great game.
ALCS – Rangers vs. Tigers, Rangers win 4-2. There was only one game that was a 1-run game in the end. But, that hardly tells the tale of this series. The closest final score of this series was game 1, which the Rangers won 3-2 against Justin Verlander. It was 3-2 going into the 9th, and Detroit’s Santiago leads off with a bunt single. But, Feliz struck out the next three batters to put an end to the threat. Game 2 didn’t end with as close of a score, but it was an even more exhilarating game. The Tigers had a 3-2 lead in the 7th inning, when Nelson Cruz tied it with a lead-off home run. It was still tied in the top of the 9th when the Tigers had a single, double, and intentional walk all with 2 outs. Victor Martinez stepped to the plate with the bases loaded, but he popped out. In the bottom of the 9th, the Rangers put their first three on with a double, intentional walk, and HBP. But, Murphy popped out to short LF, and Moreland grounded into a double-play. So, it was still tied in the bottom of the 11th inning, when the Rangers led off with three straight singles, which brought up Nelson Cruz. And, on a 1-2 count, Cruz hit the first ever walk-off grand-slam in playoff history. The Tigers controlled game 3 fairly well, thanks to an excellent performance by Doug Fister who pitched 7 and 1/3 innings, allowing just 2 runs on 7 hits by Texas – final score was 5-2. Game 4 was yet another hard-fought epic battle. The Tigers scored in the bottom of the 7th to tie it up 3-3 on an unlikely home run by Brandon Inge. That score held up all the way to the 11th inning again. Josh Hamilton led off with a double, but Michael Young struck out. The Tigers decided to intentionally walk Beltre, and take their chances with Napoli. All Napoli did was single up the middle to score the go-ahead run. The next batter was, once again, Nelson Cruz. And, on the first pitch he saw, Cruz hit a 3-run home run to seal the win for Texas. Feliz came in and shut Detroit down in the bottom of the 11th. The Tigers had to win game 5, or else it was all over. They had their ace starting the game, and they built a 7-2 lead through the first 7 innings. But, Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run home run in the 8th to cut the lead to 3. And, with 2 outs in the 9th, the Rangers mounted a comeback, scoring a run on a double and single. Then, Mike Napoli came to the plate with a runner on, and his team down by 2. But, he grounded out, which forced the series back to Texas. The Rangers put the Tigers away with an impressive offensive performance in game 5, highlighted by a 9-run 3rd inning that amazingly didn’t include a single home run. After a 15-5 win, the Rangers were on their way to their second consecutive World Series. But, not without the Tigers having had their chances to win on multiple occasions.
NLCS – Cardinals vs. Brewers, Cardinals win 4-2. The Cardinals offense caught fire in the NLCS, as they scored 31 runs in 3 of their wins. Their pitching also shut down the powerful Brewers offense, which scored just 17 total runs in their 4 losses (6 of which was in the final game, when St. Louis scored 9 runs in the first 3 innings). But, how different might this series have been, had game 2 gone a little differently. The Cardinals scored 4 runs in the first inning, and only had 5 hits the rest of the game. The Brewers scored 3 runs between the 2nd and 3rd innings, before Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals bullpen shut the Brewers offense down, never allowing more than one hit in any inning beyond the third. If the Brewers could have capitalized at any point, their own bullpen held the Cardinals at bay. The Brewers did manage to tie the series in game 4, with a 4-2 win that was very tight over the last few innings, as the Cardinals had men on base in the 6th, 8th, and 9th innings, but were unable to do anything with it. The Brewers pitching simply imploded in the last two games of the series, as they allowed 19 runs on 24 hits. Meanwhile, LaRussa used his bullpen again and again to shut down the Brewers offense, which didn’t score a single run beyond the 5th inning in the last two games. This was easily the least eventful series of the postseason.
But, what does that say about this postseason when the least eventful series of the postseason had 3 games decided by 3 runs or less?? This might possibly be the best postseason we’ve ever seen – and the World Series isn’t even over yet. What do you think?