Championship Season for the Boys of Summer

Ah, October – a time for pumpkins, cool weather, and changing leaves, but most importantly, postseason baseball.  Every fall, eight major league teams move on to the playoffs, each one of them vying for the coveted Commissioner’s Trophy.  The beauty of sports, though, is that only one team will come out on top, and each one is in for one heck of a fight to get there.

The 2013 MLB postseason began in an unusual fashion, with a rarely-seen glitch in the Wild Card race.  Usually, teams that finish first in their division advance to the playoffs.  Then, the two non-division-winning teams with best records in their leagues (American and National) play in a one-game playoff to advance to the playoffs.  This system is called the Wild Card race.  This year, however, because the race was so close, there were play-in games for the Wild Card game.  This created a very strange scenario: one that is rarely seen in the postseason.  This year, the Tampa Bay Rays faced the Cleveland Indians in the American League and the Pittsburgh Pirates faced the Cincinnati Reds in the National League.  The Rays and Pirates won, and advanced to the Divisional Series.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are making their first postseason appearance in two decades. Will they seize the coveted Commissioner’s Trophy – or will someone else?

The Pittsburgh Pirates are making their first postseason appearance in two decades. Will they seize the coveted Commissioner’s Trophy – or will someone else?

After the Wild Card was decided, the eight best teams in baseball were pitted against each other in the Divisional Series.  In the National League, the Pittsburgh Pirates (in their first postseason appearance in twenty years) faced off against the St. Louis Cardinals, while the Los Angeles Dodgers played against the Atlanta Braves.  In the American League, the Detroit Tigers faced the Oakland Athletics, and the Boston Red Sox faced the Tampa Bay Rays.

Following the excitement of the wild card race, these divisional playoffs were no-less thriling.  The divisional series is a five game series, and the first team to win three games advances to the championship series.  In the NL, the Dodgers made quick work of the Braves, winning the series three games to one.  In an exciting series, the Pittsburgh Pirates forced a game four against all odds, but fell to St. Louis in game five.  The AL provided even more excitement.  After being down two games to one, the Detroit Tigers rallied in game four to win, and then took it home in game five.  The Boston Red Sox dispatched Tampa Bay fairly quickly, winning the series three games to one.

After the ALDS and NLDS, the stage was set for two incredible Championship Series.  The championship series is a seven game round, and the first team to win four games wins their league’s pennant and advances to the World Series.  In game one of the NLCS, the Cardinals and Dodgers both scored two runs in the first inning, but were then stuck in a deadlock.  Finally, in the bottom of the 13th inning, Cardinals’ outfielder Carlos Beltran singled to right field for a walk-off win 3-2.  In another pitching duel in game 2, the Cardinals walked away with a hard-fought 1-0 win.  They now led the series 2 games to none.  In game 3, the Dodgers finally found their spark in an impressive offensive display, shutting out the Cardinals 3-0.  In game 4, St. Louis pulled away once again, winning 4-2.  Then, Wednesday night, the Dodgers put on a show, dispatching the Cardinals 6-4.  The series now stands at 3-2, with the Cardinals leading.  Game 6 is tonight at 8:30 eastern in St. Louis.

The ALCS has been even more exciting.  Game one hosted one of the most impressive pitching performances in postseason history.  Tigers’ pitcher Anibal Sanchez threw 8 1/3 hitless innings, striking out 17 Red Sox batters to preserve a 1-0 win in Boston.  Game two was nothing less than extraordinary.  Detroit saw another impressive pitching performance from starter Max Scherzer, who stuck out 13 Red Sox and had a no-hitter going through 6 innings.  After a very sloppy game, Boston managed to load the bases with 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th inning.  David Ortiz sauntered up to the plate and, on the first pitch he saw, blasted a ball just over the right-center wall for a grand slam to tie the ballgame.  In the bottom of the ninth, Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a walk-off single, driving in Xander Bogaerts from third base.  Game two has been called one of the most impressive comebacks in MLB postseason history.  With momentum behind them, the Red Sox beat the Tigers in game three in Detroit, winning 1-0 in a close pitchers’ duel.  In game 4, behind in the series 2-1, Detroit rallied late in the game to come away with a 7-4 win.  Then, last night in game 5, the Red Sox won in yet another close game with a score of 4-3.  Game 6 will be played Saturday in Boston.

The MLB postseason provides something that other sports just don’t seem to – the unknown.  Baseball is a game of inches, and you never know how a game will end until the last out is recorded on the score-sheet.  Players who have not hit well in the regular season seem to thrive in October, and big-time sluggers often struggle to find they’re rhythm.  There is just something about October that makes underdogs become champions and bench-players become heroes.  It might be the cool air, it might be the pressure, but whatever it is, it provides the very best that sports have to offer.

— Will Twomey, Staff Writer

Posted by on October 18, 2013. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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