Seeing as how this is their 49th trip to the postseason, it should come as little surprise that there are only six franchises (besides themselves) that the Yankees have never played in the postseason–if, of course, you’re not surprised that there are even that many. Recent history, however, suggests that they’ll soon be seeing one of those six; namely, the Tampa Bay Rays.
I’m sure you all know that only one team has forced a Game 7 after trailing a best-of-7 series 3 games to 0, and that that team, the 2004 Boston Red Sox, won Game 7. But what about teams that have rallied from a 2-0 hole to force Game 5 in a best-of-5 series, such as the Rays have done this year? The Rays are the eleventh such team. The first four, interestingly enough, all involved strike-shortened seasons. In 1972, a very brief strike took out the first week or so of the season, and because it was so little (or should that be “despite the fact that it was so little”?), it was decided that they’d just forget about the games that were missed, and if teams didn’t all play the same number of games, then so be it. Some teams played as few as 153 games, others as many as 156. Stupidly, this actually had an effect on the postseason, as Detroit ended up winning the AL East by just half a game. Once there, the Tigers fell into an 0-2 hole against Oakland, only to rally back to force Game 5. They lost. The next strike, of course, was 1981, and unlike the brief strike in 1972 or the one that spanned the 1994 and 1995 seasons, the ’81 strike was in the middle of the season. This led to a “split season” format similar to what they use in the minor leagues, culminating in the first ever LDS, albeit in a more literal sense as these teams were actually playing for the title of Division Champion. The Expos, Astros, Yankees, and Athletics all jumped out to 2-0 leads, but only the A’s finished the sweep, and on October 11, three Game 5s were played. New York and Montreal managed to turn back their opponents, the Brewers and Phillies respectively, but the Astros weren’t so lucky, losing to the Dodgers. It was this last one that started a trend. The remaining six teams to force Game 5 after trailing 2-0–the 1982 Brewers, 1984 Padres, 1995 Mariners, 1999 Red Sox, 2001 Yankees, and 2003 Red Sox–all won Game 5. Don’t be surprised if the Rays win tonight.
AS cheesy as MLB’s slogan may be, you have to admit that October is where legends are born. All together now…
Branca throws. There’s a long drive, it’s gonna be, I believe. … The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! Bobby Thomson hits it into the lower deck of the left-field stands! The Giants win the pennant! And they’re going crazy! Ohhhhh-oh!! (pause for crowd noise) I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it! …The Giants win by a score of 5 to 4… and they’re pickin’ Bobby Thomson up… and they’re carryin’ him off the field!
Bobby Thomson, whose immortal “Shot Heard Round the World” clinched the 1951 National League pennant for the New York Giants in the deciding game of a best-of-three playoff with the Brooklyn Dodgers, passed away on Monday at the age of 86. Meanwhile, this year’s Giants can only hope they can find similar success. Last night’s loss to Philadelphia puts them 1 game behind the Phillies in the wild card race, while the Padres won again to take a 5-game lead in the NL West. It’s funny, isn’t it? The NL West was supposed to be one of the most tightly contested divisions, and the Padres–the one team no one thought stood a chance–have the second-largest division lead. It seems to be like that all around. The AL West was supposed to be anyone’s to win with the long-dominant Angels having fallen back to earth and the Mariners having improved so much in the offseason, but the M’s faltered and the Rangers have run away with it. The AL Central, which has gone to a 1-game playoff each of the past two years, was supposed to be a three-team race between Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota, and for awhile it was. Then Detroit fell apart, and currently the Twins have a 4-game lead, the third-largest. Then again, four games isn’t really that much, and it wasn’t even a week ago that the Twins and White Sox were tied after splitting the first two games of a three-game series. The Twins took the rubber game on Thursday, swept a three-game series over the weekend while Chicago lost two of three, then took game one of another three-game series with the White Sox last night. This being the AL Central, nobody’s really out of it until they’re mathematically out of it. Speaking of which…I haven’t been charting the season since early May. I fell behind on it while preparing for finals and never caught up. I keep meaning to, but the longer I put it off, the more daunting a task it becomes…
Elsewhere in baseball, former starter Hisanori Takahashi has been named the Mets’ new closer. I’m sure there’s something stupid to say here; I’m just not sure what it is. Also, this. Depending on how you look at it, this makes my job either a lot easier or a lot harder.
After a period of being consigned to the house computer since coming home from college, I finally got my laptop set up with internet access again on Monday, and right away, I was battling with an annoying virus. The anti-virus program kept freezing up before it could finish its task, but the virus seems to have disappeared so I’m not going to keep up the fight. While waiting out the virus scans, however, I happened to check in on the games, and found that ESPN.com had “featured” three games, one of which hadn’t even started and all three of which involved teams from a certain division–the AL East. The Yankees-Indians game was an obvious one, as A-Rod is still sitting on 599. (It’s not his only “X99”, either–he’s got 299 career stolen bases, putting him one away from becoming the 7th member of the 300-300 club. In order by homers, Barry Bonds, 762/514; Willie Mays, 660/338; Andre Dawson, 438/314; Bobby Bonds, 332/461; Reggie Sanders, 305/304; and Steve Finley, 304/320. The all-time stolen base leader, Rickey Henderson, fell just three homers short. I found this out because YES offered “who are the only three players with 400 HR and 300 SB?” as a trivia question on Sunday, the day Dawson was enshrined in the Hall of Fame.) The Red Sox-Angels game, which hadn’t even started, was somewhat of a mystery–maybe it was for Lackey’s return to Anaheim? (Nope, that wasn’t until Tuesday; Monday was Dan Haren’s first start with the Angels. They did the same thing for Cliff Lee’s first start with the Rangers, which also went poorly, though without the injury.) But the Rays-Tigers game…I opened up the box score to find a double-no-hitter in progress in the bottom of the sixth, the second time this year a game had been hitless on both sides that late in the game. (That one got a featured game tag, too, despite neither side getting the no-hitter.) Max Scherzer was unable to hold onto their no-hitter as Matt Joyce hit a two-out grand slam in the bottom of the sixth (two walks and a catcher’s interference having loaded the bases), but Matt Garza became the fifth pitcher of the year to complete a no-hitter, the first in Rays history. (The next morning, one of the ESPN people cracked that it was the second time this year the Tigers had a no-hitter broken up by a guy named Joyce.) With the Rays joining the Rockies as teams earning their first no-hitters this season, only the Padres and the Mets are without no-hitters in their franchises’ histories. Also, an odd note: the Rays acquired Matt Joyce from the Tigers prior to the 2009 season in a trade for Edwin Jackson. After one year, the Tigers traded Jackson to Arizona for…Max Scherzer, whose no-hitter Joyce broke up. And then Jackson went and no-hit the Rays as a Diamondback earlier this year. (On that note, today’s Phillies-Diamondbacks game matches Jackson against Roy Halladay–no-hitter versus perfect game. Incredible.) With the trading deadline not yet upon us, we stand just two no-hitters shy of tying the modern record for a season–and it would be one away if not for Jim Joyce’s bad call. Bring it on.
Here we go again. This morning, we learned that Bud Selig is not the only one with his head up his ***–FIFA apparently has the same aversion to technology as the MLB does. Of course, not to be outdone by the horrible refs in South Africa, the “Year of the Blown Call” got taken back here when Gary Cederstrom admitted today that Johnny Damon should’ve had a game-tying bases-loaded walk in yesterday’s Tigers-Braves game instead of a game-ending called strikeout. I had just been arguing with my father today that balls and strikes were the one thing I didn’t want to see dictated by technology, and Gary, you’re really not helping my case. (For the record, Dad’s position was that they could put a chip in the ball–whereas such propositions have only ever been made in football and soccer, two sports where it would be impossible because one requires the entire ball to be over the line and the other requires any part of the ball to be over the line–either way, the entire ball would have to be chipped up.)
Ken Griffey Jr. picked the wrong night to retire. On any other night, his retirement would be a huge story, but it got overshadowed by the drama in Detroit. Give Jim Joyce credit, however–he handled himself gracefully, admitted that he messed up when he saw the replay, and didn’t throw anyone out of the game (I was really thinking that Miguel Cabrera was going to get ejected after the botched play with the way he was jawing at Joyce.) Credit Armando Galarraga as well–he didn’t get angry once, even though he had a perfect game stolen from him. It’s unfortunate what happened, but it’s also a shining example of good sportsmanship on all fronts. Joyce is behind the plate for this afternoon’s Tigers-Indians game, although he was offered the chance to take the game off, and Galarraga came out to give him the lineup card. Wouldn’t you know it, the first out of the game was a close play at first.
Also, about that close play…my first instinct, even before seeing the safe call, was “oh no, I think he (Galarraga) missed the bag!” They’re considering overturning the call and awarding him the perfect game, but I can’t help but wonder if, failing an intervention by Commissioner Selig, the official scorer might not be willing to reclassify the play as an E-1, resulting in a non-perfect no-hitter. I really think it would be justifiable.
On a more positive (?) note, Joycegate or Perfectgate or whatever they’re going to call this may be the impetus needed to get the use of instant replay in Major League Baseball expanded. This morning on SportsCenter, a call for this was made by someone who knows from bad calls first-hand–Don Denkinger, the infamous first-base umpire in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, whose blown call leading off the bottom of the ninth sparked a two-run rally as the Royals came back to win the game and the Series in 7 games. Joyce, who has been umpiring since 1989 and was named the second-best umpire in MLB in Sports Illustrated polls in 2003 and 2006, worked with Denkinger. Joyce was…well, his postgame speech was as profane as an Ozzie Guillen tirade, but it was all self-loathing, and he admitted his mistake. He knew as soon as he saw the replay that he blew it. Finally, when he went to apologize to Galarraga personally, Galarraga replied, without a hint of irony, “Nobody’s perfect.” That was perfect.
UPDATE: WABC’s Warner Wolf brought up another point regarding the play. Umpires are trained to watch for the foot and listen for the ball. In addition to the overwhelming crowd noise at what appeared to be the 27th out of a perfect game, Galarraga snowconed it. If Joyce was doing his job right, he’d have never actually seen the glove–and thus, would have had reason to believe that Donald beat the ball, especially since Galarraga supposedly adjusted the ball after making the play. If Joyce looked up and saw Galarraga adjust the ball and mistook it for the ball just arriving, it’s only natural that he’d make the wrong call. This is why instant replay is needed.
Even with two perfect games in the same calendar month, I never thought I’d get to see the record for least time between perfect games–5 days, between the first and second, back in 1880–broken. And so far, I haven’t. But I should have.
At first, I thought Armando Galarraga missed the bag, but upon seeing the replays, I’m pretty sure he got there, and did so before Jason Donald did. One out away, one measly out…it’s only been four days since Halladay’s perfect game. It would’ve been a new record… Not to mention, three perfect games in one season. Another new record. Damnit…
In a truly bizarre turn of events, the Twins allowed four home runs to the Tigers today and only scored five runs…and won, 5-4. Is that a record–most runs scored when only scoring via solo homers? Games in which one team scores all of its runs on solo homers are fairly rare, and most of them are games with only one total run. (And there have been a few occasions where a solo home run broke up a no-hitter–I can remember at least one occurrence where a solo home run was the only hit in a 1-0 win.) …Just odd. And damn, am I good at getting distracted.