The scheduling mess that is the MLB playoffs

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As we had to sit through yet another night without baseball on Saturday, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports penned a pointed piece on the scheduling embarrassment that is the MLB playoffs:

Beaucoup bucks buy Fox the leverage to insist on starting the World
Series on a Wednesday instead of the Saturday that was standard until
2007. That’s right: The World Series should have started already. Only
because Saturday night is a TV ratings sinkhole, and the potential of
two games on Saturday makes Fox executives cower, they make us wait.
And wait. And wait.


Didn’t used to be that way. Prior to 2007, there was a standard
formula employed since baseball introduced the wild card. The playoffs
always started the first Tuesday following the regular season ending.
The LCS would begin seven or eight days later. And the World Series
came 11 days after the start of the first LCS.


Now the postseason starts on a Wednesday. And while the LCS this
season began eight days later, the World Series doesn’t start until 13
days after the first LCS game. There are off days built in specifically
to adhere to Fox’s request of a Wednesday start, and with the World
Baseball Classic already pushing the season back a week, there will be
at least one – and as many as four – World Series games this November.

Because baseball was always meant to
be experienced in mittens and snow hats. At least they’ve thrown us a
bone by giving us slightly earlier start times, however the late
innings of the ALCS games have been a chore to sit through, even for
the most die-hard of fans. Coincidence or not, things have worked out
pretty well for FOX and TBS this October, although they have the
presence of the Yankees to thank for that.




The Phillies will have a week layoff
when the World Series begins on Wednesday. And as Passan points out,
such a long break isn’t necessarily an indicator of anything. More
recently, the 2006 Tigers sat for seven days and were defeated in five games by the
Cardinals, while the 2007 Rockies went nine days between games before
getting swept by the Red Sox. However, the 1995 Braves or 1996 Yankees
didn’t complain, as they both went on to win the World Series with
week-long breaks.

Imagine for second if the Yankees actually won Game 5 on Thursday. It would have been a whole six days before Game 1 of the World Series. What a joke. Again, MLB and FOX have the Yankees to thank for making things interesting and safeguarding them from a real P.R. nightmare.
  

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).