A’s sweep Yankees, win fifth straight by one run

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It took them 12 innings this time, but the A’s completed a four-game sweep of the Yankees on Sunday, this time winning 5-4. They’ve won five straight games by exactly one run.

The A’s are the first team since the 1999 Marlins to win five straight by the slimmers of margins.

The streak started with a 4-3 win over the Rangers on Thursday. They then beat the Yankees four straight: 4-3, 3-2, 2-1 and 5-4.

The Yankees actually jumped out to a 4-0 lead today, but the A’s came all of the way back. Brandon Inge and Kurt Suzuki homered in the fifth, and the A’s got another run in the sixth on an RBI groundout. Down 4-3 in the ninth, they got a game-tying home run from Seth Smith off Rafael Soriano. Coco Crisp won it in the 12th by singling in Derek Norris.

The victory improved the surprising A’s to 51-44, putting them into a tie with the Angels for second place in the AL West before the Angels play Texas tonight. The Angels, A’s and Orioles are all currently tied for the two wild card spots, with the White Sox one back.

The Japanese playoffs are super unfair

Hiroshima Carp
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I know a little about Japanese baseball. Not a lot, mind you. Like, I couldn’t hold my own with people who actually watch it or report on it or whatever, but I could explain some of the broad differences and similarities between the NPB and the U.S. majors.  I can say a few things about how the two leagues compare competitively speaking. I can name some stars and (I think) all the clubs. But there’s, quite obviously, a ton I don’t know.

A thing I did not know until today: the NPB playoffs are really messed up.

The NPB is divided into two leagues, the Central and the Pacific, with the winner of each league facing off in the Japan Series. Like the U.S. majors, they have preliminary playoff rounds in each league. Each league has three playoff teams, with the second and third seed teams playing a series first, and the winner of that series playing the top seed — the team with the best record in the league — in what is called the Climax Series.

Here’s the weird part: the higher-seeded team in the Climax Series — the team which won the league in the regular season — gets every single playoff game at home. What’s more, that team begins the Climax Series with an automatic 1-0 advantage. So, yes, it’s a seven-game series on paper, but one of the teams only has to win three games to advance to the Japan Series.

Oh, in Japan, they also have no problems ending a playoff game early if it rains. That’s what happened in the Central League Climax Series last night, where the lower-seeded Yokohama BayStars took on the league champ Hiroshima Carp. Here’s the report from Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times:

The rainy conditions in Hiroshima caused the umpires to stop play for over 30 minutes and ultimately call the game after five innings, minutes after the Carp put three runs on the board. Just like that, it was over. The Carp won 3-0, with Yokohama robbed of the four innings (at least) it would’ve had to try and rally.

Even better: as Coskrey notes, there are five days in between the end of the Climax Series and the beginning of the Japan Series, so there is no reason they could not suspend a game and resume it the next day. They just choose not to. The upshot: the Carp now have a 2-0 series lead despite the fact that they’ve only played five innings of baseball.

Imagine if that happened in the NLCS. Imagine if the Dodgers began the series with a 1-0 lead over the Cubs and played all of their games in Los Angeles. Imagine there was a freak L.A. storm and it ended one of the game in the fifth inning, right after Justin Turner hit a homer. I’m pretty sure people would riot.

Kinda makes our complaints about the replay system seem rather quaint, eh?