I love how the last week of the season is shaping up, what with the Orioles and Yankees fighting it out for the AL East, each trying to avoid the one-game wild card thing. But reader Innocent Bystander makes a good point in the comments this morning:
O’s/Yanks battle seems exciting on the face of it, but if we rewind to when just 2 Division winners went to the postseason and there were no Wild Cards the drama would be even more intense. Imagine if one of these teams was going home. For that matter, go back farther to league winner goes directly to the World Series and you would have a great 3 team race with the Rangers. And in the NL the Reds/Nats would be a lot of fun too. More playoff teams doesn’t necessarily make the races better.
Like I said: it’s still exciting now. But don’t let anyone — be it a broadcaster or a Commissioner of Baseball — make you believe that the excitement we’re going to have these last three games and then again on Friday’s do-or-die wild card games is unprecedented or impossible without the current playoff format.
The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.
After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.
Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.