Today marks the first day when a team could be eliminated from the division series. The Athletics and the Giants are both in action and both face 0-2 deficits. It’s do or die time, Bay Area baseball fans.
The Giants find themselves in Ohio of all places, facing a pitcher who tossed a no-hitter 11 days ago. Opposing Homer Bailey is Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong made two starts against the Reds this year, allowing six runs in thirteen innings. Bailey started once against the Giants, allowing three runs — two earned — in six and a third. Bailey, it should also be noted, is way worse at home this season than he is on the road. And the Reds, it should be noted, haven’t won a home playoff game since 1995. They need to win one of the next three to advance.
Meanwhile in Oakland, Brett Anderson squares off against Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers. All of the talk for the past two days has been about Al Alburquerque sealing a 1-3 putout with a kiss, but the A’s need to get over that in a hurry and focus on saving their playoff lives. The last time Anderson saw the Tigers — or any game action at all — was on September 19. That day he tweaked his oblique and left the game after giving up three earned runs in two and a third. Sanchez had no better luck against the A’s. He faced them back on September 20 and was tagged for five earned runs in five and two-thirds. Also worth noting that (a) the last time the A’s played in any playoff series at all, they were swept by the Tigers, back in 2006; and (b) the A’s have found themselves down 0-2 in seven previous playoff series, and ended up getting swept in six of the seven.
It’s pins and needles time for A’s and Giants fans. For the rest of us: the thrill of win-or-go-home baseball. The Giants play the Reds at 5:37 PM Eastern. The Tigers and A’s go off at 9:37 PM Eastern.
On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.
Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.
The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.
The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.
It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:
On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:
“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.