Two Game Fives in two five-game series. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Well, unless they were Game Sevens. Or, rather, it was one Game Seven and it was the World Series. And the pitchers were reanimated Lefty Grove vs. a cyborg creation we’ll call “RoboMaddux” and the game was being played at old Tiger Stadium that had, in reality, been given a loving, historical renovation and now stood as a jewel among ballparks. And someone gave me free tickets behind home plate and, what’s this? They replaced my stadium seat with a vintage Eames Lounge Chair and it’s flanked on either side by (a) Carla Guigino, who suddenly realized how attracted she was to bald, fortysomething bloggers; and (b) a D&D-style everfull mug except, instead of mead or whatever, it perpetually replenishes with bourbon.
But the Game Fives will be nice too.
The Game: Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays
The Time: 4:07 p.m. ET
The Place: Rogers Centre
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Cole Hamels vs. Marcus Stroman
The Upshot: The best part of Marcus Stroman’s season is that he spent a good chunk of it in rehab and taking college classes down in North Carolina. Why is that good? Because if he wins today and the Jays go on to win the World Series with the help of a guy who is, essentially, a transfer student, no one will be able to offer those “we’ve battled together since March” cliches. And, late joiner or not, Stroman has been key for the Jays down the stretch, going 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA since rejoining the team in September. His last start in this series wasn’t so hot — he allowed four runs, three earned, over seven innings in Game 2, which the Jays went on to lose — but with David Price and R.A. Dickey having been burned on Monday, he’s the man now, dog.
For Texas it’s Cole Hamels, who allowed four runs himself, two earned, in last Friday’s Game 2. He has to face a Jays offense that rediscovered itself in Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Monday and now goes home to Rogers Centre where the ball flies out like crazy. If you’re one of those people who think playoff experience matters, know this: Hamels has pitched in clinch-games four times in his career. His teams have won all four times.
The Game: Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals
The Time: 8:07 p.m. ET
The Place: Kauffman Stadium
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Collin McHugh vs. Johnny Cueto
The Upshot: Man, that Astros charter flight from Houston to KC must’ve been morose. They had Game 4 in the friggin’ bag but blew it. Or did they really blow it as much as they got exposed for their lack of bullpen depth? Or are the Royals simply a team that has a super annoying but highly effective habit of putting the ball in play and when you do that good things happen? Whatever the case, the would really, really love Collin McHugh to go deep in this game, at least giving them the six innings of quality work he gave them in Game 1. And if he can’t? Well, there’s an off chance Dallas Keuchel could pitch in relief for them today. Though if that’s happening they may be in trouble, so Astros fans might wanna hope it isn’t necessary.
For Kansas City it’s referendum day. Referendum, specifically, on the trade that sent three prospects to Cincinnati for Johnny Cueto who was acquired specifically for games like this. He’s a hired gun whose sole mission for the Royals is the attainment of playoff glory. I’ll rarely say that one game, especially one playoff game, means everything. But in this case, if Cueto does not deliver, the Royals have to consider their season and their strategy a failure, at least in result, if not in plan.