Your team has been eliminated. Now what do you do?

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This is not just a question I’m asking myself this morning, it’s a question all sports fans ask themselves at some point. When your team is knocked out of the playoffs, do you search for a new, temporary rooting interest? Do you simply watch objectively for pure entertainment? Do you disengage completely?

I am capable of watching baseball for pure entertainment. I do it most
of the regular season in fact. I’ve never picked a side in a Yankees-Red
Sox game, for example, and never will. I root for good baseball in
those games. I rarely get it, but I still root for it.

Royals-Angels?
Orioles-Jays? Brewers-Astros? I’m able to mine the tiniest bit of
minutiae from almost anything baseball-related, but for any one game —
especially a game with low stakes — it’s usually a bit too much for me
to pick a side. This used to happen to me in the playoffs too, but since
I’ve been writing about baseball it’s been hard for me to go the
Switzerland route for a seven game series. Eventually I start pulling
for someone. But who do you root for?

I’ve done the carpetbagger fan thing before.  In some ways it’s the most natural thing there is. Your team has been sent home, but you’re still watching the games. Events on the field spark something deep and primal within you, and you find yourself rooting for one of the teams that are still alive. Maybe you like Brian Wilson’s beard. Maybe you really want to see Cliff Lee or Evan Longoria stick it to the Yankees. Maybe you don’t want the North Korean World Cup team to be sent to slave labor camps upon their return home.  The point is, you latch onto something on the spur of the moment and ride it for a while.

Or you can go the calculated route. I’m less prone to doing this — I tend to decide who I’m rooting for after I turn the game on — but I’m seriously considering it for the NLCS at the moment. What makes me more angry: the fact that the Giants eliminated the Braves or the fact that the Phillies beat them out for the division title and embarrassed them in two September series? At the same time, what appeals to me more: the fact that Tim Lincecum, my favorite non-Brave is pitching for the Giants or that Charlie Manuel, my favorite non-Bobby Cox manager is in charge of the Phillies?  I haven’t quite figured this out yet.

The last option — total disengagement — is impossible for me because I’m paid to write about baseball, but it’s something some people do. “My team’s gone? Screw it: I’m spending my October evenings catching up on my knitting or else I’m going to go crazy with rage!”  I can’t relate personally to this sort of thing — see last night’s rough-and-tumble Bobby Cox thread for some reasons why — but I sort of understand it.  But only sort of.  If you’re one of those people who is a big enough baseball fan to read this blog but one who nonetheless won’t be watching the rest of the playoffs, please, enlighten the rest of us as to your thought process. Do you simply not care anymore once your rooting interest is gone, or is it too painful to watch the game being played without them?

Anyway. The Rays and Rangers play tonight. I think I’m going to root for the Rangers. My distaste for Jeff Francoeur is outweighed by my admiration of Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson and a handful of other Rangers (and really, if I get loopy enough I could probably took myself into rooting for Frenchie in some ironic way).  The NLCS starts, I dunno, eight weeks from now, and I’m probably going to pull for the Giants. This could change, though — I don’t like Brian Wilson’s beard, after all.  The Yankees are right out no matter who they’re facing. They have been since 1996. They’ll be fine without me, I assume.

No matter how it shakes out, though, I’m rooting for three exciting seven-game series. Followed immediately by the Earth passing through a worm hole and magically transporting us to mid February when pitchers and catchers report.

Go, whoever!

Bellinger, Puig power Game 7 win to send Dodgers to the World Series

Yasiel Puig
AP Images
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The Dodgers are headed back to the World Series following a 5-1 win over the Brewers during Game 7 of the NLCS. Cody Bellinger delivered the go-ahead shot after taking Jhoulys Chacín deep in the second inning, and Yasiel Puig‘s three-run blast in the sixth helped bolster the Dodgers’ lead as they wrapped up their second consecutive NL pennant.

The Brewers looked dominant from the get-go. Jhoulys Chacín set down a scoreless first inning while Christian Yelich proved he was capable of harnessing the power that nearly won him the Triple Crown during the regular season. He smashed an 0-1 pitch from rookie right-hander Walker Buehler in the bottom of the first, sending it out to center field to mark his first home run since Game 1 of the NLDS.

It wasn’t long before the cracks began to show, however. Cody Bellinger returned with a two-run shot in the second inning, and another double from Puig signaled the end of Chacín’s outing. He used just six pitches to get through all three outs in the second, then handed the ball to southpaw Josh Hader to start the third. The lefty didn’t disappoint. After sitting out of Game 6, he pitched a flawless three innings to keep the Brewers on the Dodgers’ tail, issuing just one hit, one walk, and four strikeouts until he made his exit in the sixth.

Had the Brewers been able to rely on Hader for a longer outing, they might have chosen to do so. Instead, Xavier Cedeño and Jeremy Jeffress combined for a disastrous outing in the sixth, first with back-to-back singles from Max Muncy and Justin Turner, then with a three-RBI homer from Puig that allowed Los Angeles to pull ahead with a four-run lead.

The Dodgers did their fair share of shutting down the Brewers at the plate, too. In the bottom of the fifth, Milwaukee verged on a tie after Lorenzo Cain drove a two-out, line drive double into left field. Julio Urias replaced Walker as Yelich came back up to the plate, but any thought of a go-ahead homer was quickly shut down as Chris Taylor sprinted to make a jaw-dropping, over-the-shoulder catch at the warning track.

The bats settled down from the sixth inning on — neither the Dodgers nor the Brewers found an opening against Milwaukee’s Corey Knebel and Brandon Woodruff and L.A.’s Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw, respectively. Woodruff struck out the side in the eighth, while Jansen refused to allow a single batter to reach base in 1 1/3 innings of work. Things appeared to shift back in the Dodgers’ favor in the ninth, as Puig and Taylor collected a single and double and Woodruff loaded the bases after intentionally walking Matt Kemp to get to Enrique Hernández. That feeling was short-lived, though, as Woodruff decimated Hernández and Muncy in back-to-back strikeouts to cap the inning.

With a World Series berth on the line, not to mention the club’s 23rd NL pennant, the Dodgers weren’t taking any chances when the bottom of the ninth rolled around. Up 5-1 with three outs remaining, Clayton Kershaw stepped on the mound for the first time since his Game 5 win. He looked just as dominant in relief, retiring Shaw on a groundout, inducing a six-pitch strikeout from Jesús Aguilar, and effectively dashing the Brewers’ World Series hopes as Mike Moustakas struck out swinging for the third and final out of the game.

Game 1 of the World Series is set for Tuesday, October 23 at 8:09 PM EDT, when left-hander Chris Sale will take the mound for the Red Sox at Fenway Park. The Dodgers’ starter has yet to be formally announced. The Red Sox are currently looking for their ninth championship title, while the Dodgers are on the cusp of their seventh.