A couple of years ago there was a thing where Phillies fans would descend on Washington and buy up all the Nats-Phillies tickets for games played at Nats Park. Citizens Bank Park was always sold out. No one went to Nats games. The cities are relatively close. It made a lot of sense that Phillies fans would do that. Even if it really ticked off Nationals fans who hated to have their park invaded by outsiders. It became such a thing that they invented “Nattitude” as a counter-marketing effort. Really, all of that sprung from Phillies fans taking over and the Nats trying to take their park back.
A couple of disappointing seasons for the Phillies later and it’s a totally different deal. The Nationals are in Philly this weekend. The weather forecast looks grand. Cliff Lee is on the mound. And the Phillies are offering discounted tickets in earnest. Crossing Broad says it’s a buy-one-get-one-free sale. The Good Phight says it’s more of a 50% off deal of select seats, but notes that it is a pretty early promotion suggesting sluggish ticket sales.
Which, hey, it happens. As all of you are quick to point out every time some NL East thing comes up, the Braves don’t do all that well at the gate so they’ve probably been discounting tickets since the second game of the season. That’s undeniably true.
But Braves fans have never claimed fan intensity, passion and support as some singularly awesome trait they possess like Phillies fans have over the past few years. The thing that set them apart and made them better than any other fans. The abject rejection of the notion that, as is the case with most teams, winning teams draw and losing teams don’t and that, rather, it’s a function of their exceptional enthusiasm for their team. Now they’re discounting what should be a pretty hot ticket, relatively speaking. Like any other mediocre team does.
Here’s hoping a bunch of Nats fans get on a bus and make it Nats Park North. That’d be cool. And next year we’d get self-helpy-sounding promotions like “Phillatude” or whatever.
For years, a bulk of the postseason coverage surrounding Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw focused on his poor results once the regular season ended. The three-time Cy Young Award winner carried a career 5.68 postseason ERA following his NLDS Game 1 start against the Diamondbacks last year, a sample size spanning 15 starts and four relief appearances totaling 95 1/3 innings.
Kershaw had a subpar start against the Astros in Game 5 of the World Series last year and the narrative hit a fever pitch. I dug into the numbers at that point and found that a not-insignificant portion of Kershaw’s playoff ERA could be attributed to relievers coming in after him and failing to strand their inherited runners. At the time of that writing (October 30, 2017), Dodger relievers allowed 10 of 16 runners inherited from Kershaw in the playoffs to score, a strand rate of 37.5 percent. That’s roughly half of the league average (around 75 percent).
Kershaw finished out the World Series last year by pitching four scoreless innings of relief in Game 7. He returned to the postseason, starting Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves this year and tossed eight shutout frames on just two hits with no walks. The narrative should have died there, too. It, of course did not. As the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS, Kershaw got the Game 1 nod against the Brewers and struggled. The Brewers got him for five runs (four earned) across three-plus innings. One of those runs included a home run hit by the opposing pitcher (Brandon Woodruff). Kershaw was also hurt by a passed ball and catcher’s interference on the part of Yasmani Grandal in the third inning. Not a great outing, but not as bad as the line score read, either.
In Game 5 of the NLCS on Wednesday evening, Kershaw once again redeemed himself. He limited the Brewers this time around to a lone run on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over seven innings of work. The only run came around in the third inning when Lorenzo Cain hit an RBI double to center field. Kershaw’s career postseason ERA is now 4.11 and it would be much lower if his bullpen had, in the past, done its job more effectively.
According to Katie Sharp of The Athletic, tonight’s postseason start was Kershaw’s eighth in which he allowed one run or fewer and three hits or fewer. No other pitcher in baseball history has made more than five such starts. That’s partially a function of opportunity, as the Dodgers have been in the postseason every year dating back to 2013 as well as in 2008 and ’09. But Kershaw still has to go out there and make the pitches, and he largely has. The “Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative is dead. It never should have lived.