Who to root for in the postseason — National League

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We did the American League, now it’s the National’s turn. Same deal: if your favorite team is out, who do you root for and why? Same caveats:

1. You are totally excused from picking a division rival to your actual rooting interest. You can if you want to of course, but intra-division hatred is likely to trump all of the pros and cons listed below and you need not apologize for that.

2. You are totally free to go back to hating your postseason rooting interest next spring when the new year starts.

The options:

Washington Nationals

  • Why To Root For Them: I’d say Bryce Harper, but he hasn’t been a big factor this year. Same deal as Mike Trout in the AL, though: because it’d be good for a young superstar to break out in the postseason to erase all of the Jeter Mourning. Other reasons: There are certain types of people who like to root for the best team and, though there was no 100-win team in baseball this year, the Nats are arguably the best team going right now. They may have that 1990s Yankees thing about them too. No, they’re not as good as those teams, but they have the same sort of “hardly any weaknesses in the lineup” thing working right now, making them hard to pitch to. Again, if you’re in to that sort of “anyone can be a hero any given night” kind of vibe.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: You’re from Quebec and still hold grudges? You root for the Barves (this is a limited sub-category, I realize). You don’t like bandwagony fans. I mean, yes, the Nats have grown the fanbase since they’ve been there and been winning, but there is a still pretty healthy contingent of Washington fans who are newbies or who already shifted their allegiance to the Nats in recent years and perhaps you’re the type who thinks a fan base needs to endure more before they experience success. I think that’s a tad bitter, but I know a lot of you roll that way.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • Why To Root For Them:  I know this will be interpreted as hate, because all Cardinals fans interpret everything short of “GO CARDS!” as hate. But really, it’s hard to find a good reason to adopt the Cards if they’re not already your team. They’ve won a lot in recent years and they have the same fatigue factors working for them Detroit does. I guess you can appreciate how good Adam Wainwright is. I spent the World Series in St. Louis last season and I had a lot of fun and enjoyed my time there, so if you have something similar I suppose that’s something. But really, it’s hard to gravitate to a team that has been such a postseason fixture in recent years. Their struggles this year notwithstanding, if you adopt the Cardinals you’re an overdog lover in some ways, and that’s never a good look.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: No matter what you think of the whole Best Fans In Baseball thing (Cards fans tell you that’s a myth perpetrated by haters, even though that is clearly not the case) they really don’t need anyone else’s help.

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Why To Root For Them: Andrew McCutchen is another in that “amazing young stars” group with Harper and Trout who can be baseball’s next big face, and we need that, just to shut everyone up. It helps that he’s amazing to watch play too. If you’re the analytical type, the Pirates have just as good a claim to being the next sabermtric darling team as anyone. Baseball isn’t random enough, so why not root for a team who has Edinson Volquez lined up as its number one playoff starter right now?
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Remember in the late 80s through the mid 90s when Steelers fans were confined to Pennsylvania and you didn’t think much about them? Yeah, those were good times. Know a lot of Steelers fans now? Aren’t they awful and insufferable? Do you really want that to happen in baseball too?

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Why To Root For Them: If you can’t appreciate Clayton Kershaw there is no helping you. Puig is simultaneously another candidate for the young breakout star thing AND a guy you have to love if you love seeing crusty people who don’t enjoy flamboyant players and amazing fun get all bent out of shape. Indeed, you’re not just rooting for the Dodgers and Puig to win it in that case, you’re rooting for Puig to hit the go-ahead homer in Game 7 of the World Series, flip his bat and run the bases backwards, then ending the game in the bottom of the ninth on an off-balance, airmailed, miss-the-cutoff throw that still somehow nails the would-be tying run at home plate. After which he ascends into heaven with his tongue sticking out and the old double freed0m rockets aimed at the press box where Bill Plaschke sits, gasping for air.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: I don’t subscribe to anti-Los Angeles/Hollywood sentiment — I rather like L.A. for some reason — but I understand it, and if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like L.A. and all it stands for, I can see not liking the Dodgers. I can also see someone being that un-fun, Play The Game The Right Way person who allows their Puig Derangement Syndrome to get the best of them. There’s at least an outside chance that Brian Wilson has a big moment in a playoff game, and we’re all still trying to recover from 2010 and 2012, so I can totally see not wanting to see that.

San Francisco Giants

  • Why To Root For Them: Hunter Pence is just plain weird, and I mean that in the best way possible. If you can’t watch him hack at the plate and play defense and not smile at least a little bit you’re dead inside. Pablo Sandoval is on a nice streak of showing us, every other postseason, that you can love arepas and still be a world class athlete. Personally, I’m covering the World Series again this year and I would like to go back to that doctor who gave me the amazing drugs the last time I was in San Francisco.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Two World Series titles in the previous four years puts them in the Cardinals-Tigers fatigue category. Non-trivial chance that the existence of Buster Posey in the playoffs and the new plate collision rule will lead to multiple replays of the play that injured him back a few years ago and who the heck wants to see that.

 

So there you have it. You have until tomorrow evening to make your choice. Choose wisely.

Cole Hamels done for year after just 1 start for Braves

Cole Hamels triceps injury
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ATLANTA — After making just one start for the Atlanta Braves, Cole Hamels is done for the season.

Hamels reported shortly before the start of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins that he didn’t feel like he could get anything on the ball. The left-hander was scheduled to make his second start Tuesday after struggling throughout the year to overcome shoulder and triceps issues.

The Braves placed Hamels on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 18,, but that was a mere formality. General manager Alex Anthopoulos already contacted Major League Baseball about replacing Hamels in the team’s postseason player pool.

“Cole knows himself and his body,” Anthopoulos said. “You trust the player at that point when he says he can’t go.”

The Braves began Monday with a three-game lead in the NL East .and primed for their third straight division title.

Even with that success, Atlanta has struggled throughout the shortened 60-game series to put together a consistent rotation beyond Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson.

Expected ace Mike Soroka went down with a season-ending injury, former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz was demoted after just one start, and Sean Newcomb also was sent to the alternate training site after getting hammered in his four starts.

The Braves have used 12 starters this season.

Anthopoulos had hoped to land another top starter at the trade deadline but the only deal he was able to make was acquiring journeyman Tommy Milone from the Orioles. He’s on the injured list after getting hammered in three starts for the Braves, giving up 22 hits and 16 runs in just 9 2/3 innings.

“There’s no doubt that our starting pitching has not performed to the level we wanted it to or expected it to,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that each year you never have all parts of your club firing. That’s why depth is so important.”

Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year contract last December, reported for spring training with a sore shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.

When camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamels was able to take a more cautious approach to his rehabilitation. But a triceps issue sidelined again before the delayed start of the season in July.

The Braves hoped Hamels would return in time to provide a boost for the playoffs. He also was scheduled to start the final game of the regular season Sunday, putting him in position to join the postseason rotation behind Fried and Anderson.

Now, Hamels is done for the year, his Braves’ career possibly ending after he made that one appearance last week in Baltimore. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in a loss to the Orioles.

Hamels reported no problems immediately after his start, but he didn’t feel right after a bullpen session a couple of days ago.

“You’re not going to try to talk the player into it,” Anthopoulos said. “When he says he isn’t right, that’s all we need to hear.”

Atlanta recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson to replace Hamels on the 28-man roster. The Braves did not immediately name a starter for Tuesday’s game.

With Hamels out, the Braves will apparently go with Fried (7-0, 1.96), Anderson (3-1, 2.36) and Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74) as their top three postseason starters.

Hamels is a four-time All-Star with a career record of 163-122. He starred on Philadelphia’s World Series-winning team in 2008 and also pitched for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Hamels went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts for the Cubs.