Baseball fans, we’re in hog heaven right now. You know what’s happened for the first time in the history of the Major Leagues? All four Divisional Series have gone to five games. Now, say what you will about how long there have been four Divisional Series in the first place; there’s a first time for everything, and this kind of thing is exactly why we love postseason baseball — and exactly, might I add, what MLB was hoping for when they added a second wild card team.
Perusing the different series, we have different types of stories. Oakland-Detroit pits a shocking, out-of-nowhere upstart against the truest ace of his generation and the first triple-crown winner in 45 years. San Francisco-Cincy gives us an iconic manager in Dusty Baker, pitted against a team that recovered from losing a centerpiece and adding new parts — and came back from being down 2-zip. With the Cards-Nats, we have the first playoff game in Washington, D.C., in forever, and we have another iconic manager in Davey Johnson going against a team that nudged its way in by way of beating the gas-throwing Braves. We also had the series sent to a fifth game by a walk-off home run by a guy who seems to have a knack for the dramatic. And last but not least, in the Yanks-Orioles, we have loads of drama. Let’s explore.
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The Yankees and Orioles took until the last day of the season to decide who would win the division. Their regular-season series was tied at nine games apiece, and the Orioles actually had a better record within the division and would have won the tiebreaker, had it come to that. The Orioles led the league in one-run wins. The Orioles were also a participant in last year’s unbelievable (ridiculous, absurd, jaw-dropping, insert your own adjective here) Day 162, which — if you can believe it — made this year’s drama look like watching paint dry; it was right around midnight when a walkoff single, followed by exuberance that would otherwise have probably been decried, knocked the Red Sox out of the playoffs by a nose. And then there are the actual games of this series itself: All four games have gone into the ninth inning tied or as a one-run game. If not for Jim Johnson getting blown up in game one (I’ll refrain from exploring the questionable decision to bring your closer into a tie game, when you have setup guys), these games’ final scores would all look as close as the games themselves actually were. Oh yeah, and then there’s the Raul Ibanez thing. Forty years old, underestimated in his prime and still underestimated despite continuing to be an “x-factor” for successful postseason teams that pick him up, Ibanez was four firsts in one* the other night. “Firsts” aside, he gave us a moment that baseball fans will remember for generations.
And now, on a Friday no less, we get to see two more game-five showdowns, involving iconic franchises and iconic managers and iconic players and exciting upstarts.
I tell you one thing: I’m having fun.
* the first player to hit two home runs in a postseason game he did not start; the first player to hit two homers in the ninth inning or later of a postseason game; the oldest player to hit a postseason walk-off homer; the oldest player to hit two home runs in a postseason game.