The long road to the Fall Classic

It’s down to six teams to battle it out for baseball’s most prestige prize

On April 1, 30 different Major League Baseball (MLB) teams started their journey, all towards the same goal: to bring home a World Series Championship to their city. Baseball has a long season, which almost always consists of some ups and downs. The baseball season is 162 dreaded regular season games, and most of the time it comes down to the final week of the season to see just who is ready, who has built to get over the hump and guide their team to the post-season prize. On Sept.  28, the baseball regular season ended, and we quickly went from 30 teams down to 10. However, only six of those 10 teams were guaranteed a first round playoff series. The teams that finish with wild card positions in each conference have to duke it out for an opportunity to play against the top six teams in the league (the division champions).

players

Sept. 30 was the first of two “win or go home” wild card games, where the Kansas City Royals, a team that had not made the playoffs in a record 29 years, hosted the Oakland Athletics for a chance to move on to play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It was one of the wildest games in recent memory. The Angels took a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first. The Royals, who were a team built off speed and pitching all season long, used their small ball to triumph them back into the lead at 3-2. Royals starter James Shields started to get into a groove retiring nine straight batters through the third, fourth and fifth innings, but ran into some big trouble in the sixth. With a couple of Angels’ runners on-base, and their best two hitters due up next, Royals manager Ned Yost decided to make a pitching change. It turned out to be an awful move, as the Angels jumped all over rookie Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura to take a commanding lead at 7-3.

However, the Royals in front of their 40,502 fans, refused to go down. They would chip away for three runs in the bottom of the eighth, and then used their small ball and speed on the base path to tie the game up at seven in the bottom of the ninth. The Royals had seven different players with at least one stolen base in this game. In extra innings, the Angels would once again take the lead, this time in the top of the 12th from pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo, which brought Josh Reddick into score. In the bottom of the 12th, the resilient bunch that they were all night, ended this game after five hours with a triumphant walk off, base hit by catcher Salvador Perez to win the game 9-8. It was a historic night in Kansas City.

In the other wild card “do or die” game, the Pittsburgh Pirates hosted the San Francisco Giants. This game did not live up to the dramatics of the Royals/A’s game, as Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner was dominant, going the distance for a complete game, four hit shutout, while striking out 10. The Giants won the game in commanding fashion 8-0, and will now move on to play the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series (NLDS). For the Giants, Brandon Crawford hit a grand slam in the fourth inning, which really silenced the Pittsburgh crowd, and San Francisco never looked back from there. For Crawford, that was the first ever grand slam hit by a shortstop in post-season history.

Since last week, the playoff picture has quickly dwindled down to six teams, with the “cinderella” Royals shocking the baseball world by sweeping the MLB’s best regular season team, the Angels, 3-0 in the ALDS. Also, in the American League, the Orioles made quick work of the Tigers, defeating three-former Cy Young Award winners in Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and David Price, enroute to a three games to none victory. The Royals will now meet the Orioles in Baltimore on Oct. 10.

Post-season predictions

American League Division Series:

  • Kansas City Royals vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Royals win series 3-0
  • Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles: Orioles win series 3-0

National League Division Series:

  • San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals: Giants win series 3-1
  • St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: Cardinals win series 3-2

American League Championship Series:

  • Kansas City Royals vs. Baltimore Orioles: Royals win series 4-3

National League Championship Series:

  • San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Cardinals win series 4-2

World Series:

  • Kansas City Royals vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Royals win World Series 4-2

Things you need to know:

Adam Dunn – One of the best Designated Hitters in all of baseball, who has hit 462 career home runs (including five straight 40 home run seasons) and 1,168 rbi’s, was on the bench all game for the Oakland Athletics and never got a chance to play vs. Royals. Dunn is planning to retire after 2001 games played and zero post-season games.

John Lester – The Angels made a blockbuster trade at the deadline to acquire Lester from the Boston Red Sox, and through that they gave up arguably their best player in outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Lester is now a free agent, and is not expected to re-sign in Oakland. The belief is the Chicago Cubs are the front runner for his services with a five+ year contract.

Bob Melvin – Melvin’s future with the A’s could be in jeopardy. After such a promising start to the season, the A’s are once again are out of the picture much earlier than anticipated. Melvin has guided the A’s to the post-season for consecutive years, but has yet to bring his guys to the Fall Classic. Manager Billy Beane did his job acquiring the talents of pitchers John Lester, Jeff Samardzija, and hitter Adam Dunn, yet the team still failed once again. It wouldn’t surprise me if Melvin is relieved of his duties.

Russell Martin – Martin, from East York, Ontario is one of the more elite catchers within the MLB and an upcoming free agent. It’s imperative that the Pirates resign him shortly to keep him a part of the core of the team, and have his veteran presence within the clubhouse, before other teams begin to bid for his services and steal him away.

Clayton Kershaw – Kershaw is the probable choice for the National League (NL) Cy award, and possible NL MVP as well, with his 21-3 record this season, to go along with a league low 1.77 earned run average, and 239 strikeouts. However, he was rocked hard in game one of their National League Division Series matchup against the reigning National League Champion St.  Louis Cardinals, giving up eight earned runs.  Chris Davis – Now that the Orioles have advanced to the American League Championship Series (ALCS), Davis, who was suspended for 25 games for taking amphetamines, will be eligible to return in game six, if necessary.

MLB Playoff Schedule:

  • ALCS Oct. 10-18
  • NLCS Oct. 11-19
  • World Series Oct. 22-30
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