The Los Angeles Dodgers are no strangers to the playoffs. That means they are no stranger to clinching divisions. Last year, they won 104 games and wrapped things up early. In 2016, they clinched with a week to go, but on the day of the final home game (Vin Scully's sendoff). This year, it came down to the final day, and then a day beyond.
With a 15-0 beatdown of the Giants in San Francisco on Sunday, coupled with Colorado's almost-as-exciting 12-0 drubbing of the Washington Nationals, the two teams finished in a tie atop the National League West. In an unbelievably wild similar set of circumstances, the same thing happened in the National League Central with Milwaukee and Chicago. The Brewers finished an interleague series at home against the Tigers by trouncing them 11-0, and the Cubs (who actually made a game of it for a little while), won going away against St. Louis 10-5. All four of these blowouts made major league history.
There have been one-game playoffs to decide divisions before, but never two in one year, and never before had the losing team not been eliminated. In both cases this year, the winner took the division crown, and gets to open a best-of-five series at home, while the loser would become the wild card team, would still get to play, but in one game where the loser of that game would go home. (Explaining this to my mother was not an easy task, and I don't think she fully got it, but the Dodgers are still playing so she's happy).
For reasons that make as much sense as expanding rosters in September, the one-game playoffs (officially called 'tiebreaker games') count as regular season contests. Milwaukee's Christian Yelich went 3-for-4 and won the batting title. Managers could use 14 pitchers if they wanted to (thank goodness they didn't). And, unlike Sunday, both games were close.
ESPN had both games. The Brewers-Cubs game started at 10am Pacific, and Milwaukee won at Wrigley Field 3-1. The game was rather quick, and only spilled into the Dodgers 1pm start by a half-inning. The Dodgers and Rockies were scoreless until the fourth inning, when they got a two-run homer by Cody Bellinger. An inning later, Max Muncy homered with a man aboard to make it 4-0. Starting pitcher Walker Buehler didn't give up a hit until the sixth inning, closer Kenley Jansen, in a non-save situation, gave up back-to-back homers to Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story in the ninth, but then finished strong, and the Dodgers won 5-2.
The results mean the two losers, the Cubs and Rockies, will play each other in the wild card game Tuesday night (5pm PDT, ESPN). Milwaukee, through all of this, winds up with the best record in the National League, and will play a best-of-five series against the winner of that game, starting in Milwaukee on Thursday. The Dodgers will face National League East champ Atlanta in a best-of-five, starting in LA on Thursday. Starting times have not yet been announced. (I like to guess what the networks are thinking, so I'm going to predict a 3pm start in Milwaukee, and a 6:30 start in LA). The Braves, had the audacity to win their division outright (8 games ahead of Washington), and got to sit back and relax throughout all of this.
My mom said, “Who came up with this crazy setup?” She may be right, but it sure was fun. Now, with all of that settled, the playoffs can begin.
Four games, four cities, five nights: This could have happened to the Dodgers if they lost today, but now it could happen to Colorado. The Rockies played Sunday in Denver (against the Nationals), had to fly to Los Angeles for the tiebreaker game against the Dodgers Monday, now go to Chicago for the Wild Card game against the Cubs Tuesday, and if they win, get Wednesday off and open the Division Series Thursday in Milwaukee.
Not so wild in LA: ESPN and other broadcasters made a lot of the fact that had the Rockies beaten the Dodgers, it would be the first-ever division title for that franchise. What wasn't mentioned, is that the Dodgers have never been a wild card team. The first year of the wild card era was 1995 (it would have been 1994 if not for the strike), and the Dodgers won the division. The Rockies, in only their third year of existence, won the wild card. The Rockies, though, actually won a post-season game (losing 3-1 to Atlanta), while the Dodgers were swept three straight by Cincinnati.
Poppycock!: Turns out the reports were true all along, and we kind of figured they were. Mike Scioscia will not return as Angels manager next year. A teary-eyed Scioscia announced after the Angels final game Sunday that his 19-year tenure is over. The story originally came to light in early August, prompting Scioscia to scold reporters, calling the reports “poppycock”.
It makes sense, but...: It is completely rational and logical, but as a fan, that doesn't mean I have to like it. Major League Baseball decided a few years ago that all the games on the final day of the regular season should start at the same time, so that no team has an unfair advantage. On the final day of the 2014 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates played an early game back east and lost, clinching the Central Division for St. Louis. The Cardinals were playing a late game, and since they had now taken the division before taking the field, pulled ace Adam Wainwright from his scheduled start so they could use him in game one of the playoffs. It was well within the rules, but (I think you could say rightfully) deemed unfair, so the universal start time on the final day was implemented the following year. However...
TBS shows Yankees-Red Sox?: On Sunday, the final scheduled day of the regular season, there were five games (all starting at noon Pacific Time) that mattered. TBS, which has the rights to the final day, showed none of them. Granted, the network had to make a decision at least a few days ahead of time, but the matchup that the network and executives think is all fans want to watch, turned out to be meaningless, and earlier this week, was at best only going to determine if the Yankees had home field advantage against Oakland in the wild card game or not. They had Dodgers-Giants, Nationals-Rockies, Tigers-Brewers, Cardinals-Cubs, and Phillies-Braves to pick from, and went with Yanks and Sox. The choice (keeping that big market, and east coast bias in mind) should have probably been Cardinals-Cubs.
We are the champions!: For the second time in three years, and the third time overall (2018, 2016, 2011), my fantasy team, the Yuba River Yawhoos, are champions of the Boys of Summer league. Hey, it's not a lot to brag about, but it's still pretty cool. It also means I draft last next year.