The Buildup to the Boom: Postseason Moments We’ve Forgotten About (2010-2017) – Romantic About Baseball
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The Buildup to the Boom: Postseason Moments We’ve Forgotten About (2010-2017)
April 24, 2018 category 1 Comment;
cre·scen·do
krəˈSHenˌdō
a progressive increase in force or intensity.
– Websters Dictionary
Ask most long time baseball fans to pick their “greatest game ever played”, and there’s a pretty good chance they’ll fire off an epic World Series matchup.  Whether it be a classic like 1975 Game 6, the pitching duel of Game 7 in 1991, or the miracle comeback in 2011’s Game 6, it’s easy to pick a World Series game.  A title hangs in the balance, every out means everything.  A single base running mistake, a funny hop on a ground ball, or just one borderline umpiring decision can decide who’s celebrating on the field, and who looks in the from the dugout, knowing the baseball season is officially over.
But how did we get there?  Often times when we put so much stock into a World Series that the games leading up to them are sometimes an afterthought.  The teams that fall short in the divisional or League Championship series are simply remembered as “pretty good” teams, then get thrown out with the proverbial bath water.  There’s a lot of magic in these showdowns, storylines and plot twists that are, in some cases, just as epic as the Fall Classic, just without the finality.  They are the gradual buildup of tension, the perfect second act, ready for the epic release and closure of the finale.  These are some games that deserve your attention…

2015 ALDS Game 5:  Elvis’s Horrible No Good Very Bad Day

We’ve all had tough days at work.  You feel like you can’t do anything right and everyone is just staring at you thinking “what’s going on with them?”.  Elvis Andrus had one of those days, and it really couldn’t have come at a worse time.  This game was already coming unglued in the top of the 7th inning, when an arrant throw back to the pitcher ricocheted off the hands of Shin Soo Choo, and was ruled a live ball (after much deliberation), allowing Rougned Odor to score from third.

And then the Rangers took the field, and Elvis Andrus, the normally sure handed short stop, fell apart.  It started with a routine ground ball:  bounced off his glove.  Then a short hopped throw from first baseman Mitch Moreland:  off the mark.  Then a perfectly placed throw from gold glove third baseman Adrian Beltre on a bunt:  He just flat out dropped it.  You could see the strain on his face grow with every mis played ball.  There was no place in the world more lonely than the space between 2nd and third base in Rodgers Stadium in Toronto.

And of course, it led to this….

… Did I mention that all of this took place in the course of ONE inning?! So next time you’re having a bad day at work and think “how could this get any worse?!”…. Think of Elvis.

2013 NLDS Game 4:  Leaving the Gun in the Holster

The modern game of baseball is built on the specialist, most especially in the bullpen.  These days you’re no longer just a “reliever”.  You’re a “left-handed specialist”, or a “7th inning guy”, a “closer” or a “high leverage” reliever.  Managers meticulously assign these roles, and rarely deviate from them.  In an effective bullpen, this usually works, and the Atlanta Braves had the best bullpen in baseball that year.  The system was simple:  Take the game to the 8th inning with the lead, and David Carpenter would set up Craig Kimbrel to give you the win.  It was nearly automatic.

Nearly automatic….

Juan Uribe was a seasoned veteran in the playoffs, proud owner of two World Series rings (2005 and 2010), and was batting over .300 when he came to the plate in the 8th inning against David Carpenter, down by 1 run and a man on first base.  This trip, however, he was asked to bunt.  Move the runner over, try to tie the game and avoid going into the 9th inning of a critical postseason game against the most intimidating closer since Mariano Rivera, who was currently warming up in the bullpen.  The classic “take one for the team” mentality. Or he could just do this….

…  All while the best active relief pitcher in baseball watched from the bullpen.  That day, the “system” failed, and the Braves were promptly eliminated.

2010 NLDS Game 1: No Hits; Doc’s Orders.

Roy Halladay, to this point in his career, had already established himself as one of the premier pitchers in the game, and possibly even one of the best in recent history.  When the 2010 Divisional Series opened, he had just finished his fourth season leading the league in innings pitched, and was on his way to earning his second Cy Young Award.  To boot, he was playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, a team just two years removed from being World Champions, and looking to make it to their third consecutive World Series.  It only made sense for him to open the playoffs for the Phils against the Reds.

I don’t think even he expected what was going to happen next.

One by one, he mowed down a formidable Cincy lineup, pitching to perfection until the fifth inning, when Jay Bruce drew a walk.  That was all they could manage though, and Doc Halladay ended the game with a harmless ground out to seal the first no hitter in postseason play since Don Larson threw a perfect game in 1956.

…. Did we mention this was his first ever postseason appearance?…. ‘cause ya know, that’s kind of a cool plot point.

2012 ALDS Game 3: The Equalizer

It’s hard to bench a superstar.  It’s even harder when that superstar is Alex Rodriguez.  It’s even harder when it’s a pivotal playoff game.  It’s even harder when it’s the 9th inning, and the guy you’re pinch hitting is a 40 year old bench player who batted .240 for the year. Oh, and this is the New York Yankees by the way, so ya know…

No Pressure.

Yet here comes Raul Ibanez, strolling to the plate in the 9th inning, down 2-1 to the formidable Baltimore Orioles, the weight of an entire season resting on his shoulders, and Jim Johnson staring you down as you get there.  For those who didn’t know, Johnson was the league leader in saves that year, compiling 51 of them, while allowing only 3 home runs the entire season… So ya know…

No Problem.

So now you’ve sent the game into extras.  Yankees stadium is on the edge of their seats, and they’re looking for a hero…

No Problem.

C’mon, you couldn’t make that up if you tried.

2012 NLDS Game 5: From a Party to a Morgue in One Inning

Ah yes, playoff baseball.  For the first time since 1981, and the first time ever for the cities new franchise, the nations capital would get to experience it.  They faced off in the divisional series against the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, after a well, WILD win over the Braves in the Wild Card game.

This series seemed destined for the record books, as it went all the way to the deciding fifth game, and by all accounts, the Nationals seemed poised to take it down.  They rocketed out to a 6 run lead in the early innings, and Gio Gonzalez was dealing.  The Washington crew began to put plastic over the lockers in celebration, all the while the Cardinals quietly chipped away at the lead, and seemingly in the blink of an eye, it was the bottom of the 9th, and two outs.  The Cards had given a good run at it, but were still down two runs, and even though the bases were loaded, Drew Storen, the Nationals unflappable reliever stood on the mound, ready to put them away.

Then, of course… this happened.

Painfully close.  They would go on to lose the game, and the series… and the next three consecutive ones too.  Brutal.

 

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[…] This is the second part to a post that I did last year:  For Part I, click here […]

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