Power Rankings: American League East

The AL East has been heating up and here is how I see the division shaping out at this point of the season. Most of the teams have been playing well and here is where they land on my list.

5. Tampa Bay Rays

The way the Rays have been playing has not been great and their record has been telling that story. Right now they are 27-31 but they have been fighting to get back to .500.

They were recently swept by the Kansas City Royals and that was a tough series for them on defense. They did find a way to bounce back by winning their next 2 series against the Minnesota Twins and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Through 61 games there is still room for this team to work their way back into a good spot in the standings. They are capable of going on a hot streak and if they do they will be right back in contention.

4. Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays could be playing better, but right now they are in a good position. They are 3rd place in the division and 6th place in the American League standings.

The offensive fire power of this team is something special, but they have been struggling lately. They lost a series to the Tigers and now they are playing against their division rivals in the Orioles. They should be able to win the series and keep their winning ways going.

Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion have been carrying the load for their team with their hot hitting. They all have help from each other and that’s what makes them a championship caliber team.

3. New York Yankees

The Yankees are still trying to figure out what works for them and they are making different things work. They have arrived back to the .500 area after sweeping the Los Angeles Angels, but they are still fighting through injuries.

A big help in that effort has been Carlos Beltran. Beltran has been on fire recently and he was the driving force behind the sweep of the Angels. By getting on base and driving runs in he made a difference in that series.

They will need to win the next series to stay in reach of the rest of the division, but the way they have been producing runs makes it likely that they will continue their success.

2. Boston Red Sox

Boston has been playing like one of the best teams in baseball this season. They have a great record through 59 games and they are just playing great.

Recently they have not been showing how great they are. In their last four series they split two of them and lost the other two. It looks like the Blue Jays have their number this season although their records say otherwise.

Toronto could be a matchup problem for them later on in the season, but Boston will have time to adjust and fix what has been hurting them in those series against Toronto.

1. Baltimore Orioles

The top spot in the AL East power rankings goes to the Baltimore Orioles. This team has been the best team not only in their division, but in their league as well. They have a record of 36-23 and that can be attributed to great hitting.

This team loves to put big numbers on the board and they have been doing just that. In their last 5 games they have averaged 5 runs per game. The Orioles are good at exploiting bad pitching matchups against their lineup.

They recently lost third baseman Manny Machado for 4 games due to a brawl between him and Yordano Ventura of the Kansas City Royals. Hopefully that does not derail the hot streak the team has been on.

http://SportsRants.com

Cold Bats Burn Yankees

Just as they started to climb in the standings the Yankees took a turn for the worst and have reverted back to their losing ways. The Yankees are 2-6 in their last 8 games and their hitting has been poor.

Changes need to be made soon or the team may be in trouble through important stretches of the season.

At this point of the season I think every game leading up to the all star break counts so they can have time to see exactly what moves they need to make. There needs to be a change in the offensive strategy because it takes runs to win games.

The batting averages of the major run producers are low such as Mark Teixeira who is batting .185. Brian McCann is also not hitting well with a batting average of .224.

Those numbers are critical especially if these hitters are the power portion of the lineup. Getting on base has not been the problem for the Yankees, but batting those runs in has been a problem season long.

It was a problem early in the season and it is rising again. The Yankees do not want to waste another season and miss the playoffs, but they need help.

The Toronto Blue Jays have had the Yankees number so far this season. In the three series the teams have played against each other this season Toronto has won all three. In the most recent sweep the Yankees could not catch up because of their poor hitting.

The Blue Jays have a great offense and showed that when they broke the Yankees 6 game winning streak just over a week ago. A poor offense against a strong offense with good pitching is dangerous. This is why a change is necessary because, and if none is made the Yankees can expect the same results.

The Yankees have veteran players doing the heavy lifting in the organization, and they could have more of that production if they looked in the minors. Nick Swisher is sitting in the Yankees minor league system and he is ready to be a contributor at the big league level again.

Swisher is hitting .243 right now and is doing well for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Yankees have options even if they are temporary because they have players that know how fast paced the big league level is, and how to work well inside of it.

I think the team may be hesitant to make any moves because they want to make their current unit work and get comfortable.

The Yankees also need to tune up their pitching staff. Starting pitcher Luis Severino has been sent down to the minors, and that forced the Yankees to move former starting pitcher Ivan Nova back into a starting role.

Although he can be a versatile pitcher Nova did struggle as a starter the past few years and moved to a relief spot. Yesterday he gave up 6 runs and that is an indicator that he does not fit to be in the starting rotation. The Yankees have some decisions in front of them that can change the course of their season for the better, but they have to act fast before it is too late.

Will the Blue Jays Pay José Bautista?

One of the biggest stories in Spring Training thus far centers around Toronto Blue Jays outfielder José Bautista. The 35-year old slugger is in the final year of his six-year, $78 million contract with the team. He has already expressed his interest in staying in Toronto beyond 2016, but not without a lucrative deal.

The Blue Jays have already approached Bautista about signing a long-term contract extension. However, what he wants might be more than they’re willing to pay. It was reported earlier this week that he wants a five-year, $150 million extension. If the Blue Jays were to agree to this, it would mean that Bautista would make $30 million per year. That’s a lot of money to give a guy who turns 36 in October.

There’s no doubt that Bautista is a very talented player. He’s a six-time All-Star who has put up tremendous power numbers over the course of his career. He led the American League in home runs in 2010 and 2011 with 54 and 43 homers respectively. Over the last six years, he’s driven in over 100 runs in a season four times. Bautista’s value cannot be understated. However, he is getting older. With age usually comes a decrease in production. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t still be a good player. It just means that he won’t be hitting 40 plus homers in a season anymore.

This then begs the question, will the Blue Jays decide to pay Bautista what he wants? The answer- probably not. What he desires is not only a good amount of money, but a lot of years. If he signs a five-year deal, he’d be 41 by the time it’s up. The Blue Jays probably do not feel that he is worth $30 million a year for five more years. A few years ago, Bautista certainly would have gotten the contract he wants. Back then, he was in the prime of his career. As he advances into his mid-thirties however, he’ll be hard-pressed to find a team that will pay him that much.

What all of this means is that José Bautista will most likely be on another team in 2017. What team that might be remains unclear for now. One team that could possibly land him is the Boston Red Sox. They haven’t shied away from spending a lot of money on free agents recently. Look at the contract they just gave David Price. New general manager Dave Dombrowski has shown that he’s not afraid to be aggressive when it comes to free agents. He’s also not reluctant to spend money. Another reason why Boston would be a good fit for Bautista is he’s already familiar with the manager, John Farrell. He managed the Blue Jays from 2011-2012. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Bautista decided to reunite with his old manager.

It’s uncertain right now how the José Bautista situation will play out. Unless he lowers his asking price, it probably won’t end in him signing a contract extension with the Blue Jays. Will another team give him all the money he wants? Considering how much MLB free agents are getting paid today, it really wouldn’t be all that shocking.

Marco Estrada and the Toronto Blue Jays Hold On To Force ALCS Game 6

Marco Estrada and the Toronto Blue Jays held on to their season as the defeated the Royals 7-1 to force a game six of the ALCS.  Game one winner Edinson Volquez came in to game five on Wednesday to try to close things out and send the Royals to their second straight World Series.  Volquez was out-dueled by Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada.

The game opened with a perfect first inning by both pitchers and a perfect second by Estrada. In the bottom of the second, Chris Colabello blasted a change up from Volquez over the left field walls of Rogers Centre. The score stayed 1-0 in favor of the Jays as the Royals were not able to do anything off of Estrada, who carried a perfect game into the fourth inning, when he allowed a single to the red hot Blue Jay killer Alcides Escobar (who had 4 RBIs in game four on Tuesday). The next batter, Ben Zobrist, grounded into a double-play to keep Estrada at the minimum number of batters faced.

The Royls did not tally another hit off of Estrada until the eighth inning, when Salvador Perez homered to right field; by that time, the Jays had already added six more runs to their impressive lead thanks to RBIs by Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki (3 RBI) and Jose Bautista. Estrada pitched into the eighth inning and was replaced by Aaron Sanchez after allowing a Sal Perez bomb and an Alex Gordon single. Sanchez allowed an eighth inning single but was able to end the threat.

Danny Duffy pitched the eighth for the Royals and allowed one run courtesy of an RBI double by Kevin Pillar. Roberto Osuna finished off the Royals and secured the Jays another baseball game.

In game four on Tuesday, the Royals offense scored 14 runs on 15 hits; on Wednesday, the Royals were only able to tally one run on four hits. Toronto put up seven runs on eight hits. The Royals 2-3-4-5-6 hitters went a combined 0-17 on Tuesday afternoon.

Royals starter Edinson Volquez finished with 5 IP, 3 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 SO and 1 HR.  Marco Estrada dazzled and dealt; he finished with 7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO and 1 HR. The Royals’ bats cooled down and the Jays brought theirs to life and were able to savor their season for at least one more game.

3 Stars of the Game:
#3- (TOR)- RF Jose Bautista- 2-3, RBI, BB, run
#2- (TOR)- SS Troy Tulowitzki- 2-4, 3 RBI, run
#1- (TOR)- SP Marco Estrada- 7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 1 HR

Royals Yordano “Ace” Ventura will look to clinch his team a spot in the World Series in game six on Friday night in Kansas City. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have won four straight elimination playoff games.

David Price takes the mound for the Blue Jays as he will now try to keep their season alive and force a series deciding game seven that would take place on Saturday night in Kansas City.

First pitch of game five will be at 8:07 PM ET, 5:07 CT on Friday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

Kansas City Royals Slow Roast Blue Jays To A 3-1 ALCS Lead

The Kansas City Royals bounced back from their 11-8 game three loss to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 12-2 in game four to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.  The matchup on Tuesday pitted knuckleballer R.A. Dickey against 88 MPH fastballer Chris Young of the Royals.  

Young’s last playoff appearance came in game one of the ALDS against Houston when starter Yordano Ventura got himself into trouble, causing Young to come in for relief; “CY” Young tossed four innings of relief and allowed just one run on three hits.

Young came in to pitch in to Tornto’s home run hitting offense in a ballpark that features 328 feet corners, a hitter’s dream.  R.A. Dickey and his knuckleball tossed in game four of the ALDS against Texas; he pitched 4.2 innings and allowed just one run on five hits.  Today was a much different story for Dickey as Young continued to shine.  

The first inning showed no promises for Dickey as he allowed a leadoff bunt single to Alcides Escobar that was followed by a two-run bomb into the right field seats from second baseman Ben Zobrist. A passed ball by Dickey allowed a run to score to increase the lead further to 3-0. Mike Moustakas tacked on one more run on a sac fly to finish out the Royals’ scoring in the first inning.

Chris Young (who struck out seven in his four inning outing against Houston) allowed Josh Donaldson to reach base on a walk in the first inning, but proceeded to strike out the side.  Former Blue Jay Alex Rios landed one in the left-center field seats in the top of the second to increase the Royals lead to 5-0 and ran Dickey out of the game allowing him to toss only 1.2 innings.  

With the hopes of tying the series slowly fading for Blue Jay fans, the Blue Birds were able to cut the deficit to 5-2 in the bottom of the third courtesy of a Josh Donaldson RBI double and a Jose Bautista RBI groundout. What cannot go unsaid is the performance by Liam Hendriks, who took over for Dickey in the second and hurled 4.2 scoreless one-hit innings, keeping the deficit at a reasonable 5-2 for the Jays.  

Chris Young continued to deal despite the short ballpark and his “slow heat;” he was replaced by Luke Hochevar in the bottom of the fifth inning. Young completed his outing with 2 earned runs on 3 hits in 4.2 innings, also striking out 4.

Hochevar pitched the end of the fifth and the entire sixth inning only allowing one hit.  Latroy Hawkins relieved Hendriks for the 7th inning and immediately loaded the bases without recording an out.  Hawkins was replaced by Ryan Tepera in an attempt to keep the Birds in the game.  

Alcides Escobar drove in a run with a sac fly while a seventh run was allowed to score on a wild pitch by Tepera.

 A single by Lorenzo Cain and a sac fly by Eric Hosmer increased the Royals lead to 9-2.  Royals reliever Ryan Madson took over for Hochevar and tossed a one-hit shutout seventh inning.  Apparently, Kansas City was not satisfied with a 9-2 lead as they tacked on 3 in the eighth to take a 12-2 lead over the #2 seeded team in the American League.

 After allowing two baserunners to reach in the top of the ninth, Blue Jay shortstop/second baseman Cliff Pennington emerged from the bullpen to pitch for the Birds; he allowed two hits and two runs to cross the plate, 14-2 Royals.  Franklin Morales tossed a one-hit ninth inning to close things out and secure the Royals a 3-1 series lead.

The Toronto Blue Jays got a taste of their own medicine on Tuesday as the Royals hammered two home runs and scored 14 runs on 15 hits; on Monday, the Blue Jays scored 11 runs on 11 hits to cut the KC series lead to 2-1.  

The Royals game two win last Saturday ensured that Toronto would have to win at least one game at Kauffman Stadium in Missouri, but Tuesday’s win ensures that Toronto will need to win on Wednesday at home as well as two times in Kanasas City in order to win the series.

 Chris Young also continued to be clutch for the Royals ball club, giving quality innings (even though he didn’t pitch 5 innings today) in his last two postseason appearances.  KC’s bullpen proved solid once again as the 4 relievers allowed just 3 hits.

The Blue Jays used 4 relievers and one everyday player to combat the Royals hot bats; combined, their bullpen allowed 9 runs on 11 hits. The Royals offense proved worthy of the “best offense in the AL” title and also breaking a franchise record with the most runs scored in a playoff game with 12 runs scored (previous record was 11 in 1985).  

3 Stars of the Game:

#3- (KC) 2B Ben Zobrist- 2-4, 2 RBI, HR, BB, 2 runs

#2- (KC) CF Lorenzo Cain- 2-3, 3 RBI, 2 BB, run

#1- (KC) SS Alcides Escobar- 2-3, 4 RBI, run

As they take a 3-1 series lead after their 14-2 blowout win on Tuesday, Kansas City can win their second straight American League pennant in game five on Wednesday.  If the Jays pull out a win in game five, the series will return to Kansas City for game six and the “if necessary” game seven.  Right hander Edinson Volquez (game one winner) takes the mound for the Royals against Marco Estrada (game one losing pitcher).

First pitch of game five at 4:07 PM ET, 1:07 PT on Wednesday at Rogers Centre in Toronto.  

Follow @dylanmiles97  on Twitter for MLB updates, news, analysis and commentary. 

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2015: The Year Of The Met

There has perhaps been no more impressive team in the 2015 Major League Baseball Postseason than the New York Mets. In the National League Divisional Series the Mets were able to beat a very strong Los Angeles Dodgers team in five games and did so by beating Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 and beating Zach Greinke in the decisive game 5.

The Mets have continued to surge forward and after two games in the National League Championship Series they lead the Chicago Cubs two games to zero. The Mets have outscored the Cubs 8-3 in two games and with staff ace Jacob DeGrom set to start game 3 tonight against the Cubs at Wrigley, the Mets are very close to making the World Series for the first time since 2000.

Jacob DeGrom faces Cub starter Kyle Hendricks in tonight’s game and so far in the postseason DeGrom has been lights out and boasts a 2-0 record with a 1.38 earned run average in 13 innings pitched. Hendricks has not been as effective in the postseason and he allowed three runs over 4.2 innings in his single start against the St Louis Cardinals.

The Mets have played very well in the postseason and through 7 games they have a team earned run average of 2.90, which is the best of any playoff team. This 2015 New York Mets club is eerily similar to the 1969 ‘Miracle Mets’ who were led by 25 year old starting pitcher Tom Seaver and 22 year old Nolan Ryan. That Mets team relied on its stellar young pitching and timely hitting to get them to the World Series and that year the Mets beat the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles four games to one to clinch the World Series title.

This year the Mets have been carried by young pitchers and after 27 year old DeGrom starts tonight’s game against the Cubs, 24 year old Steven Matz will start game four tomorrow night. The Cubs will salvage a game at Wrigley Field, but they will not be able to cool down this high octane Mets team and the Mets will win games three and five to get back to the World Series.

However, the player that has been the most instrumental to the Mets postseason success is 30 year old second baseman Daniel Murphy. Murphy was a rookie in 2008 for the Mets and has spent seven years with the ball club and is now finally getting to taste success. The spotlight has been great for Murphy, who has been sensational for the New York ball club and is hitting .357 with five home runs and eight runs batted in in the postseason. The second baseman leads all players in the postseason in home runs and is second behind Kendrys Morales in runs batted in.

After dispatching the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS, the Mets will await the winner of the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays. Both teams are far more experienced than the Mets, but neither club has the dynamic starting pitching that the Mets have and the New York ball club will be able to handle the pressure of Toronto’s hitting or the Kansas City bullpen.

The Blue Jays will win game four tonight against the Royals and will win the series in seven games setting up a World Series that will feature dominant hitting versus dominant pitching. The Blue Jays will get off to a slow start in the series and the Mets will split the opening two games in Toronto before coming back to New York and winning games three and four. Jacob DeGrom and Matt Harvey will be huge for the Mets in the series and will likely start games one and two for the Mets.

Perhaps no pitcher wants to prove more than Harvey just how much he wants to win and he has been excellent so far in the postseason, going 2-0 with a 2.84 earned run average in 12.2 innings. Harvey will win two games for the Mets in the World Series and the Mets will win the series in six games, capping off a truly magical year for a team that is built to succeed for a long time.

Living The Dream At A Young Age

(Via foxsports.com)

He’s called from the ‘pen, thrust into the line of fire, a fire that is burning more intensely than he’s ever seen before. The situation couldn’t have been more tense. It’s Game 5 of the ALDS, winner advances, loser watches the remainder of the playoffs from their couch, thinking about what could have been. Some really good, established veteran hitters are set to come to the plate in the inning. And out trots this 20-year-old kid with no more than a cup of coffee or two under his belt in terms of Major League experience.

And you know what, he shuts them down. Josh Hamilton. Punch out. Elvis Andrus. Sit down my friend, you have no chance. Confidently, the young man exhales, points his fingers to the sky, and walks off to a standing ovation. Two batters, two strikeouts. It didn’t get much easier than that.

But let’s back track a little here first. Are you sure this kid’s 20-years-old? 20? As in, younger than me writing this article right now as a senior in college? 20? You’ve got to be joking.

Of course, I’m not, as we witnessed last night in one of the craziest, wackiest, wildest baseball games we’ve ever seen. Robert Osuno, born in the year 1995, who wasn’t even alive the last time the Blue Jays won a playoff series, shut the door out of the bullpen with the utmost confidence, poise and control I’ve seen out of a relief pitcher this postseason.

The kid has 20 saves in his Major League career, something I wish I could claim in any level of professional sports in my life. But, nonetheless, it’s still only 20 saves in his young career. How, as a 20-year-old, do you have the gumption and the tenacity to trot out to the mound in a win or go home series, strike out two very successful hitters, and then run back out for the ninth and K two more desperate Rangers hitters on your way to becoming the second younger pitcher in the HISTORY of the game to record a save in a postseason game? It absolutely boggles my mind that a young man could do this.

We hear the stories of how legends are made in October. Of course we know about Kirk Gibson’s homerun and Derek Jeter’s flip to the plate to nail a non-sliding Giambi, and David Freese saving the Cardinals World Series dreams with a towering homerun that hasn’t come down yet.

Unfortunately, the legend of Roberto Osuna may get lost in the shuffle of the wildness that was the inning prior to him entering the ball game. But I’d like nobody to forget the outing that this kid had last night. And if the Blue Jays continue their impressive run deeper into the playoffs and find a way to defeat the Royals in the ALCS, you sure can bet that they’ll send the kid to the mound who was born after his fellow teammate, Latroy Hawkins, made his Major League debut. Funny how veteran leadership and a youth infusion can steady up your bullpen come playoff time.

 

The 7th Inning That Stretched – Blue Jays eliminate Rangers.

Rangers vs Blue Jays…Game 5 from Toronto’s Rogers Centre.

I was listening to a crucial part of this game on the car radio during the top of the seventh inning and after arriving at my final destination I was double-checking my phone during the bottom of that inning. I had some non-baseball related things to do on Wednesday, but a confused Rick Sutcliffe, my Twitter feed and the fruit of the Vines gave me a pretty good idea that the Rangers scored a bizarre run, that their defense collapsed possibly under the pressure of unruly fans in the bottom of the seventh, before Jose Bautista sealed the deal with a dramatic and flashy home run exclamation point.

When I got home I definitely had to go back to the DVR and watch the entire seventh inning to see how what I heard and read felt when watching it on TV. Bautista’s home run ritual looked just as silly on a 46-inch television as it did when viewing Vines on my phone of other people’s 46-inch televisions.

Three things grind my gears from the 7th inning that stretched 53 minutes.

  1. Why does the Rogers Centre sell canned beer to fans?
  2. Why isn’t the crew chief or home plate umpire mic’d so he can explain the call to the crowd with Ed Hochuli type legal detail. See NFL.
  3. Can we please move on from treating the bat like a baton in a high school band halftime show?

Let’s dig deeper on each point.

  1. Why does the Rogers Centre sell canned beer to fans?

Since 2001 I’ve attended baseball games at all California baseball stadiums more than once. My home stadium would be Angels Stadium of Anaheim. I have many memories of the Yankees playing poorly in that place, but I can never remember being served an adult beverage in a can that I could have at my seat. Cans get poured into plastic cups as a safety precaution. Seems pretty logical in what should be a safety conscious environment.

The alternative would be allowing a fan the option to possess a twelve dollar 24-ounce aluminum object that they could throw toward the field when a call didn’t go their way. That’s essentially what happened in Toronto on Wednesday night when multiple knuckleheads tossed cans, plastic bottles, and paper products on the field after not understanding an obscure baseball rule that I’m sure every sane Blue Jays fan will now never forget called Rule 6.03(a)(3).

In the top of the seventh inning of a 2-2 game, the Rangers’ Rougned Odor hustled home from third base after Blue Jay catcher Russell Martin’s throw back to the pitcher accidently bounced off Shin-Soo Choo’s bat creating a live ball situation. Choo was still in the batter’s box at the time, but had already stretched out his left arm to prepare for his next swing. It just so happened that’s the area Martin’s throw hit. The Rangers took a 3-2 lead after Dale Scott reversed his initial dead ball call. Confusion and anger ensued with some fans testing how far they could soft toss objects over the fans in front of them, but still toward the field of play that featured their hometown nine.

If Blue Jays fans are going to be all rowdy this postseason then the canned beverages need to be introduced to a plastic cup at the point of sale.

  1. Why isn’t the crew chief or home plate umpire mic’d so he can explain the call to the crowd with Ed Hochuli type legal detail?

I know it’s not the NFL, but can we get the umpire a microphone so he do some explaining on replays. The nonchalant safe/out, fair/foul signal right after he listens to his favorite jam on the replay headset is totally lame.

In this situation a Blue Jays protest and a conference with the other umpires and a rules check with whomever is on the other end of those replay headsets led to Scott’s reversed call being upheld and the Texas run counting. OK, cool, but why?

The problem I have is that on something obscure like this situation the fans didn’t receive any clear verbal declaration as to what had happened. They never do. The communication is basically limited to a P.A. announcer saying “The play is under review” and “The call on the field is upheld/overturned.” Fans never really get the why part of a replay decision, which can be confusing when the call in question isn’t simply a fair/foul, out/safe, HR/No HR call. Even on a basic decision that requires replay it would be nice to get a “replay confirms the runner’s foot was on the bag when the tag was applied, first down!” or something like that.

  1. Can we please move on from treating the bat like a baton in a high school band halftime show?

It was a bad bottom of the 7th for the Rangers Elvis Andrus. He muffed a ground ball to allow Russell Martin a bit of redemption. Andrus then failed to catch Moreland’s poor throw to force Martin at second base. Elvis was then unable to catch Beltre’s throw to third base to force out pinch runner Dalton Pompey. Giving the Blue Jays six outs seems like a bad idea.

An aggressively sliding Pompey was forced out at home on Ben Revere’s groundball to Mitch Moreland. A replay confirmed Pompey was legally aggressively sliding. That’s one out.

The Rangers then turned to Sam Dyson out of the bullpen and he helped set the game on fire. Josh Donaldson hit a pop up that Odor was unable to grab due to some route efficiency issues. A force out was made at second, but a run scored to tie the game at three.

With runners on first and third, Jose Bautista crushed a go ahead 3-run homer to left center field. He stood at the plate to admire his work before releasing what appeared to be some inner rage that led to him throwing his bat out of the way for his home run trot.

The following batter Edwin Encarnacion was forced to get chatty with Sam Dyson because Dyson didn’t understand Encarnacion was not trying to stir up the crowd with his hand gestures following Bautista’s homer. Edwin was allegedly trying to calm the crowd from throwing more objects onto the field in the mayhem that was the seventh inning.

Emotions were running high for both sides. Bautista’s 3-run homer were the final runs scored in the Blue Jays 6-3 game five victory that sends them to the ALCS for the first time since 1993, but can we please tone down the bat gymnastics. The bat flipping and tossing has been over done by several players to the point where it’s not all that funny or cute anymore. I wonder if sportsmanship is even in the job description for professionalism. Get over yourself. We’ve got advanced metrics telling us you’re good, we’ve got writers telling us you’re good, we don’t also always need the player hammering home the point with histrionics.

In an age where marketing your brand seems to be key to so many, it would be nice to see the reaction to accomplishment look organic not contrived, like say the Kansas City Royals. They have had hot heads at times in 2015, but their fans and team seemed to exercise respect and joy during their 7-2 Game 5 ALDS win against the Houston Astros. The celebratory Kansas City Wants It More playoff t-shirts are a little braggy, but they’ll get to show how much they want it when facing the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS which begins Friday in Kansas City. If it turns out the Blue Jays actually want it more, I hope they don’t scare people by going about victory like the angry mob or raging Bautista we saw on Wednesday during the  7th inning that stretched.

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MLB Playoffs: What We Have Learned So Far

The playoffs are in full swing. Each division series is yet to be decided and we have at least two game fives, both in the American League. All four division series could feasibly have a Game 5. You would be hard pressed to find the last time that happened.

Here is what we have learned so far, a week into the playoffs.

1. The Royals, Like Last Year, Will Be a Tough Out

The Kansas City Royals were six outs from elimination last night, down 6-2 heading into the 8th inning. The Royals got baserunners on to start the 8th and the merry-go-round started. With the bases loaded, Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer get base hits to score two runs. Then thanks to a Carlos Correa error, two more runs scored to tie the game at 6. Alex Gordon drove in a run with a ground out and Eric Hosmer sealed the deal with a two-run home run, giving the Royals a 9-6 lead and eventually a win to tie the series.

In both wins in this series for Kansas City, the Astros had at least a two-run lead. These Royals are resilient and will not go down quietly, much like the 2014 American League Champion version. With Wednesday’s game being in Kansas City and Johnny Cueto on the mound, the Astros should be nervous after having a 2-1 series lead.

2. Different Year, Same Problems For Dodgers

For the past three years the Dodgers seemingly cruised to an NL West division title with good bats and a top-heavy rotation led by Clayton Kershaw. In the past two postseasons, the pitching has sunk the Dodgers with a very un-Kershaw like performance.

The Dodgers are down 2-1 to the New York Mets with an elimination game in New York tonight. Kershaw allowed three runs and walked four in Game 1’s loss. He has a chance to redeem himself tonight. Greinke and Kershaw in the first two games combined for five earned runs in 13 innings. For a normal 1-2 duo, that isn’t bad but for two pitchers who were in the heat of the Cy Young race, we should expect more, especially in the playoffs.

3. The Cubs Could Actually Do This

The Chicago Cubs passed the first test, winning the Wild Card Game on the road in Pittsburgh. Now they are facing the mighty Cardinals who led the major leagues with 100 wins. They have a 2-1 lead thanks to a six-homer performance in Game 3.

The Cubs are one win away from the NLCS. They will have to beat John Lackey to do it (Lackey pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings in Game 1). Behind Kyle Schwarber’s bat (two home runs in postseason) and Jake Arrieta (two wins in two starts), the Cubs are gunning to end a 107-year drought. If they can top the MLB’s best regular season team, their path gets a lot clearer.

4. Whoever Wins the Rangers/Blue Jay Series Will Be a Handful

This turned out to be one of the better division series in recent memory, and that is before we play Game 5. The average runs scored between these two teams in this series is 9. The Blue Jays won the latest slugfest 8-4 thanks to three home runs and six total extra-base hits.

Whoever wins this series will be a tough out in the ALCS and possibly World Series. Both teams have the tools to make it happen. Adrian Beltre is swinging a hot bat for Texas and the Rangers will throw ace Cole Hamels in Game 5 in Toronto on Wednesday. He has been in these situations before, winning the 2008 World Series with the Phillies and being the MVP of that postseason. The Rangers could ride him to the ALCS and beyond.

The Blue Jays have the deepest lineup in the league starting with Josh Donaldson, who is likely the AL MVP. In a win-or-go-home kind of game, this lineup would scare anyone.

 

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Nick’s MLB Playoff Picks

It is finally here. The Major League Baseball postseason begins this week with some highly anticipated Wild Card games. Here are my picks for this year’s edition of October baseball.

Disclaimer: these opinions are my own and do not reflect those of the rest of the Sports Rants staff.

Cubs

Wild Card Games

American League

Houston Astros @ New York Yankees

It will likely be Dallas Keuchel against Masahiro Tanaka. Keuchel has allowed just four earned runs in his last four outings. Tanaka has allowed 6 runs in his last two starts. The Astros also have the hotter offense right now. Anything can happen in these games so I am just going to go with the hotter team.

Winner: Astros

National League

Chicago Cubs @ Pittsburgh Pirates

Make no mistake, neither of these teams are your typical squeak-into-the-playoffs kind of wild card teams. I would not be surprised at all if the winner of this game goes on to the NLCS or even World Series. The Cubs are the hotter team and have the better ace. Jake Arrieta is a top Cy Young candidate and is the National League’s only 20-game winner.

Winner: Cubs

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Division Series

National League

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Mets

The Dodgers have home field advantage. This will be an epic battle of top rotations. The problem with the Dodgers is, who will pitch Game 3 after Kershaw and Greinke have had their turn? The Mets have three solid starters they can ride throughout the playoffs.

With the trio of Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard, the Mets have the advantage in starting pitching. The Mets also have Yoenis Cespedes who has 7 HRs and 18 RBI in his last 26 games. New York has also had better bats in the last month. Things seem to be tipping the Mets’ way. This could be a 5-game series.

Winner: Mets

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs

This rivalry will spill into postseason play and it will be epic. The Cardinals won the season series 11 to 8 and they have home-field advantage. In the last month or so, it has been the Cubs that have played better baseball.

The Cubs will have to deal with a hot batting combo of Matt Carpenter and Jason Heyward. They both hit over .300 with 10 home runs combined in the last month. Lucky for the Cubs, Kris Bryant and Starlin Castro have been equally as hot.

This series will come down to pitching. Each team’s bullpens will be tested. The Cardinals had the superior bullpen throughout the season.

Winner: Cardinals

American League

Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays

The Rangers got a late push to win the division and have plenty of momentum. That may die off in their 4 days’ rest. Cole Hamels and David Price can set the tone in this series for their respective teams. Price is 5-0 with a 2.32 ERA in his last five starts. Hamels is 5-0 with a 3.43 ERA in his last 6 starts.

If there is a tie between those two aces, the tiebreaker would be the offense. The Blue Jays have a far superior offense. They were 2nd in the MLB with 43 home runs in September and also were third in batting average in that same span. The Rangers were 14th and 13th in those categories respectively. The Blue Jays also won the season series 4-2.

Winner: Blue Jays

Kansas City Royals vs. Houston Astros

The Royals seemed to be the class of the American League from the word “go” this year. Johnny Cueto was a great addition but he does not have a good track record in the postseason (see the dropped ball incident in Pittsburgh). He finished the year with a 5.50 ERA in his last 6 starts. Yordano Ventura has been their ace all year.

The Astros won the season series 4-2. They have also had the better offense through the last month of the season. It will come down to clutch hitting and the bullpen. Throughout the season, the Royals were in the top 5 for hitting with runners in scoring position. The Astros have been in the bottom ten in that category. The Royals have also had the better bullpen throughout the year.

Winner: Royals

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League Championship Series

National League

St. Louis Cardinals vs. New York Mets

This series could go seven games easily. The Cardinals won the season series 4-3. This series would feature two of the top 5 starting rotations in baseball. The Cardinals actually have slightly better numbers with their top 3: John Lackey, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha. You can also add a fourth, Carlos Martinez, who as a rookie, posted 14 wins and 181 strikeouts.

The Cardinals have the deeper rotation and the bullpen was more reliable. The Mets offense has come to life recently. Lucas Duda, Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson can hurt you in a lot of ways. The deciding factor in this series is whose bullpen can come through. If recently returned ace Adam Wainwright is effective in the bullpen for St. Louis, they will win the NL Pennant for the third time in the last five years.

Winner: Cardinals

American League

Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays

This series features teams with completely different philosophies. The Royals got here with solid pitching and timely hitting. The Blue Jays with a powerful offense and sufficient pitching. However, in the last month the Blue Jays have had better bats and even better pitching than Kansas City.

Any team that has a lineup featuring Edwin Encarnacion (39 HRs, 111 RBI), Jose Bautista (40 HRs, 114 RBI), Josh Donaldson (41 HRs, 123 RBI) and Troy Tulowitzki, they will be hard to get out.

The Royals have more speedy, on-base guys like Lorenzo Cain (28 SBs, .361 OBP) and Alex Gordon (.377 OBP). When it comes down to it, the Blue Jays have a deeper offense and a true ace in David Price. The Jays will party like it’s 1993.

Winner: Blue Jays

World Series

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Toronto Blue Jays

I was hoping for an All-Missouri World Series a la 1985 but the Blue Jays spoiled that fun. This will be a great series between a solid pitching staff against one of the most powerful lineups in recent years. It will be great to watch John Lackey, Carlos Martinez and Co. face off against Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

The Rogers Centre will rock with an entire country behind the Blue Jays. The Cardinals represent all that is good about baseball (minus a hacking scandal). A deep farm system with classy front office representatives in St. Louis against a spendy, trendy, sexy Blue Jays team. It will come down to this, can the Blue Jays pitching match that of the Cardinals?

The old saying goes “good pitching beats good hitting.” We could see that exemplified here. Adam Wainwright could emerge from the bullpen as this year’s Madison Bumgarner. The Cardinals battled injuries that everyone expected to doom their season and they overcame them all. It will all pay off come early November.

World Series Champion: Cardinals in 6 games.

 
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