October 1, 2014 [LINK / comment]

Amazing comebacks: Royals win!

Last night's American League Wild Card Game in Kansas City was truly something to behold. The Royals made two amazingly dramatic comebacks when they were at death's doorstep, in the ninth and twelfth innings. The Oakland A's jumped to an early 2-0 lead thanks to a home run by Brandon Moss, but the Royals put together a run in the bottom of the inning, showing fighting spirit. They then took a 3-2 lead in the third inning, but the A's staged a five-run rally in the sixth inning, as Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer. Then the Royals clawed their way back with three runs in the eighth inning, and one in the ninth to tie it. Their key to success was speedy baserunning, in particular Jarrod Dyson, who pinch-ran in the ninth. In the top of the twelfth, the A's took the lead on an RBI single by Alberto Callaspo, but the Royals refused to give up. After fouling off several pitches, Eric Hosmer blasted a triple to deep left-center field, bouncing off the top of the fence. That sparked a rally in which RBI singles by Christian Colon and Salvador Perez tied the game, and then won the game. Final score: K.C. 9, Oakland 8.

Talk about joy in the ballpark! Kansas City had not experienced any postseason baseball action since they won the World Series in 1985, and they were overdue. It was ironic that they were facing the team that preceded them in Kansas City -- the (former Philadelphia) Athletics!

Two former Washington Nationals were on the teams last night, and Josh Willingham had a clutch pinch-hit single leading off in the bottom of the ninth inning that helped the Royals tie the game and stay alive. The other one, Adam Dunn, sat on the bench the entire 12-inning game, since A's manager Bob Melvin decided to put Brandon Moss in as designated hitter because he needed a faster player to patrol the vast outfield at Kauffman Stadium. (I think Moss's performance erases any doubt as to whether that was a good move.) Dunn is expected to retire, without ever having played in a postseason game. What a pity.

As for the Oakland A's, it's yet another frustratingly brief postseason appearance. Since 2002, they have reached the playoffs six times, but have only advanced to the American League Championship Series once -- in 2006. The last time they were in the World Series was 1990. See the Postseason scores page.

The Athletics had the best record in baseball at midseason, but went sharply downhill after that. It's a lot like the Milwaukee Brewers or the Atlanta Braves in that regard. I found a couple Washington Post articles by Barry Svrluga from a month ago (August 27-28), and they gave the likelihood (from Baseball Prospectus) of various National and American League teams reaching the playoffs as follows:

N.L. team Playoff
A.L. team Playoff
Washington Nationals 99.7% smile Los Angeles Angels 99.8% smile
Los Angeles Dodgers 98.3% smile Oakland Athletics 99.5% smile
Milwaukee Brewers 87.6% frown Baltimore Orioles 96.6% smile
St. Louis Cardinals 75.1% smile Kansas City Royals 68.2% smile
San Francisco Giants 64.8% smile Detroit Tigers 63.5% smile
Atlanta Braves 41.3% frown Seattle Mariners 49.2% frown
Pittsburgh Pirates 28.7% smile New York Yankees 12.3% frown

(Smiley and frowny faces indicate whether the teams actually made it or not.)

Postseason reflections

According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, a large majority of MLB insider-experts expect the Washington Nationals to win the World Series. The Nats got 37 votes, compared to just 19 for the L.A. Dodgers, and no more than four votes among any of the other teams. But that same "Forecaster Panel" also picked the Oakland Athletics to win the AL wild card game, so don't put too much stock into their predictions! Oddly, former Nats manager Manny Acta picked the Dodgers. I'm surprised that so few people think the Angels can go all the way. Here's my Facebook reaction to Jayson Stark's predictions:

I know, anything can happen in the playoffs. But the Nationals' roster is as deep as the Marianas Trench (I just made that up), and they can outmatch any rival in just about any category. Plus they have tons of mojo and experience from the 2012 NLDS. As Jayson Stark says, no team has a better shot at winning the World Series.

The last time both Los Angeles teams were in the playoffs was in 2009, and both teams advanced to the respective League Championship Series, but neither team reached the World Series. In 2004, both those teams made it to the playoffs, but neither team reached League Championship Series. That was when the Angels were stilled affiliated with Anaheim.

The Nats' first no-hitter!

Somehow, I didn't quite get around to mentioning on Monday's blog post what was so important about that game in Washington which I saw on Sunday. It was the Nationals' first-ever no-hitter!!! (It's rather like if a newspaper article were written in 1969 about Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon, but neglecting to point out that it was the first time such a feat had been accomplished. That reporter would get fired!) Ironically, I had already put that vital factoid under the "2014 memorable moments" on the Washington Nationals page, which will be updated with more data later this evening. For the record, from the Washington Post, here are the other "pre-Nationals" no-hitters -- for the city, and for the franchise:

Walter Johnson also threw a no-hitter in a rain-shortened seven inning game, in 1927 I believe, but that does not count in most record books.

Giants vs. Pirates

Tonight's NL Wild Card game in Pittsburgh went scoreless for three innings, and then Brandon Crawford hit a grand slam to give the Giants a 4-0 lead over the Pirates. (It's a good week for sluggers named Brandon!) Either team would be a worthy competitor to the Nationals when the victor of tonight's game plays in Washington on Friday afternoon.

COMMENT by: Chris Knight, of Kansas City, KS on Oct 02, 2014 21:59 PM
After a 29 year playoff drought. I had to get a way to get the whole postseason strip. I got it and attended the Wildcard game, which had to be the greatest game I have ever seen in person. The stadium was wild and very loud. The loudness of the stadium allowed Eric Hosmer to get a triple as a result of miscommunication by the Oakland Outfielders because they could hear each other make the I got it call beyond the noise of us fans. I hope we do good in the ALDS and hopefully make it all the way to the World Series and win.