October 13, 2016
Once again, something utterly improbable and unpredictable decided a high-stakes baseball showdown in NLDS Game 4 on Tuesday evening, as the Chicago Cubs came back from a 5-2 deficit in the top of the ninth inning to defeat the San Francisco Giants, 6-5. The Giants seemed to have the situation well in hand, anticipating a Game 5 in Chicago. With Matt Moore pitching the game of his life, somehow they limited the slug-happy Cubs to just two hits during the first eight innings. And then all hell broke loose! Kris Bryant singled, Anthony Rizzo walked, Ben Zobrist doubled to make the score 5-3, and then rookie Willson Contreras (who??) batted in two more runs with a pinch-hit single, thus tying the game without a single out. If the Giants' closer Sergio Romo couldn't hold the line in that situation, their hope was fading fast. After a fielder's choice out, Javier Baez batted in the go-ahead run with a single, and the rest is history. Cubs 6, Giants 5 -- the reverse of the previous night's score.
Earlier that day, the Los Angeles Dodgers escaped elimination and forced a Game 5 in the other NLDS, which will culminate this evening in Our Nation's Capital. Out of desperation, they called on ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw to pitch on just three days' rest, and he came through -- almost. He did just fine for six innings, but Danny Espinosa got a hit off him in the top of the seventh, sparking a three-run rally that ended up tying the game at 5-5. It was Danny's first hit in the entire series, a troubling sign that he just can't get his mind to focus when he's in the batter's box. That one hit may have salvaged his reputation for now, but he still is under pressure to deliver. Once again, Daniel Murphy delivered in a clutch situation, with a two-run single up the middle. He is absolutely awesome. Unfortunately (for Washington fans), Chase Utley hit an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning to take back the lead for the home team, and the Nationals went down in order 1-2-3 in both the eighth and ninth inning, losing by a score of 6-5.
In a few minutes, the Nationals take the field to face the Dodgers one last time this year, and I'm feeling pretty confident. True, the Nats have not used their home field advantage in postseason games thus far, but fan support will still provide a huge advantage. And with Max Scherzer on the mound, who could ask for more?
Looking ahead to the NLCS, which begins in Chicago on Saturday, the Cubs have to be regarded as favorites no matter who wins in Washington tonight, both merit-wise and in terms of pathos. Whispers of the Billy Goat Curse may have been heard during Game 4 in San Francisco, but that's all behind them now. On the American League side, there is no clear favorite, as both the Indians and Blue Jays were the underdogs against (respectively) the Red Sox and the Rangers.
The last time the Indians were in the World Series was 1997 (when they lost to the Marlins), and the last time they were in the ALCS was in 2007, when they lost to the Red Sox in seven games, after taking a 3-2 series lead.
The last time the Blue Jays were in the World Series was 1993 (when they defeated the Phillies), and the last time they were in the ALCS was just last year, when they lost to the Royals in six games.
the last time the Cubs were in the World Series was 1945 (when they lost to the Tigers), and the last time they were in the NLCS was just last year, when they were swept four games to none by the Mets.
And the last time the Nationals (or their franchise predecessors in Montreal) were in the World Series was ... never!