October 19, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Red Sox win AL pennant, Brewers force Game 7

If nothing else, the postseason series thus far have validated the regular-season accomplishment of the teams that made it into October. The teams with initial home field advantages have won all five series: the Dodgers, the Brewers, and the Astros in the divisional series, and the Red Sox in both the divisional series and the AL championship series. The last time that five of the first six series have been won by the higher-seeded teams was in 2009; the Phillies beat the Dodgers in the NLCS, but then the Yankees beat the Phillies in the World Series, so it ended up being six of the seven postseason series.

The Astros' 7-2 win in American League Championship Series Game 1 came as a shock to fans in Boston, but the Red Sox recovered quickly, winning Game 2 last Saturday by a score of 7-5. Starting pitcher David Pri[ce walked two batters in the fifth inning, but even with two outs, manager Alex Cora yanked him]. In a close game (5-4), Cora just felt he couldn't count on Price. As the series shifted to Houston for Game 3, the Astros had every reason to be confident, but their starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel was ambushed from the get-go. The first three Red Sox batters got hits, and two runs scored. It was a low-scoring game until the eighth inning, when Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a grand slam to put the game out of reach. Final score: 8-2.

ALCS Game 4 will be remembered (by fans in Houston, at least) for the questionable fan interference call in the first inning, taking away what would have been a game-tying two-run homer from Jose Altuve. I was watching the game in a bar and couldn't hear what was going on, so I was confused for a while. The fan in question (Houston's answer to Steve Bartman?) did make contact with the glove of right fielder Mookie Betts, but it looked to me like it was beyond the vertical plane of the outfield wall and therefore not subject to interference. I don't think it caused Betts to miss the ball in any case. So, those two runs never counted, and that ended up being the precise difference in the score in that game. Boston's closing pitcher Craig Kimbrel was sent to the mound in the eighth inning, and he proceeded to give up a run on a single, a hit by pitch, and a double. In the ninth inning he walked the bases loaded and was lucky to get out of that jam without giving up any more runs, and the Red Sox won, 8-6.

After repeated flubs in postseason games, David Price finally pitched a gem for the Red Sox in ALCS Game 5 last night. He was up against Houston's veteran ace Justin Verlander, who gave up a solo home run to J.D. Martinez in the third inning. Otherwise, Verlander pitched fine -- until Rafael Devers hit a pop fly home run to left center field, adding three runs to Boston's score. The ball barely traveled 350 feet. (It is interesting that the short distance and tall wall in left field at Minute Maid Park was modeled on the home field of the opposing team, Fenway Park.) Houston fans' hopes were lifted in the seventh inning when Marwin Gonzalez hit a solo homer, but the Astros just couldn't capitalize on the few run-scoring opportunities they had, and the Red Sox won, 4-1. And so, David Price redeemed himself in the deciding game of the series, and that's what people will remember.

Houston Astros fans were understandably distraught that their World Champion team could not make it to a second consecutive World Series, and could not even win any of their three games at home, but there is nothing to be ashamed of in losing to a team that is as talented as the Red Sox. George Springer emerged as the breakout slugging champ of Houston, hitting four home runs and getting a .400 batting average in the postseason. (He had 22 homers and batted .265 in the regular season.) Given the two teams' stratospheric regular-season records (Red Sox .667 and Astros .636), one could almost say that the ALCS was in effect this year's World Series.

The National League Championship Series has been a very even back-and-forth matchup, with three of the games being decided by a single run. Clayton Kershaw was pitching for the Dodgers in Game 1, and to the surprise of almost everyone, he was replaced in the fourth inning after giving up five runs (one unearned). The Brewers had a 6-1 lead going into the eighth inning, but then their vaunted bullpen flinched and barely got out of a jam as the Dodgers scored three runs and then one more in the ninth. Brewers 6, Dodgers 5. In Game 2, the Brewers were ahead 3-0 until the seventh inning, and once again the relief pitchers couldn't get the job done. The Dodgers rallied late and won, 4-3.

At Dodger Stadium in Game 3, Milwaukee's Jhoulys Chacin simply outpitched L.A.'s Walker Buehler, as the Brewers won 4-0. Game 4 went into extra innings in a 1-1 tie, and frankly I just couldn't stay awake after midnight. In the 13th inning, Cody Bellinger hit an RBI single as Manny Machado scored the winning run. In Game 5 on Wednesday night Clayton Kershaw bounced back from his rather ugly Game 1 outing and lived up to his superstar reputation, allowing just one run on three hits over seven innings. The Dodgers' 5-2 put the Brewers on the brink of elimination.

Back home in Miller Park tonight, the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Dodgers rather decisively. L.A.'s David Freese hit a solo homer in the first inning, momentarily quieting the boisterous crowd, but they got loud again in the bottom of the inning when the Brewers scored four runs on a remarkable string of singles and doubles. The Dodgers' starting pitcher Hyun-Hin Ryu was totally ineffective, and gave up another run in the second inning. Keeping him pitching through the third inning was obviously a strategic calculation that it was better to let him try to save the bullpen pitchers' arms for the deciding Game 7. The Brewers tacked on two more insurance runs in the latter innings, winning by a score of 7-2, thus forcing a Game 7 tomorrow night.

The 2018 World Series will begin in Boston on Tuesday October 23, and will continue (if necessary) through October 31 -- Halloween!

Miller Park tweaks

Miller Park

Just in time for the ninth inning of NLCS Game 6, about an hour ago, I made a few minor corrections and enhancements to the Miller Park diagrams. The biggest change is in the angles of the grandstand near the left field corner. I also fixed a few inconsistencies in the previous diagrams (2013), and made sure there were grandstand "crease lines" in all of the applicable diagrams. Also, as with Marlins Park, which I updated recently, the diagrams that show the retractable roof sections are generally opaque (looking more "natural"), with just a single "translucent" diagram showing details of the field through the roof.

Miller Park (built in 2001) has not yet hosted a World Series, but that would change if the Brewers manage to beat the Dodgers tomorrow night... The other [such current MLB stadiums] are (showing the older ones first):