Monthly Archives: November 2016

501 Must-Visit Natural Wonders: My List

The usual list, with a new book – 501 Must-Visit Natural Wonders. In a similar vein to Wild Places, these are places that are rugged, or away from a lot of the big cities. It’s a chance to connect to nature. Again, all places will be listed according to the book’s definition, so if it fits one country better, work with me.

501 Must-Visit Natural Wonders
My list

Canada (1)*
1. Great Lakes

* technically, this was Lake Michigan in Chicago, but it is a Great Lake, right?

United States (3) 
1. The Smoky Mountains – Tennessee/North Carolina
2. Mammoth Cave National Park – Kentucky
3. Blue Ridge Mountains – Virginia

Inconclusive/Not Enough Information 
1. Bluegrass Country –  Kentucky
2. Bracken Cave Bat Roost – San Antonio, TX
3. Chesapeake Bay

Belgium (1) 
1. Ardennes Peaks

France (1)
1. Meuse Valley and the Ardennes Forest

Total: 6 out of 501 (1.2%)

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World Series blog project follow-up

Whew! Okay, everybody. I made it to the end of my project. Is this what writing a completed novel feels like? It certainly feels like it. So, this is more of a thank you/trivia/numbers post. You are welcome to read, but this is more just about the stats of the World Series, so if that stuff doesn’t interest you, no worries.

Thanks to everybody who read these posts. It really does mean a lot. I was determined to finish in a year, and I did it – one month ahead of schedule. The finality of it hasn’t sunk in (and technically, I’ll be writing about the 2017 series and so on), but here we are. We did it. And it is a we – I couldn’t have finished without the readers. And thanks to the players, executives, managers, who did it. Thank you for creating magic year in and year out for me to write about.

So, a few fun trivia facts I may or may not have mentioned, which I think are really great.

1. Even with their win in 2016, the Cubs remain the only team to win a World Series without clinching at home. Even the expansion franchises – Royals, Mets, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Angels – have all done it. Weird, huh?
2. The Washington Nationals and Seattle Mariners have never played in the World Series, the only teams to do so. All other teams have appeared at least once.
3. There have been exactly 653 games played in the World Series (Game 4 of the 2016 was number 650). Only six of them – three apiece in 1992 and 1993 – have been played outside of the United States. Both years, the Toronto Blue Jays won the championship in six games.
4. This is one of my favorite coincidences: In a Game 7, three Hall of Famers have collected four hits in a game – Max Carey (1925), Willie Stargell (1979), and George Brett (1985). All three of them played on teams that rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win.
5. The Pittsburgh Pirates are the only team to rally from a 3-1 deficit more than once (1925 and 1979), and the St. Louis Cardinals are the only team to blow a 3-1 lead more than once (1968 and 1985; also, they won Game 7 in 1967 after losing a 3-1 lead to Boston).
6. Obviously, the Yankees have the most pennants (40) and championships (27). The Cardinals have the second-most championships (11; 19 pennants) and the Giants have the second-most pennants (20; 8 championships).
7. Another bit of trivia I love – there has been exactly one player in a Game 7 who has gotten two hits in one inning, and he is in the Hall of Fame. Give up? It was a pitcher who did it- Dizzy Dean in 1934.
8. The DH rule was first introduced to the World Series in 1976.
9. The team that has won the opening game of the World Series has gone on to win 69 times in 112 tries, or about 62% of the time. Not a convincing percentage, but you can see why winning Game 1 puts you at an advantage.
10. Hall of Famers who never played in the World Series include: Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Andre Dawson, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Rod Carew, Ferguson Jenkins, Frank Thomas, Napoleon Lajoie, George Sisler, and Ralph Kiner, to name a few.
11. Although the Cardinals have won eleven championships, they have never gone back-to-back (they came close several times,though, as the numbers below will show). They do, however, hold the record for winning Game 7 the most times – eight in eleven chances.
12. Speaking of winning Game 7, the Pirates are a perfect 5-0 as of 2016….and those are the only five titles they’ve won.

A breakdown of championships (bold indicates won in seven games – if teams are tied with championships, will be listed by how many pennants they needed to win those titles; ergo, the fewer pennants, the higher you’re listed):
1. New York Yankees – 27 (1923, 1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009)
2. St. Louis Cardinals – 11 (1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982, 2006, 2011)
3. Philadelphia/Oakland Athletics – 9 (1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, 1930, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1989)
T4. Boston Red Sox – 8 (1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007, 2013)
T4. New York/San Francisco Giants – 8 (1905, 1921, 1922, 1933, 1954, 2010, 2012, 2014)
6. Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers – 6 (1955, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988)
T7. Pittsburgh Pirates – 5 (1909, 1925, 1960, 1971, 1979)
T7. Cincinnati Reds – 5 (1919, 1940, 1975, 1976, 1990)
9. Detroit Tigers – 4 (1935, 1945, 1968, 1984)
T10. Chicago White Sox – 3 (1906, 1917, 2005)
T10. Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins – 3 (1924, 1987, 1991)
T10. Baltimore Orioles – 3 (1966, 1970, 1983)
T10. Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves – 3 (1914, 1957, 1995)
T10. Chicago Cubs – 3 (1907, 1908, 2016)
T15. Toronto Blue Jays – 2 (1992, 1993)
T15. Florida Marlins – 2 (1997, 2003)
T15. Kansas City Royals – 2 (1985, 2015)
T15. New York Mets – 2 (1969, 1986)
T15. Cleveland Indians – 2 (1920, 1948)
T15. Philadelphia Phillies – 2 (1980, 2008)
T21. Arizona Diamondbacks – 1 (2001)
T21. Anaheim Angels – 1 (2002)

If you go by pre-1969 LCS format, here’s who should have played in the World Series (that is, having the best record went to the Series). If it’s a perfect match, I’ll bold it. Whomever would have had home-field advantage is listed first.

1969 – Orioles vs. Mets 
1970 – Reds vs. Orioles 
1971 – Orioles vs. Pirates 
1972 – Pirates vs. Athletics
1973 – Orioles vs. Reds
1974 – Dodgers vs. Orioles
1975 – Athletics vs. Reds
1976 – Reds vs. Yankees 
1977 – Royals vs. Phillies
1978 – Dodgers vs. Yankees
1979 – Orioles vs. Pirates 
1980 – Astros vs. Yankees
1981 – Athletics vs. Reds
1982 – Cardinals vs. Brewers 
1983 – White Sox vs. Dodgers
1984 – Cubs vs. Tigers
1985 – Blue Jays vs. Cardinals
1986- Mets vs. Red Sox
1987 – Tigers vs. Cardinals
1988 – Mets vs. Athletics
1989 – Athletics vs. Cubs
1990 – Pirates vs. Athletics
1991 – Twins vs. Pirates
1992 – Braves vs. Blue Jays*
1993 – Blue Jays vs. Braves
1994 – Yankees vs. Expos
1995 – Braves vs. Indians 
1996 – Indians vs. Braves
1997 – Braves vs. Orioles
1998 – Yankees vs. Braves
1999 – Braves vs. Yankees 
2000 – White Sox vs. Giants
2001 – Astros* vs. Mariners
2002 – Yankees vs. Braves
2003 – Yankees vs. Braves
2004 – Yankees vs. Cardinals
2005 – White Sox vs. Cardinals
2006 – Yankees vs. Mets
2007 – Red Sox* vs. Diamondbacks
2008 – Angels vs. Cubs
2009 – Yankees vs. Dodgers
2010 – Phillies vs. Rays
2011 – Phillies vs. Yankees
2012 – Nationals vs. Yankees
2013 – Red Sox vs. Cardinals 
2014 – Angels vs. Nationals
2015 – Royals vs. Cardinals
2016 – Rangers vs. Cubs

* would have required a one-game playoff – I go by who won in real life or was the higher seed at the time

See how interesting this game is? That’s the majesty of it all.

2016 World Series: It might be…it could be….it is!!

The 2016 World Series was the one hundred fourteenth year overall, and one hundred twelfth played, of the modern World Series which began in 1903. After battling with catcalls, jeers, and jinxes, real or imagined, the team from the north side of Chicago gave its fans a reason to finally “fly the W,” as their vernacular would say, in arguably one of the most thrilling World Series of all time. It’s also a bittersweet post, though, as the losing team will attest, and also the end of this project (for now). It’s been fun to do this, so enjoy this one, Cubs fans and baseball fans alike. Apologies if it falls short.

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(The 2016 World Series logo. Photo courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net

2016 World Series 
Chicago Cubs (NL) over Cleveland Indians (AL), 4-3 

Managers: Joe Maddon (Chicago); Terry Francona (Cleveland) 

Hall of Famers*
None 

*as of 2016 

Series MVP: Ben Zobrist, OF (Chicago) 

Analysis
There’s still a month left in 2016, and a lot did happen in the world, but I figure that whatever has happened will have its own day. This is not the time for it – I can’t say it any better, and besides, I think people need a little bit of cheer again, particularly with the holidays coming up. And with this being the last one for the time being, I want to get there as soon as I can, so it may be a little less than usual, content-wise.

The toast of the Hall of Fame class were two prolific hitters – outfielder George Kenneth Griffey, Jr. We know him better as “The Kid” or “Junior.” Ken Griffey, Jr. not only was a first ballot inductee to the Hall of Fame, but he broke Tom Seaver’s record for the highest percentage of votes gathered, falling three votes shy of a unanimous selection. Joining him would be catcher Mike Piazza, who set a record with 396 home runs as a catcher (and 427 overall). The two were widely seen as the favorites to get in, and baseball’s millennial generation had some of its biggest heroes get in.

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(Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza were the Hall of Fame inductees in 2016. Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Enquirer.) 

The Kansas City Royals were now the defending champions, after a 30-year wait. They set a first when they hosted the opening game at Kauffman Stadium against the Mets, the team they beat in the Fall Classic the previous year. While the Royals won the game, injuries, free agency, and the league finding out their secrets set them back. They would finish third in the Central Division at 81-81. It wasn’t a losing season, but it was still below par. Were the last two years just a fluke?

2016 marked the last year of David Ortiz’s career in Boston. Wanting to win for him one last time, John Farrell’s men did the same thing they did in 2013 – go from worst to first, winning the division in Yankee Stadium after a Toronto loss (even though Mark Teixeira hit a walk-off grand slam in that game). They were helped by an 11-game winning streak in September to put them over the top by four games. For the Yankees, they lost two of their own. Mark Teixeira called it quits at the end of the season, and in late August, Alex Rodriguez finally decided to hang them up himself. He finished four home runs shy of 700, although because of his reputation, whether he’ll get the call to Cooperstown remains unknown. We’ll certainly be looking at things differently in the voting, that’s for sure. Ortiz became the oldest man to hit 35 homers in a season, and finished with 541 in his career. He may never make Cooperstown, but he’s first ballot in my book.

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(Boston’s local legend David Ortiz announced his retirement after the 2016 season. Photo courtesy of http://www.nesn.com.)

Boston also had a pretty good offense this year – Ortiz, Mookie Betts, and Dustin Pedroia all hit above .300, with Betts winning a Gold Glove and finishing runner-up to Mike Trout in the AL MVP voting. And they did accomplish something for the first time since 2007 – one of their pitchers won 20 games. Although the pitching staff was much maligned throughout the year, Rick Porcello would lead the Major Leagues with 22 wins. He had rebounded from losing 15 games the previous year, en route to becoming the first Red Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez to win the Cy Young Award. New acquisition David Price won 17 of his own, and knuckleballer Steven Wright won 13 and made the All-Star team before an injury shut him down.

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(Rick Porcello had a comeback season for the ages in Boston, winning 22 games and the AL Cy Young. Photo courtesy of http://www.boston.com

In the NL, Washington would make the playoffs again thanks to its ace, Max Scherzer. He became just the sixth pitcher to take the Cy Young in both leagues, the only NL pitcher to reach 20 wins this season (Jon Lester of the Cubs had 19, but lost his last start of the season; he actually did the same thing for Boston in 2010). Scherzer tied a record set by Clemens and Wood and Johnson, striking out 20 batters on May 11, against his old club in Detroit. Even more impressive, he didn’t walk anybody.

(Max Scherzer strikes out 20 batters for Washington. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

But the biggest stories would be the Chicago Cubs. Many believed this would finally, finally be the year of them breaking their drought. They had many ex-Boston holdovers – Jon Lester, David Ross, John Lackey, and executive Theo Epstein. Things looked grim at first as they lost Kyle Schwarber due to injury for the whole regular season after only two games. Still, they weathered the storm, running away with the division and the best record in baseball at 103-58.They also used an MVP season from Kris Bryant at third base and great hitting from Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, and the acquisition of closer Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees mid-season didn’t hurt either.

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(Despite losing Kyle Schwarber early in the season to injury, little else went wrong in Chicago. Photo courtesy of http://www.mlb.com.) 

Sadly, tragedy would rock the baseball world in September. In the 20th of that month, Jose Fernandez pitched and won a game for the Miami Marlins. It would be his last heroic act in a baseball uniform. That same day, he found out he was going to be a father. But only five days later, in the early morning hours off of Miami Beach, Fernandez and two other men were killed in a boating accident. Cocaine and alcohol were found at the scene. The Marlins canceled their game with the Braves that day, and his number 16 was retired by the organization soon after. He was only 24 years old.

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(Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident on September 25. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.) 

The playoffs began with the NL Wild Card Game between the San Francisco Giants and defending NL champion New York Mets. The two teams traded zeroes, as Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard waged a classic pitchers’ duel. A great defensive play by New York’s Curtis Granderson kept it scoreless. In the top of the ninth, with two on, the Giants finally broke through when journeyman Conor Gillaspie hit a three-run homer. Bumgarner finished a four-hit, complete game shutout. The Giants looked to have their even year streak continue.

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(Conor Gillaspie homers to win the NL Wild Card for the Giants. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The NLDS opened between the Cubs and Giants at Wrigley Field. Jon Lester was brilliant in eight innings, although it took until the bottom of the eighth to break through for Chicago. Javier Baez homered into the basket of left field for the only run of the game. Aroldis Chapman got the save.

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(Javier Baez won Game 1 with a home run for the Cubs. Photo courtesy of Boston Globe.) 

Perhaps Chicago’s best pitcher was Kyle Hendricks, who led the majors in ERA. He also helped his case with two RBIs on a single. But he was forced to leave before he could get the decision after being struck by a line drive, and Travis Wood picked up the slack out of the bullpen. A converted starter brought over from Cincinnati, Wood did something that hadn’t been done since 1924 – he hit a home run in the postseason as a relief pitcher. The Cubs used three RBI from pitchers to win 5-2.

(Kyle Hendricks and Travis Wood did it with their arms – and bats – to help the Cubs win Game 2. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Jake Arrieta and Madison Bumgarner went head-to-head in Game 3. Neither pitcher was all that good, and Arrieta smacked a three-run homer of his own to help his own cause. But in the eighth, the bullpen collapsed and the Giants rallied. The Cubs tied it in the ninth, on a mammoth home run by Kris Bryant.

(Kris Bryant hits a game-tying home run in Game 3. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

However, this time, the Giants were resilient. They used a leadoff double by Brandon Crawford and a single by Joe Panik to win the game 6-5. They were still alive in the NLDS.

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(Joe Panik won Game 3 with a walk-off single. Photo courtesy of USA Today.) 

It looked like the Giants would force a Game 5 back in Chicago. Matt Moore pitched eight innings and left with a 5-2 lead.Many felt Bruce Bochy should have left him in. As much as the Cubs depended on the long ball, they used small ball in the top of the ninth. The Giants would use five pitchers in the inning, thanks to a Willson Contreras single to tie the game, a throwing error by Brandon Crawford, and a single up the middle by Javier Baez. Chapman struck out the side and the Cubs advanced. The Giants’ even-year streak was snapped.

(The Cubs rally in the ninth of Game 4 to eliminate the Giants. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

They would face the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won a five-game series with the Washington Nationals. Clayton Kershaw won the first game, 4-3. Washington took the next two, and L.A. forced a Game 5 back in the nation’s capital. The Dodgers broke through with four in the top of the seventh to take a 4-1 lead, but the Nationals cut it to one on a homer by Chris Heisey. Kenley Jansen was brought in early by Dave Roberts, but he looked tired. With one out in the ninth, Kershaw was brought in with only two days’ rest. He got new acquisition Daniel Murphy to pop up and struck out the next batter to win the NLDS for Los Angeles (sorry to all the Dodger fans out there, but they just weren’t the story this year).

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(On short rest, Clayton Kershaw saved the game for the Dodgers and pushed them into the NLCS. Photo courtesy of The Sporting News.) 

The first game opened at Wrigley Field on October 15. Against Kenta Maeda, the Cubs took an early lead. One of the big plays was a steal of home by Javier Baez on a close play. Jon Lester allowed only one run, a solo home run by Javier Baez in the fifth.

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(Javier Baez steals home in Game 1 of the NLCS. Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune.) 

But in the top of the eighth, Aroldis Chapman ran into trouble. With the bases loaded, the Dodgers tied the game on a single by Adrian Gonzalez. This is where I come into the story – I walked into a local bar as the bottom of the eighth played out.

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(Adrian Gonzalez ties Game 1 with a single in the eighth. Photo courtesy of USA Today.)

In the bottom of the eighth, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts ran into trouble with Joe Blanton on the mound, who issued an intentional walk to load the bases for catcher Miguel Montero. He took a 0-2 pitch deep to right. Grand slam!! Montero’s big blast gave the Cubs a 7-3 lead. The fans went crazy where I was, and would go even crazier when Dexter Fowler homered on the very next pitch. It was 8-3 Cubs, and although the Dodgers got a run back in the ninth, it wouldn’t be enough. The Cubs won 8-4 to take the opener.

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(Miguel Montero’s grand slam won Game 1 for the Cubs. Photo courtesy of http://www.chicago.cbslocal.com.)

However, Gonzalez used his hitting to steal Game 2 for the Dodgers. Back on his normal rest, Clayton Kershaw used the home run to win 1-0. Kyle Hendricks was terrific but Kershaw was better. The series was tied headed to L.A.

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(Adrian Gonzalez’s home run won Game 2 for the Dodgers. Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune.) 

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(Clayton Kershaw was dominant in Game 2, pitching seven innings. Photo courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times.) 

Things looked pretty good for the Dodgers, especially when journeyman Rich Hill beat Arrieta in the third game. The final score was 6-0, the first time the Dodgers had thrown consecutive shutouts in the postseason. Chicago’s 3-4-5-6 hitters went a combined 3-for-27. Many in Chicago began to worry.

But in Game 4, the bats woke up. After two runs had already scored, the slumping Addison Russell rocked a two-run home run to make it 4-0 in the fourth. They’d score six more times in the next two innings, defeating Julio Urias 10-2.

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(Addison Russell broke out of a slump to jump-start the Cubs in Game 4. Photo courtesy of CBS Sports.) 

Russell homered again in Game 5, sparking a five-run rally for the Cubs in the eighth, who won 8-4 to back Jon Lester. Just like in 2003, the Cubs were won win away from the pennant heading home. Could they break through?

Kyle Hendricks was asked to pitch the Cubs to the pennant. An early fielding error could have spelled trouble, but Hendricks picked Josh Reddick off first base. He also had three double plays, allowing only two hits. Combined with Chapman, the minimum twenty-seven batters came to bat – only the second time in postseason history it’s happened (the first was Don Larsen’s perfect game in the ’56 Fall Classic). Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered to knock Kershaw out early, and they went into the ninth three outs away, leading 5-0.

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(Kyle Hendricks pitched a gem to lead Chicago to the pennant. Photo courtesy of http://www.chicago.cubs.mlb.com.) 

With one out in the ninth, Carlos Ruiz drew a walk. Up came Yasiel Puig. On the first pitch of the at-bat, he hit a ground ball to short. Russell fired to Baez, who fired to Rizzo. 6-4-3. As Theo Epstein embraced his wife (with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam next to him), the normally stiff broadcaster Joe Buck made arguably his most famous call – “The Cubs have won the pennant!!” Javier Baez and Jon Lester shared MVP honors for the series.

(The Cubs turn a 6-4-3 double play to win the NL pennant. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(The Cubs win the 2016 NL pennant, their first since World War II. Photo courtesy of Washington Post.) 

So great was the build-up to the Cubs’ pennant drive that the AL playoffs paled by comparison. The Blue Jays and Orioles faced off in the Wild Car game. Each team used a home run to get them to a 2-2 tie, although Orioles outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim had beer thrown on him by a Toronto fan. Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna left with shoulder tightness in the tenth. In the bottom of the tenth, the Orioles had their ace closer Zach Britton waiting in the bullpen. He never got in the game. In the bottom of the eleventh, Edwin Encarnacion hit a three-run homer to win the game for the Blue Jays.

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(The Blue Jays won the AL Wild Card on a walk-off home run by Edwin Encarnacion. Photo courtesy of New York Times.) 

Admittedly, I’m going to rush through the rest of these sections in the lead up. Fortunately, neither ALDS was all that good. The upstart Cleveland Indians, led by onetime Boston manager Terry Francona, swept his old team three games to none. Two of the three games were close, but lacked a lot of the drama of past moments. When Jackie Bradley, Jr. flied out to Lonnie Chisenhall in right field, the Red Sox were eliminated. David Ortiz came out for one last bow, and saluted the Red Sox on the mound at Fenway Park. So long, Big Papi.

(David Ortiz says goodbye to the Red Sox fans in an emotional moment at Fenway Park. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The Blue Jays would pull off a shocking reverse sweep of the Texas Rangers, who had the best record in the AL, but as it turned out, it was the same old Rangers. The Blue Jays won the first two in Arlington, then used a throwing error to walk-off in Game 3. Despite interference protests, it would be Cleveland versus Toronto in the ALCS.

Cleveland wasn’t supposed to be here – injuries to their pitching staff seemed not to favor them. But Terry Francona didn’t win two titles in Boston for nothing. As it turned out, his team only scored twelve runs in the entire series – and still won, 4 games to 1, as the Blue Jays only scored eight. After losing the first three games, Toronto avoided the sweep, and many wondered if they could do what the 2004 Red Sox did. But alas, the Cleveland bullpen was too good – Bryan Shaw, closer Cody Allen, and setup man and ALCS MVP Andrew Miller. Troy Tulowitzki popped out to Carlos Santana at first base, and the matchup that baseball needed (at least in my opinion) was set.

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(The Indians win the AL pennant in five games. Photo courtesy of http://www.wgntv.com.) 

Because several of his starting pitchers were injured, Terry Francona had planned to use his ace Corey Kluber three times – Game 1, 4, and 7 if it got that far. Additionally, Game 2 starter Trevor Bauer had a cut on his finger that hadn’t healed properly. Still, Kluber made the doubters look foolish in Game 1 – he set a record by striking out eight batters in the first three innings. Fortunately, the Cubs got Kyle Schwarber in time for the World Series. He was the only Cub who played well – he doubled and walked, although he also had two strikeouts. Kluber ended up striking out nine, pitching into the seventh inning. Andrew Miller got him out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh, and Cody Allen finished the game. Jon Lester, meanwhile, was a disaster. He gave up three runs, including hitting a man with the bases loaded, and Kluber’s catcher Roberto Perez hit two home runs, the first time a batter in the nine-spot (the last spot in the order) did so. The Indians were off and running with a 6-0 victory. In their first World Series game in 71 years, Chicago looked utterly hopeless.

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(Corey Kluber was magnificent in Game 1 for the Indians, striking out eight batters in the first three innings. Photo courtesy of The Sporting News.) 

Due to predictions of rain in the forecast, Game 2 was moved up one hour. Although his 2016 season wasn’t as good as the previous one (to be fair, he did throw another no-hitter), Jake Arrieta came up big for the Cubs, helping them even the series at a game apiece. The Cubs scored their first run in the series when Kris Bryant singled and Anthony Rizzo drove him in with a double. Schwarber had an RBI single in the third and fifth, and by the time the fifth inning was over, it was 5-0. Arrieta allowed a run on a wild pitch, but that was it, as Chicago took Game 2, 5-1. It was the first World Series loss Terry Francona has ever suffered, in ten games.

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(Jake Arrieta won Game 2 for the Cubs to even the Series. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Wrigley Field came alive for the first home game in the World Series since October 10, 1945. Starting pitchers Josh Tomlin and Kyle Hendricks waged a pitchers’ duel, with neither bending an inch. Ultimately, the Indians won 1-0 on an RBI from Coco Crisp, a member of Boston’s 2007 title team, in the top of the seventh inning against reliever Carl Edwards, Jr. Andrew Miller got the win in relief and Cody Allen got his second save.

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(Coco Crisp’s RBI single won Game 3 for Cleveland. Photo courtesy of http://www.manginphotography.net

Heading into Game 4, the Cubs managed a run off of Corey Kluber in the first inning. But John Lackey struggled, giving three of them back in the next two innings. Additionally, Bryant uncharacteristically made two errors in one inning in the field. Despite a Dexter Fowler home run, Chicago’s first in the series, the Indians were one win away from their first title in 68 years. Although their title drought had been broken earlier in the year with the Cavaliers winning their first NBA title, this one would have – should have – been sweeter.

Determined not to lose the Series in their home ballpark, the Cubs knuckled down as Jon Lester made his second start. An early home run from Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez may have sank hometown hearts, but their MVP was waiting for them. Leading off the fourth inning, the Cubs had struggled to score all series – seven runs in the first four games. Bryant took a 1-1 pitch from Trevor Bauer. Whack! He rocked a home run to left-center field, tying the game. It would prove to give a spark desperately missing in Chicago’s dugout.

(Kris Bryant’s Game 5 home run sparked a Chicago rally. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Bryant is congratulated rounding third after his home run in Game 5. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The Cubs weren’t done scoring in the inning – they scored two more runs to take a 3-1 lead, and they would need every single one of them, as Cleveland got it to 3-2 in the seventh. Facing a bases loaded jam in the seventh with one out, Joe Maddon made the call to Aroldis Chapman. Could he get out outs and force it back to Cleveland? Whatever fatigue Chapman was facing, he got through the inning, and helped the Cubs stave off elimination, winning 3-2. It was a Series again, heading back to Cleveland.The Indians still controlled their destiny. But at the same time, it looked like a sleeping giant was ready to wake up.

Chicago would break out of its slump in the Series in Game 6, and big. In the first five games, they had scrounged and scrapped their way to only ten runs, and had been shut out twice. And yet they were still alive. Jake Arrieta tried to keep the Cubs in it, and he had some help. After another Bryant solo home run, the Cubs scored three times in the first inning. It was still 3-0 when Addison Russell took a 91 mph pitch from reliever Dan Otero. Smack!! Russell smacked a grand slam over the left field fence, the spark that the Cubs had been waiting for all series. Just like that, it was 7-0 Cubs.

(Addison Russell smacks a grand slam in Game 6 of the Series. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Russell watches his grand slam leave the yard. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.) 

That was all the support Jake Arrieta needed, despite surrendering two runs of his own, including a home run to Jason Kipnis, who had grown up in the Chicago suburbs. Anthony Rizzo capped off the rally with a two-run homer, and although the Indians got a run back in the ninth, the Cubs had forced a Game 7 with a 9-3 win. Their bats had finally woken up.

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(Despite a home run by Jason Kipnis, Chicago still won big to force a Game 7. Photo courtesy of New York Times.) 

Some seventh games are are dull, some are middle of the road, and some are classics. This year’s seventh game falls into the “classic” category. It was only appropriate, given the two teams involved, it would take the full seven games to settle it. Neither team had done well in winner-take-all games: both had lost their only Game 7 appearances in the World Series. One of them was going to break through. One franchise would end decades – maybe centuries – of frustration, the other would be forced to lament what might have been.

The first batter of the seventh game was Chicago’s Dexter Fowler. By the time his at-bat was over, I think fans of both teams (and even neutral fans like myself) knew we were in for some magic. Corey Kluber took the hill for Cleveland one last time. Opposing him would be Kyle Hendricks. Fowler led off and promptly homered, the first time a Game 7 featured a leadoff home run. It traveled 410 feet to right field. The Cubs had the early lead.

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(Dexter Fowler leads off Game 7 with a home run off Corey Kluber. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.) 

Hendricks allowed the Indians to tie the score on an RBI single by Carlos Santana in the third inning. With both teams still jockeying for position, Chicago seized the initiative in the top of the fourth. A sacrifice fly and a double by Contreras made it 3-1 Cubs. Hendricks got through his half unscathed. In the top of the fifth, Javier Baez backed up Hendricks with a solo shot. 4-1 Cubs. Kluber was out and Andrew Miller was in. But even he couldn’t keep his momentum going, and he allowed a walk and run-scoring single to Rizzo, who took second on the throw. It was 5-1 Cubs, fifteen outs away from the title.

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(Anthony Rizzo celebrates his hit that gave the Cubs a 5-1 lead in Game 7. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

However, Cleveland was too good to just go away. Maddon may have goofed by pulling Hendricks early, but in a Game 7, it’s all hands on deck. Jon Lester was brought in, and an error by catcher David Ross led to two runners on. With two outs, second and third, Francisco Lindor came up, who had been dangerous all series. He wouldn’t get a hit…but he didn’t need to. On a 1-1 count, Lester’s pitch skipped away. Santana scored from third easily. Kipnis broke for the plate as well. The throw was a fraction late. It was now 5-3. The Cubs held and got out of the inning.

Looking to atone for his mistakes, David Ross came to bat in the sixth. At age 39, he was playing in his final game of his career – steady but unremarkable. But he had his own moment, hitting the third Chicago home run of the game to make it 6-3. Chicago was closing in on the title.

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(David Ross homers in the sixth inning. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.) 

It was the eighth inning. The score was still 6-3. Lester got two quick outs. Four outs from the championship. Jose Ramirez hit a ground ball up the middle. Baez dove for it, but it was just out of his reach for Ramirez to reach. Cleveland was still alive. Rookie Brandon Guyer was next. He rocketed a double into the gap and Cleveland was now only down two runs. Lester was out. In came Aroldis Chapman.

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(Rookie Brandon Guyer kept the Indians alive in Game 7. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Next up was Rajai Davis, who had been struggling throughout the postseason, a 36-year-old journeyman outfielder. Still, the World Series has a way of finding those guys. He worked the count to 2-2, fouling off a few pitches. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Chapman came a little low, at 98 miles an hour. SMACK!! Davis lined one to left. It barely cleared the fence. HOME RUN! HOME RUN! HOME RUN!! The game was tied, 6-6. It was Chapman’s first home run allowed since June 18. The Cubs kept the score tied.

(Rajai Davis smacks a home run to tie Game 7 in the eighth. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

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(One of the World Series’ most clutch moments – Rajai Davis connects. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Chicago had the winning run on third in the top of the ninth, but couldn’t score. Cleveland went down in order. It would go to extra innings in Game 7. What more could you ask for?

Unfortunately, fans would have to wait. Rains had been threatening all game, and then they finally came. As if fans needed any more reason to stress out. Would the game have to be suspended? Would there be no winner? Surely, it had to end some time.

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(Rain delayed the tenth inning of Game 7. Photo courtesy of The Sporting News.) 

After seventeen minutes, the sky cleared up. Back to baseball. The Cubs had collapsed again. Would their ghosts finally be buried? Bryan Shaw pitched for Cleveland. Schwarber led off with a single. Albert Almora came off the bench to pinch-run. Bryant hit a deep fly ball to center, but Almora intelligently tagged up and advanced. Rizzo was walked intentionally. Ben Zobrist was next, a member of Kansas City’s title team the year before. Base hit!! He slapped a double to left field, scoring Almora and sending Rizzo to third. Zobrist would use that hit to win MVP honors.

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(Ben Zobrist doubled in the go-ahead run in the tenth. Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune.) 

Following another intentional walk, Montero was next. He singled in another run to make it 8-6. Chicago would need it, as it turned out. Shaw was out, and Chicago didn’t score anymore. But they were still three outs from the title.

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(Miguel Montero drives in the run that would win the Series in the 10th inning. Photo courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times.)

Chapman was gassed, so Carl Edwards, Jr. was asked to get the last three outs. He got the first two outs. One out away. One out away. Guyer walked and took second. Suddenly, Davis came through again with an RBI single. Chicago still held the lead, 8-7, but Montero’s hit took on extra significance. Edwards was replaced by Mike Montgomery. Still only one out needed. It couldn’t happen again, could it?

Michael Martinez was the Indians’ last hope. He took a strike on a beautiful curveball. On the second pitch from Montgomery, Martinez hit a grounder to Bryant at third base. He picked it up, preparing to throw to first…and he slipped on the grass. His throw was slightly high. But Anthony Rizzo was waiting. It landed in his glove, and his foot was on the base.

CUBS WIN!! CUBS WIN!! CUBS WIN!!!

It was no dream. Just like the Red Sox had done in 2004, the Cubs had broken their drought in amazing circumstances. If it doesn’t tear you up, I don’t know what would.

(The Cubs win the World Series for the first time in 108 years. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

108 years. Just like that, it was all washed away. Ernie Banks had never done it. Neither had Ferguson Jenkins, or Andre Dawson, or Billy Williams, or Ryne Sandberg, or Sammy Sosa, or Kerry Wood…or the late Ron Santo. Both of their legendary broadcasters – Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray – had passed on. Chicago had waited a long time for this. And just like that, they were champions again. They passed their torch on to Cleveland, the team on the other side. Several days later, over five million people streamed into the city to watch the parade. It was a fitting conclusion to the season, just as this paragraph is a fitting conclusion to almost a year’s worth of research, late nights, and blank stares at a computer screen. The “W” will fly proudly next season. They should now modify the lyrics of the classic song: “Hey, Chicago, whaddaya say? The Cubs have won it all today.

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(The Chicago Cubs are 2016 World Series champions. Photo courtesy of http://www.upi.com.)

Fun Facts 
This is the Cubs’ third title overall, and first in 108 years. Their drought is the longest in North American professional sports history.

The Cubs remain the only team to win a World Series without ever clinching at home. Maybe they’ll do it one day.

This is one of my favorite coincidences: for the fourth consecutive World Series, the team representing the American League scored exactly 27 runs. This year, the two teams both scored exactly 27. Chicago scored 17 in the final two games after only scoring 10 in the first five.

Terry Francona lost his first World Series games as manager, having won his first eight with Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Although he slipped on the grass throwing to first, Kris Bryant had a smile on his face, as he knew it was nothing serious.

Kyle Schwarber became the first non-pitcher to get his first hit in the World Series. He had gone 0-4 in his first two games before his injury.

Chicago is the sixth team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series, the first NL to do it since the 1979 Pirates, and first since the 1985 Kansas City Royals.

Cleveland had rallied from a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, and now blew a 3-1 lead in the World Series. I’m just the messenger, but it is an amazing coincidence.

Despite winning the title, the Cubs’ record at Wrigley Field still isn’t all that great. They are a combined 3-13 at home in the World Series. Obviously, though, it didn’t matter this time.

This was the first time since 1990 that the first game was a shutout. I can’t confirm this for sure, but I believe the Cubs are the first team to win the Series after being shut out twice (four times including the NLCS).

Chicago became the first 100-win team from the NL to win the whole thing since the Mets in 1986, and the first in the NL since the introduction of the Wild Card format.

For all the talk of jinxes, 108 may have been the Cubs lucky number. In addition to snapping a 108-year drought, 108 outs is the minimum number of outs require to win four games in a series (technically it was 111 because of Game 7), and there are 108 double-sided stitches on a baseball.

This is the fourth time a Game 7 has gone to extra innings, and the first time the visiting team won said game. The last time was in 1997 – which Cleveland also lost.

Trevor Bauer of Cleveland cut his pinkie finger while using a drone in between games 2 and 3 of the ALCS. Per MLB rules, he would be forced to leave in the second inning of ALCS Game 3 after the finger bled onto his pants.

Joe Maddon wears #70 for the Cubs, because he once had a situation as a coach where he was asked to give up his number for a player. He was determined never to do that again.

With their loss, Cleveland now has the longest World Series drought as of this writing (68 years).

These two teams came in with the longest combined drought in World Series history – 176 years between them.

At age 39, David Ross is the oldest player to homer in a Game 7.

Final Thoughts 
This is what baseball is supposed to be about. It was a fantastic series between two amazing teams. I can only use Harry Caray’s home run call to describe it (which is also this post’s title): “It might be…it could be…IT IS!!” It has truly been a pleasure doing this project. Hope baseball fans everywhere enjoy.

References and Sources 
Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Wikipedia
YouTube
Getty Images
http://www.mlb.com
http://www.worldseries.com
http://www.manginphotography.net
http://www.sportslogos.net
http://www.nesn.com
http://www.boston.com
http://www.chicago.cbslocal.com
http://www.chicago.cubs.mlb.com
http://www.wgntv.com
http://www.upi.com
http://www.baseballhall.org
Cincinnati Enquirer. 
Chicago Tribune. 
Chicago Sun-Times.
Boston Globe. 
New York Times. 
Washington Post. 
The Sporting News.
Sports Illustrated. 
USA Today. 
LIFE Magazine.
The Seventh Game (Barry Levenson)
The Curse of Rocky Colavito (Terry Pluto)
The Ultimate Book of Sports Lists (Andrew Postman, Larry Stone)
Wrigleyville (Peter Golenbock)

An “I” on the Bucket

For the fourth straight year, Indiana beat Purdue on the gridiron.

Yes, you’re reading that correctly. IU beat Purdue. In football. For the fourth consecutive time.

Take a moment to digest that, Hoosier fans. It hasn’t happened often. In fact, this is only the second time in the history of the rivalry that IU has won four straight over their rival. The last time it happened was from 1944-47. Ergo, it was at least forty years before a lot of us before us. Enjoy it. Never before has IU won five straight over their rivals, although IU did take seven out of ten from 1987-96 (the last one being Bill Mallory’s last game for the Hoosiers). By contrast, IU would only win one time in from 1997-2006, and use three head coaches in that time.

So, add another “I” on the Bucket. They still have a long way to go in the rivalry, trailing 72-41, with six ties. But I can see improvement already – this is probably the best defense I’ve ever seen. The offense wasn’t there like it was last year, but the defense was able to hold several big teams close – even in losses, they held Michigan to 20 points and beat then-ranked Michigan State in the Brass Spittoon game. I’ll have to check the stats, because I don’t remember the last time IU won both of its rivalry trophies in the same season. In fact, Michigan State fell apart, and Indiana is bowl eligible, and the Spartans are not. The Hoosiers won four games in conference play. As annoying as the Wake Forest loss was, IU is now 6-6, bowl eligible. It’s a little disappointing that this is the goal, but when you’re the losingest program in Division I FBS (no lie, it’s us, that’s how bad it’s been), you take what you get.

I’m not entirely sold on Kevin Wilson yet, but he is doing something right. I still think his clock management needs work, but he’s only the second coach to lead Indiana to multiple bowl game. Only Bill Mallory did it more than once, and he was 2-4 in those games.

Now, the question is which bowl game IU will go to. They won’t be going to the Rose Bowl or the Orange Bowl, and definitely not to the playoff. Additionally, I don’t think they’ll do Pinstripe a second straight time because of conference tie-ins, or perhaps no repeats.

Here is a list of bowls that IU has a reasonable chance of getting into:

1. Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit) – December 26 
Many have IU pegged for this one – get it out of the way right away. It would be against the ACC, so not necessarily an easy matchup, but not as tough as the Big 12 or SEC. Additionally, it would be easier travel-wise for IU, as Detroit is probably the closest our fanbase is going to get. This is the one I wanted last year, but the competition would be better this year, so now I don’t know if I want it this year.

2. Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dallas) – December 27 
This is the one I personally want – yes, IU fans would need better travel options, but the quality of opposition would probably be the easiest for IU. Kill me for wanting a winnable game.

3. Holiday Bowl (San Diego) – December 27 
This one isn’t that high on the radar, either for fans or for prognosticators. The travel restrictions would be horrible for IU fans, and they’d face a middle-tier Pac-12 team, like Washington State or Cal. This one doesn’t look likely, but it is possible.

4. Foster Farms Bowl (Santa Clara) – December 28 
I think most of the prognosticators have us heading to the Bay Area. Similar vein to the Holiday Bowl, only a better chance of getting it.

5. Music City Bowl (Nashville) – December 30
This one would actually be really good for me, too – I have family in Nashville, and I could say I got to see IU in a bowl game. However, having to play an SEC team would be murder, and IU wouldn’t be favored in that game. So, travel-wise, yes I want it, but on the competition side, I don’t.

6. Citrus Bowl (Orlando) – December 31 
These last three aren’t that high on IU’s radar, but Orlando would probably be cool to see if it happens. Again, they’d have to face SEC competition in the game, though, and are unlikely to get to a bowl this late in the year anyway.

7. TaxSlayer Bowl (Jacksonville) – December 31
Horrible name for a bowl, by the way. Same as above, except replace Orlando with Jacksonville.

8. Outback Bowl (Tampa) – January 2
This is one of those “mid-major” bowls that carries more prestige, so I think IU’s chances of getting it are slim to none. You never know.

So, the three most likely outcomes are the following: Quick Lane in Detroit, Foster Farms in Santa Clara, or Music City in Nashville. I’d also still like to see if Dallas could work. At any rate, IU is back in a bowl game, and we’ve got a great shot. Enjoy it, IU fans.

2015 World Series: Kansas City’s crowning achievement

The 2015 World Series was the one hundred thirteenth year overall, and one hundred eleventh played, of the modern World Series which began in 1903. After a year of frustration, and several key acquisitions, the winning team broke a thirty-year championship drought, using timely hitting and a strong pitching staff, in a game increasingly dominated by home runs. It was also the first time two expansion teams faced off in a World Series.

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(The 2015 World Series logo. Photo courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net

2015 World Series 
Kansas City Royals (AL) over New York Mets (NL), 4-1 

Managers: Ned Yost (Kansas City); Terry Collins (New York) 

Hall of Famers* 
None 

*as of 2016 

Series MVP: Salvador Perez, C (Kansas City) 

Analysis 
For the third time in five years, the Giants came in as the defending champions. For the third time as well, they failed to make the playoffs the following season. Injuries and poor seasons from many of their veterans led to an 84-78 season, good for a second place finish in a poor division. But the Dodgers were eight games better, taking the division title.

For the first time in sixty years, four players made the Hall of Fame on the main ballot, including three pitchers on their first try. The only position player, Craig Biggio, was the first inductee who played his best years in Houston, on his third try. Randy Johnson, “The Big Unit,” all 6’10” of him, followed, as did longtime Braves pitcher John Smoltz. Lastly, Bostonians had something to cheer about as Pedro Martinez joined the Hall on his first appearance. It was especially poignant for Martinez, who became only the second player from the Dominican Republic to get in; he referenced Juan Marichal in his speech (who had been inducted in 1983).

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(From left to right: Craig Biggio, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez were all inductees into the Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of http://www.baseballhall.org)

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(Pedro Martinez and Juan Marichal proudly wave the flag of the Dominican Republic, the only two Hall of Fame inductees from there so far. Photo courtesy of Boston Globe.)

On June 19, controversial slugger Alex Rodriguez joined the 3,000 hit club with a home run off Justin Verlander of the Tigers. He would later become only the fourth man to reach 2,000 career RBI, and passed Willie Mays for fourth on the all time home run list. But his career was winding down, and one year later, his career would end.

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(Alex Rodriguez used a home run to join the 3,000 hit club. Photo courtesy of CBS Sports.) 

In Boston, a slugger had a milestone of his own. At Tropicana Field on September 12, David Ortiz joined the 500 home run club with a shot to right field. Otherwise, it was another last place finish for Boston (although it was 78-84, and they were only two games back of fourth and three back of third place). New acquisition Pablo Sandoval was overweight, and had trouble in the other league. Another new addition, Hanley Ramirez, wasn’t quite up to par either. Still, they had an eager rookie named Markus Lynn “Mookie” Betts, who looks to solidify the Red Sox outfield for years to come.

(David Ortiz joins the 500 home run club. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

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(Rookie Mookie Betts was a sign of life for the Red Sox, despite a last place finish. Photo courtesy of http://www.mlb.com)

The season opened on the North Side of Chicago for the first time ever; the archrival Cardinals beat the Cubs 3-0. Despite protests from many of the fans (and cheers from others), the Cubs had finally decided to renovate Wrigley Field. They put in a JumboTron in the outfield, and also began to close off parts of the outfield to cut down the wind effects of Lake Michigan. They also had a new manager – Joe Maddon, who was lured away from the Tampa Bay Rays; in turn, Rick Renteria was relieved after only one season. They also had a rookie of their own in waiting – third baseman Kris Bryant was called up on April 17. While he went hitless and made an error in his Major League debut, he would go on to record a .275 average for the year, 26 home runs, and 99 RBI. Bryant made the All-Star team and was named NL Rookie of the Year.

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(Kris Bryant debuted for the Cubs on April 17, someone who looks to be a superstar in the making. Photo courtesy of Daily Herald.) 

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(The Cubs hired Joe Maddon to manage them – and he would lead them all the way one year later. Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune.) 

The Cubs had several big names that year – Jon Lester was signed as a free agent, and a former catcher from Indiana University debuted in the outfield. His name was Kyle Schwarber. But the biggest name other than Bryant was pitcher Jake Arrieta. At age 29, he had his breakout season, winning 22 games and the NL Cy Young Award. On top of that, he threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers on August 30 (in his first season in Washington, Max Scherzer threw two of his own in one year). The Cubs won 95 games to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

(Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter on July 30 against the Dodgers. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Despite initial promise from Scherzer, and an MVP season from Bryce Harper, the Nationals would miss the playoffs and relieve manager Matt Williams of his duties after only two years. Many believe he lost control of the clubhouse after a September fight between Harper and Jonathan Papelbon in the dugout, after Harper failed to run out a fly ball.

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(Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper fight in the dugout. Photo courtesy of CBS Sports.)

(Full video of the Harper-Papelbon incident. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

After clinching a postseason spot on October 1, the Yankees faced off in the AL Wild Card Game against the Houston Astros, their first AL playoff appearance. Despite having the home field advantage, the Yankees were brushed away 3-0 by the Astros when Dallas Keuchel, the Cy Young winner in the AL, beat them after a 20-win season of his own.

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(The Astros, after switching to the AL, won the Wild Card in 2015. Photo courtesy of http://www.climbingtalshill.com.) 

The ALDS playoffs would feature a pair of exciting rivalries. The Astros would face the Royals, who had the best record in the AL at 95-67 (and home-field advantage after the AL won the All-Star Game). Still, the Royals looked to be on the ropes early, as the Astros crashed their party with a 5-2 win on the road. Collin McHugh, who had won 19 of his own for Houston, took the opener over Yordano Ventura. The Royals tied the series with a 5-4 win in Game 2, scoring the winning run in the seventh inning on a single from Ben Zobrist. Moving to Minute Maid Park in Houston, Dallas Keuchel beat the Royals 4-2 to put the Astros on the precipice of their first ALDS. It looked like things were doomed for Kansas City, after falling behind 6-2 after seven innings (including former #1 pick Carlos Correa homering). The Royals had rallied in the AL Wild Card Game one year ago. Could they do it again?

With Will Harris on the mound, Alex Rios led off and single, the first of four straight singles that scored a run. Tony Sipp came in for Harris. Eric Hosmer singled to make it 6-4. Then, Carlos Correa would wear the goat horns for Houston. Heavyset DH Kendrys Morales came to bat. He hit a ground ball back to Sipp, but the ball took a strange hop, deflected off the mound, and past Sipp. It went to Correa….who bobbled the ball, allowing two runs to tie the game. Later in the game, Alex Gordon grounded out to score Hosmer with the go-ahead run. The Royals had a 7-6 lead. One inning later, Mike Moustakas would hit a two-run homer to make it 9-6 and clinch it. Heading into the eighth, a Texas politician had prematurely congratulated the Astros for making the ALCS. Now, there would be a Game 5.

(The Royals rally for five in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the ALDS. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

In Game 5, it would be no contest. Houston was demoralized. Despite an early home run to make it 2-0, the Astros wouldn’t score again against Royals mid-season acquisition Johnny Cueto; he went eight innings, pitching the Royals back into the ALCS with a 7-2 win in Game 5.

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(Johnny Cueto went eight innings in the winner-take-all ALDS Game 5. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.) 

The other ALDS was a classic of its own, particularly that final game. For the first time since 1993, the Toronto Blue Jays were back in the playoffs. They had David Price pitching in the first game, and third baseman Josh Donaldson won MVP honors. However, the visiting Texas Rangers won the first two games, 5-3 and 6-4, the latter in fourteen innings. But back in Arlington, soft-tossing pitcher Marco Estrada got the Blue Jays back in it. Estrada barely hit 90 with his fastball, but had a looping curveball and even funkier changeup, and he kept the Blue Jays alive.

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(Junkball pitcher Marco Estrada kept the Blue Jays alive in the ALDS. Photo courtesy of The Sporting News.) 

In Game 4, knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey went for Toronto against Derek Holland. In his postseason debut, Dickey went 4.2 innings, not enough for the win, but David Price broke his drought and got his first postseason win, en route to Toronto tying the series, 8-4. So far, the road team had won all four games.

Back at Rogers Centre in Toronto, fans petitioned to have the retractable roof opened, which was denied. It was the first in a series of controversies that would litter Game 5. Texas led 2-0 in the third inning after an RBI single from Prince Fielder and a home run from Shin-Soo Choo. But a home run from Edwin Encarnacion and a double with Jose Bautista, the longest tenured Blue Jay making his postseason debut, helped tie the game. It stayed 2-2 through six innings.

In the top of the seventh, controversies ensued. With Rougned Odor on third base and two out, Shin-Soo Choo was at bat. Aaron Sanchez threw a pitch, a ball. As catcher Russell Martin prepared to toss the ball back, Choo leaned over the plate, which he claimed he did on every pitch to adjust himself. On the throw, the ball hit the barrel of Choo’s bat and bounced towards third base. Odor sprinted home. Despite protests that Choo did it on purpose, the ball was declared live and the Rangers had the lead, 3-2. That one inning would take a total of 53 minutes to play. Further drama was coming.

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(Odor scored on a controversial play involving Shin-Soo Choo. Video courtesy of http://www.mlb.com

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(Rougned Odor scores on the controversial play in the top of the seventh inning. Photo courtesy of Toronto Star.) 

Texas would have a new postseason goat, shortstop Elvis Andrus. On the first at bat, Martin led off, hitting a grounder. Andrus bobbled the ball to put the tying run on.

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(Elvis Andrus makes the first of three blunders in the seventh inning. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.)

Kevin Pillar came up, and he grounded to Mitch Moreland at first. The slow-running Martin was a dead duck if they could make the throw. Moreland’s throw was low, and Andrus dropped it. First and second, nobody out. Officially, the error was charged to Moreland, but Andrus should have done better.

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(Mitch Moreland makes a poor throw to keep Toronto alive. Photo courtesy of Dallas Morning News.) 

Ryan Goins was next to bat, o-for-15 in the series, and Dalton Pompey came in to run for Martin. Everybody knew a bunt was coming. Sure enough, Goins laid one down to third. Third baseman Adrian Beltre charged the ball perfectly. He made a good throw to third…and Andrus dropped it. Bases loaded, still nobody out. And Andrus had his second error of the inning.

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(Elvis Andrus drops the ball at third base, the third straight play with an error for Texas. Photo courtesy of http://www.mlb.com)

With Ben Revere at bat, he hit a ground ball to first. Moreland fired home in time to get Pompey. But a hard slide prevented a double play. It would be very important with Donaldson coming to bat against new pitcher Sam Dyson. He looped a sinking fly ball, which could have been called infield fly in some cases. The ball bounced over Odor’s head, and although they got a force out at second, the tying run scored to make it 3-3.

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(Although he was able to get a force at second base, Rougned Odor couldn’t quite come up with the ball, allowing the Blue Jays to tie the game. Photo courtesy of http://www.mlb.com.) 

Now it was up to Jose Bautista with two out. The longtime veteran was the mainstay of awful teams for many years. Dyson threw. CRACK!! Bautista hit a three-run home run to give the Blue Jays the lead. But even this one was controversial, as Bautista flipped his bat in defiance. Many felt it was disrespectful, while others claimed it was just what Bautista had done in his career (both are probably true). The Rangers took exception to this, and the benches emptied, with Dyson thinking that Encarnacion was showboating, but he was merely trying to calm the fans down.

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(Jose Bautista flips his bat after his homer gave the Blue Jays a 6-3 lead in the seventh. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.) 

The game was delayed again as the grounds crew cleared the field – several fans had thrown beer cans and litter onto the field. The game continued, and Encarnacion reached on a dinky infield single after an 0-2 pitch. Chris Colabello singled to keep the inning alive. Former Rockie Troy Tulowitzki popped up and the inning was finally over. But Dyson patted Tulo on the ass and once again, the benches cleared. The inning was finally over, but tensions still ran high.

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(Troy Tulowitzki and Sam Dyson trade words as the seventh inning finally ends. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

(The full video of the bottom of the seventh – it’s a long video, but it explains it better than I could. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

For all of the controversy, it ended pretty smoothly. Roberto Osuna got the final five outs for the save, and the Blue Jays had rallied to win the series. It was the third time in LDS history that the winning team rallied from an 0-2 deficit, and lost the first two at home. The Rangers had collapsed once again.

In the ALCS, Kansas City took the opener, with Edinson Volquez (who like Cueto, was a former Reds pitcher) leading them to a 5-0 win. It was only the sixth time all season that Toronto had been shut out. The Royals won the second game as well, rallying from a 3-0 deficit in the seventh to score six runs over the next two innings. David Price was denied again.

Back in Toronto, the Blue Jays got back in it with an 11-8 victory. Despite four ninth inning runs from the Royals, Toronto used a six-run third inning to make it 9-2 at the time. That was all the offense Marcus Stroman would need to win the game.

But Game 4 was over early, when Ben Zobrist homered off of R.A. Dickey in the first inning. They would score nine runs over the final three innings to win 14-2 and go up 3-1 in the series.

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(Ben Zobrist’s home run sparked Kansas City in ALCS Game 4. Photo courtesy of Kansas City Star.) 

In the final game in Toronto, the hometown Jays stayed alive with a 7-1 win, with Estrada going 7.2 innings. Kansas City was really good at hitting fastballs in the season (they hit .298 as a team, which is fantastic), so to see a junkball pitcher like Estrada was what scared them. Toronto was still in the series. In 1985, the same two teams had met in the ALCS, and the Royals had rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win the series. Would the Blue Jays return the favor thirty years later?

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(Marco Estrada won Game 5 to keep Toronto in the series. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Back in Kansas City for Game 6, Zobrist homered in the first inning. In the second, Moustakas looked to have homered as well, although Toronto alleged fan interference. The call was upheld, and the ball was likely to hit the facade anyway, which would have either been a home run or at the very least a double.

(Mike Moustakas hits a controversial home run in ALCS Game 6. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

After Bautista homered to get Toronto on the board, Moustakas made a clutch defensive play to keep the Royals ahead. After several great plays from Toronto, Kansas City got a run in the seventh to make it 3-1. They would need it.

With rain threatening the forecast, closer Wade Davis was held back by Ned Yost. An infield single was followed by a strike out by pitcher Ryan Madson. But Bautista made Yost pay for his gamble, smacking his second home run to tie the game at three.

(Jose Bautista homers to tie Game 6. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

After a walk, Madson was out and Davis was in. Kansas City escaped the inning but Yost was right about one thing – the rains came. The game was delayed by 45 minutes.

Finally, the game was resumed. Lorenzo Cain walked after eight pitches. On a 2-2 pitch, Eric Hosmer lined a single to right field. Cain ran on contact, and had great speed. As the throw went into second base, third base coach Mike Jirschele waved Cain home. The throw came home….Cain slid….

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(Lorenzo Cain and Russell Martin get in a play at the plate in the bottom of the eighth of Game 6.Photo courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle.) 

SAFE!! The throw to Martin was late, and Cain’s hustle had given the Royals the lead back at 4-3. Hosmer held at first, but Cain had scored all the way from that same base. Even more amazingly, he raced around the bases in 10.5 seconds.

Davis went back out to pitch the ninth. Martin singled to lead off the inning. Two stolen bases from Pompey were followed by a walk. Runners at the corners, nobody out. With a 1-1 count on pinch hitter Dioner Navarro, it looked like Davis had balked on a quick pitch (that is, he hadn’t come set before throwing). Not only was it not ruled a balk, but it was a high pitch that was called strike two. Navarro proceeded to strike out to give Davis breathing room. Had Davis been called for a balk, each runner would have moved up one base. Still, another stolen base took away the double play. But Davis bore down and struck out Ben Revere. One out to go, with the league MVP up. Josh Donaldson would be the last hope for Toronto. On a 2-1 pitch, David got a grounder to third base. Moustakas threw to first in time, and after a scare, the Royals had won their second straight pennant.

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(The Royals win the AL pennant for the second consecutive year. Photo courtesy of Portland Press Herald.) 

The NL playoffs saw the Pirates in the Wild Card game for the third straight year. This time, though, Jake Arrieta was waiting for them, and the Cubs advanced 4-0 with homers from Kyle Schwarber and Dexter Fowler leading the way.

For all of their history, the Cardinals and Cubs had never faced off in the postseason since the advent of the World Series (the 1886 playoff series doesn’t count), until now. St. Louis took the opener 4-0 behind John Lackey, who would join them one year later (as would outfielder Jason Heyward). Jon Lester pitched well for the Cubs, allowing a first inning RBI single to Matt Holliday, and it was only 1-0 into the eighth. But home runs by Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty pushed the Cardinals over the top in the opener. The Cardinals held the best record in baseball, the first team in four years to win 100 games.

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(Stephen Piscotty homers to nail down NLDS Game 1 for the Cardinals. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

But in Game 2, the Cubs, not known for playing small ball, did just that. Kyle Hendricks allowed a leadoff home run to Matt Carpenter to make it 1-0 Cardinals. But the Cubs used their tactics in the second inning, aided by sloppy St. Louis fielding.

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(Matt Carpenter led off Game 2 with a home run for the Cardinals. Photo courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch.) 

Starlin Castro singled to center to start the second for the Cubs. Austin Jackson grounded into a force out, but the return throw sailed away and Jackson was awarded second. Following a stolen base, Miguel Montero walked. Hendricks was asked to pull off a safety squeeze bunt (for those who don’t know the difference, the squeeze bunt has two varieties: the safety option has the batter bunt first, then the runner break; on the suicide squeeze option, the runner breaks first). Hendricks did his job, bunting it back to pitcher Jaime Garcia. In fact, it went better than expected. Garcia hesitated as he fielded the ball, seeing that he had no play at home. He threw to first, which went wild down the line. Montero ended up at third and Hendricks at second.

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(Jaime Garcia’s bad throw opened the floodgates for the Cubs. Photo courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch.) 

Another safety squeeze led to another run, getting the out this time. Fowler singled to score Hendricks, and then Jorge Soler homered to make it 5-1. The Cubs were off and running. Hendricks would give way to the bullpen in the fifth, and Travis Wood got the win in relief, the Cubs taking a 6-3 victory to even the series.

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(Jorge Soler hit a home run to help the Cubs even the NLDS. Photo courtesy of The Sporting News.) 

The series moved to Wrigley Field for the next two games. As dominant as he was in the regular season, Jake Arrieta didn’t have his best stuff, allowing four runs in 5.1 innings. Fortunately, his offense backed him up, setting a postseason record with six home runs in one game, and from six different players – Kyle Schwarber, Starlin Castro, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, and Dexter Fowler. The Cubs won 8-6 to lead 2-1 in the series.

In Game 4, the Cubs did something they had never done in their history – clinch a series at home. The final score would be 6-4, and the Cubs would hit three home runs. The last one from Kyle Schwarber was especially memorable. It not only was a home run, but it landed on top of the new scoreboard in right field. It was clear that a renovated Wrigley had been long overdue. Hector Rondon got the save and the Cubs advanced to the NLCS for the first time since 2003.

(Kyle Schwarber rocks a mammoth home run out of Wrigley Field. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

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(The Cubs clinched a playoff series at home for the first time in the NLDS. Photo courtesy of USA Today.) 

The other NLDS featured the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets. The Dodgers were slight favorites, because their pitching featured Clayton Kershaw and 19-game winner and league ERA leader Zack Greinke. In the opener, though, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, pitched them to a 3-1 victory in the opener. He ran into trouble several times early, but avoided the jams, and Kershaw was beaten again. To be fair, he actually pitched pretty well this time, allowing a solo home run to Daniel Murphy (who would continue his tear later on) into the seventh. The bullpen allowed two runs to score, and in his first postseason, Mets manager Terry Collins used his rookie closer Jeurys Familia to get a four-out save.

Greinke beat rookie Noah Syndergaard in Game 2, although not without controversy. The Mets were leading 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh with one out, when pinch hitter Chase Utley singled to put runners at the corners with none out. Veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon (42 at the time) was sent in. Howie Kendrick hit a ground ball up the middle. It looked like shortstop Ruben Tejada would turn a double play. Utley slid late. His helmet smashed into Tejada’s thigh, and Kendrick was safe at first. Even more importantly, the score was tied. But Utley was derided for being reckless, especially after Tejada left the game with a fractured fibula. To add insult to injury, the Dodgers challenged that Utley was out, and won. Instead of an out at second, Utley was safe. The one out was Tejada, who would miss the rest of the postseason. The Dodgers rallied for three more runs to take a 5-2 lead, which held up as the final score.

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(Chase Utley’s late slide led to a Dodgers rally in Game 2, and the ire of New York fans. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.) 

(Full video of the Utley incident. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Utley was greeted with a chorus of boos during pregame introductions at Citi Field in New York for Game 3. Despite early trouble from Matt Harvey, “The Dark Knight,” the Mets rallied from a 3-0 deficit early to win Game 3 in a rout 13-7. In Game 4, Kershaw won 3-1 on short rest, shedding many if not all of his postseason demons to force it back to L.A. Despite this, Murphy homered for the second time in the series. He was just getting started.

It would be Murphy would would lead the Mets to an upset 3-2 victory in Game 5. He singled in Curtis Granderson in the first inning, and although the Dodgers scored twice off deGrom in the first, they wouldn’t score anymore. Murphy stole a base in the fourth inning, which allowed him to score later on a sacrifice fly. Then in the sixth, Murphy continued his tear, hitting a home run off Greinke to make it 3-2. Neither team would score again, and the Mets advanced despite only 90 wins.

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(Daniel Murphy homered to win Game 5 for the Mets. Photo courtesy of NBC Sports.) 

Murphy would continue his tear, becoming the first player to hit a home run in six consecutive postseason games. The series would be a disaster for the Cubs, who would never lead in the series and score only eight runs. The opener was 4-2 for the Mets, and they were off and running. Arrieta fell 4-1 in Game 2, his arm finally seeming to be too tired. Three first inning runs (including Murphy’s second homer of the series), and they added another one in the third to back Noah Syndergaard. The next two in Chicago were worse, and the Mets completed a shocking sweep of the upstart Cubs, a team predicted by many to win it all, or at least make the Series. Murphy had a home run in all four games, including the decisive blast in the eighth inning of Game 4, capping off a 6-0 Mets lead after two innings. The blast made it 8-1 at the time, and although Bryant hit a two-run shot of his own, it was too little, too late. A common refrain was that the Cubs were too home run reliant, which leads to a lot of swing and misses. The Mets exposed that in the NLCS. Familia struck out Fowler to win the pennant for the Mets, their fifth in their history. It was October 21, 2015 – the same day that Back to the Future II predicted the Cubs going all the way. Instead, they were embarrassed, their drought reaching 107 years (don’t worry, Cubs fans, we’re almost there).

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(Daniel Murphy had a home run in the eighth inning of the decisive Game 4, setting a postseason record with a homer in six straight games. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.) 

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(The Mets win the 2015 NL pennant. Photo courtesy of http://www.newyork.cbslocal.com

Game 1 of the Fall Classic opened in Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. The first game was a classic, tying a record by going 14 innings. Royals starting pitcher Edinson Volquez would pitch with a heavy heart, although he didn’t know it yet – earlier in the day, his father had passed away. In the bottom of the first inning, Alcides Escobar swung at Harvey’s first pitch. It deflected away from Yoenis Cespedes, and Escobar sped around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

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(Alcides Escobar hit an inside-the-park home run to lead off Game 1 for the Royals. Photo courtesy of Kansas City Star.) 

While Murphy’s home run streak would end (he didn’t hit a single on in the World Series), he still had their first hit in the fourth inning, and scored their first run later in the inning when catcher Travis d’Arnaud drove him in. Single runs in the fifth and sixth innings gave the Mets a 3-1 lead, including a Granderson homer in the fifth.

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(Curtis Granderson homered in Game 1 to give the Mets the lead in the fifth inning. Photo courtesy of http://www.newyork.cbslocal.com.) 

The Royals were resilient. Although he didn’t have a hit in the game, Eric Hosmer would come up big, hitting a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2 in the sixth, and setting a team record for RBI in the process. Moustakas later tied the game with a single. In the top of the eighth, it was still tied 3-3. Wilmer Flores was up, the replacement for the injured Tejada. Juan Lagares was on second. He hit a grounder to Hosmer, but the ball ate him up for an error and Lagares scored. The Mets led 4-3 in the eighth.

(Eric Hosmer’s error gave the Mets the lead in the eighth inning. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The game went into the bottom of the ninth with the Mets still ahead 4-3. With one out, however, Alex Gordon hit a home run to deep center field. The Royals wouldn’t have a home run for the rest of the series, but there was none bigger.

(Alex Gordon’s home run in the bottom of the ninth tied Game 1 for the Royals. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The teams traded chances for the next four innings, but neither team scored. Game 4 starter Chris Young was pressed into pitching for Kansas City, and he pitched three clutch innings. One of the big plays was Granderson robbing Jarrod Dyson of a leadoff triple in the eleventh.

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(Curtis Granderson makes a catch in the eleventh of Game 1. Photo courtesy of New York Times.) 

Finally, in the fourteenth, the Mets fell apart with Colon on the mound. An error and a single but first and third brought up Hosmer. He lofted another fly ball to right, which allowed Escobar to score the winning run standing up, although it was closer than it looked on the throw. The Royals had won Game 1, 5-4, in 14 innings.

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(Eric Hosmer won Game 1 in the bottom of the fourteenth inning with a sacrifice fly. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

In Game 2, Kansas City had the run of play, with Johnny Cueto pitching a complete game, allowing only one run when Lucas Duda drove in a run in the fourth inning to make it 1-0 Mets. As it turned out, not only would the Mets not score again, it was their second and last hit of the game. Kansas City played their brand of small ball to score four times in the fifth and three more times in the eighth. This time, Jacob deGrom would have no heroics waiting for him. In fact, the Royals were the buzzsaw waiting for the Mets. Cueto’s gem put Kansas City halfway to the title.

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(Johnny Cueto dominated Game 2 for the Royals, allowing two hits and one run in a complete game. Photo courtesy of Kansas City Star.) 

Game 3 was the first World Series game at Citi Field. The Mets needed to send a message to the Royals. And they got it from Noah Syndergaard (who because of his resemblance to the mythical character, was nicknamed “Thor,” and he threw as hard as his nickname suggested). On the first pitch of the game to Alcides Escobar, Syndergaard threw it high and in, brushing Escobar back. It didn’t come close to hitting him, but the Royals were furious. Still, the Mets felt that they had to do it, to send a message: Don’t get too comfortable. 

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(Noah Syndergaard’s first pitch of Game 3 caused Alcides Escobar to duck. Photo courtesy of Kansas City Star.) 

It looked like it wouldn’t work, as the Royals scored first on a force play. But in the bottom of the first, the longest tenured Met, third baseman David Wright, rocked a two-run home run to bring the fans to life.

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(David Wright, a mainstay with the Mets since 2004, homered in the first inning of Game 3 to spark the Mets. Photo courtesy of New York Times.) 

The Royals scored twice in the second to take  3-2 lead, including a wild pitch by Syndergaard, but were stymied after that, not scoring any more for the game. The Mets used two runs in the third and one in the fourth to make it 5-3. The usually steady Royals were affected by the brushback – starting pitcher Yordano Ventura forgot to cover first base in the fourth, and reliever Franklin Morales couldn’t get a ground ball out of his glove for a hit in the sixth. This was immediately followed by Wright’s second hit, a single to drive in two runs. Four more runs in the sixth got the Mets back in the Series, winning 9-3. It was only appropriate that Wright make the play on a grounder to third.

Murphy’s Law was at work for Game 4 – if anything can go wrong, it will. So far, Daniel Murphy had been neutralized at bat, and would have a moment of infamy in Game 4 in the field. Rookie Michael Conforto homered in the third inning for New York, and they got another run later in the inning on a sacrifice fly. Outfielder Alex Rios lost track of the outs and thus delayed his throw. Each team got a run in the fifth, and heading into the eighth inning, New York led 3-2.

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(Mets rookie Michael Conforto gave them an early lead with a third inning homer. Photo courtesy of http://www.mets360.com.) 

It was said that Terry Collins bungled his bullpen by bringing in setup man Tyler Clippard. He got the first out, but then allowed back-to-back walks. Mets fans would lament how Collins didn’t trust Familia for a two-inning save. He came in with five outs to go.

Hosmer came up, and Familia got a strike on him. On the next pitch, he hit a grounder to Murphy at second base. But then the Mets had their own Buckner moment – the ball rolled under his glove, and Ben Zobrist scored the tying run.

(Daniel Murphy’s error allowed the Royals to tie Game 4. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

It got worse for New York. The small ball that Kansas City was used to playing won them the game. Moustakas singled to score Cain, and Salvador Perez followed with another RBI single to make it 5-3. Despite Murphy redeeming himself by turning a clutch double play, the damage was done. And to rub salt in the wounds, Wade Davis came in for Kansas City to get a two-inning save.

Davis retired the side in order in the eighth. Kansas City did the same in the top of the ninth, and Murphy laced a one-out single. Yoenis Cespedes followed with a single, and suddenly the tying run was on base. Could the Mets rally, with the power hitting Lucas Duda due to hit? But Duda lined it to Moustakas at third base. He made the catch, and Cespedes leaned too far off first. Moose fired over. Double play, game over. Just like that, the game was over, and the Royals were one win away from the championship.

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(Yoenis Cespedes is doubled off first base to end Game 4. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.)

To save Gotham, “The Dark Knight,” pitcher Matt Harvey, would have to rise (pardon the Batman puns). He looked to do just that, holding the Royals off the board in Game 5, inning after inning. Granderson led off with a home run in the first inning to try to spark the Mets, the one player on the losing team with a great series. The Mets made it 2-0 in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Lucas Duda, although they were somewhat lucky and had the bases loaded with nobody out. Still, Harvey was dominant through eight innings. Collins looked ready to turn the ball over to Familia to send it back to Kansas City for Game 6. But Harvey’s competitive side took over, and he asked to stay in. It made no sense, but Collins acquiesced.

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(In the Mets’ dugout, Matt Harvey convinces Terry Collins to keep him in the game. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.) 

The Dark Knight was greeted with raucous cheers as he started the ninth. He allowed a leadoff walk to Lorenzo Cain. Now was the time to make the move. But Collins didn’t make it. Cain stole second on the first pitch.

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(Lorenzo Cain’s stolen base sparked a Royals rally. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

On the next pitch, Hosmer sliced a double over the head of Conforto in left field. The Royals were only down a run, 2-1. Now, finally, Collins made his move. It’s a move he should have made earlier.

Familia came in and got a ground ball to first, moving Hosmer to third. Catcher Salvador Perez came up. He worked the count to 1-0 and then grounded to Wright at third base. They got the out at first base. Hosmer gambled, and broke for the plate. Even if it was unconventional, it was certainly understandable. A good throw would end the game and force a Game 6. Duda threw – high and to the right of Travis d’Arnaud. The Mets players and fans watched in horror as Hosmer slide in with the tying run. It was the third time in the Series that Familia would blow the save.

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(Eric Hosmer scored the tying run in Game 5 on a daring play and a bad throw. Photo courtesy of http://www.baseballhall.org.) 

The game went to extra innings, and the Mets never severely threatened again. In the top of the twelfth, Perez led off with a single, en route to Series MVP honors. Jarrod Dyson came in to pinch run, and promptly stole second. Pitcher Addison Reed coaxed a groundout from Alex Gordon for the first out. Christian Colon came off the bench to pinch hit. Colon was fresh, and ready – he hadn’t played in four weeks. On a 1-2 pitch, Colon lined a single to left, scoring Dyson with the go-ahead run. It would prove to be the hit that won the Series.

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(In his only at-bat of the entire postseason, Christian Colon drove in the winning run of the Series. Photo courtesy of CBS Sports.) 

If that had been it, it would have been bad enough. But another error by Murphy put runners on first and second. Alcides Escobar doubled to score Colon and make it 4-2. Reed was replaced by Colon after an intentional walk to Zobrist loaded the bases. Lorenzo Cain drove the final nail in New York’s coffin two pitches later. Cain cracked a double to clear the bases and make it 7-2. A five-run twelfth inning had the Royals three outs away from the title.

It would be up to Wade Davis to clinch it. He struck out Duda and d’Arnaud. One out to go. Conforto singled and advanced to second on defensive indifference. On a 1-2 pitch to Wilmer Flores, Davis threw. Inside corner. Got him looking! The Royals had won their first title in thirty years.

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(The Royals win their second championship in their history. Photo courtesy of http://www.mlb.com.) 

Fun Facts
This was the Royals’ second championship overall, and their first in exactly thirty years.

The Royals are the only team to rally from a four-run deficit in the seventh inning or later facing elimination, and they did it twice – the 2014 Wild Card Game and Game 4 of the ALDS.

In Game 3, Raul Mondesi, Jr. became the first player in history to make his MLB debut in the World Series. He struck out for his only time at bat.

This is the first all-expansion World Series (that is, teams introduced in 1961 or later).

One year after making the final out of the World Series, Salvador Perez won MVP honors this year. But his backup Drew Butera caught the final strike.

Alcides Escobar’s inside-the-park home run in Game 1 was the first in the World Series since 1929, and the first by a leadoff hitter since Boston’s Patsy Dougherty in the very first Fall Classic in 1903.

On the radio show The Herd, host Colin Cowherd noted how Kansas City hitters feasted on fastballs. In Game 2, Jacob deGrom had only three swings and misses all game, having averaged over twenty per game, and his previous low being fifteen. Manager Terry Collins even told him to throw off-speed.

In the eighth inning of Game 3 (the only game the Mets won), Billy Joel was in attendance, a noted Mets fan. His fellow Mets fans serenaded him with his own song, singing “Piano Man” in between innings.

Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando is the first Brazilian to appear on a World Series roster.

Kansas City itself (i.e. the city) has a curious record – it has the most working water fountains of any city in the world.

When Michael Conforto reached second in the bottom of the twelfth of Game 5, it was the only time that any Mets runner reached second against the Royals’ bullpen in the entire series – and the Royals let it happen intentionally.

In the 2015 postseason, the Royals outscored their opponents 51-11 in the seventh inning or later.

Final Thoughts 
The Royals had broken through. One of baseball’s best cities even before they had an MLB team, they finally had a reason to cheer again. The Power and Light district went crazy in the city. The name seemed only appropriate in 2015.

References and Sources 
Baseball Almanac
Baseball Reference
Wikipedia
YouTube
Getty Images
CBS Sports
NBC Sports.
http://www.sportslogos.net
http://www.mlb.com
http://www.worldseries.com
http://www.baseballhall.org
http://www.climbingtalshill.com
http://www.mets360.com
http://www.newyork.cbslocal.com
Boston Globe. 
Daily Herald (Chicago).
Chicago Tribune 
Kansas City Star 
New York Times 
New York Daily News. 
Toronto Star. 
Dallas Morning News. 
Portland Press Herald 
San Francisco Chronicle.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Sports Illustrated. 
The Sporting News. 
USA Today. 
The Joe and Evan Show (WFAN Radio Network)
2015 World Series Film (MLB Productions)
Baseball Maverick: How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets (Steve Kettmann)
The Ultimate Book of Sports Lists (Andrew Postman, Larry Stone)
Pedro (Pedro Martinez, Michael Silverman)

89th Oscar nominees – November 2016

My updated nominations for the 89th Academy Awards.

Best Actor in a Leading Role 
1. Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
2. Joel Edgerton – Loving 
3. Ryan Gosling – La La Land
4. Tom Hanks – Sully 
5. Denzel Washington – Fences 

Best Actress in a Leading Role 
1. Annette Bening – 20th Century Women
2. Marion Cotillard – Allied 
3. Viola Davis – Fences
4. Natalie Portman – Jackie
5. Emma Stone – La La Land 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
1. Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
2. Hugh Grant – Florence Foster Jenkins
3. Woody Harrelson – The Edge of Seventeen
4. Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea 
5. Mykelti Williamson – Fences

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1. Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women
2. Naomie Harris – Moonlight 
3. Nicole Kidman – Lion
4. Molly Shannon – Other People 
5. Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Best Director 
1. Denzel Washington – Fences 
2. Damien Chazelle – La La Land 
3. Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
4. Barry Jenkins – Moonlight 
5. Martin Scorsese – Silence

Best Picture
1. Arrival 
2. Fences 
3. La La Land 
4. Loving 
5. Manchester by the Sea
6. Moonlight
7. Silence 
8. Zootopia 

2014 World Series: Ninety feet short

The 2014 World Series was the one hundred twelfth year overall, and one hundred tenth played, of the modern World Series which began in 1903. The two teams in the ’14 Fall Classic were attempting to create their own history – one was trying to cement its legacy as a dynasty, and the other was trying to rewrite its legacy, making the playoffs (and the Series) for the first time in over a quarter-century. When it was over, the upstart losing team stood ninety feet away, still waiting for that last clutch hit to put them over the top.

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(The 2014 World Series logo. Photo courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net

2014 World Series 
San Francisco Giants (NL) over Kansas City Royals (AL), 4-3 

Managers: Bruce Bochy (San Francisco); Ned Yost (Kansas City) 

Hall of Famers* 
None 

* -as of 2016 

Series MVP: Madison Bumgarner, P (San Francisco) 

Analysis
Following a disastrous 2013 year, the Hall of Fame made sure that it got it right this time. Three managers were inducted by the Veteran’s Committee – Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre were all inducted, perhaps three of the best modern managers in the game.

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(From left to right: Tony La Russa, Joe Torre, and Bobby Cox were part of a triumvirate of managers elected to Cooperstown in 2014. Photo courtesy of New York Times.) 

Two of Cox’s finest pitchers from the Braves dynasty years joined him. Greg Maddux, not known for a dazzling fastball, was nevertheless one of the most cerebral pitchers the game has ever seen, winning 355 games, a record 18 Gold Gloves, and 3,371 strikeouts, to go along with four Cy Young Awards. Teammate Tom Glavine won the Cy Young twice, and won 305 games in his storied career. Lastly, former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas – “The Big Hurt” – joined them, winning two MVP awards and hitting 521 home runs, tied with Ted Williams and Willie McCovey. All three were first ballot inductees, with Craig Biggio narrowly missing induction on his second try.

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(Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, and Greg Maddux were all elected on the first ballot in 2014. Photo courtesy of Denver Post.) 

Back in Boston, the Red Sox celebrated their third title in a decade just like the last two – by hanging the banner over the Green Monster. However, the magic didn’t stick this year, as they went in the opposite direction – first to worst, 71-91 in the AL East. A ten-game losing streak in May, coupled with uncharacteristically bad seasons from many of their stars, doomed the Red Sox. In a touch of irony, players from the Red Sox and Cardinals were traded for each other – Joe Kelly and Allen Craig to the Red Sox, and John Lackey to St. Louis. Additionally, lefty Jon Lester was sent to Oakland for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, primarily because Lester was a free agent and they didn’t want to lose him for nothing.

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(At the 2014 Red Sox home opener, the championship banner from the previous year was hung over the Green Monster. Photo courtesy of http://www.boston.cbslocal.com

Their rivals in the Bronx saw the last hurrah for the last remaining member of the “Core Four.” With Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte calling it quits the previous year, Derek Jeter was the last remaining member of the original core. For the Yankees, it would be a pretty rough year, actually. Earlier in the season, Alex Rodriguez had been indicted in a PED controversy, and would miss the entire season. Even though he remained one of the most prodigious hitters, it was almost impossible now to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But with Jeter, the last remaining “magnificent Yankee,” he had one more moment of glory. In his final at-bat in his home ballpark, he came up with one out in the bottom of the ninth, in a 5-5 tie with the Orioles. On Evan Meek’s first pitch, Jeter lined a single to right field. Although Nick Markakis made a good throw, it was too late. Jeter had won the game with a single in the bottom of the ninth. Endings don’t get much better than that.

(Derek Jeter hits a walk-off single in his final at-bat in Yankee Stadium. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

The old rivals concluded against each other at Fenway Park. Even many of the most die-hard Red Sox fans were in a congratulatory mood – Jeter was one of the few Yankees they respected, and there was almost a mood of reconciliation between the two clubs, if only briefly. Jeter’s last at-bat came against Boston’s Clay Buchholz in the top of the third, with New York already leading 2-0 with a runner on third. Buchholz went to 1-2, narrowly missing on one pitch. Jeter finished with a grounder to third, an infield single that drove in a run. It was hit 3,465, the final one of his career. He left the game to a standing ovation, and he met Buchholz at the mound, wishing him the best, and thanking him for not taking it easy on him. It was one moment – even if it was only one – where the rivalry was put aside.

(Derek Jeter takes his final at-bat, an RBI single off Boston’s Clay Buchholz. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Derek Jeter and Clay Buchholz shake hands near the mound. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.) 

Actually, neither team would make the playoffs that year, the first time it had happened since the introduction of the division series in 1995. One of the biggest success stories was in Kansas City, where after 29 years of waiting, the Royals were back in the playoffs. They faced an uphill climb at 89-73, but had brought “Big Game” James Shields over from the Rays, and were led by Venezuelan catcher Salvador Perez, first baseman Eric Hosmer, and gritty manager Ned Yost.

They would host Oakland in the Wild Card game on September 30. Shields and Lester faced off. What would follow was one of the most amazing games in postseason history. Brandon Moss hit a two-run, two out home run in the first inning. Kansas City got one back, and should have had more, but with runners at the corners with two out, Billy Butler made a baserunning gaffe, and Eric Hosmer was thrown out at home. It would also hurt Oakland, however, as catcher Geovany Soto hurt his thumb and was forced to leave the game, replaced by Derek Norris.

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(Kansas City’s Billy Butler gets caught in a rundown to end the first inning. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

In the bottom of the third, Kansas City tied the game with two out. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain doubled home Mike Moustakas, and then Hosmer blooped a single to score Cain to give the Royals a 3-2 lead. But in the top of the sixth, Oakland struck back. Brandon Moss rocked his second home run of the game off rookie Yordano Ventura, this one a three-run shot to make it 5-3. Oakland got two more runs in the inning, and were up 7-3. Things looked grim in Kansas City.

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(Brandon Moss rocks a three-run home run, his second of the game. Photo courtesy of The Press Democrat.) 

The score remained the same in the bottom of the eighth. Kansas City needed some runs, and fast. While they weren’t known for being a great power-hitting team, they played small ball to cut the deficit. Alcides Escobar singled. Then with Nori Aoki at bat, Escobar stole second. For catcher Norris, it would be a recurring theme for the rest of the night. Lorenzo Cain followed with a single, and then proceeded to steal second as well. Hosmer walked, and that was it for Jon Lester after 7.2 innings. Against pitcher Luke Gregerson, Butler drove in Cain with an opposite field single. With runners at second and third, Gregerson uncorked a wild pitch to Alex Gordon. Hosmer scored and it was 7-6. Gordon walked, but Gregerson got out of the inning (despite a third stolen base in the inning). Oakland’s lead held, but it was down to one.

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(Eric Hosmer scores on a wild pitch to get the Royals back to within a run. Photo courtesy of http://www.sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com

In the bottom of the ninth, pinch runner Jarrod Dyson stood on second with one out. In keeping with the theme, he narrowly stole third, ahead of Norris’ throw. Aoki followed with a game-tying sacrifice fly to right field. Oakland had collapsed again.

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(Jarrod Dyson steals third in the bottom of the ninth. Photo courtesy of CBS Sports.) 

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(Nori Aoki hits a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The score stayed tied in the tenth and eleventh, although the Royals put the winning run on third base in both innings. With Josh Reddick on third after a wild pitch, pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo, a former Royal (and the final out in Jon Lester’s 2008 no-hitter with Boston), came through with a single off new pitcher Jason Frasor with one out. Suddenly, Oakland was three outs away again.

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(Alberto Callaspo gives the A’s an 8-7 lead in the twelfth inning. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Another significant injury would hamper Oakland – Coco Crisp was forced to leave with a pulled hamstring, and Jonny Gomes took over in left field. Cain grounded out to put Kansas City down to their final two outs. Then Eric Hosmer rocked a fly ball into the gap. Gomes and center fielder Sam Fuld went for it. Neither called for it, and they collided. The ball fell in, deflecting off the wall. Hosmer reached third.

(Jonny Gomes and Sam Fuld collide as Hosmer triples in the bottom of the twelfth. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Now at bat was shortstop Christian Colon, not known for his heroics. He chopped a weak grounder to third. Josh Donaldson charged the ball, but had no play. Hosmer scored. Again, the game was tied.

(Christian Colon hits an infield single to tie the game in the twelfth. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Alex Gordon popped up for the second out. It brought up Salvador Perez, hitless in five at-bats with two strikeouts. His case was helped when Colon stole second base – the seventh stolen base of the night for the Royals. Norris didn’t even attempt a throw, dropping the ball on an attempted pitchout. The winning run was ninety feet away. On a 2-2 count, Jason Hammel threw. Perez swung and hit a line drive towards Donaldson at third base. Fair ball!! Colon hustled home, and Gomes had no play. The Royals had won the game, 9-8, winning the wild card. For Oakland, it was just another playoff failure in fifteen years.

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(Christian Colon scores the winning run in the AL Wild Card Game. Photo courtesy of Washington Times.) 

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(Salvador Perez – “Salvy” for short – reacts after driving in the winning run. Photo courtesy of Kansas City Star.)

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(The victorious Royals mob Salvador Perez. Photo courtesy of Washington Post.) 

The NL Wild Car game between San Francisco and Pittsburgh was anticlimactic, at least at the time. Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner pitched a complete game, four-hit shutout winning 8-0. Brandon Crawford’s grand slam in the fourth inning to break a scoreless tie.

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(Brandon Crawford’s grand slam broke open the NL Wild Card game. Photo courtesy of Toronto Sun.) 

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(Madison Bumgarner pitched a complete-game shutout in the NL Wild Card game. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

In the end, the Giants won the game going away, and Bumgarner became only the third pitcher to throw a shutout with at least ten or more strikeouts in a winner-take-all playoff game. The Giants would move to play the NL East Champion Washington Nationals.

The ALDS opened first, between the Royals and AL West champion Los Angeles Angels. Mike Trout had finally broken through, winning the MVP Award. But the Royals crashed the party. Both teams got a run in the third and fifth innings, although their means were very different – Los Angeles relied on two solo home runs, and Kansas City did it with a double and sacrifice fly. But in the top of the eleventh, any doubts that Kansas City couldn’t play long ball were erased when Mike “Moose” Moustakas won the game with a solo homer. Greg Holland closed out the game, mere hours after arriving late (the fourth inning) due to the birth of his son in North Carolina.

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(Mike Moustakas won ALDS Game 1 with a solo home run. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.) 

Bad baserunning doomed the Angels in Game 2. In the eighth inning of a 1-1 tie, Collin Cowgill stood at second base with nobody out. Chris Iannetta lofted a fly ball to Dyson in right field. Cowgill tried to advance, but a perfect throw nailed him for the double play.

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(Third baseman Mike Moustakas tags out Collin Cowgill in the eighth inning of ALDS Game 2. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The game would hinge on the top of the eleventh. With Cain on second, Hosmer rocked a two-run home run to give the Royals a 3-1 lead. An error and a Salvador Perez single led to a fourth (and unearned) run. Holland closed it out for the second straight game, and the Royals were on the verge of a shocking upset.

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(Eric Hosmer’s homer in Game 2 was the difference for the Royals. Photo courtesy of Kansas City Star.)

It was no contest in Game 3, as the Royals completed a shocking sweep of the Angels, winning 8-3. Hosmer and Moustakas homered again, and Lorenzo Cain made two great catches in the fifth inning to keep the Royals ahead. League MVP Mike Trout struck out on three pitches to end the game and the series.

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(The Royals make the ALCS for the first time since 1985. Photo courtesy of Wichita Eagle.) 

The other ALDS matched the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, facing off for the first time in the playoffs. Back-to-back home runs helped Detroit tie it 2-2 early, and it was still 4-3 into the eighth, after Miguel Cabrera got the Tigers within a run. But then Baltimore used a rally to score eight times, a record for one inning in the ALDS, putting away a 12-3 victory, and Max Scherzer had fallen for the first time in the Division Series. Baltimore also helped their cause with a double play in the top of the eighth. The Tigers loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, but didn’t score.

(Baltimore used an eight-run eighth inning to seal Game 1. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

After Justin Verlander fell behind 2-0 on a Nick Markakis home run, the Tigers rallied with five runs of their own in Game 2. Heading into the bottom of the eighth, Detroit was leading 6-3. But the bullpen, shaky all season, fell apart at the wrong time. Former Yankee Joba Chamberlain got a groundout, but then hit Adam Jones with a pitch. After a run scored, the Orioles loaded the bases, bringing former Tiger outfielder Delmon Young (who had won the ALCS MVP Award for them in 2012) to the plate. On the pitch from Joakim Soria, Young rocked a double, clearing the bases, and giving the Orioles a shocking 7-6 lead (J.J. Hardy just beating the throw home by mere inches). Zach Britton closed out the game for Baltimore, heading to Detroit up 2-0.

(The Orioles rally against the Tigers’ shaky bullpen. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(J.J. Hardy scores the winning run of Game 2. Photo courtesy of Baltimore Sun.) 

It was Baltimore’s turn to pull off the sweep of their own, as Detroit’s mid-season acquisition David Price lost, 2-1, continuing his postseason struggles. Nelson Cruz haunted the Tigers again with a two-run home run. Detroit put the tying run on base in the ninth, but Nick Castellanos grounded into a double play to end the game and the series. It was Baltimore’s first ALCS appearance since 1997.

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(Baltimore celebrates winning the ALDS. Photo courtesy of Washington Post.) 

It would be the Royals and Orioles in the ALCS, two unexpected teams in the semifinal round. In Game 1, Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar shocked the world by rocking a home run, having hit only three in the regular season. Not known for their home run power, Kansas City used three in the game to win the opener, 8-6, in 10 innings. Moustakas and Alex Gordon each homered, and Baltimore could only counter with one run.

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(In what proved to be the winning runs, Mike Moustakas (#8) celebrates with Salvador Perez after homering in ALCS Game 1. Photo courtesy of Washington Times.) 

Moustakas hit his second home run in two games in Game 2, making the score 4-3 in the fourth inning. Baltimore would tie it in the fifth, when Cruz grounded out to score Alejandro De Aza. Two great catches by Lorenzo Cain kept the Orioles off the board in the seventh and eighth innings. The first one was especially spectacular. Cain made a diving catch to rob Adam Jones, covering over 80 feet in just under four seconds.

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(Lorenzo Cain made an amazing catch – twice – to keep Kansas City in the game. Photo courtesy of ESPN.) 

Kansas City used it small ball brand to win the game in the ninth. Omar Infante led off with a single. Pinch runner Terrance Gore advanced on a sacrifice bunt, and then Escobar doubled him in. Cain helped his own cause two batters later by driving in Escobar, making it 6-4. Holland closed it out to have the Royals up 2-0 heading to Kansas City.

The Royals had a strong bullpen, and they showed it in this series – starter Jeremy Guthrie allowed a first inning run, but four relievers kept Baltimore off the board the rest of the way. A fourth inning ground out tied the game, and Alex Gordon won Game 3 with a sacrifice fly. A 2-1 win put the Royals one game from the pennant. Mike Moustakas helped the Royals with a great defensive play of his own, reaching into foul territory in the fourth inning to make the play.

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(Mike Moustakas makes a great catch in Game 3 to help the Royals. Photo courtesy of Kansas City Star.) 

Kansas City used a two-run first inning to spark them to the pennant in Game 4. After Cain (who would win MVP honors for the series) laid down his first career sacrifice bunt, first baseman Steve Pearce made a bad throw on a Hosmer ground ball, allowing two runners to score. Kansas City wouldn’t score anymore, but Baltimore only got one run, and Greg Holland got his fourth straight save of the series, getting a groundout from J.J. Hardy to Moustakas at third. For the first time since 1985, the Royals had won the pennant.

(The Royals win the AL pennant. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Kansas City celebrates the 2014 AL pennant. Photo courtesy of Kansas City Star.) 

If people thought the AL playoffs were excited, the NL playoffs were probably more so. Washington and San Francisco opened, with former Giants third baseman Matt Williams managing the Nationals. Despite solo shots from superstar Bryce Harper and lesser-known Asdrubal Cabrera, Jake Peavy beat former top draft pick Stephen Strasburg, 3-2.

Game 2 set a record for the longest postseason game in history – 18 innings, clocking in at six hours and twenty-three minutes long. Washington got a run in the third inning, and starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann retired 20 straight Giants at one point (he also had thrown a no-hitter on the final day of the season). But in the ninth, the Giants rallied. Against closer Drew Storen, Pablo Sandoval hit a double to drive in Joe Panik. From there, the bullpens took over. Giants pitcher Yusmeiro Petit would set a postseason record by pitching six scoreless innings in relief.

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(Pablo Sandoval’s double tied the game in Game 2, the longest postseason game in history. Photo courtesy of CBS Sports.) 

Finally, leading off the top of the eighteenth inning, Brandon Belt broke through with a home run, just after midnight EST. Rookie Hunter Strickland got the save, and the Giants were up 2-0. San Francisco’s bullpen set a postseason record by throwing fifteen scoreless innings in one game.

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(Brandon Belt’s home run in the 18th inning won Game 2 for San Francisco. Photo courtesy of http://www.mlb.com

The Nationals managed to beat Bumgarner in Game 3, the only time he lost in the the entire postseason. It was scoreless in the seventh inning when MadBum made a bad throw to score two runs, and Cabrera added a single to make it 3-0. Bryce Harper’s home run made it 4-0 in the ninth, and although the Giants got a run back in the ninth, it wasn’t enough. Washington was still alive.

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(Bryce Harper kept the Nationals alive in Game 3, hitting a solo home run in the ninth inning to cap the victory. Photo courtesy of Daily Herald.) 

In Game 4, the Nats sent former 20-game winner Gio Gonzalez to the mound, facing Ryan Vogelsong, who helped his own cause by reaching on a bunt single in the second inning. That loaded the bases with one out. A walk to Gregor Blanco and a groundout by Joe Panik scored two runs. In the fifth inning, Washington cut it to 2-1, and then in the seventh, Harper rocked his third home run of the series to tie the game at 2-2.

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(Bryce Harper tied Game 4 in the seventh inning with a homer. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.) 

But the Giants had one more rally in them. With the bases loaded, one out, and Pablo Sandoval at the plate, pitcher Aaron Barrett missed low for a wild pitch. Joe Panik scored, and the Giants led 3-2. The Nationals put the tying run on base in the ninth, but Wilson Ramos grounded out and the Giants moved on again.

(Joe Panik scores on a wild pitch to win the NLDS for the Giants. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The other NLDS matched up the Dodgers and Cardinals. L.A.’s Game 1 starter, Clayton Kershaw, had a season for the ages – he had thrown a no-hitter earlier in the season, winning 21 games, and took home the Cy Young – and the NL MVP Award. He was the first National League pitcher to do so since Bob Gibson in 1968.

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(Clayton Kershaw in action in 2014. Photo courtesy of http://www.dodgersnation.com

Still, despite his great season, he had a reputation for being unable to come through in the postseason. Would this year be different? In Game 1, Kershaw faced off against St. Louis’ ace Adam Wainwright, who had also won 20 games that year. Kershaw fell behind early when Randal Grichuk hit a solo home run in the top of the first. But the Dodgers would stake him to a 6-1 lead, with catcher A.J. Ellis coming through with a two-run shot. Matt Carpenter cut the lead to 6-2 in the sixth, but there was no reason for Dodgers fans to worry….until the seventh inning came.

Kershaw started the inning by allowing four straight singles, one of them scoring a run. He struck out Pete Kozma for the first out. But Jon Jay singled to make it 6-4 with one out. Oscar Taveras struck out for the second out. Matt Carpenter came up with the bases loaded and two out. Carpenter fought up several pitches, working the count to two balls, two strikes. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Kershaw missed just a little bit. Whack!! Carpenter lined a double off the right field wall, scoring all three runners to give the Cardinals a 7-6 lead. Kershaw was done after 110 pitches, one strike away from getting out of the inning.

(Matt Carpenter gives the Cardinals a 7-6 lead with a clutch double. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

It got worse. Grichuk drew a walk to put two runners on. Then Matt Holliday rocked a home run against Pedro Baez to make it 10-6. One day after the Orioles did it to the Tigers, the Cardinals scored eight runs of their own in one inning.

(Matt Holliday caps off an eight-run rally with a three-run shot. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

In the eighth, the Dodgers rallied to 10-8 when Adrian Gonzalez homered. They even got it to 10-9 in the ninth, with Yasiel Puig representing the winning run. But he struck out, and the Cardinals had stolen Game 1.

Carpenter struck again for the Cardinals in Game 2. Trailing 2-0 in the top of the eighth, he smashed a game-tying homer off of reliever J.P. Howell. This time, though, Matt Kemp homered for the Dodgers, who held on to even the series, winning 3-2.

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(Matt Carpenter tied Game 2 with a home run. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

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(Matt Kemp won Game 2 for the Dodgers with an eighth inning home run. Photo courtesy of Washington Times.) 

The Dodgers bullpen faltered again in Game 3, allowing a home run in the bottom of the seventh to Kolten Wong. It broke a 1-1 tie, and the Cardinals won 3-1. Desperate, manager Don Mattingly sent Kershaw out to the mound to try to save the season for the Dodgers. In the top of the sixth, the Dodgers used a double-play ground ball and an RBI single to take a 2-0 lead. It stayed that way into the bottom of the seventh. Two runners reached with nobody out. First baseman Matt Adams came up. CRACK!! Again, Kershaw couldn’t hold it, as Adams rocked a three-run homer to make it 3-2 St. Louis. Although Los Angeles put a runner on in the ninth, St. Louis’ bullpen held, and the Dodgers were eliminated. For all of the heroics that Kershaw had, the Cardinals were his Achilles heel.

(Matt Adams won the NLDS for the Cardinals with a three-run home run in the seventh inning of Game 4. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

In the NLCS opener, Wainwright and Bumgarner faced off. Bumgarner won the matchup, pitching 7.2 innings of shutout baseball (and he got away with a balk in the seventh, according to rumor). Two runs in the second and one run in the third helped the Giants win the opener 3-0.

The second game saw the Cardinals even the series for their only win of the NLCS. The Cardinals used four solo home runs to spark them. The only non-home run RBI was on a Randal Grichuk single in the fourth inning, making it 2-0 at the time. The teams traded the lead until St. Louis was up 4-3 in the top of the ninth. After two singles, though, the Giants had the tying run in scoring position with two out. On a 3-2 pitch, Joe Panik walked. But it was worse than that. The ball skipped past backup catcher Tony Cruz, and shockingly, pinch runner Matt Duffy rounded third and headed for the plate. The throw was late and it was tied 4-4. Fortunately, the Cardinals held.

(Matt Duffy’s heads-up baserunning tied Game 2 of the NLCS. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

As it turned out, not only would the Cardinals get redemption, but so would World Series goat of the previous year Kolten Wong. On the second pitch of the inning from Sergio Romo, Wong lined it over the fence in the right field corner. The Cardinals had won 5-4.

(Kolten Wong wins Game 2 for the Cardinals with a homer. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The next three games shifted to San Francisco. The hometown Giants got four runs in the top of the first, all of them with two out. Hunter Pence drove in two with a double, and after an intentional walk to load the bases, Travis Ishikawa hit a double of his own that narrowly missed a grand slam. He would have his moment of glory later in the series.

But the Cardinals rallied, getting the score back to within a run, and then in the seventh, Randal Grichuk homered to tie it at 4-4. The Giants had blown the lead this time.

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(Randal Grichuk ties Game 3 with a homer in the seventh. Photo courtesy of USA Today.) 

The score stayed tied into the bottom of the tenth. Sidearm reliever – and lefty – Randy Choate took the hill. He issued a leadoff walk to Brandon Crawford and Juan Perez singled. Gregor Blanco was asked to bunt. He laid one down perfectly, which would advance both runners. Choate fielded the ball – and threw it down the line into the Cardinals bullpen. The throw sailed past Wong, covering first base as is common in that situation, and Crawford scored for some late inning San Francisco magic.

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(As Brandon Crawford scores behind him, Randy Choate laments his throwing error to lose Game 3. Photo courtesy of Washington Post.) 

(Full video of the play. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

After trading runs in the first five innings, the Giants eked out three in the bottom of the sixth to win 6-4. Two of those three runs came on groundouts or hits that didn’t leave the infield. Once again, the Giants were one win away from the pennant.

It looked like St. Louis would force it back home. Bumgarner and Wainwright faced off, and heading into the bottom of the eighth, Wainwright’s Cardinals had a 3-2 lead. Despite this, Bumgarner had retired thirteen straight batters to finish his night. In the top of the eighth, Pat Neshek was asked to hold the lead for St. Louis. He couldn’t do it, as Michael Morse knocked a homer to tie the game at 3-3.

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(Michael Morse tied Game 5 in the eighth with a home run. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The score stayed tied into the bottom of the ninth. In a tragic foreshadowing (more on that later), Oscar Taveras would make the final out for the Cardinals in the inning. Michael Wacha was brought in out of the bullpen to try to save the season for the Cardinals. Two batters reached. It was up to Travis Ishikawa with one out. He had been a journeyman for most of his career, playing on the 2010 championship (not the 2012 team), but he had been traded, re-acquired, sent down to the minors, and called back up again. Whatever good contributions he made were largely as a pinch-hitter, as he was considered a defensive liability. On a 2-0 pitch from Wacha, Ishikawa lined it to right. It sailed into the bleachers above the alcove of McCovey Cove. In a moment reminiscent of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” Ishikawa had done the same thing. Joe Buck made the same call: “The Giants win the pennant!” Coming into the game, the Giants had struggled for home runs all year. Their third of the game gave them their third pennant in five years.

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(Travis Ishikawa wins the pennant for San Francisco with a home run. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Bee.) 

(The video of Ishikawa’s pennant-winning home run. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

It was certainly an odd matchup – a budding dynasty in the Pacific versus a frustrated, resurgent team from Middle America. Few expected much from the Series. But as it turned out, the two teams put on a great show.

Opening at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, “Big Game” James Shields got the call for the Royals in the opener, facing Madison Bumgarner. It was probably too tall of an order for Shields, facing one of the great postseason pitchers. In the top of the first, Shields immediately ran into trouble. Pablo Sandoval, “The Big Panda,” was at bat with runners at the corners and one out. He doubled to right, scoring Gregor Blanco. The Royals did get some luck, as Buster Posey was thrown out at home for the second out. It brought up Hunter Pence. He followed with a two-run home run to make it 3-0 before the Royals had even come to bat.

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(Hunter Pence’s first inning home run jumped started the Giants in the opener. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

It would be all the offense Bumgarner needed, although the Royals put a scare into him in the first, after Lorenzo Cain reached. It would take a great catch of Hosmer’s line drive to end the inning. The Royals also blew a chance in the third – they had first and second with nobody out, and bases loaded with two out. But Hosmer grounded out to end the inning. Shields was knocked out of the game in the fourth, scoring two more runs. It would get to 7-0 in the seventh inning, after the usually sure-handed Royals misplayed a fly ball, scoring a run. Against reliever Tim Collins, a single drove in the final Giants run. The Royals finally got on the board in the bottom of the seventh, when catcher Salvador Perez hit a home run. It would be the only run allowed by Bumgarner in the series. The final score was 7-1, and the Giants seemed ready to run over the underdog Royals.

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(Salvador Perez got the Royals on the board with a home run in Game 1. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Each team got a run in the first inning of Game 2, with the Giants being sparked by Gregor Blanco’s leadoff homer. It was the last home run for San Francisco in the entire Series. The Royals took their first lead of the Series in the second, when Alcides Escobar drove in Omar Infante. Doubles by Sandoval and Belt tied the game, although Belt was doubled off on a fly ball later in the inning. Ventura would go 5.1 innings, earning a no-decision. Kelvin Herrera would escape a two on, one out jam.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Royals broke through. Cain led off with a single and Hosmer walked. Former Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy was replaced by Jean Machi, who allowed the go-ahead (and winning run in this game) to score on a single by DH Billy Butler.

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(Billy Butler drives in what would prove to be the winning run in Game 2. Photo courtesy of http://www.nj.com.) 

The Royals would keep going, as it turned out. After an out, Hunter Strickland was brought in, who threw a wild pitch to send the runners to second and third. Perez followed with a single to make it 5-2. Then Omar Infante, not known for his homers, did just that and hit one over the left field fence to make it 7-2. Understandably frustrated, Strickland and Perez got into a shouting match as the latter crossed home plate, clearing the dugouts but avoiding a brawl. Despite chances from both teams, neither would score again. Greg Holland struck out the side in the top of the ninth, and the Royals evened it up, one game apiece. It would be a Series after all.

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(You can see Salvador Perez questioning pitcher Hunter Strickland, as Infante crosses home plate and Buster Posey looks on. Photo courtesy of Kansas City Star.) 

Shifting to San Francisco, 39-year-old Tim Hudson, once associated on the other side of the Bay with Oakland, made his World Series debut. Kansas City used small ball to score in the top of the first. Escobar doubled and later scored on consecutive groundouts. In the top of the sixth, the Royals score twice more, with Eric Hosmer breaking a slump by driving in Alex Gordon after an eleven pitch at-bat, singling to center. It took on added significance because the Giants scored twice to make it 3-2. But the Royals bullpen, one of their big strength, backed up little-known journeyman starter Jeremy Guthrie and kept Kansas City in the lead. Greg Holland got the save, and the Royals were shockingly ahead of the Giants, 2-1.

In the third inning of Game 4, it looked like Kansas City might be on the verge of a shocking 3-1 series lead, taking a 4-1 lead in the third inning. But the Giants rallied to score in that inning, and Kansas City wouldn’t get anymore in the inning. San Francisco tied it in the fifth, and then kept on scoring – nine runs over the next three innings, none of them via home run. Small ball would be the name of the Series (which in my opinion, was all the better for it). This time, the Royals had their bullpen battered, and the Giants evened the series at two games apiece, 11-4.

In Game 5, Bumgarner beat Shields again, 5-0. He threw a complete-game shutout, the first in the Fall Classic since 2003 (and San Francisco’s first since Jack Sanford did it in 1962). Only in the fifth inning was he in trouble, but he easily got out of it. The Royals managed only four hits. It was still only 2-0 in the bottom of the eighth, when light-hitting Juan Perez doubled in two more and advanced to third on an error. Crawford drove in Perez to finish the scoring. The Giants were up 3-2, needing only to win one more game for the title.

Image result for 2014 world series game 5 juan perez
(Lesser-known Juan Perez drove in two runs in Game 5 to break the game open. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

For Juan Perez, it was a very emotional moment. They wouldn’t find out until later, but baseball lost one of their own. Having played against them in the NLCS, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, still only a rookie, had smacked a clutch home run in NLCS Game 2. But he would never see a second season. On the freeway in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, both Taveras and his girlfriend were killed in a car accident in the middle of Game 5. He was only 22 years old. For the second time in less than a decade, alcohol would claim a Cardinals player in a car accident, prompting GM John Mozeliak to make some changes.

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(In the middle of Game 5, Oscar Taveras of the St. Louis Cardinals was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Photo courtesy of ESPN.) 

Taveras was honored with a moment of silence before Game 6 back in Kansas City. Fellow countryman Yordano Ventura wrote “RIP O.T. 18,” a reference to the jersey number, on his hat. Ventura was dominant, and the offense backed him up, knocking out Jake Peavy in the second inning, scoring seven runs in the inning, one of which was fluke single that took a high hop and inexplicably bounced over the head of Brandon Crawford at short (called a “Baltimore chop” in baseball slang). Mike Moustakas homered later, and the Royals forced a Game 7 with a 10-0 rout.

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(Mike Moustakas homered to clinch Game 6 for the Royals, 10-0. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

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(Winning pitcher Yordano Ventura honored the memory Oscar Taveras with a dedication on his hat during Game 6. Photo courtesy of Huffington Post.) 

It would be Jeremy Guthrie against Tim Hudson in Game 7. Neither team scored in the first inning. San Francisco broke through in the top of the second with a pair of runs. They had loaded the bases with no out, and consecutive sacrifice flies got the runs home. But the Royals tied the score in the second, as Alex Gordon drove in slow-footed Billy Butler with a double, and then the Royals got a sacrifice fly of their own to tie it 2-2. Hudson was relieved in the second inning – in a Game 7, it’s all hands on deck. Jeremy Affeldt got out of the inning. In the third, it looked like Hosmer had beaten out a fielder’s choice, sliding headfirst into first base, but for the first time in the World Series, challenges were available. Bruce Bochy did indeed challenge, and won – Hosmer was out on a double play.

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(On a narrow play, Eric Hosmer is retired at first base in the third inning of Game 7. Photo courtesy of Kansas City Star.) 

In the fourth, the Giants put runners at the corners with one out. Guthrie was replaced by Herrera. Unfortunately, Michael Morse would put the Giants ahead 3-2 with a single, what would prove to be the Series-winning run. Even more painfully, it was on an 0-2 pitch.

Image result for 2014 world series game 7 michael morse
(Michael Morse drives in what would prove to be the Series-winning run in the top of the fourth inning. Photo courtesy of San Francisco Examiner.) 

After Affeldt got through the fourth, the Giants unleashed the MadBum one more time. Bumgarner came in on only two days’ rest, trying to pitch the Giants to the title. He allowed a hit to Infante…but then settled down, and retired fourteen straight batters. The Royals were running out of outs.

Image result for 2014 world series game 7 madison bumgarner
(Madison Bumgarner was dominant in the 2014 World Series, en route to MVP honors. Photo courtesy of CBS Sports.) 

Coming into the bottom of the ninth, the scoreline was still 3-2. Bumgarner was still on the mound. He retired the first two batters. Alex Gordon was the last hope. He hit a line drive to left-center. This time, Gregor Blanco misplayed the ball, and Gordon would end up on third, representing the tying run. It would go down as a single and an error, but the Royals were still in it. Many wondered why Gordon didn’t try to score. But it was probably the wise play, considering the Giants were getting the ball back into the infield, and Crawford was known for having a good arm. In any event, the Royals were alive.

(Alex Gordon reaches to represent the tying run in Game 7. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Now Salvador Perez came up. Earlier in the game, he had been hit by a pitch and almost left the game. As a catcher, his knees were killing him. But he stood in. He worked the count to 2-2. Bumgarner threw a high fastball to Perez, in his zone. Perez popped it up into foul territory. It was an easy play for Sandoval, who fell to the ground in jubilation. The Giants had won their third title in five seasons. The Royals were forced to watch as the other team celebrated, falling short my mere inches. And the “MadBum” took home deserved MVP honors.

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(The Giants celebrate the 2014 World Series title. Photo courtesy of New York Times.) 

Fun Facts
This was the Giants’ eighth title overall, and third in five years. The Royals won their third pennant in team history.

The Giants’ victory in Game 1 snapped an eleven-game postseason winning streak for the Royals, including the last three games of the 1985 World Series.

San Francisco became the first team to win a Game 7 on the road since 1979, when the Pirates did it against the Orioles.

Madison Bumgarner has the lowest ERA of any pitcher in World Series history with a minimum of 25 innings pitched – 0.25. He set a record by throwing 52.2 scoreless innings in the postseason.

Although Bumgarner was originally credited with the win in Game 7, a scoring change gave it to Jeremy Affeldt, meaning he was credited with the win in the clincher in both the NLCS and World Series.

Brandon Crawford’s grand slam in the NL Wild Card game is the first postseason grand slam ever hit by a shortstop. Even a pitcher had done it – Dave McNally in the 1970 World Series against the Reds.

Salvador Perez set a record for catchers by starting 158 games, regular and postseason. His backup Erik Kratz didn’t see any action in the postseason.

Tim Hudson became the oldest pitcher (39 years old) to start a Game 7 in World Series history.

This was the first time in World Series history that both teams came in with fewer than 90 wins without a strike interrupting the season (the Royals were 89-73 and the Giants were 88-74).

Bruce Bochy became the tenth manager to win three championships. All of the other nine are in the Hall of Fame.

This was the second time that both Wild Card teams made the Series (the first, in 2002, also involved the Giants, who lost in seven games to the Angels). Because of the extra play-in game, the Giants are the first team to win twelve games in one postseason.

The Giants franchise earned its first World Series Game 7 win, having lost four previous times. (In an interesting parallel, both the Red Sox and Giants are 1-4 in Game 7s, and both have won eight titles. Now I really wish that 1904 series had been played, to see what would have happened.)

No home runs were hit for three straight games (Games 3 through 5), the first time it had happened since 1948.

Additionally, this was the first time since 1957 that consecutive shutouts were thrown by opposing teams. The Giants shut out the Royals in Game 5 and the Royals returned the favor in Game 6.

Final Thoughts 
“Three in five” was the rallying cry, and it worked. The Giants had continued their even-numbered year dominance in the decade of the 2010s. The Royals had fallen just short. But their coronation was just around the corner.

References and Sources
Baseball Almanac
Baseball Reference
Wikipedia
Getty Images.
YouTube.
ESPN.
CBS Sports.
http://www.sportslogos.net
http://www.nj.com
http://www.dodgersnation.com
http://www.boston.cbslocal.com
http://www.sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com
http://www.baseballhall.org
http://www.worldseries.com
http://www.mlb.com
USA Today. 
Huffington Post. 
Daily Herald (Chicago)
Kansas City Star.
San Francisco Examiner.
New York Times. 
New York Daily News.
Denver Post. 
Baltimore Sun. 
Sacramento Bee. 
Washington Times. 
Washington Post. 
Wichita Eagle. 
The Seventh Game (Barry Levenson)
The Underground Baseball Encyclopedia (Robert Schnakenberg)
The Ultimate Book of Sports Lists (Andrew Postman, Larry Stone)

Thanks, but no Thanks(giving)

I know I’m definitely in the exception on this, but I hate Thanksgiving. “Hate” is admittedly a strong word, but in this case, I’m actually using it somewhat lightly. I’d rather use it than “utterly despise,” which is closer to the truth. Sorry, everybody. I don’t want to be that guy. But you know what? I’ve never felt it.

I work in retail, so, like it or not, I will be working that day. But I will fight for my right to work if I want to.

Now, before you go crucifying me, hear me out. Here are some reasons why I’m not into Thanksgiving:

1. It’s quite simple. I can’t eat most of the food – I have never had turkey in my life, or at least I can never remember doing so. And it’s been over fifteen years since I’ve eaten mashed potatoes. This first and second reason both have to do with my condition, and these aren’t things that I can control.

2. I don’t know how to drive a car – Actually, I live across the street from my job, so I can walk there no problem. And if you think about it, not being picked up and dropped back off again is more environmentally friendly, and so transitively, going to work is more eco-friendly. So, if I may ask honestly: Where would I go, and more importantly, how would I get there?

3. Our schedules are problematic to begin with anyway – Putting the fact that I have to work aside, even if I didn’t, there’s no guarantee we could get everybody in the same place at the same time. There’s still a chance we could do it, but why run that risk if you know you’re not at 100 percent?

4. I’m going to be exhausted that day, and I want to rest – refer back to my previous post about Asperger’s and energy, and it’s no wonder I don’t have it in me. The idea of hanging with people and then going to work would take a lot out of me. As much as I do look forward to working, it’s going to be a busy night that night. Pacing will be key.

5. It’s only one day of work for me – It’s really not that bad once you do it, or at least from my experience. We coordinate it pretty well and there are going to be some periods of downtime. And honestly, our back to school rush is more stressful, and I don’t see anybody making a big deal of that.

6. It’s what I signed up for – I knew this was going to happen when I took the job. Call me a company man, but there it is. This will be my third time doing it, and it’s actually somewhat of a rush, which leads into the net reason.

7. There’s honor in a job well done – Doing the job is really refreshing. I’d like to think I’m pretty good at my job, and honestly, going to work is quite therapeutic for me right now. So, if you think about it, it does give me something to do.

8. I don’t think the holiday’s intentions are all that noble – I hate to be that guy, but let’s not kid ourselves – given its history, I’d argue that what we’re celebrating on Thanksgiving isn’t entirely heroic. And while I am thankful, I don’t feel the need to verbalize it. Lastly, we’re spending one day out of the year to do something that we should be doing every day.

9. People are hypocritical about being on our side – When I refer to “our,” I mean those who work in retail. I don’t get Memorial Day, New Year’s Day, or Labor Day off – where’s the uproar for those holidays? What is it that makes Thanksgiving so special? This is only my opinion, but we’re putting it on a holiday pedestal that it doesn’t deserve to be on.

10. I won’t lie. I want the money – Getting time and a half is worth any stress or frustration I have. They don’t pay me to go home, you know.

11. There’s nothing festive about it – Even if the other holidays are cash cows, it does seem to get people in a mood. People ridicule retailers for putting up Christmas decorations in November, but consider that maybe there’s not a lot to choose from for Thanksgiving: bland color schemes (brown, orange, and tan), a flightless bird that’s considered pretty low on the food chain, etc. I think it’s telling that the most famous Thanksgiving film is Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (don’t get me wrong, it’s a great film), and after that, there’s not much selection. You don’t hear any Thanksgiving songs, or see any lights, or anything like that. Essentially, why celebrate it as a holiday if we don’t treat it as one?

12. It’s too predictable – I mean, too many times, the following things happen: relatives come, they argue about politics, there’s always somebody who hates football, there’s always somebody (me in this case) who has dietary issues, and on and on and on. One of the better ones I spent was with theatrical friends – no demands, just meeting up. But related to that is that we can do that anytime. So, for me, the day itself is kind of the problem.

So, that’s a basic list right now. Some are related to the holiday itself, some are related to logistical issues with the spectrum and/or scheduling. So, if my family does do something, then I’ll participate. But the only thing I plan to swallow is my pride. I’m asking for one thing for Thanksgiving – just consider that not everybody wants to go home, because maybe working is the lesser of two evils. If people want to work, let them. I’m asking you to let me work, please. I won’t say anything else about this, but I hope you can understand, even if we don’t agree.

When the energy comes, and the dark side’s light

For several years in college, I was really into the album Surfacing by Sarah McLachlan. In particular, one line from the opening track “Building a Mystery” stood out to me. Hard as I try to fight it, it will always be true:

“Yeah, you’re beautiful, a beautiful, fucked up man….” 

People may say that I’m better than that, or that I shouldn’t think that way. But to be honest, that’s kind of the problem. After a while, the suggestions don’t work. Admittedly, I don’t always try that hard, but a lot of the time, I’m just worn down. Almost two and a half years since my mom’s passing (even saying “death” gives it an air of finality that scares the shit out of me), I’ve been struggling to hold onto that energy.

Asperger’s is very much a physical condition. The effort I’m required to make is almost more of an issue than the mental side. Quite honestly, it takes a lot to get me out of bed – I’m not depressed, I’m not angry. I just don’t have the energy to get going like I should. It’s almost ironic that I use my feet to get around, and that’s not for any other reason than I don’t have any other way to get around. So I still do it, but I disregard the exercise aspect of it. I do it because I need to clear my head, and quite honestly, I’ve never had anybody say anything significant about my body. I guess I got lucky in that regard.

That’s why it’s becoming harder and harder to do recreational activities. Of course, I go to work, but that’s a different scenario; while I do enjoy my job, it is a job. Once I punch out, my life is mine again, to go where I want to, or not. Losing my mom so early numbed me to a lot of the world now. Sad isn’t the best word. Angry isn’t the best word. I’m not an angry person by nature, and I never have been. The best word is numb. This numbness in turn has made me more reluctant than usual to seek out pleasurable activities. The shock of it all has left me with what could be described as a slight emotional paralysis. My mom dying wasn’t the bad part – it’s the aftermath of it all. After a while, “I’m sorry” isn’t good enough anymore.

My mind and I have a basic folie à deux with each other; we give and take with each other pretty well. So, yes, in this regard, having what I have sucks. I try to escape, but it’s like my synaptic code won’t let me. Regardless of who I talk to about it, or if I take measures to help myself (i.e.therapy or medicine), the simple fact of the matter is this – it’s still going to be there. Ergo, in the most literal form, it will never get better. I’ve learned to deal with it. Now I’m asking you to do the same. Don’t feel sorry for me. Don’t push me too hard; just deal with me. I am fucked up. But knowing that does give me a sense of light; in a certain perverse, ironic way, the shitty parts of it actually build more character. I get more energy from knowing it sucks than I do from positive reinforcement.

Then again, I don’t know. The numbness of it all has left me without answers, and not really wanting any. That’s got to be the best way right now, guys.

If you’ll excuse me, my energy needs me.

Every professional sporting match I’ve ever attended

This I’m writing mostly for me, and also to see if I’ve missed any out there. So, this is every sporting event I’ve gone to in my life. One rule: it must be the top flight – so, no minor league or college games here, I’m sorry.

Major League Baseball (11) 
1. San Francisco Giants 6, Cincinnati Reds 5 (10 innings) 
Wednesday, June 16, 1993 – Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, OH 

Starting Pitchers
Trevor Wilson (San Francisco)
Jose Rijo (Cincinnati)

Managers
Dusty Baker (San Francisco)
Davey Johnson (Cincinnati)

Winning Pitcher: Mike Jackson
Losing Pitcher: Bobby Ayala
Save: Rod Beck

Home Runs 
San Francisco: Dave Martinez (2), Barry Bonds, Matt Williams
Cincinnati: Kevin Mitchell, Reggie Sanders

Hall of Famers 
Barry Larkin (Cincinnati)

2. St. Louis Cardinals 3, Chicago Cubs 1 
Friday, June 30, 1995 – Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL 

Starting Pitchers 
Tom Urbani (St. Louis)
Frank Castillo (Chicago)

Managers 
Mike Jorgensen (St. Louis)
Jim Riggleman (Chicago)

Winning Pitcher: Tom Urbani
Losing Pitcher: Frank Castillo
Save: Tom Henke

Home Runs 
St. Louis: Scott Cooper, Tom Urbani
Chicago: None

Hall of Famers
None

3. Houston Astros 11, San Francisco Giants 4 
Thursday, July 20, 1995 – Astrodome, Houston, TX 

Starting Pitchers 
San Francisco: Terry Mulholland
Houston: Doug Drabek

Managers
Dusty Baker (San Francisco)
Terry Collins (Houston)

Winning Pitcher: Doug Drabek
Losing Pitcher: Terry Mulholland

Home Runs 
San Francisco: Barry Bonds
Houston: Derek Bell, Tony Eusebio

Hall of Famers
Craig Biggio (Houston)

4. St. Louis Cardinals 12, Cincinnati Reds 6 
Saturday, June 28, 1997 – Cinergy Field, Cincinnati, OH 

Starting Pitchers 
Fernando Valenzuela (St. Louis)
John Smiley (Cincinnati)

Managers
Tony La Russa (St. Louis)
Ray Knight (Cincinnati)

Winning Pitcher: Mark Petkovsek
Losing Pitcher: John Smiley

Home Runs 
St. Louis: Ron Gant
Cincinnati: None

Hall of Famers 
Tony La Russa (St. Louis)

5. Chicago Cubs 11, Minnesota Twins 10 
Friday, July 16, 1999 – Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL 

Starting Pitchers 
Eric Milton (Minnesota)
Jon Lieber (Chicago)

Managers
Tom Kelly (Minnesota)
Jim Riggleman (Chicago)

Winning Pitcher: Terry Adams
Losing Pitcher: Mike Trombley

Home Runs 
Minnesota: Torii Hunter, Chad Allen, Ron Coomer
Chicago: Sammy Sosa, Gary Gaetti, Henry Rodriguez, Jeff Blauser

Hall of Famers
None

6. Texas Rangers 12, Houston Astros 9 
Friday, June 15, 2001 – Enron Field, Houston, TX 

Starting Pitchers
Rick Helling (Texas)
Wade Miller (Houston)

Managers
Jerry Narron (Texas)
Larry Dierker (Houston)

Winning Pitcher: Pat Mahomes
Losing Pitcher: Jay Powell
Save: Jeff Zimmerman

Home Runs 
Texas: Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Catalanotto
Houston: Moises Alou (2), Jose Vizcaino

Hall of Famers 
Craig Biggio (Houston)

7. Pittsburgh Pirates 5, Cincinnati Reds 1 
Sunday, June 16, 2002 – Cinergy Field, Cincinnati, OH 

Starting Pitchers 
Jimmy Anderson (Pittsburgh)
Jimmy Haynes (Cincinnati)

Managers
Lloyd McClendon (Pittsburgh)
Bob Boone (Cincinnati)

Winning Pitcher: Jimmy Anderson
Losing Pitcher: Jimmy Haynes

Home Runs 
Pittsburgh: Craig Wilson, Kevin Young
Cincinnati: None

Hall of Famers
Ken Griffey, Jr. (Cincinnati)

8. Cincinnati Reds 3, Chicago Cubs 2 
Sunday, September 24, 2006 – Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH 

Starting Pitchers 
Juan Mateo (Chicago)
Aaron Harang (Cincinnati)

Managers 
Dusty Baker (Chicago)
Jerry Narron (Cincinnati)

Winning Pitcher: Aaron Harang
Losing Pitcher: Ryan Dempster

Home Runs 
Chicago: Aramis Ramirez, Buck Coats
Cincinnati: None

Hall of Famers
None

9. St. Louis Cardinals 4, Cincinnati Reds 1 
Monday, August 10, 2009 – Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO 

Starting Pitchers 
Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati)
Kyle Lohse (St. Louis)

Managers
Dusty Baker (Cincinnati)
Tony La Russa (St. Louis)

Winning Pitcher: Kyle Lohse
Losing Pitcher: Kip Wells
Save: Ryan Franklin

Home Runs 
None

Hall of Famers 
Tony La Russa (St. Louis)

10. Boston Red Sox 11, San Francisco Giants 7 
Wednesday, July 20, 2016 – Fenway Park, Boston, MA 

Starting Pitchers 
Matt Cain (San Francisco)
Drew Pomeranz (Boston)

Managers
Bruce Bochy (San Francisco)
John Farrell (Boston)

Winning Pitcher: Matt Barnes
Losing Pitcher: Matt Cain

Home Runs
San Francisco: Mac Williamson, Trevor Brown
Boston: Hanley Ramirez (3), Travis Shaw, Sandy Leon

Hall of Famers 
None

11. Boston Red Sox 13, Minnesota Twins 2 
Thursday, July 21, 2016 – Fenway Park, Boston, MA 

Starting Pitchers
Tyler Duffey (Minnesota)
Steven Wright (Boston)

Managers
Paul Molitor (Minnesota)
John Farrell (Boston)

Winning Pitcher: Steven Wright
Losing Pitcher: Tyler Duffey

Home Runs
Minnesota: None
Boston: Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr., David Ortiz

Hall of Famers
Paul Molitor (Minnesota)

National Basketball Association (3) 
1. Indiana Pacers 103, Atlanta Hawks 97 
Friday, March 16, 2001 – Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

High scorers
Atlanta: Jason Terry (31 points)
Indiana: Jalen Rose (21 points)

Other notable performers 
Toni Kukoc (Atlanta) – 25 points
Alan Henderson (Atlanta) – 16 points
Reggie Miller (Indiana) – 13 points
Austin Croshere (Indiana) – 17 points

Halftime score
Indiana 47, Atlanta 40

Hall of Famers 
Isiah Thomas (Indiana; head coach); Reggie Miller (Indiana)

2. Indiana Pacers 91, Cleveland Cavaliers 76 
Tuesday, December 31, 2013 – Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

High scorers
Cleveland: Anderson Varejao (14 points)
Indiana: Paul George (21 points)

Other notable performers
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland) – 10 points
Dion Waiters (Cleveland) – 12 points
Roy Hibbert (Indiana) – 19 points
Danny Granger (Indiana) – 12 points
George Hill (Indiana) – 13 points

3. Indiana Pacers 107, Philadelphia 76ers 94 
Sunday, March 26, 2017 – Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

High scorers
Philadelphia: Robert Covington (15 points)
Indiana: Paul George (21 points)

Other notable performers 
Myles Turner (Indiana) – 17 points, 16 rebounds
Al Jefferson (Indiana) – 14 points
Jeff Teague (Indiana) – 16 points

Halftime score
Indiana 51, Philadelphia 45

UEFA Champions League (1) 
RSC Anderlecht 1, FC Porto 0 
Wednesday, March 2, 1994 – Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Brussels, Belgium

Goals 
Anderlecht – Luc Nilis (88′)

Total – 15 games in 3 sports