This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: October, 2018
All Hail the Red(-Hot) Sox Manny Machado Puts on the Bad Boy
Who Gave Angel Hernandez the Keys to October? R.I.P. Willie McCovey


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.346 129 180 47 5 32 80 73 8 8 30

Last season, the young and talented outfielder had an off-year by his standards, batting .264—but it was such a potent .264, with plenty of extra-base hits, walks, and 100 runs and RBIs each, one wondered how enriched that extra production would be if he batted, say, 80 points higher. This year, we found out. Betts was the ultimate sparkplug for a lively Red Sox offense, leading the majors with a .346 average, 129 runs and .640 slugging percentage. He put bat to ball often as well, striking out less than 100 times—and in this day and age, that’s something of a revelation. At age 26, Betts should only get better—and the Red Sox don’t have to worry about losing him to free agency until 2021.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.326 118 187 34 7 36 110 66 2 7 22

Giancarlo, Giancarlo, Giancarlo. That seemed to be all you heard out of Miami in regards the teardown of the Marlins by their new regime this past offseason, as Stanton—the reigning NL MVP—was handed over to the Yankees. Almost lost amid the chatter of Giancarlo, however, was the Marlins’ moving of Yelich to Milwaukee. Seems kind of weird to think of that now, given that he’s likely to be Stanton’s successor on the MVP podium. The 26-year-old outfielder was deemed a solid but not sensational offensive force pre-Milwaukee, but an incredible second half—.367 average, 25 homers and 67 RBIs in 65 games—had him turning a tight MVP race into a foregone conclusion. And just so we get the record straight on this, Yelich is not Pete Davidson’s bigger brother.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.168 40 79 12 0 16 49 39 2 7 2

There was a time, back in his early days at Texas, when Davis looked like a powerful Double-A slugger hopelessly failing the major league test. When he moved on to Baltimore and developed into an All-Star force, those days seemed well behind. But Davis’ 2018 performance wasn’t just a relapse back to those earlier, uglier times; this was worse. His batting average was the lowest ever recorded by anyone with enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title, and his OPS was also dead last—yes, lower than Alcides Escobar. There’s a lot of bad news in Orioleland these days, but here’s what may be the worst news of all: The Orioles owe Davis—who turns 33 next March—$92 million through 2022. Maybe this is why Baltimore GM Dan Duquette got the ax.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Lewis Brinson, Miami Marlins

BA
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
.199 31 76 10 5 11 42 15 2 4 2

This is the guy the Marlins got in exchange for Christian Yelich. Okay, so three other minor leaguers came along with him, but he was considered the prime catch, the Willie Mays card among the pack of common players. The rookie may have better days ahead of him—he’s only 23—and yes, Mike Schmidt hit .196 in his first full year. But whatever he showed in the minors that wowed the Marlins was absent in Miami. He couldn’t hit, apparently couldn’t run (he’s said to be fast, but stole only two bases), and though he has great range in the outfield, he led the majors with nine errors at that position. Finally, Brinson lacked patience; he walked just 17 times and struck out 120. For the Marlins’ sake, he’ll mature fast and avoid making this trade similar to the dud that was the six great prospects they thought they’d gained back in 2008 after trading Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
21-5 180.2 112 41 38 64 1 13 0 221 1.89

It’s almost ironic that the league’s best “mainstream” starting pitcher plies his trade for a team that’s all but disdained the starting rotation concept as the Rays leaned heavily on the “opener” in 2018. But Snell gave the team a good reason to temporarily keep Ryne Stanek and others in the bullpen during the first inning whenever he took the bump. The 25-year-old southpaw, after an 11-15 record over 2016-17, exploded into prominence with a stunning effort in 2018. His best stuff took place after a bum shoulder healed in early August, as he went 9-0 in his last 11 starts with a fabulous 1.17 ERA. It’s a shame the Rays put such a leash on Snell; five times he allowed only one hit, but never made it past the seventh inning in any of those starts. Still, he looks likely to be the Rays’ second Cy Young Award recipient, after David Price in 2012.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
10-9 217.0 152 48 41 46 5 2 0 269 1.70

Our combined metric readings told us to give this honor to the Phillies’ Aaron Nola, but shove the Excel file—deGrom was simply the better pitcher. It’s not his fault that he won just 10 games for the Mets—for that, go blame his teammates for bad support. In one ridiculous stretch, he went 13 straight starts with just one win—despite posting a 1.89 ERA. Before and after, he was just as good; in fact, he finished the year with 29 straight starts allowing three or fewer earned runs, a major league record. (Actually, the Rays’ Ryne Stanek also hit 29 such straight starts to end the year, but he’s an ‘opener’ so it really shouldn’t count, but it must—oh never mind.) deGrom has basically been the one consistently good, (mostly) injury-free component of the Mets over the past two years; goodness only knows what would happen to this team if he broke down.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Matt Moore, Texas Rangers

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
3-8 102.0 128 82 77 41 5 6 0 86 6.79

Most of the trades that the Giants have made of late haven’t worked out too well, but the one sending the veteran lefty to Texas led to plenty of major exhaling in the San Francisco front office—and much regret in Arlington, where the Rangers obviously got the worse end of the deal. Tis a shame for Moore, who looked so sharp as recently as two years back when he was tossing gems for the Giants. This year with Texas, he was tossing lemons. Moore had an 8.02 ERA as a starter before the Rangers couldn’t take it anymore and demoted him to the bullpen—where he was only a little better. The Rangers have the option to bring him back for $10 million in 2019; here’s guessing that they probably won’t bite on that.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
HB
WP
BK
SO
ERA
1-14 106.1 141 82 72 33 1 2 2 75 6.09

On the 10-year anniversary of naming the lefty from La Grange, Texas as our pick for the NL’s worst pitcher, we do it again. And it’s not just because we feel like picking on him; for all we know, he’s a nice guy and we’ve been to La Grange—it’s a pleasant town. But the numbers are too just painful to ignore. This number is the most painful: 1-19. That’s the Reds’ record when Bailey started. The last time a team suffered such a funk from one pitcher was when the 1899 Cleveland Spiders also went 1-19 with Frank Bates on the mound. When you reference the Spiders (who finished 20-134), you know this is bad. Whatever magic Bailey had to earn a six-year, $105 million contract back in 2014 has long since vanished; like the Orioles with Chris Davis, the Reds are counting the days until they can stop sending checks to this guy.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Boston Red Sox (108-54)

Boston chalked up its third straight AL East title with hammer-like force, riding the league’s best offense and an effective (if patched-together) rotation to a franchise record 108 wins—though the 1912, 1915 and 1946 editions, who played fewer games, have this squad beat on percentage points. Nevertheless, this was a star-studded affair, with not one but two legitimate MVP candidates (Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez), a Cy Young Award-level performance from ace Chris Sale and 42 more saves from Craig Kimbrel. That they made winning the division look easy even as the rival Yankees won 100 games made their achievement all the more impressive. The benefactor of all of this is first-year manager Alex Cora, who earned more victories by a rookie pilot than all but the Yankees’ Ralph Houk in 1961.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Milwaukee Brewers (96-67)

Not so long ago, we ribbed the Brewers for being fast, loose and sloppy. They still are; in 2018, they were at or near the top of the charts in steals, batter strikeouts and errors. But this year, they finally piled up enough positives to offset some of the negatives—or else they wouldn’t have finished the season with the NL’s best record. Part of it was the emergence of a monstrous bullpen that got better with each passing month and bailed out a fractured rotation (Jhoulys Chacin was the only pitcher with 10 or more wins). But clearly sweetening the Miller Park pot was likely NL MVP Christian Yelich, once-and-current Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain, and a breakout campaign for slugger Jesus Aguilar (35 homers). So they remain fast, they remain loose—in a good way—and they’d like to think that the only thing they’re sloppy at is clubhouse champagne celebrations.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Baltimore Orioles (47-115)

When the Red Sox’ Andrew Benintendi made a flying catch in front of the AL East standings posted on Fenway Park’s Green Monster during the World Series, TV viewers nationwide couldn’t help but focus at those standings and blurt out, “Were the Orioles really that bad?” Just about everything that could go wrong did for the O-No’s, from eleven losing streaks of five or more games to Chris Davis’ crash-and-burn to Dylan Bundy’s 41 homers allowed—and on and on and on. Almost nobody stepped up, except those (Manny Machado, Zach Britton) who got traded and avoided having to play out the whole nightmare. All of this added to a franchise-record 115 losses—yes, that history includes the god-awful St. Louis Browns—and front-office cries of “off with their heads!” aimed at manager Buck Showalter and GM Dan Duquette, who had stabilized the team until this nuclear implosion. Here’s the question for 2019: Is there a long enough ladder to help rescue this ballclub from the abyss?


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Miami Marlins (63-98)

After an offseason purge of basically anyone with established talent—those left behind were essentially banging on the door to join the exodus—the Marlins’ slogan for 2018 might as well have been, “Don’t say we didn’t warn you.” Marlins fans got the message, which is why they didn’t show up; the sub-million gate was the first by a major league team since the lame-duck Montreal Expos of 2004. Besides attendance, the Marlins were also dead last in the NL in ERA, runs scored and slugging percentage. As tanking dictates, the Marlins should be able to only go up from here. The question is whether the fans, so scarred by Wayne Huizenga, Jeffrey Loria and now this, will even give a rat’s you-know-what when things get better.


Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(October 2018 Edition)

Not so Fast, My Friend
The Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu walked off the mound toward the dugout after a fly out in NLDS Game One—but was stopped when a teammate told him it wasn’t the third out.

Usual Phrase, Unusual Timing
TBS broadcaster Ron Darling apologized on air during ALDS Game Two between the Yankees and Red Sox after the PC Police rattled his cage for saying that New York starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, a native of Japan, had “chinks in his armor.”

If We Can Make It Here…
The Red Sox celebrated their ALDS victory over the Yankees by playing New York, New York in the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium.

…And Wimpy Books the First Flight to Milwaukee
The Brewers’ 6-5 win in NLCS Game One was their 12th straight going back to the end of the regular season—and activated a long-promised (1948) vow by the Milwaukee-based George Webb restaurant chain to give away free hamburgers.

Who’s That Girl?
Guys watching the NLCS games at Milwaukee might have found their eyes wandering away from the action at home plate, focusing instead on the woman with the low-cut shirt and scorecard seated behind in the first row. Her handle is Front Row Amy and she’s become something of an institution at Miller Park. She even has a website, where she reveals more—but not all—of herself.

That’s Not an Inanimate Object—It’s Just Joe West
In ALCS Game One, a throw by the Red Sox’ Christian Vazquez in an attempt to nail the Astros’ Jake Marisnick at second went awry and ending up nailing veteran umpire Joe West—who strangely stood statue-like as he watched the ball come his way.

Heads Up!
At least West knew the ball that hit him was coming. The same could not be said for Boston first base coach Tom Goodwin, whose between-innings chat with an umpire was rudely interrupted by a stray Alex Bregman warm-up throw.

Any Way You Read It, a Red Sox Loss
MLB official historian John Thorn’s palindromic take on the Astros’ 7-2 win over the Red Sox in ALCS Game One: “Not so, Boston.”

The Kratz Pack
Milwaukee back-up catcher and playoff folk hero Erik Kratz was giddy to see his own cheering section at Miller Park, complete with a group of fans wearing uniforms from each of the seven teams he’s played for.

Because, Why Not
During the Red Sox’ 8-4 win over the Dodgers in World Series Game One at Boston, Fenway Park fans began to cheer, “Yankees suck!”

Silence is Not so Golden
The Red Sox’ three-run rally to overtake and defeat the Dodgers in World Series Game Two was not heard by radio listeners on ESPN or the Red Sox’ flagship station WEEI because the transmission went dead.

This, From the Guy Who Once Ran the USFL
Using his ever-precious Twitter account, President Donald Trump criticized Dodgers manager Dave Roberts’ decision to pull Rich Hill from a 4-0 lead in World Series Game Four of the World Series; they ultimately lost, 9-6. Roberts’ called Trump’s tweet “one man’s opinion,” while others cringed at the optics of Trump’s public baseball comment on the same day that a gunman killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Hey Misery—Need Some Company?
After the World Series ended, the Rangers tweeted: “Hey Dodgers, the support group for back-to-back World Series losers meets on Tuesdays.” (Twitter dingbats eliminated.)

Citation Needed
Someone updated the Wikipedia page of World Series MVP Steve Pearce by writing that he “owns” the Dodgers and is the “new mayor” of Los Angeles.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
Continuing the pattern of the regular season, there were more strikeouts (635) in the postseason than there were hits (492).





Monday, October 1
For the first time in major league history, two 163rd-game tiebreakers are played to determine first place—although it’s neither the end of the world nor the season for the day’s two losers.

At Chicago, the Milwaukee Brewers secure the NL Central title—and home field advantage at least through the NLCS—with a taut, 3-1 victory over the Cubs. Jhoulys Chacin allows just one hit through 5.2 innings—a fifth-inning home run to Anthony Rizzo—while Orlando Arcia has a 4-for-4 day (scoring twice) and Christian Yelich has three singles to clinch the NL batting title with a .326 mark. The Cubs keep it close despite being outhit, 12-3, but are locked down in the final three innings by hard-throwing Milwaukee relievers Corey Knebel and Josh Hader.

Later in Los Angeles, the Dodgers clinch their sixth straight NL West title with an easy 5-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies. Rookie Walker Buehler allows just a hit over 6.2 shutout innings, while Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy each supply two-run homers to give the Dodgers offensive punch. The Rockies make it sound close with two homers off of Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth—one of which comes off the bat of Nolan Arenado, clinching his third NL home run title with his 38th. With the loss, the Rockies will travel to Chicago the next day to take on the Cubs in the NL Wild Card game.

The Dodgers’ streak of divisional titles is the third longest in history—behind the Braves’ 11 straight (1995-2005) and the Yankees’ nine in a row (1998-2006). Meanwhile, the Rockies will be making their fifth-ever postseason appearance—all of them as a wild card.

Tuesday, October 2
A day after losing a divisional tiebreaker game at home, the Cubs return to Wrigley Field…and lose the NL wild card game to Colorado in 13 innings, 2-1, to end their season. The Rockies’ Kyle Freeland barely outlasts the Cubs’ Jon Lester, throwing 6.2 shutout innings and leaving with a 1-0 lead—but an inning later, Javier Baez’s RBI double ties the game for Chicago. Well into overtime, with bullpens ruling, an unlikely hero emerges in Rockies catcher Tony Wolters, who caps a two-out rally with a third successive single off of starter-turned-reliever Kyle Hendricks to score Trevor Story. Scott Oberg strikes out the side in the bottom half of the 13th to wrap up the win.

When we say that Wolters was an unlikely hero, we mean it; he hit .170 in 182 at-bats during the regular season—remember, he’s playing for the allow-Coors Field-to-enhance-your-stats Rockies—.122 on the road and .164 against right-handers.

There’s a bit of controversy in the 11th when, with runners at first and second for the Cubs, Willson Contreras bounces a grounder to third baseman Nolan Arenado, who tags Javier Baez running from second—but Baez graciously bear-hugs Arenado, possibly keeping Arenado from attempting to complete a double play. The Rockies briefly protest, but all replays show that Arenado made no attempt to break from Baez and didn’t complain afterward—suggesting that he felt he didn’t have a second play to make anyway.

This is the longest that an elimination game for both teams has gone.

Last year’s AL Manager of the Year is this offseason’s first firing. Paul Molitor is relieved of his duties in Minnesota, where he had a hard time stabilizing an emerging but inconsistent Twins roster. In four years, he went from 83-79 to 59-103 to 85-77 (and a wild card playoff appearances) to this year’s 78-84, a record all the more disappointing considering the lackluster competition in the AL Central. Molitor will remain in the front office, probably in one of those empty figurehead roles.

Wednesday, October 3
It’s a story as old as Moneyball; the Oakland A’s are knocked out of the playoffs by the New York Yankees. Relying totally on a bullpen that’s considered the majors’ most dominant this season, the A’s can’t get the job done at Yankee Stadium as “opener” Liam Hendriks serves up a two-run homer to Aaron Judge in the first, then fall behind by four more runs as closer Blake Treinen—summoned into the game in the sixth—can’t contain a big New York rally thanks to Luke Voit’s two-run triple to cap the frame’s scoring. The A’s get on the board in the eighth on a Khris Davis two-run homer, but Giancarlo Stanton puts a thundering coda on the scoring a half-inning later when he drills a tape-measure solo shot down the left-field line. Credit for the Yankees’ 7-2 victory goes to Dellin Betances, the first of four relievers after Luis Severino is given a quick hook in the fifth after allowing his first two hits of the game; four walks and a high pitch count doom Severino’s chances of going the minimum five needed to individually snag the win. '

It’s the eighth straight winner-take-all postseason game that the A’s have lost, the longest such streak in major league history. Three of those have come against the Yankees.

When you finish the season at 47-115, something has to give. That unfortunately holds true for Orioles manager Buck Showalter and GM Dan Duquette, both of whom are handed their walking papers today after the team’s most miserable performance since moving to Baltimore in 1954. Showalter is let go after seven-plus years at Baltimore, five of which ended with records of .500 or better and three postseason appearances; one of those took him and the Orioles as far as the 2014 ALCS, where they were swept by Kansas City. Duquette had been with the Orioles since 2011 and presided over the rebuilding of the team into a contender—only to see things fall apart in the last few years.

A few weeks after allegations are revived that he physically abused his wife, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell is suspended 40 games by MLB under its domestic abuse enforcement policy. Russell’s suspension is retroactively set back to the final 12 games of 2018, when he was placed on “administrative leave” by MLB; he also missed the NL wild card loss to Colorado.

Thursday, October 4
Four Brewers relievers—no starters—hold the Rockies scoreless on a hit and two walks through the first eight innings of NLDS Game One at Milwaukee. But the fifth pitcher, Jeremy Jeffress, caves as the Rockies rally for two in the ninth—augmented by an Orlando Arcia error—to tie the game at 2-2 and send the game into overtime. In the 10th, Christian Yelich—who had earlier homered to give the game its first two runs—walks, goes to second on an Adam Ottavino wild pitch, advances to third on a ground out, then scores the game-winner on Mike Moustakas’ lined single to right.

In Los Angeles, the Dodgers burst to an early 4-0 lead on Mike Foltynewicz and the Atlanta Braves thanks to a three-run blast by rookie slugger Max Muncy, and ease from there to a 6-0 victory in NLDS Game One. True starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu throws seven (seven!) shutout innings, allowing four hits, and Muncy follows up his homer by being walked in his next three appearances by nervous Braves relievers.

Friday, October 5
In NLDS Game Two at Milwaukee, the Rockies once again have no offensive fight—and worse, have nothing left in the tank for a ninth-inning rally as they’re blanked by the Brewers, 4-0, to fall two games down in the series. Jhoulys Chacin throws the first five scoreless innings for the Brewers, followed by four relievers—the last being Jeremy Jeffress, who rebounds from his blown save of the night before with two scoreless innings to wrap things up. A three-run rally in the eighth pulls Milwaukee away for good.

The reigning champion Houston Astros begin their postseason defense of their 2017 world title with a resounding 7-2 home victory over Cleveland, bashing four home runs—three of them off of Indians ace Corey Kluber, who continues to anything but his regular season self in the playoffs. Among the four deep flies is one from George Springer, who goes yard in his fifth straight postseason game; Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Martin Maldonado add the others.

Kluber hasn’t made it through the fifth inning in any of his last four postseason starts, sporting a collective 10.20 ERA.

The Matinee Series: Fans of both the Astros and Indians are grumbling over the fact that every ALDS game featuring their two teams will be played in the afternoon, because MLB and TBS (which is broadcasting the games) want to place the other ALDS series, pitting historic rivals Boston and New York, on prime time at night.

Speaking of the Red Sox and Yankees, their highly anticipated ALDS gets off to a rousing start as Boston builds up an early 5-0 lead on J.A. Happ and then holds on tight, repelling numerous Yankee rallies to survive a 5-4 win at Fenway Park. J.D. Martinez sets the tone with a three-run homer in the first, and Chris Sale sails into the sixth before being removed—but a tenuous Red Sox bullpen barely keeps the Yankees on the losing side, as New York fails to capitalize on numerous potential big-time rallies and ultimately leaves 10 men on base for the night.

‘Openers’ be damned; Clayton Kershaw shows off a bit of the old-time workhorse ethic with his best postseason effort yet—eight shutout innings on just 85 pitches—to lead the Dodgers to a 3-0 shutout victory over the Braves at Los Angeles to take a 2-0 NLDS lead. Two of Atlanta’s three hits come courtesy of rookie Ronald Acuna Jr., but the Braves have still yet to score in the series. Manny Machado’s two-run homer in the first is followed by a solo shot from Yasmani Grandal in the fifth to complete the scoring.

This is the first time a team has won the first two games of a postseason series by shutout since the 1921 Yankees against the New York Giants—a series which, by the way, the Yankees lost in the World Series’ last best-of-nine affair to date.

Saturday, October 6
The Astros make it two straight wins to start their ALDS series against Cleveland, as Gerrit Cole makes his Houston postseason debut one to remember. The first-year Astro allows just a run on three hits through seven innings with 12 strikeouts and no walks, and the Astros overcome an early, slim 1-0 Indians lead, scoring thrice over the sixth and seventh to triumph, 3-1.

Only the Mets’ Tom Seaver, in 1973, had ever struck out 12 or more batters without a walk in a playoff game before Cole’s gem.

The Yankees buck the trend of postseason teams flunking the road test and take ALDS Game Two against the Red Sox at Boston, 6-2. Aiding in the effort is Aaron Judge, who crushes a 445-foot bomb off ineffective Red Sox starter David Price in the first, and two homers from catcher Gary Sanchez—one of which surpasses Judge’s shot with a 479-foot drive that ends up on Lansdowne Street behind the Green Monster. Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka gets in five solid frames and is back by three Yankee relievers to silence the potent Boston offense.

Price drops to 2-9 lifetime with a 5.28 ERA in the postseason. He departs the game in the second to a loud chorus of boos from the Fenway Park crowd.

Sunday, October 7
On a cold, gloomy day in Denver, the Brewers ice the Rockies with a 6-0 victory to finish off a three-game NLDS sweep and secure a spot in the NLCS. From the first inning on, Milwaukee gradually gains control of the game, but two runs in the sixth—both courtesy of Rockies reliever Scott Oberg, who balks in one run and then throws a wild pitch to bring home another—leaves Colorado hanging from a cliff; back-to-back homers in the ninth from Orlando Arcia and Keon Broxton knocks them off the ledge for good.

In triumph, the Brewers allow just two runs—only the second team (after the 1905 Giants in the World Series) to allow less than one run per game in a postseason series.

One of the Brewers’ unlikely hitting heroes is journeyman catcher Erik Kratz, who at 38 becomes the oldest player since Lave Cross (also in 1905) to finally make his postseason debut. After not playing in Game One, he goes 5-for-8 with a double over the last two games for Milwaukee—his seventh team—after appearing in a career-high 203 at-bats during the regular season. This is only the third time this season that the Rockies were shut out at home.

At Atlanta, the Braves burst out to a 5-0 lead largely thanks to Ronald Acuna Jr.’s second-inning grand slam, then hold on for dear life to repel the Dodgers, 6-5, and stay alive in the NLDS. Acuna’s slam comes after a dubious strike call that would have granted him a bases-loaded walk from Los Angeles starter Walker Buehler; he becomes the youngest player to hit a postseason slam, surpassing Mickey Mantle in 1953. The Dodgers rally to tie the game in the fifth, but Freddie Freeman’s solo blast to lead off the sixth—on the first pitch thrown by Alex Wood, Buehler’s successor—puts the Braves back in front to stay. Los Angeles gets seven batters on base over the final four innings, but none of them are able to score off of four Atlanta relievers.

When told of Mantle after the game, the 20-year-old Acuna Jr. responds: “Who’s Mickey Mantle?”

A bad year for one-time Minnesota All-Star Miguel Sano gets worse. After hitting just .199 during the season, Sano—who began the year avoiding punishment from MLB after sexual harassment accusations from a Twin Cities-area photographer—is arrested in his native Dominican Republic when he attempts to evade a police officer at a checkpoint by running over him, breaking his leg in two places. It’s reported that Sano’s white truck is without license plates or any other proper identification.

Monday, October 8
The Astros sweep the ALDS from the Indians at Cleveland, turning a tight game into a rout with 10 runs over the last three innings to squash the Indians, 11-3. George Springer goes deep twice, giving him a .429 (6-for-14) performance with three home runs in the series—and seven over his last seven postseason games going back to 2017, an October feat matched only by Lou Gehrig and Reggie Jackson.

The Indians, who hit just .144 in the series with not one hit with runners in scoring position (the Astros had 11 of them), reveal that they’re not as good as their 91-71 record might have indicated. While they breezed to an AL Central title by 13 games, divisional competition was historically bad, with two teams (Kansas City and Chicago) losing 100 and another (Detroit) almost losing that many, with 98. Outside of its 76 games played against the AL Central, Cleveland was 42-44 against the rest of baseball.

Manny Machado drives in four runs—three on a series-killing, three-run shot in the seventh to cap the day’s scoring—to give the Dodgers the NLDS with a 6-2 victory in Game Four at Atlanta. Kurt Suzuki’s pinch-hit single in the fourth gives the Braves hope and a 2-1 lead, but the Dodgers respond with five unanswered the rest of the way.

It’s the 14th time that the Braves have lost a postseason series finale on their own home turf, the most by any team in history; overall, they’ve lost nine straight playoff series (including one wild card game) dating back to 2001.

For one night, the Red Sox dispense any thoughts that they’ve become vulnerable to the Yankees as they smash their way to a 16-1 rout at Yankee Stadium, and take a 2-1 game lead in the ALDS. Boston is propelled by Brock Holt, who becomes the first player in postseason history to hit for the cycle; he completes it with a two-run homer in the ninth off of back-up catcher Austin Romine, doing emergency duty on the mound as the Yankees desperately try to save their bullpen for another night. The 15-run loss is the worst in Yankees postseason history, while the 15-run win for Boston is one shy of the all-time playoff record—held by the Red Sox themselves, when they beat Cleveland 23-7 in 1999.

Romine’s appearance on the mound is the second in playoff history by a position player—and the first by any Yankee in any game, regular or post, since Babe Ruth came on to pitch a 1921 game against the Philadelphia A’s, after his early pitching days had ended. Ruth on that day pitched the final four innings and allowed six runs—yet still got the win as the Yankees beat the A’s in 11 innings, 7-6.

It’s possible that the only person having a worse night on the field other than the Yankees is first base umpire Angel Hernandez, who has three of his calls at first overturned by replay. What really needs to be reviewed is the decision to allow Hernandez to umpire a postseason game. He has all but become a joke among players, insiders and fans, and eyes roll whenever his name comes up in reference to a blown call—which is often. He sued baseball in 2017, claiming that he was unfairly being denied a shot for advancement to crew chief or a playoff role. He got the latter—and not we’re finding out why MLB hasn’t wanted to give him the chance. Frankly, he’s lucky to still have his job.

Tuesday, October 9
A night after one of baseball’s biggest postseason blowouts, the Red Sox and Yankees return to the field and engage in a tight struggle that ends in a nail-biting finish—with Boston taking a 4-3 decision and the ALDS by a 3-1 game count. Rick Porcello sets the early pace with five sharp innings, but the Yankees show they have plenty of grit left. After frustration in scoring through the first eight innings, it appears they’re ready to make a game-changing rally in the ninth off of Boston closer Craig Kimbrel, whose control is clearly off. Four Yankees reach on a base hit, two walks and hit batsman, with two of them scoring to trim to lead to one—but Gleyber Torres’ slow bouncer to third is turned into an ultra-close, series-ending out as first baseman Steve Pearce dives to the ground while somehow keeping his foot on the bag to bring in Eduardo Nunez’s throw. A video review confirms the out and the Red Sox’ triumph.

A day after his horrible performance at first base, umpire Angel Hernandez is given the assignment to call balls and strikes behind the plate. Most everyone believes he does an okay job—except Yankee starter CC Sabathia, calling him “absolutely terrible.” But he also says that Hernandez is not the reason the Yankees lost.

The Red Sox were clearly the better team, but it didn’t help for the Yankees that Giancarlo Stanton, playing in his first-ever postseason series, was 4-for-18 (all singles) with no RBIs and six strikeouts.

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash gets rewarded for taking the low-rent Rays to a highly respectable (and surprising) 90-72 record in 2018, as he’s given a five-year extension to his current contract which expires after 2019. Cash has been the team’s pilot since Joe Maddon split for Chicago after 2014.

Wednesday, October 10
The Washington Nationals receive reliever Kyle Barraclough from the Miami Marlins for $1 million in international slot money. Barraclough was a first-half sensation for Miami, winning the closer’s role with a spiffy 1.26 ERA over 42.1 innings while batters hit just .126 against him. The second half was a much different story; his command left him and his ERA after the All-Star Break was a horrid 13.50 in 17 appearances.

Side-armed reliever Brad Ziegler, who began the year as the Marlins’ closer before Barraclough assumed it, announces his retirement on his 39th birthday. The tall right-hander began his career in 2008 in historic style, not allowing a run over his first 39 major league innings for the Oakland A’s to set a record. He rarely disappointed over the next 10 seasons, always producing ERAs at or below the 3.00 mark before he finally began to slip in the last two seasons; he had a combined 3.91 ERA between the Marlins and Arizona in 2018.

Thursday, October 11
Pitcher Adam Wainwright, a lifelong Cardinal since his debut with St. Louis in 2005, signs a one-year deal to stay with the Cardinals in 2019; many assume it will be his major league swan song as he’ll turn 38 midway through next year. Elbow and hamstring issues limited Wainwright to eight appearances in 2018, finishing with a 2-4 record and 4.46 ERA; he is currently fifth on the Cardinals’ all-time win list, and second only to Bob Gibson in franchise strikeouts with 1,623.

Friday, October 12
The Brewers take NLCS Game One at Milwaukee over Los Angeles, 6-5, in a game that does not lack for shock or suspense. Trailing after two innings, 1-0, the Brewers remove starter Gio Gonzalez—Milwaukee didn’t plan to have him go long, anyway—and put in Brandon Woodruff, even with the pitcher’s spot due up for the Brewers in the bottom half of the inning. But Woodruff throws the first of two perfect innings and gets his turn at bat—and crushes a 407-foot home run off of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw to tie the game. The stunning blast staggers Kershaw, who allows one more run in the inning and three the next before getting anyone out, leading to his shortest stint by innings in a postseason start. Kershaw gets no help from his defense, particularly catcher Yasmani Grandal—who commits two passed balls and two errors (one on a catcher’s interference of Jesus Aguilar’s line shot, turned into a spectacular diving catch by first baseman David Freese that would have ended the second inning). Aguilar’s solo blast in the seventh pads the Brewers’ lead to 6-1 and looks like icing on the cake—but it turns into crucial insurance as the Dodgers rally for three in the eighth and one in the ninth before Corey Knebel puts out a difficult fire, leaving Chris Taylor at third as the tying run.

Woodruff is the third reliever to homer in a postseason game, following the New York Giants’ Rosy Ryan in 1924 and the Cubs’ Travis Wood in 2016.

Grandal is the second catcher in postseason history to have a passed ball, error and catcher’s interference in the same inning. The other occurrence took place exactly a year ago when the Nationals’ Matt Wieters performed the tri-defecta. On the plus side, Grandal goes 1-for-4 at the plate—raising his career postseason batting average to .094 (6 hits in 64 at-bats).

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that this is the 34th time that a team has begun a postseason at 4-0—but none of the previous 33 got less than 20 innings out of their starters in doing so. The Brewers have gotten only 14.2 innings out of theirs, albeit by design.

The Yankees’ Didi Gregorius will undergo Tommy John surgery after hurting his throwing elbow during the ALDS against Boston. He is not expected back until “sometime next summer,” according to New York GM Brian Cashman. Gregorius’ absence intensifies the rumor mill that the Yankees will be all in on Manny Machado when he becomes a free agent after the postseason.

The Arizona Diamondbacks announce that they’ll be replacing the natural grass at Chase Field with artificial turf for the 2019 season. The move is made, the team says, to make it easier for players, for fans who’ll enter into a cooler facility in the hot Phoenix summer—because the roof won’t need to be open during the day to allow sunshine to grow the grass—and for the team’s financial coffers as the “state-of-the-art” synthetic field will be less expensive to maintain.

This is the first major league facility to switch from grass to fake turf since San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1970. It will also be the first NL ballpark with an artificial surface since the Montreal Expos’ last season at Olympic Stadium in 2004.

Saturday, October 13
In NLCS Game Two, the Dodgers mount another late-inning comeback—and this time make good on it. Trailing 3-0 after six innings in Milwaukee, the Dodgers rally for two in the seventh and then get two more in the eighth on a Justin Turner home run to edge the Brewers, 4-3, and even up the series. All four runs come off of Milwaukee relievers Corbin Burnes and Jeremy Jeffress, after starter Wade Miley had given the Brewers 5.2 scoreless innings on just 74 pitches before being removed. It’s the end of a 12-game win streak for Milwaukee, going back to the end of the regular season.

Sometimes you gotta just ride the starter. Miley apparently agrees; he is noticeably upset upon being removed from the game, as one would assume he was still sharp and had enough gas left at just 74 pitches, few of them stress-related. The Brewers (and many other major league teams) have such an urge to rely on bullpens, almost to a fault. If the relievers fail—as they did today for Milwaukee—the Brewers can’t go back to the starter; they’re stuck with it.

The Astros and Red Sox, with the second highest combined total of regular season wins (211) for a postseason series, get started in Boston with the defending champions once more doing late damage to turn a close game into a walk in the park, 7-2. The Red Sox are their own worst enemy; they only allow five hits to Houston, but also walk 10 Astros, hit three others and commit two crippling errors—including a sixth-inning miscue by Boston third baseman Eduardo Nunez, who can’t get an out on what likely might have been a double play; instead, the Astros notch a go-ahead run and never look back. The frustration gets to Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who’s ejected for only the second time this season after vehemently carrying on an argument over a strike-three call that Andrew Benintendi started to end the fifth.

As with Miley in Milwaukee, Boston starter Chris Sale falls victim to the quick hook as he’s removed after just four innings; he had thrown 86 pitches, but after early wildness had appeared to recover and was looking locked in on the Astros. This one was all the more unfathomable given Sale’s ace status—and the fact that the Boston bullpen isn’t as loaded as Milwaukee’s.

The next day, Sale will be admitted to a Boston-area hospital with a stomach illness; he will remain there for a few days and then be given an A-OK, after tests reveal no major issues. Sale will later allege to the press that the source of his pain was a ring connected to his belly button; even teammates will confide to reporters that it’s nothing more than a comical cover story.

Justin Verlander goes six innings for Houston and has now given up just nine hits over his last four postseason starts—tying the October record also held by Don Larsen from 1955-57, a stretch that also included his historic perfect game during the 1956 World Series.

The Astros score four times in the ninth to turn a tight contest into a runaway. In four postseason games thus far, they have scored a total of 28 runs—18 of them notched from the seventh inning on.

Sunday, October 14
Gerrit Cole picks a bad time to surrender five runs for the first time this season. The first-year Astro leaves the game after six innings on the trailing end of a back-and-forth 5-4 lead for the Red Sox at Boston—and the Sox eventually pull away with a 7-5 victory to even the ALCS at a game apiece. David Price starts for Boston and is once again shaky, but holds on long enough to throw 4.2 innings—his longest stint in his last five postseason starts—and although he doesn’t get official credit for the win, it’s the first time in 11 postseason starts that he’s begun a game that his team has eventually won. The 0-10 mark was the longest in playoff history.

In defeat, the Astros set a postseason mark by homering in their 14th straight game, thanks to Marwin Gonzalez’s solo shot in the third.

Monday, October 15
Behind Jhoulys Chacin’s 5.1 scoreless innings, the Brewers shut down the Dodgers at Los Angeles, 4-0, and take a 2-1 NLCS game lead. Offensively, Milwaukee gets solo runs in the first and sixth innings, then get prime insurance in the seventh on Orlando Arcia’s two-run homer—his third of the playoffs, matching his entire regular season total. The Dodgers make it interesting in the ninth, loading the bases with just one out off of Jeremy Jeffress—who then strikes out the next two batters to preserve the victory and the shutout.

Starting pitchers for Milwaukee have a 0.35 ERA thus far in the postseason over 25.2 innings of work.

The shutout loss breaks a streak of 50 straight playoff home games in which the Dodgers had scored at least one run.

It’s a rough night in what’s rapidly becoming a nightmare series for Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal. He commits his third passed ball to tie a postseason series record and, even though he nets a double at the plate, he strikes out in his other three at-bats—including an ultimate chance for redemption in the ninth when he whiffs with one out against the struggling Jeffress.

Atlanta manager Brian Snitker, who’s never had a multi-year contract over his 42 years working for the Braves organization, is given a two-year extension to continue piloting the team. This is an obvious reward for leading the Braves to an unexpected NL East title in 2018.

Tuesday, October 16
With the ALCS moving on to Houston, the Red Sox take Game Three with an 8-2 win behind Nathan Eovaldi’s six solid innings and Jackie Bradley Jr.’s death blow in the eighth—a two-out grand slam to cap a five-run rally and turn a tight contest into an easy victory. Astros closer Roberto Osuna, who had allowed just two runs in 19.2 career postseason innings, gives up all five Boston runs in the eighth.

Bradley Jr.’s slam is the first in the playoffs by a player batting last in the order since Baltimore pitcher Dave McNally in the 1970 World Series.

The Astros are beaten on the field and admonished off it after it’s reported that they’ve planted a front-office employee in the photographer’s box alongside the opponents’ dugout throughout the playoffs, against MLB rules. The team’s claim: That he was inserted there to make sure that opponents aren’t stealing signs from the Astros. The Red Sox, and the Indians before them during the ALDS, theorize the opposite—that the Astros are actually using the employee to commit sign-stealing crimes. No penalty is assessed against Houston beyond the banishment of the employee, enraging other MLB team execs who publicly suggest that the Astros are getting off light.

Despite 17 strikeouts and no runs allowed from six Milwaukee relievers over 12 innings, the Dodgers manage to squeak out a 2-1 victory when Cody Bellinger—who had made a spectacular diving catch in right field in the top of the 13th—ends it in the bottom half of the frame with a single to bring home Manny Machado with the winning run in a 2-1 game. The Los Angeles victory evens up the NLCS at two games apiece.

No team has won a playoff game in as many innings without the benefit of an extra-base hit. All seven of the Dodgers’ hits are singles.

There’s controversy in the 10th when Machado grounds out, but in the process appears to lower his knee to knock Milwaukee first baseman Jesus Aguilar’s feet off the bag. Aguilar is unhappy about the move and confronts Machado about it, leading to a brief emptying of the benches. Machado will later be fined $10,000 by MLB for his stunt.

Machado certainly looks to be staking a claim as the series’ bad boy, having infuriated the Brewers the day before with two rough slides into second—and the Dodgers themselves earlier in the series at Milwaukee when he failed to hustle to first on a ground ball, later admitting that charging down the line is not his thing. “A dirty play by a dirty player,” laments the Brewers’ Christian Yelich after the game on the dust-up with Aguilar, before walking away from reporters and yelling out a choice expletive to further describe Machado.

The Miami Marlins get permission from the board of the Miami-Dade County’s Art in Public Places to move the 73-foot-tall, love-it-or-hate-it home run sculpture from behind the center-field wall at Marlins Park outside to an adjacent plaza. The sculpture, which comes to life like a Chinese pinball machine whenever a Marlins player hits a home run, was an immediate target of new Marlins co-owner Derek Jeter after his regime took over the franchise a year ago. It is said that the sculpture will still operate, going into action every afternoon at 3:05—matching the telephone area code of its location.

The Los Angeles Angels announce that they are opting out of its lease with Angel Stadium of Anaheim, allowing them to move out of the place they’ve called home for 53 years following the 2019 season. This doesn’t mean that an actual move is imminent; the decision was made because after today, they would not have had another opportunity to break from the lease until 2028. The Angels are exploring possible new ballpark sites in nearby towns, with Tustin named as the current likely landing spot.

In response to the Angels’ decision, the Orange County Register ‘s Jonathan Lansner puts his rolling eyes into words: “It’s clear this is a ploy to make baseball in Anaheim more profitable for billionaire owner Arte Moreno…If I were, say, the god of Anaheim, I’d quickly take the Angels up on their lease termination and tell them today, without any negotiations, they should have their bags packed once the baseball season ends in 2019.”

Wednesday, October 17
Reconvening just over 16 hours after wrapping up Game Four, the Brewers and Dodgers return to Dodger Stadium and get off to an unusual start when Milwaukee starter Wade Miley departs after just one batter, walking Cody Bellinger. Miley is not hurt or looking horribly ineffective; rather, this is Brewers manager Craig Counsell’s idea of a fast one, hoping to replace the left-handed Miley with a right-hander (Brandon Woodruff) to throttle the Dodgers’ right-handed-heavy lineup. It doesn’t work; Woodruff is fine until the fifth, but that’s when he gives up one run—and then two more in the sixth before departing. Meanwhile, Clayton Kershaw holds the Brewers down for seven excellent innings, and Los Angeles emerges with a 5-2 victory to take the NLCS lead at 3-2.

Miley is only the second starting pitcher in postseason history to depart after just one batter; the other was Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto in the 2012 NLDS against San Francisco—though unlike Miley, Cueto was lifted not by design, but rather forced out with back spasms.

The Red Sox defeat the Astros at Houston, 8-6, and take a 3-1 ALCS lead—but not without major controversy. Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the first, the Astros’ Jose Altuve launches an opposite-field drive that leads Boston right fielder Mookie Betts to jump high above the top of the wall—but his bid for a brilliant catch is disrupted by several fans trying to grab a souvenir. The ball ricochets off the side of Betts’ glove and back onto the field—and Altuve is called out for interference by veteran umpire Joe West, patrolling the right-field area. Video reviewers back in New York uphold West’s call, sending Altuve, the Astros and their fans into a rage. The suspense carries on with numerous lead changes—the last one taking place in the sixth when Jackie Bradley Jr. goes deep for the second time in as many nights, drilling a two-run shot to give the Sox a 6-5 lead. The Astros’ bid to change the lead again dies in the ninth when, with two outs and two on, Alex Bregman’s short liner to left is snared on an outstanding, all-or-nothing forward dive by Boston’s Andrew Benintendi to wrap up the game.

Did Joe West make the right call? Debatable. There was no doubt that Altuve’s ball had home run distance; the question was, did the fans make contact with Betts’ glove behind the wall or in front of it, in the airspace of fair territory? Most experts seem to believe that it should have been called a home run, but there is no conclusive evidence to prove either way—and the video reviewers thus have no choice but to uphold West’s call.

Bradley Jr. has knocked in nine runs over the last three games—seven of them with the bases loaded. This clutch hitting will ultimately earn him ALCS MVP honors.

The game lasts four hours and 33 minutes—the second longest nine-inning playoff contest by time, after a 4:37 elapse in NLDS Game Five in 2017 between the Cubs and Washington Nationals.

Thursday, October 18
The Boston Red Sox win at Houston, 4-1, to take the ALCS over the Astros by a similar count for their 13th pennant—winning four straight after the Astros had taken Game One, including all three at Minute Maid Park. David Price, so previously beleaguered in October—and for good reason, given he had not won a game in 11 previous postseason starts—fires six shutout innings on three hits, no walks and nine strikeouts; J.D. Martinez’s solo homer in the third, followed by Rafael Devers’ three-run blast in the sixth, accounts for all of Boston’s scoring. All four runs are charged to Houston ace Justin Verlander, the most he’s allowed in a postseason game since the 2012 World Series for Detroit; in 13 appearances in between, he had posted a 2.01 ERA.

The Astros’ series loss will extend baseball’s streak of seasons without a repeat champion to 18, since the Yankees won back-to-back-to-back titles from 1998-2000. That’s the longest such streak in American pro sports history, matching the National Basketball Association from 1970-87.

Though both teams post relatively similar numbers offensively, one split reveals why the Red Sox took the series: They hit .342 with runners in scoring position, as opposed to the Astros’ .237 figure.

The Red Sox’ triumph provides Boston manager Alex Cora, who turns 43 today, with a nice birthday gift.

Friday, October 19
The Brewers thump the Dodgers 7-2 in NLCS Game Six at Milwaukee to force a decisive seventh game of the series. After quickly trailing 1-0 on David Freese’s leadoff home run, the Brewers rally for four runs in the bottom of the first—all with two outs—to set the tone for the evening. Wade Miley starts for the second straight game and lasts much longer than in his previous outing, but still doesn’t make it past the fifth to earn the victory; that honor goes to Corey Knebel, the first of three Milwaukee relievers to shut the door on the Dodgers. In fact, the Brewers’ bullpen doesn’t allow a single baserunner except for when Knebel hits Joc Pederson in the sixth.

The 4.2 innings pitched by the Milwaukee pen without a hit or walk allowed are the most in any postseason game by relievers, ever. The 38.1 innings thrown by the Brewers’ bullpen in the NLCS has already broken a postseason record for the most totaled by relievers in any one playoff series.

Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu is tagged with all four first-inning runs; he did not allow more than three earned runs in any of his 17 starts this year, postseason included.

Saturday, October 20
For the first time since the 1977-78 seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers earn back-to-back National League pennants with a 5-1 victory at Milwaukee in NLCS Game Seven. The Brewers score first on a solo Christian Yelich homer in the first inning, but it’s all Los Angeles from there. Manny Machado, perhaps answering the cascading boos of the Brewers’ fans, daringly bunts his way on in the second with a 3-2 pitch from Jhoulys Chacin; Cody Bellinger follows with a two-run homer to give the Dodgers the lead. But the definitive blow comes in the sixth when Yasiel Puig drills a three-run, two-out homer to right-center to complete the Los Angeles scoring. The Brewers have little fight left, garnering just one hit over the final four innings as they fail in their bid to reach the World Series for only the second time in their existence, and the first time since 1982.

Machado's bunt hit on a 3-2 count was the first seen in the majors since Nori Aoki did it in a 2014 regular season game.

For all the talk about Milwaukee’s vaunted bullpen, the Dodgers’ was far better in this series—posting a 1.45 ERA with a 3-0 record. Jeremy Jeffress, who serves up Puig’s home run, would probably like to forget about this October more than any other Brewer, as he allowed six runs on 16 hits over eight innings while converting only one of three save opportunities.

Both teams combine to strike out an all-time postseason record 161 times during the series. The Dodgers’ 82 and the Brewers’ 79 both also break the former mark by one team, when the Red Sox suffered 73 Ks in the 2013 ALCS against Detroit—though they needed only six games to set that record.

The home team is now 55-57 in winner-take-all games in baseball postseason history.

The Dodgers will meet the Red Sox for the first time in the World Series since 1916, when Boston easily beat the team known as the Brooklyn Robins in five games.

Sunday, October 21
Two teams introduce new managers. In Anaheim, the Angels announce that Brad Ausmus will take over as Mike Scioscia’s replacement. Ausmus has four years’ experience at the pilot level, leading the Detroit Tigers from 2014-17. Meanwhile in Cincinnati, the Reds name David Bell as their new manager. This will be the first lead position at the top for Bell, who played 12 years in the majors as an infielder and five years as a coach for the Cubs and Cardinals; from 2008-11, he served as manager for minor league teams within the Reds’ organization.

Monday, October 22
After a season spent in tank mode, the Marlins show off what may be a significant part of a better future. The team signs two Cuban brothers, both outfielders—Victor Victor Mesa, 22, and his young sibling Victor Mesa, Jr., 17—for a total of $6.25 million dollars. The older Mesa will get the bulk of that pay, at $5.25 million, as he currently reigns as the top international prospect in spite of some inconsistent numbers playing in the Cuban leagues. The move is viewed to be a win-win for the Marlins, who could use not only more talent but more fans—especially from an expansive Cuban community that perhaps will be more inclined to show up to watch one (or two) of their own.

There’s no explanation as to why it’s “Victor Victor,” but the Marlins carry a sense of humor and change their Twitter handle on the day to “Miami Miami Marlins.”

Hank Greenwald, the popular radio and TV voice for the San Francisco Giants for 16 years, dies of heart and kidney complications at age 83. Praised for his sardonic wit (which came in handy during a particularly lousy time for the Giants in the early 1980s), Greenwald began with San Francisco in 1979 and retired after the 1996 season; mixed within that timeline was two years spent as the play-by-play man for the Yankees, later saying that there’s two zoos in New York—and one of them is at Yankee Stadium.

Tuesday, October 23
The Red Sox ping-pong their way to an 8-4 win in the first game of the World Series at Boston, pulling away from a tight contest in the seventh on a two-out, three-run jack by pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez. Neither ace starter—Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw or Boston’s Chris Sale—are particularly effective as both could only make it a few batters into the fifth before being removed. The Dodgers never lead and can only tie the game, in the third and fifth innings—only for Boston to respond with rallies to retake the lead. Andrew Benintendi has four hits and scores three runs for the Red Sox.

This is the first time in which both World Series managers—Boston’s Alex Cora and Los Angeles’ Dave Roberts—had previous played for both teams.

Nunez’s homer is the third allowed this postseason by the Dodgers’ Alex Wood; of the other two, one was given up to the first batter he faced (NLDS Game Three at Atlanta), and the other to the second batter (NLCS Game Two at Milwaukee).

Wednesday, October 24
Another chilly night at Boston leaves the Dodgers’ bats cold as they can only muster three hits in a 4-2 loss to the Red Sox, dropping to a rough 0-2 hole in the World Series. All three of Los Angeles’ hits—and both of its runs—come in the fourth as they rally to take a 2-1 lead off of Boston starter David Price. But an inning later, Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, who had retired the first two batters of the inning, allows Boston to load the bases —and manager Dave Roberts replaces him for Ryan Madson, who walks the first batter (Steve Pearce) he faces to allow the Red Sox to tie the game, before giving up a two-run single to J.D. Martinez that will cap the night’s scoring. Price and three Boston relievers combine to retire the final 16 Dodgers—the longest such streak to end a World Series game since Don Larsen’s perfecto in 1956.

Ryu is the first Korean native to start a World Series game.

The Red Sox’ Rafael Devers fails to knock in a run, ending his streak of postseason games with at least one RBI to start a career at nine. That had tied a record also held by Lou Gehrig, Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez.

St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina wins the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, which rewards major leaguers for their outstanding service to community. In Molina’s case, he was instrumental with helping residents of his native Puerto Rico, slammed a year ago by Hurricane Maria, back on their feet.

Thursday, October 25
The Tampa Bay Rays will be looking for new base coaches after the two who served the team over the past three years are named managers elsewhere. At Toronto, Charlie Montoyo is selected as the Blue Jays’ new pilot after hanging out at the third base coaches’ box at St. Petersburg; from the opposite site at first base, former Rays player Rocco Baldelli accepts the managerial job at Minnesota. Montoyo’s playing career consisted of four games, two hits and three RBIs for the Montreal Expos in 1993; Baldelli appeared to be a star on the rise until an unusual condition that caused accelerated fatigue derailed such ambitions.

Friday, October 26
In a punishing and historic World Series game that tests the physical and mental endurance of the players and even those watching, the Dodgers triumph over the Red Sox, 3-2, on Max Muncy’s solo home run in the 18th inning at Los Angeles. The Dodgers desperately needed this; had they lost—and they came close, trailing 2-1 in the 13th before tying it back up in the bottom of the frame with a small-ball rally—they would have fallen behind 3-0 in the series and likely would have been drained of any remaining fight. Instead it’s the Red Sox who, despite still holding a 2-1 lead in the series, must now recollect and rebound after a long, tough loss.

At an exhausting seven hours and 20 minutes, Game Three is the longest postseason game by time, ever; it falls just 46 minutes shy of the 8:06 that’s the longest for any major league game ever played, regular season or post. The 18 innings also shatter a World Series mark (the previous record was 14) and ties NLDS affairs between Houston and Atlanta (2005) and San Francisco and Washington (2014) for the longest postseason game by innings.

There are many intriguing sidebars to this game, as one might expect. Rookie Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler is electric and is deserving of more than a no-decision, as he shuts down the potent Boston offense with seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits and no walks while constantly throwing upwards of 99 MPH. Likewise, Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi—throwing 97 pitches after one-inning relief stints in both Games One and Two—keeps the speedometer hot with deliveries topping out at 101 after entering the game in the 12th, keeping the Dodgers in check until Muncy’s leadoff homer ends it. Then there’s the Dodgers’ Manny Machado, whose only hit of the night is a single—hit off the top of the left-field wall; he admired it at the plate after spanking it, believing he had homered, then raced just to get to first. Then there’s Boston third baseman Eduardo Nunez, who hurts his ankle after being unintentionally tossed upside down by Los Angeles catcher Austin Barnes (chasing a wild pitch through Nunez’s legs), survives a head-first slide at first to bring home the Red Sox’ run in the 13th, crash-lands in the first row of the third-base side stands after making a running catch of a foul ball an inning later, and shortly afterward stumbles and falls on the mound while catching a pop fly.

There is a total of 18 pitchers used (nine by each team), setting a postseason mark.

The top four batting spots of the Red Sox’ lineup goes a combined 0-for-28. That’s the most at-bats without a hit by the 1-4 spots in any major league game, regular or postseason, since 1900.

STATS says that the elapsed time for this game is longer than that of the entire 1939 World Series, a four-game sweep by the Yankees over the Reds.

We looked it up: There are 123 foul balls in this game.

Saturday, October 27
Down 4-0 at Los Angeles after six innings, with all the momentum of their early 2-0 World Series lead seemingly out the door, the Red Sox bust out and rack up nine unanswered runs and triumph 9-6 to move up three games to one in the series. Both starting pitchers are sharp, but Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez is perhaps pulled one batter too late when he serves up a three-run homer to Yasiel Puig to cap the Dodgers’ four-run rally in the sixth—and Los Angeles’ Rich Hill is, perhaps, pulled one or more hitters too early when he is removed with one on and one out in the seventh, having allowed just one hit and three walks without a run to that point. Two Dodgers relievers and three Red Sox hitters later, Boston closes its deficit to 4-3 on Mitch Moreland’s blast deep into the right-field bleachers. An inning later, the Red Sox tie it on a solo shot from Steve Pearce off of Dodgers closer Kanley Jensen, who for the second straight night blows a chance at a two-inning save by allowing a game-tying homer. And in the ninth, the Red Sox explode for five runs to take command, the brutal blow coming on Pearce’s bases-clearing double. Kiki Henandez’s two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth is too little, too late for the Dodgers.

This is the first time all year that the Dodgers had blown a four-run lead and lost.

Who was the last team to score nine or more runs after being shut out through the first six innings of a World Series game? The Philadelphia A’s, who rallied for all 10 of their runs in the seventh inning of Game Four against the Chicago Cubs in 1929, ultimately winning 10-8.

Sunday, October 28
In almost anticlimactic fashion, the Red Sox defeat the Dodgers at Los Angeles, 5-1, to win the World Series in five games. It’s their ninth championship in franchise history, and the fourth in just the last 15 years. The top half of the order, which had been largely dormant in the previous two games, comes to life with four home runs to account for all of the scoring. Mookie Betts ends a 0-for-13 slide by going deep, J.D. Martinez snaps a 0-for-9 drought with a homer of his own, and Steve Pearce hammers two shots over the fence—including a two-run blast in the first to set the pace for the evening—and earns series MVP honors as a result. David Price, pitching on three days’ rest (not including a relief effort of two-thirds of an inning in the Game Three marathon) is blemished by only three hits (including a solo homer from David Freese in the first) over seven innings to pick up his third win of the postseason.

The Red Sox are the first team to beat each of the previous year’s two World Series entrants (the Dodgers and Astros) from the following postseason on their way to a world title.

The 35-year-old Pearce, who over the last seven years has suited up for all five AL East teams at some point, wins MVP honors despite not getting a hit until Game Four. He’s 4-for-12 overall in the series, but all four of his hits are for extra bases—three home runs and the bases-clearing double that was the core moment of the Red Sox’ five-run outburst to end Game Four. Surely some votes also went to Price, who won both his starts and allowed three runs on seven hits over 13.2 innings.

The losing pitcher for the Dodgers is Clayton Kershaw, who owns a 6.06 ERA in “elimination” games. The Los Angeles ace finishes off a hot-and-cold postseason in which he goes 2-3 with a 4.20 ERA—pretty much on par with his largely disappointing playoff numbers in his career to date. Though he has two years remaining on a contract that will pay him nearly $70 million, Kershaw has an opt-out clause that he may act upon following the season—but given his age (he’ll be 31 next Opening Day), persistent back issues and lack of dominance in the postseason, will he be able to find a new suitor that will give him the money he thinks he deserves?

Fox, which was thrilled to have two historically revered, loyally followed teams from large markets represented in the World Series, are shocked to discover that ratings for the Fall Classic are down a whopping 25% from last year’s series between the Dodgers and Houston. The blame game will center on the one-sided nature of the series and the epic length of the games; the marathon Game Three (seven hours and 20 minutes), played in California, ended at 3:30 a.m. East Coast time. Don’t think commissioner Rob Manfred, who’s itching to make changes that possibly could border on the stupid, isn’t taking note.

Monday, October 29
The Mets name Brodie Van Wagenen as their new general manager, raising eyebrows throughout baseball because he is a former agent—and among his clients are current Mets Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier. Of course, he’ll have to give all that up, but this is the first time an agent has ever been tagged to take on a GM role—with the exception of when former pitcher Dave Stewart dabbled in the trade before being the Arizona GM from 2014-16.

With the season officially over, teams begin making roster decisions for 2019 with several club options on players declined and accepted. The Diamondbacks say yes to keeping MVP-caliber star Paul Goldschmidt for $14.5 million, while the Giants exercise their options on ace Madison Bumgarner ($12 million) and infielder Pablo Sandoval—whose $17.5 million tab will be picked up by the Red Sox after they released him in 2017. Declined for 2019 is veteran Chicago White Sox pitcher James Shields, who was 7-16 with a 4.53 ERA in 2018; he would have made $16 million next year.

Tuesday, October 30
Two top AL pitchers have team options exercised for 2019. Boston’s Chris Sale will get paid $15 million in what will be the final year of his team-friendly deal he signed back in 2013 with the White Sox; Cleveland, meanwhile will pick up a $9.75 million option of pitcher Carlos Carrasco, the first of two team options the team has with the right-hander.

Other players aren’t so lucky. Minnesota says no to options on veteran pitcher Ervin Santana ($14 million) and DH/infielder Logan Morrison ($8 million), both of whom had atrocious years for the Twins. Kansas City rejects a team option on pitcher Jason Hammel ($12 million) after he produced a 4-14 record and 6.08 ERA; Colorado says no to outfielder Gerardo Parra ($12 million); and Seattle declines a $12 million option on outfielder Denard Span. They all become agents.

Miami’s J.T. Realmuto, so angry over the trading of his star teammates before 2018 that he demanded a trade to follow them out of town, hasn’t apparently tempered his rage. Realmuto’s agent Jeff Berry tells MLB Network Radio that the All-Star catcher will “definitely be wearing a different uniform by the start of spring training.” Realmuto is not eligible for free agency until 2021.

Former pitcher Bill Fischer, who led a unremarkable career sprinkled with a couple of historic moments, dies at the age of 88. The right-hander played for nine years in the majors for five teams—six if you count the Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins as separate teams—and recorded a career 45-58 record and 4.34 ERA. He owns a firm place in the record book by pitching 84.1 consecutive innings in 1962 without allowing a walk, splitting his time during the run as a starter and reliever for the Kansas City A’s. A year later, he achieved a bit of infamy for serving up what might have been the hardest ball Mickey Mantle ever hit; it might have also been the longest hit by Mantle, but the Yankee Stadium overhang frieze atop the third deck got in the way.

Wednesday, October 31
Willie McCovey, one of the most fearsome hitters of his time and arguably the most popular player ever to wear a San Francisco Giants uniform, passes away in Palo Alto, California at age 80. Nicknamed Stretch for his remarkable range at first base, McCovey burst onto the scene in 1959 with four hits—two singles and two triples—in his first game for the Giants against the Philadelphia Phillies and future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. He hit .354 in 52 games that season to garner NL Rookie of the Year honors; more trophyware came along in 1969 when he won both the NL MVP and All-Star Game MVP, as he produced his most thunderous numbers with a .320 average, 45 home runs, 126 RBIs and 121 walks—45 of them intentional, setting a major league mark that would hold up until Barry Bonds became impossible to pitch to in the 2000s. McCovey would three times lead the NL in home runs and twice in RBIs; by the time his career finished in 1980, he had amassed 521 home runs, 18 of them with the bases loaded—the latter figure still the most in NL history. Enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1986, McCovey was highly regarded for his gentle nature and remained a popular figure in San Francisco long after his retirement; the Giants eventually named an award after him that annually honors the team’s most inspirational player. He had long been in poor health from a number of ailments. Personal note:

The very first Giants game I ever saw was on July 15, 1973 as San Francisco tore apart the Pirates, 12-0. On that day, McCovey hit his 400th career home run—then in his next at-bat launched his 401st, a majestic shot, into the upper deck of Candlestick Park. Needless to say, I became a fan of the Giants—and McCovey—for life.—Eric

In what’s become something of a familiar sight over the last 15 years after a long drought, the Red Sox parade through downtown Boston in duck boats in front of several hundred thousand fans to celebrate their fourth world title since 2004. You would think Bostonians would have learned to behave by now—but no, not really. The local “tradition” of throwing unopened beer cars during championship parades rears its ugly heads; one strikes Red Sox manager Alex Cora, the other hits the World Series trophy and knocks one or more of its flags loose. Police find and arrest a 19-year old who throws the can toward Cora; the kid later states, “I love Cora. I didn’t mean to hit him.”

Good news for the Red Sox precedes the parade. Pitcher David Price announces that he will not opt out of his current contract, guaranteeing that he’ll be paid $127 million over the next four seasons. “I’m not going anywhere,” he steadfastly asserts.

More options are activated or declined on major leaguers. The Cubs will keep pitcher Jose Quintana for 2019 at $10.5 million; Toronto picks up slugger Justin Smoak’s $8 million option; and Oakland reliever Fernando Rodney, who turns 42 next March, will return after the A’s pick up his option. Houston, meanwhile, declines a $15 million option on catcher Brian McCann, while the Pirates say goodbye (for now) to infielders Josh Harrison and Jung-Ho Kang, the latter of whom has rarely seen any action over the last several years due to DUI issues back in his native Korea.


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