This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: October 2022

Is Aaron Judge the True Home Run King?    Rampage of the Sixth-Seeded Phillies
It’s Wait ’Til Next Year (Again) for the Dodgers

September 2022    Comebacker Index    November 2022

Saturday, October 1

The Los Angeles Angels and star slugger/pitcher Shohei Ohtani skip potential arbitration and agree on a $30 million contract for 2023. It’s the highest-ever single-year salary for an arbitration-eligible player. He’ll still be out-salaried by two teammates: Mike Trout ($35.5 million) and, yes, Anthony Rendon ($35 million)—and he’ll still be a free agent after next year.

A night after defeating Jacob deGrom, the Atlanta Braves overcome the New York Mets’ other star ace, Max Scherzer, scoring all four runs they’ll need off the 38-year old to take both a 4-2 home win and sole possession of first place in the NL East. Kyle Wright throws five innings to collect his MLB-leading 21st win (against just five losses); in defeat, Scherzer passes Ferguson Jenkins for #12 on the all-time strikeout list, as his 4 K’s give him 3,193 for his career.

The Los Angeles Dodgers become the first National League team since the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates—and the first in MLB since Seattle in 2001—to win 110 games, notching the achievement with a come-from-behind, 6-4 home win over the Colorado Rockies. Cody Bellinger ties the game in the seventh with a sacrifice fly, then caps the scoring an inning later with an RBI single. The victory is the Dodgers’ 94th by multiple runs this season, setting a MLB record previously held by the 1998 New York Yankees.

The Rockies, as they often do, continue to show just how awful they are away from mile-high Coors Field. With the loss at Los Angeles, Colorado is 24-53 on the road—the worst such mark in MLB. Since the start of the 2019 season, the Rockies are 144-129 at home—and 92-176 on the road.

Houston’s Cristian Javier extends his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 25.1, throwing six shutout frames in the Astros’ 2-1 home win over Tampa Bay. Javier allows just two hits; over his last four starts, he’s given up just six hits over 23 scoreless innings. The franchise record for consecutive scoreless frames is 33 by Roy Oswalt in 2008; Javier will likely have to wait until the start of the 2023 season to topple the mark, as this is his last start of the regular season.

Sunday, October 2

The Braves finish off a three-game sweep of the Mets and, as a result, hold their biggest lead of the year in the NL East at two games—with three left to play in the regular season. After an early 3-1 deficit, the Braves rally for three in the bottom of the third, then add insurance in the sixth on Matt Olson’s solo home run—all while the bullpen allows just three baserunners over the final 4.2 shutout innings after starter Charlie Morton’s departure to take a 5-3 win. The victory is more the crucial for the Braves as it wins the season series against New York, 10-9; they thus need to win only one of three games in their final series, at Miami—or, the Mets need to lose one of three in their final block of games at home against lowly Washington—to take the NL East by tiebreaker.

Added wow factor is attached to the victory, as it’s the 100th of the year for the Braves; it’s the first time since 2003 that the team has reached triple digits in wins, and the seventh time since moving to Atlanta in 1966. The Braves never won 100 or more in 13 years at Milwaukee, and only managed it once while in Boston, in 1898.

The Marlins rehearse their role as potential spoilers to the Braves’ NL East quest by all but knocking the Brewers out of the playoff picture at Milwaukee. Despite blowing a late 2-0 lead, the Marlins rebound by notching the ultimate winning run in the 12th to triumph, 4-3. With the defeat, the Brewers fall two games behind Philadelphia (8-1 winners at Washington) for the final NL wild card spot. Like the Braves against the Mets, the Phillies hold not only a two-game lead over the Brewers but also the tie-breaker advantage, having won four of six against Milwaukee during the regular season. The Phillies finish out the season at Houston; the Brewers get three at home against Arizona.

The Brewers’ loss clinches a playoff spot for the San Diego Padres, who lose at home to the Chicago White Sox, 2-1. While the Padres will finish the year no worse than identical 87-75 records with Milwaukee, they own the tiebreaker as well—winning four of seven against the Brewers this season.

The Phillies’ win at Washington is the 19th loss on the year for Nationals starter Patrick Corbin; that’s the most losses suffered by a major leaguer since 2016, when both James Shields and Chris Archer also lost 19. This is Corbin’s last appearance of the year, so he’s not going to get the opportunity to become the first 20-game loser since Detroit’s Mike Maroth in 2003.

In the St. Louis Cardinals’ regular season home finale, Albert Pujols knocks in three runs on a double and 702nd career homer to tie Babe Ruth for second on the all-time RBI list with 2,214. It’s not only the final regular season game at St. Louis for Pujols, but also catcher Yadier Molina and (possibly) starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, who has yet to declare his status for 2023. All three depart the game in the fifth at the same moment to a rousing ovation form the Redbirds’ faithful.

Monday, October 3

On the eve of his 78th birthday, Tony La Russa is retiring from the game for a second time, finishing a throwback tenure with the White Sox cut short to just under two years when he left the team on August 30 to deal with heart issues. Such health concerns prompted La Russa, who had one year left on his contract, to step away from the game for good. While piloting the White Sox—the same team he began his managerial career back in 1979—La Russa passed John McGraw for second place on the all-time list of wins. Only Connie Mack has managed more games in baseball history.

The Phillies, who took over as the team with the longest playoff drought after the Mariners ended their 21-year dry spell last week, have taken themselves off the list of shame. Aaron Nola takes a perfect game two outs into the seventh inning before allowing back-to-back hits, while Kyle Schwarber goes deep twice to extend his NL home run lead to 46 as Philadelphia takes a 3-0 win over the resting-up Astros in Houston. It will be the first postseason participation for the Phillies in 11 years; the Angels and Tigers now share MLB’s longest active playoff drought, at eight seasons each.

Schwarber’s two multiple-homer games within one October (regular season only) is a first by a major leaguer in the modern (post-1900) era.

Luis Severino steals the spotlight from Aaron Judge as the Yankees begin their final regular season series at Texas against the Rangers. The burly right-hander, making his third start after missing two months to injury, pitches seven no-hit innings on 94 pitches before being removed; Miguel Castro allows a run on two hits in his one inning of work to follow, spoiling both the no-no and shutout, but the Yankees go on to win, 3-1. Judge can only manage a check-swing infield hit in four at-bats, as he remains tied with Roger Maris among AL players with 61 homers in a season; he has just one round-tripper over his last 12 games, but he does run his streak of consecutive games reaching base safely to 31, the longest active in the majors.

Albert Pujols passes Babe Ruth for #2 on the all-time RBI list with a two-run homer at Pittsburgh, where he’s always loved killing the ball; besides being his 703rd career homer, it’s his 35th at PNC Park—by far the most by a visiting player. Pujols’ shot is the only offense on the night for the Cardinals, who bow to the Pirates by a 3-2 score.

Tuesday, October 4

With only a handful of available at-bats to spare in the 2022 regular season, the Yankees’ Aaron Judge becomes the all-time AL home run season king, bashing his 62nd of the year in his first at-bat of a doubleheader nightcap at Texas to pass Roger Maris’ famed 61 round-trippers from 1961. Judge’s historic blast, lofted high into the indoor air of Arlington’s Globe Life Field, is belted off of Rangers ‘opener’ Jesus Tinoco. Catching it in the first row of the left-field bleachers is Rangers fan Cory Youmans, a Dallas resident who’s married to a former contestant on The Bachelor. Youmans says he’s deciding what to do with the ball, which some sources say could be worth up to $2 million.

Judge tells reporters after the game, “It would be great to get (the ball) back, but that’s a souvenir for the fan…(Youmans) has every right to keep it.”

Numerous folks point out that the Yankees improve their record to 99-62 in a game in which Judge, wearing #99, hits home run #62.

Judge has one more goal to achieve in the regular season finale; winning the AL triple crown of hitting. Well ahead in the home run and RBI counts, Judge ends the day four batting points behind Minnesota’s Luis Arraez (.315) for the AL batting lead. Here’s our prediction: Judge starts at Texas, Arraez sits at Chicago against the White Sox. Judge needs to get four hits in four at-bats to pass the idle Arraez; if he goes hitless in his first two at-bats, he concedes and sits out the rest of the day. If Judge manages to poke out those four hits, Arraez will be scurried up to the plate in a pinch-hit role to try and retake the lead. The final story, tomorrow.

The Braves clinch the NL East with a 2-1 nail-biter at Miami, making what should be an easy win too close as they continuously place runners on base and, in large part, fail to bring them home—leaving 13 men stranded throughout the night. The ultimate winning run crosses the plate in the fifth on William Contreras’ infield single; Jake Odorizzi throws five strong innings and is backed up by an equally strong bullpen to keep the Marlins from a successful comeback. Kenley Jansen wraps it up with his NL-leading 41st save and 391st of his career, passing Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the all-time list.

In trying to enhance a run-scoring rally in the fourth inning, Atlanta rookie Michael Harris II lays down a sacrifice bunt that’s the first of the year for the Braves. They are still likely to set the record for the fewest sac bunts in a full season; the old mark is four by the 2019 Angels.

In defeating the Marlins, the Braves ensure their standing as the only MLB team this season not to be swept in a series of three or more games.

As the Braves clinch, the Mets have to settle for second place and a wild card spot as they yet again blow another bid to finish first in the East. This, despite a doubleheader sweep of the lowly Nationals (55-106) at New York by scores of 4-2 and 8-0—giving the Mets their fourth season of 100 or more wins; they also hit triple-digits in their championship seasons of 1969 and 1986, as well as in 1988.

The Mets make history in the second game as their first three batters—Brandon Nimmo (see below), Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil—all hit home runs off the Nationals’ Paolo Espino. It’s the seventh time in MLB history that the first three batters have gone deep, and the second time this season (Minnesota, against the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole on June 9). Espino, who allows seven runs while getting just one out before being removed, drops to 0-9 on the year; only four other pitchers in the modern era have lost more games in a season without a win.

This is the sixth time since the divisional era began in 1969 that two teams from the same division win 100 or more games.

In his final tune-up before the playoffs, the Astros’ Justin Verlander goes the minimum five innings and doesn’t allow a hit—walking one and striking out 10—before being given the rest of the evening off as Houston lambasts the visiting Phillies, 10-0. The Astros’ bullpen keeps the no-hit bid intact into the ninth, when Will Smith gives up three singles before preserving the shutout.

The Houston win clinches American League supremacy against the National League in the interleague wars, winning its 151st game against 148 losses to the Senior Circuit. It’s the AL’s second straight season batting over .500 against the NL, and the 16th over the past 19 seasons.

The Pirates are saddled with their ninth 100-loss campaign in franchise history, dropping an 8-7 home decision to the Cardinals in 10 innings after St. Louis erases a late four-run deficit. It’s the second straight 100-loss season for the Pirates; they suffered three such seasons from 1952-54, when Ralph Kiner—and apparently no one else—ruled for the Bucs.

Playing a doubleheader and trying to preserve their bullpen for the upcoming first round of playoffs, the Mariners decide to throw catcher Luis Torrens to the mound and pitch the 10th inning of a 6-6 tie against the visiting Tigers. Torrens, by and large, gets the job done; a couple of fly outs manage to bring home one of the last gift runners we ever hope to see, but the Tigers fail to score a second run (that of the more earned kind) after an error and infield single. The Mariners respond in the bottom of the 10th with two runs to triumph, 7-6, and make Torrens the first position player since the Cubs’ John Baker in 2014 to earn credit for a victory. Seattle win take the second game as well, 9-6.

Wednesday, October 5

The Dodgers avoid finishing the year with a four-game losing streak—all against Colorado at Los Angeles—by defeating the Rockies, 6-1, for their 111th win. This gives the Dodgers a .685 winning percentage, topping the franchise record of .682 set back in 1899. Combined with 106 wins last year, the 217 total wins over the past two seasons are tied for the second-most in MLB history, surpassed only by the 1906-07 Cubs (who won 223). Additionally, the Dodgers end the year with a run differential of +334—tied for the fourth highest in major league history, while their 95 victories by multiple runs is an all-time mark. (Interestingly, they were a middling 16-15 in games decided by a run.)

Individually, Freddie Freeman knocks out three hits for Los Angeles but fails to pass the Mets’ Jeff McNeil, getting a day of rest, for the NL batting title. Freeman not only falls short of McNeil by one point (.326 to .325), he also finishes a hit shy of 200, leading the majors in that department. McNeil becomes the second batting champ in Mets history, following Jose Reyes (.337 in 2011).

On the AL side, Aaron Judge concedes the AL batting title—and thus any shot at winning the league’s triple crown—by being given the afternoon off a day after breaking Roger Maris’ AL home run season record. The Yankees lose to the Rangers at Arlington, 4-2, thus failing to secure what would have been their 22nd season with 100 or more wins.

Somewhat surprisingly, Minnesota’s Luis Arraez does start for the Twins at Chicago against the White Sox, and goes 1-for-1 with two walks—cementing the AL batting crown with a .316 average. It’s the lowest average by an AL batting titlist since Carl Yastrzemski barely scraped the .300 mark (at .301) in the so-called “Year of the Pitcher” of 1968.

The Reds become the fourth team this year to lose 100 games, getting trashed at home by the Cubs, 15-2. It’s only the second time in franchise history, dating back to 1882, that the Reds have lost at least 100; the other occurrence took place in 1982. Cincinnati finishes the season in a tie for last place in the NL Central with the Pirates, who defeat the Cardinals in their season finale, 5-3.

This is only the second time in the divisional (since 1969) era that two teams from the same division have suffered 100 defeats. It also happened in 2012, when the Cubs and Astros each finished with 101 and 107 losses, respectively. But both those teams each won a World Series within the next five years—so perhaps there’s hope for Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

The worst team, by the record, to not lose 100 games this year are the Royals, who end their 2022 schedule with a 9-2 defeat at Cleveland to finish 65-97. After the game, Kansas City fires manager Mike Matheny, who failed in three seasons to revive the Royals back to prominence. (A lack of talent from the front office didn’t help.) Matheny still holds an above-.500 record for his managerial career, thanks to six-plus years with the Cardinals—all of them resulting in winning ledgers.

While one manager loses his job, another has his temporary status removed. Phil Nevin, brought in by the Angels to replace Joe Maddon after 56 games this year, is given a one-year contract to stick around as the team pilot at Anaheim for 2023. Nevin was 46-60 as interim skipper this season.

In advance of their week-long break as a recipient of a first-round playoff bye, the Astros defeat the visiting Phillies, 3-2, to finish their regular season with 106 victories—one short of the franchise-record 107 captured in 2019. A day after Justin Verlander throws five no-hit innings with 10 strikeouts, Framber Valdez nearly delivers a carbon copy—allowing two hits over five shutout frames, also with 10 K’s. One of those strikeouts is tagged on the Phillies Kyle Schwarber, his 200th of the season; he thus breaks the Philadelphia record of 199 held by Ryan Howard in successive seasons (2007-08). Not that it’s all bad for Schwarber, whose 46 homers leads the NL; Howard, for his efforts, hit 47 in 2007 and 48 in 2008.

Friday, October 7

If the initial day of the first ever best-of-three ‘wild card’ round proves anything, it’s that you shouldn’t take home field advantage for granted. Three of the four home clubs—basically playing a best-of-three home series against lower seeded opponents—lose their first games.

The meltdown of the day takes place in St. Louis, where the Cardinals are coasting through eight innings with a 2-0 lead over Philadelphia. But it all falls apart in the ninth, as the Phillies score six times through no force of their own. St. Louis closer Ryan Helsley, playing with a faulty finger, walks two and hits a batter before he’s removed; the damage continues against Andre Pallante, as the Phillies find holes past infielders with routine grounders-turned-RBI singles.

Despite breaking down, Helsley officially gets credit for a hold. It’s why nobody pays attention to the stat.

The bigger upset takes place in New York, where the 101-win Mets are flattened by a feisty San Diego team, 7-1. Before a raucous Citi Field crowd, Max Scherzer takes the ball and gives up seven runs on seven hits—four of them home runs, tying a postseason record shared by 10 other pitchers—but only one of those, the Reds’ Gene Thompson in 1939 World Series Game Three, gave up more runs in his start. The Padres’ Yu Darvish, on the other hand, sails for seven innings—allowing a run on six hits to collect the win.

The Mariners, making their first playoff appearance in 21 years, also take Game One on the road as they get three quick first-inning runs off Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah and hold from there for a 4-0 victory at Toronto. Manoah had come into the game with an even 1.00 ERA over his last eight outings, all of them officially designated as quality starts; Luis Castillo, in his second postseason appearance (he started a game for the Reds against Atlanta in 2020), throws 7.1 shutout innings in picking up the victory.

The Guardians emerge as the only home team on the day to win the leadoff game, taking a crisp two hours and 17 minutes—the quickest time for a postseason game since 1999—to edge the Rays at Cleveland, 2-1. Jose Siri gives Tampa Bay the first strike with a solo homer in the sixth off the Guardians’ Shane Bieber, but in the bottom of the frame Jose Ramirez rebuts with a two-run shot off Rays starter Shane McClanahan for the ultimate game-winner.

Bieber throws 7.2 shutout innings, allowing three hits while striking out eight; McClanahan goes seven innings. Between these two pitchers, the Mariners’ Castillo and Padres’ Darvish, four pitchers on the day throw at least seven innings—matching the total number of pitchers to do so during the entire 2021 postseason.

Saturday, October 8

Toronto’s season comes crashing down on a single play in the eighth inning. Leading 9-6 over Seattle in the top of the eighth in Wild Card Series Game Two, the Blue Jays are one out away from getting out a bases-loaded jam when J.P. Crawford sends a pop-up into short center field; Jays center field George Springer comes in, shortstop Bo Bichette goes out—and they both collide, the ball spilling away to clear the bases and tie the game. A spirited sellout Rogers Centre crowd instantly goes silent as Bichette writhes in pain holding his arm, while Springer is all but knocked out. As Bichette recovers within minutes to continue playing, a clearly dazed Springer is carted off the field. The moment sucks all the life out of the Blue Jays; an inning later, Adam Frazier’s double will put the Mariners ahead to stay, 10-9—winning a game they earlier trailed by seven runs, and taking the best-of-three series at Toronto.

The Blue Jays were coasting after building up an 8-1 lead going into the sixth, thanks in large part to Teoscar Hernandez’s two home runs. But the Mariners load the bases with nobody out, and despite strike outs to the next two batters, the Blue Jays remove starting pitcher Kevin Gausman for Tim Mayza—whose first pitch to Carlos Santana is wild to score one run, and his third drilled for a three-run shot to put the Mariners back in the game.

Only one postseason game has seen a bigger comeback; Game Four of the 1929 World Series, when the Philadelphia A’s came roaring back from an 8-0 deficit to score 10 runs in the seventh to defeat the Cubs and ultimately win the series.

In an equally tense game of a far different kind, the Guardians advance at home with an exceptionally taut, 1-0 victory over the Rays that takes 15 innings to complete. The game is scoreless after nine, and stays scoreless into the 15th, with barely a threat from either side and a combined 39 strikeouts—the most ever in a postseason game. But Oscar Gonzalez, popular in Cleveland (and across MLB) for picking the theme to SpongeBob SquarePants as his walk-up music, wallops the second pitch he sees in the bottom of the 15th over the left-center field wall for the series winner.

The game goes well into extras because, unlike the regular season, MLB is not allowing the automatic “gift” runner on second to start every half-inning after the ninth—just as they haven’t for the past two seasons. This sparks plenty of commentary on Twitter, most of it embracing the burden of a team achieving the game-winning run the old-fashioned way—by earning it. The ensuing action results in strategies and moves on the field that feel far purer and less, well, gimmicky.

This is the longest a postseason game has gone scoreless—but that bar will be reset a week later.

The Phillies are the third team on the day to advance to the next round, shutting out—and shutting down—the Cardinals in St. Louis with a 2-0 victory. Aaron Nola starts and delivers 6.2 scoreless innings; three relievers take it from there, absorbing multiple Cardinals rallies but preserving the shutout. At the plate, Bryce Harper’s solo homer in the second opens the scoring; Kyle Schwarber’s sac fly in the fifth completes it.

In what be the final game of their Hall-of-Fame careers, Albert Pujols (two singles in four at-bats) and Yadier Molina (a single in four ABs) do their best, in vain, to jumpstart the Cardinals; MVP candidates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are absent in the two-and-out series, combining to go 1-for-15 with six strikeouts.

That leaves just one Game Three, as the Mets and Padres battle for the right to take on the almighty Dodgers in the NLDS. The Mets make it so with a 7-3 victory at New York, as Jacob deGrom allows two runs over six innings with eight strikeouts while Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso mash solo homers in advance of a four-run rally in the seventh that pulls the Mets into the safety zone. The Padres do threaten in the ninth, bringing home one run and loading the bases through no fault of their own as Mets reliever Adam Ottovino walks three batters and hits another; Seth Lugo comes to the rescue and retires Josh Bell, representing the tying run, on a ground out to end it.

Sunday, October 9

The Mets bow out and become the third team with full home field advantage in the best-of-three Wild Card Round to be defeated, losing Game Three to the Padres in definitive fashion, 6-0. Joe Musgrove does the stopping for San Diego, allowing just one hit through seven shutout innings; with two hitless innings of relief from the Padres’ pen, it’s the fewest hits allowed by a team taking a winner-take-all postseason game. On offense, the Padres nick away and build the lead throughout, capped by a two-run, opposite-field single for Juan Soto in the eighth that truly breaks the Mets’ backs.

With 101 wins, the Mets had the best record of any of the eight participants in the Wild Card round. Yet once again, they disappoint the hardened Citi Field faithful after looking so promising and leading the NL East for the bulk of the season. It’s almost become tradition for the Mets.

The Yankees will start their postseason without reliever and one-time closer Aroldis Chapman, after he skips a mandatory workout. According to manager Aaron Boone, Chapman stayed away because he figured he wouldn’t be included on the ALDS roster, anyway. Now, he definitely won’t. The 34-year-old Chapman began the year as the Yankee closer, saving nine games through mid-May—but a series of bad outings, coupled with Clay Holmes’ near-perfect emergence in the bullpen, led to his losing the ninth-inning job. Then he went on the Injured List with a leg infection caused by a new tattoo. Chapman was given no more save opportunities and finished the regular season at 4-4 with a career-worst 4.46 ERA. He becomes a free agent after the playoffs.

Monday, October 10

The Braves continue to spend for the future, locking up exciting young rookie pitcher Spencer Strider to a six-year contract worth $75 million. The deal includes a team option for a seventh year (2029) that could net Strider another $17 million above a $5 million buyout. The mustached 23-year-old right-hander from Ohio started the season in the Atlanta bullpen but was promoted to the rotation at the end of May; by July, he was electrifying crowds with a 100-MPH fastball and occasional double-digit strikeout totals—including 16 on September 1 against Colorado, the highest total ever by a Braves pitcher in a nine-inning game. Strider finished the regular season with an 11-5 record, 2.67 ERA and 202 strikeouts over just 131.2 innings; batters hit a mere .180 against him.

The signing of Strider continues a trend by the Braves to lock up their young stars, having already given long-term deals to third baseman Austin Riley, outfielders Ronald Acuna Jr. and Michael Harris II, and second baseman Ozzie Albies—all of them well before free agency.

Philadelphia interim manager Rob Thomson is rewarded for bringing the Phillies from a subpar start to the playoffs and past first-round favorite St. Louis by being named the team skipper on a permanent basis. The long-time bench coach, who took over for the fired Joe Girardi at the start of June and went 65-46 with the Phillies to the end of the regular season, inks a contract that will last through 2024.

The Giants hire Houston assistant general manager Pete Putila as their new GM, replacing the recently-departed/current Detroit GM Scott Harris. The 33-year-old Putila has worked with the Astros for 12 years and was the assistant GM for the last three; the shots in San Francisco will still be called by President of Baseball Ops Farhan Zaidi, as GMs across MLB are increasingly taking on a less dominant role in making final decisions regarding player personnel.

Anyone with any illusions that Rob Manfred will purge Barry Bonds from the home run record book in favor of Aaron Judge will have to give it a rest. Appearing on FS1’s The Carton Show, the MLB commissioner weighs in on all the chatter being thrown about on who’s the “true” home run season champ in the wake of Judge’s 62 homers this past season. “Different things happen in different years.” Manfred says, “The ball was different, the height of the mound was different—and fans make their own judgements.”

Our own thought on this: For one of the few times in recent memory, we agree with Manfred. Different eras do come with different conditions: The Deadball Era, legal spitballers, big and small ballparks, taller mounds, and so on. While the basic rules remain the same after all these years, the conditions of each era do increase the apples-to-oranges argument—but it would be simply impossible to try and decipher a Bonds with a Judge, or an Ed Walsh with a Jacob deGrom, or a Bobby Wallace with an Ozzie Smith. The numbers, however hard or cheap they came decades apart, are what they are. We have to respect that.

Tuesday, October 11

The first day of the now-second-round, LDS phase of the postseason shows a slow start for three of the four top-seeded teams who’ve sat idle for five previous days—but two of them rebound to grab victory.

The most dramatic of the comebacks occur in Houston, where the Astros score five runs over the final two innings—including three on a two-out blast in the ninth from Yordan Alvarez—to stun the Mariners, 8-7. Alvarez’s 438-foot homer comes on the second pitch thrown by Seattle’s Robbie Ray, doing emergency closer duty after Mariners manager Scott Servais curiously removes Paul Sewald, who’s performed better against left-handed hitters during the season. It’s the fourth walk-off postseason homer belted by a player for a trailing team, the second with the team down to its final out (Kirk Gibson, 1988) and the first by a team trailing by multiple runs.

The Houston win shatters the feel-good vibe felt by the Mariners, who themselves roared back from six runs down in the Wild Card Series clincher at Toronto; here, they lead 7-3 headed into the eighth before collapsing.

Alvarez has five RBIs on the night, tying an Astros postseason record shared by four other players—most recently by Alex Bregman in the 2019 World Series.

The other comeback, if you can call it that, occurs at New York where the Yankees quickly erase an early 1-0 deficit against Cleveland with a 4-1 victory. Harrison Bader’s solo home run—his first as a Yankee—ties the game in the third; Anthony Rizzo’s two-run tater in the sixth caps the scoring. Two double plays turned by the Yankees repel late uprisings by the Guardians.

The Braves are the only team unable to make up for early lost ground, as they pay for their slow start against Philadelphia. An uncharacteristically off Max Fried surrenders six runs (four earned) over 3.1 innings to the Phillies, who build up a 7-1 lead on well-placed clutch hits—while the Braves fail in such moments, unable to score in three of the first four innings despite loading the bases in each. Atlanta makes it interesting in the ninth when Matt Olson’s three-run homer narrows the gap to a single run, but the action ends there and the Phillies prevail, 7-6, for their third straight win on the road to start the playoffs.

The juggernaut Dodgers, but of course, are the only team to hit the road running in their LDS opener against San Diego—jumping out to a 5-0 lead after three innings and holding on to take Game One, 5-3. Julio Urias goes the minimum five innings needed to earn the win, his eighth of his postseason career—three as a starter, five as a reliever. He’s the first MLB player ever to have at least three playoff wins each from the rotation and bullpen.

Eric Kay, the former Angels employee who distributed the opioids that resulted in the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs in 2019, is given a 22-year prison sentence. The judge increases the sentence from 20 years to 22 because of comments made by Kay about Skaggs’ family in which he said: “All they see are dollar signs. They may get more money with him dead (when he was playing because he sucked.”

Wednesday, October 12

What looks to be the worst-case scenario for the Braves turns into the spark that helps them tie the Phillies in the best-of-five NLDS at Atlanta. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth of a scoreless game, Ronald Acuna Jr. takes a Zack Wheeler fastball high and in—and off his right elbow, sending him scampering around the field in excruciating pain. The star outfielder shakes off what initially appears to be a serious injury and heads to first; Wheeler, either shaken up by the HBP, iced by the long delay—or both—gives up a walk and three singles to the next four batters, leading to a three-run, two-out Atlanta rally. It ends up being the only scoring on the day as the Braves defeat the Phillies, 3-0 in Game Two.

The Game is delayed three hours by afternoon rains, but it doesn’t quell the crowd count as 42,000 fans wait it out, hang around the Battery Atlanta and eventually flood the ballpark to cheer on the Braves.

The news is not all good for the Braves on the day. Reliever Tyler Matzek, having a solid regular season until he lost his control in September—walking 12 batters over his final 10 innings—announces he will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the postseason as well as the entire 2023 season. For the year, Matzek was 4-2 with a 3.50 ERA over 43.2 innings.

The Padres overcome an iffy start to outlast the Dodgers at Los Angeles, 5-3, evening their NLDS at a game apiece. San Diego starter Yu Darvish gives up solo home runs in each of his first three innings (to Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy and Trea Turner), setting a postseason record with his eighth straight playoff appearance allowing at least one homer—but the Padres do their own early damage off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, keeping the game knotted at 3-3. Both starters settle down and last five innings without allowing any further runs, but it’s the Padres who get the better of the Los Angeles bullpen, scoring an unearned run in the sixth and providing insurance in the eighth on a Jake Cronenworth home run down the right-field line.

The spotlight at Dodger Stadium is temporarily hogged by a greater white-fronted goose that flies into the ballpark and settles in a squat-like position in shallow right field. The game goes on for one at-bat while the bird casually sits, but is removed during the next break. It fails to achieve “rally goose” status because the Dodgers do not come from behind after its appearance; instead, Goose Gossage references abound in honor of the Hall-of-Fame reliever who briefly played for the Padres.

Shortstop Carlos Correa says goodbye to the Twins after one year, exercising an opt-out clause in his contract to become a free agent. The 28-year-old Correa did well in his brief time at Minnesota, batting .291 with 22 homers and 64 RBIs, but will he snare a new contract paying him an annual average of $35 million—the amount he was due in 2023 had he not opted out?

Opt-outs have become popular for players who see the opportunity to maximize their bank account by outperforming their contracts, but it might sour on fans who create a perception of such players as prioritizing “me” over “team” as a diss to the base and community.

Thursday, October 13

In the only playoff game of the day with the Yankees-Guardians ALDS opener postponed to Friday due to New York rain, the Astros take a two-game lead over the Mariners with a 4-2 victory under the retractable roof at Houston. The hero, once again, is Yordan Alvarez; although his two-run homer in the sixth isn’t the dramatic walk-off of Game One, it still erases a 2-1 Seattle lead and gives the Astros a lead they will not relinquish. Alvarez thus becomes the first player in postseason history to hit two go-ahead homers when his team is trailing in the sixth inning or later…and he’s done it in consecutive games.

Friday, October 14

Three LDS favorites find themselves on the brink of elimination. The most stunning of those circumstances occurs in San Diego, where the 89-win Padres, owned by the Dodgers over the past decade, own a 2-1 NLDS lead thanks to a tight 2-1 win over the Dodgers before a partisan San Diego crowd that overflows the ballpark, the grassy Park at the Park beyond the outfield bleachers, and every available balcony and rooftop on the surrounding buildings. Blake Snell, he of the infamous quick hook he received in the 2020 World Series against the Dodgers, allows a run over 5.1 innings and 96 pitches before the Padres’ bullpen takes over and finishes the job, conceding just one baserunner the rest of the way. Tony Gonsolin, the 16-1 pitcher in only his second start back since going on the shelf with a strained forearm at the end of August, looks off his game and allows the first Padres run in just 1.1 innings of work.

The defending champion Braves are also on the ropes after a 9-1 pounding by the Phillies at Philadelphia. Rhys Hoskins strikes the main blow, a three-run homer in the third inning that’s part of a Phillies’ six-run rally; five of those tallies are charged to breakout Braves rookie Spencer Strider, who arguably suffers through his worst start since joining Atlanta.

In New York, the Yankees drop to a 2-1 ALDS deficit against Cleveland after the Guardians come from behind to win in 10 innings, 4-2. After Amed Rosario’s solo homer ties the game in the fifth, Oscar Gonzalez—Cleveland’s overtime hero against Tampa Bay in the Wild Card Series—does it again in extras, poking out a single that scores the go-ahead run in the 10th. Ensuring the win from the mound is Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase, who goes a career-high 2.1 innings with 33 pitches to clamp down on the Yankees.

Not helping the Yankees’ cause is Aaron Judge, who after launching 62 homers during the season is 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts thus far against Cleveland. His four K’s against the Guardians in Game Two even elicits some boos from the Yankee Stadium crowd; it’s the fourth career postseason game in which Judge has struck out four times.

Hall-of-Fame closer Bruce Sutter passes away, succumbing to cancer at the age of 69. Sutter was one of the early embracers of the split-finger fastball, which he says saved his career; he used it to help him lead the NL five times in saves, including a career-high 45 for the Cardinals in 1984, and winning the NL Cy Young Award in 1979 for the Cubs. Sutter had a happy ending to an ill-fated, injury-filled tenure with the Braves, closing out his 12-year career with his 300th save in his final appearance in 1988. Eighteen years later, he became the fourth relief pitcher to be enshrined in Cooperstown.

The qualifying offer—often referred to as a team’s last-ditch opportunity to retain a pending free agent for an additional year—has been set at $19.65 million, an increase over the $18.4 million tag from 2021. Offers can be made within the first five days after the end of the World Series; among those eligible to receive the offer are Aaron Judge, Jacob deGrom, Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson. Only one player—the Giants’ Brandon Belt—accepted the offer last year.

Saturday, October 15

On a memorable day of playoff baseball, the defending champions are eliminated, the consensus pick for the 2022 title is KO’d, another top seed is on the brink, and another survives for yet another turn in the ALCS.

The big, big upset occurs in San Diego, where the Padres explode for five runs in the seventh to erase a 3-0 deficit and hold on amid late-inning monsoonal showers to stun the 111-win Dodgers, 5-3, and take the NLDS by a 3-1 game count. Through the seventh-inning stretch, the Dodgers appear to be coasting toward a winner-take-all Game Five back in Los Angeles, as starter Tyler Anderson throws five shutout innings and Freddie Freeman drives in a pair of runs on three hits, two of them doubles. But in the bottom of the seventh, the Padres send 10 men to the plate, with seven reaching—two via walk and another on an infield single—and score five, taking the lead for good. According to ESPN’s Eduardo Perez, the Dodgers had won 153 straight games leading by three or more runs in the seventh inning or later; the Padres had lost 91 when trailing by three-plus runs at the same point.

There are more numbers involved that are all but mind-bending. The Padres, losers of 14 of 19 regular season games against the Dodgers this season, and who finished 22 games behind Los Angeles in the NL West, get five chances to win three, do it in four, and advance to the NLCS. The 22-game difference between the two teams is the largest won by one postseason team against another since the Chicago “Hitless Wonder” White Sox (93-58) upset the powerhouse Cubs (116-36) in the 1906 World Series.

For the Dodgers, it’s another frustratingly early departure from the postseason. Over the last six years, the Dodgers have finished with the NL’s top record four times—but have seen only one World Series triumph, and some tend to tarnish that achievement since it happened during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when only 60 regular season games were played by each team.

Facing the Padres in the NLCS will be the Phillies, who apply their own underdog status toward upsetting the Braves in NLDS Game Four at Philadelphia, 8-3. Brandon Marsh, aping Rhys Hoskins in Game Three, smashes a three-run homer in the second to set the pace for the Phillies; an inning later, J.T. Realmuto will ape no one from before as he becomes the first catcher in postseason history to hit an inside-the-park home run. Bryce Harper’s solo shot in the eighth provides the Phillies with the series’ exclamation point.

The NLCS will match the third-place Phillies with the second-place Padres; the two teams finished a combined 36 games out of first place during the regular season.

With the Braves’ early exit, Baseball is assured of a 22nd straight season without a repeat champion. That’s the longest drought ever in any of the four major North American sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL).

One top-seeded team does advance, though it doesn’t come easy. In fact, the Astros’ 1-0 victory at Seattle, in 18 innings, matches three other postseason games as the longest ever by innings; it’s also the longest a scoreless game has gone in the playoffs, erasing the 14 innings of zeroes traded by the Guardians and Rays just a week earlier. Also broken from that game in Cleveland is the combined number of strikeouts; the Astros and Mariners group for 42, three more than the Guardians/Rays combo.

The extra innings go quietly by, with only three instances of players reaching scoring position. But in the top of the 18th, rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena drills a drive just over the left-center field wall, giving Houston all it will need to triumph. Earning the win for the Astros is rotation arm Luis Garcia, called into action after all other available relievers have been used up; he throws five shutout innings, allowing two hits and no walks while striking out six.

Though it’s a three-game sweep for the Astros, it’s not as dominant as it seems—as Houston wins all three games by a total of four runs. They held the lead for only five innings in the entire series.

Houston will be making its sixth straight ALCS appearance; only the Braves (from 1991-99, omitting the playoff-less 1994 season) have made more consecutive LCS schedules.

The Astros now await the victor of the ALDS between the Yankees and Guardians. And Game Three in Cleveland between those two teams hardly lacks for drama.

The Yankees erase an early 2-0 lead as Aaron Judge finally connects for his first postseason hit, a two-run homer in the third to tie the game; another two-run blast, from rookie Oswaldo Cabrera in the fifth, gives New York a 4-2 lead. With each team later trading a run, the Yankees take a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Closer Clay Holmes is in uniform and assumed to be the guy to close out the Guardians, but when Wandy Peralta gives up two Cleveland singles, manager Aaron Boone instead goes with young Clarke Schmidt, with all of two career saves to his credit. Schmidt will give up two more singles, closing the lead to one run; after striking out Josh Naylor, Schmidt has Oscar Gonzalez in a 1-2 hole and throws an outside pitch that Gonzalez defensively swats at; the ball heads up the middle and into center field to score the two runners on base and win the game for Cleveland, 6-5.

For “SpongeBob” Gonzalez, it’s his third go-ahead hit in the ninth inning or later this postseason. That’s tied for the most by anyone in a postseason career; only David Ortiz (in 2004) did it in the same year.

There’s controversy after the game as reporters and Yankee players try to figure out why Holmes isn’t used. It’s later announced that Holmes was “sore” and would only be available in an “emergency” situation. In hindsight, the optics of his absence don’t look great—but as it’s often said, hindsight is always 20/20. 

Before Game Three, the Yankees had held a lead of two or more runs in the ninth inning 167 previous times in a postseason game; they had never lost any of them. It’s also their 12th walk-off loss of the season, regular and post, setting a franchise record.

Sunday, October 16

The Yankees force a winner-take-all Game Five back at New York with a clutch 4-2 victory at Cleveland behind Gerrit Cole, who throws 110 pitches over seven innings with eight strikeouts to secure the win from the mound. Harrison Bader’s two-run bomb in the second—his third homer of the series after hitting five in 86 games this season between the Yankees and Cardinals combined—brings home the ultimate winning runs. Taking the loss for the Guardians is Cal Quantrill, who suffers his first career loss at Progressive Field after 44 appearances (34 starts) and 14 wins at the Cleveland ballpark.

Monday, October 17

Fans will have to wait one more day to find out who wins the ALDS between the Yankees and Guardians, as Game Five is rained out.

As the Padres get ready to rumble at Petco Park, their absentee star goes under the knife. Fernando Tatis Jr. gets a second surgery performed on his left wrist, the same one he damaged in a motorcycle accident last winter; reports say he should be ready for Spring Training 2023. And here’s an additional reason that Tatis is rooting for the Padres: The more postseason games they play, the fewer he’ll have to sit out early next year, as playoff games count toward Tatis’ 80-game PED suspension. You have to wonder whether Tatis will secretly hope for a pair of seven-game series to further whittle down his suspension into 2023.

Tuesday, October 18

The Yankees have their baby and a five-game ALDS triumph over the Guardians, winning the rain-delayed winner-take-all at New York by a 5-1 score. As they did in Game Four to even the series, the Yankees score early, building a quick 4-0 lead on a three-run, first-inning homer from Giancarlo Stanton, followed by a solo shot in the second from Aaron Judge; stout pitching takes it from there, as Nestor Cortes (pitching on three days’ rest) delivers five sharp innings, followed by three Yankee relievers scattering five hits, but no runs, over the final four frames.

The final out also provides the Yankees with the final insult, as Gleyber Torres mocks Josh Naylor’s “having my baby” motion after making the final out at second on a force play. Naylor, back in Game Four, circled the bases mimicking a cradling motion after hitting a home run for Cleveland, stating later that it was his way of saying that home runs were his “babies.” New Yorkers would have none of that, booing and mocking Naylor throughout Game Five.

The Yankees’ come-from-behind ALDS triumph is completed despite the team hitting just .182. But they also out-homer Cleveland, 9-3, including three with runners in scoring position. (The Guardians’ three blasts are all solo.)

Meanwhile in San Diego, the NLCS starts with the Phillies silencing both the Padres and the latest enthusiastic throng at Petco Park, 2-0. Zack Wheeler is dynamite over seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit and a walk with eight strikeouts to keep the Padres at bay; the Phillies’ offense comes courtesy of solo home runs from Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber, whose first postseason homer is a titanic, 488-foot shot deposited in the first row of the third deck. It’s the longest recorded, ‘competitive’ home run ever hit at Petco Park. (Giancarlo Stanton hit a 497-foot drive during the 2016 Home Run Derby.) The Padres make their biggest threat in the ninth thanks to a potentially costly blunder by Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm, whose wild throw on what should be a game-ending double play instead puts runners at first and second with one out. But San Diego’s next two batters—Manny Machado and Josh Bell—are both retired to preserve the shutout and the Game One victory.

This is the first time that two teams with less than 90 wins in a full season are squaring off in an LCS series—although, ironically, it happened one step up in the World Series. In 2014, the 88-74 Giants and 89-73 Royals hooked up after surviving through the first three rounds of the playoffs as wild card teams.

Wednesday, October 19

The Astros open up the ALCS with a 4-2 home victory over the Yankees at Houston, with major contributions from 39-year-old ace Justin Verlander and 25-year-old rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena. An early solo home run conceded to New York’s Harrison Bader (his fourth in six postseason games) is essentially the only blemish on the night for Verlander, who’s otherwise sensational over six innings. He strikes out 11 Yankees, extending his record of postseason games with at least 10 K’s to eight; six of his strikeouts come consecutively, tying another playoff mark; his 219 for his postseason career surpasses Clayton Kershaw for the most in MLB history; and only Nolan Ryan (in 1986) was older when striking out 10-plus batters in a playoff game. Pena, meanwhile, has two doubles and a solo home run, making him the fifth rookie with three extra-base hits in a playoff game; before him, the most recent rookie to do it was his predecessor at shortstop, Carlos Correa in 2015. Pena’s homer in the seventh caps the scoring on the night for Houston; they had taken the lead an inning earlier on back-to-back homers from Yuli Gurriel and Chas McCormick.

Overall, the Yankees strike out 17 times—just one short of the postseason record for a nine-inning game New York itself set back in 2020 against Tampa Bay.

In NLCS Game Two on a hot, sun-soaked afternoon at San Diego, the Phillies notch four runs on well-placed hits (with another past blinded-by-the-light Padres outfielder Juan Soto), and feel pretty good about their prospects of taking a 2-0 series lead back to Philadelphia. But the Padres fight back—first with home runs on back-to-back pitches in the second inning by Brandon Drury and Josh Bell—and then with a furious five-run rally in the fifth that puts them ahead to stay in an 8-5 victory.

The Padres’ big rally includes an RBI single from catcher Austin Nola against his brother, Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola; it’s the first time that two brothers have faced off against one another in a postseason game.

The San Diego victory is closed out by Josh Hader, who’s definitely back to prime form following a lost summer; he strikes out all three Phillies batters he faces in the ninth, and has now struck out an MLB playoff-record eight straight batters. There’s also this: Hader entered the postseason having never thrown a 100-MPH pitch. He’s thrown six of them so far this October.

Thursday, October 20

The Astros make it 2-0 in the ALCS—and 5-0 in the postseason—with a 3-2 home win over the Yankees. All three of the Astros’ runs come on one swing, as Alex Bregman’s two-out, second-inning ‘soft poke’ to the Crawford Boxes in left field travels at a relative mere 91.8 MPH. The Yankees respond the next inning with a pair of unearned runs off of Houston starter Framber Valdez (who commits the error that tags the tallies as unearned), but the Astros’ star pitcher is otherwise excellent, allowing four hits and no walks with nine strikeouts over seven innings. For a few fleeting seconds in eighth, after Valdez’s departure, it appears that a deep fly to right by New York crusher Aaron Judge will give the Yankees a 4-3 lead—but the ball is caught, knocked down by winds traveling from right-to-left, owing to a rare night with Minute Maid Park’s roof being left open. According to Statcast, Judge’s drive would have been a home run in one of 30 MLB ballparks. That one ballpark? Yankee Stadium.

The Astros stay undefeated in the postseason despite a +7 run differential—the lowest ever for any team riding a five-game playoff win streak—and a 0-for-23 start at the plate by All-Star leadoff second baseman Jose Altuve. That’s the longest hitless skid in postseason history.

Arguably the only guy having a worse October than Altuve is New York’s Matt Carpenter. Whatever magic the 36-year-old Carpenter was high on during the regular season has completely worn off in the playoffs; he’s 0-for-7 with seven strikeouts.

The Toronto Blue Jays have seen enough of John Schneider to rip away the interim tag and make him the team’s permanent manager, inking him to a three-year contract. Schneider took over for Charlie Montoyo in July and, under his direction, the Jays went 46-28— transforming a .500 team into the #4 seed in the AL playoffs, before bowing out in the Wild Card Round with two straight home losses to Seattle.

Friday, October 21

The Phillies take Game Three of the NLCS over the Padres, 4-2, maintaining the edge from start to finish as Kyle Schwarber’s leadoff homer in the first gives Philadelphia a quick lead before several terrific defensive stops by Phillies second baseman Jean Segura, combined with excellent relief pitching, help seal the deal on the other end. The Padres make some waves midway through with single runs in the fourth and fifth, but the Phillies keep responding with tallies of their own to keep the lead at arm’s distance.

In pitching the final two innings, Serathony Dominguez becomes the second Phillies pitcher to record a six-out save in a postseason game. The other was Tug McGraw, who did it three times in 1980—the third coming 42 years earlier to this day, clinching the Phillies’ first-ever World Series title.

Bryce Harper collects a single in four trips to the plate for the Phillies, ending a seven-game postseason streak with at least one extra-base hit. That streak ties a major league playoff record also held by Devon White (1993) and Carlos Beltran (2004).

A pivotal play occurs in the top of the ninth when the Padres’ Jurickson Profar, representing the tying run with nobody out, is rung up on a check-swing following a Philadelphia appeal. Replays show a virtual 50-50 hold of the swing, but third-base umpire Todd Tichenor chooses the “went-through” 50%; an incredulous Profar takes his reaction a step too far, shouting out multiple ‘F-yous’ for all the world to see (but fortunately not hear) that leads to his getting ejected. Opinion: Umpires should be taught that, when the swing is that close in a postseason game—with so much at stake—give the benefit of a doubt to the hitter. As with the 107-win Giants last year when Gabe Morales ruled that Wilmer Flores went more than 50% through on his swing to end the NLDS in favor of the Dodgers (Flores clearly did not go halfway), let the players decide the game—not an umpire 90 feet away.

With many people believing that World Series-winning manager Bruce Bochy had long rode off into the sunset, he makes a return to the game. The 67-year-old Bochy, who stepped down in 2019 after 25 years split between the Padres and Giants, is returning to the dugout to pilot the Texas Rangers with a three-year deal. The move is not a total surprise; there had been rumors of Bochy’s return to baseball, with multiple teams interested. The Rangers could use a jolt; they’ve suffered six straight losing records, with three of those landing them in the AL West basement.

Saturday, October 22

Desperate to avoid falling two games behind in the NLCS, the Padres snag four quick runs in Game Four at Philadelphia and knock Phillies starter Bailey Falter to the showers. But the Phillies answer back, rattling San Diego starter Mike Clevinger for three runs before he’s removed without recording a single out. With both teams going bullpen the rest of the way, the Padres break a 4-4 tie in the fifth on a two-run Juan Soto homer—yet the Phillies rebut with a four-spot in the bottom of the fifth, two on Rhys Hoskins’ second homer of the night (and fourth of the postseason). From there, the Padres can never regain the lead, the Phillies add insurance and take a 10-6 victory for a 3-1 series lead.

This is only the second time in postseason history that both starting pitchers haven’t made it out of the first inning. The other occurrence took place in Game Four of the 1932 World Series, with the Cubs’ Guy Bush (0.1 innings) and Yankees Johnny Allen (0.2) removed early in New York’s 13-6 victory to wrap up the sweep. 

This is the fourth time in the 2022 playoffs that a team has come back from four runs down to win. No other postseason has seen three such games.

Meanwhile in New York, the Astros have the Yankees on the ropes. Cristian Javier ices already cool Yankee bats, Chas McCormick hits a two-run bomb in the second, and a three-run rally in the sixth leads to a 5-0 Houston win at Yankee Stadium in ALCS Game Three. The offensively lifeless Yankees are held to just one hit through eight shutout innings before collecting a pair of too-little, too-late singles in the ninth. Their first hit, a Giancarlo Stanton double in the fourth, ends a 10-inning hitless streak against Javier—who threw seven no-hit innings against the Yankees at New York on June 25. 

Overall this postseason, the Yankees are hitting .161 and have struck out 94 times in 248 at-bats. 

Jose Altuve finally gets his first postseason hit for the Astros, a fifth-inning double; it ends a hitless streak of 25 straight at-bats that’s the longest in postseason history.

Sunday, October 23

The Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies, who met each other for the last series of the regular season in Houston, will reconvene in Texas for the start of the 2022 World Series after both teams clinch their LCS series in dramatic fashion.

In Philadelphia, the Phillies are five outs away from losing Game Five and being forced to fly cross-country back to San Diego to clinch the NL pennant in enemy territory. But Bryce Harper saves the flight from taking place; in the bottom of the eighth, he launches a one-out, two-run blast to the left-field bleachers off 31-year-old Padres rookie Robert Suarez; thus with one swing, Harper takes the Phillies from a 3-2 deficit to a 4-3 lead. The Padres threaten in the ninth with two walks off closer David Robertson, who’s removed in favor of rotation member Ranger Suarez (no relation to Robert); Suarez throws just two pitches to get the final two outs.

A couple of record book-related factoids from the NLCS: Rhys Hoskins opens the scoring with a two-run homer in the third off Yu Darvish—who extends his dubious postseason-record streak of consecutive starts giving up at least one home run to 10. In the seventh inning, Phillies reliever Seranthony Dominguez serves up three wild pitches—matching his entire regular season total; the last of the three brings home the Padres’ second run of the inning to give them a 3-2 advantage. Dominguez’s three wild throws within one inning ties a postseason record shared by Clayton Kershaw and Rick Ankiel.

For the Phillies, it’s their first pennant since 2009; no other team in MLB history has claimed a flag despite finishing in third place during a full season. The only other team who can claim it in less than a full year was the 1981 Yankees, who finished third overall in the AL East during the strike-shortened season, placing first and fifth in that campaign’s two halves. 

Since starting the season with a 21-29 record, the Phillies are 75-48, including postseason games. 

Like the Phillies, the Astros need late-inning heroics—and luck—to triumph in their own seesaw clincher, a 6-5 win at New York to complete a four-game ALCS sweep of the Yankees.

After the Yankees build a quick 3-0 lead through the first two innings off Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr., the Astros charge back with four runs in the third, three of those off Yankee starter Nestor Cortes—who’s removed out of concern that bad health is behind a rapidly fading fastball. But the New York bullpen clamps down, allowing the Yankees to retake the lead by the sixth on Harrison Bader’s fifth postseason home run­—matching his regular season total over 86 games split between the Cardinals and Yankees.  In the seventh, good fortune swings back in Houston’s favor. Jose Altuve is declared safe on an infield single, with replays showing him beating Yankee reliever Jonathan Loaisiga to the bag by the razor-thinnest of margins; Jeremy Pena next hits what looks to be an inning-ending double play, but Gleyber Torres’ shovel toss to Isiah Kiner-Falefa goes awry and into short left field, leaving everyone safe for Houston. The massive error leads to what will be a series-crushing consequence; Yordan Alvarez grounds the next pitch through the hole into right to score Altuve, followed by another single by Alex Bregman to score Pena as the ultimate game-winning tally.

This is the Astros’ fourth AL pennant in six years; they’re the third team in the Wild Card (post-1994) era to reach the World Series while going undefeated in the earlier playoff rounds. The other two teams were the 2007 Rockies and 2014 Royals—both of whom lost the Fall Classic.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have been defeated at the ALCS five straight times, something no MLB team has done since LCS play began in 1969. If it’s any consolation (and it won’t be), the Yankees at least get their hitting game going in this ALCS finale, collecting nine hits to break a postseason-record streak of 10 straight games in which they had only six or fewer hits in each.

Tuesday, October 25

The Miami Marlins have found their managerial replacement for Don Mattingly in Skip Schumaker, who since 2019 has been serving as bench coach for the Cardinals—the team he spent eight years with as an outfielder/second baseman, from 2005-12. The 42-year-old Schumaker takes over a Miami team that’s rich on starting pitching but badly insufficient on hitting, lacking any kind of star element beyond infielder Jazz Chisholm Jr. (who was injured for half of the 2022 season).

The Marlins could use a kick in the butt. They’ve recorded just one winning season since 2009—and that came in 2020 when they finished 31-29 within the pandemic-shortened schedule.

Wednesday, October 26

Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina may have played their last major league game, but another long-time Cardinals stalwart, ace pitcher Adam Wainwright, will keep on playing. It’s announced that the tall 41-year-old right-hander will return in 2023 with a one-year deal, the terms of which have not been disclosed.

Wainwright has played all 18 of his seasons in St. Louis; he needs five wins in 2023 to reach 200, and 16 to surpass Jesse Haines for #2 on the all-time Cardinals list. This past year, Wainwright was 11-12 with a 3.71 ERA, and set an MLB record by partnering with Molina for 328 of his career starts.

Thursday, October 27

David Stearns, who’s overseen one of the more successful periods in Milwaukee Brewers history, says he needs a break and will step down as the team’s president of business operations. The 37-year-old Stearns insists that he’s not seeking employment elsewhere, but he will be an irresistible target given how well the small-market Brewers have performed under his watch.

Friday, October 28

The first game of the 2022 World Series is just another day in the Phillies’ remarkable postseason run. Down 5-0 after three innings at Houston thanks principally to a pair of two-run homers from the Astros’ Kyle Tucker, the Phillies rebound with five runs, capped by a two-run J.T. Realmuto double, over the next two frames off a suddenly ineffective Justin Verlander. They ultimately triumph in a battle of bullpens as Realmuto later rides a Luis Garcia fastball into the right-field bleachers to clinch a 6-5, 10-inning win. The Astros threaten in the bottom of the 10th, putting runners at second and third with two outs, before Aledmys Diaz bounces into the final out.

Teams with a five-run lead in a World Series contest were 220-5 coming into this game. The last time a team blew such a lead was the 2002 Giants, late in Game Six. The manager for San Francisco on that day: Current Houston manager Dusty Baker.

Despite being spotted to a five-run lead, Verlander once again fails to get the win in a World Series start. The Houston ace is now winless in eight career Fall Classic starts, with six losses and a 6.07 ERA.

The last five postseason games pitting the Phillies and Astros have all gone extra innings; the four previous games took place in the 1980 NLCS, won each side winning two.

This is the first career postseason save for the Phillies’ David Robertson, who has 157 in his regular season career—but none over 37 previous playoff appearances. He does, however, own a 6-0 record.

Saturday, October 29

For the second straight day, the Astros build up a 5-0 lead but overcome feelings of déjà vu by holding off the Phillies and taking World Series Game Two at Houston, 5-2, evening up the series. The Astros waste no time, as their first three batters (Jose Altuve, Jeremy Pena and Yordan Alvarez) each hit doubles and eventually score in the first inning against Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler. Alex Bregman’s two-run homer in the fifth ups the lead to 5-0. On the mound, Framber Valdez, the majors’ best ground-ball pitcher, keeps the Phillies off the scoreboard into the seventh, inducing two inning-ending double plays; overall, he allows a run on four hits and three walks with nine K’s over 6.1 innings. Surprisingly—but not surprisingly—Valdez’s start is the longest by innings from a World Series starting pitcher since 2019.

The three doubles to start the first for the Astros is the first time a World Series team has begun a game with a trio of extra-base hits.

Perhaps the Phillies’ most frustrating moment comes on consecutive pitches thrown to leadoff slugger Kyle Schwarber in the eighth. With a runner on first and nobody out, Schwarber slams a Rafael Montero pitch straight down the right-field line and well into the seats; umpires initially rule it a home run. But as Houston fans frantically motion that the ball went foul, replays clearly show that the ball passed to the foul side of the pole, and the umpires quickly reverse the call. One pitch later, Schwarber sends a deep fly to right field that Kyle Tucker reaches up and catches just two feet—maybe less—from the top of the wall.

Nolan Arenado is apparently happy in St. Louis. The seven-time All-Star third baseman says he will not opt out and is content on playing out his contract with the Cardinals, which has five years and $144 million left. This past season, Arenado batted .293 with 30 home runs and 103 RBIs, the second straight year he went 30-100 at St. Louis following his trade from Colorado. Speaking of the Rockies, they aren’t thrilled with Arenado’s refusal to opt out; had he done so, they’d be off the hook for $15 million they owe him in 2023, per the trade agreement with the Cardinals. For now, he’ll be paid higher than any current Rockies player next season.

Sunday, October 30

The Royals hire Tampa Bay bench coach Matt Quatraro as their new manager, replacing Mike Matheny. The 48-year-old Quatraro has extensive coaching experience since ending a seven-year minor league career in 2002, without ever playing in the majors. He first served as either hitting instructor or manager for various clubs in the Rays’ minor league system, before spending the last nine years as a hitting/bench coach—the first four with Cleveland, the latter five with the Rays. Kansas City is especially keen on Quatraro because of his embracement of advanced analytics, which he has great experience understanding given his time with the overachieving Rays and for which the Royals want to get deeper into.

Baseball fans still torqued over the Astros’ 2017 cheating scandal and the fact that the team is back in the World Series for the third time since then have loudly yelled, tweeted and whatever else about a couple of perceived instances of cheating thus far by Houston players against the Phillies.

One of those evolves around the bats of catcher Martin Maldonado. Before Game Two, Maldonado was told that the bat he was using in Game One was “illegal,” leading anti-Astros fans to quickly point the finger in “a-ha” fashion. Turns out, Maldonado wasn’t using the bat for a competitive edge; it has been banned back in 2010 because it a hat a thicker barrel that increased the chances that it would shatter and put someone’s life at greater risk. Players who began their careers before 2010 could continue using the bat via a “grandfather clause,” but Maldonado—who didn’t begin playing in the majors until 2011—borrowed his bat from Albert Pujols, who’s career began 21 years ago.

There was also the curious case of pitcher Framber Valdez, who kept the Phillies quiet through six-plus innings in a 5-2 Game Two victory. Not at all quiet were those who noticed that Valdez kept rubbing his left thumb on his right palm before rubbing the ball, suggesting he was tapping into an illegal substance. But the Phillies and manager Rob Thomson shrugged their shoulders when asked about the accusation, and here’s why: Umpires were checking Valdez after each inning he threw, and found nothing foreign on his palm.

Monday, October 31

It’s not always sunny in Philadelphia. Game Three of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park is rained out, moving back the entire World Series schedule one day. This will include the travel day originally slated for Thursday (now Friday), and Games Six and Seven back in Houston, if necessary, now planned for Saturday and Sunday.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner is the winner of this year’s Roberto Clemente Award, given to the major leaguer who selflessly gives back to the community. Turner’ presence in this arena has been acknowledged since becoming a member of the Dodgers in 2014; he began the Justin Turner Foundation, which helps homeless folks suffering from illness and disease.

The Clemente honor would be a nice touch to end Turner’s tenure with the Dodgers; the ballclub holds a $16 million option on him for 2023, but hasn’t announced whether it’ll bring back the 37-year old.

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