This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: October 2023

Home Field Disadvantage: The Wild Cards Run Wild in the Playoffs
Our Choices for the Year’s Best and Worst    R.I.P. Frank Howard

September 2023    Comebacker Index  •  November 2023 

Sunday, October 1

On the final day of the regular season, the Houston Astros steal the American League West title from the Texas Rangers with an 8-1 victory at Arizona over the Diamondbacks, while the Rangers lose in a quick (two hours and a minute) 1-0 contest at Seattle against the Mariners, reduced to spoilers after having been knocked out of the playoff picture the night before. While Houston and Texas finish the year with identical 90-72 records, the Astros prevail by virtue of the first tiebreaker—having defeated the Rangers nine times out of 13 in head-to-head competition during the year. 

The results involving the Rangers and Astros have an impact on the overall playoff picture for both leagues. The Astros’ win knocks the Toronto Blue Jays (12-8 losers at home to Tampa Bay) down to the #3 AL wild card spot—but it could be a blessing in disguise for the Jays, as they will face the AL Central champion Minnesota Twins, owners of both an 87-75 record (12 games worse than the #1 wild card in the Rays, at 99-63) and a record streak of 18 straight playoff losses. 

The Diamondbacks’ loss to the Astros also cements them as the National League’s #3 wild card and lowest (#6) seed; they’ll take on Milwaukee in the postseason’s first round, while the Miami Marlins—who grab the #2 NL wild card despite a season-ending 3-0 loss at Pittsburgh—will face the defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies, the #1 NL wild card. 

Individually, each league’s batting titles are decided via some of the above-mentioned games. The Rangers’ Corey Seager begins the day with a slim lead over the Rays’ Yandy Diaz, but Seager goes hitless in four at-bats against the Mariners, dropping to .327—while Diaz rests on a .330 mark against the Blue Jays; he thus becomes the first Rays player in the team’s 26-year history to win a batting crown. The Marlins’ Luis Arraez (.354) also sits out the team’s season finale and takes the NL batting title by 17 points over Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr.; he’s the second player since 1900, after D.J. LeMahieu, to win crowns in each league. 

The Braves, setting records of some sort virtually every day over the past few weeks, lose to the Washington Nationals at Atlanta, 10-9, but get a pair of home runs from Marcell Ozuna to tie the all-time season team mark of 307 established in 2019 by the Twins. Ozuna’s blasts are also significant in that it gives him 40 on the year, joining Acuna (41) and MLB leader Matt Olson (54) to become the fourth trio of teammates in major league history to have at least 40 each; the other three teams are the 1973 Braves (featuring Hank Aaron) and the 1996-97 Colorado Rockies. There’s one more record to talk about; the Braves’ .501 slugging percentage is the highest ever recorded by an MLB team. 

Several long-time baseball veterans bid adieu to this great game on the final day of the regular season. In Detroit, two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera calls it a career after 21 years, 12 of which included All-Star designation. The 40-year-old Cabrera walks once and strikes out twice in four appearances at the plate in the Tigers’ 5-2 home win over the Cleveland Guardians before 41,425 fans; by the numbers, Cabrera closes out his Hall-of-Fame resume with a .306 average, 511 home runs (tied with Mel Ott for 25th all-time), 3,173 hits (16th), 626 doubles (13th) and 1,880 RBIs (13th). 

In the other dugout, Cleveland skipper Terry Francona manages his final game as the Guardians finish below .500 (at 76-86) for only the second time in his 11-year tenure with the ballclub. Under his 27 total seasons of managership, Francona won 1,950 games (ranking him 13th all-time), lost 1,672, and snared the first two world titles for the Boston Red Sox (2004 and 2007) after a near century-long drought. Some would think stepping down at age 64 is a bit premature for someone of Francona’s caliber, but health issues in recent years led to his decision to retire now. 

Also stepping down from the game is 200-game winner Adam Wainwright, who played all 18 of his seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. After a pregame ceremony in which he receives, among other things, a puppy (from his family), Wainwright participates in the Cardinals’ 4-3 win over the visiting Cincinnati Reds not on the mound but at the plate—striking out as a pinch-hitter. 

It’s a bittersweet day for the Oakland A’s, who lose their 112th game—tied for the fifth most in the 162-game, post-1960 expansion era—with a 7-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim, but see rookie speedster Esteury Ruiz swipe two bases to give him 67 on the year to lead all American Leaguers and set a rookie mark previously held by Kenny Lofton from 1992

For the fourth straight full season, the Los Angeles Dodgers reach 100 victories as they defeat the Giants at San Francisco, 5-2. The Dodgers score all five of their runs in the sixth inning after the departure of rookie Giants pitcher Kyle Harrison, who allows no hits through five frames. The game could be the last for popular Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, who’s performance has diminished through a myriad of injuries over the past two seasons; among San Francisco players, he’s the last active link to the team’s three World Series titles from the early 2010s

Tim Wakefield, who pitched 19 seasons and collected 200 wins relying on a knuckleball, dies at the age of 57 from brain cancer. The announcement, made through the Red Sox, was no surprise; former Boston pitcher Curt Schilling had blurted out during a podcast earlier in the week that Wakefield’s days were numbered, drawing severe criticism as Wakefield’s family had tried to keep his illness private. Though Wakefield was never a consistent top pitcher—posting a career 4.41 ERA while making just one All-Star roster (in 2009, at the age of 42)—his knuckler allowed for a belated longevity after debuting in the majors for the 1992 Pirates at age 25. Among Wakefield’s 200 victories were six shutouts; he went the distance in 33 games. 

Monday, October 2

Buck Showalter wasn’t the primary reason that the high-priced New York Mets became baseball’s biggest disappointment this season (with all due respect to White Sox fans), but the front office has to blame someone other than themselves—so the veteran manager is handed a pink slip after a 74-87 record. 

In perhaps a related move, the Mets officially welcome former Milwaukee general manager David Stearns as their president of baseball operations. The 38-year-old Stearns, who grew up a big Mets fans and interned for the team in 2008, stepped down after eight years with the Brewers at the end of 2022, overseeing a team that won two NL Central titles and made the postseason four times. 

Phil Nevin is also out as the manager of the Angels after a year and a half of, unfortunately, maintaining the status quo of a star-studded team struggling to make .500. He was 119-149 after taking over for veteran manager Mike Scioscia in 2022. 

Tuesday, October 3

The Minnesota Twins put an end to their 18-game losing streak in the playoffs—a major pro sports record, spread over 19 years—and they have Royce Lewis largely to thank. The exciting 24-year-old rookie belts two home runs and knocks in all three of his team’s runs as the Twins take Game One of their AL Wild Card Series matchup against the visiting Blue Jays, 3-1. Starting pitcher Pablo Lopez gets a little credit, too—allowing a run on six hits over 5.2 innings before a superior Minnesota bullpen takes over to easily finish the job. 

Lewis is the third player to go deep in each of his first two postseason plate appearances; the other two are Gary Gaetti (1987) and Evan Longoria (2008). 

In the other AL Wild Card Series opener, the Rangers take advantage of four Tampa Bay errors—the Rays never committed more than three in any regular season game this year—and get seven solid shutout innings from Jordan Montgomery to take care of the Rays at St. Petersburg, 4-0. Evan Carter, the Rangers’ 21-year-old rookie outfielder batting ninth, reaches base in all four of his plate appearances, accruing two doubles and two walks. The Rays have scored just one run over their past 32 postseason innings, dating back to 2021

The game draws just 19,704 spectators to the Tropicana Field—the lowest turnout for a postseason game since Game Seven of the infamous 1919 World Series scuttled by eight White Sox players intentionally throwing the games for money against Cincinnati. Some people raise the point that it’s a midweek afternoon game scheduled on short notice, but the other three playoff games on the day in Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Philadelphia are played before full houses. Does Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg really think St. Petersburg is still a viable option for a new ballpark? 

The Phillies open their playoff defense of their 2022 NL pennant with a 4-1 home victory over the Marlins, who show far too little of that late-inning fight that helped them get over the hump and into October. Zack Wheeler works 6.2 innings, giving up a run on five hits with eight strikeouts and no walks. 

On the road at Milwaukee, the Diamondbacks spot the Brewers three early runs—then charge back to take a 6-3 Game One win in their NL Wild Card Series. Two 23-year olds—outfielder Corbin Carroll and catcher Gabriel Moreno—each collect a home run, with the latter’s shot putting Arizona ahead for good in the fourth inning off of ineffective Brewers ace Corbin Burnes

Wednesday, October 4

There’s little suspense—and there will be no third games today—as all four Wild Card Series end in two-game sweeps. 

The Rangers run the Rays out of the postseason in perhaps the most surprising series result, finishing off a sweep of the 99-win favorites with an easy 7-1 victory. Everyone in the Texas lineup gets at least a hit, with Josh Jung belting out two doubles and a triple, as the Rangers score all of their runs in the middle innings to pull away with the win. On the mound, Nathan Eovaldi keeps the Rays silent for nearly seven innings, as Tampa Bay finally notches a run in the seventh to end a 32-inning scoring dry spell that’s the second longest in postseason history after the 33 suffered by the Dodgers from 1966-74. 

Texas next takes on the 101-61 Orioles in the ALDS; the two teams split six games in their season series during the regular season. 

The Twins eject the Blue Jays for their first postseason series victory since eliminating the Moneyball A’s in the 2002 ALDS, and will head to Houston for an ALDS matchup with the defending champion Astros. In the 2-0 clincher, the Twins tally both of their runs in the fourth inning, as even a change in Toronto pitchers (Yusei Kukuchi for starter Jose Berrios) doesn’t work as planned. Some criticize the early change, but the fact of the matter is that the Blue Jays can’t score, with one run and one extra base hit over two losses to the Twins. Sonny Gray and five Minnesota relievers shut down the Blue Jays on nine hits and two walks with 12 strikeouts—three from closer Jhoan Duran, pitching with a cut on his throwing thumb during warmups. 

It’s the third straight time that the Blue Jays have been eliminated in the first round; for the Twins, it’s the end of a skid of nine straight series defeats—one short of the MLB record co-held by the Cubs (1910-98) and Braves (2001-19). 

The Diamondbacks, sporting the postseason’s worst (84-78) regular season mark, oust the Brewers at Milwaukee with a 5-2 victory. For the second straight game, Arizona fights back from a multi-run deficit in the early innings, taking command in the sixth with a four-run rally off of Milwaukee starter Freddy Peralta and two relievers. The Diamondbacks are thus the fourth team in MLB postseason history to win their first two games of the playoffs after being down by at least two runs in each. Arizona goes onto the NLDS, where it’ll meet divisional foe Los Angeles—which won eight of 13 games against the DBacks and own a far superior (100-62) record. 

The disappointing end to the Brewers’ season may also mean the end of manager Craig Counsell’s nine-year run at Milwaukee as his contract officially expires. Rumor is spreading that the Mets—who just hired former Brewers GM David Stearns to a top spot in the front office—are looking to bring him in. 

The Phillies advance to an NLDS date with the mighty Braves after dispelling of another NL East opponent in the Marlins, finishing up their sweep with a 7-1 win. Aaron Nola pitches seven shutout innings with the help of home plate umpire Doug Eddingsgenerous strike zone, while the Phillies score three early runs before blowing it open in the sixth on Bryson Stott’s first-pitch grand slam, the second in 56 postseason games played by Philadelphia.  

Thursday, October 5

The Mets continue to change things up in the front office, with general manager Billy Eppler resigning after two years at New York. Though he claims his departure has much to do with the desire of recently-hired president of operations David Stearns’ to have a “clean slate” under his direction, it’s also learned that MLB is looking into Eppler’s possible misuse of the Injury List, in which he’s alleged to have placed Mets players on the shelf not because they were hurt but, because, they weren’t adequately performing. 

Friday, October 6

For a number of years, Miami ace Sandy Alcantara had been bucking the trend of minimalist starting pitchers by playing the old-school workhorse, often finishing what he started; in winning the 2022 NL Cy Young Award, he threw six complete games—more than any other MLB team. He seemed proof that throwing tons of innings wasn’t hazardous to a pitcher’s health. 

Well, you can flush that theory down the toilet. In a surprise announcement, Alcantara reveals on his Instagram account that he has undergone Tommy John surgery and is virtually certain to miss the entire 2024 season. Amid a turbulent follow-up this past season, posting a 7-12 record and 4.14 ERA with three complete games, Alcantara experienced arm pain in a start against Washington on September 3. It was later diagnosed as a UCL strain, which led to the decision to perform a TJ procedure. 

Joey Votto answers rumors of a possible retirement, telling syndicated radio sports host Dan Patrick that he would like to play “at least one more year” and that he’s open to playing for other teams should the Reds, his only ballclub of 17 major league seasons, pass on offering him a new contract. The 40-year-old Votto struggled with injury this past year, batting .202—but he also cranked out 14 home runs over 65 games; his 356 homers rank a not-so-distant second in Reds history, behind Johnny Bench (389). 

Saturday, October 7

For those who believe the extended rest given to teams bypassing the Wild Card playoff round provides no advantage, they have strong evidence based on the results of the first day of LDS play—with three 100-win teams losing at home. 

In an eerie case of déjà vu, the Atlanta Braves begin their NLDS with a 3-0 home loss to the Phillies—who upset the Braves last year in the NLDS, on their way to the NL pennant. It’s the first shutout loss sustained by the Braves at Truist Park in 177 games, stretching back to August 2021, and it’s the first time in 124 games that the Braves neither hit a home run nor steal a base. (Both streaks remain intact for regular season activity; the latter streak is an MLB record.) The Braves manage eight baserunners against the Phillies, but none of them score; Ozzie Albies is tagged out attempting to steal in the second, the bases are left loaded in the fourth, and a promising rally in the eighth is snuffed out when Phillies shortstop Trea Turner initiates a tremendous double play on an Albies grounder to end the inning. 

Offensively, Philadelphia is lifted by a homer, single, two walks and a steal from Bryce Harper; Turner swipes two of five overall bases pilfered by the Phillies, giving him 40 straight without getting caught. The Phillies’ final run comes in the eighth when J.T. Realmuto is granted first base on a bases-loaded catcher’s interference—enraging frustrated Atlanta fans into littering the field with trash, holding up play for several minutes.  

The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw is certainly bound for Cooperstown, though it won’t be for his lifetime of subpar postseason pitching work. And his start against the visiting Diamondbacks goes down as his worst—playoffs or regular season—and perhaps the worst by any MLB pitcher in October, period. The first five Arizona batters all reach safely and eventually score against Kershaw; after a sixth run crosses with one out, Kershaw is given the hook as the Diamondbacks roll to an 11-2 victory in NLDS Game One. Gifted the win for Arizona is Merrill Kelly, who throws 6.1 shutout innings; it’s his first win over the Dodgers, as he’s 0-11 in the regular season against Los Angeles. 

Though Kershaw is the first pitcher in MLB postseason history to allow five runs on five hits without securing a single out, the first of those hits really shouldn’t be ruled as one, as Ketel Marte’s deep line drive to left-center pops in and out of the glove of Dodgers centerfielder James Outman (somehow, it’s not ruled an error). The last of those five hits comes courtesy of a three-run homer from Arizona catcher Gabriel Moreno, considered a big “if” in the Diamondbacks NLDS roster after suffering a nasty knock to the head from a bat in the Wild Card series against Milwaukee. 

In 39 playoff appearances—32 by start—Kershaw is 13-13 with a 4.49 ERA. 

The Rangers continue to roll on the road, edging the Orioles in ALDS Game One, 3-2 despite 16 strikeouts combined from Baltimore starter Kyle Bradish and five relievers. Rookie Evan Carter continues to feature for Texas, knocking in the first run on a fourth-inning double and scoring the second on Jonah Heim’s single; critical insurance is provided in the sixth on Josh Jung’s solo homer. Trailing by a run in the ninth, the Orioles get a leadoff single from rookie Gunnar Henderson; once on first, Henderson believes he’s being given a sign to steal second—except he’s not. He’s tagged out in the ensuing attempt, as cameras quickly pan to the Baltimore dugout and manager Brandon Hyde engaging in a “WTF” response. 

Congratulations are in order to the Houston Astros, who begin their playoff defense of their World Series title as the only rested home team to win on the day, defeating the Twins by a 6-4 score. Jose Altuve opens the first by becoming the very first player in MLB postseason history to launch a home run on a team’s first pitch of a playoff series; it’s Altuve’s 24th postseason blast, trailing only Manny Ramirez (29) on the all-time list. Justin Verlander pitches six shutout innings and departs with the Astros ahead, 5-0—but first reliever Hector Neris nearly coughs up the lead, surrendering four runs in the seventh on back-to-back homers from Jorge Polanco and Royce Lewis. Yordan Alvarez regains some breathing space for Houston in the bottom half of the inning with his second homer of the night to cap the scoring. 

Reliever Jim Poole, who made 437 appearances for eight different teams from 1990-2000, dies from ALS in a statement released by his alma mater at Georgia Tech. Never a starter and rarely a closer—he accumulated just four career saves—Poole collected a career 22-12 record and 4.31 ERA, participating in Cleveland’s failed attempt to capture its first World Series since 1948, bowing to the Braves in 1995

Sunday, October 8

The 101-61 Orioles find their season on the ropes after losing their second straight home game to start the ALDS against Texas, getting pounded early and ultimately falling, 11-8. After taking a 2-0 lead after the first inning, the Orioles are blasted for five runs in the second and four more an inning later to trail, 9-2, as rookie Baltimore starter Grayson Rodriguez allows five runs on six hits and four walks before being removed midway through the second. Offensively for the Rangers, big days are produced by Mitch Garver (a third-inning grand slam and five overall RBIs) and an MLB postseason-record five walks for Corey Seager.

The Twins tie up their ALDS against the Astros at one game apiece with a 6-2 victory at Houston. Pablo Lopez fires seven shutout innings while Carlos Correa, coming off a disappointing regular season in which he batted .230 with 18 home runs and 65 RBIs, has three hits and three RBIs; in 83 career postseason games, Correa is batting .284 with 18 homers and 63 RBIs—the latter number tying David Justice for the third most in playoff history. 

Monday, October 9

Bouncing back from the dead in NLDS Game Two, the Braves get their first hit of the night against Zack Wheeler and the Phillies in the sixth inning, their first run of the series moments later, and then—in the eighth—their first lead when Austin Riley singled-handedly (figuratively and, almost, literally) pops a two-run homer to give Atlanta a 5-4 advantage. The Phillies give it a go in the ninth, as Bryce Harper draws a leadoff walk, followed two batters later by a deep drive to right-center from Nick Castellanos that Michael Harris II makes a fence-crashing catch on; Harper, convinced that the ball wouldn’t be caught, has to scramble his way back around second toward first, but is doubled up to end the game. 

It’s the first time that a postseason contest has ended on a double play involving an outfielder. 

It’s bad news from the starting block all over again for the Dodgers, who cough up three runs in the first inning against the Diamondbacks—and never recover, dropping a 4-2 decision to Zac Gallen and the Snakes to fall behind 2-0 in the best-of-five NLDS. Los Angeles starter Bobby Miller has slightly better luck than Clayton Kershaw in the series’ first game, making it out of the first inning—but not the second, as he’s removed with two outs after allowing four runs on three hits and two walks. A pair of late-inning, would-be rallies by the Dodgers are quickly snuffed out on double-play grounders. 

Tuesday, October 10

The Rangers and Astros dance a Texas two-stomp over their respective opponents—the Orioles and Twins—that knocks the former out and puts the latter on the ropes after a pair of one-sided victories. 

At Arlington, Texas finishes off a stunning three-game ALDS sweep of the 101-61 Orioles, scoring six runs off Baltimore starter Dean Kremer over the first two innings before breezing to a 7-1 triumph behind Nathan Eovaldi’s seven solid innings. The Orioles’ ALDS exit is their first series sweep suffered since losing three straight at Detroit in mid-May of 2022—just a week before All-Star catcher Adley Rutschman was called up to the team. (The Orioles’ 91 straight regular season series without a sweep, the third longest in MLB history, remains intact.) 

The Rangers, 5-0 in the playoffs after sweeping the AL’s two best teams by the record (Tampa Bay and Baltimore), will be participating in their third-ever ALCS, following back-to-back appearances in 2010-11. The Orioles, meanwhile, have lost eight straight postseason games dating back to 2014. 

Corey Seager walks two more times against Baltimore, giving him nine passes (in just three games) for the series; that breaks Barry Bonds’ LDS mark from the 2003 NLDS, lost by his Giants in four to the Marlins. 

In Minnesota, the Astros take a 2-1 ALDS lead over the Twins with a bruising 9-1 romp. Jose Abreu, his shirt more unbuttoned than ever, drills his first of two home runs in the second inning for three runs and a 4-0 lead; Alex Bregman will make it 5-0 three innings later with a solo shot. Both blasts are belted off of Minnesota starter Sonny Gray, who gives up multiple homers for the first time in 60 starts (he allowed only eight during the entire regular season). Yordan Alvarez adds to the offensive collection with two doubles and a home run, already his fourth of the series. While Gray is getting hammered by Houston bats, Astros starter Cristian Javier continues to shine in a postseason role. The fourth-year right-hander allows just one hit over five shutout frames—he does walk five, leading to an early departure—in his first playoff appearance since being part of the Astros’ combo no-hitter against the Phillies in World Series Game Four last season. In three career postseason starts, Javier has pitched 16.1 innings, allowed no runs—and just two hits. (He’s walked 10.) 

Wednesday, October 11

For the second straight year, the Dodgers are embarrassed in their first round of postseason play by a fellow NL West team finishing well back in the standings. Last year, it was the Padres, 22 games behind in the regular season, who knocked the Dodgers out in a four-game NLDS; this year, it’s the Diamondbacks, who placed 17 games behind Los Angeles, finishing up a stunning three-game sweep with a 4-2 win at Phoenix. Dodgers starter Lance Lynn, who gave up the most home runs in MLB this season, is on brand as the Diamondbacks launch four solo home runs against him in the third inning to account for all of their runs. This doesn’t include a deep drive down the right-field line from Gabriel Moreno which is initially ruled a homer, before replays determined that the ball misses to the foul side of the pole; on the very next pitch, he drills one over the left-center field fence. It’s the first time in postseason history that a team has hit four homers in a single inning. 

Congratulations are in order for Lynn, who has the longest outing of any Dodgers starter in the series at 2.2 innings. Overall, Dodgers starters amass just 4.2 frames of work—allowing 13 runs on 16 hits, five of them home runs. 

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is contracted through 2025, but will the team be reactionary and make him the scapegoat for their continued postseason misery? Roberts holds a modest 45-39 playoff record, but that’s with a ballclub he’s won over 100 regular season games five times—and that doesn’t include a dominant 43-17 record in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, for which he guided them to their lone World Series triumph under his watch. Perhaps management will decide he isn’t responsible for a rotation missing so many parts (Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin) that crated against Arizona, or the failure of star hitters Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman (a combined 1-for-21 in the NLDS) to show off their MVP form. 

The Diamondbacks, who have yet to lose in the playoffs, will take on the winner of the other NLDS, where another upset might be brewing as the Phillies smack the Braves at Philadelphia, 10-2, taking a 2-1 series lead. Bryce Harper, ridiculed by Braves players and especially shortstop Orlando Arcia—who blurted out “Atta-boy, Harper” in the clubhouse after Harper was doubled up at first base to end Game Two—drills two home runs to power the Phillies’ rout. On both of his round-trippin’ trots, Harper runs past—and stares down—Arcia. Nick Castellanos adds a pair of solo homers for the Phillies, as he and Harper become only the fourth set of teammates to go deep twice in the same postseason game. 

It’s a done deal for the Astros in the ALDS, holding off the Twins to take a tight 3-2 win at Minnesota and advancing to an all-Texas ALCS against the Rangers. After the Twins’ Royce Lewis puts his team on top in the first with a solo shot, the Astros’ Michael Brantley responds in kind, tying the game in the second; Jose Abreu’s two-run blast in the fourth—his third in two games—puts Houston ahead for good, as Jose Urquidy and three relievers clamp down on the Twins the rest of the way. The last of those three relievers, closer Ryan Pressly, strikes out the side in the ninth despite three-ball counts on each Minnesota batter. 

This will be the seventh straight LCS appearance by the Astros, one shy of the all-time mark set by the 1991-99 Braves. 

The Twins, who set an MLB season record with 1,654 batting strikeouts, are K’d 52 times over the four-game ALDS—and 73 times over six total postseason games. They struck out at least 10 times in each of those games. 

Thursday, October 12

The up-is-down, down-is-up bizarro postseason gets even more upside down as the wild card Phillies knock out the Braves—owners of the majors’ best record at 104-58—with a 3-1 victory at Philadelphia to win the NLDS in four games. It’s a duplicate shock of the year before, when the Phillies—then the NL’s low wild card seed—ousted the powerful (101-61) Braves also in the NLDS by the same game count, on their way to the league pennant. 

Austin Riley breaks the ice for Atlanta with a fourth-inning solo home run off Phillies starter Ranger Suarez, who otherwise pitches five stellar frames in his second, short but solid NLDS outing. But the Phillies respond with a solo homer in each of the next three innings, all off of Atlanta ace Spencer Strider, to give them all the offense they need to achieve victory. Two of Philadelphia’s homers are delivered by Nick Castellanos, following up on his multi-homer game of the night before; he’s the first player in postseason history to have back-to-back games with two homers in each. 

The Braves’ departure amplifies a growing murmur of baseball fans who aren’t wild about the proliferation of wild card participants and the havoc they wreak in October when, some opine, they shouldn’t even be there. Others will say that, hey, a team gets hot in the playoffs—that’s on the ballclubs they beat. But we’re talking about the four best teams by the record—the Braves, Orioles, Dodgers and Rays—all being knocked out of their first round, with only one of those teams (the Braves) winning even a single game, and that by a hair. Now we have an unprecedented circumstance of all four LCS opponents having each lost at least 72 games during the regular season. 

This has put Rob Manfred on the defensive. In a chat with reporters before the Braves are eliminated, the MLB commissioner stresses patience about the recently reimagined playoff format. “It’s only Year Two,” he says, “I’m sort of the view you need to give something a chance to work out.” He does admit that the league will “re-evaluate in the offseason like we always do and think about if we have the format right.” 

There is a simple solution to all of this: Reduce the number of, or just flat-out eliminate, wild card teams. Of course, we all know that’s a non-starter. More playoff teams equal more playoff games equal more revenue for MLB and its participating playoff teams. That’s a genie that Manfred will simply not put back in the bottle. So now we have four LCS teams, three of which are wild cards and the other (Houston) a team which spent the last week of the regular season trailing in the standings before nosing in with a tiebreaker on the season’s final day.

Maybe they should have a consolation series for the those defeated in the LDS round. It might make for better baseball. 

Friday, October 13

Among all Milwaukee Brewers pitchers with 500 or more innings thrown for the franchise since their 1969 inception, no one has a better ERA (3.10) nor winning percentage (.639) than Brandon Woodruff. The right-hander only enhanced those two numbers with an excellent second-half performance in 2023 after sitting out the first half with shoulder issues, registering a 5-1 record, 2.28 ERA and first career shutout over 11 starts. But the shoulder flared up at season’s end, causing him to miss the Brewers’ two-and-out exit from the wild card round against the resurgent Diamondbacks—and now he may miss all of 2024 as well. Woodruff undergoes surgery to repair an ‘anterior capsule’ in his right shoulder, and as a result he is likely to miss at least a good chunk of next season—just in time for time for him to become a free agent for 2025. 

Undergoing a similar procedure is Atlanta pitcher Kyle Wright, the majors’ lone 20-game winner from 2022 who managed just one victory this past season, along with three losses and a 6.97 ERA as he simply couldn’t make a go at it from the mound. He, too, is expected to miss virtually all of 2024. 

Wright has pitched six years in the majors. As mentioned, he won 21 in 2022. He’s never won more than two in any of his other five campaigns. 

Sunday, October 15

The ALCS begins with the Rangers extending their 2023 postseason record to 6-0—5-0 on the road—with a 2-0 victory over the Astros at Houston, as Jordan Montgomery pitches 6.1 shutout innings followed by 2.2 hitless innings divvied up by three Texas relievers. The shutout loss is a far cry from the last time these two teams met in September, when the Astros put together a dominant three-game sweep, scoring 39 runs and blasting 16 home runs at Arlington. Rookie outfielder Evan Carter continues to be the story offensively for the Rangers; the 21-year old scores the first Texas run in the second after doubling, and on defense makes two outstanding catches—including a pivotal eighth-inning catch against the left-center fencing leading to a double play, as Houston’s Jose Altuve fails to touch second base on his way back to first following the catch. (Altuve is initially ruled safe, but video replay changes the decision.) 

Montgomery has thrown at least 6.1 shutout innings in four of his last seven starts. For Houston, Justin Verlander takes the loss despite pitching well—allowing both Texas runs on six hits over 6.2 innings. 

Monday, October 16

The Rangers keep it going, taking a 2-0 ALCS lead with a 5-4, Game Two victory at Houston over the Astros. Texas scores four times in the first inning off of beleaguered Astros starter Framber Valdez, then hangs on for dear life as the Astros gradually cut down on the lead, trimming it to a single run in the eighth on Yordan Alvarez’s second solo home run of the game. But the Astros are kicking themselves for a glorious bases-loaded, no-out opportunity in the fifth that yields no runs as Nathan Eovaldi gets out of it with two strikeouts and a grounder. 

While the Rangers continue to be undefeated in the postseason at 7-0, the Diamondbacks finally suffer their first playoff defeat with a 5-3 NLCS Game One loss at Philadelphia. The Phillies waste no time on Arizona starter Zac Gallen, as leadoff batter Kyle Schwarber goes deep to start the first—followed two batters later by Bryce Harper, homering on his 31st birthday. Nick Castellanos adds a solo shot of his own in the fifth, giving him five homers over his last three games—a playoff feat matched only by Reggie Jackson in 1977. Overall, the Phillies have banged out 12 homers over their last three games, setting an MLB postseason mark. After trailing 5-0 with Zack Wheeler clamping down on the Phillies’ mound, the Diamondbacks peck back—but can mount no major rally to overcome the early deficit. 

Kim Ng, the first female general manager of a major pro sports team, has resigned from the Marlins after she learned that the team was planning to install a baseball ops head that would relegate her to #2 in the front office. It’s a bit of a stunning move, given that the deals Ng made at the trading deadline—especially with Josh Bell and Jake Burger to wake up a sleepy offense—helped push the Marlins into the playoffs. Ng is expected to (and should) be highly sought by other MLB clubs. 

One of the more reliable and veteran players in Oakland this past season was reliever Trevor May, who closed out what few opportunities he had by saving 21 of the A’s 50 victories, while not allowing an earned run over his last 15 appearances. May announces his retirement at age 33, and in the process takes quite a zing at vilified A’s owner John Fisher on his Twitch stream. Echoing the fans he also took time to embrace as among the best in baseball, May speaks of Fisher, “Sell the team, dude. Sell it, man…There’s actually people who give a s**t about the game. Let them do it. Take mommy and daddy’s money somewhere else, dork.” He goes on: “If you’re going to be a greedy f**k, own it. There’s nothing weaker than being afraid of cameras.” 

Tuesday, October 17

The Phillies dominate in NLCS Game Two, smashing the Diamondbacks 10-0 on the strength of three more home runs—two from leadoff freak Kyle Schwarber—and six shutout innings from Aaron Nola to take a 2-0 series lead. Arizona starter Merrill Kelly gives ups four runs on three hits—all solo homers—over 5.2 innings, getting ripped by Philadelphia fans who he said before the game couldn’t be any louder than what he experienced during a WBC game at Miami this past spring. 

Schwarber’s two homers give him 18 for his postseason career, tying Reggie Jackson at the top of the list among left-handed hitters; the Phillies on a whole have hit a playoff-record 15 over their past four games, and outhomered the opposition thus far in October by a 19-4 count. 

Wednesday, October 18

In a critical ALCS Game Three effort, the Astros get in the win column at Arlington with an 8-5 win against the Rangers at Arlington—where they’ve won seven of eight games this season. Houston bursts out to a 5-0 lead by the fourth inning off Max Scherzer, making his first appearance in over a month for the Rangers; Cristian Javier, Scherzer’s oppo number, extends his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to start a postseason career to 21 (second only to Christy Mathewson’s 28) before giving up a two-out, two-run homer to Josh Jung in the fifth. Jung will hit another two-run bomb in the seventh to draw the Rangers back to within three runs, but that’s as close as they ever get. 

It’s finally the first postseason loss for Texas after seven straight wins to begin the tournament. 

Thursday, October 19

Back in Phoenix for NLCS Game Three, the Diamondbacks get a much-needed victory, and in walk-off fashion—as Ketel Marte’s bases-loaded single in the ninth gives Arizona a 2-1 victory over the Phillies to trail in the series, two games to one. The game is scoreless through the first six innings as the Phillies’ Ranger Suarez and DBacks’ Brandon Pfaadt trade zeroes on the scoreboard; with both of those pitchers gone in the seventh, each team exchanges a run to break the ice—and with Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel pitching in the ninth, the DBacks load the bases on two walks and an infield single before Marte delivers with the third walk-off hit in Arizona postseason history. 

The road warriors continue to take the victorious path in the ALCS, as the Astros—having lost their first two games of the series at home—win their second straight at Arlington against the Rangers, 10-3, to even up things up at two games apiece. Houston takes a quick 3-0 lead in the first before the first out, as Texas starter Andrew Heaney is eventually removed after just 0.2 innings; after the Rangers tie the game in the third, the Astros bounce right back with a four-spot in the fourth—the last three runs of which come courtesy of Jose Abreu’s 438-foot homer. From there, the Astros never look back, adding three to finish the rout. 

Friday, October 20

In a tense game turned raucous toward the end, the Astros take ALCS Game Five at Arlington —and take a 3-2 series lead over the Rangers—with a 5-4 triumph on Jose Altuve’s three-run homer in the ninth. Houston grabs a quick 1-0 lead in the first on Alex Bregman’s home run and holds a slim lead into the sixth behind Justin Verlander, but the Rangers turn things around on Adolis Garcia’s towering three-run homer to give Texas a 4-2 lead. That score remains the same in the bottom of the eighth when, with one on and no one out, Garcia returns to the plate and absorbs a high, 98-MPH plunking from Astros reliever Bryan Abreu—and Garcia immediately turns toward and directs his anger at Houston catcher Martin Maldonado, with whom he’s feuded on the field more than once this season. Garcia has to be restrained by multiple players on both sides as a calm Maldonado blithely watches on; umpires eject Abreu for intent, Garcia for instigating the confrontation, and Houston manager Dusty Baker for excessive arguing, though he rightly argues why Abreu would pick this moment—late in a close, crucial postseason game—to deliberately hit a batter and thus face a situation with multiple runners on base with no outs. Texas closer Jose LeClerc, perhaps feeling iced as he has to wait nearly 20 minutes to return to the mound in the ninth after getting the last out of the eighth, allows the first two Astros to reach—then serves up Altuve’s 26th career postseason homer that wins the game for Houston. 

The Astros are the third team to win three straight games on the road after losing their first two at home in a best-of-seven postseason series. The 2019 Astros were one of the other two teams—winning three straight at Washington in the World Series after losing the first two at home. 

There’s additional drama to spare at Phoenix for NLCS Game Four. In a bullpen game for both the Phillies and Diamondbacks, Arizona takes an early 2-0 lead before Philadelphia notches five unanswered runs heading into the seventh-inning stretch. From there, the Diamondbacks rebound; they score one in the bottom of the seventh, then rally for three in the eighth off the Phillies’ Craig Kimbrel—the first two on an Alek Thomas homer than lands in the Chase Field pool, followed by an RBI single by Ketel Marte to give the DBacks a 6-5 lead that will hold to the finish. With the win, Arizona ties the NLCS at two games apiece. 

With his home run to put the Phillies on the board in the fourth inning, Kyle Schwarber now has more homers (51) than singles (50) on the year, regular season and postseason included. 

Fact Number Whatever that it’s too easy to steal bases this season: The Phillies’ Trea Turner is caught attempting to steal, the first time he’s been nabbed all year after 34 successful attempts between the regular campaign and postseason. 

Saturday, October 21

The Phillies mix small ball with speed to take a quick lead at Phoenix, then turn to the long ball in the later innings while riding another terrific Zack Wheeler start to defeat the Diamondbacks, 6-1, and take a 3-2 NLCS lead back to Philadelphia. Three first-inning singles (including an infield knock from Kyle Schwarber) propels the Phillies’ initial rally—but so does a double-steal that brings home Bryce Harper on a tough collision at home plate with bruised-up Arizona catcher Gabriel Moreno, who’s aged about five years this postseason with a flurry of hard knocks he’s suffered throughout. The thunder arrives in the sixth when Schwarber belts his fifth NLCS and 20th career home run, a massive 461-foot blast—followed two batters later by a 444-foot drive from Harper to make it 4-1. J.T. Realmuto’s two-run shot in the eighth—ending a streak of 16 straight solo homers by the Phillies—caps the night’s scoring. On the mound, Wheeler allows a run on six hits and a walk with eight strikeouts through seven innings; in four postseason outings this year, he’s gone 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 34 strikeouts—and just two walks.  

Sunday, October 22

Six ALCS games, six wins for the road team. The Rangers force Game Seven at Houston with a 9-2 victory over the Astros, pulling away from a close game in the ninth with a five-run rally capped by a grand slam from Adolis Garcia, the firebrand slugger who was the center of late-inning controversy in Game Five back at Arlington. It’s redemption for Garcia on principle, as well as for his first four at-bats on the night, all of which end in strikeouts. One of those strikeouts comes from Astros reliever Bryan Abreu, in a rematch of the Game Five showdown in which he drilled Garcia; Abreu was available after appealing a two-game suspension. The Astros notch the game’s initial run in the first inning, but Houston starter Framber Valdez, struggling to get on track in the postseason, gives up three runs on five hits—two of them home runs from Mitch Garver and Jonah Heim—before being removed after five innings. He’s 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA in three October outings. 

Monday, October 23

The American League pennant goes to the road team—or, the Texas Rangers, playing away in four of the seven contests and stomping the Astros at Houston in the winner-take-all Game Seven, 11-4. The Rangers waste no time getting out of the gate, roughing up Houston starter Cristian Javier—who looks just plain scared on the mound—for three runs on four hits and a walk before he’s removed with just one out. The Astros hang with Texas for three innings, trailing 4-2—but the floodgates over for the Rangers in the fourth, as they bring home four runs to take command. Leading the charge is ALCS MVP Adolis Garcia, who goes 4-for-5 with two homers, two singles and five RBIs; for the series, he’s 10-for-28 with five homers and a postseason series-record 15 RBIs. 

This is the second time in MLB history that a best-of-seven series has gone the distance with the road team winning all seven games; it also happened in 2019, with the Astros losing out to Washington in the World Series. The Astros finish the year 40-47 (39-42 in the regular season, 1-5 in the playoffs) at Minute Maid Park; had they won Game Seven, they would have been the first team to reach the World Series with a losing record at home. 

It’s the third pennant for first-year Texas manager Bruce Bochy, who’ll return to the World Series for the fifth time, and for a third different team—also having brought the 1998 Padres and 2010, 2012 and 2014 Giants to the Fall Classic. Besides Bochy, two other managers have piloted three different teams at the World Series: Bill McKechnie with the 1925 Pirates, 1928 Cardinals and 1939-40 Reds; and Dick Williams for the 1967 Red Sox, 1972-73 A’s and 1984 Padres. 

Houston manager Dusty Baker is now 0-4 in Game Sevens. He lost deciding games with the 2002 Giants, 2003 Cubs and 2020 Astros. 

The Rangers’ triumph ensures that the World Series will be the third played between two wild card teams; the others occurred in 2002 (Giants vs. Angels) and 2014 (Giants vs. Royals). Texas remains undefeated on the road this postseason, having won eight times; only the 1996 Yankees (8-0) have previously accomplished that. 

Texas’ World Series opponent will be determined today in Philadelphia, as Arizona forces a Game Seven with a 5-1 victory over the Phillies. The Diamondbacks set the pace in the second inning when they rally for three runs, a sequence that includes back-to-back solo shots from Tommy Pham and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., off Phillies starter Aaron Nola. The Phillies counter with a run in the bottom of the second, but that’s all the offense they’ll muster on the night as Arizona starter Merrill Kelly (five innings) and four relievers shut down the high-powered Philadelphia offense. 

It’s the first home loss in seven postseason games for the Phillies. 

Tuesday, October 24

The 84-78 Arizona Diamondbacks, the #6 seed in the NL playoffs, are headed to the World Series for the second time in franchise history after a 4-2, Game Seven triumph over the Phillies at Philadelphia. They’ll face the Texas Rangers, the AL’s #5 seed, for the Commissioner’s Trophy. A tight game starts with a first-inning Arizona run, followed by a pair of Phillies runs to give the defending NL champs a 2-1 lead after four innings. But that edge is short-lived as the DBacks rally for two in the fifth, taking a lead they’ll never surrender. Following the departure of Arizona rookie starter Brandon Pfaadt, five DBacks relievers combine to throw the remaining five innings of one-hit shutout ball. All throughout the game, the Phillies’ vaunted lineup looks to be pressing, swinging at an abundance of pitches outside of the strike zone; collectively, they strike out 11 times. 

After stealing just one base through the first five games, the speedy Diamondbacks wake up and steal eight over the final two games (both wins at Philadelphia), with four swipes in each. Individually, rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll has a massive Game Seven, knocking out three hits, stealing two bases, knocking in two of the DBacks’ four runs while scoring the other two. Teammate Ketel Marte, despite a 1-for-5 night with four strikeouts, wins the NLCS MVP with a .387 average, four doubles and a triple. 

According to STATS, the combined .537 winning percentage between the Diamondbacks and Rangers during the regular season is the lowest for a final among North America’s four primary pro sports leagues since hockey’s Stanley Cup in 1991 between the Minnesota North Stars (who somehow made it to the finals with a 27-39-14 record) and Pittsburgh Penguins (41-33-6). 

With an 84-78 record during the regular season, the DBacks are the third worst team (by the record) to win a league pennant, after the 1973 Mets (82-79) and 2006 Cardinals (83-78). 

The Giants name San Diego manager Bob Melvin as their new skipper. The Padres granted the Giants permission to interview and then hire away the 61-year-old Melvin, who’s won three Manager of the Year awards—one for Arizona (2007) and two for Oakland (2012 and 2018); he struggled to get the high-powered Padres over .500 the past two years, with word that he’s been at odds with the Padres’ front office. 

In San Francisco, Melvin will reunite with Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, who was the assistant GM at Oakland from 2011-14 while Melvin managed there. 

Thursday, October 26

Dusty Baker all but confirms that he’s stepping down as manager of the Houston Astros and will retire from the game after 26 years of managing—on top of five years as a coach and 20 as a player (majors and minors combined). He does hint at a possible return somewhere down the line, telling reporters, “This isn’t a goodbye, it’s simply a see-you-later.” The Astros were the fifth and final team managed by the 74-year-old Baker; his 2,183 wins rank seventh on the all-time list, making the postseason in 13 seasons and winning it all for Houston in 2022

Friday, October 27

It’s the first game of the World Series and not the seventh, but the result for the Texas Rangers is enough for them and their fans to ease the longstanding pain of the franchise’s most painful defeat, 12 years ago to the day. After Corey Seager ties the game with a two-run homer in the ninth for Texas, Adolis Garcia’s opposite-field solo strike in the 11th gives the Rangers a 6-5 Game One win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Arlington—a dozen years after the team lost a heartbreaking Game Six to David Freese and the Cardinals that otherwise would have resulted in their first-ever world title. (Texas would lose Game Seven as well.) Additionally, Garcia—who also singles home the Rangers’ second run as part of a two-run first inning—has 22 RBIs this October, breaking the postseason mark set by, you guessed it, Freese back in 2011. Freese needed 18 games; Garcia has achieved his total in just 13. The Diamondbacks, back to their stealing ways with four more base swipes, erase an early 2-0 Texas advantage and hold the lead from the fourth inning to the bottom of the ninth, when Arizona closer Paul Sewald suffers his first blown save (and first runs allowed) of the postseason, yielding the crushing 418-foot blow from Seager to tie the game. 

Game One is the first game in the 2023 playoffs to go extra innings, returning us to the good old days when there was no gift runner on second. 

The game lasts four hours and two minutes. Any complaints? None here, either. 

Neither team has yet to lose a game this postseason when scoring first. 

Before the game, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred defends the current playoff format that perhaps led to the early departures of three 100-game winners—the Braves, Dodgers and Orioles—in their first round of play, while players union boss Tony Clark is more skeptical. Manfred embraces the quantity of competition with the expanded 12-team format and week-long rests for the top seeds, stating, “One of the greatest things about the playoffs in baseball is anybody can win…I don’t think what happened this year is all that out of line with history,” citing that only 11% of 100-win teams have won the World Series since 1980. Of course, Manfred doesn’t cite that most of those bowing out didn’t lose to teams six games over .500, as the Diamondbacks were this year. Clark, who seems more concerned for the value and wellbeing of the regular season, reminds reporters that MLB actually wanted a 14-team format during contract negotiations early in 2022, while the union believed the existing 10-team format “wasn’t broke.” They offered MLB the current 12-team set-up as a compromise to help gain concessions in their talks on a new Basic Agreement. 

Given that fans may be turned off by a World Series matchup pitting the NL’s #6 seed with the AL’s #5, Manfred is open to “discussions” this offseason to see if there’s any tweaking that could give the top seeds a different kind of advantage. 

Saturday, October 28

The Diamondbacks even up the World Series against the Rangers at Arlington, emerging from a pitcher’s duel through the first six innings and running away with a 9-1, Game Two victory. Arizona starter Merrill Kelly outlasts Texas’ Jordan Montgomery by hurling seven excellent innings, allowing a run on three hits and no walks with nine strikeouts; on offense, the Diamondbacks benefit from 16 hits, including four from Tommy Pham to tie Albert Pujols for the most four-hit games in postseason history, and one from Ketel Marte to give him a hitting streak of 18 games that’s the longest in postseason history—breaking a tie with Hank Bauer (1956-58), Derek Jeter (1998-99) and Manny Ramirez (2003-04). Additionally, the Diamondbacks lay down three sacrifice bunts, the most seen in a World Series game since the Cardinals put down three in Game Five of 2011; only once during the regular season did a team get credited with three sac bunts—and that was the Diamondbacks, on May 6 vs. Washington. 

Kelly and two Arizona relievers contain standout Texas slugger Adolis Garcia, who’s hitless in three at-bats with a walk. The game thus sees the end of two streaks for Garcia: Five straight games with a home run, and seven straight with an RBI. Both streaks were one short of a postseason record. 

Monday, October 30

The Rangers take a 2-1 World Series lead with a 3-1 decision over the Diamondbacks at Phoenix, their ninth road win (without a loss) to set a single postseason record. All three of Texas’ runs are notched in the third, with the final two courtesy of another no-doubt-about-it blast to the right-field bleachers by Corey Seager—his 18th career playoff homer. The Texas rally comes an inning after the Diamondbacks threaten but fail to score, as Christian Walker runs through an indecisive go-no-stop sign from Arizona third-base coach Tony Perezchica and is gunned down at the plate on a throw from right fielder Adolis Garcia. In the ninth, Jose Leclerc retires the DBacks side in order for his fourth postseason save—matching his entire regular season total. 

The game does not go without some pain to the Texas roster. Starting pitcher Max Scherzer departs after three shutout innings with tightness in his back; later in the eighth, Garcia grabs his left oblique after hitting a fly ball to center. After the game, Texas manager Bruce Bochy states, somewhat warily, “We’re being optimistic” in reference to both injuries. 

New York Yankees star slugger Aaron Judge is this year’s recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the MLB player who best exhibits selfless giving to the community. In Judge’s case, his All Rise Foundation has reached out to help support youth in New York and in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where he was born and raised. Judge is the fourth Yankee to win the Clemente honor, following Ron Guidry, Don Baylor and, most recently in 2009, Derek Jeter

Baseball mourns one of the most powerful presences ever seen, as four-time All-Star Frank Howard passes at the age of 87. A monstrous force at 6’7” and 255 pounds, Howard spent his first seven years with the Dodgers, putting up decent power numbers—but after being traded to the Washington Senators, his career hit an impressive peak starting in 1968 with the first of three straight seasons hitting at least 44 home runs, topping off with 48 in 1969. It was during that 1968 campaign, when pitchers dominated, that Howard went on a remarkable tear of hitting 10 home runs over 20 at-bats; fans in the upper deck at Washington’s RFK Stadium often had to take cover from the incoming monsters shots launched by Howard, including a stadium-record 535-foot homer in 1967. Twenty-four upper-deck seats were painted white after being struck by one of Howard’s tape-measure drives. 

Howard’s career hit a downslope when the Senators moved to Arlington to become the Texas Rangers in 1972, a descent accelerated by the difficulty of going deep at baking, wind-swept Arlington Stadium. Overall, “Hondo” hit 382 homers with 1,119 RBIs and a .273 batting average over 16 years. He briefly tried his hand at managing, first with the 1981 Padres, then two years later on an interim basis with the Mets—neither with positive results. 

Tuesday, October 31

The Rangers go trick and treatin’ on Halloween and come away with the World Series practically in the candy bag, pouncing early on the Diamondbacks and withstanding a couple too-little, too-late rallies from Arizona to triumph at Phoenix, 11-7. 

Texas can wrap up its first ever world title tonight at Chase Field; even if they don’t win Game Five, they’ll get two more shots back at Arlington. 

The rout begins for the Rangers with five runs in the second—all scoring with two outs; an inning later, they do the exact same thing, as Marcus Semien caps the scoring with a three-run homer an inning after Corey Seager goes deep on a two-run shot to wrap up that rally. No team had previously scored five or more runs in back-to-back innings in a World Series game—and no team since 1999, regular season or post, had done so with all runs scoring with two outs. 

The Rangers are 10-0 on the road this postseason; that’s not only the longest such streak in playoff history, but it’s the longest in franchise history—including regular season games. 

The Texas rout is all the more impressive given that they’ll be without postseason slugging star Adolis Garcia for the rest of the series, as he’s sidelined with a moderate oblique strain. Pitcher Max Scherzer, who also exited Game Three with back spasms, will be out the rest of the way as well.

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