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World Series Game 7: Top 20 in Major League Baseball history

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Koufax dominated the 1965 World Series as no other pitcher before or since, capturing MVP honors in leading the Dodgers to the title

 

On Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston, the host Astros will battle the Washington Nationals for the 2019 championship of Major League Baseball.

The first modern World Series was held all the way back in 1903 and has been conducted every year since 1905, with the notable exception of the 1994 season when the Fall Classic was cancelled due to a player’s strike.

Since 1922, the World Series has always been contested in a best-of-seven games format. That has not always been the case. The very first series in 1903 and again each year from 1919-21, there was a best-of nine games format utilized. None of those went the distance.

This will mark the 44th time (over 38%) that the Fall Classic has gone the ultimate full distance. On three occasions, there was a tie game in the series. Those took place in 1907, 1912, and in 1922. That 1912 series was notable in that it went a full seven games and also included one ending in a tie, so eight games were actually played.

The longest stretch that MLB has gone without enjoying a Game 7 in the World Series was in the decade between the 2002 and 2011 seasons.

The most consecutive Game 7’s occurred between 1955-58 when the drama went the distance in four straight years. From 1952-75 there was a halcyon period in which 15 (62.5%) decisive Game 7’s took place.

Here are my selections as the Top 20 Game 7’s in World Series history, with a brief synopsis. You’ll note that I haven’t chosen to rank them, but rather they are presented in reverse chronological order. Every one was a fantastic finish to the season. Feel free to leave a comment or response on social media with your own favorite.

2016: Cubs – 8, Indians – 7 (10 innings)

The Cubs were under the ‘Curse of the Billy Goat‘ for more than 70 years at this point, and had not won a World Series since 1908. They bolted to a 5-1 lead in the 5th inning, but the Indians roared back. The host Tribe got a two-out RBI double from Brandon Guyer and two-run homer by Rajai Davis off Aroldis Chapman to tie it up in the bottom of the 8th. The game rolled into extra innings, and Chicago scored twice in the top of the 10th for an 8-6 lead. The Indians were still not finished, with Davis delivering an RBI single to make it a one-run game. But Mike Montgomery got Michael Martinez to ground out, third baseman Kris Bryant firing to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to finally end the curse and bring the Cubbies and their long-suffering fans a world championship.

2014: Giants – 3, Royals – 2

Five of the previous six games in this Fall Classic had been blowouts, with only the Royals 3-2 win in Game 3 as a tight affair. This one would be won for the Giants by a fantastic five-inning relief performance from ace lefty Madison Bumgarner, who had previously won Games 1 and 5 as the starting pitcher. A one-out RBI single in the top of the 4th inning by Mike Morse off Kelvin Herrera scored Pablo Sandoval, breaking a 2-2 with what would prove the series-winning run. Bumgarner shut the Royals out on two hits over those final five frames, getting Salvador Perez to pop out with the potential tying run at third base for the final out.

2001: Diamondbacks – 3, Yankees – 2

The Yankees were the three-time defending World Series champions, and they took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th inning at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. There, manager Joe Torre turned the game over to living legend closer Mariano Rivera, one of the greatest postseason pitchers in baseball history. But the host Dbacks refused to lay down and go quietly. Tony Womack ripped a one-out RBI double to tie the game. Then, in one of the most dramatic endings of all-time, Luis Gonzalez looped a series-winning single to center, scoring Jay Bell with the walkoff run as the home crowd went crazy in celebration of the only World Series title in Arizona history.

1997: Marlins – 3, Indians – 2 (11 innings)

In just their fifth season of existence, the Florida Marlins became the first since MLB instituted Wildcard playoff teams for the 1994 season to reach the World Series and also the first to win it all. The Indians were kept from their first World Series crown since 1948, a streak that has now reached 72 years. In this one, the host Tribe led 2-1 into the bottom of the 9th inning. Craig Counsell‘s RBI sac fly off Jose Mesa brought Moises Alou home with the game-tying run, sending the contest to extra-innings. In the bottom of the 11th, Edgar Renteria walked it off with a two-out, bases loaded single that barely ticked off pitcher Charles Nagy‘s glove, scoring Counsell with the series-winning run.

1991: Twins – 1, Braves – 0 (10 innings)

The only Game 7 in World Series to go scoreless into extra innings took place at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minnesota. For the visiting Braves, John Smoltz went 7.1 shutout innings, allowing just six hits and one walk in a brilliant performance. Unfortunately he was out-dueled by a fellow future Hall of Famer, as Jack Morris went the distance for the host Twins. Morris shut the Braves out, scattering seven hits over 10 innings for the win. Dan Gladden led off the bottom of the 10th with a double off Atlanta reliever Alejandro Pena and moved to third base on a ground out. After back-to-back intentional walks to Chuck Knoblauch and Kirby Puckett loaded the bases, Gene Larkin walked it off with a series-winning base hit.

1987: Twins – 4, Cardinals – 2

Lefty Frank Viola gave the host Twins a strong eight innings on the mound at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and the home team would rally from an early deficit for the victory. Kirby Puckett‘s RBI double tied the game up at 2-2 in the bottom of the 5th inning. Three of the first four batters in the bottom of the 6th each worked walks to load the bases, and Greg Gagne then produced an RBI single to put the Twins up 3-2 with what would prove the series-winning run. With two outs in the home 8th, Dan Gladden doubled off Cardinals closer Todd Worrell to drive in an insurance run. Twins closer Jeff Reardon coaxed Willie McGee to ground out, with third baseman Gary Gaetti firing across to first baseman Kent Hrbek to wrap the first World Series title since the franchise moved to Minnesota for the 1961 season. As the Washington Senators, they had previously won it all just once, back in 1924 in another seven-gamer that you will find listed below.

1982: Cardinals – 6, Brewers – 3

At Busch Stadium in Saint Louis, the visiting Milwaukee Brewers were looking for the first world championship in franchise history. Formed originally as the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, the franchise had moved to Milwaukee for the 1970 season. This version of the team was nicknamed “Harvey’s Wallbangers” after manager Harvey Kuenn, and they took a 3-1 lead in the top of the 5th inning when future Hall of Famer Paul Molitor delivered an RBI single and later scored another run on a Cecil Cooper base hit. But Keith Hernandez tied it with a two-run single in the bottom of that inning, and George Hendrick followed with an RBI single to give Saint Louis a 4-3 lead. The host Cards tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th, and future Hall of Fame pitcher Bruce Sutter closed it out with a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 9th inning. The Brewers remain one of seven current MLB teams to never win the World Series, a list that the Nationals will try to knock down to six in tonight’s game.

1979: Pirates – 4, Orioles – 1

For the second time in the decade, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles were battling in a World Series Game 7. These “We Are Family” Pirates had rallied from a 3-1 series deficit, forcing this decisive game at Memorial Park in Baltimore. Trailing 1-0 in the top of the 6th inning, future Hall of Famer Willie Stargell crushed a two-run homer off Scott McGregor to put the Pirates on top. The Bucs would add a pair of insurance runs in the top of the 9th inning, and closer Kent Tekulve would shut the Orioles down in order in the bottom of the frame. The 39-year-old Stargell delivered four hits for the Pirates and was honored as the World Series MVP.

1975: Reds – 4, Red Sox – 3

The day after Carlton Fisk‘s historic 12th inning walkoff home run had tied the World Series at three games apiece, the visiting ‘Big Red Machine’ would battle back to win at Fenway Park in one of the most exciting Game 7’s in baseball history. An RBI single from future Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski gave host Boston an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Reds starter Don Gullett then walked in a pair of runs later in the frame, and the Bosox had a 3-0 lead. It was beginning to appear as if the 57-year-old ‘Curse of the Bambino‘ was about to be broken. In the top of the 6th with Johnny Bench aboard, Tony Perez drilled a clutch two-out, two-run homer off Bill Lee to cut the Reds deficit to 3-2. Then with two outs and two on in the top of the 7th, Pete Rose RBI single scored Ken Griffey with the tying run. The game went to the top of the 9th inning still tied at 3-3 when, with two outs, Joe Morgan‘s looping RBI single scored Griffey to push the Reds in front by 4-3. Southpaw Will McEnaney set Boston down in order in the bottom of the 9th, getting Yaz on a fly ball to end it.

1972: Athletics – 3, Reds – 2

Two great dynasties of the 1970’s were meeting here. The A’s would win three straight World Series titles from 1971-73, and the ‘Big Red Machine’ would capture back-to-back championships in 1975-76.  The first five games in this Fall Classic were each decided by a single run. In Game 7 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, the two teams were tied at 1-1 into the 6th inning. There, Gene Tenace and Sal Bando ripped back-to-back two-out RBI doubles to push the “Swingin’ A’s” out to a 3-1 lead. Tony Perez sac fly off Rollie Fingers scored Pete Rose with a run to make it a 3-2 game in the bottom of the 8th inning. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Fingers hit Darrel Chaney with a pitch, giving the host Reds once final shot. But Fingers retired Rose on a fly to left, and the A’s had the second of their three straight World Series crowns.

1971: Pirates – 2, Orioles – 1

This was a meeting between two of the top teams from the entire decade of the 1970’s. The Pirates won six NL East Division crowns in the decade, two NL pennants, and a pair of World Series titles. The Orioles won five AL East Division crowns, three AL pennants, and a World Series title during the decade. The defending world champs, Baltimore was hosting Game 7 at Memorial Stadium. Mike Cuellar would toss a gem for the O’s, holding the potent Bucs attack to just two runs on four hits over eight innings. Unfortunately for him, Pittsburgh starter Steve Blass was even better. He went the distance, also allowing just four hits. With two outs in the top of the 4th, Roberto Clemente gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead with a home run blasted to left-center field. The two teams traded 8th inning runs and went to the 9th with the Bucs clinging to a one-run lead. Blass retired slugger Boog Powell and future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson to open the bottom of the 9th, then ended it with a ground out.

1965: Dodgers – 2, Twins – 0

This one was all Sandy Koufax. The future Hall of Fame southpaw had shut the Twins out over the first six frames of Game 2, but was lifted for a pinch-hitter and watched as Minnesota got to the Dodgers bullpen for five runs in a 5-1 win that put the Twins up 2-0 in the series. Koufax returned for the start in Game 5, shutting Minnesota out on just four hits in a complete game victory to put the Dodgers up 3-2 in the series. The Twins then tied it up, setting up this Game 7 at Dodger Stadium. Manager Walter Alston opted to bring Koufax back on just three days rest, and his ace would not let the team down. Once again, Koufax tossed a shutout, allowing just three hits as the Dodgers won their fourth World Series title in 11 years, their third since moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. In all, Koufax allowed a single earned run and 13 hits over 24 innings across his three starts with a 29/5 K:BB ratio, and was awarded his second World Series MVP Award in three years.

1962: Yankees – 1, Giants – 0

One of only two 1-0 Game 7’s in World Series history took place at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. This would mark the 20th World Series crown for the dynastic Bronx Bombers in 40 years, but would also be their last for the next decade-and-a-half. Meanwhile, the Giants would have to wait another 38 years to celebrate a championship. Ralph Terry tossed a complete game shutout for the Yanks, allowing just four hits. The game’s lone run scored in the top of the 5th when the Yankees loaded the bases against Giants starter Jack Sanford with a pair of singles and a walk. Tony Kubek then hit into a double play, but Bill Skowron raced home with a run to give New York a 1-0 lead. With two out and Matt Alou standing at first base in the bottom of the 9th, Willie Mays ripped a double to right field. Right fielder Roger Maris made a tremendous play on the ball, getting it back in to second baseman Bobby Richardson to hold Alou at third base. This brought future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey to the plate with the potential tying run at third and winning run at second. McCovey ripped a line drive that he would later claim was the hardest hit ball of his career. But the liner sank as it reached Richardson, who fielded it cleanly for the final out.

1960: Pirates – 10, Yankees – 9

This was one of the more unusual World Series in history in that the Yankees won their three games by routs, outscoring the Pirates 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0. Meanwhile, the Bucs three wins came in more competitive 6-4, 3-2, and 5-2 ball games. Game 7 was played at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, and the host Pirates scored twice each in the 1st and 2nd for an early 4-0 lead. The Bronx Bombers battled back to take a 7-4 lead in the top of the 8th. The big hit came in the top of the 6th when 35-year-old future Hall of Famer Yogi Berra crushed a three-run homer. The Pirates chipped away for two in the home 8th to make it a 7-6 game. Then Hal Smith drilled a three-run home run, scoring Roberto Clemente and Dick Groat to push the Pirates back on top by 9-7 as the game went to the 9th inning. But the Yankees failed to surrender, tying it up on an RBI single by Mickey Mantle and RBI ground out by Berra. With the game knotted at 9-9 in the bottom of the 9th, second baseman Bill Mazeroski led off the inning against Ralph Terry. On a 1-0 pitch, Maz drove a ball just over the wall in left field, giving the Pirates a dramatic walkoff World Series title with what has been called “the greatest home run in baseball history.”

1946: Cardinals – 4, Red Sox – 3

Boston. Saint Louis. Boston. Saint Louis. Boston. Saint Louis. That was how the 1946 Fall Classic went over the first six games, with the Red Sox and Cardinals trading wins to set up a winner-take-all Game 7 at Sportsman’s Park in Saint Louis. This was the first World Series played after World War II, and would turn out to be the only shot at a championship for perhaps the greatest hitter the game has ever seen, Ted Williams. It would not be a great series for ‘Teddy Ballgame’, who had served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an aviator in WWII and who would do so again in Korea. Williams batted just .200 with five hits over 25 at-bats, five walks, and just one RBI. He would to 0-4 in the Game 7 finale. Dom DiMaggio, brother of Yankees star and Williams’ rival Joe DiMaggio, would try to play the Bosox hero, driving in all three Boston runs. His clutch two-out, two-run double in the top of the 8th inning tied the game at 3-3. In the home 8th, Enos Slaughter led off with a base hit. Then with two outs, Harry Walker lined a double to center. Slaughter was running on the play, and then ignored a stop sign at third put on by coach Mike Gonzalez. Boston shortstop Johnny Pesky took the relay throw, turned, appeared stunned that ‘Country’ Slaughter was running, and fired weakly to the plate. Slaughter was safe at home on his now famous ‘Mad Dash‘, and the Cardinals had what would prove to be the World Series-winning run.

1940: Reds – 2, Tigers – 1

Detroit and Cincinnati traded wins over the first six games, with neither team able to put together two in a row to take control. This set up a dramatic Game 7 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. The visiting Tigers jumped out first on a two-out RBI single from 37-year-old future Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer. Tigers starting pitcher Bobo Newsom and Reds starter Paul Derringer would each go the distance in this one, and that 1-0 lead for Detroit held into the bottom of the 7th inning. Back-to-back doubles to lead off the frame by Frank McCormick and Jimmy Ripple tied it up, and later a one-out sac fly by Billy Myers brought home Ripple with what would prove the series-winning run. Derringer set Detroit down in order in the 9th, wrapping up the first World Series crown for Cincinnati since the 1919 club had won a controversial title against the scandalous Chicago “Black Sox” team. It would be the last Cincy title until the ‘Big Red Machine‘ came along in the 1970’s.

1926: Cardinals – 3, Yankees – 2

The Yankees, whose 27 World Series crowns are more than any franchise in Major League Baseball, had won just one title in the first 26 years of their history to this point. The Cardinals have won 11 championships, more than any team in National League history. Their franchise had been around since 1882, but had not yet won a championship since joining the NL for the 1892 season. This was the first of five meetings in the Fall Classic between the two teams, something that has not happened now since 1964. The great Babe Ruth homered three times in Game 4 to pull the Yankees even at two games apiece. This was the legendary game in which Ruth had promised a sick boy, Johnny Sylvester, that he would hit a homer for him. But it would also ultimately be a base-running gaffe for which the Bambino would be remembered for in this series . With the Cardinals leading by a run and two outs in the bottom of the 9th at Yankee Stadium, Ruth drew a walk off fellow future Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander. On the first pitch to the next batter, Bob Meusel, Ruth took off for second base. The throw from catcher Bob O’Farrell to second baseman Rogers Hornsby easily beat the sliding Ruth for the final out. It remains the only World Series to ever end on a caught stealing.

1925: Pirates – 9, Senators – 7

Relevance to tonight’s Game 7 of course in that it was the last World Series to be played in our nation’s capital until this past week. The Senators were the defending world champions. The Pirates had won the 1909 World Series, and would not win another after this one for another 35 years. Washington bolted out of the gate, scoring four times and knocking Pittsburgh starter Vic Aldridge out in the very 1st inning at Forbes Field. But the Pirates fought back, narrowing their deficit to just 7-6 as the game entered the bottom of the 8th inning. Future Hall of Famer Walter Johnson retired the first two Pittsburgh batters. But then suddenly the Pirates bats erupted. Three doubles, a walk, and an error combined to give the home team three runs, two unearned, and a 9-7 lead. The Senators went down in order in the 9th, and Pittsburgh celebrated its second World Series title.

1924: Senators – 4, Giants – 3 (12 innings)

The first of three straight Fall Classics to make this list, it has also, to this point, been the only World Series ever won by a team from Washington, D.C. The Senators would get four shutout innings of relief from the ‘Big Train’, future Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, and rally from a 3-1 deficit at Griffith Stadium in D.C. to force extra innings, finally take it in the 12th inning. A solo home run off the bat of Bucky Harris gave Washington an early 1-0 lead. But the Giants scored three times in the top of the 6th aided by a pair of Senators infield errors to take that 3-1 lead. Harris would again play the hero in the bottom of the 8th, delivering a two-out, two-run single to tie it up. Then with one out in the bottom of the 12th, Sens catcher Muddy Ruel stayed alive when Giants catcher Hank Gowdy dropped an easy foul pop. Given the new life, Ruel doubled. One batter later, Earl McNeely ripped a hard grounder through to left field for the walkoff hit, Ruel rolling home with the World Series-winning run.

1912: Red Sox – 3, Giants – 2 (10 innings)

It is difficult to compare a World Series from so long ago to those of today’s game. And yet it remains an indisputable fact that this ninth contest pitting the winners of the upstart American League against the champions of the more established National League is one of the greatest World Series in the game’s long history. Four of the eight games were decided by a single run, two others were tight affairs, and Game 2 was called off and ruled as an official tie result due to darkness after the two clubs battled to a 6-6 stalemate over 11 innings. So, this Game 7 was actually the eighth game of the series. The two teams were knotted at three wins apiece as they took the field at Fenway Park, now the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, but then finishing up its very first season of existence. The Giants future Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson would go the distance on the mound and took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the 7th. There, one of the earliest and most unlikely heroes in World Series history struck. Olaf Henriksen, a reserve outfielder who had just four extra-base hits over 75 regular season plate appearances that year, was sent up to face the great ‘Christian Gentleman’ as a pinch-hitter with two outs and two men on base. Henrickson came through, ripping a line drive RBI double, scoring Jake Stahl with the tying run. The game went to extra innings, and in the top of the 10th the Giants recaptured the lead on Fred Merkle‘s RBI single. Then in the bottom of the 10th, Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass made an error on a fly ball by Clyde Engle that would become known in baseball history as “the $30,000 muff“, putting the tying run at second base. Three batters later, Tris Speaker scored him with a game-tying single. Two batters after that, Larry Gardner lofted a sac fly to right field, with Steve Yerkes tagging and coming home with the first walkoff run in World Series history.

Will we get an unforgettable, historic moment in tonight’s Astros-Nationals contest to equal Slaughter’s Mad Dash, or the walkoffs provided by Mazeroski, Renteria, or Gonzo?

Maybe there will be a shutdown pitching performance from the two starting pitchers, Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke, each of whom is already likely headed to the Hall of Fame. Something to equal the performances of Koufax or Bumgarner.

This 2019 World Series will mark the third time in the last four years that the Fall Classic has gone the full seven games. Whichever team wins, the real winners as the drama unfolds are sure to be all true fans of the game of baseball.

 

More baseball pieces for your enjoyment:

2019 World Series preview and prediction

 

In their 51st season of existence, the Washington Nationals franchise has reached the World Series. They will face-off against the Houston Astros, who have been to the Fall Classic twice previously (2005, 2017) and just two years ago captured their first world championship.

This should be a fascinating match-up, featuring perhaps the best teams in both the National and American Leagues by the time the 2019 regular season came to an end.

Strong starting pitching. Deep bullpens. Exciting stars. Future Hall of Famers. It will all be on display over the next week or so in Houston, Texas and the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C.

Over the course of this exciting October of 2019 MLB Postseason play, I provided previews and predictions for all four Division Series, and each League Championship Series after going 1-1 in the Wildcard games. If you followed my advice, you are doing pretty well, as my predictions have gone 6-2 to this point.

Also, prior to the season in my 2019 MLB preview, I gave you the Nationals as my National League champions. A pretty bold prediction, given that many saw the defection of Bryce Harper in free agency as signaling their franchise decline.

While I would like to say that I was also prescient enough to have picked Houston in the American League, I did not. Close, however. I had the Astros eliminated by the New York Yankees in the playoffs. Instead, the reverse happened.

HEAD TO HEAD RESULTS

These two ball clubs have met just twice in Interleague play. During the 2017 MLB regular season go-around, the Nationals captured the first and third games of a three-game set at Minute Maid Park in Houston, winning each by a single run by scores of 4-3 and 5-4. The host Astros won the middle affair by a 6-1 score.

Back in 2014, Washington swept a four game series between the two teams at Nationals Park, taking three of the four by a single run each.

From the inception of the Nationals franchise in 1969 as the old Montreal Expos through their move to Washington in 2005, and then on through the 2012 season, the two teams were each part of the National League. So for 44 years, they met frequently.

The Nationals/Expos franchise holds a 244-207 all-time regular season record over the Astros, for a .541 win percentage. The two clubs have never previously met in postseason play.

HOW NATIONALS GOT HERE

The Nationals got off to a horrendous start. Sitting at just 19-31 on May 23, they were in fourth place in the NL East Division. With rumors swirling that manager Dave Martinez‘ job was in jeopardy, their odds of reaching the World Series were less than 1%.

From that point onward, Washington was a completely different ball club. The Nats went 74-38 over the balance of the regular season, finishing in second place and easily claiming an NL Wildcard playoff berth.

In that National League Wildcard Game, the Nationals trailed the Milwaukee Brewers by 3-1 with two outs in the bottom of the 8th inning.

With their season on the brink, the Nats loaded the bases. Juan Soto then delivered a base hit which skipped past Brewers rookie right fielder Trent Grisham for an error and a scoreboard-changing three-run play. When the dust settled, Washington had an improbable 4-3 victory.

Advancing on to a National League Division Series, the Nationals were matched up against the Los Angeles Dodgers, winners of seven straight NL West crowns and back-to-back National League pennants.

The Dodgers captured two of the first three games and appeared on the verge of a third straight trip to the NLCS.

However, the resilient Nationals rallied once again, tying the series up with a win at Nationals Park, and then getting a 10th inning grand slam home run from Howie Kendrick to win the decisive Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.

Four times the Nationals had reached the playoffs in this decade. All four times they had lost in the Division Series, three of those in excruciating fashion.

But now they had advanced to the National League Championship Series for the first time in franchise history. Waiting for them were the Saint Louis Cardinals, whose 11 World Series crowns are the most in National League history.

This one was never really a contest. The Nationals got tremendous pitching over the first three games, their offense exploded in the final two, and in the end they swept out the Cardinals in four straight, out-scoring Saint Louis by 20-6 over the four games.

HOW ASTROS GOT HERE

The Astros were one of the favorites to win the World Series when the season opened. They struggled over the season’s first week, dropping five of their first seven games.

But then Houston rolled off 10 straight victories to take over the AL West Division lead. On April 28, they moved back into first place in the division and never relinquished that perch, capturing their third consecutive division title.

In their American League Division Series, the Astros were matched up with the always tough Tampa Bay Rays ball club. Houston took a quick 2-0 lead in the series and appeared ready for a sweep.

However, anyone who underestimates the Rays is asking for trouble. Tampa roared back with two big wins in front of their home fans at Tropicana Field to even up the series.

The Astros restored sanity back in front of their own home fans in the decisive Game 5 at Minute Maid Park. They scored four times in the 1st inning and then coasted to a 6-1 victory, advancing to the ALCS for the second time in three years.

In that American League Championship Series, the Astros were matched up with the powerful New York Yankees, champions of the AL East Division.

On their way to the 2017 World Series championship, the Astros had edged out the Yankees in ALCS, rallying to win the final two contests and taking the series in a full seven games.

This one nearly went the same full distance. The Bronx Bombers took the opener in Houston, but then the Astros rolled to three straight wins and a commanding lead.

The Yanks fought back, winning Game 5 and then rallying for a pair of runs in the top of the 9th inning to tie up Game 6.

Then in the bottom of the 9th, the smallest player on the field delivered the biggest hit of the entire American League season. Jose Altuve ripped a two-out, two-run home run to walkoff the series in front of the delirious Houston home crowd.

SCHEDULE (all games televised on the FOX Network with 8:07 PM first pitch)

Games 1 & 2: Tuesday-Wednesday 10/22-23, Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas

Games 3 & 4 (and Game 5 if needed): Friday-Saturday (possibly Sunday as well), Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Games 6 & 7 (if either/both needed): 10/22-23, Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas

STARTING PITCHING PROBABLES

Game 1: Justin Verlander (HOU) vs Max Scherzer (WAS)

Game 2: Gerrit Cole (HOU) vs Stephen Strasburg (WAS)

Game 3: Zack Greinke (HOU) vs Patrick Corbin (WAS)

Game 4: Brad Peacock (HOU) vs Anibal Sanchez (WAS) – for the Astros, this would be a bullpen game, with the hope that Peacock could get them to, even through, the 4th inning

Games 5-7: if needed, expect the Games 1-3 match-ups to repeat

STARTERS POSITION BY POSITION EDGE

First Base – Yuli Gurriel (HOU), Ryan Zimmerman (WAS) – advantage Houston

Second Base: Jose Altuve (HOU), Brian Dozier (WAS) – advantage Houston

Shortstop: Carlos Correa (HOU), Trea Turner (WAS) – even

Third Base: Alex Bregman (HOU), Anthony Rendon (WAS) – even

Catcher: Robinson Chirinos (HOU), Yan Gomes/Kurt Suzuki (WAS) – advantage Washington

Left Field: Michael Brantley (HOU), Juan Soto (WAS) – even

Center Field: George Springer (HOU), Victor Robles/Michael A. Taylor (WAS) – advantage Houston

Right Field: Josh Reddick (HOU), Adam Eaton (WAS) – even

I gave the Astros the advantage at three of the usual eight starting positions, with four rated as an even push. In that regard, this would seem a pretty tight match-up.

However, a healthy Springer joining Altuve, Bregman, Correa, and Gurriel gives Houston five major impact bats for the talented Nationals pitching staff to contend with each night.

Rendon, Turner, and Soto must produce for the Nationals to have any chance. And they’re likely going to need at least one surprise run-producer, perhaps some like their top bench option below.

OFF THE BENCH

Howie Kendrick, whose dramatic grand slam won the Division Series, appeared in 121 games this season for the Nationals and made starts at first, second, and third base. The 35-year-old veteran is a dangerous pinch-hit bat and a versatile infield substitute.

The Nationals other top bench options are usually whichever catcher, Gomes or Suzuki, and center fielder, Robles or Taylor, is not starting. Also look for a trio of veterans in outfielder Gerardo Parra and infielders Matt Adams and Asdrubal Cabrera to make contributions.

For the Astros, rookie slugger Yordan Alvarez will be the Designated Hitter for the games in Houston. He’ll be a pinch-hitter in the games played in Washington.

The other leading bench options will be outfielder Jake Marisnick, infielder Aledmys Diaz, and catcher Martin Maldonado. Rookie outfielder Kyle Tucker also saw action in both the ALDS and ALCS.

Advantage: Nationals

BULLPEN ARMS

While much of the talk entering this series is justifiably centered on the talented starting pitching for each club, the fact remains that both bullpens are going to have to produce in significant, pressure-filled spots to ensure individual game victories.

The Astros will try to get to controversial closer Roberto Osuna with an all-righty bullpen of Joe Smith, Will Harris, Josh James, Jose Urquidy, Ryan Pressly, Hector Rondon, and long man Brad Peacock.

In his 13th big-league season, Smith has appeared in 782 games. That is the most by any relief pitcher in MLB history who has never appeared in a World Series, a streak likely to end this week.

For Washington, you could see lefty Sean Doolittle or either of a pair of right-handers, Daniel Hudson or Fernando Rodney, on the mound trying to close out a game. Righty Tanner Rainey and lefty Mike Grace are most likely to get any other innings.

Advantage: Houston

MANAGERS

Dave Martinez, Washington: Turning 55 years of age just a month ago, Martinez has guided the Nationals to an overall 175-149 record over two seasons at the helm, finishing in second place in the NL East Division each season.

Back in mid-September, Martinez suffered a health scare when he was forced to leave a game after he began to experience chest pains. He was hospitalized and underwent a cardiac catheterization, and was eventually cleared to return after missing a series in Saint Louis.

A native New Yorker, Martinez was the third round pick of the Chicago Cubs in the 1983 MLB Draft. He played in 16 big-league seasons with nine different clubs, including a four-year stint 1988-91 with the Nationals predecessors, the Montreal Expos.

AJ Hinch, Houston: At just 45 years of age, Hinch has gone 481-329 as the Astros skipper. His clubs have taken three straight AL West Division crowns, winning 101, 103, and 107 games in those seasons. He also led the club to the only World Series championship in franchise history back in 2017.

Hinch was previously the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks over parts of two seasons 2009-10, fashioning an 89-123 mark in the desert.

An Iowa native, Hinch was the Oakland A’s pick in the third round of the 1996 MLB Draft out of Stanford University. He appeared in seven big-league seasons, mostly as a platoon or backup catcher, from 1998-2004.

PREDICTION

The Houston Astros are battle-tested after a five-game ALDS with Tampa and a tough six-game ALCS with the Yankees. They have everything talent-wise that a championship team needs. They won 107 games during the regular season, most in Major League Baseball. And they have now had a couple of days to rest prior to the World Series.

The Washington Nationals have enjoyed, if that is the right world, a week-long rest after capturing the first National League pennant in franchise history. They have not lost a game since Game 3 of the NLDS back on October 6.

The Nationals biggest strength is the big three at the front of their starting rotation. For me, the Nats best chance would come from at least two of the three turning in dominating, winning performances.

My head is telling me to pick the Astros. But my gut is telling me to go with the Nationals. Back in the preseason, I picked Washington to win it all. Why not just stick with that since they’ve gotten this far?

Let’s make it Washington in seven games. Sure, it will be hard for many of my fellow Phillies fans to swallow a Nationals victory parade. But hey, they are one of just six current MLB teams to have never enjoyed the thrill of a World Series championship. It’s time.

 

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MLB League Championship Series 2019 preview and predictions

 

The 2019 Major League Baseball postseason has already provided plenty of October excitement, with three of four Division Series pushed to decisive Game 5 dramatic conclusions.

Now the final four surviving ball clubs have moved on to battle in the respective League Championship Series over the next week or so. The two winners will earn their respective league pennant and advance to face-off in the World Series.

As for predictions, I went 1-1 in the Wildcard games and 3-1 in the LDS. With all of the craziness that is normally October baseball, I’ll take that 4-2 record and run with it. My LCS predictions come at the bottom of each series preview below.

This may be hard for most of my fellow Philadelphia Phillies fans to swallow, but at this point I will be rooting for the Washington Nationals to win it all.

My reasoning is that if the Phillies are not involved during any MLB postseason, I always root for any team(s) that have never won a World Series to finally enjoy that experience.

The Nationals have been in Washington since 2005 after playing their first 36 seasons north of the border as the Montreal Expos. The lone World Series crown in the history of our nation’s capital was captured by the Washington Senators back in 1926. That franchise moved to Minnesota, becoming the current Twins, back in 1961.

So, with that said, here the scheduled dates, times, locations, and TV network for each  in both the National League and American League Championship Series.

I have also listed the likely pitching match-ups, and the numbers in parentheses following the team names are where each finished in my final 2019 MLB Power Rankings of all 30 big-league ball clubs.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Washington Nationals (9) vs Saint Louis Cardinals (6)

  1. Friday, 10/11, 8:08 PM EDT at Busch Stadium on TBS: Anibal Sanchez (WAS) vs Miles Mikolas (STL)
  2. Saturday, 10/12, 4:08 PM EDT at Busch Stadium on TBS: Max Scherzer (WAS) vs Adam Wainwright (STL)
  3. Monday, 10/14, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: Patrick Corbin (WAS) vs Jack Flaherty (STL)
  4. Tuesday, 10/15, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: Stephen Strasburg (WAS) vs Dakota Hudson (STL)
  5. IF NECESSARY – Wednesday, 10/16, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: Anibal Sanchez (WAS) vs Miles Mikolas (STL)
  6. IF NECESSARY – Friday, 10/18, TBA at Busch Stadium on TBS: Max Scherzer (WAS) vs Adam Wainwright (STL)
  7. IF NECESSARY – Saturday, 10/19, TBA at Busch Stadium on TBS: Stephen Strasburg (WAS) vs Dakota Hudson (STL)

PREDICTION: Nationals in five

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

New York Yankees (10) vs Houston Astros (2)

(Pitching match-ups in Game Four are speculative, especially for the Yankees where J.A. Happ could be starting instead of Sabathia)

  1. Saturday, 10/12, 8:08 PM EDT at Minute Maid Park on FOX: Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) vs Zack Greinke (HOU)
  2. Sunday, 10/13, 8:08 PM EDT at Minute Maid Park on FS1: James Paxton (NYY) vs Justin Verlander (HOU)
  3. Tuesday, 10/15, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FOX/FS1: Luis Severino (NYY) vs Gerrit Cole (HOU)
  4. Wednesday, 10/16, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FOX/FS1: C.C. Sabathia (NYY) vs Wade Miley (HOU)
  5. IF NECESSARY – Thursday, 10/17, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FOX/FS1: Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) vs Zack Greinke (HOU)
  6. IF NECESSARY – Saturday, 10/19, TBA at Minute Maid Park on FOX/FS1: James Paxton (NYY) vs Justin Verlander (HOU)
  7. IF NECESSARY – Sunday, 10/20, TBA at Minute Maid Park on FOX/FS1: Luis Severino (NYY) vs Gerrit Cole (HOU)

PREDICTION: Astros in six

Once the two series have finished and the World Series match-up is set, I’ll be providing a preview as well as the Fall Classic prediction.

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MLB Division Series 2019 preview and predictions

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Washington Nationals celebrate their victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2019 National League Wildcard Game

 

With a pair of wildcard playoff games in the books, the 2019 Major League Baseball postseason is now fully underway.

The host Washington Nationals rallied in dramatic fashion, scoring three times in the bottom of the 8th inning for a 4-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wildcard Game on Tuesday night.

Then last night, the visiting Tampa Bay Rays scored four times over the first three innings and coasted to a 5-1 victory over the host Oakland Athletics.

With those opening salvos in the books, the drama will only ratchet up a notch as the weather turns cooler across the nation over the coming weeks of October baseball.

The match-ups are now set for a pair of Division Series in both the National and American Leagues. Those best-of-five series will get underway in New York, Houston, Los Angeles, and Atlanta over the next two days.

Having predicted victories by Washington and Oakland in the Wildcard games, I am 1-1 thus far in this postseason.

The following are my picks for each of the four Division Series. I have also listed the scheduled dates, times, location, and TV network for each game in the series as well as the likely pitching match-ups for the first three contests. TBA means that no time has been set as yet.

The numbers in parentheses are where each team finished in my final 2019 MLB Power Rankings of all 30 big-league ball clubs.

ALDS: New York Yankees  (10 ) vs. Minnesota Twins (5)

  1. Friday, 10/04, 7:07 PM EDT at Yankee Stadium on MLBN: James Paxton (NYY) vs Jose Berrios (Min)
  2. Saturday, 10/05, 5:07 PM EDT at Yankee Stadium on FS1: Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) vs Jake Odorizzi (Min)
  3. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Target Field on FS1: Luis Severino (NYY) vs Kyle Gibson/as primary with possible “opener” used (Min)
  4. Tuesday, 10/08, TBA at Target Field on FS1: if necessary
  5. Thursday, 10/10, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FS1: if necessary

PREDICTION: Yankees in three

ALDS: Houston Astros (2) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4)

  1. Friday, 10/04, 2:05 PM EDT at Minute Maid Park on FS1, TBS: Justin Verlander (Hou) vs Tyler Glasnow (TB)
  2. Saturday, 10/05, 9:07 PM EDT at Minute Main Park on FS1: Gerrit Cole (Hou) vs Blake Snell (TB)
  3. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Tropicana Field on MLBN: Zack Greinke (Hou) vs Charlie Morton (TB)
  4. Tuesday, 10/08, TBA at Tropicana Field on FS1: if necessary
  5. Thursday, 10/10, TBA at Minute Maid Park on FS1: if necessary

PREDICTION: Astros in five

 

NLDS: Atlanta Braves (11) vs. Saint Louis Cardinals (6)

  1. Thursday, 10/03, 5:02 PM EDT at SunTrust Park on TBS: Dallas Keuchel (Atl) vs Miles Mikolas (StL)
  2. Friday, 10/04, 4:37 PM EDT at SunTrust Park on TBS: Mike Foltynewicz (Atl) vs Jack Flaherty (StL)
  3. Sunday, 10/06, 4:10 PM EDT at Busch Stadium on TBS: Mike Soroka (Atl) vs Adam Wainwright (StL)
  4. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Busch Stadium on TBS: if necessary
  5. Wednesday, 10/09, TBA at SunTrust Park on TBS: if necessary

PREDICTION: Cardinals in four

 

NLDS: Los Angeles Dodgers (3) vs. Washington Nationals (9)

  1. Thursday, 10/03, 8:37 PM EDT at Dodger Stadium on TBS: Walker Buehler (LAD) vs Patrick Corbin (Was)
  2. Friday, 10/04, 9:37 PM EDT at Dodger Stadium on TBS: Clayton Kershaw (LAD) vs Stephen Strasburg (Was)
  3. Sunday, 10/06, 7:45 PM EDT at Nationals Park on TBS: Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) vs Max Scherzer (Was)
  4. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: if necessary
  5. Wednesday, 10/09, TBA at Dodger Stadium on TBS: if necessary

PREDICTION: Dodgers in five

 

Once these series have fully ended and the match-ups have been set for each League Championship Series, I will come back with a preview and prediction for each of those.

Nationals don’t miss Bryce Harper, and vice-versa

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Harper left the Nationals after seven seasons, joining the division-rival Phillies via free agency

 

After starring with the Washington Nationals for seven seasons, Bryce Harper signed back in spring training as a free agent with the division rival Philadelphia Phillies.

There were many around baseball who believed that this signaled a changing of the guards of sorts. The Phillies, after suffering through six consecutive losing seasons, appeared to be on the rise. The Nationals, winners of four National League East Division crowns during Harper’s first six seasons with the team, appeared possibly on the decline.

Over the 2019 season’s first two months, that was exactly how things were playing out. On May 29, the Phillies sat in first place, 11 games over the .500 mark and with a 3.5 game lead in the division.

On that same day, the Nationals were struggling along at eight games below .500 in fourth place, nine games behind the Phillies.

The two teams had met eight times by that point, splitting the contests at 4-4. Harper had been booed lustily in his first game back in D.C. on April 2, but had silenced those boos with a double and a massive home run.

But as spring turned to summer, the Phillies began to slip and the Nationals began to surge. On Independence Day, Washington moved past the Phillies in the standings for the first time. Two days later they moved into second place again, where the Nats would remain for the rest of the season.

Still, as the Atlanta Braves pulled away at the top of the division for a second straight year, the Phillies hung around in the NL Wildcard race.

Looming on the schedule was a rare five-game series between the Phillies and Nationals in Washington during the final week of the season.

But as that series drew closer, much of the drama was lost. The Phillies just couldn’t sustain a winning streak. The Nationals continued to play well. By the time of the series opener this past Monday, Washington had opened a six-game lead on the Phillies, who had dropped to fourth place in the division.

The Nationals took that opener, then during a split doubleheader on Tuesday, the Nationals swept the Phillies by scores of 4-1 and 6-5. With the first win, the Nats eliminated the Phillies from postseason contention. With the second, Washington clinched their own playoff berth.

Despite getting strong seasons from Harper and fellow newcomer J.T. Realmuto, the Phillies will miss out on the thrill of October baseball for an eight straight year. How did it happen?

There are many reasons. But one direct place to look would be at an area directly affected by Harper signing with the Phillies. That would be into the Nationals outfield. How were the Nats able to cover for the loss of one of the most dynamic young players in the game?

The answer lies in three names: left fielder Juan Soto, center fielder Victor Robles, and right fielder Adam Eaton.

Soto, who finished as the runner-up to Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. in the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Award voting, has followed that performance up with an even bigger sophomore campaign.

The 20-year-old Soto is slashing .283/.401/.550 with 34 home runs, 69 extra-base hits, 109 RBIs, 107 runs scored, and a dozen stolen bases.

Playing in what is technically his rookie season but his third in the big leagues, the 22-year-old Robles has 17 home runs, 52 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs, 84 runs scored, and 26 steals.

And in right, the 30-year-old Eaton is enjoying a solid bounce-back year after losing most of his first two years with the Nationals to injury. In his eight overall big-league season, Eaton has 15 homers, 47 extra-base hits, 101 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.

That outfield trio has remained healthy all season for the Nationals, with Soto playing in 143 games to date, Eaton 148, and Robles in a team-high 153 games.

Meanwhile, the 26-year-old Harper has slashed .260/.375/.507 with 34 home runs, 109 RBIs, 69 extra-base hits, 96 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases. His first Phillies season will end up as his best year in the big-leagues, other than his 2015 NL MVP campaign.

As Harper took his position out in right field during the 8th inning of the series penultimate game on Wednesday, the Nationals fans began to heckle him. Nothing new there. Harper knew it would be this way when he signed with the Phillies.

But the attacks this time were not just simple boos or cries of “you suck” or “traitor” or the many other taunts directed at him this year. This time, the Nationals fans brought his newborn son into the taunts.

Harper’s wife, Kayla, turned to Twitter on Thursday morning to display her disgust, calling those Nationals fans “classless“:

Kayla further claimed that these kinds of attacks from Nationals fans, going beyond the pale, have occurred all season. They include messages “wishing my son has autism when he’s born“, for example.

For his part, Harper also acknowledged that things were different during that 8th inning attack.

They were fine all game talking about myself and things like that,” he said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I mean, I get it everywhere I go. It’s nothing new, but the last inning – it’s just not right. It’s just not right.

Harper then went on to address the situation further, mentioning his new home fans in Philadelphia:

“...fans up in Philly that appreciate me as a player and appreciate me as an individual and my family, as well. I owe a lot to those people up there in Philly because they show up for me every single night and they are there to cheer us on and boo us and keep us going as a team and as individuals as well and I’m looking forward to the next 12 years. Can’t wait.

The Nationals and many of their fans clearly do not miss Bryce Harper. Their team is headed back to the playoffs where they will once again take a shot at winning the first world championship in franchise history.

But just as clearly, Bryce Harper does not miss the Washington Nationals or their fans either. He wears the name “Phillies” across the front of his jersey now, and is very happy and proud to do so.

Score round one in 2019 to Washington. But this will be a long fight between these two teams. With Harper at the forefront, expect the Phillies to bloody the Nationals noses in many future rounds.