MLB playoff race narrows to final four

The MLB playoff race narrowed itself down to four teams after the conclusion of the Division Series games on Thursday, Oct. 10, as the conclusion to the World Series for 2019 gets ever closer.

The American League Division Series had two matchups, one between the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees, and another between the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros. The Twins were the first real resounding loss this postseason, being the only series to not last the full five games. It was a swift 3-0 for the Yankees, winning no games by less than four runs. Overall, the Twins were outscored 23-7, and also continued an MLB-best 13 consecutive playoff losses dating back to the 2006 ALDS. It was shockingly disappointing, especially considering that the Twins set the MLB record for most home runs in a single season, topping 300.

The Rays and Astros series was a lot closer and a lot more fun. The Astros took the first two by scores of 6-2 and 3-1, answering the question of “Just how good is the Houston pitching?” Not to be outdone, the Rays dropped 10 runs in game three and then eked out a close 4-1 victory in game four. In match point, the Astros took a four-run lead in the first inning and never looked back, advancing to the Championship Series yet again. Gerrit Cole took home two wins in this series alone and seriously bolstered his chances for the Cy Young award this year.

The National League held two fantastic series, starting with the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves. Controversy struck the series early, with Ronald Acuna Jr. getting only a single off a deep fly ball he thought would be a home run early in the first game. The game closed out 7-6 in favor of the Cardinals, leading people to ask whether or not his lack of baserunning discipline would have made a difference in the game. With how the rest of the series went, they could ask the same thing about the series as a whole. Atlanta ended up taking games two and three before game four went the way of St. Louis. It was the first inning of game five that has been described as “the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad first inning.” The Cardinals scored 10 runs that inning, marking a postseason best for first inning runs. Every member of the St. Louis lineup scored in that inning. It was the worst possible send-off for Braves catcher Brian McCann, who announced his retirement after the game.

After a 6-0 rout of the Nationals by Walker Buehler and the Dodgers, Washington fans could only await yet another consecutive postseason series loss. Still, they rallied back with a 4-2 victory before heading to their home turf. The Dodgers took game three but the Nationals bounced back to take the series the full five games. It was the National League favorite Los Angeles Dodgers against the Nationals who had to fight a wild card match to get this far. The game went into extra innings, tied at three. The bases were loaded when second baseman Howie Kendrick, a name I haven’t heard since 2015, hit a grand slam to put the Nationals up 7-3. Of course the Dodgers couldn’t answer that, spelling the first playoff series win in franchise history and marking the upset of the year.

The Yankees-Astros Championship Series was no doubt expected, but I don’t think anybody predicted a Nationals-Cardinals series on the other side. Astros look to be heavy favorites, but baseball fans have already seen plenty of upsets in the last couple of weeks.