With dwindling interest in baseball’s post season over the past two decades, Major League Baseball hoped for some exciting competition that might raise the level of interest.
It is too soon to tell if the interest is up, but all four division series have been dramatic and, in some cases, historic. Three of the series are heading for a decisive fifth game, while the other ended in four, home-run-filled games.
The Chicago Cubs have been around for 139 years and baseball has determined a champion on the field since 1903. Until Tuesday, the Cubs had never won a post-season series at home.
They dispatched the injury-riddled St. Louis Cardinals in four games, sending them into the National League Championship Series for the fourth time in team history. Chicago is 0-3 all time.
The Cubs will take on the winner of the New York Mets vs. Los Angeles Dodgers series, who square off in a winner-take-all fifth game on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
This series attracted extra attention when the Dodgers’ Chase Utley took out Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada with a slide some describe as illegal. Tejada suffered a broken leg and the Dodgers broke the game open after the play, tying the series.
Utley earned a two-game suspension, currently under appeal. Wisely, Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly kept Utley out of both games in New York, which the teams split. Let’s just say the Mets’ fans did not greet Utley warmly during player introductions.
The Mets and Dodgers will have the baseball viewing audience to themselves tomorrow night. Today all eyes are on the American League as both of those divisional series go to fifth games.
At 4 p.m. the Texas Rangers return to Toronto for their third try at eliminating the Blue Jays. Though many counted them out after dropping both games at home last week, Toronto stormed back and took the next two games in Texas.
Carrying the Rangers hopes is left-hander Cole Hamels, whom Texas acquired at the trading deadline in July. He is part of the reason the Rangers are where they are, going 7-1 over the last two months. Hamels beat the Blue Jays in Game 2 allowing two runs in 7 innings and struck out 6 in the Ranger’s 6-4 victory in 14 innings.
Hamels has been there before. Rays fans may recall him being named Most Valuable Player of the 2008 World Series. He knows how to win.
The 8 o’clock game features another deciding game with the Kansas City Royals returning home to try to put away the Houston Astros. Going for the Royals is another trade deadline pickup, right hander Johnny Cueto.
Unlike Hamels, Cueto has been a shell of the ace pitcher they obtained from the Cincinnati Reds. Over the second half, Cueto has gone 4-7 with a 4.76 Earned Run Average. He allowed four earned runs in 6 innings in the Royals’ comeback 5-4 win in Game 2.
Houston did not expect they would need to get on the plane for Game 5, letting a four-run lead get away in the eighth inning of Game 4.
Starter Lance McCullers, a graduate of Tampa Jesuit High School, stifled Kansas City and looked poised to pick up his first post-season win. It was not to be after the bullpen gave up a 5-run eighth inning, propelling the Royals to a 9-6 victory.
No one knows if these four great series will translate into TV viewers, but those who are watching are likely to be entertained.