Saturday, October 28, 2023

World Series Game 1: The First of Many Nailbiters?

 Prior to this season, I think a lot of people weren't sure about Adolis Garcia. His peak year in 2021 was his age-28 season, as a rookie, and was a low-average high-power ordeal that left him with a 0 batting WAR figure, despite a 30-homer/90-RBI campaign. Coming into this season, most of Garcia's appeal was as a defenseman. When I saw the Rangers play my Phils last year, he was a vacuum in center field, and made sure the home team couldn't get anything done. 

So now that he's been one of the undisputed stars of the postseason, I don't think anyone's disputing Garcia's star power anymore. Even if, as he is 30, he never reaches these heights again, he will still go down as one of the most deadly postseason performers of this era. It had to be him to play the hero in extras. It had to be. Nothing else would have made sense. Not Seager, not Carter, not Jung. That moment was paved for Adolis Garcia, and he brought it.

It wouldn't have happened if Corey Seager hadn't tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a masterful 2-run blast, and if the Rangers' bullpen, including Dane Dunning, Jon Gray, Will Smith and Jose Leclerc, hadn't completely shut down the dangerous D-Backs offense for the rest of the game. 

I know that there's a ton more for both these teams to do in the following games, but that's an incredible way to start a World Series. Keep 'em coming.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Bank Heist


At what point is Rob Manfred going to realize something's gone wrong? Does that point exist? Cause his expanded playoff idea led to a World Series matchup between the worst-seeded team in the NL and a strong AL team that rode a lot of September/October momentum to get here. The Orioles, Braves, Dodgers, Astros, Rays and now the Phillies all died just to get to a D-Backs-Rangers World Series that is going to absolutely sink in the ratings. 

At what point does he realize his switching around of shit caused this? The D-Backs stole a ton of bases on the new pitch clock rule, barely snuck into the playoffs, and because they didn't have a bye to calm down on, just kept riding the wave til the end. This never would have happened even 3 years ago. And if the ratings come back and it hasn't fixed anything, he might even just double down and keep dismantling all the things that have made the MLB great because he wants to please corporations and owners rather than fans.

That doesn't mean the Diamondbacks are undeserving per se. They've played beautifully this October, and Ketel Marte, Corbin Carroll, Merrill Kelly and Lourdes Gurriel have become postseason icons. Trouble is, without the expanded postseason and the pitch clock, they don't get here. But it's fantastic to see this team come into their own, and seeing Anthony Saalfrank, Kevin Ginkel and Paul Sewald completely stun teams. I just wish that regular season play factored more into it. Y'know, like it always used to.

The Diamondbacks and Rangers will probably deliver a very exciting World Series, even if this really isn't the sort of thing that should keep happening. 

The Phillies ran out of momentum after Game 2. Two exceptional games at home, then everyone got tired and the D-Backs didn't. And that's why we couldn't seal the deal in Phoenix, or at home. We just got worn out, and went cold pretty quickly. Not even Wheeler or Suarez could save us last night. It was just a slow slog to the end, with the only guy who HADN'T been hot this postseason, Alec Bohm, providing the few runs we got while everyone else limped off. 

If the postseason schematic remains the same, I don't even think it's possible for us to get this far a third time. There's so many momentum things we just lucked out with in both seasons, despite having an improved team this year. Even if we do build on this team, a postseason run can't really be justified because it's all based solely on September and October momentum now. So I don't know what we're gonna look like next year, though hopefully we secure the things that work and dump Kimbrel. 

Rangers-Diamondbacks. At the very least, someone either wins for the first time in over 20 years or wins for the first time ever, and that's a lot better than somebody like Houston or LA taking it again.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Championship Series' Day 9: Dragon Slayed


It was as if Shakespeare himself wrote it. A team that had made their name on double-digit run scoring that had been shunned from 1st by a corrupt rival eliminates the rival from competition in a double-digit win. In Houston.

This is the kind of Inigo Montoya ending I'd wanted from the Rangers all year. This was their season, and their flag to hoist, and for the Astros to creep in at the end and just claim the season as theirs despite doing half the work was kinda shitty. The Astros didn't have the team they had last year, and just came into some September/October momentum like usual. The Rangers had the mega-team, they just had some slow spots in the second half.

Last night, the Rangers used what had always worked for them, namely that powerful lineup, to silence the Astros. In a matchup that had killed the Rangers before, they got to Cristian Javier early and let Max Scherzer work amicably, only giving up a few early runs that were nothing compared to what Adolis Garcia got up to. By midway through, even if the Astros had come back from worse, it was a foregone conclusion: the Rangers were going back to the World Series for the first time since 2011.

The only thing is that after finally getting the revenge they wanted against the Astros, I worry that the Rangers don't have much left to prove this season. A ring would be nice, but it feels like everything was building to this point, and everything after is just extra. It's fittingly like Inigo Montoya at the end of that movie, not knowing what to do with himself after accomplishing what he'd always meant to.

The Rangers only needed two seasons of Bochy-ball to become a contender, and they could win the franchise's first title. They'll just need to get past either one of these streaky-ass NL teams to do so.

The 2023 Houston Astros. What else can you say? 

I mean, at least they had the decency to shut the door behind them this time. 

...oh yeah, and the D-Backs won last night too. The October magic on Aaron Nola wore off, and these guys just got past us at almost every point. Corbin Carroll, Lourdes Gurriel, Geraldo Perdomo and Alek Thomas are some pretty fine ballplayers, and they've been making it tough for us this series. Merrill Kelly was also pretty tremendous, and had the exact kind of performance his team needed.

Tonight will decide my rooting interest. I'd like to see my hometown team win it. If not, let's go Texas I suppose. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Championship Series' Day Eight: Catchers & Co.


It may be hard to remember in the wake of Adolis Garcia's incredible grand slam, but ultimately two catchers kept the Rangers alive last night. Their starter, Jonah Heim, and their backup, Mitch Garver. 

The two of them were responsible for the entirety of the Texas points against the Rangers in the first eight innings. It also just proves how good these guys have been this year. Heim has been versatile, providing great power, great defense and great overall presence. Garver, with more time at DH, has become a proven power bat, rivaling even his Twins numbers, and might be more valuable here than he was on the 2019 team. Heim has already been really good this postseason, but that two run homer in the fourth was the deciding move last night. Even after the grand slam, the Astros couldn't come near this team, thanks mainly to Nate Eovaldi and friends keeping the pitching down.

This type of performance is exactly what I'd hoped for when I saw the Rangers were facing elimination. They needed a solid, swift defeat of the unpredictable Astros, and that's exactly what this was. Adolis did make it a flashier win than I previously thought was needed, but I'm fine with an exclamation point.

And so today could be the day we find out our World Series matchup. The Rangers will probably be putting up Max Scherzer, who is hopefully in better shape than he was during Game 3, while the Astros will likely be putting up Cristian Javier, who's been dangerous this postseason. I am really hoping something clicks with Scherzer, or if Dunning or somebody can provide the cover the Rangers need to pull this out. It would be amazing to see someone new take the World Series, and thereby confirm that this year's winner will be someone who hasn't won in at least 15 years, or even ever. 

I'm hoping for good things for the Rangers, and for the Phillies. May this supposedly super-cool WS matchup come to fruition by any means necessary.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Championship Series' Day 7: Back on the Rails


I didn't do one of these yesterday. I didn't wanna.

Look, I'm extremely saddened by the Rangers failing to stop the Astros. It would have been so much more satisfying if they actually kept the leverage and slayed the dragon, but that doesn't seem to be in the best interest of the MLB. Apparently they prefer it when Altuve, Alvarez and Javier do well and so that's happening. So I didn't really have anything good to say about that one. And then the Kimbrel thing happened and I didn't have anything good to say about that either.

But uh...last night was better.

Everybody for the Phillies did what they were supposed to. Zack Wheeler pitched 7 strong innings, the defensemen carried through, and Rojas and Stott impressed. Harper and Schwarber hit like crazy. When you thought the game was relatively sold, Realmuto knocked one out. The bullpen coasted, even when it looked dicey. This is exactly what we needed, and while I wish we had some of this energy in the last two games, we've got 'em exactly where we want 'em. The Diamondbacks are heading into a win-or-die scenario in CBP, pitching someone we already got runs off of. It is looking good. There's still a chance we could screw it up, but it's looking good.

Today, there's a chance the ALCS could be decided. I'd prefer if it wasn't.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Championship Series' Day 5: The Opposite of Monday


One of these was bound to happen and the other shouldn't be happening. 

The D-Backs squeaking out a win against the Phillies was bound to happen. Nobody thought the Phils were gonna take all four, especially with how tough this team has been. Brandon Pfaadt put up a masterclass, and saved this team from falling off a cliff after Gallen and Kelly's starts [which may still happen, considering that Game 4 is still kind of up in the air]. The defense redeemed itself and stopped the Phils from getting much done. The small-ball worked, and guys like Pavin Smith had nice days at the plate. And then, once Kimbrel got up in the bottom of the ninth in a 1-1 tie, the win was essentially confirmed. 

This is a tough Diamondbacks team, and this is definitely not Citizens Bank Park. It may go all seven. I don't think it will, but it may. I think if Game 2 goes similarly I'll start worrying, but considering the Phillies had the upper hand against the D-Backs' two best pitchers, and the D-Backs barely got anything done against Ranger Suarez, I still like our odds.

This one was avoidable. You study Urquidy's tape, work with Heaney and Dunning a little more, and this isn't as bad. But a 10-3 loss, evening the series, and making the Astros look really good again, is not what the Rangers wanted. The Astros are in danger of breaking into completely new momentum from the regular season, as people who weren't great during regulation, like Jose Abreu, Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier and Framber Valdez, are suddenly a lot more reliable. I kinda want the postseason to be a continuation of the regular season, not a complete reversal of everything it was building towards.

This Astros team is still very good, and can still get a lot done, but this Rangers team cannot keep getting caught with their pants down, especially after how good they looked heading into the playoffs. This is the outcome they were trying to avoid, and now with a 2-2 series tie and only one more game in Arlington, they desperately need a win to establish dominance heading back to Houston. Cause if we go back to Houston with the Astros ahead, you can honestly get the World Series parade reserved. And I am not gonna watch them waltz to the end for the umpteenth frigging time.

Somebody needs to stop the Astros. I am BEGGING the Rangers not to mess this up. 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Championship Series' Day 4: Blood in the Water


It's clear to me now that this ALCS isn't going to be simple. The Rangers aren't going to finish this thing in four, but they're not exactly going to keel over and die either. 

The Astros welcoming Max Scherzer back from the IL with a barrage of runs is something I figured was possible but hoped wouldn't happen. It was all too predictable. "Oh, wait til they see our secret weapon", and then he shows up and does nothing. Did they rush Scherzer? Possibly? But at the same time, oh noooo, not Dane Dunning or Jon Gray starting a game, ANYTHING but that... 

The Astros scoring 8 runs doesn't shock me either. They're the Astros, they do this. Alvarez was responsible for 3 of them, of course he was, he's a force of nature and I curse the baseball gods that he wound up in Houston rather than someplace cool. Cristian Javier was great in this start despite not doing well during the regular season, of course he was. Cristian Javier exists solely to defy me at this point. I used to be fine with him, now he's infuriating as hell. You no hit both my teams in one season, you get on my shit list, and he's there. 

Two of the other heroes from this game, Jose Altuve and Martin Maldonado, are already on said list. Altuve had a massive homer that was basically just the Astros' way of showing off. Maldonado had a pair of RBIs himself. Maldonado used to have some charm to him, but he makes the playoffs every year and gets to be a postseason hero despite being a below average catcher. He's in it for the t-shirts at this point. It's nice when he has a cool moment, and last year his cool moment was leaning into a pitch in order to bring up the guy that'd seal the World Series win, but he's worn out his novelty for me. 

The Rangers did a lot right in this game, including scoring 5 points off the bullpen, playing incredible defense and robbing Jose Altuve of a few other near-homers, and getting a 2-homer night out of Josh Jung. Last game, Alvarez had 2 homers in a loss, now Jung gets to do the same. The Rangers could very easily just make it an easy win [like Arizona], but they're bloodthirsty, and they're not going down without a fight.

The Rangers have two more games at home, one of which is certainly going to be played with a series lead. Tonight I assume they're putting up either Dane Dunning or Andrew Heaney [probably Heaney], while Houston will likely be going with Jose Urquidy. This is manageable. They just need to keep focused and play the same kind of defense and late-game-ferocity that they did last night. I'm not worried yet. We'll see how this one goes.

Also tonight we've got Phils-D'Backs round 3. Brandon Pfaadt vs. Ranger Suarez. With a home crowd that will be diluted by Philly fans who saw cheap tickets on stubhub and couldn't resist the opportunity. Oh boy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Championship Series' Day 3: Silenced


I can admit that this Phillies team is better than the one that went all the way last year. But I still didn't call our pitching silencing the lineup that fried the Dodgers last week. Because that means...that means the Phillies have a better pitching staff than the Dodgers this year. That's hard to wrap one's head around. How did all of our guys, including Wheeler and Walker, stay healthy while all of theirs got hurt almost immediately?

The Diamondbacks made quick work of the Dodgers' pitching because they didn't have much left. Then they get to Philly and can't do anything against Aaron Nola, who struggled more often than he flourished this season. I am absolutely living for Nola's October redemption arc, even if it means some team is really gonna overpay for him in free agency [and seeing that Andrew Painter will likely be healthy next year, it probably won't be us]. 

But Nola only kept the lights on. The hitting ran the friggin restaurant. And you can chalk it up to the home runs if you'd like, such as Schwarber's double-HR night that's always welcome or Turner's scorcher, but this game was still in danger of being flipped for a lot of its middle section. It's the RBI doubles that made up the 6th and 7th innings, Realmuto, Bohm and Marsh, that impressed me the most because it proved we don't have to completely rely on 1-run homers to power wins. Pure contact hitting can do the trick, and all of those guys had ferocious liners to where D-Backs fielders were not. This was also a pretty atrocious defensive game for the D-Backs, and a lot of them just weren't prepared for how fast the balls were coming. Though, honestly, Jake Cave trying to leg out a triple and failing is his own damn fault.

The easy part is over for now. Now we have to win on the road. There's a few factors that could make this interesting. Game 3 is going to Brandon Pfaadt, who, like Nola, struggled during the regular season but has come alive during the postseason. Even if we've made quick work of Gallen and Kelly, he could provide some difficulty for us. The other factor? Phillies fans keep talking about how cheap the tickets at Chase Field are, even during the postseason. Spirit Airlines might get a ton of business in the next few days, and we may get some Lions-at-Lambeau style crowds. Now...on one hand, this is a terrible way for a team to have to jack up prices, as honestly all tickets should be that affordable. But Phillies fans will exploit any formality or norm just because they can. 

The Phillies are looking real good about now. And it may not exactly be a clean finish if they do take the series. 

Tonight, the Arlington crowds want a win on their turf. Let's see if it happens.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Championship Series' Day 2: Jordan Is Happy


Last night was a night of suspense. Two early leads, and two teams that couldn't help but make it interesting as the game went on. But both early leads held, which was a good thing for me, as they were both teams I wanted to win.

I called the Rangers beating up Framber Valdez. He hasn't completely had his dominance this year; perhaps being so good last year has thrown him off long term, which is a depressing thought. But early on, the Rangers offense got to Valdez, and Marcus Semien, Adolis Garcia, Mitch Garver and Nate Lowe had crucial RBIs. An inning later, Jonah Heim made it 5 runs. It was just a matter of whether or not the Rangers' pitching could hold them.

And in moments, I worried they couldn't. Nate Eovaldi thankfully brought his best stuff yesterday, but he still gave up 3 of the Astros' 4 runs, including one of Yordan Alvarez's 2 home runs yesterday [DURING A LOSS. WHAT ARE THEY FEEDING THIS GUY??]. And even Aroldis Chapman threatened to derail the good vibes by giving up the second Alvarez homer. But Jose Leclerc proved himself yet again, and the Rangers put themselves up 2-0 heading back across the state. 

The Rangers have a massive advantage for this homestretch. AND they have Max Scherzer healthy for tomorrow night, so that should be an interesting variable. I really hope the Rangers leg it out, it'd fulfill their season-long goal of getting past these blasted Astros.

I said that I predicted Valdez falling apart. I did NOT predict Zac Gallen giving up all those homers.

Honest to God, I thought this would be a pitching duel. Gallen sharp, Wheeler sharp, somebody eventually slipping. But the bats got to Gallen early, as not only did Kyle Schwarber crack one leading off, but both Nick Castellanos and birthday boy Bryce Harper continued their reign of terror this postseason. Even if Wheeler eventually gave up a homer to Geraldo Perdomo after going 5 strong, Gallen drew first blood and the D-Backs couldn't recover.

The Phillies had their usual array of strong performances across the board. I am really liking this Johan Rojas kid in center, he's an excellent defensive weapon, and he's good for some contact hitting as well. I hope he has continued success in Philly.

Tonight is gonna be tough though. Merrill Kelly has been untouchable all postseason, and Aaron Nola, even if he's been sharp in October, is still 2023 Aaron Nola. The D-Backs could look to even the series, so hopefully the Phillies don't get too comfortable. 

Monday, October 16, 2023

Championship Series' Day One: Advantage Arlington


Last year, the Houston Astros were undefeated heading into the World Series. Everybody made a big deal out of it. 'Oh, one of the best teams in the AL going up against a Wild Card, they won't stand a chance', and while they didn't, the Astros didn't win it in 4. They won it in 6. The Phillies getting two wins against an Astros team like that is a Morris Buttermaker victory. Ya may not have won the real important thing, but you beat your own expectations. 

Also, offtopic, anybody see the 2005 Bad News Bears? In that one, Buttermaker was a reliever for the 90s Mariners teams. How weird is that? Jeff Nelson, Norm Charlton, Bobby Ayala, and some guy that looks an awful lot like Morris Buttermaker. What'cha doing, Lou?

But yeah, the 2022 Astros were 7-0 heading into the World Series, and that's all you heard. After last night, the 2023 Rangers are, what's this?? 6-0? How about that? And remember, they had to play the Orioles and Rays, two really tough teams.

Last night, they shutout the team you just can't seem to keep quiet. Jordan Montgomery had another masterful start and didn't allow any runs. Jonah Heim and Leody Taveras continued their plate dominance this season. Evan Carter had a spectacular outfield catch that kept the game alive. And Jose Leclerc cemented his status as ninth inning weapon for Texas by putting a cap on it to upset the Houston hometown massive. 

I'm not holding my breath for this to be the way this goes, by the way. The Twins won Game 1, look what happened to them. But the Twins didn't quiet the Astros in Game 1. There were no shutouts from Minnesota during that series. Meanwhile, right off the bat, the Rangers shut out Houston. This is like the Phils shutting them out last year. Doesn't happen often, ya love to see it.

The Astros are gonna wanna make people forget this ever happened. Tomorrow night, they have Framber Valdez up, and though he's been shaky at times this season, he's recaptured his 2022 dominance when he's needed to. Nate Eovaldi, however, has been comparatively untouchable, and he's just as helpful in October as Valdez. And hey, an October resume didn't mean much in Game 1, so you never know if the Rangers'll find a way to outsmart Valdez. 

The Rangers' revenge tour of Houston had an excellent start. I'm hoping for a similarly excellent finish. 

Tonight, we get Game 2 of this, as well as the beginning of the NLCS, which has gotta be even wilder than this one's gonna be.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Division Series' Day Six: All It Took

Three home runs, a pair of 3+ hit nights, and a shit-ton of tight pitching. That's all it took for the Phillies to overpower the most frightening lineup in baseball.

A lot of these first round eliminations for top seeded teams can be chalked up to missing a week. All told, the Braves were losing momentum back in September. The pitching careening a bit, and losing Morton, was even more of a hit. But that wouldn't be much of a problem if they could get some hits off of the Phils' bullpen. They couldn't. Tonight, though there were some sticky situations, Gregory Soto, Jose Alvarado, Craig Kimbrel, Seranthony Dominguez and Matt Strahm all got out of scrapes and silenced this team. I kinda can't believe it. I figured that this Braves team might have enough to atone for last year. I was wrong.

So much came together for this team last tnight. Castellanos obviously, but Turner being sharp all night in multiple facets, Johan Rojas being a vacuum cleaner in center, Ranger Suarez only giving up 1 run, the bullpen leaving a ton of runnings on base, and Matt Strahm entering the game in a tense moment and finishing it out. It wasn't an easy win, like Wednesdays, but it felt good because, ultimately, it didn't take much. Just some excellent defense and some of the managing energy that redeems Rob Thomson for his snafus in Atlanta.

The Phillies will probably have an equally hard time quieting the Diamondbacks' lineup. These guys are bloodthirsty, hot, and they want the gold. The Phillies need to attack their weak points [their other starters, some defensive points, Gallen after a go-round or two], and keep the core surging. I would love to see this team finish what they started last year, but it won't be easy. 

The Atlanta Braves were the best team in baseball during the regular season. Unfortunately, conserving regular season momentum for a month-long playoff is no longer guaranteed. They still got a lot done during this series, and made it very close at times. Matt Olson, Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna, Spencer Strider, Michael Harris and Raisel Iglesias all had big moments for this team. It just fell apart too quickly. 

The Braves, with enough retooling, can produce a version of this team that can last seven months instead of six. It's just gonna take a lot of lucky guesses.

The ALCS starts up Sunday night. Under protest, I am rooting for the guys in blue. 

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Division Series' Day Five: Inevitability Mounts


...Atta boy, Harper.

I had a feeling that something would happen when the Phils-Braves series came back to Philly, but I did not think it would be motivated solely by spite. Bryce Harper having a 2-homer day specifically because Orlando Arcia gave him shit for making an error, right down to death-staring him while crossing the bases, may be one of the most Philly thing ever. And believe me, Philly is branded on shit like this. I was at a live podcast show last night, and the audience booed the concept of Dolph Lundgren existing. We make heroes for life, but we also make enemies for life. That's how this city works.

I'm pretty proud of this team, honestly. Nola has turned his season around this October, and is boosting his free agency case exponentially [now if someone other than St. Louis could enter the bidding race, that'd be greatly appreciated]. Turner, Realmuto and Marsh all had heroic moments. Nick Castellanos had a 2-homer day as well that was less reported on because it involved less spite. The bullpen was rock-solid, including a less-distressed and more-willing-to-flex-his-versatility Michael Lorenzen and the unhittable wunderkind Orion Kerkering, who might be deified in Philly before he even gets to play a full season for us [for all we know, Fuld trades him for Corbin Burnes or some shit]. 

I love so much about how this team is playing, and I hope we can finish strong before shit gets really tough. Tonight the Braves are putting up Strider again, and while we did break through last time, he's still their toughest pitcher, and we can't let them even the series.

...because when you wait around and let the stronger team even the series, this shit happens.

Hey, I guess that Rangers-Astros revenge plot was a cool idea, cause we're getting that. No bursting 30 year droughts, none of that, just the Astros going to their seventh ALCS in a row because Rob Manfred thought that taking away their manager was enough of a punishment. 

The Astros are on autopilot doing these wins. You know the drill at this point, Yordan Alvarez does something incredible, a starting pitcher that was mediocre during the regular season is suddenly incredible, there's a fight put up by the opposition but they win anyway because the bullpen is amazing despite Hector Neris, who the Phillies' bullpen coaches tried to fix and never could, being there. Tonight Michael Brantley got to be a hero, despite missing most of the season due to an injury. I' exhausted. Why the hell couldn't a team that was actually good during the regular season get a chance instead of another year of this bullshit?

Yes, Braves fans, I know, that's hypocritical of me. But I'd gladly take y'all advancing than Houston. WHICH ISN'T AN INVITATION. Y'know, I'd still prefer my hometown team take it. But the Braves, regardless of what people think on Twitter, have not cheated. And nobody on that team is as infuriating as Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez to me. Not even Marcell Ozuna.

The Rangers have an opportunity to embarrass the Astros and get to their first World Series since 2011. I pray they can do this and add some variety into the equation. Cause if it's just a repeat of last year's World Series, down to the outcome, I don't know what I'm gonna do.

The Twins certainly gave 'em hell. Had the Astros not decided to be incredible this month, they could have stood a chance. But y'know...they're gonna do that.

I applaud the Twins for digging into their depth options this year, like bringing in Edouard Julien as a 2nd base option in Polanco's absence, or getting great games out of Matt Wallner. This team came a long way from its midyear default status as division leader. I certainly hope they can build on this and become a more intimidating playoff force in forthcoming years. Given the quality of the AL Central, and the slow rise of the Detroit Tigers, it's not guaranteed, but if enough of what worked this year repeats, you never know.

The Arizona Diamondbacks had been waiting for this moment since the Dodgers re-took the west. They got their revenge. And oh my, it was glorious.

The kicker for me was that for Game 3, it didn't take Merrill Kelly or Zac Gallen, the proven options, to stop the Dodgers' offense, including Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. They started Brandon Pfaadt, who was a default third option rookie with some good perks but a lot of trouble during the regular season. Pfaadt impressed, going nearly 5 innings without giving up any runs, and holding the Dodgers to two hits. Meanwhile, Lance Lynn, who was one of the saviors of the oft-injured Dodgers rotation, got lit up by the usual suspects: Marte, Walker, Perdomo and Moreno. All in the same inning. And that was all it took.

The Diamondbacks' excellent season has surprised me, and I'm actually pretty pleased with how far they've come. They're a wild card NLCS team in an entirely different way than the Padres. Everybody expected the Padres last year to go in via the wild card slot and take down the alpha; nobody expected the D-Backs to do the same this year, because all their assets were either homegrown or wisely traded there. This team has made so many smart decisions, and I really hope they find more success.

...except if the Phillies make the NLCS.

In hindsight, maybe going ahead without Gavin Lux, Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin or Julio Urias wasn't a great shake of things for the Dodgers.

You see, in September the Dodgers got away with limited pitching options because they could still outhit everybody. But with that week off, all the hitters lost momentum, the two marquee guys couldn't get ANYTHING done, and the team got embarrassed by a team nobody had in their playoff schematic in April. The Dodgers' fanbase has every right to be disappointed, even if this particular team didn't exactly catch fire til the last third of the season. 

If there's an actual rotation next year, they could have a chance. But then hopefully something else we're not thinking about doesn't bite 'em in the ass.

One last spot to unveil. Tonight it could be decided. I hope it does.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Division Series' Day Four: The Revenge of Texas


It seems as if the first-round bye has hurt every team except the team that I flipping wanted to.

I'll say this: seeing Jose Abreu channel his White Sox peak with a two-homer night against the Twins was pretty cool. Abreu may still have a Hall of Fame case as a pure hitter who's never relented, and even though his Astros numbers haven't measured up to his Chicago prime, he still has the Twins' number, and kicked the shit out of Sonny Gray and friends last night. Meanwhile, Cristian Javier, who's struggled for a lot of this season, was untouchable during Game 3, becoming yet another Astro who becomes incredible in October. You guys really need to do a better job of keeping this team from October, because this shit is gonna happen every time if not.

The Twins need to win tomorrow. They will have likely have Joe Ryan on the mound, and Ryan needs to find his best numbers in order for this team to stand any chance. 

...not that a Rangers Inigo Montoya mission wouldn't be cool for an ALCS. Because if that's where this is headed, that'd be pretty cool. The Rangers led the division, had it stripped away from them, had to fight all the way back and now could be face to face with the team that caused this. It's essentially The Count of Monte Cristo, but a lot less rambling on.

The Rangers continued to do their usual pounding last night, including Adolis Garcia, Corey Seager, Evan Carter and Jonah Heim smacking the hell out of the ball. Nathan Eovaldi had a hell of a start, and is still a trusted option for them going forward. I really do wish Dean Kremer had an easier night, but he had to face the best offense in the AL in the midst of an international crisis that his heritage was directly involved in, and it really must have been a lot for him.

I also find it very cool how the Rangers' bullpen has worked. Jose Leclerc has been the primary closing man for this team, while Aroldis Chapman and Will Smith, both veteran closers, have been doing more setting up. Chapman was in the setup role tonight, and squeaked through pretty amicably. I don't think he's fully redeemed himself, but being positioned for a second ring could at least boost his resume as a relief icon of his generation.

As for the fallen...

The Orioles are a good example of why the modern postseason format is flawed. They were one of the best teams in the AL schematic, waited for a week, then lost momentum and had to play a team that conserved theirs. First round byes have proven to be momentum killers for anyone not named Houston, and because of Manfred's insistence that so many wild card teams get a shot, it's less likely for the absolute best teams in the game get a shot at the end. Realistically, it should have been O's-Rangers, Twins-Astros, and that should have happened immediately. Sorry to the Jays and Rays, but it really should be a lot simpler.

I liked the Orioles a lot this year. They had such a great team, overpowered the AL, and never got swept in a series. That is, until they had to wait a week to play a team that didn't have to wait a week. Do you see the problem here?

I really hope the Orioles can build on this season, or be in a position where a first round bye doesn't stop them from advancing to a proper finish. Rutschman, Henderson, Bradish, Mountcastle, Mullins and Santander all had awesome seasons, and even add-ons like Kyle Gibson and Adam Frazier contributed a lot. It just feels unfair that they got eliminated here.

Tonight, two teams are in win-or-die position, and one series needs to be broken open. We'll see how things unravel.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Division Series' Day Three: Avoidable & Unavoidable


I've been pretty defensive of Rob Thomson. Great manager, great guy, perfect for this city. But Rob Thomson mismanaged the hell out of that game.

Here's what you do. You take Wheeler out after he breaks up the no-no, put in Hoffman then, cause he's ready and alert, rather than just sort of leaving him out to dry for two innings. Hoffman mops up, then put in Alvarado for as long as he needs to be in, he has the Braves' ass. Only take him out when it's absolutely clear that he's done. Then give Kimbrel the ninth and hopefully you've got a 4-1 win heading back to Philly.

That...did not happen. Yes, getting 10 Ks out of Wheeler was nice, but if I'm Thomson, and I know you might need a Game 5, I'd conserve as many Wheeler innings as possible. Instead, we left Wheeler in for too long, got a 2 run-homer off him from Travis D'Arnaud, who thrives in these kind of situations, then get gobsmacked by Riley late because Hoffman should have been on a half hour sooner, and then we get caught with our pants down trying to advance on Michael Harris. It was honestly embarrassing. Yes, the Braves are a better team than us, but we blew a 4-0 lead heading into 6 because of these sort of decisions.

It's not exactly a 'I want the manager's head' kind of thing like a lot of Philly fans will do at the soonest sign of weakness, but it's not great. This series is still technically winnable, but we just wasted a great Wheeler start because we got too confident. I pray it doesn't happen again. 

The D-Backs-Dodgers series was honestly bound to happen. When one side is putting up Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, and the other side is putting up an oft-injured 30something trying his best not to get injured again, and a rookie who is the next best option...offense schmoffense, the one side is stronger.

Last night was yet another showing from a Blue Jays player that got out of Toronto. Lourdes Gurriel had a great season with the D-Backs, and last night he had two RBIs, including a home run. They clearly love him in Phoenix, and he's been responsible for some great moments for them this year. You also have to thank Zac Gallen for his 5 innings of strong work, despite those 2 runs, Pham and Marte for multi-hit evenings, and Paul Sewald for not taking long at all to become a legendary closer for the D-Backs.

There is a chance the Dodgers somehow hang on, but I am looking at the D-Backs as an NLCS competitor, and they could do some huge things down the line if the momentum holds. The first step is not blowing a 2-0 lead against a team that has Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman on it.

Today, we've got a series that could find a new leverage point, and a series that could end though I really don't want it to. Good luck to everybody today.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Division Series' Day Two: A Leveling & A Shellacking


So uh...not a great start to this ALDS for the Orioles.

Again, because they were limited to prioritizing Bradish and Rodriguez over somebody like Means, Flaherty and Wells, all of whom were shaky and/or injury-prone at different points this year, the Orioles set themselves up to be pounded a bit by a really strong lineup. This double-digit win by the Rangers, the likes of which they were known for this year, was honestly bound to happen. And because everybody's hot, a lot of the same people are responsible for this one, including Evan Carter, Mitch Garver, Jonah Heim, and Adolis Garcia. Honestly, the MVP for me was Cody Bradford, the relief asset that came in following Jordan Montgomery's decent start, held the Orioles down and let the Rangers pull things out. The O's made it closer than it should have been, but without Bradford it wouldn't have ended at 9. 

The Rangers need just one more masterful performance to get back to an ALCS. Without Scherzer or Gray, they'll have to hope Eovaldi, on short-ish rest, will deliver his best material. 

This one I also sort of saw coming. The Twins were pissed, and all they needed was a starter they could get hits off of. Framber Valdez is a great pitcher, but he was, as usual this year, too prone to letting some easy ones by. Carlos Correa and Kyle Farmer, among others, made the most of this. Correa having a mega-RBI night in Houston is a pretty big nail in the coffin of the 2017 Astros, and Pablo Lopez shutting out the lineup did a lot as well. 

Bringing this series to Minnesota in the midst of a tie will be interesting. The Astros could still figure this team out, and with Alvarez in HR-hitting mode as well, but the Twins will have a bloodthirsty home crowd, and will have Sonny Gray for one of these games, even if it means letting Joe Ryan start the other one with his post-injury shakiness. 

I really hope the Twins stay this dominant. It'd make a really fun outcome if they did.

NL shenanigans tonibhg. Let's see where these two end up after 2. 

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Division Series' Day One: One League Defied Expectations


So, uh, congrats to Texas on a job well done in Day 1 of the ALDS's. Uh...good for Texas. Maybe not good for me because I like the Orioles and Twins better, but...y'know, more on 'em.

The Rangers-O's game was heartbreaking but understandable. If the O's are going with rookie starters with John Means likely hurt again, and the Rangers are going with Andrew Heaney and Dane Dunning, this sort of thing is gonna happen. The O's were limited all game and couldn't get much done, while the Rangers got material out of Evan Carter and Josh Jung. It was close for a bit, but the Rangers' pen held it down, and the Rangers squeaked out a Game 1 win. With Gumby on the mound today against Grayson Rodriguez, they're hoping for similar luck.

....I'm so friggin sick of this team, guys.

Hey, the Twins are surging and coming into their own, and they're starting a young pitcher against Justin Verl-this isn't gonna be close, is it? 

You know the drill at this point. Verlander was untouchable, Altuve and Alvarez hit homers...this is just reruns from last year. I am so sick of the Astros just copypasting stuff from previous teams with no decay and no league repercussions. Altuve missed several months this year, then came back and started playing like he's still in his prime, and...I want Altuve to have one consequence. Just one consequence for his reprehensible actions. Possibly more. 

The Twins have Pablo Lopez tonight, he's been solid. The Astros have Framber Valdez, who, in theory, is their best pitcher, but has been way streakier than he was in 2022. The Twins could fight back. I kinda hope they do.

It's as simple as this. The Braves were losing momentum during the second half of September. The Phillies were gaining momentum, and gained even more at home against Miami. This was bound to happen.

Even with a great pitcher on the mound in Spencer Strider, the Phils snipped some runs away in between the strikeouts, including a Harper homer. Meanwhile, Suarez was strong from the start, the bullpen was masterful, and the defense was even better than usual, with Turner pulling that insane double play late to stop the Braves' offense. The Phillies looked incredible during Game 1, a sort of ironclad performance that I hope they can keep up for as long as possible. I do fear the Braves will eventually regain the momentum, but we silenced them at home for the first time all season. Something could be happening.

Kershaw in October, folks. What else can be said?

Look, when you lose all your good pitchers to injuries, then lose even more to suspensions, and the guys you have left are a guy who gets injured every year, two rookies and a veteran who just struggled coming back from an injury less than a year ago, any sense of high seedage isn't gonna save you. The Dodgers got by for a while without starting pitching, and now they're against a team with a scorching offense, a minimal rotation that still won while starting Brandon Pfaadt, and a lineup that got the best of Corbin Burnes. This may not end well.

Judging by Game 1, they're gonna need to hope that Lynn and Miller have something in 'em. The barrage of runs from Carroll, Longoria, Gurriel, Moreno and various others was a huge wake-up call. I will say, the Diamondbacks' unsung hero might have been Merrill Kelly, who shut down one of the most consistent lineups in the game and didn't allow any runs. 

The Dodgers are gonna need to hope that they can figure out this team, because if not, it's gonna be another tough postseason for them.

More AL shenanigans today. Hoping for somebody to go 1-1.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Wild Card Series' Day 2: Well, That Was Easy


I mean, I kinda assumed one of these Wild Card series' would go all three, but damn. Two days of games and we're out. Alright then. Makes it a lot easier.

I think the MLB guys knew that the Rangers-Rays series would have the most obvious outcome, which is why they played 'em so early. The Rangers came within inches of a division title, as did the Rays, but of the two teams that petered off after the first half, the Rangers still felt the most like a contender. Meanwhile, the Rays' starting pitching paled in comparison to the Rangers', and just putting up Nate Eovaldi and Jordan Montgomery, ironically two ex-Yankees, was enough to silence the Rays for good. The biggest takeaway from this wild card series was Evan Carter, the rookie who homered his way into legitimacy among Rangers fans, and made himself just another big part of the team's future. The Rangers may not meet with their sworn enemies immediately, but I see this Rangers-Orioles series being tough, potentially going all 5 games, and taking the most out of both teams. Honestly? The Rangers might be able to win this one, if the pitching stays as solid on their end.

The Twins winning rights two MLB wrongs. One is the obvious, giving them a series win for the first time in two decades. The other has been bugging me for years: the last time a central divisional team won a playoff series was 2019, and it was those stinking Cardinals. All of the 2020, 2021 and 2022 campaigns went without a single playoff series win by any of the ten teams from the central divisions. The 2019 Twins, 2020-21 White Sox, 2022 Guardians, and LITERALLY ALL FOUR CENTRAL TEAMS THAT MADE THE 2020 PLAYOFFS, could not advance. So having the Twins finally break that streak felt really good. 

It's also cool that somebody like Willi Castro got to play a big part in this win. The Twins have gotten material out of their stars, but they've let Donovan Solano, Willi Castro, Bailey Ober and Edouard Julien have their moments as well. This is a very fun Twins team, and them advancing was honestly a foregone conclusion after their September. I just hope they have enough to take down Houston. Could you IMAGINE an ALCS year for Minnesota? Wouldn't that be awesome??

The Diamondbacks taking their Wild Card series was one I sort of saw coming, even if I still figured the Brewers could sneak up when they least expected it. But somehow the Arizona bullpen shut these guys out in later innings, and the D-Backs lineup kept raining down on this once-strong Milwaukee team. Evan Longoria had the big moment last night, and tonight Tommy Pham brought in an RBI and cemented his place on this team. Pham's had a troubled few years, but I think he's evaded some of his rotten luck and is back to doing things right. 

The D-Backs will need a lot more of this luck to evade the Dodgers, who, like usual, seek to claim an easy playoff spot. I see a slight chance of an upset, but the D-Backs will have to work for it.

And, once again, we have the hometown team. I was a little nervous when Thomson put up Nola for this game, as he's only briefly shown true greatness this year. I shouldn't have worried. Nola went 7 strong without allowing any runs, and worked some true postseason magic while Realmuto, Schwarber, Turner and Stott made swiss cheese of the Marlins' pitching. Braxton Garrett getting lit up I could have guessed, but the bullpen as well? Andrew Nardi, who's been excellent this year? This team really is legit. 

The Phillies will need to hope lightning strikes twice against Atlanta. Miami was very much the easy part; the Braves have one of the most ferocious offenses in the majors, and while there is the factor of lessening momentum, which did cloud their September, the Braves still could be trouble. I could see this series going either way. I just want to believe the Phillies can make this happen. The stars look like they're aligning. They just need to keep fighting.

And as for the fallen:

The 2023 Rays team were...a Tampa Bay Rays team. They're all the same to me at this point. They all do the same things, use the same kinds of players, have the same issues. This year's had a ton more pitching injuries and the single most unfortunate thing to come out about a guy they have signed for 10 years. I assume there will be players traded this offseason to offset costs. Manny Margot, I hope you haven't signed a lease in St. Pete..

The one sad part of the Twins advancing is that the Jays, who will once again end their surefire playoff run right after it's started, still can't deliver on their promises. They have the team, they have the foundation, they certainly have the pitching...they just can't get it done. And yanking Jose Berrios, thereby undoing the thread that held this game together for the Jays, was the most heartbreaking part. Had he stayed in, there's a chance they would have legged it out.

I hope next year is the year things change. Though, again, if everybody in the AL East competes, it still could be very difficult for them. 

Similarly, since 2018 the Brewers haven't gotten anything done in October either, and this team, despite a strong regular season finish, fell to a wild card team, the only division leader this year to do so in this round. Sal Frelick was one of the few people that made me think the Brewers could make it close, as he contributed to an early offensive boost before the 5th and 6th innings. 

The Brewers need to ensure that the team consistently succeeds at the plate. Cause having 3 guys that can hit isn't gonna cut it going forward. Not when the Cubs and Reds also exist.

I genuinely thought the Marlins were gonna make it a 3-game series. Out of all of them. With Josh Bell hitting as well as he was, I thought they could drum something up against the bullpen. But with no Sandy Alcantara, no Eury Perez, and the feeling that something was missing from this lineup, there was no chance for them. Aside from Bell, no other Marlins really did anything too special this series, and it saddens me, because they looked so fun during the heat of the season.

It will be tough for the Marlins to try something like this again, but not impossible, especially if everyone stays healthy. 

So now we've got our division series' matchups. Some I think I can predict, some I don't want to even try. I just know they're gonna be interesting. The absolute worst case scenario is getting a boring outcome. We do not want Astros-Dodgers again, or even honestly Astros-Braves. I wanna see something I've never seen before. Two teams that haven't been here in a while, or have NEVER been here, and can make an entertaining, enjoyable World Series experience. I just hope that isn't too much to ask. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Wild Card Series' Day 1: Starting Guns


My rooting interest lies with the Rangers during their leg of the AL Wild Card games, solely because the fact that they got the AL West yanked out from under them by technicalities installed essentially this season needs to be rectified.

The Astros aren't good enough this year for a first round bye. They just aren't. But with a commissioner who clearly loves them and hates when they don't win things, they're gonna get by a lot easier even when they don't need to. Which is why the Rangers are pit against the 99-win Rays rather than Houston getting them. To this end, it does mean that I can root against the Rays, rather than rooting for them in this series and hoping they don't get too hot.

The Rangers have been an exceptional team this year, they've just been very unlucky. They run out of steam at the worst times. So my hope was that they'd strike the Rays when they least expect it, and before they have an opportunity to fall apart. Having the Rangers strike first, and before they get to Eovaldi or Dunning in the rotation, makes me very confident.

It also tells you how good of an idea it was for them to pick up Jordan Montgomery. Once again, Brian Cashman never should have given that guy up, he is a handy guy to have around, and his stock has only rose since leaving the Yankees. Gumby got a Game 1 start and went 7 innings without allowing a run. That never could have happened for the Yanks. 

I'm optimistic that the Rangers can keep things going for one more game, though you can never completely count the Rays out.

My rooting interest also lies with the Twins for their Wild Card series, solely because I want them to surprise everybody. The whole season they've been accused of just being carried to the playoffs on the power of the rest of their division [sucking], and while they did become a much better team in September, there's still a lot of skeptics out there. Plus, they're against another unlucky postseason team, the Blue Jays, who've had great teams but no postseason series wins to show for it. 

Yesterday's Twins victory was their first in 2 decades. So if you think the Jays have gone a bit without succeeding, give them time; the 2016 team's barely in the rearview. 

The Twins only really needed two guys to bring down the Jays in Game 1. One of them was Royce Lewis, who hit two home runs, making up for his injury-plagued seasons with ferocity. The other was Pablo Lopez, who had an excellent start, striking out 3 and only giving up 1 run. Those two guys did all the work. It does make me worry that it's keeping the team from being fully versatile, as a lot of guys in this lineup did nothing at the plate in Game 1. They may all get rolling today, you never know. Or, it could be the Jays' turn, as Berrios may have a score to settle in Minneapolis. 

One of the hooks of the Diamondbacks making the playoffs was the opportunity for MLB fans to see rookie Corbin Carroll in the playoffs. And he delivered almost immediately against Milwaukee. 

The Brewers did put up some nice numbers against Brandon Pfaadt, which I sort of thought they'd do, with Carlos Santana and Tyrone Taylor making it 3-0. Then, like magic, Corbin Carroll arrived, and took something Corbin Burnes threw out there yard. Then Ketel Marte followed suit. An inning later Gabriel Moreno got into it. What began as a one-sided pitching matchup turned into a dangerous, versatile lineup getting the best of one of the strongest pitchers in baseball. I'm shocked...but I'm not, like, completely gobsmacked by it. This D-Backs team is not to be trifled with, they could do some real damage going forward.

Christian Walker and Paul Sewald made it an easy finish. Against a Brewers team that's been hard to tame all year, they made it look like child's play. 

And then there's the hometown team.

Gotta be honest, as good as this team has been, the Marlins are the exact kind of team that can cause trouble for us. They can beat you up late, creep up and flip the script while you're relaxing. Josh Bell had me sweating a little late with his hard-hitting theatrics and multiple doubles. There is enough to this team that even when things were going well, especially when Zack Wheeler was on the mound, I wasn't completely assured. 

And yet this team delivered. And yet people like Harper, Realmuto, Stott, Bohm, and even Johan Rojas and Cristian Pache, just kept outdoing the Marlins' pitching. And yet Wheeler stayed unrattled. And yet Jose Alvarado mopped up multiple messes. I'm still very hesitant that these Phillies may not catch fire like last year's could, but this game was a very good sign, and one that could lead to something great. 

May they keep at it for as long as they can. I love this team, and I love seeing them outdo the odds.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

The Stars Are Out: August & September 2023


What a sight this is. Bartolo Colon, after a 5 year retirement limbo period, finally officially ended his MLB career last month as a member of the New York Mets, a team that held him for just three seasons, all past what would normally be considered a pitcher's prime. One of the most unexpected developments of the last decade of baseball was the return, and deification, of Bartolo Colon. The Mets fans still love Colon, and that home run he hit against the Padres is still one of the greatest things to me. I half considered taking a train to Queens just to be in attendance for this one, but decided against it.

Bartolo Colon throwing out the first pitch for the Mets is one of a few interesting sights I collected in the final two months of the 2023, to benefit the still-ongoing Stars Are Out series.

Richard Sherman once told a close member of my family that he'd never come back to a Seahawks game again. Not long after leaving Seattle, he was still disillusioned about how things left off, and while several people tried explaining to him that he'd clearly get a hero's welcome in that stadium, despite the end of his Hawks tenure, he was still not having it. Things clearly must have changed, as Sherman decided to return to T-Mobile Stadium this year, decked in one of those swanky City Connect jerseys, to throw out a first pitch. I'm glad he's come around, he's a very crucial part of 2010s Seattle sports.

I know next to nothing about the WNBA. I know two names- Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. And I only know Taurasi because Lebron James recognized her talent enough to include her as one of the Monstars in the vastly inferior sequel to Space Jam. Taurasi's one of the all-time greats of the sport, is just winding down her career, and is clearly a legend in Phoenix, where she threw out a first pitch last month.

Similarly, Megan Rapinoe just rounded the last curve of her USWNT career, after a host of medals and big moments in the World Cup. The US team's first place dreams ended early this year, which means Rapinoe didn't exactly end on the high that her former teammates Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach did, but she still finished things off with dignity. I really like the old school Mariners jacket she's wearing here for her T-Mobile Park first pitch.

I think this one can be explained as simply as 'Garth Brooks was in town'. I don't think he's residing anywhere near the Kansas City area, I'm pretty sure he's still back in Oklahoma City though, let me be clear, I don't know much at all about country music. I can name one Garth Brooks song. Friends in Low Places. That's it. His music didn't exactly reach northeastern mainstream radio when I was growing up. He's still a legend, and he's done so much for legitimizing country music. I'm sure he got a warm welcome from Royals fans when he threw this one out.

In the same vein, Mike Love's connection with the Cleveland metropolitan area is similarly tenuous. As a member of the Beach Boys, Love is clearly from California, as that's basically a requirement for entry into the band. I think the band, or moreover Love's 'No Wilsons Allowed' reformation of the band that's fought to tarnish the group's reputation for 35-odd years now, was passing through Ohio and Love thought 'why not'. Also, Mike's nephew used to play basketball in Cleveland, so maybe that's what it is. Either way, Mike Love got a nice response, because at the end of the day he is still a rock legend, despite also being a genuinely terrible human being.

Kyle Mooney is one of those fringe comedy guys that either works for you or doesn't. I always liked him on Saturday Night Live, and thought he had more of an odder edge to him than usual comedy partner Beck Bennett. He was usually misused on the show, and he's now trying his best to find similarly rewarding post-SNL work. But it's kinda awesome that he got a first pitch out of it all; a lot of his early sketches mention SoCal, and the San Diego area, prominently, complete with I believe a 90s-era Padres cap. So this is a true fan pick, and I'm glad he was able to make it happen.

And these two kinda caught me off guard. Like...Hit Girl? Mets fan? Sure. Chloe Grace Moretz has spent the last decade or so being in practically everything; now she's in mediocre action films. She definitely has a nice career for herself, even though she may never be in something as memorable as something like Kick-Ass. But hey, she's a Mets fan, and she got a warm CitiField welcome.

And then you have Ayo Edebiri, who, between a prominent role in Hulu's The Bear, playing April O'Neil in the latest animated iteration of TMNT, and being in Bottoms, one of the funniest studio comedies in a while, has been having an excellent year. I'd call her similar to a Sydney Sweeney 'she's one of ours? get her in here before the star fades' pick for the Sox, though Edebiri thankfully did not curse the team like Sweeney did last year. I hope Edebiri's career keeps going, she's a fun, versatile young actress with a lot of great uses this year.

That's all for the regular season, though I'm sure there'll be some cool ones during the postseason.