There’s no easy way to lose in October. Baseball, as they say, is designed to break your heart - But this year, the baseball gods have cranked the ol’ misery meter up about ten notches, and I don’t think they’re going to be turning it down over the next couple of weeks.
For now, the Blue Jays are one of four lucky franchises who have a (roughly) 25 percent chance of achieving baseball euphoria. That’s both exciting and terrifying because there’s also a (roughly) 75 percent chance they end up like the other teams eliminated from this post season, and the baseball gods seem to be going out of their way to ensure that each exit is as excruciating as possible.
Let’s review the carnage:
Blue Jay fans had a front row seat to this debacle. Baltimore saw its season end on a walk-off home run in the eleventh inning of a winner take all game with Zach Britton being saved for a save opportunity that never came.
There’s not really much more that can be said about this one, but if I were an O’s fan, going down with Ubaldo Jimenez when the best arm on the roster never got in the game would drive me nuts all winter.
Going into this game, losing to Madison Bumgarner would have been forgivable. It’s the price you pay for failing to win your division. You draw the ace of a 25-man team that’s not really better than you, and your October dreams die before they ever really begin. But the baseball gods threw in a special wrinkle this time designed to give Mets fans hope; and just when they were ready to take the bait, the rug was pulled out from underneath them.
See, the Mets got eight shutout innings from Noah Syndergaard and Addison Reed and had Bumgarner up to 106 pitches at this time. All they needed was another zero or two on the board and they were going to have a crack at that lousy Giants bullpen.
So naturally, they sent their All-Star closer Jeurys Familia to the mound, and he serves up a three run bomb to Conor Gillaspie. If that sounds bad, I assure you it’s even worse. Familia faced 321 batters during the regular season, and only gave up one home run. His greatest calling card is that you can put him in a tight game and assume he’s not going to surrender a long ball.
Oh, but that’s not all. He gave up the home run to Conor F. Gillaspie. The guy who’s been in and out of a major league uniform since 2008, has a .397 slugging percentage and just 31 career jacks. The most home runs Gillaspie’s ever hit at any level since being drafted was 14 for Triple-A Fresno back in 2012 in the moon baseball of the Pacific Coast League.
For that guy to hit a home run in that spot off Familia who gave up as many home runs as Bartolo Colon hit this year is the the type of astronomical alignment only the baseball gods can provide. If you listen hard enough, you can almost hear them laughing about how long it’s going to take Met fans to pay off that post season withdrawal they made from the luck bank in 1986.
After the game, Noah Syndergaard tweeted this:
Baseball has a way of ripping your ❤️ out, stabbing it, putting it back in your chest, then healing itself just in time for Spring Training.— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) October 6, 2016
Boston fans were convinced they were going to go on another "worst to first" World Series run as they celebrated the end of David Ortiz’s career. Instead, it all ended not with bang, but with a whimper, as T.S. Elliot might put it.
After winning eleven straight games in September, they lost to the Yankees on a walk-off grand slam off the bat of Mark Teixeira, which spoiled their division winning party, and then set them on a course to lose eight of their last nine to close out to season, including getting swept by an underdog Cleveland team in the ALDS.
Then there’s also the fact that Red Sox fans are convinced David Price can’t pitch in the post season, and the theory that they probably never get seasons from Rick Porcello and Stephen Wright this good again. (Although to be fair, they do have the most exciting young core of position players in baseball.)
One more thing, can you imagine losing a series with Travis Shaw weakly flying out, the tying run on second base, and Mookie Betts (the likely MVP) on deck? - And the only reason Betts was on deck and not at the plate is because John Farrell decided to bat Brock Holt second, one spot ahead of him.
I don’t know how much I need to add here after we went through a crash course of their history earlier in the week, but getting swept by the Blue Jays in a series that ends on an Odor error after blowing a 2-0 ALDS lead the year before and then picking a fight with that team the following May is a pretty mortifying experience.
After a never ending parade of unicorns and rainbows in the post season, you had to know the devil was going to collect sooner or later, and collect he did on Tuesday night.
After falling behind 2-0 in the series, the Giants won a wild Game 3 in 13 innings, got a brilliant 120-pitch, eight inning performance from Matt Moore in Game 4, and had Johnny Cueto lined up in Game 5 with Madison Bumgarner surely ready to come out of the bullpen with the series on the line.
It was all set up for another memorable post season moment for Giants fans; only this time, it would be a nightmare. The bullpen that sank the second half of their season finally gave way in a fatal spot. It took five Giant relievers to get the three outs in that ninth inning of Game 4, and by the time it was over, their 5-2 lead was a 6-5 season-ending loss.
There’s no team more likely to overpay a reliever this winter than San Francisco.
Remember when the Nationals shut Stephen Strasburg down and didn’t use him in October of 2012 because they needed him healthy for all those post season runs they were going to be making the following seasons? Well the baseball gods certainly do and they aren’t over that hubris.
Five Octobers later and the city of Washington still hasn’t won an MLB playoff series since 1924, and Strasburg’s pitched in a grand total of one post season game where he threw five innings and took the loss.
Then there’s also the fact that the Nationals took a Game 5 loss on Thursday that will drive their fans nuts forever. They had the better starter on the mound, it was a home game, they scored first, and Dave Roberts and the Dodgers still beat them in an instant classic.
This is one of those games where 100 different little things easily could have led to a Nationals win. Jayson Werth getting thrown out to end the sixth inning was a disaster, the single off the bat of Carlos Ruiz that that turned the Dodgers’ seventh into a crooked number is an inning ending double play if it’s hit one foot to the left, Julio Urias got away with a balk and picked off Bryce Harper, and the Nationals went just 1-10 with runners in scoring position this game.
Then there’s also the finer points like this one: Oliver Perez walked a guy hitting .125 this year left on left in the eighth inning, which forced Dusty Baker to bring in Mark Melancon to get the last out of the frame, which also forced him to double switch Anthony Rendon out of the game if he wanted to use Melancon for more than one out (the pitcher’s spot was due up to lead off the bottom of the eighth). So of course, the baseball gods made damn sure that Rendon’s spot came up with two out and two on in the ninth inning and Kershaw on the mound. Now I don’t know if Rendon gets a hit there, but I’m pretty sure he gives the Nationals a better at bat than Wilmer Difo did with the season hanging in the balance.
This game was National League baseball at its finest.
I bring all this up because I’m convinced the baseball gods are not done torturing baseball fans this fall. The four remaining teams haven’t won the World Series since 1993, 1988, 1948 and 1908, and none of them have even been to the World Series this millennium. If the baseball gods are going to let one of those teams experience that kind of joy, you know these wicked, wicked creatures are bringing the hammer down hard on the other three.
Baseball is the best when you reach the top of the mountain, but also the worst when your dreams are smashed like eggshells on an interstate. The Blue Jays are eight steps away from the summit, and reaching it is the only way to avoid the wrath of the baseball gods (for this season anyway). The stakes couldn’t be higher.