Here are five interesting stories in baseball this week:
Even-year magic running out?
The Giants won the World Series in 2010, ’12 and ’14, so some fans assumed it would happen here in 2016. After a 57-33 first half, it was looking good. But a second-half free-fall followed, and the team needed to win five of six down the stretch to reach the postseason. Madison Bumgarner threw a gem, and Conor Gillaspie homered in the wild-card game win over the Mets last Wednesday, setting up a clash with the Chicago Cubs. After two game of that series, however, San Francisco finds itself in a dire situation, down 2-0 in the best-of-five series. It is not looking good entering Monday’s Game 3 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, but hey, with Bumgarner slated to pitch, there is still some room for optimism. And hey, they’ve been here before. San Francisco trailed Cincinnati 2-0 in a best-of-five in 2012 and prevailed. The Giants trailed the Cardinals 3-1 in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series that same year and won. Then swept Detroit in the Fall Classic. Three words for Giants fans: Never. Say. Die.
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The Cubs have been here before, too
Chicago held a 2-0 lead in the 1984 National League Championship Series, which was a best-of-five. All the Cubs needed was one win to get to their first World Series since 1945. They lost three straight in San Diego. OK, so only five members of the current Cubs were even alive at that point, but the fan base remembers! However, it is highly unlikely that this club will let this series get away. The Cubs send 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) to the mound Monday. John Lackey (11-8, 3.35 ERA) waits to pitch a possible Game 4 on Tuesday. Yes, that is the same John Lackey that beat the Giants in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. If the Giants somehow push it to a Game 5 back in Chicago on Thursday, they’ll draw Jon Lester, who held them scoreless through eight innings in Game 1. The odds heavily favor the Cubs. However, San Diego’s backup catcher on that ’84 team? Current Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
Those blazing Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays are on a roll. After beating Baltimore 5-2 in 11 innings in the wild-card game last Tuesday, they swept the Texas Rangers, who were an American League best 95-67, out of the playoffs. The Blue Jays won Sunday’s game in walkoff fashion, 7-6 in 10 innings, sending Toronto’s Rogers Centre into pandemonium. They outscored the Rangers 22-10 in the series. Former A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson had three hits and drove in a run in the clincher. He is hitting .500 in the playoffs. Edwin Encarnacion (.375) homered and drove in three. Troy Tulowitzki is batting .353. They are red-hot. Now they await the winner of the Cleveland-Boston series.
Big Papi’s last stand?
Speaking of Cleveland, the Indians are on the verge of vanquishing the Red Sox and soon-to-be retired David Ortiz. Sunday’s game in Boston was postponed, but Fenway should be rocking when the Indians try to close it out in Game 3 on Monday. Cleveland rocked Boston starter Rick Porcello for three homers in a 5-4 Game 1 win, then unleashed some stellar pitching in a 6-0 Game 2 win. Cleveland sends Josh Tomlin (13-9, 4.40 ERA) to the mound Monday to try to close it out against Clay Buchholz (8-10, 4.78). It looks good for the Indians, but then again, it looked good for the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series, too. Then Big Papi rode to the rescue, delivering walkoff hits in Games 4 and 5, and the Red Sox went on to topple the Yankees and end the “Curse of the Bambino” by winning the World Series. Don’t ever count Big Papi and the Sox out.
Quick turnaround for Dodgers, Nationals
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals split the first two games in Washington. They were forced to play Sunday in Washington after Saturday’s game was washed out. Major League Baseball is on a tight schedule, so the teams flew out after Sunday’s 5-2 Nationals win and will face off at 1 p.m. Monday at Chavez Ravine in L.A. Gio Gonzalez (11-11, 4.57 ERA) takes the ball for Washington. His numbers aren’t great, but he is left-handed. The Dodgers struggled against left-handers this season, hitting just .214. Los Angeles counters with right-hander Kenta Maeda (16-11, 3.48 ERA). Will fatigue be a factor?
Chris La Marr