Oct 8, 2014 5:23 AM
Hits and errors: A daily look at MLB postseason
The Associated Press
Time for a deep breath.
Chance to catch up on the DVR.
Baseball's postseason takes a two-day break Wednesday and Thursday after none of the four Division Series went the full five games. The action starts up again Friday night when Kansas City visits Baltimore in the AL Championship Series opener.
"Big Game James" Shields pitches for the wild-card Royals against Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman. The best-of-seven playoff matches surprising squads that have never met in the postseason.
Baltimore seeks its first pennant since 1983. Kansas City is in the playoffs for the first time since winning the 1985 World Series.
Over in the National League, it's San Francisco and St. Louis in a rematch of their 2012 NLCS, won by the Giants after they rallied from a 3-1 series deficit. Game 1 is Saturday night at Busch Stadium.
Those two teams are no strangers to October success. While the Giants are looking to make every other year a pattern after winning the World Series in 2010 and 2012, the Cardinals are in their fourth straight NLCS and ninth in 15 years.
St. Louis advanced Tuesday with a 3-2 win over Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, bringing cheers from San Francisco fans at AT&T Park who were happy to see rival Los Angeles eliminated.
Hours later, the wild-card Giants won their own Game 4 by an identical score against Washington.
Kansas City polished off its three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday, when Baltimore did the same against Detroit.
The previous time no Division Series went the distance was 2009. It's happened seven times since the playoffs expanded in 1995, including four years in a row from 2006-09.
Many of the biggest hits throughout this postseason have been home runs.
In eight of the 16 playoff games so far, the decisive run scored on a long ball. That's a much higher ratio than the 32.6 percent mark during regular-season games this year, according to STATS.
Sort of strange considering that offense is down all around the majors. And even teams that don't normally flash much power are going yard when it counts in October.
Kansas City ranked last in the majors with 95 home runs during the season, but Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have two apiece in four playoff games. Moustakas and Hosmer each connected in the 11th inning on consecutive nights to lift the Royals over the Angels in the first two games of their ALDS.
Kansas City was the only club with fewer homers this season than St. Louis, which socked all of 105. But the Cardinals hit seven long balls in four NLDS games against the Dodgers, including Matt Adams' go-ahead, three-run shot off Kershaw in the seventh inning Tuesday.
One night earlier, rookie Kolten Wong delivered a tiebreaking drive in the seventh inning of a 3-1 win.
And then there's leadoff man Matt Carpenter, who hit eight homers during the regular season but went deep in each of the first three playoff games.
In all, the Cardinals scored 13 of their 18 runs in the NLDS on balls that cleared the fence.
Both teams that led their league in wins were sent home quickly, unceremoniously knocked out in the Division Series.
It's the fifth time that's happened since the postseason grew from four teams to eight in 1995, according to STATS. The others were 2011 (Yankees and Phillies), 2008 (Angels and Cubs), 2002 (Yankees, Athletics and Braves) and 2000 (White Sox and Giants).
The Yankees and A's tied for the best AL record in 2002, but both were eliminated in their first series.
The Los Angeles Angels had the best record in the majors this season at 98-64. The Washington Nationals topped the NL at 96-66. Together, they went 1-6 in the playoffs with three extra-inning losses.
For them, home-field advantage and the chance to open postseason play in their own ballparks meant little against the wild-card winners.
In the past 20 years, a team with the best regular-season record has won the World Series only four times, STATS said.
Those clubs were the 1998 New York Yankees, the 2007 Boston Red Sox, the 2009 Yankees and the 2013 Red Sox.
Both times the Red Sox did it they had tied for the top regular-season mark.
QUOTES OF THE DAY
"The season ended and I was a big part of the reason why. I can't really put it into words. Just bad deja vu all over again." Kershaw after dropping his fourth straight playoff start to the Cardinals, eliminating the Los Angeles Dodgers with a loss in St. Louis for the second consecutive year.
"It's been a remarkable journey. I wouldn't trade it for the world. ... If it was easy, it wouldn't be as fun." San Francisco outfielder Hunter Pence after the wild-card Giants advanced to the NLCS by beating Washington 3-2 for their 11th victory in the last 12 postseason games.