2017 Baseball Playoff Blog 1
On this day in 1957 the Soviet Union sent the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, into Earth orbit, kicking off a race for world supremacy in space. Sixty years later another race for supremacy is on, this one reach baseball’s World Series. Thus begins for me the annual fall ritual of somewhat random baseball blogs.
The line-up is especially exciting for me this year, with the team I grew up with—the Cleveland Indians—joining the team I’ve watched and cheered for in person more than any other –the Diamondbacks. An Indians/Diamondbacks World Series would just be perfect for me, but each of the ten teams is intriguing with its own compelling story line. The stupid Yankees have a bunch of young players, nicknamed the “Baby Bombers”, that bring back memories of past Yankee greats like Mickey Mantle; the Houston Astros are helping their hometown heal from the devastating floods; the Twins lost more than 100 games last years and turned around to win enough games this year to make the playoffs; the Indians have the longest drought since winning their last World Series of any team in baseball (they haven’t won since Harry Truman was president); neither the Astros or Nationals have ever won a World Series; and so on.
Tonight I headed to Chase Field to watch the Diamondbacks host the Colorado Rockies (my family owns a cabin in Colorado, and I also like the Rockies) in a one-game, winner-advances-while-the-loser-goes-home matchup. It was a survival game, and the crowd was amped up. A capacity crowd of 48,803 showed up, including local sports legends Luis Gonzalez (who I bumped into while entering the park), newly minted NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner (who threw out the first pitch), Randy Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.
Before the game, Phoenix police and firemen joined military personnel in holding up a United-States-shaped American flag that stretched across the field. It was a moment for the crowd to join together not ad baseball fans but as Americans, and the moment was especially poignant given the recent Las Vegas massacre (the Diamondbacks announced that one of the victims killed was a team employee). Phoenix jazz legend Jesse McGuire played an inspiring version of the National Anthem on his trumpet, as he’s done for three presidents as well as before Game 7 of the 2001 World Series (when the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees for the championship). During the game, as I was walking through the stadium concourse, I saw McGuire and his wife and so we got a picture together. I also saw my Lowell colleague Bryan Cothrun, a fellow baseball fan.
The game itself was an entertaining, back-and-forth affair that ended well for the home team. Some highlights: In the first inning, fan favorite Paul Goldschmidt came to bat with two runners on base. As chants of “MVP” (for “Most Valuable Player”) echoed through the stadium, Goldy drove a home run into the left field bleachers and the fans went wild, waving red rally towels and screaming their support.
The Diamondbacks ended up jumping out to a 6-0 lead, but them the Rockies scored 4 in the top of the 4th inning. The Rockies would score more in the game but the Diamondbacks usually answered. From 6-4, the score went to 6-5, 8-5, 8-7, 11-7, and finally to 11-8.
In creating those combined 19 runs, the DBacks and Rockies totaled 30 hits, including 4 triples by the Diamondbacks. They became the first team to hit 4 triples in a playoff game since the Boston Americans (now called the Red Sox) did it in the 1903 World Series (that was the first World Series). Shortstop Ketel Marte hit two of the triples, the first DBack to ever do it in a playoff game and the first player for any team to do it in a playoff game since 1993.
As an indication of just how bizarre this game was, Marte’s accomplishment wasn’t even the biggest triples story. In the bottom of the 7th inning, with the DBacks hanging on to a one-run lead, relief pitcher Archie Bradley batted with two runners on. In his 3-year career, he has totaled 6 hits in 61 at bats, for a miserable .098 batting average (his forte is pitching, not hitting). So what does he do? He lines the first extra-base hit of his career, a triple, to plate two runs. If the fans went wild after Goldschmidt’s first-inning homer, they were positively hysterical after Bradley’s unlikely feat.
The game was a great start to what should be a fun playoff season. Now to drive home…