As we enter this Columbus Day, a wild and wacky first weekend of postseason baseball began with a controversy and ended with a rain delay forcing the Yankees and Orioles to wait almost three hours to get their series started.
Eight games into the playoffs, two “series” are in the books and four more are underway, two of which could end as early as Tuesday…so before we get bounced, here’s your holiday six-pack of factoids, observations, and things you may not have known about this year’s postseason so far:
-Home field advantage is overrated. A lot of people in a lot of positions have griped about how the lower-seeded teams are playing the first two Division Series games at home; well, six games into the Divisional round, those teams are 2-4, with the only two wins coming courtesy of the AL Central champion Detroit Tigers. If you add in the fact that the No. 5 seed won both Wild Card Playoffs, the home team is 2-6 so far in the postseason.
-Jim Thome is a bookend. Game 1 of the Yanks/O’s ALDS was the first postseason game played at Camden Yards since Game 7 of the 1997 ALCS, which Cleveland won to advance to the World Series for the second time in three years. That day, Jim Thome, then all of 27 years old, was the Indians’ first baseman; on Sunday night, the now 42-year-old DH was on Baltimore’s bench as an Orioles reserve – and is still waiting for his third trip to the Fall Classic.
-Bronson Arroyo knows “better late than never.” Prior to Sunday night, Bronson Arroyo had made 11 postseason appearances (10 with the Red Sox from 2003-05 and one with the Reds in 2010), but had never recorded a decision. His seven shutout innings against San Francisco on Sunday earned him his first, and in getting that win he outdueled the duo of Madison Bumgarner – who was 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA for the Giants in the 2010 postseason – and Tim Lincecum (4-1, 2.43 in 2010).
-Ryan Mattheus is Superman. You may not know the name of said Nationals reliever, but he accomplished the semi-rare feat of recording more outs than pitches thrown on Sunday. With Washington down 2-1, Mattheus entered Game 1 of the Nats/Cardinals NLDS in the bottom of the seventh to relieve Craig Stammen, who had loaded the bases with no outs, and subsequently retired the side on two pitches; his first got Allen Craig to ground into a fielder’s choice that forced Jon Jay at the plate, and his second got Yadier Molina to rap into a 6-4-3 double play. To top it off, because Washington scored two runs in the top of the eighth, Mattheus ended up getting the win for that effort.
-Miguel Cabrera leads the postseason in RNBI. That acronym stands for “runs not batted in,” and Miggy has three of them; his first-inning double play in Game 1 “didn’t drive in” Austin Jackson to give Detroit a 1-0 lead, and the other two “RNBI” came when Jackson and Omar Infante scored on Coco Crisp’s error in the seventh inning of Game 2. Secondary fun fact: over their first two ALDS games, only one of Detroit’s eight runs has been scored on an actual hit – Alex Avila’s solo homer in Game 1.
-One and done is a trend. Atlanta may have gotten hosed on the now-infamous “outfield fly” call, but their loss in the NL Wild Card Playoff kept one trend alive: since getting swept by the Yankees in the 1999 World Series, the Braves are 1-8 in playoff “series.” Meanwhile, in the AL, the Rangers’ Wild Card loss dropped them to 1-7 all-time in playoff elimination games, with their only win coming in the 2010 ALDS – where they beat Tampa Bay in Game 5 to avoid blowing a 2-0 series advantage.