The two greatest games I’ve ever witnessed came about four and a half years apart. In May 2012, Chris Davis threw two innings, the 16th and 17th, to beat the Boston Red Sox in Fenway park.
Thursday night, I saw a fine closer, Kenley Jansen nearly throw three innings, only to be bailed out by arguably the best pitcher of our time, Clayton Kershaw, who retired the final two Washington Nationals to clinch the Division Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Both games featured creative moves by managers, Buck Showalter knowing that Davis had pitched in college, and Dave Roberts knowing that he had little chance to win otherwise.
The aggressive move by Roberts could well hurt the Dodgers since they have only a day to regroup before the National League Championship Series begins.
The Chicago Cubs look to be a very difficult out, and Los Angeles will have to be very fortunate to beat them.
Some fans chided Showalter during and after last night’s game, saying that if only Showalter had been as aggressive as Roberts, the Orioles’ wild-card game might have had a different result.
I’m not going to rehash that game, but there were major differences.
The Dodgers had a lead they wanted to protect. If the Orioles had a lead, they would have brought in Zach Britton, and he certainly could have thrown two innings, perhaps more.
The Orioles bullpen is a lot more reliable than Los Angeles’. Brad Brach, Mychal Givens and Darren O’Day were far better alternatives than any of the others that Roberts had.
In the National League game, there are double-switches, and there were plenty of them, forcing Jansen to hit.
And while Jansen is a fine closer (1.83 ERA and 47 saves), he’s not in Britton’s class.
The Dodgers-Cubs series that begins on Saturday will likely have more national interest than the American League Championship Series, which starts Friday.
It will continue to be painful for many Orioles fans to watch the Toronto Blue Jays, and those that tune in will probably root for the Cleveland Indians.
The Orioles won five of six against the Indians this season.
This captivating postseason, which is only 10 days old, is really just getting started, and the story has been the use of bullpens — with the Britton decision, last night’s machinations and Cleveland manager Terry Francona’s use of Andrew Miller early and often.
The guess here is that the Blue Jays will be just too powerful and too skilled for the Indians, and that the Cubs will roll over the Dodgers.
Perhaps the most wonderful thing about baseball’s postseason is that it’s different from any other sports’. Every NFL game is a one-off, and Super Bowl strategy isn’t any different from in the regular season. It’s just magnified.
In the NBA, rotations may be shorter and half-court play more prevalent, but it’s the same game — only more intense.
Anyone attending last night’s game in Washington felt the intensity and could appreciate the seeming improvisation. Before the game, Roberts ruled out an appearance by Kershaw — even for an out.
It wasn’t a surprise when Kershaw walked out to the bullpen in the eighth inning to warm up. It was great theatre.
For a time, the boos that accompanied the announcement that the Metro would close — which turned out to be an hour before the game finally concluded — would be the high point of the night.
Instead, it was the game’s finest pitcher getting two final outs.
Four hours, 32 minutes never seemed so short.