ALDS Clinching Game Recaps

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With both ALDS series in the books, it’s time to look at how the deciding games played out. The Kansas City Royals and the Toronto Blue Jays both won in an entertaining fashion, and Rick Rowand has our ALDS clinching game recaps for you.

ALDS Game 4 Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals

Houston entered Game 4 with a 2-1 series lead over the Royals and had high hopes of closing out the series in front of their fans. Starting 22-year-old rookie Lance McCullers, Houston’s offense would contend with Kansas City’s 24-year-old Yordano Ventura in this must-win game* for the Royals.

McCullers started auspiciously, hitting the first batter he faced. With that out of the way, he set down the next three batters in order. Ventura tried a different approach, waiting until there were two outs before hitting a batter. He, too, escaped the first unscathed.

Demonstrating his ability to change strategies during the game, McCullers struck out Kendrys Morales before walking Mike Moustakas. He coughed up a gopher ball to Salvador Perez, who deposited it in right center, scoring two runs, before escaping the frame.

Not to be outdone, Ventura matched McCullers with a meatball of his own to Carlos Gomez, who brought in the Astros first run of the game and gave a lucky fan in left a souvenir.

The Astros trailed by one into the bottom of the third until Ventura gave up his second homer of the game, this time to Carlos Correa, tying the game at 2.

Houston took a 3-2 lead into the sixth when Correa doubled in George Springer. The game then turned into a battle of the bullpens, with Kelvin Herrera replacing Ventura in the top of the sixth, and Will Harris relieving McCullers in the middle of the seventh.

Herrera walked Jose Altuve to lead off the bottom of the seventh, and was himself replaced by Ryan Madson. Correa welcomed him to the game with his second homer of the game, widening the lead and Colby Rasmus followed with a solo shot to make it 6-2 Astros.

After Madson got out of the 7th inning Texas Governor Greg Abbott sealed the Astros’ fate with this tweet:

The tweet was quickly deleted, but the Fates had been tempted.

Harris loaded the bases to start the eighth inning, bringing Lorenzo Cain to the plate. The centerfielder brought Alex Rios home with a base hit. 6-3 Houston.

Tony Sipp relieved Harris, facing Eric Hosmer with the bases loaded and no outs. Not the best situation to be in for a pitcher. Hosmer hit a single that scored Alcides Escobar. 6-4 Houston.

Next up, Kendrys Morales. With the bases loaded and still no outs, Morales hit into a fielder’s choice that Correa misplayed, scoring Ben Zobrist and Cain and moving Hosmer to third. Game tied at 6.

Jarrod Dyson entered as a pinch runner for Morales and promptly stole second base. On a positive note, Sipp was able to strike out Moustakas for the first out of the inning. Luke Gregerson came on and walked the first batter he faced, Drew Butera to load the bases yet again. Alex Gordon grounded out to second, scoring Hosmer, and Gregerson was able to get out of the inning without further damage. 7-6 Kansas City.

Wade Davis came in to pitch the eighth for KC and held the Astros scoreless. 7-6 Kansas City.

Houston brought in Josh Fields to face the Royals in the ninth, trying to hold the Royals to a one run lead. He didn’t.

Fields walked Zobrist and then struck out Cain on three pitches. Hosmer then smashed a two run homer, increasing the lead. 9-6 Kansas City.

Wade Davis closed out the game, allowing only a base hit to, you guessed it, Correa. With the series tied at 2 we’re going back to Kansas City for the decisive game 5.

*Please feel free to use your own cliche here. Some good examples are: do or die, fish or cut bait, win or go home etc..

ALDS Game 5 Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays

It began innocently enough. Sure, there was added pressure on everyone involved because this was the game to decide who advanced to the ALCS. Both teams had won two games on the road. Texas was starting veteran Cole Hamels, whom they acquired for just this situation, while Toronto countered with Marcus Stroman. The Rogers Centre was filled to capacity with exuberant fans. The baseball gods were smiling down, for only they knew what was in store.

Toronto fell behind in the first after Delino DeShields led off the game with a double and moved to third on a Shin-Soo Choo ground out. Prince Fielder ground to first and DeShields scored on the fielder’s choice.

In the top of the third Choo sent a Stroman fastball into the right field stands, making it 2-0 Texas.

Ryan Goins, still fully immersed in his role of Harvey, grounded out to lead off the bottom of the third. Ben Revere then reached on an infield single to short and scored on a Jose Bautista double to left. Hamels got out of the inning, keeping the lead, 2-1.

Neither team was able to score again until Edwin Encarnacion hit a solo shot to left off of Hamels in the sixth to tie the game at two.

When Toronto put in Aaron Sanchez to relieve Stroman to start the seventh, the baseball gods were pleased, for they had chosen this game and this inning to remind Governor Greg Abbott that premature tweeting has far reaching implications. Abbott also mentioned the Rangers in the tweet, and the Astros game would have been much too obvious.

It started slowly, as many fans at games these days take the opportunity between pitches to check their phones, text, email and take selfies. After all, what could possibly happen with the catcher throwing the ball back to the pitcher? Something that is done hundreds of time a game without incident.

Choo is in the box, minding his own business after taking a ball when Russell Martin attempts to toss the ball back to the pitcher and -as if an unseen hand is guiding the ball – it strikes Choo and rolls up the third base line. The only person who recognizes what’s going on, Rougned Odor, takes off from third towards home. The home plate umpire inexplicably call it dead, perhaps thinking that it’s a foul ball even though it came from behind the hitter instead of the pitcher.

Then he umpires confer and, lo and behold, make the correct decision to count the run. The rest of the game would be played under protest. Texas was now up 3-2.

The Toronto fans are a bit perturbed and decided that the best way to voice their displeasure was to rain trash and beer down upon the field – and other Canadians – creating a delay that matches up rather nicely with the gap on the Watergate tapes.

Choo came back to the box after the delay and struck out to end the inning. Texas still up 3-2.

Despite the lengthy delay, Hamels comes out to start the bottom of the seventh. The baseball gods rub their hands together in anticipation knowing that what just happened was simply the warmup act.

Martin reaches after an error by Elvis Andrus at short on a routine grounder. Kevin Pillar then hits a routine grounder to first, and Mitch Moreland throws the ball on a hop to second, and the ball rolls harmlessly away for the second error in two plays. Goins bunts the ball towards third and third baseman Adrian Beltre the throws to Andrus covering third. The ball hits Andrus’s glove, and he drops it for a third error in three plays Jays fans cheer their good fortune. Bases loaded. No outs. Ben Revere, Josh Donaldson and Joey Bats due up.

Revere grounds into a fielder’s choice to first, and Dalton Pompey – pinch running for Martin – is out at home. Bases still loaded, one out.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister brings in Sam Dyson to relieve Hamels. Donaldson hits a little fly ball that Goins loses in the lights of the dome,  and Pillar comes in to score, but Revere is thrown out at second. The score is now tied at 3, with men at first and third and two outs.

Bautista comes up, and after two pitches, absolutely destroys the baseball, hitting it to center so fast that the ball breaks the sound barrier. Bautista adds to the moment with the bat flip to end all bat flips, followed by the benches clearing and nothing happening. Toronto takes a 6-3 lead and the crowd goes wild. The baseball gods giggle with delight, but they aren’t quite done yet.

After Troy Tulowitzki fouled out to the catcher to end the inning, Dyson came up to him and said something, or didn’t say something depending on who you ask. Touched him, or didn’t touch him, again, depending on who you ask. Tulo got upset at an already upset Dyson and both benches emptied. As usual in cases like this, nothing of any consequence happened and the game went on. But the baseball gods’ work here was finished.

The eighth ends with no one scoring for either team. Roberto Osuna comes in to close it out in the ninth, and for the series. He does and the Rogers Centre goes nuts as the Blue Jays advance to the ALCS.

Rick Rowand has written about the value of Brock Holt, Boston’s rotationBrock Holt’s cycle and aura, and a series about Bogaerts, Betts and Swihart, a screenplay of Napoli’s last days on the Sox, Travis Shaw, what to do with Hanley Ramirez, and Kim Ng.

Follow Rick on Twitter @rrowand.

Check out Ian York’s analysis of the 2015 strike zone and Rick’s ALCS Game 1 preview.

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