Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Witching Hour: The Rise of Michael Conforto, the Fall of Daniel Murphy, and the Closing Door of the World Series

The mystique that baseball tends to carry around this time of year tends to coincide with the dark nights of autumn and the increased pressure that goes with each postseason game. What makes the 2015 World Series special is not that these natural omens occur, but that they're so backwards. In games two and three, the first team to score ended up on the losing end after nine innings. Michael Conforto, who helped keep game one interesting Tuesday night, brought his bat to Citi Field and put on an offensive show. What happened next for the National League Champions is straight out of a horror flick.

Turnabout Triumph: The Captain's Hammer and the Reversal of Fortunes in Flushing

From the first pitch of the game, the New York Mets intended to send a message. There would be no sweep, and the surprise National League Champions were not to be taken lightly. It was a ninety-eight miles per hour fastball from the arm of Noah Syndergaard over the head of Alcides Escobar, a pitch that dropped the Royals' leadoff man off of his feet. Kansas City was the favorite, but the Mets would make damn sure they had their say. The Queens, New York crowd became boisterous in support of their "Thor," a theme that seemed to echo for the rest of the roster as the night carried onward.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

New Kid In Town: Johnny Cueto and the Gift of Persistence

For a moment on Wednesday Night, the New York Mets held a lead. Lucas Duda had scored Daniel Murphy on a soft hit to left field. Just as it happened the night before, Kansas City made sure the Mets' advantage was short-lived. On the mound was the Royals' trade-deadline acquisition Johnny Cueto, making his career World Series debut. The man who was famously a victim of the Pirates' home crowd two years ago in the Wild Card game was given a chance to redeem himself on the national stage. At no point did Cueto seem like he was outright baffling the New York offense, but inning after inning he kept them from finding home.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Until the Night Closes In: The Three Pitches That Defined the Fountain City Marathon

The Kansas City Royals scored on the first and last pitches they saw Tuesday night. At just over five hours, game one of the World Series was one of the longest and most tightly-contested fall classic openers in recent memory. One hit set the tone, the other sent us home. In the middle, a third and perhaps even more crucial hit turned the tide and canceled the Mets' upset after party. There was a delay in the game that had nothing to do with the game itself. One starter pitched, blind to the news that his father had just passed away. It was an opening night like no other, so captivating that it didn't end until the date had changed.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Final Chapter: The Kansas City Royals, the New York Mets, and the Expansion-Era World Series

Imagine taking a full year of classes, only for your grade to be determined by how well you do on a nine question exam on the last day of the school year. You may have been a perfect student- never missed a day, always participated, et cetera -but you crumble under the weight of the final test. For the eight teams eliminated from the playoffs to this point, that is the footnote that will remain beside their respective seasons in the coming years. The New York Mets and Kansas City Royals have a different chance at fate. Each team has won their league's pennant, standing four wins from immortality. A full season of games, followed by two series against top-flight opponents have led us here, to the Fall Classic, the reason the game is played. To win the season's final game.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Tangled Up In Blue: The Kansas City Royals, the Toronto Blue Jays and A Thirty Year Reunion Special

Complacency is a funny thing in sports. Teams that seem to win too much go from beloved underdogs to sworn enemies of all that is decent very quickly. Often times, such as in the case of the San Francisco Giants of recent years, success is so erratic that it never comes off as entitlement. That, as it is clear, is the cross upon the backs of the New York Yankees. So what becomes of the Kansas City Royals? After twenty-nine years, they broke their postseason drought only to lose to the aforementioned Giants in a classic World Series. Yet now the Royals seem at home in the postseason. To be honest, it is kind of unnerving how normal it is to see Kansas City in October, despite their last two autumn runs being in 2014 and 1985. Toronto, on the other hand, wears the hat donned by their Royal counterparts last year. The Blue Jays are exciting, powerful, must-see television. This year marks the first postseason try north of the border since 1993 and Joe Carter's incredible walk-off home run. Eight years prior to that moment, the Jays stood in the way of the Royals' pennant hopes. Thirty years ago tonight, Toronto hosted Kansas City in a winner-take-all game seven of the American League Championship Series.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Day Blue Defeated Red

It was deafeningly loud. Even through a cell phone speaker, the standing room only crowd echoed around my tiny studio apartment. The dreaded St. Louis Cardinals, for generations the superior side of the rivalry, were down to their last out. On second base was Matt Carpenter, a steadfast young third baseman who had established himself as one of the deadlier offensive threats in all of baseball. On the mound, Hector Rondon, the Cubs' man of consequence. He had been knocked around earlier this season, but the ball in his hand was the one to make history. The man at home was Stephen Piscotty. With three home runs to date in the series, the bat was in the most capable of hands. This was it. With two strikes, the baseball world held its breath. Rondon set with his pitch. It was to be a slider. A dangerous gamble to such a powerful hitter.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

For One Night Only, part 2: Ladies and Gentlemen, Jacob Joseph Arrieta

Dexter Fowler dove face first into the dirt that preceded second base. His arms outstretched, the play was going to be close. As Josh Harrison fielded the laser beam from his catcher, he swept the leather of his glove down to meet Fowler. Just as the Cubs' leadoff man appeared to out by mere millimeters, a spot of white appeared below Harrison's glove. The ball was free, and Fowler was safe. It was the top of the first, and the Cubs were looking to strike quickly. Nearly a minute and a half later, rookie Kyle Schwarber, nudged a two-ball, two-strike offering from Gerrit Cole into deep left field. Fowler was home free. The Cubs had scored before giving up an out. One run early on is hardly ever a death wish for a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates, and with Cole on the mound, it seemed likely the damage would be minimal. The only issue the home team would encounter, was that of Cole's adversary Wednesday night- Jake Arrieta.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Death, Taxes, and Mark Buehrle: The King of Consistency and the Stretch for History

by Jimmy Bobowski

For those that know me, it’s no surprise that I’m writing about Mark. Again. After I started following the White Sox more closely after the 2000 season, I took a vested interest in the guy with the blonde cheek beard. It was mesmerizing. This guy didn’t have the physical gift that many front offices look for: a huge arm. He thusly went drafted in the 38th round of the 1998 draft after attending a junior college. Probably not a likely candidate for major league success. About two years after he was drafted, he had on a White Sox jersey, helping them win their first division title in seven years.

For One Night Only, part 1: Dallas Keuchel, Alex Rodriguez, and the Pressure Cooker in the Bronx

For the Houston Astros, 2015 has seen several of what someone may call moments of truth. After hanging on for dear life in the American League Wild Card race, a common thought of the upstart Astros was that they were backing in to the playoffs. This was a team that had led the West Division most of the year until Texas' incredible rise from the proverbial ashes knocked Houston off of the throne. Still, the Astros qualified as the road team in the Wild Card game. In the Bronx, the orange-clad kids would meet their newest moment of truth. In the sixth inning, up two runs to nil, the Yankees had runners on first and second as Alex Rodriguez stepped into the box. Houston starter Dallas Keuchel stayed in to face the legendary power hitter. It took one pitch. Rodriguez lifted the ball high to center field. The season was on the line for both teams.

Carpe Noctem: The Geoff Blum Story

A baseball season can seem so long that a single plate appearance can seem largely insignificant. As summer's long days turn cold and th...