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      Smack Zone — Baseball

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      When Tarps Attack: Kansas City Tarp Strikes Back

      The tarp at Kansas City's Kaufman Stadium is a menace. Just ask the guy who was devoured while preparing for a rain delay Thursday during Game 1 of the ALDS between the Royals and Astros. Here's a GIF clip from Deadspin (look away if you're squeamish; this gets real ugly, real fast):

      It was not the first time the dreaded KC tarp went after a member of the grounds crew. Remember this, from a few years ago? [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dfr0SGW81Xw] This is no benign, field-protecting expanse of plastic and fabric. This tarp is a predator. This hideous creature even has its own Twitter account: @KC_Royals_Tarp. It's an outrage that baseball hasn't banned the Kansas City tarp for conduct detrimental to the health of the grounds crew. I mean, compared to the mildly hungry tarp that ate Vince Coleman during the 1985 NLCS, the tarp in Kansas City is a ravenous beast. We're seeing a pattern all over the country, in fact. If not for a couple of alert Pittsburgh Pirates this past summer, the tarp at PNC Park would have enjoyed a tasty grounds crew snack before making its escape on the wild winds of the Allegheny Mountains. Remember this? [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRQEMONYIEs] Stay alert, baseball grounds crews. Watch the skies, but keep an eye on the tarps. They're alive ... and they're hungry.

      Why Does Kershaw Suck in the Playoffs?

      Clayton Kershaw- Postseason Flop By Erez Ladetzky, Smack Zone Contributor Now that both wildcard games have been played, it is on to the division series. The most intriguing matchup looks to be the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both teams boast ridiculous pitching with pop in their lineups. The opening game pits Jacob deGrom against Clayton Kershaw. If you like 1-0, 2-1 type of games, you will want to tune in to this one. On the other hand, maybe not. Kershaw is one of the most proficient and dominant regular season pitchers of this generation. If he can figure out his postseason struggles, he can be considered one of the all-time greats. That is a big IF. For whatever reason, Kershaw doesn’t show up in the playoffs. He has a 1-5 career record in the postseason with a 5.12 ERA. No that is not a typo, Clayton Kershaw has a 5.12 ERA in the postseason. The Dodgers have home field against the Mets and are favored to advance. This will be a big test for the team, and for Kershaw’s psyche. The Mets have arguably the best young pitching rotation in baseball, with deGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard and Matz. The worst thing that could happen to Kershaw is to yet again fail in the postseason, and also get outdueled by these young hurlers. We are close to finding out what Kershaw’s legacy will be. So far, he and Andy Dalton look to be very similar players in their respective sports. Kershaw isn’t getting any younger, he needs to step up now. Regular season accolades are nice, but postseason wins and performance mean more. In sports, the postseason is where a player’s legacy is made. So far, Kershaw’s isn’t looking too pretty.

      If Only Cubs-Pirates Was More than One Game ...

      [caption id="attachment_1061" align="alignright" width="240"]Smack Apparel If the curse is going to end this year, it's gotta start Wednesday.[/caption] By Erez Ladetzky, Smack Zone Contributor The National League wildcard game takes place tomorrow night at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. It features a division rivalry as the Chicago Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. It also features two teams that finished with the second- and third-highest win totals in all of MLB, and both would have won any other division that didn’t include the St. Louis Cardinals. This will be the Pirates’ third straight year in the wildcard game, losing last year to the eventual World Series Champions San Francisco Giants. In 2013, they beat the Reds but lost to the Cardinals in the NLDS in five games. They are looking to finally get over the hump this year and take down their division rival Cardinals. The Cubs, on the other hand, are one of the feel-good stories of the year. They weren’t supposed to make the postseason this quickly, but don’t tell them that. Joe Maddon took this very young and inexperienced ball club and turned them into a legitimate World Series contender in his first year. Needless to say, Chicago fans love them some Maddon. Chicago hasn’t been in the postseason since 2008. That year, they ended up getting swept in three games by the Dodgers, a season after getting swept by the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. Cubs fans are very confident in this team advancing to take on the Cardinals. That’s because Jake Arrieta and his MLB-history-best  0.45 ERA since the All-Star Break takes the mound. That’s right … A  0.45 ERA -- insane! This game has the makings of a classic October baseball clash. Two teams that both should be in the division series, but have to play this one-game playoff to advance (it would be nice if they at least could play a best-of-three series). A 3-2, or 2-1 game seems about right. Cubs fans will be traveling in droves to the 'burgh to cheer on their beloved Cubbies. Most people know the history of the Cubs, and how fans think the team is cursed. One college professor shows his sympathy for his student: Cubs Student That's our kind of professor! We're going to go out on a limb and take the Buccos in one.  

      Celebrate! (For tomorrow, most of you will lose)

      Is there anything in sports more fleeting than the thrill of a post-clinch celebration in baseball? The players deserve it. That's for damn sure. Baseball season is ridiculously long, ridiculously grueling. It's a lifetime of frustration and heartache and sleepless nights and general bullshittery compacted into a horrible, emotionally draining six-month period. That's how it is for the WINNING teams. So, sure. When you clinch that playoff check, go crazy. Let the beer and champagne flow. This game's fun. Let's have fun out here, OK? It's fun, God dammit. Just understand this: Pretty soon, almost every one of you will be crying into that beer. Or, if not crying, punching the hell out of your locker after you get your asses run out of the playoffs just. Like. That. It's quick, man. One minute, you're on top of the baseball world. Just look at A-Rod in that embedded SportsCenter tweet up there. Doesn't he look happy? Doesn't he look cold? Well, pretty soon, chances are he and his Yankees teammates will not be happy. And they won't be cold, because they'll be on vacation on some beach somewhere in Mexico or the Caribbean. Or Hawaii. Vegas, maybe. Wherever. Where they won't be is in the World Series, probably. Because that? That is hard. Only one team will get to throw that party in early November or late October or Christmas, or whenever the hell the World Series ends these days. That's next week's bad news, though. Today is for the happy. Let's give these guys room to celebrate, if only for a little while. Here, then, is a compendium of post-clinch celebrations so far. We still have two more coming, because someone is going to win the AL West, and someone is going to clinch the second AL wildcard. Here's what we've got going into the weekend, though. It will have to suffice for most of them. Who do you think did it best this year? Mets, NL East: Michael Conforto's celebration POV is epic on Deadspin. Cardinals, NL Central: Just like St. Louis, the Cardinals celebrate NIIIIICE. Dodgers, NL West: L.A. got to rub it into the World Series champions and HATED rivals, the Giants, by clinching and celebrating in San Francisco. Doesn't get much sweeter. Cubs, NL wildcard: With Jake Arrieta pitching against the Pirates in the wildcard play-in game, we get the feeling the Cubs will live to celebrate once more. Pirates, NL wildcard: We are family! (For one more game only. Sorry, Buccos. Two words: Jake. Joe. Two more words: Good. Bye.) Royals, AL Central: Party like it's 1985! Blue Jays, AL East: Good party, eh? Munenori Kawasaki thought so. Yankees, AL wildcard: Yay. We won.      

      The REAL Subway Series

      Chances are, the Yankees and Mets aren't going to meet in the World Series. OK, sure. It's possible. IF the Yankees win the one-game wild-card play-in; IF the Mets get more than one game a series out of physically limited ace Matt Harvey; IF the Yankees don't get stomped by the much, MUCH better teams in the AL bracket ... OK. Maybe the traditional Subway Series is still a mathematical possibility. (Not happening.) Regardless, the REAL Subway Series took place today on Twitter, and New York beat the living hell out of L.A. In case you missed it, here's the ugliest case of mass transit system-on-mass transit system verbal violence in recent memory, tweet by tweet: From L.A., with love:

      From NYC, only mildly annoyed but bringing it strong: L.A. tried. Really, it did: But this is New York. No contest. They're still going at it, looks like, and maybe some pizza or something is on the line. Anyway. The Long Island Railroad clearly has a dog in this fight. Hence ...