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.
[caption id="attachment_1060" align="aligncenter" width="350"] Superstitious much? The Cubs remain convinced that the black cat that haunted Ron Santo on Sep. 9, 1969 was a harbinger of doom.[/caption] By Bob D'Angelo, Smack Zone Contributor You probably already know about Bucky Dent’s three-run homer in 1978 and the implosion that cost the Phillies the National League pennant in 1964. But the beautiful thing about major-league baseball history is that there are plenty of exciting, tantalizing, funny, odd and just plain weird events to choose from. As another regular season winds down, here are 10 strange or interesting things that gave an irregular shape to the remnants of the regular season during September or October. The items on this list hardly scratch the surface, but we think they’re pretty interesting:
- Black cat — Baseball players and managers can be superstitious, so having a black cat stroll toward your dugout can be unnerving.
- Dick McAuliffe — The Tigers’ infielder with the unorthodox, front-foot pointing at the pitcher’s batting stance only hit into two double plays in 1967 — but the second one was a killer. On October 1, Detroit needed a victory to tie the Boston Red Sox for the American League pennant but trailed the Angels 8-5 in the bottom of the ninth. Detroit had runners on first and second with one out, but McAuliffe grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to eliminate the Tigers. McAuliffe would not ground into a double play in 1968, and the Tigers won the AL pennant.
- Charley O’Leary — On September 30, 1934, at Detroit, the St. Louis Browns sent 58-year-old O’Leary up to pinch hit against the Tigers. He singled and later scored a run, becoming the oldest major-leaguer to get a hit and score a run. He was used as a pinch hitter and singled, then scored a run in the Browns’ 6-2 loss to the Tigers. It was O’Leary’s first appearance in a major-league lineup since October 5, 1913, when he played shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals,
- Alou, Alou, Alou — On September 10, 1963, at the Polo Grounds, the San Francisco Giants set up a trio of Alou brothers in order against the New York Mets. In the top of the eighth inning, Jesus Alou made his major-league debut, pinch hitting for Jose Pagan. He grounded out against Mets starter Carl Willey. Giants manager Al Dark then sent up Matty Alou to hit for pitcher Bob Garibaldi. Matty, who only struck out 13 times in 1963, whiffed against Garibaldi.
- Gary Sheffield — The Tampa, Florida, native hit the 250,000th homer in major-league history, connecting for a grand slam off Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez during the second inning on September 8, 2008. It also was the 496th of Sheffield’s career.
- Crazy Eights — Twenty-nine major-leaguers have collected 3,000 or more hits in their career. Eight of them hit the milestone in September: Nap Lajoie (1914), Roberto Clemente (1972), Al Kaline (1974), Carl Yastrzemski (1979), Robin Yount (1992), George Brett (1992), Dave Winfield (1993) and Paul Molitor (1996).
- Addie Joss — With the 1908 American League race hanging in the balance, Joss pitched the second perfect game in league history on October 2 in Cleveland, outdueling Chicago’s Ed Walsh 1-0. The victory foiled Walsh’s bid for his 40th victory of the season. The Naps (later renamed Indians), scored the game’s lone run in the third inning to stay a half-game behind Detroit in the white-hot pennant race. The game at League Park took 92 minutes to play. Detroit would win the pennant by a half game, even though the Tigers played three fewer games than the Naps.
- Double dose — The 1968 season was truly the year of the pitcher. On September 17, Giants pitcher Gaylord Perry tossed a no-hitter against the Cardinals at Candlestick Park, outdueling Bob Gibson 1-0. Gibson allowed only four hits, but a first-inning homer by Ron Hunt was the difference in the game.
- Shattered — Cubs rookie outfielder Tyler Colvin’s chest was punctured when he is hit by a sliver of Welington Castillo’s maple bat on September 19, 2010, during Chicago’s 13-3 victory against the Marlins. Colvin was leading off third when Castillo smacked a drive down the left-field line for a double. In the process, his bat shattered and hit Colvin in his right upper chest. Colvin was taken to the hospital but was later released. [caption id="attachment_1064" align="alignright" width="232"] Of course, wishing for the curse to end doesn't make it happen. And that black cat, man. Don't forget the black cat![/caption]
- Ball on the wall — In the top of the 13th inning at Shea Stadium on September 20, 1973, Dave Augustine’s long drive to left bounces off the top of the fence — and directly into the hands of Cleon Jones. The Mets’ left fielder fires to relay man Wayne Garrett, who throws a strike to catcher Ron Hodges to nail the Pirates’ Richie Zisk with what would have been the go-ahead run. Instead, the game remains tied until Hodges ends it with an RBI single in the bottom of the 13th, giving New York a 4-3 win.