Why The 2014 World Series Will Be The Best One Yet
Two days ago, the Kansas City Royals won their eighth straight post-season game and claimed the American League pennant after ending a playoff drought that lasted nearly three decades.
Last night, the San Francisco Giants won the National League Pennant after a walk-off, three-run home run by mid-season acquisition Travis Ishikawa. Today, sports journalists across the world are shamelessly overusing the phrase, “storybook ending.”
It’s hard to resist the battered cliché. The nightly flares for the dramatic, the magnificent triumphs of the underdogs and the consistently entertaining matchups played by all 10 teams are what make the 2014 post-season seem like a perfectly tailored script from a classic baseball film.
Although neither of the two League Championship Series and none of the four Division Series were decided by a final game five or game seven, the 2014 post-season has already provided more exciting, heart-stopping, edge-of-your-seat drama than any post-season before.
In the 111-year history of the MLB post-season, this year’s is undoubtedly the best one yet.
From Kirk Gibson’s limping walk-off in game one of the 1988 Fall Classic, to David Freese’s heroics in game six of the 2011 World Series, there has been no shortage of classic post-season games.
There have also been a number of unforgettable series, such as the 2004 ALCS between the Red Sox and Yankees, or the 2001 World Series between the Yanks and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
However, there has never been a full post-season that has matched the consistent and perpetual suspense, thrill and theatrics of these past two weeks.
A Royal Jubilee
The Royals started their run with a defeat of the Oakland A’s in the Wild Card tiebreaker, winning on Salvador Perez’s 12th inning walk-off single after overcoming a four-run deficit in the eighth and ninth innings, and after tying the game earlier in the 12th.
In the Division Series, Kansas City took the first two games from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Both games were decided by 11th inning go-ahead home runs, the first by Mike Moustakas and the second by Eric Hosmer.
When the series went back to Kauffman Stadium, the Royals claimed an 8-3 victory, sweeping the Angels and shocking the nation.
The shock continued into the ALCS. Kansas City marched into Baltimore’s Camden Yards, taking the first two games from the Orioles, the first of which was another extra inning affair won by late-inning home runs.
When the series came back to the Midwest, the Royals posted two consecutive 2-1 victories to bring the AL pennant back to Kansas City.
A Giant Leap for Mankind
After a handy 8-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card game, the Giants moved on to Washington, DC for the start of the NLDS. After winning game one in the standard nine innings, the Giants won game two in 18.
Like in Kansas City’s extra inning games, game two of the NLDS was a close match that was eventually decided by a go-ahead home run. The only difference? The Giants’ win took an additional seven innings and four hours of gameplay.
The series moved back to San Francisco with a 2-0 lead for the Giants, and after losing game three on a Madison Bumgarner throwing error, the boys in orange and black won game four on a seventh-inning wild pitch that scored the eventual winning run.
In a mere four games, the lowest-seed Giants defeated the team with the best regular season record in the National League.
San Francisco’s theatrics continued into the NLCS, where they faced the St. Louis Cardinals, who had experienced late-inning drama in their wins over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS.
After San Francisco won game one of the NLCS in a 3-0 shutout of the Cards, game two was won on late-inning heroics, this time by St. Louis. Solo home runs by Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras set the stage for Kolten Wong’s walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.
San Francisco walked off with the victory in game three, after a throwing error by Cards’ southpaw Randy Choate allowed the winning run to score in the bottom of the 10th inning. Game four saw a come-from-behind win by the Giants, taking advantage of infield singles caused by Adams’ defensive miscues at first base.
Last night, the Giants tied game five with a solo home run by pinch hitter Michael Morse in the eighth. In the ninth, a three-run, walk-off home run by Travis Ishikawa won the game, the series and the NL pennant for San Francisco.
The walk-off marks only the fourth time a post-season series has ended on a home run, and the first time since Magglio Ordonez walked off to win the 2006 ALCS for the Detroit Tigers.
A Blank Slate
Successes and failures over the course of the regular season have had zero impact on the outcomes in the post-season. When the playoffs started on September 30, it was almost as if all 10 teams took a blank slate into the fray.
The Angels and Nationals both learned that having the most regular season wins in their respective league was not a guarantee for success in the post-season, and both lost handily to the Royals and Giants, respectively.
During the regular season, the Cards and Royals hit the fewest home runs in their respective league, but during the post-season, they’ve hit more than any other team.
Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, whose 1.77 ERA and 21-3 record over the regular season makes him a shoo-in for his third Cy Young award, was rocked by Cardinals for 10 runs in game one of the NLDS.
These diversions from the standards of the regular season have contributed to the volatility and excitement of the post-season. So far, both the Royals and Giants have both shown that anything can and will happen in the post-season.
A Battle of Heroics
For Cardinals’ and Orioles fans, these series losses are bitter, heartbreaking and will be difficult to forget. Any fan of baseball, however, must certainly be entertained to witnessing the thrill of watching these high-stake games coming down to a few clutch moments.
This year’s post-season games are not a question of which team is having an off day. The results of these games are based on moments, which team can create the right moment for itself and whether a hero can rise to the occasion.
That’s what’s especially beautiful about this entire post-season: All teams have had consistent opportunities to come up big, and the ones that did are going to play in the World Series.
The Giants and Royals both have a lot on the line. They’re the last two teams standing, and the World Series title is so close, they can almost taste it.
No matter which team you’re rooting for, there’s absolutely no question that the 2014 World Series will be a pleasure to watch. If the series is even half as exciting as the rest of the post-season was, baseball fans are in for a real treat.
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