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5 Things: Road Teams Dominate Start of Playoffs

By Andrew Kahn

Through four playoff games, the road teams are undefeated. The home teams will try to turn it around Friday in the first day of full playoff action: four games spread throughout the day for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.

Dallas owns New York

In his two starts against the Yankees during this regular season, Dallas Keuchel threw 16 scoreless innings, striking out 21 and walking one. So perhaps it was no surprise what he did in the Astros’ 3-0 wild card playoff win in New York on Tuesday. The American League’s only 20-game winner allowed just three singles over six innings, striking out seven and walking one. The Yankees limped into the playoffs and the offensive ineptitude that plagued them in September cost them in their short-lived postseason. The Houston bullpen held the Yankees hitless. Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez hit solo homers off Masahiro Tanaka’s first pitch of the second and fourth inning, respectively.

Arrieta shows fight

The next night’s game was remarkably similar, as a 20-game winner (in this case, 22) went on the road and dominated, backed by a couple of home runs and a run-scoring single. Jake Arrieta struck out 11 Pirates and walked none in his complete game four-hit shutout. It was the first time in postseason history someone threw a shutout with at least 10 Ks and no walks. Rookie Kyle Schwarber delivered a two-run homer and an RBI single. Like the Astros, the Cubs’ rebuilding effort is ahead of schedule, thanks to better-than-expected performances from young players. Arrieta has been virtually unhittable since August and wasn’t fazed when a Pittsburgh reliever plunked him on the hip in the seventh inning and the benches cleared (Arrieta had brushed back one batter and hit another). The incident led to Sean Rodriguez’s ejection, and the Pittsburgh utility man took it out on a water cooler:

The next day, Rodriguez quoted the bible in a tweet, noting that he’d spoken to the water cooler and it accepted his apology.

Third basemen injured in Toronto

It’s hard to call any individual baseball game a big upset, but with an ace pitching at home for the World Series favorites, most expected the Blue Jays to beat the Rangers in the ALDS opener on Thursday. David Price has not been a great postseason pitcher in his career, however, and he allowed five runs over seven innings in a 5-3 loss to Texas. It was Toronto’s first playoff game since Joe Carter won the team’s second straight World Series with a walk-off homer in 1993. Each team had to remove its star third baseman: the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre has a strained muscle in his back and Josh Donaldson, the likely MVP, was kneed in the helmet sliding into second. He reportedly passed his concussion test but, like Beltre, is questionable for Game 2 today.

Astros win wet one

After a rain delay of just under an hour in Kansas City, one manager decided to stick with his starting pitcher and the other did not. The Royals’ Yordano Ventura was pulled when the game resumed at the start of the third inning, possibly because he’d already allowed three runs; Houston’s Collin McHugh stayed in and allowed two over six innings in a 5-2 win. The delay allowed for some unexpected entertainment. First, a Royals grounds crew member got swallowed by the tarp (he was uninjured so we can laugh):

Chris Young replaced Ventura, allowing for the biggest pitcher-batter height differential in playoff history. Leading off the fifth, Jose Altuve (listed at 5’6”) singled off the 6’10” Young. That’s a 16-inch height difference, a new postseason record! The Astros, with Altuve’s help, scored the game’s first three runs on two groundouts and a single, but that’s not how they made the playoffs. They hit more home runs than every team except Toronto, and they added two more in Game 1.

Friday preview

The American League series continue Friday with three in-season acquisitions taking the mound: Cole Hamels for Texas; the Astros’ Scott Kazmir will face Johnny Cueto in Kansas City. At night, the Cubs and Cardinals meet in the postseason for the first time ever. The marquee game is in Los Angeles, where Jacob deGrom and the Mets visit Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers in what is just the first of several high-profile pitching matchups. Every projected Mets starter this series has no playoff experience, while Kershaw’s career has been blemished, ever so slightly, by an ability to carry regular season dominance into the postseason. It will be the first playoff games for the Cubs since 2008 and Mets since ’06.

Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about baseball and other sports at http://andrewjkahn.com and his Scoop and Score podcast is on iTunes. Email him at andrewjkahn@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn

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