There’s nothing quite like the decisive, winner-take-all game in an MLB postseason series, and this year we’re lucky enough to have three of them in the first round: Tigers vs. Yankees tonight at Yankee Stadium, followed by a Friday extravaganza of the Cardinals at Phillies and Diamondbacks at Brewers.
It’s just a continuation of the drama that began on that memorable Wednesday when the fates of the Red Sox, Rays, Cardinals and Braves went right down to the wire. And it’s not something that happens every year.
In fact, the Division Series has a history of being a real bore, with a couple of notable exceptions — the most notable being the series that Mariners fans, and many others, would consider one of the best ever, in 1995 against the Yankees.
That was the first year of the Division Series, a year later than planned. The expanded postseason was supposed to begin in 1994, but was wiped out by the players strike. Starting in 1995, there have now been 16 years of Division Series, four a season. Heading into this year’s postseason, a whopping 28 of those 64 series — 44 percent — have been sweeps. And another 22 have gone four games, meaning that just 14 — 22 percent — have gone the distance.
The National League has been particularly one-sided. Until this year, not one NL series had gone to five games since Houston over Atlanta (not St. Louis, as I had erroneously written earlier) in 2004. Of the 12 series since then in the NL, eight have been sweeps. It’s not exactly the way to build momentum heading into the LCS and World Series.
Never have all four Division Series gone to five games, and only once, before this season, have three. That was in 2001, when the Mariners defeated the Indians, the Yankees defeated the A’s, and the Diamondbacks defeated the Cardinals, all in five games. The other series in 2001 was a sweep (Atlanta over Houston); considering that the other series this year went four games (Texas over Tampa Bay), you could say, I suppose, these are the most competitive Division Series ever.
Let’s hope it continues, culminating with a seven-game World Series, the ultimate in baseball excitement. That hasn’t happened since 2002, when the Angels took out the Giants, and Barry Bonds, in seven games.