For Whom the Buzzer Tolls
Thrilling postseason again illustrates the magic of October baseball
Big plays, emerging stars and a five-game clash between division rivals with 100-plus wins – the 2021 MLB playoffs has it all
By Christian Horn
Each year, Major League Baseball takes center stage once the calendar flips to October. Very few games during a 162-game regular season carry much weight individually, but once the postseason revs up during the year’s 10th month, fans are often treated to riveting baseball on a nightly basis.
A stroll down baseball’s memory lane reveals countless moments of indelible baseball memories from Octobers long gone.
Bill Wambsganss and his unassisted triple play in the 1920 World Series to this day remains the only triple play of any kind in postseason history (the Blue Jays could have had one in the 1992 World Series were it not for a missed call). Roy Halladay’s no-no in the 2010 NLDS and Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series are the only two postseason no-hitters, per MLB.com
Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, Kirk Gibson, Carlton Fisk, Bill Mazeroski, David Freese – the list of stars who’ve dazzled under baseball’s brightest lights rolls on and continues to grow each and every October.
Thankfully, 2021 is no exception. The Championship Series hasn’t even started yet and we’ve had our fair share of riveting moments and storylines.
The Boston Red Sox emerged from the Wild Card game to eliminate the Tampa Bay Rays in four games in the ALDS thanks in large part to Kiké Hernández, who recorded eight hits in Games 2 and 3 alone and set a Red Sox postseason record with hits in seven consecutive at-bats during that span.
Hernández finished the series 9 of 20 with three doubles, two home runs and six RBI.
In a losing effort, Tampa Bay’s young stars Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena turned in stellar performance. The duo went a combined 12 for 34 (.352 batting average) with three home runs, three doubles, seven RBI, four walks and two stolen bases.
Additionally, in the first game of the series, Arozarena successfully converted a straight steal of home – the first straight steal of home in the playoffs since a fellow named Jackie Robinson did so in the 1955 World Series.
Entering their NLDS matchup against the Atlanta Braves, many thought the Milwaukee Brewers had a chance to make a deep postseason run thanks to a strong rotation featuring Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta.
The big guns at the top of the rotation pitched well, but the Brewers lost in four games thanks to solid pitching from the Braves and an Atlanta lineup that did just enough to advance.
Atlanta’s Joc Pederson had a memorable NLDS. Pederson entered the postseason with a bit of a penchant for playoff success, earning the moniker “Joctober” for solid postseason performances with the Los Angeles Dodgers – including three home runs in a seven-game loss to the Houston Astros in a fantastic 2017 World Series that’s since been tainted by the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
“Joctober” again delivered in the playoffs, playing a pivotal role in the Braves’ win. Pederson came off the bench in each of the series’ first three games and merely went 3 for 3 with two home runs and four RBI.
For comparison, all other hitters went a combined 32 for 182 (.175) with two homers and five RBI in Games 1-3 before waking up in a 5-4 Atlanta win in Game 4.
The most riveting storyline, however, has to be the other NLDS between the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. The two NL West rivals spent the entire regular season as the clear-cut two best teams in baseball, with San Francisco winning 107 games to claim the division by a single game over the 106-win Dodgers.
After Los Angeles handled the red-hot St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Wild Card game, it set up a titanic clash between the two behemoths in the NLDS. San Francisco won the regular-season series 10-9, and the postseason clash felt destined to go the full five games.
Thankfully, both teams delivered, as the lone Division Series to go the distance is scheduled to take center stage Thursday night for Game 5. One of these 100-win teams will move on to face Atlanta, while the other will see its season end at the hands of a bitter rival.
Regardless of the outcome in that game or what happens the rest of the way, the 2021 MLB postseason has already brought its share of exciting players, big moments and key storylines…and there’s still the heart of the playoffs still to come with the ALCS, NLCS and World Series – all best-of-seven series to determine the pennant winners and the champion.
Buckle, up everyone. The magical ride that is October baseball is just getting started.