Kyle Gibson kept hoping he’d someday pitch in October, take the mound in a big game when the whole sport was watching.
Last week, he got that chance.
Summoned late at Yankee Stadium, the 31-year-old Minnesota right-hander entered the AL Division Series opener. The result — one inning, three runs on three walks, a hit and three stolen bases.
“First postseason opportunity, didn’t go how I thought it was going to go,” he said.
He’s not alone.
National League closers Carlos Martinez, Mark Melancon and Sean Doolittle were tagged. All-Star setup man Ryan Pressly struggled, $140 million starter Patrick Corbin was shelled in a different role.
Bullpens? More like “blowpens” as playoff relievers across the majors got rocked.
Their totals so far in the ALDS and NLDS through Monday: 100 innings, 65 earned runs and a 5.85 ERA.
The most effective reliever this month? Max Scherzer, the three-time Cy Young Award winner who struck out all three batters he faced at Dodger Stadium.
And remember, Scherzer and the Washington Nationals made it this far only after rallying late against Milwaukee closer Josh Hader in the NL wild-card game.
Not exactly what fans were expecting, seeing how relievers for the eight teams that made this round combined for a 4.12 ERA in the regular season.
Then again, it’s not the regular season.
“When you pitch in the postseason, you’re kind of fighting — you’re fighting emotions, you’re fighting, like, you’re pretty energetic physically, a lot of times,” successful Tampa Bay starter Charlie Morton said. “It’s obviously October, it’s the end of the regular season. You’re kind of in a spot where you really haven’t been all year.”
Aroldis Chapman and the New York Yankees were about the only relief corps to escape unscathed, allowing three earned runs in 131/3 innings. Chapman threw a called third strike past Twins slugger Nelson Cruz to finish off a 5-1 win Monday night for a three-game sweep.
“I think the really important part of it has been that we’ve been healthy,” Chapman said through a translator.
The Dodgers watched their ‘pen give up five runs in 51/3 innings Monday during a 6-1 loss at Washington. That sent their series back to LA for a deciding Game 5, with Walker Buehler set to start tonight — and longtime lefty ace Clayton Kershaw ready to relieve.
“Obviously this game Clayton was available and it was more of a situation — seventh, eighth, sixth, seventh, eighth, potentially ninth inning tied or with the lead,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Obviously the game got away from us.
“So now to preserve him and to have him ready to go, whatever we need from him, for Game 5, is certainly a good thing to be piggybacked at some point with Walker. That’s kind of the thought.”
The Cardinals and Braves will play Game 5 in Atlanta today. Martinez has already had two appearances this series in which he allowed three runs; he had only one all season for St. Louis. Melancon, who became the Braves’ closer after he was acquired from San Francisco at the July 31 trade deadline, gave up four runs in a Game 1 loss.
Scherzer, meanwhile, pitched seven innings to help Doolittle and the Nationals tie the Dodgers at two games each. That came after Scherzer’s one-inning stint Friday, on top of his start in the wild-card game last Tuesday.
Any chance we’ll see him in Game 5?
“I doubt it,” he said. “No, I mean, my arm is hanging right now. That was, that, that pushed me all the way to the edge and then some. So, yeah, I can’t imagine any scenario where I’m pitching.”
Here’s look at more news from the majors:
Going the distance
The Nationals and Dodgers got a travel day Tuesday and went coast to coast again ahead of their win-or-go-home Game 5 in the NL Division Series.
Washington will send 18-game winner Stephen Strasburg to the mound against Walker Buehler in a marquee matchup tonight in Los Angeles.
“If I could bet, I’d bet on him,” Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton said about Strasburg. “To have him healthy and ready to go in that situation only boosts our confidence.”
Scherzer pitched seven masterful innings, and Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer Monday night as the wild-card Nationals staved off elimination with a 6-1 victory at home over the Dodgers, tying the best-of-five NLDS at two games apiece.
Yadier Molina rallied St. Louis in Game 4 on Monday, poking a tying single in the eighth inning and lifting a sacrifice fly to end it in the 10th. Molina slung his bat far into the outfield after his winning swing, and the crowd at Busch Stadium roared with the longtime heart of the franchise.
Molina has 10 tying or go-ahead RBI in his postseason career, tied with Sandy Alomar, Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench for most by a catcher.
“I like those moments,” Molina said.
St. Louis will have ace Jack Flaherty on the mound Wednesday, and the Braves will go with Mike Foltynewicz.
After finishing a three-game sweep of the Twins with a 5-1 victory at Minnesota on Monday night, Gleyber Torres and the New York Yankees head home waiting to find out whether they’ll play Houston or Tampa Bay in the AL Championship Series. That best-of-seven playoff begins Saturday, so the AL East champs get four days off to rest up and prepare. If the wild-card Rays come back and upset the Astros, the ALCS would start at Yankee Stadium. If the Astros win the Division Series, the ALCS opens in Houston.
Three of four playoff games failed to sell out Monday, leaving lots of empty seats at Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Washington. Sub-capacity crowds have become an expectation at Tropicana Field — even in October — but they were more striking elsewhere. The Cardinals, whose fans tout themselves as the best in baseball, hosted the Braves in front of 42,203 supporters, about 2,000 fewer than Busch Stadium’s listed capacity. Meanwhile, entire sections in the upper deck were nearly empty as Max Scherzer pitched for Washington against the Dodgers. Prior to Monday, the only 2019 postseason games that failed to sell out were NLDS Games 1 and 2 at Dodger Stadium. Attendance during the regular season fell 1.7% this year for its fourth straight decline.