Troubled times in Southern California

Of the 111 best-of-five series that have been contested since MLB divided the houses that are its two leagues in 1969, not quite 54% have been won by the team with the better record.

That’s not exactly good news for the baseball fans of Los Angeles, who can use some after an evening of anguish on Friday, or the nation’s capital, where on the diamond as in Congress, little has changed since 2012.

The Angels, Dodgers and Nationals were three of the sport’s four winningest teams during the long season, but not in the abbreviated postseason. And there’s no reassurance from history. Teams with the better record are just 5-7 in best-of-fives over the last three seasons; from 2000-03, they were just 1-13.

The Freeway Series Los Angeles fans had hoped for isn’t just stuck in traffic; it’s a car stripped and on fire by the side of the road. The Bay Area Series can’t happen; the Beltway Series is less possible. The only neighborly matchup more likely now is in Missouri, where both teams lead on opposite sides of Interstate 70.

In California, things are glummest, with one exception in the City. The A’s are gone again. The Dodgers scored nine runs and lost, the Angels can barely score, no matter how innings they play. A lot of folks might love LA, but postseason baseball is not loving it back.

It was a remarkable 13 hours of baseball Friday: three one-run games and a fourth that went extra innings.

  • Orioles 7, Tigers 6: Bullpens weren’t very good across the playoffs Friday, with a 4.26 ERA in all four games, 4.87 not including the Royals. But none was worse than the Tigers’, and no other blew a lead like theirs. Tigers relievers have recorded 11 outs — six by recovering starter Anibal Sanchez — and given up 10 runs in the first two games for a 24.52 ERA. Take away Sanchez, and Phil Coke, Joakim Soria and Joba Chamberlain have combined for a 53.89 ERA. And Joe Nathan has yet to pitch.
    Imagine how bad it would be if Miguel Cabrera or Victor Martinez were in the other dugout.
    David Price starts for the Tigers on Sunday, and if Brad Ausmus calls for the bullpen, he may get a mutiny instead.
  • Royals 4, Angels 1: The Royals were supposed to score runs with stolen bases and bunts, but won for a second straight night with an extra-inning home run. They’ve now won six postseason games in a row, second to the Giants’ streak of nine, although the Royals’ streak was only interrupted by 29 years, the Giants by two.
    The Royals have played 34 innings in the postseason, and their bullpen has pitched 16 of them, the last nine scoreless. Kansas City relievers have allowed only four runs, and two of those by Yordano Ventura, who redeemed himself on Friday by starting and throwing a seven-inning five-hitter three days later. Against the Angels, seven Royals relievers have allowed just two hits in nine innings.
    The Royals go home with a 2-0 lead and Mike Trout in an 0-for-8 slump. How many Royals fans bought tickets for Game 4 assuming they’d never get to use them because of a sweep? Now how many of them thought it would be the Royals doing the sweeping?
  • Giants 3, Nationals 2: Jake Peavy gave away seven years and 8-10 mph to mound opponent Stephen Strasburg, but he fanned one more batter, got two more outs and gave up three less runs.
    There are a lot of things that don’t make sense about the Giants, from Hunter Strickland, a veteran of seven major-league innings, getting the game’s biggest out in the sixth to throwing two home runs in the seventh, to Peavy equaling his longest postseason start but not finishing the sixth, to Travis Ishikawa starting in left field, to the bench full of guys who got more at-bats in AAA than the majors.
    But the Giants made sense of Strasburg’s offerings: in five innings he gave up eight hits, a walk, a hit batter and fanned only two. Maybe his absence wasn’t the difference for the Nats in their 2012 divisional series.
  • Cardinals 10, Dodgers 9: Can you be the best pitcher in baseball with a 5.20 postseason ERA? Can you inherit Sandy Koufax’s legacy if you give up 15 earned runs in consecutive postseason starts (Koufax gave up six earned runs in seven World Series starts)?
    Because that’s where Clayton Kershaw is after the Cardinals homered twice in the first six innings and singled five times in the seventh to set up Matt Carpenter’s bases-loaded double. Left-handed hitters drove in three runs in 27 games all season against Kershaw; Carpenter, a lefty, drove in four in two at-bats in consecutive innings Friday.
    It’s hard to imagine a victory could be more favorable to the Cardinals or poisonous to the Dodgers. If a five-run lead isn’t secure with Kershaw, what will Hyun-Jin Ryu need? Or Dan Haren?
    If the Dodgers can’t beat Adam Wainwright after he plunks Yasiel Puig, and the Dodgers retaliate with 11 hits and six runs in 4.1 innings, when will they?
    The Cardinals’ offense was just ninth in runs scored in the NL this year, and tied at that. Perhaps they would have done better if they had faced Kershaw more than twice.
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