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Sports Authority

Zuba: Playoffs provide reasons to watch

| Wednesday, October 8, 2014

There are some among us who need no prompting to sit down for a three-hour-long baseball game. For the rest, there is the postseason, chock full of reasons for non-die-hards to tune in.

After 162 games, each of which may or may not have been all that important, every game in October counts. Every strike matters.

Gone are the days of late July when players lolled in the dugout looking for shade from the summer sun. Everyone is on the top step of the dugout, looking tense or intensely jubilant.

Several great October moments have already passed. But there is much more to come.

Here are a few reasons why you should have been watching all along. May they inspire you to watch some baseball while you wait for 3 p.m. this Saturday and bite your fingernails in anticipation of next week’s matchup with Florida State.

The wildest of wild cards: Royals 9, Athletics 8

When Major League Baseball conceived of the one-and-done play-in game, they had this script in mind. Pit the teams with the league’s best records after the division winners against each other and watch the magic rain.

The new playoff structure has been a resounding success so far with this insane game as the shining example.

The Royals were losing 7-3 after six innings. They were losing 8-7 in the 12th. But this club, which hasn’t had a lot of hope since Brett, rallied. Then rallied some more.

First baseman Eric Hosmer started the second comeback with a one-out triple. He scored on second baseman Christian Colon’s single. Then, with two outs, Colon stole second, and catcher Salvador Perez knocked in the winning run with a single down the third-base line.

If there had been goal-posts, they would have come a-tumbling down like at Ole Miss last weekend. The game was that electric.

More games will come down to the wire when a few swings can change a team’s travel plans.

Dodgers-Cardinals rematch

The Los Angeles Dodgers are down in their NLDS, 2-1, to the St. Louis Cardinals, who eliminated them last year in a contentious NLCS.

The Cardinals flushed the Dodgers’ season when Cardinals right-hander Joe Kelly hit Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez with a pitch and fractured his ribs. Ramirez was the hottest hitter in L.A. at the time, but the fracture disrupted his hot streak and derailed the Dodgers’ World Series hopes.

Kelly plays for the Boston Red Sox now, but his former team is at it again with the Dodgers, this time for a berth in the NLCS.

Drama, drama, drama.

Oh, and the Dodgers have one of baseball’s best in ace Clayton Kershaw pitching on short rest tonight, trying to keep L.A. alive and redeem himself from an abysmal game-one start (he posted a 10.80 ERA).

The Cardinals bested Kershaw again, but it was great theater. The intensity will only ramp up as teams progress deeper into the postseason.

How’d they get here?

This question applies to both the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals.

The Giants faded and lost their mid-season lead over the Dodgers, so they needed to win the NL wild-card to get into the playoffs at all. They pounded the Pittsburgh Pirates, 8-0, and looked poised to sweep their NLDS over the Nationals with Madison Bumgarner on the mound in game three.

What’s that? It’s the postseason so teams don’t quit?

That’s right. The Nationals didn’t. There was a wild throw. There was a sacrifice bunt. And the series headed to game four. The Giants got it done in four and head to the NLCS. They just can’t stay away.

The Royals and Orioles

It’s great to have two darlings in the playoffs, particularly when your own team has been eliminated. They’re “the good guys,” teams that haven’t won in awhile and that few people can hate.

The Royals and Orioles showed up for the role, made to order. And now they’ll face each other in the ALCS after sweeping their respective division series in three games apiece.

Pick a good guy and pull for ’em. One of them’s making it to the World Series.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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