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2016 – NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES #2

BethesdaSacramento Capitals finished the regular season atop the NL West with an intimidating 120-42 record and would enjoy home e-field advantage in the National League Divisional Playoff against the new-to-winning Bethesda Bandicoots who won their second consecutive NL East title with a 96-66 record.
The two teams met 13 times in the regular season with the edge going to the Capitals who were victorious in eight of those games (but we had the edge in beer consumption).
The Capitals went into the series with a long tradition of winning behind them … Bethesda merely had a long tradition of being behind.
Sacramento Generalissimo George Skiles predicted that given the enormous similarities in the two teams (solid hitting bolstered by very good pitching) that the series would be a close one.

Game #1: Jake Arrieta (17-10 1.66) vs. Zack Greinke (19-8 2.07)
Billed as a titanic struggle between the two best starting pitchers in the National League (Zack Geinke for Sacramento and Jake Arrieta for Bethesda)in Dickerson162015 (Zack Geinke for Sacramento and Jake Arrieta for Bethesda), the first game of the series lived up to its billing and more.
Playing the role of the Titanic was Bethesda and playing the role of the ice berg was the entire Sacramento Capitals batting order.
Sacramento got on the board first in the bottom of the 3rd inning where fittingly speedster (who knew) Greinke came around to score from 1st base on Danny Valencia’s double down the line.
The shrink wrap now removed on the scoring, Giancarlo Stanton manhandled an Arrieta offering the next inning to make it 2-0 Sacramento, but they were just getting started as Albert Pujols punched a hole in the ozone layer with a shot just a couple of batters later and voila … 3-0 SAC and Arrieta’s day was done.
Sacramento added another the next inning on a Texas Leaguer by Corey Dickerson against reliever Brandon Morrow and then it was the Erasmo Ramirez and John Axford (Shit) Show as the two relievers gave up a combined six runs over the rest of the game for a ridiculously easy 10-0 Capitals win.   All Greinke did in the game was pitch seven innings of two hit ball, walking one, striking out 8 and scoring two runs himself. Nice. Dickerson and Pujols each had a couple of hits and 3 RBIs.
Final Score:  Sacramento 10 – Bethesda 0

Game #2: Sonny Gray (17-8 2.67) vs. Max Scherzer (16-7 2.64)
Gray16Game two paved the way for a continuous streak of ridiculously close games.
Sonny Gray took the mound for Bethesda against Max Scherzer for Sacramento. Both pitchers lasted seven innings and allowed one run with Gray getting a slight edge by allowing only two hits to Scherzer’s four … one of those Capitals’ hits was by Scherzer himself as the Sacramento pitchers continued to reap at the plate.
Jimmy Paredes had given Bethesda the lead in the 5th when he laced a ball into the alley that scored David Peralta, but Scherzer came back in the bottom of the 6th and singled off Gray to bring home Kolten Wong.   The score stayed that way until the top of the 10th when late-inning defensive sub Anthony Rendon came to the plate facing Pedro Strop and bopped one into the cheap seats for a 2-1 Bethesda lead.   Rich Hill, who had already pitched the final two outs of the 9th, stayed in and retired the three Capitals in order in the bottom of the 10th to preserve the win and know the series at 1-1.
Final Score:  Bethesda 2 – Sacramento 1 (10 Innings)

Game #3: Jamie Garica (14-2 1.69) vs. Chris Young (8-3 2.21)
Another masterful pitching exhibition by starters Jaime Garcia (Sac) and Chris Young (Bet) and yet another game when neither pitcher factored in the decision.
Garcia went six innings allowing just one run on four hits without a walk – he fanned four. Young pitched seven shutout innings of four-hit ball with five strikeouts but was a little erratic with four walks.   Once again, Bethesda scored mid-game with a double by Chris Colabello that drove in Travis Shaw and once again the Capitals answered back.
This time they waited for dramatic effect and scored in the top of the 9th off Rich Hill when speedster Delino DeShields raced home off pinch hitter David Murphy’s single.
In the bottom of the 9th, Will Harris (he of the 50 consecutive saves and total of 55 on the season and a ridiculously miniscule opposing batting average of less than .120) took the mound for Sacramento retiring Alex Rodriguez without so much as a whimper but then Adrian Gonzalez clobbered Harris’ offering over the outfield wall for a walkoff 2-1 win and the 2-1 series lead.
Final Score:  Bethesda 2 – Sacramento 1

Game #4: Zack Greinke (19-8 2.07) vs. Jake Odorizzi (13-2 2.70)
Flores16Zack Greinke took the mound again, but his pretty ineffective opponent Jake Arrieta got the hook early in the game and on a hunch Bethesda went with Jake Odorizzi who had been so effective all season.   The hunch paid off as Odorizzi matched Greinke pitch for pitch for 7 innings. Both starters allowed just one run in that time with Odorizzi allowing four hits (one of them a home run to Giancarlo Stanton), a walk and notching seven strikeouts and Greinke countered with only three hits allowed (no earned runs) two walks and six Ks.
Once again, the teams took a tie game into the 9th … and beyond.  Things went until the 13th inning when no sooner had the Bethesda manager expressed a desire to get things over quickly as the Bandicoots’ bullpen was running on fumes than the roof caved in on Erasmo Ramirez in the form of three runs on two homers by Wilmer Flores and Corey Dickerson.
Watch what you wish for. Lightning did not strike twice for Bethesda on Will Harris as the Caps’ uber reliever pretty efficiently mowed down the Bandicoots in his second inning of relief to get the win 4-1 and even up the series.
Final Score:  Sacramento 4 – Bethesda 1 (13 Innings)

Game #5: Max Scherzer (16-7 2.64) vs. Jake Arrieta (17-10 1.66)
Max Scherzer of the many Ks faced off against Jake Arrieta and for the second time in the series the Cubs’ ace came up short.
Arrieta only gave up two hits in the five innings that he pitched but the Capitals made them count as Danny Valencia took Jake deep for two runs in the 4th. Then with Delino DeShields entering the game in the 5th as a pinchrunner for Kolten Wong after Wong was beaned by Arrieta, the speedster stole 2nd, stole 3rd and then with Arrieta pitching out of the stretch he stole home … WTF… 3-0 Capitals?   Bethesda would come back in the bottom of the 7th with back to back doubles by Lorenzo Cain and David Peralta and then a triple by Andre Ethier who would come in to score on Alex Rodriguez’s SAC fly to center field.  Once again, the teams took a tie (3-3) into the 9th inning.  With Brandon Morrow on the mound and Albert Pujols at the plate … Kablam! A fly deep over the head of centerfielder Lorenzo Cain and that would prove to be the game winner with Brett Cecil and Mark Melancon closing out the 9th for a 4-3 Sacramento win and a 3-2 edge in the series.
Final Score:  Sacramento 4 – Bethesda 3

Game #6: Sonny Gray (17-8 2.67) vs. Jamie Garica (14-2 1.69)
The series shifted back to Sacramento with the Bandicoots gonads on the block and Sonny Gray taking the mound against the Caps’ Jaime Garcia.
Gonzalez16.jpgThe Capitals struck first with Albert Pujols driving in Mitch Moreland in the 2nd inning.
Bethesda tied it up a couple of innings later when Lorenzo Cain mashed a tape measure shot out of the park and then with Adrian Gonzalez on 1st base Jimmy Paredes mimicked Cain and sent the ball over the fence for a 3-1 Bethesda lead after 4-1/2.   No worries though for Sacramento. The bottom of the 5th saw Corey Dickerson smack a ball off the outfield wall to score Francisco Lindor and then the next batter, Danny Valencia, hit a shot through the left side of the infield and limp-armed Chris Colabello could only watch impotently as Dickerson chugged around to score.
Would-be hero Adrian Gonzalez came through again for Bethesda in the 7th sending what would be Steven Matz’s only pitch of the game down the right field line and out of the park for a 4-3 Bethesda lead.  Sacramento rolled over and died of course … not. As crafty George Skiles had done countless times already in the series a timely late inning sub paid dividends. This time it was Luis Valbuena who came in to hit for Wilmer Flores in the bottom of the 7th and clubbed Ryan Madson’s offering over the outfield wall to tie it up 4-4.
Of course, that meant another game into the 9th inning tied …   In the top of the 9th with Matt Albers on the mound for Sacramento and the Bandicoots dugout chanting Adrian, the Gold Glove 1st baseman smashed Albers first pitch deep to center and out to give Bethesda a 5-4 lead.
Rich Hill came in to try and close out the bottom of the 9th for Bethesda and gave up a leadoff infield single to Norichika Aoki who promptly stole 2nd base. Hill fanned Albert Pujols and got Wilmer Flores to ground out to the mound, but Aoki advanced to 3rd base. The next hitter and Capitals’ only remaining catcher, Ryan Hanigan, wiffed to end the threat and send the series to the 7th and deciding game.
Final Score:  Bethesda 5 – Sacramento 4

Game #7: Chris Young (8-3 2.21) vs. Zack Greinke (19-8 2.07)
It’s a case of you have to go with your best.
And for Sacramento it was clearly Zack Greinke’s game to pitch. For Bethesda, however, a not-so-clear decision as Jake Arrieta had stats on his side but seemed snakebit in the playoffs so far sporting an ERA upwards of 6.00 after two ineffective starts.   Chris Young got the nod instead leaving Arrieta muttering in the bullpen.
The choice to go with Young looked suspect early as Young opened the game by allowing a single to Lindor who raced to 2nd base for his 5th steal of the series. Lindor advanced to 3rd on a ground ball and then came around to score on a SAC fly by Giancarlo Stanton. 1-0 Sacramento after 1.
David Peralta evened it up in the 3rd inning with a line drive single to right field that scored Andre Ethier from 2nd base.
Peralta16In the top of the 5th with AJ Pierzynski on 3rd base and Brad Miller on 2nd Lorenzo Cain blooped a ball over the infield that scored the lead-footed ancient catcher, but Miller was greedy and was nailed at home by Stanton.  Sacramento would draw even, of course, in its half of the inning when Danny Valencia smacked a double down the left field line which brought Lindor in to score. Tied 2-2 after 5 innings.   David Peralta took advantage of a somewhat less than vintage performance by Greinke and opened the 6th inning by golfing a ball deep over the right field wall to give Bethesda a 3-2 lead. Exit Chris Young and enter new reliever Jake Arrieta to open the 7th against Sacramento.  Arrieta and Company got through the 7th without any runs scoring.
Mark Melancon took over on the mound for Sacramento in the 8th inning and it turned out to be a not-so-memorable performance. He opened the inning by getting Lorenzo Cain to fly out to center, but then gave up back-to-back homers to Peralta and Ethier to make it a 5-2 game.   Bethesda went into the 9th up 5-2 … the first lead a team had heading into the 9th since they were clobbered in the series opener.   Arrieta stayed on the mound with two scoreless innings already under his belt. the first hitter, Mitch Moreland, popped out to Anthony Rendon. The next hitter, Albert Pujols, popped out to some guy drinking beer in the left field bleachers and it was 5-3. Aoki then came up and lined out deep to Lorenzo Cain in centerfield leaving it up to Derek Norris to keep the Capitals’ hopes alive. Norris was yanked in favor of David Murphy who played hero off the bench earlier in the series. History was not to repeat … Murphy hit a slow chopper back to Arrieta who tossed the ball to Gonzalez at 1st to end the game and give Bethesda the series 4 game to 3 on a 5-3 victory.
Final Score:  Bethesda 5 – Sacramento 3

Neither manager hand any fingernails left and were probably chewing on knuckles by the end of this one.
The Bethesda Bandicoots take the series 4-3 and move on to the National League Championship Series to take on the Columbus Explorers.

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