THE REPLAY ZONE
By Jeff Polman
November ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Check out all four of my season replay-inspired baseball novels on Amazon.
Astros Take Crown in Best of 2015 Tournament!
They swatted 47 homers in 25 games and also struck out 247 times, but the Houston Astros won their first Tournament World Series on my Strat table since the 1994 version and its monster Jeff Bagwell card went all the way in my completed replay of that fateful year. Here’s how the last three rounds went down…
ROUND TWO (A.L.)
ROYALS SWEEP TWINS, 4-0
After Minnesota somehow squeezed by the powerful Blue Jays in Round One, K.C. make predictably short work of them, winning three straight pitching duels 3-2, 2-1, and 3-1, before unleashing 11 runs on 17 hits against Kyle Gibson and four other victims to take Game Four 11-3.
ASTROS DEFEAT RANGERS, 4-3
An odd seven-game battle that featured the road team winning every game, with all but two of them filled with offense. Cole Hamels throws a scintillating 2-1 win in Game Four, while Dallas Keuchel wins the opener and finale in Texas, the latter a complete game 3-2 thriller with Colby Rasmus scaling the wall in left field in the last of the 9th to take a possible game-tying homer away from Adrian Beltre.
ROUND TWO (N.L.)
METS DEFEAT NATIONALS, 4-1
Jacob deGrom fires a 1-hit, 7-0 shutout in the opener at Citi Field and the Nats never recover. Two homes and six RBIs from Cespedes in the second game lead to a 13-3 trouncing for Harvey, 16 more hits and three more New York homers take Game Three 7-3, and after Washington wakes with a gripping 5-4 win in 12 innings on a Yunel Escobar walkoff homer, deGrom wins the finale 5-2, the only blemishes a pair of Bryce Harper blasts.
CUBS DEFEAT DIAMONDBACKS, 4-3
The scrappy 8th-seed Arizonans sure put on a tournament show, but ultimately succumb in a 12-inning Game Seven at Wrigley, 3-2, on a Jorge Soler double. Chicago had also walked off Game Six 5-4 in eleven innings after falling behind three games to two in the series. There were at least two other nail-biters, starting with the shocking Game One, when Arrieta takes a 5-2 lead into the 8th but surrenders an A.J. Pollock homer before the D-backs score three in the 9th off Rondon to edge the Cubbies 6-5. Just a great series.
LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP (A.L.)
ASTROS 5, at ROYALS 2
Keuchel whiffs nine, walks no one, and three Carlos Gomez doubles and a Carlos Correa moon shot lead to a fairly easy Houston win in the opener.
at ROYALS 8, ASTROS 6
K.C. evens things, pounding out 16 hits, mostly off Collin McHugh. The Astros club three homers but it still isn’t enough.
at ASTROS 4, ROYALS 3 (16 innings)
Jose Altuve whacks a homer off the fair pole to end this marathon of missed opportunities by both sides. The Astros manage to strike out 18 times and still win the game—a good omen for them.
at ASTROS 6, ROYALS 3
Altuve and Correa connect for 1st inning blasts, Gattis adds one later, and Houston goes up 3-1 in the series behind Keuchel again.
at ASTROS 5, ROYALS 1
Kansas City? You have a Houston problem. Scott Kazmir mows the Royals down this time, Correa knocks in four of his team’s five runs with a pair of homers, and the “Smashtros” move on to the World Series. Houston outhomers K.C. 10-4 in the five games.
LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP (N.L.)
at CUBS 3, METS 1
Kyle Schwarber cranks a two-run blast in the 1st, Arrieta is magnificent, and the Cubs win the opener fairly easily.
METS 6, at CUBS (10 innings)
New York is up 4-3 in the 9th when a pair of two-out doubles by Baez and La Stella tie the game off Familia. Moments later, though, Rondon plunks Cespedes, serves up a meatball of a homer to Lucas Duda, and the Mets knot the series.
at METS 4, CUBS 0
Now we begin the suffocating pitching portion of the NLCS. Noah Syndergaard spins a 4-hit shutout and clears the bases with a 2nd inning double that gets by Chris Coughlan in left.
at METS 1, CUBS 0
Steven Matz and Familia combine on a 7- hit shutout
at METS 2, CUBS 1
The Chicago scoreless streak runs to 26 innings before La Stella and Bryant doubles in the 8th off deGrom tie the game, but against the luckless Rondon in the bottom of the 9th, a single, walk and Ruben Tejada single win the pennant for the Mets!
HOU 100 000 000 1 – 2 7 1
NYM 001 000 000 0 – 1 4 1
W-Keuchel L-deGrom SV-Harris
GWRBI-Correa double in the 10th
HOU 000 000 000 – 0 5 0
NYM 000 000 10x – 1 7 0
W-Harvey L-McHugh SV-Familia
GWRBI-Harvey double in the 7th
NYM 000 100 000 – 1 3 1
HOU 011 000 00x – 2 6 0
GWRBI-Gonzalez double in the 2nd
So three straight amazing pitching duels to begin the Series. Would the trend continue? Um, not quite…
NYM 002 230 000 – 7 11 1
HOU 130 000 100 – 5 8 0
W-Matz L-Keuchel SV-Familia
HRS: Uribe, Duda, Springer, Conger Gomez
GWRBI-Cespedes single in the 5th
After three games without a home run, the teams combine for five of them, and even stranger, Keuchel blows a 4-0 lead.
NYM 230 000 011 – 7 10 1
HOU 010 631 10x – 12 17 0
HRS: Cespedes-2, Johnson-2, Gonzalez-2, Rasmus-2, Correa
GWRBI-Correa homer in a six-run 4th
This time they combine for NINE homers, with four different players smashing a pair of them! The Astros also turn the comeback table on the Mets by rallying from a 5-1 deficit against deGrom.
HOU 000 100 010 – 2 5 1
NYM 241 020 00x – 9 11 0
HRS: Carter, Cespedes, Harvey
GWRBI-Cespedes homer in the 1st
Back home again, the Mets wreak havoc against McHugh, and Matt Harvey even clubs a three-run shot to send this Series to the limit.
HOU 011 012 000 – 5 9 0
NYM 000 110 000 – 2 11 0
HRS: Conger-2, Springer, Rasmus, Flores, Murphy
GWRBI-Conger homer in the 1st
Six more homers for the road and four of them by the Smashtros as Keuchel notches his seventh win of the tournament to win Cy Young honors, while Hank Conger belts homers no. 10 and 11 to go along with his .318 average and four game-winning RBIs to take the MVP crown.
Congrats to Astros manager Scott Bourget of Hebron, ME, who wins a $25 gift prize from Strat for his managing efforts, and also to Tom Quirk for his valiant try with the Mets. Happy holiday season, everyone!