Wild-card games have fa­vored vis­i­tors

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS -

Fer­vent fans and last at-bats haven’t done the home teams much good in the first eight wild-card games.

As base­ball en­ters its fifth sea­son with its one-game, win­ner­take-all for­mat prior to the Divi­sion Se­ries, vic­to­ri­ous vis­i­tors have be­come an un­likely trend. The road team is 6-2 in wild­card games — a good omen for the Ori­oles and Gi­ants this year.

Bal­ti­more, Toronto, the New York Mets and San Fran­cisco are also try­ing to be­come the sec­ond team to go from wild-card win­ner to World Se­ries cham­pion — the Gi­ants were the first, beat­ing the wild-card win­ning Roy­als from the AL in the 2014 Fall Clas­sic.

A look back at the first four years of wild-card games in

prepa­ra­tion for San Fran­cisco-New York Mets on Wed­nes­day:

SHUTOUTS APLENTY

Four of the eight wild­card games have been shutouts. The Pitts­burgh Pi­rates have been the vic­tims twice.

In 2013, Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb, who had missed part of the reg­u­lar sea­son af­ter tak­ing a line drive off his head, pitched out of jams three times in seven in­nings be­fore the Rays’ bullpen fin­ished a 4-0 win at Cleve­land. In 2014, the Gi­ants’ Madi­son Bum­gar­ner (who’ll start against the Mets on Wed­nes­day) struck out 10 and needed only 109 pitches in a fourhit, 8-0 shutout at Pitts­burgh. In 2015, Chicago’s Jake Ar­ri­eta gave up four hits in a 4-0 road win over the Pi­rates, the Cubs’ first post­sea­son vic­tory in 12 years. Also in 2015, Dal­las Keuchel faced the Yan­kees on three days’ rest and al­lowed three hits over six in­nings, and three reliev­ers fin­ished up in a 3-0 vic­tory.

FIT­TING BE­GIN­NING

The wild-card games got off to an ap­pro­pri­ately wild start. The first NL game in 2012 was Chip­per Jones’ last con­test be­fore re­tire­ment, and it in­cluded a

19-minute de­lay while beer cups, pop­corn hold­ers and other de­bris were cleaned off Turner Field fol­low­ing a dis­puted in­field fly call.

Um­pire Sam Hol­brook made the rul­ing in the eighth in­ning when St. Louis short­stop Pete Kozma called for a popup in left field, but then Kozma veered away at the last mo­ment and the ball dropped.

The Braves thought they had the bases loaded with one out be­fore re­al­iz­ing Hol­brook’s de­ci­sion, and fans re­sponded by lit­ter­ing the field with what­ever they could find.

At­lanta lost the game 6-3 and the Car­di­nals ad­vanced to the NL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries be­fore los­ing to the Gi­ants in Game 7.

MOST FAN­TAS­TIC FIN­ISH

The 2014 AL wild-card game is an easy win­ner. Kansas City trailed Oak­land 7-3 in the eighth in­ning and 8-7 in the 12th be­fore Sal­vador Perez’s sin­gle down the left-field line pro­duced a 9-8 walkoff vic­tory in the Roy­als’ first post­sea­son game since 1985.

BIG­GEST BAT

San Fran­cisco’s Bran­don Craw­ford be­came the first short­stop to hit a post­sea­son grand slam. He went deep against the Pi­rates’ Edin­son Volquez in the fourth in­ning of what was a score­less game in 2014.

WHO’D A THUNK?

Any­thing can hap­pen in a one-game play­off, of course, but the Ori­oles’ 5-1 win at Texas in 2012 might have been the big­gest sur­prise in the short his­tory of the wild-card games.

Joe Saun­ders, ac­quired in a late-sea­son trade, was matched against Yu Darvish and al­lowed one hit over 5 2/3 in­nings as the Ori­oles won their first play­off game in 15 years and knocked out the two-time de­fend­ing AL cham­pion Rangers.

KATHY KMONICEK — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Bal­ti­more Ori­oles pitcher Tommy Hunter pours beer over Michael Bourn in the vis­i­tors’ club­house af­ter the Ori­oles de­feated the New York Yan­kees 5-2 in a base­ball game to go to the play­offs .

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