Don’t forget baseball playoffs in Oct.

Published 12:12 am Sunday, October 9, 2011

Turn away from the football — high school, college or other, and remember that it’s October — the most important month of the year for America’s national pastime.

Major League Baseball’s postseason began this past week, and in both the American and National League Divisional Series, we’ve seen some entertaining games.

Even with a Game 1 loss in the ALDS, the Texas Rangers had little trouble eliminating the Tampa Bay Rays. But the other three Divisional Series — the Detroit Tigers versus the New York Yankees, the Arizona Diamondbacks versus the Milwaukee Brewers and the Philadelphia Phillies versus the St. Louis Cardinals — have all gone to five games.

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With the Cardinals eliminating the Phillies in Game 5 1-0, the Phillies have to be kicking themselves for not letting the Braves win in that final regular-season series and allowing the Cardinals to make it to October.

Atlanta had several key injuries to its pitching staff and not a lot of offensive firepower, so the Braves likely wouldn’t have been as much of a challenge if Philadelphia had ended up seeing the Braves in the Championship Series.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers were able to get the Arizona Diamondbacks to go down two games to nothing, but Arizona answered by winning Game 3 8-1 and Game 4 10-6. Milwaukee finally pulled it out in Game 5, winning 3-2 in 10 innings.

The Detroit-New York series was more back-and-forth, with the Yankees winning Game 1 and Detroit winning the next two. New York’s bats woke up in Game 4, allowing the Bronx Bombers to win 10-1. But the Tigers shut down the Yankees’ bats in Game 5, at Yankee Stadium, to finally take the series.

People often complain that the 162-game regular season is too long. I hear those complaints, but any team can get hot for an extended period of time before fading away — this year’s Cleveland Indians come to mind. Had the season been cut in half, the Indians likely make the playoffs. They finished 80-82 on the year and were 15 games out of the AL Central lead when the season ended.

So, for all the complaining of the number of games, the MLB schedule at least allows the pretenders to be weeded out among the contenders.

In October though, every pitch, every at-bat is magnified. Each game keeps fans on the edges of their seats, because one bad game — or even one bad pitch — can make the difference between moving on or winning it all, and going home early. Players that had a poor regular season can easily redeem themselves in the eyes of the fans with one big hit. That’s the magic of October baseball.

It’s not always the best team that ends up winning the World Series — it’s usually the team that simply gets hot at the right time. The high-stakes, anything-goes atmosphere surrounding the MLB postseason is truly something special, and if you’re a fan of the game, you really can’t afford to miss even one pitch.

MICHAEL KEREKES is the sports editor for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or at