Posted by: Mike Cornelius | October 6, 2019

A Stand Up Win In The Bronx

Throughout the 162 games of the longest season, each major league club sets the prices for seats at its ballpark. Eighty-one times at every stadium across the land, fans go through the turnstiles having paid what the home team has decided the market will bear. Many clubs now use dynamic pricing models, with the cost of a ticket fluctuating based on demand. Fans of the powerful and popular franchises can, if they so choose, relieve themselves of several hundred dollars for just one seat in a premium location. But as much as fans love to complain about ticket prices, it is also true that at every stadium there are many value-priced sections from which one can take in a game for about the price of a visit to the local cineplex.

Then the playoffs start, and the power to set ticket prices passes from the individual teams to Major League Baseball. Once again, prices will vary, based not on demand – most postseason contests are played in front of full houses – but on the relative importance of the game. Division Series tickets are less expensive than ones for the World Series, and even within a single playoff round prices rise for the later games that are potentially decisive. The one certainty is that for any postseason game, anywhere in the ballpark, the price will be several times what the home club charged for even the most in-demand contest during the regular season.

Which brings us to one of the great oddities of sports, one of life’s eternal mysteries. Having paid an exorbitant amount for their seat at a playoff game, whether in the farthest reaches of the upper deck or down on the field level, most fans almost never use it.

That was certainly the case Friday evening in the Bronx, where the Yankees hosted the Minnesota Twins in the first game of the best-of-five American League Division Series. It was the ultimate day of each postseason for fans of the Great Game – the one day have four games, from early afternoon until late at night east coast time (as is the case this year, a second such day can occur depending on how long each series lasts). The Yankees and Twins drew the third time slot, and fans were already on their feet when New York starter James Paxton toed the rubber shortly after seven o’clock.

Paxton’s first year in pinstripes since being traded from Seattle last November was a tale of two seasons. He was very good in the early going and utterly dominant at the end, but through late spring and early summer his starts were episodes that no doubt he, and certainly Yankees fans, would be happy to forget. Fans worried about which Paxton would show up quickly learned that the answer was a bit of both. The Twins took a 1-0 lead when Jorge Polanco, the second hitter in their lineup, homered to right field. But around that mistake Paxton struck out the side in the 1st inning.

Minnesota scored again in the 3rd when Nelson Cruz mirrored Polanco’s blow, but New York fans finally had reason to cheer in the bottom of that inning. With an assist from an error by Twins first baseman C. J. Cron, the Yankees plated three to take their first lead of the postseason. The score remained 3-2 until the 5th, when Paxton yielded a double and an RBI single, once again around a pair of strikeouts. That was enough to convince New York manager Aaron Boone that it was time to call on his bullpen. Adam Ottavino was the first in an eventual parade of six relievers, each of whom was greeted by fans on their feet and cheering the new arrival’s name.

The 3-3 tie lasted only a few minutes, with New York again taking the lead on a bases loaded double by Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the frame that pushed two runs across. The Twins, who led the majors in home runs during the regular season with 307, one more than the Yankees, hit their third of the night in the top of the 6th, but all three dingers were solo shots, and 5-4 was as close as Minnesota would get. New York’s offensive power finally asserted itself, with two runs in the 6th on a pair of homers and then three more in the 7th when, after Twins reliever Kyle Gibson walked the bases loaded, D.J. LeMahieu cleared them with a double to left. The 10-4 lead was enough to cause a few fans to do something they had barely done all night, take a seat.

They didn’t remain sitting for very long. Once again, the crowd was on its feet and cheering when the bullpen door swung open and closer Aroldis Chapman began his jog in to the mound for the top of the 9th. They cheered even louder when, with one on and one out, Chapman fanned Cruz on a 98 mile-per-hour four-seamer. One pitch later it was over, when Eddie Rosario hit a pop foul that catcher Gary Sanchez caught for the final out.

It was just one victory, with ten more needed before a parade up lower Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes can be planned. While the Yankees used a Didi Gregorius grand slam to again bludgeon the Twins on Saturday, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers remain the World Series favorites for most pundits. But for the jubilant though tired fans who headed for home and presumably a chance to sit down after a game that stretched to more than four hours, the obstacles to New York’s 28th championship could wait for another day. On Friday the Yankees gave their faithful just what they wanted by getting October started with a victory. Now if only MLB would price playoff tickets for what they really are – standing room only.

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