Death Valley Drivers capture the 2020 flag
Congratulations to George O'Connor and his Death Valley Drivers on their second MMDA title. Here's a recap of the finals between Death Valley and Ray Ross' Northwest Star, written by George:
GAME 1: DVD 4 – NWS 1
Gerrit Cole came out firing, only allowing 3 runners in 7 innings while striking out 12, including 5 in a row at one point. Offensively, Bellinger, Schwarber, Garver, and Dejong all hit solo shots. And to close it out, Vazquez pitched 1.2 for the save.
GAME 2: DVD 10 – NSW 7
Runs were easier to come by. Death Valley jumped out early with 3 in first. But the Stars came up big in the 3rd, plating 5, including a base-clearing triple by Fletcher.
The Drivers retook the lead when they scored 3 in the 5th, which featured back-to-back home runs by Cabrera and Bellinger. The Stars tied it up 7-7 in the 6th, but the Drivers plated 3 more in the bottom of the 7th, including Bellinger's 2nd HR of the game. The trio of Taylor, Tuivailala, and Vazquez (5th save) help keep the Stars in check and closed out game 2.
GAME 3: DVD 4 – NSW 2
Great pitching seemed to be the story again, as rookie Zach Gallen took the hill and spun 8 scoreless innings. Along the way, the Drivers were able to build up to a 4-0 lead, including a home run by Hechavarria.
Vazquez was called on to bring the win home, but after striking out the heart of the Stars order (Donaldson and Soler), Vazquez started pointing to his knee. Out of an abundance of caution, Vazquez was removed from the game. The ball was handed to veteran reliever and closer, Soria, to get the game's final out.
Then it got way too interesting.
An error by Panik put Fletcher on first, followed by Heyward singling. Holiday then singled, loading the bases. This turned the game into a save situation and caused absolute chaos in the Drivers bullpen. With Austin Hays up to bat, the Drivers brought in lefty reliever Josh Taylor to face the righty-killer Hays, even though that meant Taylor would be fatigued (Hays is THAT good against righties). A single and an error by Hosmer at first cut the lead down to 4-2 and two runners still on base.
With Buxton at the plate, the only other closer-rated reliever was Wingenter, and after a tough 5-pitch battle, Buxton to popped out to short and gave the Drivers a 3-0 series lead.
With the Drivers' ace, Cole, on the mound for game 4, the Death Valley fans starting dreaming of a sweep.
GAME 4: NSW 5 – DVD 4 (11 innings)
The Stars got out to a 2-0 lead after 3 innings, thanks to Severino and Donaldson's home runs. In the 5th, the Drivers put up 4, highlighted by a 3-run blast by Bellinger. The Stars added a 3rd run in their half of the 5th when Donaldson when yard again. In the 7th, the Stars tied the game on a Fletcher homerun.
The Stars bullpen, Duffey, Bummer, and Kahnle, kept the Drivers at bay for 4.6 innings. In the bottom of the 11th, Verdugo stepped to the plate and crushed a walk-off home run deep into the leftfield bleachers and sent the home crowd into the streets celebrating. There would be a game 5!
GAME 5: NWS 5 – DVD 0
And a game 6!
Stroman pitched a gem with the Stars' back to the wall. He scattered 8 baserunners over 7.1 innings, and Wil Smith pitched the final 1.2 to shut down the Drivers.
Offensively, Santana went deep, and Merrifield went 2-4 with an RBI and run scored, sending the series back to Death Valley.
GAME 6: DVD 10 – NSW 7
The Stars muted the raucous Death Valley crowd right off the bat after Schwarber misplayed the first play of the game, letting Merrifield reach 2nd. He was immediately brought home when Santana hit a double into the gap. The Drivers answered with 2 of their own in the first, when Brantley went deep, driving in 2.
All was quiet until the bottom of the 4th, when the Drivers added 4 more runs, including a 2-run blast by Todd Frazier. The Stars put up 1 in the top of the 5th when Morton lost the feel for the ball and walked in a run. But the Drivers came up big again in their half, putting 3 more runs on the board, featuring a 2-run shot by Garver.
But the Stars weren't done yet. In the top of the 6th, Donaldson hit another long home run into the stands, making it a 9-4 game. The Drivers got 1 run back when a pinch-hitting Cuthbert doubled home Flores, a pinch-hitter himself.
Charlie Morton, the key piece to the Drivers big trade deadline deal, took the hill in the 8th with a 10-4 lead, but it was soon clear the Drivers might have been a little too cocky. With 2 outs, a single and HBP put two ducks on the pond for Donaldson, and he brought em home safe when he hit another massive home run—his second of the game—off of Soria. Soria was able to gather himself and get Soler to fly out to center, ending the inning.
With the Death Valley crowd rocking, Vazquez took to the mound. Fletcher led off with a single for Stars, and the crowd started getting a little nervous. The Stars bench is deep, with lefty-killers all over the place. Vazquez struck out Andrus and then got Severino to ground into a force play.
With two out and 1 on, Coach Ross called on lefthanded lefty-killer Dahl off the bench. It was power-vs-power, ending with Vazquez striking Dahl out and bringing home Death Valley's 2nd championship in 4 years.