After 4,863 games, only eight major league baseball teams remain in contention for the World Series crown.
The divisional round of the National League playoffs kicked off Thursday afternoon as the St. Louis Cardinals walloped the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-1, to begin a best-of-five series, which continues with Game 2 this afternoon.
The David vs. Goliath matchup pits the league’s best regular season team against baseball’s worst team over the last two decades. While the Cardinals have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years, winning the World Series in 2006 and 2011, the Pirates have just emerged from the “dark ages”—a 20-year run of losing seasons. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny have both spoken publicly of their Christian faith, citing it as the groundwork for their endeavors.
Meanwhile in Georgia, the Los Angeles Dodgers, led by ace pitcher and believer Clayton Kershaw, faced off against the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of their divisional series last night, with Kershaw striking out 12 and the Dodgers winning 6-1. Game 2 is tonight.
“I was given this platform for one reason, and it’s not to play or be talented, but to help spread the gospel,” Kershaw told WORLD’s J.C. Derrick earlier this season. While he piles up impressive statistics and awards, Kershaw uses a large portion of his salary to support faith-based missions and children’s homes through his charity, Kershaw’s Challenge.
“Playing major league baseball is a dream come true,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said last season. “Even more of a dream come true is using baseball as a platform to talk about our faith.” If the Dodgers find success this postseason, that platform could become much larger.
Over in the American League, the Oakland Athletics are looking for their first World Series title in 24 years as they begin their divisional series against the Detroit Tigers tonight in Oakland. The Tigers lost the World Series last year, swept by the San Francisco Giants, but hope this is the season they bring a title back to a victory-starved and bankrupt city.
The final two teams in the playoff picture are the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, AL division rivals who have already played each other 19 times this year. Tampa Bay second baseman Ben Zobrist noted as a rookie in 2008 that Christian athletes have an added responsibility to be role models “because our culture exalts performance so much.”
“There are many kids and adults alike who dream of being in our shoes,” Zobrist told WORLD contributor Tim Challies. “I believe as a Christian athlete, we are called to use that highly respected platform to deflect any praise to whom it really belongs and to help people see beyond the glory of a man-made game or ballpark.”
The Red Sox and Rays face off in Game 1 at Fenway Park this afternoon.