The Bearded Aces of the MLB Playoffs
This month saw the start of the Major League Baseball playoffs and for those of you who are fans of pitching and beards, you certainly missed out. Before you get confused and make sure you haven’t been directed to a sports page, let me put you at ease and say this IS Urban Beardsman Magazine, where we cover the best of the bearded. While I am not a big fan of the one game playoff format between the two Wild Card teams in each league, this year’s playoff starter games provided us with amazing performances from two of the best beards in baseball.
The first game saw the return of the New York Yankees to the post-season, but quickly turned into Dallas Keuchel’s Nationally televised introduction to fans across the country. Although he has been (arguably) the best pitcher in the American League this season, it was the six shutout innings in his playoff debut against the most fearsome franchise in baseball history that gave a bearded face of dominance for fans who had yet to see him pitch. After winning the Gold Glove award for best defensive pitcher and leading (the American League) in complete games last season, Keuchel has made even further strides this year. Leading the American league in wins (20) and coming in second in earned run average (2.48) should lead to his first Cy Young award given to the best pitcher in each league.
Not only does his pitching ignite the Houston Astro fan base, but so does his world class facial mane. The greatness of his beard has not only lead to fantastic t-shirts, posters and marketing (GO BEARD OR GO HOME), but the franchise has even built an entire fan area for his games with Keuchel’s Korner, which provides each fan with their very own beard. Of course, not everyone was so shocked to see him perform at such an elite level. This writer showed his eye for talent when I placed Keuchel in the number two spot on his 20 Best Beards in MLB of 2015 article.
Game two of the playoffs saw the long suffering Chicago Cubs and pitcher Jake Arrieta shutout the Pittsburgh Pirates. This wasn’t just a complete game shutout, but Arrieta became the first pitcher in HISTORY to do that in a playoff game while striking out more than ten batters (11 total) and walking zero. To be honest, the only real hit that the Pirates had against him was when they LITERALLY hit him with a pitch in the 7th inning. This performance really isn’t any different than how he pitched in the regular season, leading the National League (and all of baseball) with 22 wins, 4 complete games, 3 shutouts and a no-hitter. About the only thing Arrieta didn’t accomplish this season was making my best beard list and for that I am truly sorry. I can’t always be perfect.
The dominant performances of these two bearded, ace pitchers is something that Major League Baseball fans needed. This is not your typical fall being played under the facial hair restrictions of past owners like George Steinbrenner and Marge Schott, but one filled with young, breakout stars who provide differing pitching styles for fans in both leagues. As well as AMAZING FREAKING FACIAL HAIR!
Unfortunately, there will be no classic duel between these two in this year’s World Series. Despite his stellar starting pitching, Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros were eliminated in the American League divisional series by the Kansas City Royals. The following round saw the Cubs and Jake Arrieta have their season ended after getting swept by the New York Mets. Fear not, fans of beards and baseball, as these ace pitchers and their teams are well positioned to return to the post season next year!