September 5, 2018
If only legendary Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy were alive to give his signature late-inning close-game call, "Fasten up your seat belts!" Because he could say it every night as eight teams in the National League can stake a chance to make the post-season.
I write mainly about the Orioles and the American League in this blog but given the historically horrible 2018 of my favorite team, they are playing no meaningful games in September this year. Except to be a spoiler now and then.
Like last night (Tues Sept 4) they rallied to beat the Mariners 5-3 in Seattle. Mariners skipper Scott Servais, drenched in the analytics that told him that starter Wade LeBlanc couldn't face the fearsome Orioles hitters three times, yanked his effective southpaw after six shutout innings.
The Orioles then went to town on the struggling Seattle bullpen. Although like every losing team they almost threw away the game on defense. The Mariners evidently showed more fight in the clubhouse before the game when second baseman/center fielder Dee Gordon and shortstop Jean Segura got into a tussle - reportedly over Gordon's sloppy defensive lapses.
Seattle is now a distant third in the race for the two wild cards with the Yankees and surprising Oakland A's. The A's could still catch Houston for the AL West title but there is no real drama in the AL.
Cleveland is running away with the AL Central and the Red Sox have a lead varying from 7-8 games over the Yankees in AL East. They still have two head-to-head series left but it will take a full collapse of Boston to make those games truly dramatic.
Quite the contrary in the NL. The West is really the wild west in 2018 with only a game separating the Colorado Rockies, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the five-time consecutive champion LA Dodgers.
In the East, Atlanta has maintained recently a lead of two to three games over the fading Phillies but they still have two head-to-head series left, too. Their records are not great so they can't count on earning a wild card - one of then must win the title.
In the NL Central, the Cubs seemed to be in control until they went to Milwaukee on Labor Day and lost two in a row to their rivals to the north.
Newly acquired southpaw Cole Hamels - who has solid playoff experience with the Phillies and the Rangers - has pooh-poohed any rivalry because so many Cub fans make the 90-minute trek to Wisconsin.
That, of course, didn't go over well in beer and bratwurst and cheese country. The Brewers have to make one last trek to Wrigley next Monday thru Wed. And their next-to-last series is in St Louis with the revived Redbirds.
Let's not forget the Cardinals who have been on a tear ever since organizational lifer Mike Shildt took over as interim manager for Mike Matheny early in the summer.
After a 26-12 log under the new leadership, management rewarded Shildt with the permanent job (as permanent as anything ever is in "the hired to be fired" world of baseball).
Of course, Cardinals then went on to lose a few in a row before they held on to beat the disappointing Nationals last night 11-8 in a road slugfest in DC. They have a lot of new young faces on both the mound and in everyday roles that make them a very interesting story. As are the Brewers who with St. Louis are right now the two wild card leaders.
One thing about baseball never to forget is that it is a game of trends and peaks and valleys. Never get too high after a win or too low after a loss, one of the great cliches.
Yet all bets are off when it comes to exciting September baseball. So sit back and enjoy it and we'll be back to you later in the month with updates and more stories.
For now always remember: Take it easy but take it!
April 25, 2014
The immortal Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy – the man who pronounced “line drive” as “li-on” drive and chortled after a victory about a “happy recap”
– loved to use the phrase “fasten your seat belts” to build up the tense late moments in a game.
With the MLB season less than a month old, it looks like the whole year will be a“Fasten Your Seat Belts” kind of year.
I noted in my last post that the one thing any baseball team must avoid in the long long regular season is not to get buried in April.
The booby prize in 2014 must go so far to the Arizona Diamondbacks who are already double-digit games under .500.
It didn’t help that Arizona opened its season in Australia with two losses to the Dodgers.
LA didn’t exactly enjoy that trip because their ace defending-Cy Young award winner
Clayton Kershaw evidently hurt his back on the return flight and hasn’t pitched since (but is due back soon).
It looks like the Dodgers and the SF Giants will engage in a year-long battle for NL West supremacy.
Colorado hovers around the .500 mark after a bad start.
And thanks to the truly woeful Cubs (yet again) Arizona won a couple in Chicago
as the Windy City nine celebrated the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field.
How sadly fitting that the Cubs blew a 3-run 9th inning lead on the celebratory day.
Better news in the NL Central comes from baseball’s surprise team, the Milwaukee Brewers who in the early going soared 10 games over .500.
After an unconscionably long road trip, the defending NL champion Cardinals will have some ground to make up.
In the AL West, the Seattle Mariners turned a solid start into a 8-game losing streak and are looking up at division leaders Texas and Oakland.
Seattle and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim could still be heard from. Every team could contend in this division except the Houston Astros
who are doomed to the basement in another year of rebuilding and falling attendance.
In the division I know the best and obsess about the most, the AL East is off to a predictably bruising start.
Every team, including Toronto whose cagey southpaw Mark Buehrle is already 4-0, could finish first or last.
The Tampa Bay Rays will have to come up with new starters - usually the strength of their team - because
of the season-ending injury to Matt Moore and long layoffs of Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson.
My Orioles managed to split a four-game series in Boston though came close to doing something that even their woeful lineal descendant
St. Louis Browns never accomplished: losing five and six-run leads in back-to-back games.
I know, it is a ridiculous stat but somewhat of an amusing if macabre one.
Fortunately the Birds held on to win the Patriots Day morning clash on Boston Marathon Monday, 7-6. Two things are crystal clear in the early going:
1) Shaky Oriole starters must get into at least the seventh inning more often or the bullpen will be worn out by Memorial Day.
2) The return of Manny Machado to fortify the lineup and the defense must happen soon (early May the target). But I hope and pray
that he and the team are first confident about the condition of his surgically repaired knee.
The Yankees with their $400 million in free agent expenditures - outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, catcher Brian McCann,
and Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka all playing well - look like a team to beat. And it will be a pleasure to do that as the year unfolds.
Will be seeing the Orioles in early May in Minnesota, my first trip to the new Target Field. One of the feel-good stories of the young season is
the emergence of Chris Colabello as a huge run producer in the Twins lineup. Have to wish the best (except against the Orioles) for a player
like Colabello who was signed out of an independentleague.
The weekend before I'm heading for the climactic pair of doubleheaders between my alma mater Columbia and Penn.
They are the two best teams in the 2014 Ivy League but only one will qualify for the league championship series
and the right to play in the NCAA tournament that begins in late May.
The prize at the end is the 12-day double-elimination College World Series in Omaha in mid-June.
As a lover of acronyms, let me close today with what Omaha means to eager college players.
Always Put The Team First
That’s all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it.