instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

It's Only Early September But American League Wild Card Race Getting Wilder and Wilder + Two Good Causes

The innovations of the second wild card and mainly divisional play in September have made for amazingly exciting American League races. Blasé folks will say, “It’s only mediocre teams fighting for the right for an early playoff elimination.”

They may be right, but for an Orioles fan the sudden re-emergence of Baltimore to the fringe of the wild card race has been very welcome. They only split four games with the cellar-dwelling Toronto Blue Jays this weekend, but their two extra-inning wins kept hopes alive for even more meaningful games later in September.

Both wins went to rookie right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis, a thirteenth round draft choice out of St. Joseph’s of Philadelphia, a school known more for basketball than baseball with the major exception of southpaw Jamie Moyer.

Yacabonis hails from Matawan, New Jersey, and has a grandfather who played pro ball in Cuba. It’s always rewarding to see kids from the Northeast, where weather conditions are always capricious, make a mark in the Show.

A tip of the cap to the Blue Jays who are not a bad team and are coming off two straight playoff appearances. But I knew they would struggle this year when they decided not to re-sign powerful Edwin Encarnacion who took his wares to Cleveland.

They have also lost key pitchers to injury, but they played the Orioles very tough this weekend. A 21-year-old middle infielder Richard Urena had a memorable first MLB at-bat in Friday night’s Orioles nail-biting 1-0 13-inning win. He fought off 10 pitches from reliever Brad Brach before delivering a ringing double to left field.

It was a sign of improved Bird pitching that Urena was stranded. The double shutout lasted until Jonathan Schoop doubled home Manny Machado with the winning run in the bottom of the 13th.

It was Schoop who got the leadoff double in Sunday’s 5-4 extra-winning win that came around to score on Mark Trumbo’s double. (It helped that Toronto walked the struggling Chris Davis to get to Trumbo.)

Schoop has not only been clearly the Orioles’ MVP in 2017, but if he keeps up his clutch hitting and sturdy defensive play he’ll get into the league MVP consideration. He’s driven in over 100 runs for the first time and is closing in on league RBI leader former Oriole Nelson Cruz.

These close games are always draining for the fans. At least they players get to play and try to forge their own destiny. For now I’m just savoring the narrow series split and taking some deep breaths before the Yankees come to Baltimore on Labor Day for a three-game series.

Dylan Bundy takes the ball on Labor Day, and I hope he realizes he cannot match his his last performance, a complete game one-hitter over the Mariners. I think he is mature and talented to stay within himself and give the Birds a good chance to win.

To give you an idea of how wild the AL wild card race is, the Orioles swept Seattle and knocked them under .500. They went home to sweep the A’s and are now only one game behind Baltimore.

The Yankees and Twins still lead the race for the two wild cards but as long as you are over .500 and within three games of the second WC, you have a chance. So take heart Rangers, Royals, and even Rays fans too.

TWO GOOD CAUSES FOR YOU TO KNOW ABOUT:
1. Bernie Williams, the classiest of all the Yankees' great turn-of-20th-century teams, has become a key spokesman for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. His father, Bernabe Williams, Sr., died of the disease. Google PFF for more information.

On a Labor Day weekend Yankee broadcast, Williams didn't take the bait of a question about his favorite Yankees World Series-winning team.

But he did say that the 2001 team, that lost in the 9th inning of the 7th game, was very special because it came after 9/11. How the country and not just New York City rallied behind them remains an indelible moment.

Bernie's new career as an accomplished guitarist is going well. He even applied a musical twist to a question about why he isn't considered a member of the Core Four with Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, and Mariano Rivera. "I like the sound of the Core Four Plus Bernie," he quipped.

2. Here is word on a special organization founded by Chicago White Sox John Tumminia. Baseball Miracles that brings the joy of baseball to underprivileged youngsters all over the world.

They've been to Kenya and Native American communities in the Dakotas and many other stops. Next up this fall is a trip to Argentina. For more information about how to donate equipment and make contributions, check out: http://www.baseballmiracles.org

That's all for now, butalways remember: Take it easy but take it!
 Read More 
Be the first to comment

Orioles and Mets Face An Early Winter After Losing Close Wild Card Games

If you are a pure baseball fan, the pitchers’ battles that punctuated each Wild Card game last week were your cup of tea. Nothing like an elimination game to focus the minds of players and fans alike.

If you are emotional fans of the Mets and the Orioles, the losses were harder to take.
They must now face winter in the early fall. Nobody can criticize the effort of either losing Wild Card team, but when bats grow silent and runs are not scored, there is no way to win, especially in the post-season when pitching and defense matter more than ever.

The Mets lost a classic pitcher's duel with Noah Syndergaard going seven shutout innings but playoff whiz Madison Bumgarner pitching a complete-game shutout. Journeyman third baseman Conor Gillapsie's 3-run 9th inning HR off Mets usually effective closer Jeurys Familia was the deciding blow.

Gillapsie's moment in the sun was touching for Giants fans because he came up in the San Francisco organization but made his major league debut with the White Sox where he performed for two years. He then bounced around for a while until he returned to the team that first signed him. You see in baseball, you can go home again.

The O's 11-inning 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays was one that will be harder to forget. Manager Buck Showalter is being crucified for not using his perfect closer Zach Britton - 47 for 47 in the regular season - in the game. Buck might have made matters easier for himself if he just said to the press, “I wasn’t gonna use him until we had a lead.”

That’s how it works in regular season but the playoffs are different. There’s no tomorrow, to coin a phrase. As it turned out, the excellent relievers in front of Britton did do a marvelous job - two of them, hard-throwing converted shortstop Mychal Givens and soft-tossing sidearmer Darren O’Day, each got one pitch double plays.

However, going to starter Ubaldo Jimenez with one out none on in bottom of 11th inning was the disastrous choice. Within five pitches, Jimenez gave up two singles and the game-winning three-run bomb to Edwin Encarnacion. It was the top of the order and the big boppers were coming up for Toronto. That was where Britton should have been used.

I know it is so easy to second-guess, and the bottom line is the Orioles didn’t get a hit after the sixth inning. We had seen the offense disappear so often in second half of season. The illusion that the playoffs would be different faded quickly.

I sure hope the O’s make a strong effort to re-sign Mark Trumbo who produced Baltimore’s only two-runs in the wild card game with a homer that unlike his usual mammoth shots just sneaked over the left field fence.

I wanted the O’s to offer Britton a two-year deal before the season and buy out one of his arbitration years. Alas, owner Peter Angelos and gm Dan Duquette don’t do business that way. So now Britton’s one-year salary will probably escalate into the 8 digit category.

By contrast, the Colorado Rockies saw the promise in second baseman D. J. LeMahieu and offered him a $6 million-plus two-year contract before the start of 2016. Mahieu wound up winning the National League batting title.

My praise for the budding star is tempered by the poor decision by Rockies management to bench Mathieu for four of the last five games of the regular season so he could win the title over the injured Nats second baseman Daniel Murphy.

It was not Mathieu’s choice to sit but evidently management dictated it with the support of field manager Walt Weiss. It did not help save Weiss’s job as the New York metropolitan area native from Suffern was not rehired after four years on the job.

I find the contrast quite striking between Mathieu’s sitting and Ted Williams’ insistence on going for a genuine .400 average on the last day of the 1941 season. Williams could have sit out and protected a .3996 average that would be increased to .400.

The proud Williams insisted on playing and went 6 for 8 in a doubleheader against the Philadelphia A’s. He wound up with a .406 average, a revered number in baseball history that is not likely to be surpassed.

Without the Orioles, the post-season doesn’t provide me with a real outlet for my baseball passion. I do watch many of the games because as I’ve said many times on his blog, the only reason to play baseball is to keep winter away.

Before the games of Monday October 10, Toronto, riding a high ever since avoiding Zach Britton in the wild card game, is already in the AL division series after sweeping the Rangers. In hindsight, Texas’s poor run differential of only 8 runs over their regular season opponents doomed them.

Cleveland surprised Boston by routing Boston aces Rick Porcello and David Price, but they still have to contend with the Bosox in Fenway. If it comes to a game five in Cleveland, the Tribe should feel confident that their defending Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber can come through again with the kind of dominant performance he delivered in game 2.

In the National League, the Cubs convincingly dispatched the Giants in the first two games. Facing elimination, the Giants will throw the amazing playoff whiz Madison Bumgarner on Monday October 10 in an attempt to stay alive.

The Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers are playing the only series that looks like it could go the distance. A fan who loves baseball’s redemptive quality has to love Jose Lobaton’s game-changing 3-run HR on Sunday.

Only playing because his friend and Venezuelan countryman Wilson Ramos tore up his knee at the end of the regular season, Lobaton bounced into a bases loaded 1-2-3 DP in his prior AB. He was ready for a better showing next time around.

Redemption was the rule again when Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis started Toronto's winning rally against the Orioles. He had bounced into two double plays earlier in that game.

Because they are franchises that have long suffered, I’d like to see a Cubs-Indians World Series with the Cubs finally winning after an 108-year drought. Their loyal scout for 35-years Billy Blitzer - who brought Shawon Dunston and Jamie Moyer and others into their fold - deserves his ring. But I do want to see some memorable gut-wrenching baseball before winter comes prematurely to all of us ardent addicted fans.

That’s all for now - always remember: Take it easy but take it!
 Read More 
2 Comments
Post a comment