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

Proud To Be A Badger! + Thoughts on World Baseball Classic

Wisconsin basketball has surprised the pundits and even many loyal fans like yours truly by making the Sweet 16 of the NCAA basketball tournament for the fourth year in a row. To make matters even sweeter, their chance to make a third Final Four in the last four seasons will take place at Madison Square Garden starting Friday March 24.

Funny how things work out in unpredictable sports. With four seniors in the starting lineup plus the gifted redshirt sophomore Ethan Happ (a guard in a forward's body), the Badgers were supposed to contend for both a Big Ten title and a deep run through March Madness.

Then calamity hit late in the regular season as Wisconsin lost five out of their six Big Ten games ceding the league title to Purdue and their player-of-year candidate Caleb Swanigan. The return to health of senior guard Bronson Koenig helped get Wisconsin out of their funk and they won their first two games in the Big Ten tournament.

They did lose the title game to Michigan that joins them in the Sweet 16 along with Purdue. Watch out for Michigan that survived a near-plane crash on the way to the Big Ten tournament to become a force to be reckoned with.

Bravos in order for a supposedly mediocre Big 10 while the ballyhooed Atlantic Coast Conference started the tourney with 9 teams and they are down to one, North Carolina who were lucky to beat Arkansas in the second round.

According to the website uwbadgers.com, there will be an open practice at MSG for the Badgers on Thursday at 1p. I intend to go and will report back after the games.
I say "games" because if Wisconsin beats Florida starting at 10p Fri on TBS, they play in the final against either Baylor or South Carolina on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile the World Baseball Classic winds up at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Wednesday night March 22. Puerto Rico nipped the Kingdom of Netherlands on Monday night taking advantage of the bizarre rule that starts the 11th inning with runners automatically on first and second base and no out.

Puerto Rico will face either USA or defending champion Japan. They are squaring off on Tuesday night March 21. Regardless of the result, Team USA has already experienced a great moment when Adam Jones robbed Manny Machado of a home run that kept the lead for USA and ultimately eliminated the DR team.

It was a special moment for at least two reasons. Jones and Machado are teammates on my Orioles but Manny decided to honor his mother's country of birth by playing for the DR team. Manny tipped his cap to Jones for his great catch as the USA avenged the DR's dramatic victory in Miami a week earlier.

From all I've heard and read, the atmosphere at Marlins Stadium was unlike anything ever experienced. A largely Dominican sold-out crowd were celebrating their heroes and the game of baseball from hours before the first pitch to hours afterward.

The DR team roared back from a 5-0 deficit to win 7-5, thanks in big part to a 3-run home run by Seattle Mariner Nelson Cruz over his former Oriole teammate Andrew Miller (now with Cleveland).

There are a lot of problems with the timing and the mechanisms of the WBC. But the great moments have made it worthwhile, especially when you consider the boredom and increasingly superficiality of most spring training games.

Well, that's all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!
 Read More 
Be the first to comment