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"Do You Believe in Miracles?" Columbia Baseball Fans Do

Broadcaster Al Michaels became famous for his “miracle” question after the American hockey team upset the Soviet team at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.

Well, on a smaller but equally intense scale, Columbia baseball got a miraculous present late Monday afternoon May 14 when Harvard came back from a 17-9 6th inning deficit to eliminate Dartmouth from the Ivy League race, 18-17. Second baseman Matt Rothenberg's second home run of the game capped the comeback in the bottom of the eight.

The combined 35 runs of the Big Green and the Crimson combined were the most in this rivalry since the first game they played in 1869, a 38-0 rout by Harvard.

I cannot say enough for Harvard’s integrity in playing the last two games with intensity once they had been eliminated themselves from the race when Dartmouth won the first game on Sunday.

Harvard actually finished tied with Columbia for second place with a 13-8 record - their best season since 2005 - but Columbia beat Harvard in the regular season three-game series. Dartmouth finished 12-8-1, its 11-inning tie with Penn not replayed. It was another break for Columbia that lost the regular season series to Dartmouth.

Because of the incessant wet weather in the Northeast, the Lions’s championship series against first place/defending champion Yale won’t start until Tues May 22 at noon with a doubleheader at historic Yale Field in New Haven. If the teams split, the title will be decided on Wed May 23 in a single game starting at 1p.

The winner will be the first entrant into this year’s NCAA baseball tournament that ends with the College World Series in Omaha in mid-June. Though Yale’s pitching has been more consistent throughout the season than Columbia’s, I think there should be some great competitive baseball on display next week.

Though I definitely have a dog in this fight - I should say a lion - I do believe Columbia has a fighting chance to win its fourth league crown in the last six years. Even if it may have to play without its injured senior leader second baseman Randell Kanemaru.

Pulling for Columbia has certainly helped sustain my rooting chops because the return of the Woerioles has been painful to watch. But it’s not only Baltimore that is enduring deep, seemingly endless losing this season.

The American League is also home to the struggling Kansas City Royals, the Chicago White Sox and the Texas Rangers while the Cincinnati Reds are mired in the NL Central basement. None of them have realistic hopes of even getting back to .500.

On the positive side, I find it very nice to see the rebuilding Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies atop the NL East leader boards.

The Phillies have a couple of great reclamation stories. Center fielder Odubel Herrera was picked out of the Rule 5 draft of six year minor league veterans a few years ago and now he is a spark plug atop the lineup.

Set-up man Luis Garcia was signed way back in 2004, didn’t reach the majors until 2012, and only last season did he find a home in Philadelphia. L. Garcia has stranded all 15 inherited runners he faced this season (after the Phillies 4-1 Wednesday May 16 whipping of the Orioles.)

That’s all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it.
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On The Sad Return of the Woerioles Plus Other Nicer Stories

The old canard, “You can’t win a pennant in April but you sure can lose it,” seems truer than ever. The Orioles’s offensive futility is so bad that I turned off a game on Monday night April 30 when they were only trailing 2-0 in the 7th.

So I missed them tying in the 9th at Anaheim against the Angels. Only to lose it in bottom of the inning. Once-reliable reliever Brad Brach must be feeling the pressure of his impending free agency because he has not been effective this year.

(It reminds me of similar problems for Bud Norris in his last year as a Bird. Norris, who won the last post-season game the Birds played in 2014 against Detroit, has landed for the time being with Cardinals.)

Oriole starting pitching was considered a big issue in 2018 and it remains that way. Now the bullpen, the defense, and the anemic offense have all been revealed as defective.

But one thing I will NOT do is pile on against my bedraggled team like Joe Posnanski did this week on mlb.com rehashing the 21-game losing streak to start the 1988 Oriole season. Instead I always find something remarkable to write about baseball on its many levels.

Here's even a tip of cap to the Yankees that won a thrilling day game at Houston on May 3, earning a series win, 3 out of 4 against the defending world champions.

Down 5-3 going into the top of the 9th (after leading 3-0 going into the bottom of the 7th), they scored 3 runs on the dreaded leadoff walk, a few singles and sprightly base running by their impressive rookies Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres and pinch-hitter Aaron Hicks.

Team speed is so undervalued in baseball and it is nice to see games won with legs and not just massive home run-hitting forearms. Houston’s bullpen ineffectiveness might become an issue as the season wears on.

Maybe Seattle and the Angels with Mike Trout and the young Japanese import DH-pitcher Shohei Otani might challenge the Astros. Meanwhile, it looks like the nomination for AL Least might be the AL Central where the Indians have sputtered out of the gate though its less-heralded rivals have been even worse.

In the NL East, the youth movement in Atlanta seems about to pay off as the Braves came into CitiField this week and swept the Mets convincingly. They have moved into first place in the very early going.

Former Oriole Nick Markakis is providing veteran leadership and great all-around play. He didn't want leave to Baltimore but management didn't want to pay him for the fourth year of his contract.

On the college baseball front, Yale is a virtual lock to host the best-of-three Ivy League championship in New Haven on May 19, and 20 (if necessary). Dartmouth has a one-game lead in the lost column over Columbia that is really two games because the Big Green won 2 out of 3 against the Lions at Dartmouth earlier in the season.

Columbia needs to sweep Cornell at Ithaca on May 12-13 and hope that Dartmouth loses two games of their remaining six against Princeton at home and Harvard in Cambridge. There is also a 4-4 tie against Penn that the Big Green may need to resume if that game becomes crucial.

Columbia ended its home season with a series victory against Penn. The Lions’s senior leader second baseman Randell Kanemaru hopefully dodged a serious injury in the climactic rally to win the rubber game.

Last year’s league MVP got on base after being hit in the “lower stomach” with a pitch. He moved to third later in the inning and then tried to score on a wild pitch. After a violent collision with the Penn pitcher at home plate, he was called out.

There are no replay provisions in the Ivy League but it looked like a bad call. Worse, he was writhing in pain after landing on his left shoulder. His right throwing shoulder has been aching all year forcing his shift to second from third base.

Fortunately there was no major injury. He has a chance to end his career on the playing field, ideally for fans of Columbia, playing deep into the spring.

In the Big East, perennial powers St. John’s and Seton Hall square off on Fri May 11 at Seton Hall at 4p. Both will make the Big East tournament that will be in Ohio May 26-28.

In the Big Ten, Rutgers has a 6-9 league record but is 23-18 overall after spanking Columbia 15-4 in a mid-week game on May 1. Mets third baseman Todd Frazier's alma mater may have a chance to do some damage in the playoffs.

That’s all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it.
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