Twins edge Royals, Greinke to stay in AL Central race

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The only way one could tell it wasn’t a postseason game was that the Royals were involved.
With a full Metrodome rocking it its final days, the Twins beat the Royals 5-4 on Saturday to keep the pressure on the Tigers as they play the White Sox tonight.
This was the game the Twins faced long odds to win. Zack Greinke had given up three runs — two earned — in his last six starts, the last being a win over Minnesota last weekend. Nick Blackburn was also pitching well, but as a result of Monday’s rainout, he had to pitch on three days’ rest for the first time in his career today.
Blackburn, though, excelled, and the teams matched zeroes until the sixth. Nick Punto led off the bottom of the inning with a walk, advanced to second on a sac bunt and then to third on a groundout. That brought up future AL MVP Joe Mauer in a situation that begged for an intentional walk. Greinke, though, wasn’t having any of it. Mauer got down in the count 0-2, held on and then lined a single to right.
That figured to be the end of it, but Jason Kubel followed with a ground-rule double that ticked off the glove of a sprinting Willie Bloomquist in left field. After a HBP loaded the bases, Delmon Young delivered a three-run double over the head of an awkward Mark Teahen in right field, making it a 4-0 game. It was the first time all year that Greinke had given up more than three runs in an inning.
So, now the Twins could cruise to a win against a punchless Kansas City offense? No, wrong again. Mike Jacobs had a solo homer in the seventh, and Miguel Olivo started the eighth with a double that got Blackburn pulled. Manager Ron Gardenhire smartly brought in lefty Jose Mijares to face Alex Gordon. Mijares had limited left-handed hitters to a .139 average and two homers in 101 at-bats. Gordon was hitting .146 with two homers in 48 at-bats against left-handed pitching.
Gordon, of course, launched a ball over the baggie in right, making it 4-3. The Royals tied it up in the same inning on a double-play ball.
The decisive blow was supplied by Michael Cuddyer in the bottom of the eighth. The Royals let lefty Dusty Hughes face him, even though he’s hit .303 with 14 homers in 165 at-bats against southpaws, and Cuddyer stung a liner to the opposite first for his 31st homer of the year. Joe Nathan went on to pitch a perfect ninth, with some help from Denard Span in right field, for his 47th save.
The Twins are now just a half-game back of the Tigers in the Central race. Rather than bring Justin Verlander back on three days’ rest, Detroit will start rookie Alfredo Figaro tonight against Freddy Garcia and the White Sox.

Curtis Granderson is close to making history

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 22:  Curtis Granderson #3 of the New York Mets connects on a three-run home run in the second inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on September 22, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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With a fourth-inning solo home run off of Phillies starter Jake Thompson, Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson reached the 30-homer plateau for the fourth time in his 13-year career. It’s a moment worth celebrating, only there’s one problem: he has just 56 RBI on the season.

There are many reasons for the low RBI total. 24 of Granderson’s 30 homers have come with the bases empty. He came into Sunday’s action hitting just .140 in 124 plate appearances with runners in scoring position and .197 with runners on base. He has hit leadoff for most of the season, meaning he’s had the Mets’ pitchers hitting “ahead” of him in the No. 9 slot as well as the Mets’ catchers typically hitting eighth. Mets catchers, collectively, have a .296 on-base percentage, the second-worst mark in the National League.

Since the end of August, Granderson has hit cleanup with Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Yoenis Cespedes hitting in front of him. That change hasn’t been for naught, as he has 17 RBI in 21 games since.

Still, Granderson is on pace for the fewest RBI in a 30-homer season. Rob Deer and Felix Mantilla are tied for the record with 64 RBI. Deer (32 HR) accomplished the feat in 1992 with the Tigers and Mantilla (30 HR) in 1964 with the Red Sox. Only eight players have had 70 or fewer homers in a 30-homer season. Evan Gattis is currently sitting on 30 homers with 68 RBI.

MLB teams pay tribute to José Fernández’s memory

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Following the announcement of the 24-year-old’s death, Major League Baseball observed a moment of silence for José Fernández before each of today’s games. While this afternoon’s Marlins-Braves game was cancelled out of respect for the organization, Miami painted Fernández’s jersey number on the mound in honor of their former pitcher.

Other teams, like the Mets, Mariners, and Dodgers, chose to honor Fernández by hanging his No. 16 jersey in their dugout:

Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports that David Ortiz‘s pregame retirement ceremony at Tropicana Field was canceled at the player’s request:

The Astros and Diamondbacks each displayed a personal tribute to Fernández, writing the number 16 on their caps and etching his number and initials in the bullpen:

Rest in peace, Fernández.