God

God told Josh Hamilton he was going to hit a home run

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Josh Hamilton hit a huge homer to put the Rangers up by two in the 10th inning of last night’s thriller.  After the game, he said this:

“I would tell y’all something, but y’all wouldn’t believe me … The Lord told me it was going to happen before it happened. You hadn’t hit a home run in a while. You’re about to right now.’”

Before we go any further, can I tell you how much I wish that David Freese, when asked about his walkoff homer in the 11th, said that Satan had told him he’d do it, and then he held up the devil horns, Dio-style?  That would have been epic.

Anyway:  I realize that I’m a big damned-to-Hell agnostic type and everything, so I’m not an authority here. I’m not going to push my non-belief on others. Even if I don’t subscribe to it, I’m not one of those militant atheist types who turn going after religion into a crusade (those people have their own, almost religious zealotry that is more than a little ironic). I think religion can be an important part of a person’s life. I’ve seen it work wonders in people. So if Josh Hamilton believes that God told him he was going to hit a home run and that fills him with wonder and purpose, I feel great for Josh Hamilton.

But can I ask the believers out there: If there is a God, do you really think He rolls like this? That He takes interest in the events of Man on such a granular level that He’s not only telling a guy like Hamilton that he’s going to hit a homer, but He’s also going to note beforehand that Hamilton hadn’t hit a homer in a while?  God cares about baseball stats?  Is God … a sabermetrician?!

No, of course he isn’t. If He was, He would have said “Josh, you are going to get on base.” Or else He wouldn’t have cared about baseball at all, because I’m told statheads hate baseball and only love numbers, so never mind.

Anyway, theology is not my bag. Maybe God does tell people when they’re about to do their job well.  When you’re omnipotent you can multitask. Attend to the suffering here, orchestrate the wonder and miracle of creation there, smite the wicked in another place and still have all of the time in the world to tell rich athletes that they’re about to do something special.  Really, it’s not a problem.

Is it?

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.