It is with a heavy heart that I get on a plane this morning and leave Arizona. No, it’s not a paradise. But for a few weeks in late February and on through March it is pretty damn close to it. The weather is perfect. The baseball is plentiful. Hope is ubiquitous. Friends — at least my friends in baseball — are all over the place.
Yes, it’s been a wonderful week here in the Valley of the Sun. A week that has re-energized me and has made me anxious for the regular season to start. That has made me realize that no matter how many baseball seasons I’ve lived through, each one begins anew, unspoiled and wonderful. It has been a week that has made me remember that, even though life has its ups and its downs, baseball is always there for us. As a diversion or, if we need it to be, as something more.
It’s been a pretty rough, dark winter in a lot of ways. But it’s a winter that ends now. Ends with the dawning of a new morning. A morning in which we learned a few things. Such as:
- Brian Wilson has no idea about how the universe works, but OH MY GOD he inspired something wonderful.
- Sometimes you walk into a room with three Hall of Famers just sitting at a table reading newspapers and shooting the breeze;
- Sometimes you walk down a concourse and see two Hall of Very Gooders.
- Sometimes you get accosted by some weirdo with a head wound at a seedy bar on the unfashionable side of town;
- Yoenis Cespedes is pretty freakin’ awesome, even if your momma could hit a homer off Jeff Francis;
- Yu Darvish is pretty freakin’ awesome, even if your momma could hold the San Diego Padres scoreless;
- To be successful, first you see the ball, then you hit the ball;
- Coco Crisp thinks it’s funny that I’m bald;
- So too does the Indians’ beat writer from MLB.com, but at least Manny Acta has my back;
- For some people, the Expos will never die;
- Robin Yount needs a bigger cap;
- Ron Roenicke is a neat guy;
- Maryvale Baseball Park may be in Phoenix’s most gang-ridden neighborhood, but it’s still pretty nice;
- At some point you get too old to hold on to souvenir baseballs;
- Chief Wahoo sucks, and I’m never gonna get tired of talking about it;
- Talking to baseball players may make me not want to rip them as much, which probably means I should stop talking to baseball players;
- Lots of reporters wanted to see Yu Darvish in person;
- Torii Hunter has gone to the Crash Davis school of not telling nosy reporters anything of substance;
- A person actually bought an orange Marlins’ cap;
- Bobby Abreu actually thinks he can pitch; and
- The Angels are a happy bunch.
As you read this, I’m at 30,000 feet. Next time you hear from me I’ll be back in my fortified compound on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio, refreshed by my travels and primed for a new baseball season.
We’ve got some potential craziness building in the American League Wild Card race with one day left in the regular season.
After dropping both halves of a doubleheader on Saturday in Baltimore, the Yankees are now just one game up for the first spot — hosting duties. Houston, currently in the second spot, won again Saturday in Arizona behind two Colby Rasmus homers and a very good start from Collin McHugh. Anaheim won Saturday in Arlington, Texas in maybe the wildest game of the year to stay one game back of the ‘Stros.
This also touches the still-undecided American League West, where the Rangers only have a one-game lead on the Astros and will face a fired-up Angels team on Sunday afternoon. By design, the start times for all these games that matter are the same: 3:05 p.m. ET. Only the Cardinals and Braves will play at a different time (due to Saturday’s rainout).
Buckle up, people. Get your popcorn ready. All that.
Your box scores and AP recaps from Saturday …
Yankees 2, Orioles 1 (Game 1)
Royals 5, Twins 1
Angels 11, Rangers 10
Nationals 3, Mets 1 (Game 1)
Rockies 2, Giants 3
Marlins 7, Phillies 6 (Game 1)
Blue Jays 3, Rays 4
Reds 3, Pirates 1
Yankees 3, Orioles 4 (Game 2)
Red Sox 0, Indians 2
Cubs 1, Brewers 0
Nationals 2, Mets 0 (Game 2)
Marlins 5, Phillies 2 (Game 2)
Astros 6, Diamondbacks 2
Padres 1, Dodgers 2
Athletics 7, Mariners 5 (13 innings)
Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.
Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.
The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.
The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.
If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.
If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.