Last night was a rare Friday night where I was at a baseball game rather than working right here on HardballTalk. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, as I finally had the chance to meet our blogger-in-chief Craig Calcaterra and take in the Mets-Nationals game. Yes, we are allowed out of the basement on occasion.
When I first moved back to the D.C./Maryland area in 2009, I used to be able to stroll around Nationals Park at my leisure and without much worry for long lines or crowded corridors. It’s not like that here anymore. Hey, everybody loves a winner, right? This has been a Redskins town for as long as I can remember and one winning season for the Nats may not change that overnight, but it’s easy to see that something pretty cool is being cultivated here.
As for last night’s game, well, it wasn’t pretty for Johan Santana. He unraveled after three hitless innings, giving up a grand slam to Michael Morse in the fourth inning and a two-run shot to Bryce Harper in the fifth. Santana has now allowed six runs or more in five straight starts. He has an ugly 8.27 ERA in 10 starts since his no-hitter and a 4.85 ERA overall.
Can we blame Santana’s prolonged funk on his unprecedented workload from the no-hitter? Tough to say, as it’s possible he would have hit a wall at some point anyway in his first season back from major shoulder surgery. But the possibility of a shutdown looms large at the moment.
The Nationals improved to a major-league best 74-45 with last night’s 6-4 win and remain four games in front of the surging Braves in the National League East. With just eight more victories, the Nationals will have their most wins in a season since moving to D.C. in 2005. I’d say they have a pretty decent chance at pulling that one off.
Your Friday box scores:
Orioles 3, Tigers 5
Cubs 3, Reds 7
Red Sox 4, Yankees 6
Dodgers 3, Braves 4 (11 innings)
Rangers 2, Blue Jays 3
Diamondbacks 3, Astros 1
White Sox 2, Royals 4
Phillies 2, Brewers 6
Indians 4, Athletics 6
Pirates 2, Cardinals 1
Rays 12, Angels 3
Marlins 6, Rockies 5
Twins 3, Mariners 5
Giants 10, Padres 1
In the end, the Mets’ march into the playoffs played out just how they imagined: three innings of a Bartolo Colon perfecto, four combined innings of one-run ball from five different relievers, a James Loney home run. Well, maybe it looked a little different when they drew it up.
Colon guided the Mets through five innings for his 15th win of the year, striking out six and giving up a two-run homer in the fifth. Behind him, the Mets combined for five runs off of RBI base hits from T.J. Rivera and Jose Reyes, finding an edge with Loney’s go-ahead homer in the sixth and a bonus RBI single from Asdrubal Cabrera in the ninth inning. Despite a pair of well-placed home runs by Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf, the Phillies found themselves in scoring position just twice and were unable to close the two-run gap to tie the game.
The Mets’ 5-3 win over the Phillies clinched their spot in the postseason, sans tiebreaker. They also secured home-field advantage for Wednesday’s wild card game, during which they’ll face either the Cardinals or the Giants. On Friday, the wild card winner will advance to the Division Series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
As MLB.com’s Jeff Passan and Joe Trezza simultaneously pointed out, it will be an unconventional playoff run for the Mets, who approach October without Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Neil Walker, David Wright, Zack Wheeler, or Ben Zobrist. Now, if ever, seems like an appropriate time for some champagne.
With Game 1 of the Red Sox-Indians ALDS set to commence on Thursday, there’s no better starter for the job than Corey Kluber. The only question is whether or not the right-hander will be up to the task after sustaining a mild quadriceps strain earlier this week.
Indians’ manager Terry Francona appeared optimistic about Kluber’s chances of recovering in time for the Division Series, but admitted that he doesn’t have his rotation set in stone for the first couple of postseason games. Complicating matters is Monday’s potential make-up game between the Indians and the Tigers, which they’ll be forced to play if the outcome has bearing on playoff seeding.
Per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Francona doesn’t have a starter for the make-up game, either, though he clarified that rehabbing right-hander Danny Salazar would not be eligible. Salazar is still working his way back from a forearm injury in hopes of joining the Indians for their postseason run, and needs to toss another simulated game before he can be expected to return to the mound. Kluber, meanwhile, will throw off the mound on Sunday.
With Kluber or Salazar limping out of the gate, the Indians will likely have to fall back on right-handers Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. Bauer is slated for Saturday’s face-off against the Royals and confirmed his willingness to pitch on short rest through the playoffs. The 25-year-old also spoke to the Indians about his ability to pitch out of the bullpen, though it’s an option they appear unlikely to exercise. While Francona’s comments on Friday stressed the club’s patient approach toward their rotation, Bauer appeared revved and ready to go:
If it was up to me, […] I’d pitch and be ready to start or be available out of the ‘pen every game. In the playoffs, there’s really no reason to save anything. So, whenever I can get in there, whenever they want me to get in there, I’ll be ready.