This season has been relatively light on playoff race drama so far. The American League has a bit of intrigue with the winner of the West and the wild card teams remaining an open question. The National League has had its presumed playoff participants set for some time with some shuffling in the Central as to who wins the division and who gets the wild card remaining open. All in all, however, pretty boring as far as these things go.
But let us not assume anything. For as this story in today’s Hartford Courant makes clear, September can be pretty darn wild in the era of three divisions and multiple wild cards.
The 2011 Red Sox and Braves. The 2007 and 2008 Mets. The Rockies surge of 2007 and the Twins surge of 2006. All kinds of fun unless you happen to have been a fan of one of those collapsing teams. And the stuff of hopes if you’re a fan of, say, the Nationals or the Yankees or even possibly the Royals.
Here’s hoping we have some of that kind of insanity over this last month of the season.
Angels DH Albert Pujols passed Mark McGwire for sole possession of 10th place on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard, slugging his 584th career home run in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays.
Mike Trout had already slugged a solo home run off of Jays starter Marco Estrada to bring Pujols to the dish. Pujols jumped on an 0-1 cut fastball, sending it out to left-center field, clearing the fence by a few feet.
Pujols, who finished 4-for-4 with the homer and an RBI double, is batting .257/.321/.441 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI on the year. His next target on the home run leaderboard is Frank Robinson at 586.
Orioles closer Zach Britton had appeared in a major league record 43 consecutive games without allowing an earned run, spanning May 5 to August 22. That streak came to an end on Wednesday evening against the Nationals.
The Orioles entered the bottom of the ninth inning holding a 10-3 lead, but reliever Parker Bridwell immediately found himself in hot water. He yielded back-to-back singles to Danny Espinosa and Clint Robinson. He was able to strike out Trea Turner, but walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. Daniel Murphy then crushed his first career grand slam to make it a 10-7 game. That prompted manager Buck Showalter to bring in Britton.
Britton, too, was knocked around. He served up a single to Bryce Harper, followed by a double to Anthony Rendon that scored Harper, pushing the score to 10-8 and ending Britton’s streak. Wilson Ramos reached on a fielder’s choice back to Britton, but the lefty finally finished the game by getting Ryan Zimmerman to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Britton now holds a nice 0.69 ERA with 38 saves and a 61/16 K/BB ratio in 52 innings of work this season.