Mike Napoli

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Red Sox 7, Rays 3: Mike Carp with a tenth inning grand slam. Good job extending your lead, Boston! Good job letting the Yankees pull to within one game of the wild card, Rays! Apropos of nothing, I’d give a lot to hear what Red Sox fans who love this beards thing had to say about Brian Wilson a couple of years ago.

Yankees 5, Orioles 4: The Yankees are Rasputin. No, they’re not mystic/visionary/healer/religious charlatans who hold the Tsarina in thrall. I’m talking about the part where you simply can’t kill them, no matter how hard you try. Homers from Cano, Granderson and A-Rod combine with a good enough effort from Andy Pettitte to pull the Yankees to within one game of the wild card. And one game closer to the delicious “A-Rod came back and turned the Yankees’ season around” narrative that will literally kill multiple New York columnists. Especially the ones who were convinced that he’d never play another game and/or was “physically unable to perform.” Still waiting for the mea culpas from those guys. Not holding my breath.

Marlins 5, Braves 2: Jose Fernandez held the Braves to to one run on five hits over seven innings while striking out five. He also hit a homer. He also stopped to admire it and then spit at the third baseman’s feet and fomented a benches-clearing situation. All in a day’s work. As for the pitching: holy crap this guy is good. He’s being shut down now, which makes sense. He should also be the consensus Rookie of the Year. As for the hubbub: I’m not a big fan of unwritten rules, I think that admiring your first ever big league homer is defensible and I think the Braves, as an organization, get too hung up on all that Play The Game The Right Way thing. Not saying the spitting was fantastic, but maybe your best revenge is to get hits off the guy or to humiliate him the next time he bats against you.  Anyway, what I really want to know, though, is what that old lady who thought Harper and Puig were “low class acts” and Fernandez was “such a nice young man” thinks of all of this.

Pirates 7, Rangers 5: If you’re not a fan of Fox you have to hope this is the World Series matchup, right? Not exactly a ratings bonanza, even if baseball freaks should love it. If you’re an AL team you shouldn’t like it either, as the Pirates are now 15-5 in interleague play this year after sweeping the Rangers.

Reds 6, Cubs 0: A solid if unspectacular game for Mike Leake and homers from Devin Mesoraco and Jack Hannahan helped the Reds avoid the sweep.

Royals 6, Indians 2: The Indians fail to take advantage of the Rays’ recent troubles — if they’d won these past two games they’d be in the wild card slot right now — and the Royals succeed in coming back from the near dead to find themselves only two games back. They’ve won 13 of 18. Imagine where they’d be if it wasn’t for a couple of sharp swoons at various points this year.

Giants 4, Rockies 3: The Giants were down 3-1 but then plated one in the seventh and two in the eighth. I feel like the Giants have been playing the Rockies for 12 straight games.

Phillies 4, Padres 2: Cliff Lee solid again. Eight innings, five hits, two runs, nine strikeouts and lowers the ERA to 2.97. Imagine what he’d do on a team with a bullpen and an offense.

Nationals 3, Mets 0: Five straight wins for the Nationals. Still six back in the wild card, but some nice baseball all the same. Dan Haren was fantastic again. If he had been anything close to this in the first half the Nats could be playoffs bound.

Angels 5, Blues Jays 4: The Angels season has sucked but at least C.J. Wilson has been good. Three earned runs in seven innings to win his eighth straight decision. Josh Hamilton was 3 for 3. He’s hitting .400 in the month of September.

Cardinals 5, Brewers 1: A good start from Lance Lynn and a four-run eighth inning helps the Cards win their fifth straight and maintain their lead over the Reds and Pirates.

Tigers 1, White Sox 0: Anibal Sanchez strikes out ten in seven and a third shutout innings. Tough break for Jose Quintana, who also pitched wonderfully. Omar Infante’s RBI single in the eighth was the only offense here. How a 1-0 game still goes three hours and sixteen minutes is a bit of mystery.

Diamondbacks 4, Dodgers 1: Paul Goldschmidt went 4 for 5 with a couple driven and Patrick Corbin allowed one run in six and a third as the Dbacks avoid the sweep.

Athletics 18, Twins 3: Well, that was ugly. Every A’s starter had at least one hit, one run and one RBI. That’s practically socialism. Not that it mattered much, but there was a foul ball call that was reversed and turned into a double in this one after the umpires huddled and changed their call. After that Ron Gardenhire came out and argued forever and got an ejection. Can’t wait to see how managers react once challenges start.

Astros 6, Mariners 1: And the sweep. The Astros actually have a winning record in September. I don’t think momentum is a thing, but I’m sure this will make some Astros fans and players happy.

Report: Extension talks between Mets, Neil Walker are “probably dead”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.

The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.

Rick Ankiel drank vodka before a start to deal with the yips

9 Apr 2000: Rick Ankiel #66 of the St. Louis Cardinals winds back to pitch the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Brweers at the Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Brewers 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport
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The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.

It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:

On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:

“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”

Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.