Who do you root for when your team is eliminated?

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I’m going to root for my Barves as long as they’re still playing. Nothing will stop that. Not silly unwritten rules enforcement, not dumb “choptober” hashtags on Twitter, nothing. They’re my team and you root for your team until they’re eliminated. That’s how sports works. Even when they annoy you, they’re your guys.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t transfer allegiances if and when they’re eliminated. Or, if your team didn’t make the playoffs, that you can’t pick a playoff rooting interest. I do this every year to some degree. Indeed, being a Braves fan, changing one’s rooting interests in the middle of the playoffs has become something of a necessity over the years.

This is subject to change depending on what annoying playoff habits/chants/rituals any of these guys get into and drive me crazy, but for the moment my secondary rooting interests break down like this:

National League:

1. Dodgers: I love Kershaw and Greinke. I’m a slave to Puig-mania. I’ve come to respect what Don Mattingly has done this year. I also want Boston people who are convinced that Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are poison to have to explain how they can play on a World Series winning team. Lots of fun to be had here.

2. Pirates: Good story, Andrew McCutchen is a God. Pittsburgh deserves something to cheer for. My only reservation is that this bandwagon is going to be overflowing if the Pirates advance and I don’t want to be in that crowd.

3. Reds: Pattern here: I tend to like teams whose best player has skills I love to see. Joey Votto has the best batting eye in baseball and while a team full of guys like him make for long, boring games, I like to see him ply his trade. Plus: viva Ohio.

4. Cardinals: Eh, just not gonna happen. I don’t hate them. I don’t think there are any bad guys on this club. I just don’t like watching them for some reason. Maybe it’s a Buck/McCarver thing and the way their commentary gets when the Cardinals are involved. Maybe it’s the Best Fans in Baseball thing. But no, I can’t see myself cheering for the Cardinals at least until the World Series (I’m an NL guy) and maybe not even then.

American League:

1. Athletics: This is basically the “Major League” team here. Their owner is trying to move them and they play in a ballpark that is literally full of crap. I also want to see Bartolo Colon raise the AL Championship trophy while sucking on a BBQ rib bone or something. Plus: I’m covering the World Series again this year and I’d like to return to the Bay Area without being near death’s door due to that plague or whatever it was I had last year in San Francisco.

2. Tigers: Nostalgia. It will make my girlfriend happy and if my girlfriend is happy I’m happy. I’m not anything approaching a Tigers fan anymore, but I’ve met a lot in the past few years and I like them. Plus I know the fun places to go in Detroit now. Shut up, there are fun places in Detroit.

3. Indians: More viva Ohio. More comeuppance for the Boston scribes who thought Terry Francona was a problem (or who let the front office tell that story for a while without pushback). Chief Wahoo makes it hard, but I’ll get over it.

4. Rays: There is still some underdog appeal here and I’m a sucker for good starting pitching, but I feel like Joe Maddon’s Phil Jackson impression has worn thin and I really can’t root for a team that features a rapist, an anti-semite and a homophobe.

5. Red Sox: Eh, it’s been a nice turnaround and there are some likable players here, but non-Sox fans rooting for them is almost as bad as non-Yankees fans rooting for New York. They’re the classic overdog. Plus, they tend to play games that last until 1AM and I just can’t do that every October. The one saving grace is that I’ve never been to Fenway and now I possibly could. But I could also just fly there next summer if I want and not have to endure Sox October baseball.

So that’s how it breaks down for me. Lots of appealing options and a potential Red Sox-Cardinals series that may drive me back into being a football fan.

What’s your view on all of this? If your team tanks or has already been eliminated, who ya got?

Noah Syndergaard refused an MRI for his sore biceps

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Mets’ right-hander Noah Syndergaard will take the hill on Sunday afternoon, just three days after he was scratched from a start due to right biceps tendinitis and shoulder discomfort. Syndergaard told reporters that he refused recommended medical testing on his arm because he felt “ready to go” after taking anti-inflammation medication and tossing a bullpen session on Friday. “I think I know my body best,” the right-hander said. “I’m pretty in tune with my body, and that’s exactly why I refused to take the MRI.”

It’s an unusual decision for a pitcher who has already succumbed to several serious arm issues, some as recent as last season, but as club GM Sandy Alderson told the New York Times’ James Wagner, the Mets aren’t in a position to force the issue.

This is a tense time for the Mets, whose lineup has been fraught with injuries of nearly every variety, from Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issue to Steven Matz‘s elbow inflammation and David Wright‘s cervical disc herniation. Syndergaard’s setback last week didn’t appear too serious, but it would make sense for the team to take things slowly with their best still-healthy hurler. Instead, they’ll push forward on Sunday against the Nationals and hope that Syndergaard’s read on his biceps issue is an accurate one.

The 24-year-old righty is 1-1 through his first four starts of 2017 with a 1.73 ERA, 0.0 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 in 26 innings. He’s scheduled to make his first start against the Nationals on Sunday at 1:35 PM ET.

And That Happened: Saturday’s Scores and Highlights

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Saturday’s games featured Jake Lamb‘s record-setting home run, Ivan Nova‘s sterling outing against the Marlins, and an impressive walk-off at Dodger Stadium. Here are the rest of the day’s scores and highlights:

Yankees 12, Orioles 4: So much for the Yankees blowing past their quota of runs on Friday night. They returned in full force on Saturday, dominating the Orioles in regulation innings with a 12-run display. Home runs were, again, the name of the game, with Brett Gardner going deep twice for his first two homers of the season and Austin Romine and Aaron Judge tacking on an extra couple of blasts to pad the Yankees’ eight-run lead. (That’s home run No. 10 for Judge, by the way, a record-tying total by a rookie in his first month of big league games.)

Mets 5, Nationals 3: The Mets are still dealing with a slew of injuries, some of which have drastically thinned their outfield reserves over the last several weeks. With Brandon Nimmo and Yoenis Cespedes hampered by hamstring issues, left fielder Michael Conforto rose to the occasion, hitting two home runs in the Mets’ 5-3 win over the Nationals on Saturday. He boosted the club to their first lead in the fifth inning, plunking a two-run homer into the right field bleachers, then reemerged in the eighth with an insurance home run off of Enny Romero.

Blue Jays 4, Rays 1: The Blue Jays still have the worst record in the majors, but you wouldn’t know it from their dominant outing on Saturday. Francisco Liriano limited the Rays to one run over five innings, backed by a strong showing from the ‘pen to maintain the club’s three-run lead. Kendrys Morales put Toronto on the map in the first inning, scoring on a fielding error by Tampa Bay’s Tim Beckham, while Russell Martin and Justin Smoak decorated the Jays’ efforts with an RBI double and two-run home run to even the series.

Cubs 7, Red Sox 4: Hanley Ramirez may not own the longest home run of 2017, but he set a record that may take longer to beat: the longest home run hit at Fenway Park.* Ramirez belted a 469-footer off of Cubs’ right-hander John Lackey in the third inning, catapulting a 1-0 pitch over the Green Monster to break the season record set by Kris Bryant’s 449-foot homer on Friday. He even snuck in a few celebratory kisses after rounding the bases.

Ramirez’s home run beat his own previous mark, measured at 468 feet last May.

*In the Statcast era

White Sox 6, Tigers 4 (10 innings): We’re only through one month of the regular season, so it’s pointless to fret about slumps and slow starts right now. Still, the White Sox were able to breathe a sigh of relief when veteran slugger Melky Cabrera finally recorded his first home run of the year, a 10th-inning game-winner off of Detroit left-hander Justin Wilson. It’s the sixth consecutive win for the White Sox, which keeps them just half a game ahead of the Indians in the AL Central.

Pirates 4, Marlins 0: It’s hardly exaggerating to call this the best game of Ivan Nova’s career. The right-hander tossed a three-hitter at Marlins Park on Saturday, striking out seven and setting down nine scoreless frames. Not only did it mark Nova’s fifth complete game in a Pirates’ uniform, but it was the third complete game shutout of his eight-year career.

Indians 4, Mariners 3: It only took one inning to decide the Mariners’ fate on Saturday. They got on the board with consecutive home runs from Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager in the first, then promptly erased their three-run lead when the Indians lassoed four runs in the bottom of the inning. From the second inning through the end of the game, neither team advanced a runner past second base, preserving the Indians’ one-run lead and bringing them within half a game of the division lead.

Rangers 6, Angels 3: Sure, hitting for the cycle is a rare feat in and of itself, but how many major league players can do it with one shoe on?

Carlos Gomez completed his second career cycle on Saturday, beginning with a first inning double that cost him exactly one cleat:

He returned (with both cleats) for a triple, base hit and a two-run homer, becoming the first Rangers’ player to hit for the cycle since Adrian Beltre defeated the Astros with his third career cycle in 2015.

Braves 11, Brewers 3: The Braves have played with a short-handed bench lately, forcing manager Brian Snitker to engineer some creative alternatives (including, but not limited to, the use of starter Julio Teheran as a pinch-hitter and -runner). Thankfully, no such alternatives were needed on Saturday, especially after Matt Kemp helped vault the Braves to an eight-run lead with the first three-homer game of his career:

Athletics 2, Astros 1: Andrew Triggs is looking more and more like a bonafide starter these days. He anchored the A’s 2-1 win with seven shutout innings, allowing five hits and fanning nine before handing the game over to the bullpen. The A’s were similarly stymied by Houston right-hander Joe Musgrove through the better part of seven innings, but rallied with a pair of home runs from Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis to secure the lead — and their 11th win.

Rockies 7, Diamondbacks 6: Is it even worth bragging about hitting the longest home run of the year when the record gets shattered every other day? Perhaps not, but it’s difficult to imagine someone hitting a ball much further than Jake Lamb’s 481-foot two-run shot off of Colorado’s Tyler Anderson this weekend:

Lamb’s home run ranks eleventh in estimated home run distance during the Statcast era. Only nine hitters have recorded longer home runs, topping out at Giancarlo Stanton‘s 504-foot blast last August.

Dodgers 6, Phillies 5: No one would have blamed you for turning off the Dodgers’ game last night. Few would have faulted you for trying to beat L.A. traffic by skipping out of Dodger Stadium in the eighth inning, when the Phillies padded their three-run lead with Andrew Knapp‘s first home run of the season. If you had, however, you would have missed a true storybook ending.

Down 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Yasiel Puig worked an eight-pitch at-bat against Philadelphia right-hander Hector Neris, prevailing with a 416-foot home run that sank into the center field bleachers. Neris wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. His at-bat against Cody Bellinger only lasted one-eighth as long, ending on a long fly ball that ricocheted off of the right field foul pole for the rookie’s second major league home run. Justin Turner provided the game-tying knock, going back-to-back-to-back with Puig and Bellinger, while Adrian Gonzalez polished off the rally with a two-out, game-winning base hit.

 

Padres 12, Giants 4: The Padres leapfrogged their injury-riddled division rivals on Saturday with their first double-digit win of the year, breaking out in the sixth with an eight-run inning that saw 11 batters, an RBI double, two RBI singles, a bases-loaded walk, an RBI force out, Wil Myerssixth home run of the season, and the complete implosion of the Giants’ bullpen.