Don Mattingly AP

Last night was not Don Mattingly’s finest hour

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Carlos Beltran delivered the walkoff RBI single in the 13th inning last night to lead the Cardinals to a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS, but a number of questionable decisions from Don Mattingly set the events in motion.

The first occurred in the top of the eighth inning after Adrian Gonzalez reached on a leadoff walk and was removed in favor of pinch-runner Dee Gordon. The idea was for Gordon to take off and steal second base, but he didn’t run on the first two pitches to Yasiel Puig and was eventually erased on a force out. The decision to remove Gonzalez for a pinch-runner came back to bite the Dodgers multiple times, as Michael Young entered the game to play first base and hit into inning-ending double plays out of the cleanup spot in the 10th and 12th innings. While the first one required an excellent throw from Beltran in right field, the second was set up after Mattingly had Mark Ellis bunt Carl Crawford over to second base, which was quickly countered by Mike Matheny intentionally walking Hanley Ramirez to pitch to Young.

For Mattingly’s part, he told Phil Rogers of MLB.com after the game that he didn’t regret his decision to remove Gonzalez for Gordon in the eighth.

“Well, it’s one of those [situations] that you’ve got to shoot your bullet when you get a chance,” Mattingly said. “If we don’t use [Gordon] there and the next guy hits a ball in the gap and he doesn’t score and we don’t score there, we’re going to say, ‘Why didn’t you use Dee?’ So it was our opportunity to run him. Obviously, Yasiel swung early, and it didn’t work out for us. But it’s still a situation that I don’t think we would [do differently]. You get a guy on in that inning, and you have to take a shot at scoring a run.”

But that’s not all. While Matheny used his closer Trevor Rosenthal for two innings in a tie game, Mattingly preferred to hold Kenley Jansen for a save situation. This caused him to use relievers like Ronald Belisario, J.P. Howell, and Chris Withrow in extra innings first. Mattingly was finally forced to turn to Jansen in the bottom of the 13th after Withrow allowed a one-out single to Daniel Descalso and walked Matt Carpenter, but Beltran quickly ended things with the walkoff single. Perhaps things would have turned out differently if Jansen was given a chance to begin the 13th clean, but it sounds like that was never Mattingly’s intention. In fact, he told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com that holding Jansen out for a save situation is “pretty much what happens with the closer.”

There’s still a lot of baseball left to be played and the Dodgers have a chance to even things up today with their ace Clayton Kershaw on the mound, but they find themselves in an early hole in part due to Mattingly’s failed strategy.

Mets owners get some breathing room on their Bernie Madoff settlement payments

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stands on the field before baseball's Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Associated Press
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For years the central fact of life of the New York Mets has been that their owners, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, lost a ton of money after investing it with friend and business partner Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It has hampered their payroll and led to huge amounts of borrowing and restructuring that, before last year’s pennant run, seemed like it’d be a millstone on the Mets competitive prospects for years to come.

In addition to losing money, it was later determined that Katz and the Wilpons unfairly gained in some other respects and thus they ended up having their phony earnings clawed back via a settlement with the trustee managing the fallout of the Madoff scandal.  The upshot: the Wilpons and Katz, in addition to their losses, were ordered to pay nearly $60 million dollars back, half payable this week, half payable next year. That’s a lot of money for anyone to fork over and this week’s payment loomed large.

Now, however, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Wilpons and Katz will get some breathing room. Specifically, they have modified their agreement with the trustee and some of the owed money has been deferred. Instead of some $29 million payable this week, they will only have to pay $16 million. The remainder will be paid in four installments — from 2017 through 2020 — with an interest rate of 3.5 percent on the unpaid balance, Rubin says.

Now, there obviously was no promise that the $13 million saved this week be invested in the baseball team, but it’s probably a good thing overall for the Mets if their owners’ debt payments are reduced a bit.

Mike Napoli hit a homer for a fan with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 30: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night a fan named Kathi Heintzelman showed up at Progressive Field in Cleveland with a sign asking Indians first baseman Mike Napoli to hit a home run for her and to give her a hug. But there was a reason beyond her love for Mike Napoli. She’s starting chemotherapy today and the hug and homer would be a nice thing.  Hard to disagree with that, even if everyone knows that ballplayers can’t hit homers on demand.

Well, most players can’t. Mike Napoli did the easy part before the game, giving her a hug. Then in the sixth inning, he went yard:

 

Whether you believe that such things can be fated or if you merely acknowledge that Heintzelman asked Napoli for a homer at a good time — he’s on a hot streak right now and has hit bombs in four of his last 11 games — it’s a great story.

 

The Twins recall Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton
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Byron Buxton has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester by the Twins.

Buxton will replace Danny Santana, who was placed on the disabled list following a hamstring injury. But the bigger picture here is that Buxton will get a fresh go-around to show that he is the future of the Twins like so many assume he will be. The 22-year-old hasn’t hit so far in the majors, but he batted .336/.403/.603 with six homers, four steals, and a 26/11 K/BB ratio over 129 plate appearances after his demotion to Triple-A last month.

At this point the Twins, who stink on ice, need to just put their top young player in the game and let him learn to swim at the big league level rather than try to squeak out a few extra relatively meaningless wins with guys who won’t be part of the next contending Twins team.

92-year-old World War II vet throws a nifty ceremonial first pitch

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 9.04.09 AM
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Think of how many bad ceremonial first pitches you’ve seen. From the worm burners from local business owners and pillars of the community at minor league games to ex-big leaguers who obviously haven’t picked up a ball since they retired to the famous celebrity ones that go viral the next day, there are probably a lot more bad first pitches out there than good ones.

But when the good ones come, they’re really enjoyable. And few are more enjoyable than the one which preceded yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game in Seattle. The pitcher: Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old veteran of World War II. He did it in his dress whites. He ran out onto the field beforehand. And though his catcher didn’t set up the full 60 feet, six inches away from where Waldron threw it, it was still a spiffy pitch. Way better than most: