Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Dodgers

Adam LaRoche joins Harold Baines with historically-rare achievement

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When Adam LaRoche stepped to the plate in the ninth inning against Kenley Jansen, pinch-hitting for Tyler Moore, he could have quoted Dante from the movie Clerks, saying, “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” The Nationals’ first baseman has been bothered lately by a back injury and was out of Wednesday’s starting lineup.

The ninth inning was the start of an historic day for LaRoche. With Bryce Harper on first base after a lead-off single, LaRoche belted a Kenley Jansen offering over the fence in left field for a game-tying two-run home run. The Nats tacked on one more run later in the inning to take a 4-3 lead, but the Dodgers tied it in the bottom half to send the game into extra innings.

In the 12th inning, with the bases loaded and one out, LaRoche ripped a single to left field to plate two more runs, giving him four RBI in two at-bats. It seemed the Nationals were on their way to a 5-3 win. However, with two outs in the bottom of the 12th, Carl Crawford hit a game-tying two-run home run and the game went on.

LaRoche took his third at-bat in the 14th inning with runners on the corners and one out. The 34-year-old hit into what appeared to be an inning-ending double play, but hustled down the line and beat out Dee Gordon’s throw to first base and the Nationals took a 6-5 lead. LaRoche had driven in his fifth run. Asdrubal Cabrera then homered and the Nats hung on to win 8-5 in 14 innings.

How often has a player entered the game in the ninth inning or later and accrued five RBI? Just one other time in baseball history. Harold Baines accomplished the feat for the Orioles in 1999 against the White Sox.

The Mets are set to host the NL wild card game

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 01: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets is congratulated after hitting a two-run home run against the Philadelphia Phillies during the sixth inning of a game at Citizens Bank Park on October 1, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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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.

Indians’ postseason rotation is still up in the air

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 16: Starting pitcher Corey Kluber #28 of the Cleveland Indians pitches during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field on September 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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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.