Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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In case you were unclear that the Cubs clinched the division last night

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One of my favorite things about September baseball are the lineups in games after a team clinches the division. It’s especially good if the clinch happened late at night and the next game is a day game. That’s what happened with the Cubs last night, as they did not actually clinch until the Giants-Cardinals game had ended in San Francisco. They play the Brewers this afternoon. Which leads to this:

And here I thought Tommy La Stella didn’t want to play in any minor league games.

Ryan Howard will play a lot in the Phillies final home games

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Recently things got grumbly between Ryan Howard and the Phillies as Howard’s playing time was reduced. He’s clearly on his way out of Philly and, as a wise man once said, everything ends badly; otherwise it wouldn’t end.

But there’s at least some chance that Howard’s end will be somewhat enjoyable for him. Pete Mackanin said yesterday that the first baseman will start Howard in each of the final two home weekends, at least against righthanders. Previously Mackanin said that Tommy Joseph would get those starts too, but he reversed course, acknowledging that Howard deserves a sendoff and that a handful of at bats for Joseph wouldn’t matter.

That’s the right call. Howard may not have been the player everyone hoped he’d be these past few years, but he is still loved by Phillies fans for what he did before. They deserve the chance to cheer him one last time and he deserves the chance to hear those cheers.

Hanley Ramirez’s walkoff blast stuns the Yankees

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The Yankees were in the driver’s seat last night, with Masahiro Tanaka allowing one run on four hits over seven innings and Yankees hitters knocking Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez out of the box before two innings could be completed. Yep, that was exactly what New York needed as it begins an 11-game road trip during which its Wild Card dreams will be realized or shattered.

David Ortiz hit a homer in the eighth to make things closer, but it was still only 5-2 and if you give Dellin Betances a three-run lead in the ninth you’re usually gonna do OK. He hasn’t been charged with four runs or more since June of last year. He had only done it one other time before that, way back in 2013. He’s a different pitcher now. One who is normally a lock in such situations.

But not last night. Maybe because he’s been worked hard lately, having pitched for three straight days. Indeed, that’s why Joe Girardi didn’t start the ninth with him, likely trying to give him a break in what should’ve been an easy save for Tommy Layne or Blake Parker. That didn’t happen, though. Girardi only let Layne face one batter, bringing in Parker, who hit the only batter he faced. With one on and one out, it was Betances’ game to save.

Betances walked Dustin Pedroia. Then he and the guy Parker plunked, Chris Young, advanced to second and third, respectively, on a pitcher’s indifference. Young was thrown out at home for out number two, but then Betances gave up two RBI singles to cut the lead to 5-4 with two men on. Then Hanley happened:

I’ve seen a lot of Yankees fans angry at Girardi over all of this. But Betances is normally reliable and, at some point every year, your closer is gonna pitch a few games in a row and be asked to get you out of a jam despite not having his best stuff. It often works. Last night it didn’t. The Red Sox have a lot of good hitters, you see.