Mike Gosling goes out in style

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Mike Gosling.jpgThis is the first and probably the last time I’ll ever write about Mike Gosling on this blog, but I was in the crowd last night to see him pitch and I feel very grateful for having been there.

Unless you’re a hardcore Diamondbacks fan, you probably have no idea who Mike Gosling is. Short version: he’s a pitcher who came out of Stanford and was taken by Arizona in the second round of the 2001 draft. After a year of decent work in double A, Gosling seemingly met his match in the Pacific Coast League, putting up three straight years of ERAs in the fives, with increasingly poor peripherals.

The Diamondbacks waived him and the Reds picked him up, where it was more of the same.  Then the Blue Jays took him and turned him into a reliever for a season only to release him. Then a half season stop with the Twins organization and finally the Indians.  There were cups of coffee here and there, but he’s basically been a AAA soldier for several years.

Last night Gosling got the start for the Columbus Clippers.  I was at the game, and though Carlos Santana’s two-homer, five-RBI night was the big story, Gosling pitched well, shutting out a very good Durham Bulls team over six and a third innings. He left to the polite but muted applause of the crowd, most of whom were at Huntington Park for the dime-a-dog night promotion, not the final bow of Mike Gosling’s non-storied career.

And it was the final bow:  Mike Gosling announced after the game that he was retiring back home to San Diego in order to spend more time with his wife, Kim, and his 4-month-old son, Max.  He had actually made his decision before the game, but hadn’t told anyone outside of team management. Maybe that was to preserve the integrity of the game. Maybe that was in case he changed his mind (though on a cold and wet Ohio night, I’m sure the prospect of heading back to the warm embrace of his family in the sunny climes of San Diego rendered a change of heart impossible). But no matter the reason, last night was it for him, and I’m glad I was there to see it.

Not because Mike Gosling was anything special as a pitcher, obviously. Indeed, as the game was happening I really didn’t give him much if any thought.  But knowing now that it was his last game, I’m struck with a certain joy and wonder about it all.

How many ballplayers leave the game on their own terms? Sure, maybe Gosling’s original terms were to leave the game following his 350th win and seventh World Series ring, but at some point over the past seven or eight years he likely readjusted to reality, accepting the fact that he was basically a double-A pitcher kicking around triple-A baseball and that the future held no further glory for him.  He turns 30 this fall, and he knows the score. Last night the score for him was zeros. However sad it is to walk away from something you’ve done since you were a kid, leaving like that rather than being released by one team and shunned by all the rest has to make the process a bit sweeter.

As does the reason for leaving.  As I write this, Mike Gosling is probably sitting in Port Columbus International airport waiting for a plane that will take him home to San Diego to see Kim and Max and to begin his new life.  How nice is it that he left his old one walking as tall as anyone could reasonably hope under the circumstances?  How nice is it that someone — in this case a Columbus Dispatch reporter — made a note of it so that we could know of this small but, in its own way, beautiful moment?

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.