The scorching Braves broke open a 2-2 game in the eighth Tuesday, with Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Dan Uggla all hitting homers off Kelvin Herrera in a 6-3 win over the Royals.
Crushing Herrera made the victory especially impressive. While hardly a household name, Herrera has been one of the AL’s best relievers since the start of 2012. Including his first six appearances this year, he had allowed four homers and posted an 88/22 K/BB ratio in 89 2/3 innings.
The Braves hit five homers in all tonight. Juan Francisco hit the first two, both off Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie.
The eighth-inning outburst came too late for Braves starter Kris Medlen, who left after seven, so Eric O’Flaherty ended up with his third win in relief. He’s tied for the major league lead in victories.
The Braves have won 10 straight since losing their second game of the season, and they’ve outscored the oppositing 62-23 this season. They’re the only team in either league with fewer than four losses.
The only bad news for the Braves tonight was that reliever Luis Avilan went down with a hamstring injury in the ninth and had to be helped off.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?