And with that, another baseball regular season comes to an end. This is always a bittersweet day for me. It’s great that the playoffs are starting because there is always magic to be found in the playoffs. But baseball, for me anyway, is about the everyday and the mundane. About the constant background presence of a game every night — a game you can tune in and out of as you go about your daily business — as opposed to an Important Event Which Demands Attention like a playoff game. There’s something nice about a lower-intensity distraction and something stressful about an all-or-nothing undertaking which, to me anyway, makes the regular season more enjoyable in the aggregate, even if the playoffs create far more memorable moments. And as such, seeing the regular season end always makes me a bit sad.
But, as Vin Scully said during the ninth inning of his final game yesterday afternoon: “Don’t be sad because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I’m glad And That Happens happens, and I’m glad you’ve shared it with me most mornings for the past nine seasons.
Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:
Giants 7, Dodgers 1: The Giants clinch a wild card spot with a laugher of a victory against a Dodgers team which seemed pretty checked out, to be honest. That’s OK for everyone except Cardinals fans, though, as it gave Scully more time to tell stores and reflect on his 67 years in the booth. As for the Giants: the entire second half collapse is now irrelevant. They once again have a one-and-done game in front of them with Madison Bumgarner pitching. It’s an even year. My preseason prediction of them winning it all may not lead the odds in Vegas right now, but it’s still in play.
Blue Jays 2, Red Sox 1: The Blue Jays clinch the top Wild Card spot as Aaron Sanchez takes a no-hitter into the seventh. If you care about such things, David Ortiz‘s final regular season at bat was a little squib in front of the plate resulting in a putout. Just as it was appropriate and sentimental for Vin Scully to end his career 80 years to the date of becoming a baseball fan, it would’ve been fitting if Roberto Osuna had misfired on he throw to first, if Ortiz had been safe and if he had then spent his evening berating the official scorer until it was turned into a hit. Wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house. *Sarah McLachlan starts singing “I will remember you . . .”*
Braves 1, Tigers 0: I told you on Friday that the Tigers had a tough job to beat this Braves team at this particular time. They dropped two of three to Atlanta and with that their season comes to an end. Julio Teheran dominated Detroit, striking out 12 in seven shutout innings as Justin Verlander got no run support despite seven strong innings of his own during which he gave up only a first inning sac fly. For the Tigers, it’s yet another offseason of decisions about whether to try to keep things up with the current approach or break things up dramatically in an effort to fix the flaws of this very top-heavy team. The Braves, meanwhile, start packing for their new home in Cobb County and start wondering if their strong final two months of the season make them a lot closer to contention than they seemed in the first half.
Orioles 5, Yankees 2: Matt Wieters hit two homers and Kevin Gausman allowed only two runs while pitching into the eighth inning as the Orioles snagged the second Wild Card. This is wonderful for O’s fans. It, and all of the other results, stinks for baseball fans who wanted to see two or three days of tiebreaker chaos. Oh well, there are movies to watch tonight I suppose. My suggestion: “L’Avventura.” Saw that over the weekend and now early 1960s Monica Vitti tops my all-time celebrity crush power rankings.
Cardinals 10, Pirates 4: A win is nice but when you don’t control your own destiny, it’s not enough. The Giants win eliminated St. Louis despite their 10-run outburst against the Bucs. Matt Carpenter drove in four of those runs and Adam Wainwright was effective for six innings, but the 15-game dropoff from 2015 to 2016 was too much to overcome.
Angels 8, Astros 1: Mike Trout reached base three more times and drove in one, finishing with a line of .315/.441/.550 with 29 homers and an even 100 RBI. Part of me hopes that BBWAA voters are still hung up on RBI and that that last one puts him over for the MVP, but I suspect the Mookie Betts cake is already baked. Maybe he needed one more homer and one more stolen base to make the 30/30 club. Maybe we should all just laugh at how ridiculous it is that I’m sitting here pleading my case for the greatness of a guy who is easily baseball’s best player. All I know is that, one day, people will be writing articles about how weird it is that Trout only won one or two MVP awards during his career and that the reason he didn’t win more was that he was too boringly and consistently excellent.
Rays 6, Rangers 4: Extra innings in a meaningless road game on the last day of the season probably feels like being held for detention on the last day of school before summer vacation. The Rays rallied in the 10th, though, to make it as quick as it could’ve been. Now the Rangers sit back and wait to see if they host Baltimore or Toronto in the ALDS. I don’t care too much about who they face, but I do fear a week’s worth of content about the Jose Bautista bat flip and all of that jazz a Texas-Toronto rematch would entail.
Nationals 10, Marlins 7: The best part of this game is that Max Scherzer won his 20th and drove in four runs at the plate and those two things — wins and hitting; the least important categories for gauging a pitcher’s individual value — will likely put him over for the Cy Young on many voters’ ballots. Whhhheeeee . . .
Phillies 5, Mets 2: Ryan Howard gets a nice sendoff from the Phillies, who will buy out his contract rather than exercise his 2017 option. He goes out with an 0-for-4, ensuring that his 2016 batting average finishes below the Mendoza Line, but that’s pretty academic at this point. With his departure, the last of the 2008 Phillies are gone. At least from Philly.
Twins 6, White Sox 3: Byron Buxton led off the game with an inside the park home run and Miguel Sano homered and drove in three. Thus begins another long winter of talking about how, if the young players develop . . . As for Chicago, Robin Ventura bows out and the Sox’ brass needs to take a long look in the mirror and ask themselves if the “add a random slugger and hope for the best” strategy is going to get them anywhere. Hint: it’s not.
Athletics 3, Mariners 2: The Mariners flipped their 76-86 of 2015 to an 86-76, but dropping two out of three to a 69-win A’s team in the final weekend ended their hopes. Here Sean Manaea allowed two runs over six innings to finish his rookie season in solid fashion.
Cubs 7, Reds 4: The best team in baseball rallied for four runs in the ninth, all coming with two outs. First Matt Szczur doubled home two runs and then Miguel Montero knocked himself and Szczur in with a homer. 103 wins are the most for the Cubs since 1910, when they won 104. They lost the World Series that year, by the way.
Brewers 6, Rockies 4: Extra innings in a meaningless game for both teams on the last day of the season probably feels like being held for detention on the last day of school before summer vacation, except this time you’re stuck in there with Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall. No, you don’t get Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, because that would make it more bearable. This is about punishment, jack. You mess with the bull, you get the horns, etc. Anyway, Andrew Susac put an end to this nonsense with a two-run homer. One meaningful bit: D.J. LeMahieu won the batting title without even playing in this game. Here are all the other league leaders in the major categories.
Diamondbacks 3, Padres 2: Down 2-1 heading into the eighth, Brandon Drury homered to tie it up and then, in the bottom of the ninth, Phil Gosselin hit a pinch-hit RBI single to give the Dbacks the walkoff win. I have to go back and check, but this may be the sole highlight from the Diamondbacks’ train wreck of a season. Not that the Padres season was anything approaching smooth sailing. Given the on-the-field futility and their front office controversy both teams have experienced this season, maybe they should do something radical like merge to form one team. Sort of like how the Steelers and Eagles did during the war. We could call them the PadreBacks or something. They could play in Yuma.
Indians 3, Royals 2: The Tigers’ loss to the Braves plus Boston’s loss to the Blue Jays plus the Indians win here gave Cleveland homefield advantage against the Red Sox in the divisional round. The over-under on the number of features on Terry Francona in Boston newspapers this week is 503.