Didi Gregorius
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Yankees clinch wild card spot on walk-off win over Orioles

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The Yankees are headed back to the postseason for the second year in a row after clinching another wild card berth. They cemented their place in the playoffs with a decisive 3-2 win over the Orioles on Saturday, courtesy of Aaron Hicks‘ walk-off double in the 11th inning.

Neither Yankees’ righty Lance Lynn nor Orioles’ rookie David Hess made it beyond the fifth inning. Hess gifted the Yankees with an early lead after giving up a pair of home runs to Aaron Hicks and Luke Voit, while Lynn managed to even things out after Cedric Mullins capitalized on a run-scoring error in the third and DJ Stewart tied it up on an RBI single in the fifth.

The AL East rivals remained locked in a bullpen battle for six long innings, allowing just eight total baserunners between them. Everything came to a head in the bottom of the 11th, however, when Didi Gregorius led off with a line drive to right field. Giancarlo Stanton struck out swinging for the first out of the inning, and the Yankees’ bad luck looked as though it was about to snowball after Hicks stepped up to the plate and fouled a ball off of his ankle. After taking a moment to recover, he was able to stand and finish out the at-bat — which ended when he roped the ball into the left field corner, giving Gregorius just enough time to beat the throw home and score the winning run.

The cherry on top? Thanks to the two home runs delivered by Hicks and Voit earlier in the game, the Yankees are now one of six teams to crush at least 250 home runs in a single season. They’ll need at least four more dingers to surpass the 253-homer record set by the 2016 Orioles, and another 15 to beat the all-time record held by the 1997 Mariners.

Astros defend barring reporter from clubhouse

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As we wrote about this morning, last night the Houston Astros, at the request of Justin Verlander, barred Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech from the clubhouse during Verlander’s media availability following the Tigers-Astros game. After Verlander was done talking to the press in the scrum setting — and after a call was placed to Major League Baseball about the matter — Fenech was allowed in.

As we noted, this was done in violation of agreements to which Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros and the Baseball Writers Association of America are parties. The agreements are meant to ensure full access to BBWAA-accredited reporters as long as they have not violated the terms of their credentials.  In no case do the clubs — and certainly not the players — have the right to bar access to BBWAA-accredited reporters. Indeed, the whole point of the BBWAA is to ensure such access and to ensure that teams cannot bar them simply because they are unhappy with their coverage or what have you.

This morning Verlander tweeted, obliquely, about “unethical behavior” on the part of Fenech that led to his request to the Astros to bar him. As we noted at the time, such an allegation — however interesting it might be — is of no consequence to the admission or barring of a reporter. If Fenech has acted unethically it’s a matter between him and his employer and, potentially, between him and the BBWAA. At the very least, if Verlander has a specific concern, it would be incumbent upon him or the Astros to take the matter up with either the Free Press or the BBWAA.

In light of all of this, it’s hard to make a case for Verlander’s request and the Astros’ honoring it. A few moments ago, however, the Astros released as statement on the matter which, basically, says, “so what?”

Which is to say, the Astros have made a decades-long agreement between the BBWAA and MLB regarding reporter access optional, because a player does not like a reporter who is covering him.  Someone without the power to alter the BBWAA-MLB relationship has just done so unilaterally. And they have done so in such a way that any player, should they decide they don’t like a reporter, will now presumably rely on it as precedent. Finally, it should be noted that in issuing this statement, the Astros have given at least some tacit credence to Verlander’s thus far unsubstantiated and unspecified allegations of unethical behavior on the part of Fenech, which seems less-than-ideal at best.

It’s your move, Major League Baseball and BBWAA. Whatcha gonna do about it?