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.

Justin Verlander named 2019 American League Cy Young Award winner

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Astros starter Justin Verlander was voted by the Baseball Writers Association of America as the 2019 American League Cy Young Award winner. Teammate Gerrit Cole finished in a close second place at 159 points. Charlie Morton finished third at 75 points, Shane Bieber fourth at 64, Lance Lynn fifth at 18, Eduardo Rodríguez and Lucas Giolito sixth at eight, and Mike Minor eighth at seven.

Verlander, 36, won the AL Cy Young Award (and AL MVP Award) in 2011 with the Tigers). He and Cole became the first pair of teammates to finish first and second on the ballot for the AL Cy Young Award. Four NL teammates accomplished the feat: Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2001 and ’02, Don Newcomb and Sal Maglie in 1956, and Mike Marshall and Andy Messersmith in 1974.

During the regular season, Verlander led all starting pitchers in wins (21), games started (34), innings pitched (223), and WHIP (0.803). He also compiled a 2.58 ERA with a 300/42 K/BB ratio. Along with a 300-strikeout season, Verlander achieved other milestones, including reaching 3,000 strikeouts for his career and 200 career postseason strikeouts (an all-time record).

2019 was not without controversy for Verlander, a future Hall of Famer, as he had a well-publicized disagreement with Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. He tried to have Fenech barred from the clubhouse during media availability despite the collective bargaining agreement ensuring access to BBWAA-credentialed reporters. It was one of many Astros-related scandals in 2019.

Verlander is the first Astro to win the Cy Young Award since Dallas Keuchel in 2015. Roger Clemens (2004) and Mike Scott (1986) also won the award back when the Astros were in the National League.