And that, as they say, is that.
Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:
Cardinals 9, Cubs 0: The Cards clinch the NL Central on the game’s final day and they did it quite easily, jumping out to an 8-0 lead after three innings and coasting from there. Well, Jack Flaherty didn’t coast. He, once again, dominated, allowing only two hits over seven shutout innings. It was the ninth time in 15 second half starts that he didn’t allow an earned run. Matt Carpenter hit a three-run homer. Dexter Fowler and Paul Goldschmidt went deep as well.
Rockies 4, Brewers 3: This game could’ve mattered but once the Cardinals were well ahead of the Cubs early going the Brewers’ shot at tying them for the division and forcing a one-game playoff was out the window, rendering this game meaningless. So, of course, it went 13 innings. Craig Counsell after the game: “It got to a point where it was irrelevant today, so it was finish the game.” Which makes me wonder if the wild pitch thrown by Jacob Faria to allow the Rockies to win it in the bottom of the 13th was really an accident. The Brewers will head to Washington to face the Nats in the Wild Card game tomorrow evening.
Red Sox 5, Orioles 4: All that mattered here was Eduardo Rodríguez going for win 20 and, nah, he didn’t get it because the Sox’ pen blew it. It happens. The lesson here: don’t depend on anyone in life, ever. Rafael Devers singled in the walkoff run though, so it was all fine in the end for Boston. Such as it is, anyway. Win number 84. A winter full of austerity ahead. So, so lovely and encouraging. For the Orioles: loss number 108, which is a seven-game improvement over 2018. Woof.
Nationals 8, Indians 2: The Nats win their eighth straight heading into the postseason. Too bad momentum is bullcrap. The question now is whether, if they beat the Brewers in the Wild Card game, the Nats count that as winning a postseason series. We’ll leave that philosophical question for Tuesday night. For now, know that Kurt Suzuki hit a two-run shot in the third inning. Brian Dozier drove in two and Gerardo Parra drove in three to end the season on a winning note.
Dodgers 9, Giants 0: Sixteen pitchers were used here so I don’t even know if this counts as a real game. The eight used by the Dodgers only gave up three hits and shut out the Giants. Corey Seager hit a three-run double and Will Smith hit a two run homer for the Dodgers. The lead story here was that it was Bruce Bochy’s last game. If he’s done — and I presume he is — Cooperstown awaits.
Also, I just saw a photo of Barry Bonds and Bruce Bochy on Bonds’ Instagram. For a minute I had forgotten they had overlapped in San Francisco, but yep, Bonds’ last season, 2007, was Bochy’s first season as Giants manager. Bonds’ first season as a Giant, 1993, was Will Clark’s last season as a Giant. In Clark’s first season in the bigs, 1986, he was a teammate with Danny Driessen, who briefly played in San Francisco. Driessen’s first season in the bigs, 1973, was both the year I was born and the year his teammate, Pete Rose, won the NL MVP. Rose broke into the bigs in 1963, a teammate of Joe Nuxhall. Nuxhall was a famous teenaged rookie in 1944, a year he shared a clubhouse with Estell Crabtree, who made his big league debut with the 1929 Reds, who had Ivey Wingo on the roster. Ivey Wingo broke into the bigs with the 1911 St. Louis Cardinals, whose part-time catcher was Roger Besnahan, who played for the 1897 Washington Senators, whose left fielder was Tom Brown, who debuted in 1882 with the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association. That team had a player named Charlie Waitt, who first played for the 1875 St. Louis Brown Stockings of the National Association, which, in turn, employed Lip Pike, who was one of baseball’s first legit stars, debuting for the National Association in 1871 after playing for several years in the 1860s. It was during that stretch that he’d become one of the first players ever to be paid to play baseball, which created a scandal. To wit:
“While others had certainly been paid before 1866, Pike, along with two teammates on the ostensibly amateur Philadelphia Athletics, was ordered to appear before the judiciary committee of the governing National Association of Base Ball Players to answer charges that he had accepted $20 for his services. Although the matter was dropped when nobody bothered to show up for the hearing, the incident exposed for the first time the wide spread practice of paying supposedly amateur players.”
Pike. Rose. Bonds. Man, Bochy’s baseball tree is riddled with notoriousness.
Rangers 6, Yankees 1: Lance Lynn struck out ten while pitching one-run ball into the eight inning in the last game ever played at the Ballpark at Arlington, which is what I’ll call it no matter what the corporate goons who named it and its successor ballpark call it. They’re not paying me, right, so why should I comply? The game stories from this game offered all kinds of quasi-historic factoids about this game and the end of the time in this park but for the love of Jeff, how are we supposed to wax nostalgic about a ballpark that barely lasted long enough to reach drinking age?
Reds 3, Pirates 1: Aristides Aquino, Brian O'Grady and Alex Blandino homered for Cincinnati in Clint Hurdle’s last game as Pirates manager CORRECTION: He was canned before the game. The Reds, as always, will enter the offseason thinking that they’re turning the corner on a rebuild. The Pirates, if they’re sensible, will realize they have a grease fire on their hands. We’ll see if either team acts in accordance with their current state this winter. I give the chances of it happening *takes bite of meat, chews it* one in three.
Marlins 4, Phillies 3: Brad Miller hit two homers but Starlin Castro homered and doubled and Martín Prado and Isan Díaz went deep for the Marlins as they end the Phillies season at .500. Bye Gabe. If it’s not actually bye for Gabe, well, sorry Philly, I can’t help ya. You need a better manager.
Astros 8, Angels 5: Houston finishes with 107 wins, guaranteeing it home field advantage for every single postseason series in which it’s lucky to play. Not that luck will be required, as I presume they will be the favorites to win it all by those who engage in the silly practice of predicting playoff results (note: our playoff predictions will run later today). Here Gerrit Cole probably wrapped up the Cy Young Award by winning his 20th game — his 16th straight — and finishing the season with the AL’s best ERA and the most strikeouts. Monster season for Cole and the Astros, for whom I suspect either A’s or Rays will be a bone to be chewed starting late this week.
Blue Jays 8, Rays 3: The Rays lose their final game before heading to Oakland for Wednesday night’s Wild Card game. They finish with 96 wins, one shy of their franchise record. The Jays, for as bad as the season was overall — 95 losses — were not too terribly far under .500 in the second half, won nine of their last 13 and, of course, have a ton of young talent. Something to grow on I guess. Teoscar Hernández homered for the third straight game. Breyvic Valera homered too. Justin Smoak, in what may very well be his last game as a Blue Jay, knocked in three.
Mets 7, Braves 6: Dominic Smith hadn’t played in over two months but he hit a walkoff three-run homer in the 11th to give the Mets the win. Again, momentum is crap, but it’s worth noting that the Braves have lost five of six heading into the playoffs and, what’s worse, are really banged up at the moment. They have a few days to lick their wounds before facing off against the Cardinals in the NLDS.
White Sox 5, Tigers 3: Tim Anderson took an 0-for-2 but he finishes the year as the AL batting champ with a mark of .335. The Tigers took their 114th loss of the year, which isn’t even a team record, though it would be for most clubs. Detroit has had a lot of good baseball teams over the years but when they crater between runs of success they really crater. Indeed, they’ve hit 100 losses or more – often a lot more — during what we’d now call every rebuild period going back to the early 50s.
Diamondbacks 1, Padres 0: Tied at zero thanks to blanks from a bunch of bullpen arms until the bottom of the ninth when Tim Locastro hit an infield single to walk it off. The real highlight for the Snakes, though, was Taijuan Walker returning after missing all of this season almost all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He started, tossed only 15 pitches and recorded only one inning before packing it in for the offseason, but big league action is big league action.
Mariners 3, Athletics 1: Kyle Seager hit a two-run homer as the M’s beat the mailing-it-in A’s. That’s not my gloss on their performance, that’s what their starting pitcher, Tanner Roark actually said:
“I don’t know. It was a 12 o’clock game, last game of the season, we’ve already clinched a wild-card spot, so I’m sure you guys can imagine where our minds are at,” Roark said.
MLB went to the “everyone starts the final game at the same time” thing after the schedule and state of the playoff races accidentally made it so that game 162 was fantastically exciting one particular year. It hasn’t done that too much recently due to so many bad teams and so many dominant teams giving us lackluster playoff races, and even the one race that was still undecided until yesterday — the NL Central — ended with a whimper when the Cards beat the hell out of the Cubs. Feel like the league should do something about that rather than find new and fun incentives for clubs to slash payroll and claim the future is more important than the present, but no one asks me.
Royals 5, Twins 4: The Royals won on a sac fly in the bottom of the ninth for the walkoff win. Jorge Soler hit his AL-leading 48th dinger. There were three Twins homers, giving the club 307 on the year, which was one more than the Yankees finished with and gobs and gobs more than any other team had ever finished with before this very strange season.
A final note. After the Yankees-Rangers game, Aaron Judge was asked how he felt about the Yankees season. Here is what he said:
“It’s something special, but I always grade our seasons, to be honest, in how we do in the postseason. That’s all the regular season is for, it’s to get in a better position going into the postseason to make your road a little easier. All this hard work, all these guys getting injured, coming back, it’ll pay off if we’re holding up that World Series trophy. I’ll give you a better grade I think at the end.”
I get that. I get that players, especially if they play for the Yankees, view the postseason as all that truly matters and anything less than postseason success as a disappointment. Any of you who have read this feature for any amount of time in its 12 years of existence know, however, that I don’t think of baseball in those terms. Yes, the playoffs are important and the entire point is to win the World Series, but this feature was born of my love for the everyday-ness of the baseball regular season. The time of year in which baseball, as a friend of mine put it last night, is a constant companion and a comfort. It’s the soundtrack and scenery of summer, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet, sometimes in the foreground sometimes in the background but always there for us when we need it. That’s the greatest joy baseball brings me, even if almost all of the game’s most dramatic moments we remember occur in October.
So, with apologies to Mr. Judge, I’m a tad melancholy today. Not just because there is no baseball today but because there is no more of what I feel is the best baseball left until next spring. Those games in which baseball is, truly, a pastime.
Thanks for sharing your mornings with me this year. We’re always here at this website, of course, but we’ll see you again in this particular space next March 27, the morning after Opening Day.