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Stellini: Baseball isn’t coming back for a while. Now what?

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I was five years old when I attended my first big league baseball game. The Yankees played the Tigers and I remember almost nothing about it except that it was a day game, that the Yankees lost, and that one of the Tigers hit a home run.

A bit of sleuthing on Baseball-Reference tells me that this is probably the game in question seeing as it was a day game, the Yankees got walloped, and Tony Clark took Andy Pettitte deep. I remember the following year’s run to the Subway Series slightly better, but baseball remained a relatively back-burner thing for me until high school.

Thatl was when things started to change, when social media truly blossomed and I discovered things like, hey, Albert Pujols is signing with the Angels. That’s when my love for baseball really took flight. When I was an idiot and went to film school, I found myself paying more attention to baseball than to proper lighting technique. I love this game.

So yeah, the news this week sucks. We’re not going to have baseball for at least four weeks. My gut instinct tells me that it’ll be longer than that.

The game persisted through wars, through the Great Depression and complete social upheaval. It has now been brought to heel, and rightfully so as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on the world.

Now what?

Now we wait. Now we band together and support one another as we ride out this storm that is all too invisible until the coughing and nausea begins. I don’t know how long this is all going to last, but there’s going to be a great deal of quarantining and hand-washing and fear involved for some of us. Some of us have family or friends who are immunosuppressed or have underlying conditions that would make COVID-19 even scarier than it already is. We don’t have sports to serve as a distraction from that terrifying reality.

And that’s what sports are, aren’t they? They’re distractions from the banality and horrifying minutiae of everyday life. Work sucks, school sucks, your relationship sucks, your cat’s in the veterinary hospital, your bills are piling up. So you throw the game on and turn your brain off for a couple of hours. Sports can be a great canvas through which to explore the social problems of our time, and that’s one of the reasons I love writing about them, but they’re also just damn fun.

That’s gone for now. We’re not going to get to enjoy finding out who the cool surprise team is, who’s suddenly morphed into a star, or which team has a funky new schtick that’s going to become a social media sensation. At least not for a while we won’t. We’re not going to have those distractions.

I was depressed as hell when I was in film school. It was a bad time in my life. Baseball offered me a distraction. I will never forget the overwhelming joy I felt when I watched the 2014 AL Wild Card game in my dorm room. It was a crappy day in a long line of crappy days, but for that one night the A’s and the Royals put on a show for the ages, and do this day it remains in my opinion the greatest game ever played. I know there are others that have good arguments for that title. But I’m biased, because for that one night everything didn’t feel quite so miserable.

You come to this site to read about baseball, and we’re going to do our best to try to keep that bit of lively fun in your lives. This delay to the season is happening for a good reason, and it was absolutely the right decision for Rob Manfred to make. But we know that this is important to you, so we’re going to try to keep the fun going as best as we can. We’ve already got some stuff planned that we think you’ll enjoy.

Please, be well. Be smart. Wash your hands. Look after one another. And know that when this is all over, there will be baseball.

If you want to learn more about COVID-19, give the CDC’s site about the virus a read. Informing yourself is the most important step.

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Marlins clinch 1st playoff berth since 2003, beat Yanks 4-3

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK (AP) Forced from the field by COVID-19, the Miami Marlins returned with enough force to reach the playoffs for the first time since their 2003 championship.

An NL-worst 57-105 a year ago, they sealed the improbable berth on the field of the team that Miami CEO Derek Jeter and manager Don Mattingly once captained.

“I think this is a good lesson for everyone. It really goes back to the players believing,” Mattingly said Friday night after a 4-3, 10-inning win over the New York Yankees.

Miami will start the playoffs on the road Wednesday, its first postseason game since winning the 2003 World Series as the Florida Marlins, capped by a Game 6 victory in the Bronx over Jeter and his New York teammates at the previous version of Yankee Stadium.

“We play loose. We got nothing to lose. We’re playing with house money.,” said Brandon Kintzler, who got DJ LeMahieu to ground into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded after Jesus Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th. “We are a dangerous team. And we really don’t care if anyone says we’re overachievers.”

Miami (30-28), second behind Atlanta in the NL East, became the first team to make the playoffs in the year following a 100-loss season. The Marlins achieved the feat despite being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that prevented them from playing for more than a week.

After the final out, Marlins players ran onto the field, formed a line and exchanged non socially-distant hugs, then posed for photos across the mound.

“I can’t contain the tears, because it’s a lot of grind, a lot of passion,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “It wasn’t just the virus. Last year we lost 100 games. But we came out this year with the hope everything was going to be better. When we had the outbreak, the guys who got an opportunity to help the organization, thank you for everything you did.”

Miami was one of baseball’s great doubts at the start of the most shortened season since 1878, forced off the field when 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 following the opening series in Philadelphia.

“Yeah, we’ve been through a lot. Other teams have been through a lot, too,” Mattingly said “This just not a been a great situation. It’s just good to be able to put the game back on the map.”

New York (32-26) had already wrapped up a playoff spot but has lost four of five following a 10-game winning streak and is assured of starting the playoffs on the road. Toronto clinched a berth by beating the Yankees on Thursday.

“I don’t like any time somebody celebrates on our field or if we’re at somebody else’s place and they celebrate on their field,” Yankees star Aaron Judge said. “I’m seeing that too much.”

Mattingly captained the Yankees from 1991-95 and is in his fifth season managing the Marlins, Jeter captained the Yankees from 2003-14 as part of a career that included five World Series titles in 20 seasons and is part of the group headed by Bruce Sherman that bought the Marlins in October 2017.

Garrett Cooper, traded to the Marlins by the Yankees after the 2017 season, hit a three-run homer in the first inning off J.A. Happ.

After the Yankees tied it on Aaron Hicks‘ two-run double off Sandy Alcantara in the third and Judge’s RBI single off Yimi Garcia in the eighth following an error by the pitcher on a pickoff throw, the Marlins regained the lead with an unearned run in the 10th against Chad Green (3-3).

Jon Berti sacrificed pinch-runner Monte Harrison to third and, with the infield in, Starling Marte grounded to shortstop. Gleyber Torres ran at Harrison and threw to the plate, and catcher Kyle Higashioka‘s throw to third hit Harrison in the back, giving the Yankees a four-error night for the second time in three games.

With runners at second and third, Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly.

Brad Boxberger (1-0) walked his leadoff batter in the ninth but got Luke Voit to ground into a double play, and Kintzler held on for his 12th save in 14 chances.

Miami ended the second-longest postseason drought in the majors – the Seattle Mariners have been absent since 2001.

Miami returned Aug. 4 following an eight-day layoff with reinforcements from its alternate training site, the trade market and the waiver wire to replace the 18 players on the injured list and won its first five games.

“We’re just starting,” said Alcantara, who handed a 3-2 lead to his bullpen in the eighth. “We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

TOSSED

Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected for arguing from the dugout in the first inning. Plate umpire John Tumpane called out Judge on a full-count slider that appeared to drop well below the knees and Boone argued during the next pitch, to Hicks, then was ejected. Television microphones caught several of Boone’s profane shouts.

“Reacting to a terrible call and then following it up,” Boone said. “Obviously, we see Aaron get called a lot on some bad ones down.”

ODD

Pinch-runner Michael Tauchman stole second base in the eighth following a leadoff single by Gary Sanchez but was sent back to first because Tumpane interfered with the throw by catcher Chad Wallach. Clint Frazier struck out on the next pitch and snapped his bat over a leg.

SLOPPY

New York took the major league lead with 47 errors. Sanchez was called for catcher’s interference for the third time in five days and fourth time this month.

REMEMBERING

Mattingly thought of Jose Fernandez, the former Marlins All-Star pitcher who died four years earlier to the night at age 24 while piloting a boat that crashed. An investigation found he was legally drunk and had cocaine in his system. The night also marked the sixth anniversary of Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

UP NEXT

RHP Deivi Garcia (2-2, 4.88) starts Saturday for the Yankees and LHP Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.84) for the Marlins. Garcia will be making the sixth start of his rookie season.