This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: September, 2015
Goodbye, Yogi Is "Innings Pitched" a Misunderstood Barometer?
Papelbon vs. Harper: Your 2015 Nationals Welcome Back to October, Toronto

Best and Worst of the Week

Shin-soo Choo, Texas Rangers

104 26 42 6 1 5 20 21 0 4 1

It took nearly two seasons, but the 33-year-old Korean national finally is living up to the enormous contract he signed with Texas. After an injury-riddled 2014 campaign (keeping in sync with the Rangers’ record theme of disabled list visits) Choo stayed healthy and then some in September, helping to get the Rangers into the postseason. His overall offensive numbers are comparable to his 2013 stats with Cincinnati that helped him earn the seven-year, $130 million pact in the first place.

Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

88 25 30 7 0 10 19 23 3 0 0

It’s a strong finish for the man who will likely grace this category next month as the NL’s best hitter for the season. And it was an eventful September for the 22-year old, not always for the best reasons (next time, Bryce, just walk away from sniveling oafs like Jonathan Papelbon), but it proved what many of us were thinking last year when he finished strong and showed off his immense power in the postseason. This is an exciting young phenom and another reason why people need to love baseball all over again.

Gerardo Parra, Baltimore Orioles

90 6 16 5 0 0 5 2 0 0 1

This is the last thing the Orioles—or anyone salivating to snag the do-it-all Venezuelan at the trading deadline—expected after he put together such a stellar set of numbers through the first four months in Milwaukee, and another nice one in August for his new team in Baltimore. But Parra apparently ran out of gas in September and reminded us in this fickle game that even the most dependable of players can go south in a hurry.

Ichiro Suzuki, Miami Marlins

63 6 9 1 0 0 0 3 0 0 0

The future Hall of Famer (or so we’re guessing) is far from his vintage self at age 41, and the mortality really seeped through to his hitting game this past month, bringing his season average down to a career-low .231 mark. Suzuki has only got 66 hits to go before reaching 3,000 for his major league career—an astonishing achievement given the 1,200 or so he collected before that in Japan—but whether anyone will allow him the opportunity in 2016 given the way he’s finishing off 2015 is a dubious proposition.

Chase Anderson, Cleveland Indians

5-0 39 29 6 6 14 0 0 0 0 20

At the start of the year, many believed that the Indians had themselves a slammin’ good rotation…and then this guy showed up. After a terrific midseason debut, the 25-year-old right-hander hit a few speed bumps but was back to cruising on the open road in September, winning his last five starts with a 1.09 ERA—the best stretch by a Cleveland rookie since Gene Bearden in 1948. Barring an epidemic of anything related to Tommy John or Steve Blass, the Indians should be one of baseball’s best rotations next year, especially now that Anderson has further solidified the group.

Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs

4-0 40 20 3 2 4 0 1 1 0 39

Wow. The last time we saw someone unstoppable like this, Orel Hershiser was punching out opponents through 59 scoreless innings to end 1988. Arrieta rolled through September just like he rolled through August and, thus, cops this honor for the second straight month. Just how good has Arrieta been through the last third of the season? He is 10-0 in his last 11 starts with a 0.44 ERA and 0.64 WHIP, and he nearly finished the month the same way he finished August—by throwing a no-hitter (he was denied in the seventh inning against the Pirates). It’s going to be very interesting to see if Arrieta’s late-season surge is enough to top Zack Greinke (who’s hanging on to the NL ERA lead) for the NL Cy Young Award.

Kyle Lobstein, Detroit Tigers

0-3 16 25 19 19 6 1 0 1 1 12

The young lefty, out with shoulder woes since late May, made six rehab appearances in the minors and won none while posting a 5.68 ERA. Bring him up in September anyway, said the Tigers. Why, we don’t know. Lobstein bombed in thee starts with the parent club to start the month and was reduced to bullpen activity afterward with mixed results. Bottom line is that the Tigers’ willingness to stick him in the rotation is a reflection of their sad state of affairs to end 2015.

Brad Hand, Miami Marlins

0-3 12 17 14 14 14 0 1 0 0 11

The Marlins dealt opponents a bad Hand in September, as the 25-year old struggled with control the way most people struggle driving blind-folded. Hand has never been great for the Marlins—he’s 9-25 over five years in Miami—but at least he’d been throwing strikes, with only 18 walks in 81 innings entering September, so his sudden lack of accuracy was a puzzler. Giving up five home runs—he’d only allowed four coming into the month—only compounded the situation.

Toronto Blue Jays (18-9)

It seems like old times in Toronto, where the Blue Jays wrapped up their first divisional title (and postseason spot) since 1993; the 22-year drought had been the longest in the majors. Key to the Jays’ success this past month was, as always, an unstoppable offense that led the majors in runs scored—adding a little speed with a ML-high 23 steals (they were caught just once)—and, more crucially, taking five of seven games from the Yankees to help secure the AL East title. This should be one fun team to watch in October.

Chicago Cubs (19-9)

And speaking of fun, here come the young, spunky Cubs into your postseason as well. Chicago secured a wild card spot with a rip-roaring September, thanks to a resurgent Starlin Castro (.426, five homers), likely NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant (.336, five homers) and a pitching staff (anchored by the incomparable Jake Arrieta) that led the majors for the month with a 2.77 ERA and an eye-opening 0.98 WHIP. Those arms will be vital for seeing the Cubs to their first World Series appearance in 70 years—and their first world title in over 100.

Oakland A's (8-19)

The Triple-A’s limped home in September, no surprise given the roster teardown Billy Beane has orchestrated starting way back in midseason. Those still sticking around just didn’t have it, especially a rotation that delivered an 8.37 ERA (yes, 8.37) for the month; even venerable ace Sonny Gray felt the affliction and could only muster up a 6.84 mark in five starts. (Yet he was 2-1, so go figure.) The best thing for A’s fans coming to the Coliseum was looking at the faded-out football lines on a botched-up turf and realizing that the Raiders are at least off to a good start.

Cincinnati Reds (9-19)

The Reds continued to throw out one rookie after another on the mound—breaking and extending a major league record for consecutive rookie starts that began way back at the end of July—with predictable results. The rotation of young cadets wasn’t as bad as the A’s above, but that’s not saying much, as the relievers ended up with the nicer looking ERAs (and most of the wins). Even Joey Votto’s own, near-record (and positive) streak of consecutive games reaching base couldn’t save the Reds from another lousy month, their second straight under this category; they’re now 15-39 since August 4.

Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(September 2015 Edition)

Last Man Listed
Dutch Zwilling is no longer the last man listed in the baseball encyclopedia. That distinction now belongs to Tony Zych, called up by the Seattle Mariners after five years in the minors.

Leap of Faith
Toronto’s Troy Tulowitzki looked dead trying to return to first base against Baltimore after an errant play on defense, but then he does this

Land of Confusion
Among this year’s September call-ups for the Colorado Rockies was catcher Dustin Garneau—not to be confused with veteran first baseman/teammate Justin Morneau—and reliever Gonzalez Germen, not to be confused with former Minnesota pitcher German Gonzalez (1988-89).

And This Was Before Papelbon vs. Harper
Embattled Washington manager Matt Williams was booed at a postgame press conference after losing a second straight home game to the New York Mets on September 8. (It wasn’t the media bringing on the catcalls, but fans peering in from the President’s Club next door.)

Good Luck—You Have Three More Bases to Tag
Chicago Cubs rookie Kyle Schwarber was not exactly graceful while trying to put on a home run trot after going deep for the second time at Philadelphia on September 11.

The Inanimate Object Always Win
Washington reliever Drew Storen, suffering through a lousy, frustrating last few months of the year, broke his thumb after trying to punch out his locker following a terrible outing against the New York Mets on September 9—thus ending his season.

The Rockets’ Red-Faced Glare
The Indians accidentally shot off fireworks during a September 15 game at Cleveland after a home run hit…by the opponent, in this case Kansas City’s Alex Rios.

Hey, That’s Me!
Before a September 15 game at Miami, Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich was stunned to see someone wearing his uniform and otherwise looking an awful lot like him; it was Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson, who the Marlins felt bore an uncanny resemblance.

Your Time is My Time, Dude
Angry that Seattle’s Kyle Seager took too much time out of the box—and getting mouthed at by Seager in the process—the Angels’ Jered Weaver decided next to plunk him. Weaver was ejected.

Maddon About You
Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who always has a habit of keeping his clubhouse loose, rewarded reliever Pedro Strop for a save the following day by setting up a small inflatable pool with sand, a lounge chair and a bucket of drinks. “I would have made him a bloody Mary because I’m a bloody Mary kind of guy, but it was definitely more a margarita-type setting,” said Maddon.

Will He Rename Himself Max Carey?
Boston bopper David Ortiz said that his dream job outside of baseball would be to be a porn star.

Hey Ortiz, You Have Anything to do With This?
A woman gave birth to a baby boy during a Padres-Giants game at Petco Park on September 24.

Maybe the Fourth Time Will be the Charm
A fan sitting in the front row at Yankee Stadium for a September 29 game against Boston had three chances to grab a foul ball…and failed each time.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
Because so many young call-ups where clueless at the plate trying to hit against veterans, and/or because everyone was just going for broke trying to fatten their stats at season’s end, an all-time record of 6,593 strikeouts was registered in the month of September. The figure eclipses, by just six, the old mark…set just last month.

League vs. League

It was a messy end for the National League in its desperate attempt to catch the American League and claim interleague supremacy for the first time in 12 years. As it was, the AL clinched the majority figure of 151 wins (in 300 scheduled games against the NL) early in September and kept on winning, taking 17 of 26 games to field a commanding 164-132 record going into the final weekend of the season. That this hasn’t made more news is, frankly, a bit of a surprise.

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Tuesday, September 1
A day after the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum in Greenville, South Carolina makes news by saying that Major League Baseball had made a decision regarding the reinstatement of Jackson, the star player banished from the game following the Black Sox Scandal, it is revealed that MLB has, in fact, looked into the matter—and determined that Jackson will remained banned.

This ends up being much ado about nothing, accept to score P.R. points for the museum. In a response to the museum made public, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says that he stands by two previous commissioners—Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who banned Jackson in 1920, and A. Bartlett Giamatti, who looked into the matter in the late 1980s and confirmed Landis’ position—and concludes that “it would not be appropriate for me to re-open this matter.” He also strikes a blow to revisionists trying to paint Jackson as an innocent in the scandal that led to the fixing of the 1919 World Series, saying: “…it is not possible now, over 95 years since those events took place and were considered by Commissioner Landis, to be certain enough of the truth to overrule Commissioner Landis’ determinations.”

By the way, it took two letters by the museum to get Manfred to write back.

The Kansas City Royals may be cruising to their second straight postseason appearance, but there may be trouble on the near horizon. Outfielder Alex Rios and reliever Kelvin Herrera are both quarantined after testing positive for chickenpox. They will not play for the next two weeks.

Tests are performed on other Royals players and their immediate families to make sure that an outbreak isn’t imminent; ultimately, no one else will succumb to the illness. Yet in the wake of this news, it is debated whether MLB should take morn stern measures to vaccinate any player entering the professional baseball landscape, especially those from Latin American countries—where both Rios and Herrera hail from—that do not inoculate its citizens for chickenpox, as they have in America since 1995.

The San Francisco Giants’ chances of returning to the postseason are increasingly on life support. In the second game of an important three-game series with the first-place Dodgers in Los Angeles, Zack Greinke outduels Madison Bumgarner in a 2-1 victory that gives the Dodgers a 5.5-game lead over the second-place Giants.

After blowing a 3-2 lead in the ninth, the Toronto Blue Jays strike back in the tenth on a two-run Ryan Goins home run to defeat the visiting Cleveland Indians, 5-3. However, the Jays’ win comes without a hit from slugger Edwin Encarnacion, whose 26-game hitting streak—the longest in the majors this year—comes to an end.

For the second straight night, the Washington Nationals blow a seventh-inning lead at St. Louis as Brandon Moss—who had scored the tying run in the eighth—wins it in the ninth for the Cardinals on a three-run homer, 8-5.

Boston pitcher Rick Porcello—trying to right an awful season—is on target against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park, allowing three runs (one earned) in eight innings with 13 strikeouts. But the Red Sox, offensive potent of late, is neutered by Michael Pineda and three relievers, 3-1. It’s only the third time that a Red Sox pitcher has struck out at least 13 Yankees and lost; the other two such performances came from Rube Waddell over 100 years ago.

Wednesday, September 2
It’s three-and-out for the Giants at Chavez Ravine, bowing to Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, 2-1. Kershaw goes the distance, striking out 15 batters while throwing a career-high 132 pitches.

Kershaw gets the Giants to swing and miss at 35 pitches, the most by any pitcher in a game over the last ten seasons.

Frustrated Giants manager Bruce Bochy is tossed for the second straight game; the target of his ire in both cases is umpire Mike Winters, who again helps kill a possible San Francisco rally with a dubious strike call—this time a questionable check swing call from third base on Brandon Belt.

The Atlanta Braves are falling, and they can’t get up. They lose their eighth straight home game—the worst slide ever at Turner Field, and the worst overall since 1988—and are now baseball’s second worst team by the record after dropping a 7-3 decision to the Miami Marlins. The Braves have now lost 30 of their last 39 games.

The Cincinnati Reds may be using an all-rookie rotation, but some of the young kids are starting to earn their wings. Raisel Iglesias starts at Chicago and becomes the first rookie pitcher in 20 years to strike out ten-plus batters for a third consecutive outing, but the Reds can’t hold his 4-2 lead as the Cubs come back to tie it in the eighth; coming to the rescue is Joey Votto, who strikes a three-run homer in the ninth to give the Reds a 7-4 victory.

Two players each hit their 200th career home run. The Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman reaches the milestone in a 4-3 win at St. Louis, as does Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria in the Rays’ 7-6, 11-inning loss at Baltimore.

Longoria is currently Tampa Bay’s all-time home run leader; although Zimmerman is fifth on the all-time Expos/Nationals franchise list, he’s first among those who’ve worn a Nats uniform.

Thursday, September 3
Carlos Gonzalez remains one of the hottest second-half hitters with his second straight multi-homer performance, driving in four runs a night after bringing home seven in Colorado’s 11-3 rout of the Giants at Denver. Gonzalez now has 25 homers over his last 50 games—the highest total over such a stretch of action in Rockies history.

Off the field, the news is no better for the Giants; it is learned that former ace Tim Lincecum will undergo hip surgery and will need five months of rehab. A free agent after this season, it is wondered whether the two-time Cy Young Award winner has thrown his last pitch for the Giants—or any major league team, for that matter.

In the Nationals’ 15-1 rout of Atlanta, Washington star Bryce Harper has an odd stat line to say the least: He’s 0-for-0 with four runs scored. Harper manages to round the bases thanks to four walks; he doesn’t even swing once. In fact, it’s the second time in a month that he’s scored four times without recording a single official at-bat. Only two other players—Jim Gilliam and Joe Morgan—have done it twice in a career.

Friday, September 4
Chris Davis becomes the first player to reach 40 home runs on the season, hitting two of the Orioles’ four dingers to give Baltimore an easy 10-2 win at Toronto. The free agent-to-be becomes the first player in Orioles franchise history to twice record 40-plus homers.

Like Carlos Gonzalez, Smith has been having a whale of a second half, hitting 21 homers in 46 games.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, 6.5 games behind first-place St. Louis in the NL Central, play the first of six games left in the season against the Cardinals—and they make it a good start with a 9-3 win at Busch Stadium. J.A. Happ throws seven shutout frames for the Bucs while his teammates chime in with 17 hits.

Houston extends its lead in the AL West to three with an 8-0 blanking of the visiting Minnesota Twins. Collin McHugh wins his 15th game with 7.2 scoreless innings, while batterymate Hank Conger dives in five runs—four on a fourth-inning grand slam.

In the Cubs’ 14-5 rout of Arizona at Wrigley Field, shortstop Addison Russell becomes the first National League position player in a non-interleague game to homer twice while hitting from the #9 spot. (Jon Lester, the Cubs’ starting pitcher, bats eighth in the contest.)

Saturday, September 5
Six days after throwing a no-hitter, Jake Arrieta retakes the mound and continues to be dominant. His eight shutout innings, allowing three hits while walking none, helps the Cubs to a 2-0 victory over the Diamondbacks. Arrieta now has a 0.99 ERA over his last 15 starts.

The Red Sox pile up eight fourth-inning runs on the Phillies and coast to a 9-2 victory, clinching the 12th straight season of American League dominance in the interleague wars with its 151st win of the year out of an eventual total of 300.

David Ortiz, some two months shy of his 40th birthday, hits his 30th homer of the season and becomes the first Red Sox player to reach that plateau nine times. He is also the third oldest player—after Darrell Evans and Barry Bonds—to reach 30; he’ll quickly be relegated to the fourth oldest just three days later when Alex Rodriguez connects for his 30th at age 40.

Ortiz isn’t the only elder statesman making good on the day. In Miami, 42-year-old Bartolo Colon becomes the oldest player in Mets history to throw a shutout, spreading out nine hits but keeping the Marlins off the plate in a 7-0 win. After slipping into a midseason slump, Colon has revived himself with a 2.32 ERA over his last eight starts, and he hasn’t allowed a run over his last 25 innings.

As sharp as Colon was pitching, he was totally dazzling on defense as shown on this remarkable play down the first-base line.

The Rockies’ Nolan Arenado homers for the sixth straight game—something no Colorado player has ever done—but it’s not enough as the visiting Giants snap a seven-game skid with a 7-3 victory at Coors Field.

David Price earns his 100th career win, Jose Bautista goes deep for the 32nd time this year and the Blue Jays ease to a 5-1 triumph over Baltimore at Rogers Centre, 5-1. With the Yankees losing at home to Tampa Bay, the Jays up their AL East lead to 1.5 games.

It took 17 starts, but the Chicago White Sox’ Jose Quintana finally collects his first career win against the Royals, tossing seven shutout innings in a 6-1 victory at Kansas City. Quintana’s drought had easily been the longest against any one team among active pitchers.

Sunday, September 6
Washington sets itself up for a big three-game series with New York by sweeping the hapless Braves—losers of 12 straight and 19 of their last 20—at Nationals Park to move within four games of the Mets (4-3 losers at Miami).

Meanwhile in the Mets’ clubhouse, controversy stews as young ace pitcher Matt Harvey, who a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery has thrown 166.1 innings in 2015, is being told by both the surgeon who performed the operation (Dr. James Andrews) and his agent Scott Boras to be done for the season once he reaches 180 frames as imposed at the start of the year. But with the Mets’ lead in the NL East pared down to four games by the surging Nationals, the New York front office begs to differ and says the Mets need Harvey down the stretch. Harvey himself initially agreed with the 180-inning limit but now says that he’d prefer to save himself for the postseason—assuming the Mets get there—and take it from there. The typically unrelenting New York media are eating this up, portraying Harvey’s wishy-washy opinions on the matter as a major clubhouse distraction at a time when the Mets don’t need it.

In baseball’s metric-saturated world, it seems somewhat passé that everyone involved in this is wrapping themselves around innings thrown when the more accurate stat to observe Harvey by should be total pitches. Consider that Harvey has thrown 2,459 pitches in 166.1 innings this year, yet 23 other pitchers have thrown more in less innings. To wit: The Cardinals’ Lance Lynn has totaled 300 more pitches—the equivalent of three full starts—but has racked up 19 fewer innings. What if Lynn had Harvey’s 180-inning limit? Would the Cardinals blindly say, “Well, he’s got 33 innings to go, so he’s fine”?

Among qualifying starters, Harvey is 12th in pitch economy (14.8 per inning) but 58th in total pitches. So maybe he does have a few more outings in him then everyone’s led to believe, right?

It’s funny how managers, broadcasters, writers and bloggers are obsessed with pitch counts during one game, but never seem to discuss season totals. Don’t be surprised if that changes over the next few years.

The Bay Jays record double-digit run production for the 22nd time this season, stomping the Orioles at Toronto, 10-4. Somebody on the other side who knows all about the Jays’ potent offense is Baltimore pitcher Chris Tillman, who’s started four of those 22 games—including today’s—in which Toronto has scored at least ten. Tillman lasts just three innings and surrenders six runs; in five starts against the Jays this season, he’s 0-4 with a 15.50 ERA.

Dallas Keuchel wins his 14th straight home game wearing a Houston uniform, striking out 12 over eight innings in the Astros’ 8-5 win over Minnesota; he becomes only the third pitcher to start a season 13-0 at home; no one has ever finished 14-0 or better.

In the Cubs’ 6-4 win over Arizona, rookie slugger Kris Bryant hits what is believed to be the longest home run of the year—but that depends on who you talk to. ESPN’s home run tracker measures the blast, which hits off of Wrigley Field’s new left-field scoreboard behind the bleachers, at 467 feet—a bit behind two 484-foot drives from Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton it claims are the longest of the year. But MLB’s Statcast app has Bryant’s drive at 495 feet, which if true would be the longest of the season. So, your source may vary.

Monday, September 7
After falling behind 5-3 in the fourth inning, the Mets chip away with five unanswered runs and defeat the Nationals and Max Scherzer at Washington in the opening matchup of a critical three-game series that could cement the tone in the NL East. Yoenis Cespedes has a homer and two doubles for New York; it’s his third game with at least three extra-base hits since joining the Mets at the end of July.

In ten starts since the All-Star break, Scherzer is 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA.

The Braves end a 12-game skid—14 straight on the road—and avoid dropping into a tie for last place in the NL East with a 7-2 victory over the Phillies at Philadelphia. Leading the way for Atlanta is Cuban émigré Hector Olivera, who in his sixth major league game doubles, homers and drives in four runs.

Atlanta’s losing streak was its longest since 1988, when it finished the year with a 54-106 record.

What the heck is Jackie Bradley Jr. eating for breakfast these days? The Boston outfielder, hitting .119 for the year and .188 for his two-year career to date on August 9, continues a mammoth and stunning tear since with four hits including a home run and double to give the Red Sox an 11-4 triumph over the visiting Blue Jays. Bradley Jr. is now hitting .439 over his last 25 games with 13 doubles, four triples, seven homers and 32 RBIs.

So why do the Red Sox keep batting him ninth?

Tuesday, September 8
Joaquin Andujar, the intense and sometimes testy pitcher who starred in the 1980s for the Cardinals, dies of complications from diabetes at the age of 62. The Dominican native pitched 13 years in the majors, the first five-plus with Houston before emerging as an ace for St. Louis, winning 20 games in back-to-back seasons in 1984-85. Fiery on the mound, Andujar’s temper got the best of him in Game Seven of the 1985 World Series when, in a puzzling relief appearance, he took out both his and his team’s anger on umpire Don Denkinger, whose blown call in Game Six kept the Cardinals from defeating the Royals in six games (they lost in seven).

Despite the ornery reputation, former teammates recall Andujar as one who often lightened the mood in the clubhouse with a sharp sense of humor.

The Nationals are far from being mathematically eliminated by the Mets for the NL East title, but they’re emotionally obliterated tonight after blowing a 7-1 lead against New York and Matt Harvey by allowing six runs in the seventh on three hits and six walks—three of them with the bases loaded—before conceding the game-winner in the eighth on Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ pinch-hit solo home run to give the Mets an 8-7 win at Nationals Park. New York now leads the NL East by six games.

In their first 120 games of the year, the Mets scored eight or more runs eight times. They’ve done in nine times in 18 games since.

Alex Rodriguez’s solo homer in the sixth inning against Baltimore gives him 30 on the season for his 15th time—tying Hank Aaron’s record—but it’s the only offense on the night for the Yankees, who are clipped 2-1 on Chris Davis’ major league-leading 41st homer in the ninth. The loss sends the Yankees 1.5 games back of Toronto (5-1 winners at Boston in ten innings) in the AL East.

Rodriguez’s homer makes him the third oldest player—supplanting David Ortiz from just days earlier—to hit 30 in a season.

The Giants’ Tim Hudson, making his first start in six weeks, becomes the first pitcher 40 years or older to grab a win and belt a home run in the same game since Nolan Ryan in 1987 as he goes deep against the Diamondbacks, while limiting them to a run on four hits through six innings, in San Francisco’s 6-1 win at Arizona.

Colorado’s Colin Rea and San Diego’s Jon Gray become only the second pair of modern-era (since 1900) rookie starting pitchers to allow no runs on two hits or fewer in the same game. The Padres will ultimately prevail with a ninth-inning rally, 2-1.

Wednesday, September 9
The Nationals’ bullpen fails the team once again, leading to a 5-3 Mets win and a sweep of Washington. Stephen Strasburg is removed with a 3-2 lead and one out in the eighth, but reliever Drew Storen gives up a two-run homer to Yoenis Cespedes—the first batter he faces—to give New York a lead it will not relinquish. The Nationals lose and fall seven back of the Mets in spite of two homers from Bryce Harper, who now has 36 on the year. The Red Sox finally have a pitcher providing some stability this season—and then some.

In Boston’s 10-4 drubbing of Toronto, Joe Kelly earns a win in his eighth straight start—the first Red Sox pitcher to achieve that length of success since Pedro Martinez in 1999. In those eight starts, Kelly has a 2.59 ERA.

In defeat, the Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion sets a Toronto record by reaching base in his 39th straight game.

Thursday, September 10
Two teams headed in totally opposite directions face one another and offer no surprises. The Mets come to Atlanta and punish the Braves, 7-2, as Bartolo Colon extends his shutout streak to 31 straight innings before conceding two runs in the seventh. His run is the longest for anyone aged 42 or older in the history of the game. On the other side, All-Star pitcher Shelby Miller takes the loss for the Braves and is now winless in his last 21 starts.

Milwaukee scores twice in the 13th and hands the Pittsburgh Pirates a 6-4 loss, while also tagging the Bucs’ bullpen with its first loss since June 26, ending a run of 19 straight wins—the second longest in major league history.

The Rangers miss an opportunity to whittle at the lead of the first-place Astros after being denied by the Mariners and Felix Hernandez at Seattle, 5-0. It’s the 17th win of the year for Hernandez, who’s now tied for the AL lead; Nelson Cruz becomes the second player (after Rafael Palmeiro) to reach 40 homers in consecutive years for different teams, having done so with Baltimore last season.

Hernandez’s 3.49 ERA for a co-leader in wins might seem high for this day and age—but if you take away two wretched starts in which he allowed a combined 18 runs in 2.2 innings, that ERA plummets to 2.65.

Another general manager bites the dust, but this ouster is not unexpected. Ruben Amaro is axed after seven years with the Philadelphia Phillies, who gradually failed to reload from within or through free agency after winning the 2008 World Series—just as Amaro came on board. The Phillies currently have the majors’ worst record and need to win ten of their final 23 games to avoid their first 100-loss finish since 1961.

Friday, September 11
A day after a scheduled game was postponed, the Blue Jays and Yankees resume their fight for the AL East crown at Yankee Stadium as the Blue Jays stomp their way to a 11-5 victory and increase their division lead to 2.5 games. The top seven hitters in the Toronto lineup have at least two hits, with five homers among them—two of those from Russell Martin. Taking the loss for New York is rookie pitcher Luis Severino, who concedes six runs in 2.1 innings after allowing just eight over his first 35 career frames.

Off the field, the news isn’t any better for the Yankees. Mark Teixeira, the club leader with 31 homers, has been declared out for the season after tests reveal a leg fracture. He has not played since August 26.

Bad weather halts a 2-2 game between the Cardinals and Reds at Cincinnati in the eighth inning, but history is made when Michael Lorenzen gets the start on the mound for the Reds, extending to 42 games a streak of consecutive starts made by rookie pitchers—eclipsing the all-time mark set by the 1900 Cardinals.

The game will be completed the next day with the Reds victorious, 4-2.

For the eighth time in history, two grand slams are hit by the same team in the same inning as Baltimore’s Nolan Reimold and Steve Clevenger clear the bases as part of a ten-run eighth in the Orioles’ 14-8 drubbing of the visiting Royals.

After allowing 15 runs in 15.2 innings over his last three starts, Texas’ Colby Lewis takes a perfect game into eighth when Oakland’s Danny Valencia pokes a leadoff double down the left-field line to end it. But Lewis eventually concludes a two-hit shutout—his third career blanking—and the Rangers prevail, 4-0, to move closer to the first-place Astros in the AL West.

If any active pitcher has three career shutouts with a lifetime ERA higher than Lewis’ 4.78, we’d like to hear about it.

Saturday, September 12
David Ortiz belts two homers—the second of which is the 500th of his career—in Boston’s 10-4 rout of the Rays at Tampa Bay. Ortiz is the 27th player to reach the milestone, and the fourth to do so while wearing a Red Sox uniform (the others are Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams and Manny Ramirez).

In his last 14 games, Ortiz has been on fire—hitting .413 with seven doubles, eight homers and 19 RBIs.

Mike Moustakas sets a Kansas City franchise record by knocking in nine runs in the Royals’ 14-6 spanking of the Orioles at Baltimore. All of Moustakas’ damage comes over the last four innings, including a seventh-inning grand slam.

Jose Fernandez throws five shutout innings and earns credit for the win in Miami’s 2-0 triumph of Washington at Marlins Park. Fernandez ties a major league record held by Johnny Allen and LaMarr Hoyt with 16 home wins without a loss to start a career.

At San Francisco, Madison Bumgarner takes a perfect game two outs into eighth inning when the Padres’ Melvin Upton Jr. ends the bid with a sharp single up the middle. It’s the only knock allowed by the Giants’ ace, as he finishes up his fifth career shutout (and second of the season) with an 8-0 win.

The Blue Jays sweep a doubleheader at New York, 9-5 (in 11 innings) and 10-4, to extend their lead in the AL East to a season-high 4.5 games. The two wins come at a cost, however; Troy Tulowitzki collides with outfielder Kevin Pillar in the first game and cracks a bone in his shoulder, knocking him out of action until the playoffs.

Toronto had gone 31-9 since acquiring Tulowitzki at the trading deadline.

Sunday, September 13
The Astros are one strike away from being shutout by the Angels and having their lead in the AL West pared to a mere half-game when they strike for five runs off closer Huston Street, shocking Los Angeles of Anaheim and its fans on a hot Orange County day, 5-3. Among the strange highlights in this rally: A sharply hit ground ball that Angels second baseman Taylor Featherston can’t turn into an out because the ball gets stuck in the webbing of his glove; and Jed Lowrie’s three-run homer that’s just out of the reach of Kole Calhoun next to the right-field foul pole.

The Angels sent Street out to the mound despite the fact that he had been vomiting in the innings before—the beginning of a nasty flu from which he would lose 13 pounds.

Trailing 7-4 with two outs in the top of the ninth at Atlanta, the Mets’ Daniel Murphy blasts a three-run, game-tying homer—and New York rallies an inning later for three more on a hit, an error and four walks to win their seventh straight game, 10-7. For the Braves, it’s their 12th straight loss at home—their longest such slide since 1911.

It’s the Mets’ 82nd win of the year—guaranteeing their first winning season since 2008.

Monday, September 14
Prince Fielder’s two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth breaks a 3-3 tie and proves to be the game-winning blast as the Rangers take the first game of a crucial series against Houston at Globe Life Park and move to within a half-game of the Astros for the AL West lead.

The old and the new contribute in a comeback victory for the Yankees in Tampa Bay. Carlos Beltran breaks up Erasmo Ramirez’s no-hitter in the eighth inning, and rookie Slade Heathcott caps a four-run rally in the ninth with a three-run homer to give New York a 4-1 win.

In the Nationals’ 8-7, 11-inning win at Philadelphia, Bryce Harper goes deep for the 37th time on the year; it’s also the 92nd homer of his career—but the first hit off a pitcher (the Phillies’ Aaron Nola) younger than himself. Only Mike Trout and Bob Horner hit more homers before connecting off a younger pitcher.

At Los Angeles, Clayton Kershaw extends his unbeaten streak to 13 starts by limiting the Colorado Rockies to a run on three hits over seven innings as the Dodgers triumph, 4-1. During this run, Kershaw is 9-0 with a 0.98 ERA.

Tuesday, September 15
The Rangers grab sole possession of the AL West lead for the first time all year as
Mitch Moreland’s sacrifice fly in the ninth unlocks a 5-5 tie and brings victory over the Astros. It’s the first time since July 26 that Houston has not led or had a share of first place.

Andrelton Simmons’ ninth-inning single brings home the winning run for the Braves, who snap their 12-game losing streak at home with a 3-2 win over the Blue Jays. According to Elias, only five teams have had longer losing streaks at home since 1969.

Ironically, it’s the Braves’ 16th straight one-run victory at home—the longest in franchise history.

The Mets’ eight-game winning streak is history as the Marlins come to town and zap New York, 9-3. Dee Gordon has four hits to extend his major league lead to 180; 33 of those have come against the Mets (in 77 at-bats), the most ever in one season against the franchise.

The third-place Cubs have the opportunity to close in fast on the second-place Pirates with a doubleheader at Pittsburgh, but they can only salvage a split thanks to Jon Lester’s complete-game, 2-1 effort in the nightcap after dropping the first game, 5-4. The Bucs remain four games ahead of the Cubs for the NL’s top wild card spot.

Not only does Lester go the distance for the first time in a Cubs uniform, he also picks off a baserunner at first base for the first time since 2011.

The Oakland A’s unload on the White Sox’ Jeff Samardzija and company, piling up 16 runs in the first four innings before coasting to a 17-6 drubbing at Chicago. The White Sox resort to using not one but two position players (Leury Martin and Alexei Ramirez) on the mound late in the game to rest a shellshocked staff.

Samardzija is 1-8 with a 9.24 ERA since the start of August.

Everyone gets into the act at Dodger Stadium, where the Rockies outlast the Dodgers in 16 innings, 5-4; a major league-record 58 players are used, including 13 Colorado pitchers—another record. A 14th pitcher, rookie Jason Gurka, is asked to play right field in the bottom of the 16th when no one else is available. Nolan Arenado wins the game with his 39th home run on the year.

Wednesday, September 16
At 22 years and 335 days old, Bryce Harper becomes the sixth youngest player ever to hit 40 homers in a season with his seventh inning blast during the Nationals’ 12-2 rout of the Phillies at Philadelphia.

Four of those five younger players—Mel Ott, Eddie Mathews, Johnny Bench and Joe DiMaggio—are in the Hall of Fame; the fifth (Juan Gonzalez) might be there if weren’t for legitimate steroid suspicions.

The Astros try to slow down the Rangers’ first-place momentum by putting AL ERA leader Dallas Keuchel on the mound, but the All-Star pitcher is hammered for nine runs in less than five innings as Texas clobbers Houston at Arlington, 14-3.

In the White Sox’ 9-4 win over the A’s at Chicago, Mike Olt goes down in local history as the first major leaguer to hit a home run for both the Cubs and White Sox in the same season. Olt began the season with the Cubs, warming up third base for rookie Kris Bryant; once Bryant arrived, Olt was released and was eventually signed by the White Sox.

Remember Josh Johnson, the 2010 NL ERA champion for the Marlins? The fragile pitcher, trying to make a comeback through the Padres’ organization after having not thrown a major league pitch since 2013, discovers that he will need a third Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow. Rather than say twice is enough, the 31-year-old Johnson will opt for the procedure once more as he’s intent on making a big-league comeback.

The results are in on the just-completed minor league season, and it’s discovered that the 20-second pitch clock has led to a 12-minute reduction in the average time of game. MLB cites the findings as progress, but union chief Tony Clark reiterates his disapproval of any move by baseball to bring the 20-second timer to the majors.

Thursday, September 17
Milo Hamilton, who did play-by-play for whole or parts of 60 seasons—his first being the last for the St. Louis Browns before moving to Baltimore in 1954—dies at the age of 88. Overall, Hamilton worked for seven teams including, most memorably, the Atlanta Braves—for whom he called Hank Aaron’s 715th career home run—and the Houston Astros for the final 28 years of his career.

The Rangers make it a four-game sweep of the Astros, moving 2.5 games ahead of Houston in the AL West with a resounding 8-2 victory at Arlington. Colby Lewis improves to 16-8 on the year with the win.

As the Astros slump, a battle between the two teams next in line behind them for the AL’s second wild card spot heats up in Minnesota with the Angels overcoming a 5-0 first-inning deficit to outlast the Twins, 11-8. Mike Trout goes yard twice and knocks in five runs, four on a second-inning grand slam. The Angels now trail Houston by 2.5 games; the Twins are only 1.5 games back.

The Cubs finish off a four-game series at Pittsburgh by winning their third straight, a 9-6 victory over the Pirates behind 17 hits; they now trail the Bucs by just two games for the NL’s top wild card spot.

If the final score isn’t bad enough for the Pirates, they also lose excellent rookie infielder Jung Ho Kang for the season when the Cubs’ Chris Coghlan slides into him while trying to break up a double play. Kang finishes his first major league season with a .287 average, 15 homers and 58 RBIs in 126 games.

Barely a week after Mike Moustakas drives in a franchise-record nine runs for the Royals, teammate Omar Infante nearly matches him, bringing home seven in Kansas City’s 8-4 win at Cleveland. The Royals win despite four errors.

Friday, September 18
The young, spirited Cubs, after taking three of four against Pittsburgh, take on the other team perched above them in the NL Central—the first-place Cardinals—and hit their way to an 8-3 victory behind two homers and six RBIs from a relative veteran of the team, 25-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro.

A little intensity is added to the proceedings midway through the game when, two innings after the Cardinals’ Matt Holliday is hit in the head by a Dan Haren pitch (Holliday was okay enough to stay in the game), the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo is plunked by Matt Belisle, leading to his dismissal as well as that of St. Louis manager Mike Matheny (who had been warned by umpires). Cubs manager Joe Maddon on the Belisle/Matheny ejections: “There was no malicious intent on Dan Haren’s part, so to become this vigilante group that all off a sudden wants to get their own pound of flesh, that’s absolutely insane, ridiculous and wrong…and furthermore, we won’t start stuff, but we will end stuff.”

Rizzo, by the way, has been hit a major league-leading 29 times this season.

The next day, the Cubs will hit three St. Louis batters—the third of which prompts umpires to eject Maddon and closer Hector Rendon.

Toronto increases its lead in the AL East to 4.5 games—and moves to within a game of Kansas City for the AL’s best record and, thus, home-field advantage in the postseason—with a 6-1 home win over the Red Sox. Marcus Stroman, thought to be lost for the season back in spring training after tearing knee ligaments, pitches seven strong innings in his second start back with the team.

Despite the win, the Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion fails to safely reach base for the first time in 44 games, ending the longest such streak in franchise history.

Brandon Finnegan, a postseason wonder of sorts for Kansas City last year, wins in his first start for Cincinnati after being traded to the Reds in the Johnny Cueto deal, defeating the Brewers at Milwaukee, 5-3. Technically still a rookie (and so the Reds’ record streak of consecutive starts by rookie pitchers continue), Finnegan becomes the first major league rookie to win in his first career start after previously appearing in a World Series.

In Tampa Bay’s 8-6 win over Baltimore, outfielder Mikie Mahtook ties a franchise mark and becomes the majors’ first rookie this year to collect five hits in a game.

Brandon Martin, who like Mahtook was a first-round choice of the Rays in 2011, is arrested in Corona, California in connection with the killing of two men—one of them his father—and the severe beating of a third (his uncle) that’s left him on life support. Martin has not played organized baseball since 2013, batting .211 in three low-level minor league seasons without ever appearing once for the parent team. Authorities had detained Martin a few days earlier after he made threats against his family—but he was released.

What is it about being a #1 pick for the Rays? Trouble almost always seems to ensue. There’s Josh Hamilton, who became a star elsewhere but only after the Rays gave up on him while he plunged off the deep end into a world of drug and alcohol abuse; Delmon Young, who made a nasty habit of getting physical with umpires; Wade Townsend, who gave up an injury-prone baseball career for a life in poker (which is not troublesome, but it is weird); Josh Sale, who on top of being suspended for meth once also bragged on social media of bullying a stripper; Taylor Guerrieri, also suspended 50 games in the minors for a “substance of abuse”; and Matt Bush, a former #1 pick by the Padres who was given a shot by the Rays but released after he also caused trouble at a strip club and, with a BAC of 0.18, took to the road and performed hit-and-run on two cars and a motorcyclist, nearly killing the latter. He is now serving a 51-month sentence for those crimes.

Saturday, September 19
As noted above, the HBP wars continue at Wrigley Field as the Cubs hit three St. Louis batters, but they reign again with a 5-4 win thanks to a trio of rookies: Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant hit back-to-back homers in the fifth, and shortstop Addison Russell makes a terrific diving stop and shovel throw to second to snuff out a ninth-inning Cardinals rally and preserve the victory.

It’s been 60 years since two Cubs rookies have hit back-to-back homers, when Ernie Banks and Gene Baker connected.

There’s a big silver lining for St. Louis in its loss; they become the first team this season to clinch a postseason spot. It will be the Cardinals’ fifth straight appearance in October.

If the Angels somehow sneak into the AL playoffs, they’ll have today to, in large part, give thanks to. Los Angeles of Anaheim sweeps a doubleheader from the Twins at Minnesota, 4-3 (in 11 innings) and 5-2 to jump past the Twins and become the prime outsider looking to catch up and grab an AL wild card spot.

The news is not all good for the Halos. Set-up reliever Joe Smith sprains his ankle while walking down a flight of marble stairs at the team’s hotel and will miss at least a week of action—and likely more.

Toronto, 73-0 on the year when leading after eight, takes a 4-2 lead into the ninth against Boston—0-65 when trailing after eight. Unbeatable odds, right? Wrong. The Red Sox erupt for five runs in the ninth and then hold on to dear life as they barely squash a Blue Jays rally to prevail, 7-6.

The San Diego Padres starts a southpaw for the first time all year, and perhaps we know why they waited this long to do so. Robbie Erlin gets smacked for seven runs in three innings as the Padres lose badly at Colorado, 10-2.

Sunday, September 20
The Cardinals salvage a win in their three-game series at Chicago with a 4-3 win over the Cubs, but it may prove to be a costly victory. All-Star catcher
Yadier Molina, considered the team’s heart and soul, exits the game with a sprained thumb in the eighth inning after tagging out Anthony Rizzo and will miss the final two weeks of the regular season—and likely beyond.

This is potentially devastating news for St. Louis. Not only are the Cardinals 5-8 when Molina hasn’t played this season—they’re 88-48 when he’s been in the lineup—but they must recall last year’s NLCS when his absence flattened their hopes of advancing against the Giants.

The Royals rout the Tigers at Detroit, 10-3, as DH Kendrys Morales becomes only the seventh player to hit three homers and a triple in the same game. Here’s the odd part: Despite all that slugging damage, Morales only knocks in three runs—all of those being himself on the three solo shots.

The Braves may not win much at home these days—they recently snapped a 12-game losing streak at Turner Field—but when they do win, it’s been close. In fact, with Atlanta’s 2-1 win over Philadelphia, the Braves’ last 19 victories at home have all been by a one-run margin—and that sets a major league record.

The Giants, all but out of the playoff picture, at least score some runs as they end a 24-inning drought at AT&T Park with a four-run sixth against Arizona in their 5-1 victory. It was the longest scoreless slide for San Francisco since opening AT&T, and the longest at home, period, since a 30-inning streak back in 1980.

The Texas Rangers have been something of an Achilles Heel for Seattle ace Felix Hernandez throughout his career—except for this season. Despite leaving in the sixth inning with a “stiff elbow,” Hernandez earns credit for his 18th victory on the year as the Mariners roll at Arlington, 9-2.

Hernandez finishes his year against Texas with a 5-0 record and 1.83 ERA. The last AL pitcher to go 5-0 with a lesser ERA against any one opponent was Bert Blyleven in 1985—also against the Rangers.

Monday, September 21
In the midst of a miserable second half for White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija comes a gem: In a 2-0 victory over the Tigers—the first of two Chicago wins on the day at Detroit—he fashions a one-hit shutout to become the first pitcher since Geoff Zahn in 1980 to blank an opponent after giving up ten runs in his previous start.

David Price continues to be right for the Blue Jays, as he improves to 8-1 in ten starts for Toronto since being traded from Detroit as he shuts down the Yankees through seven innings; the Jays enhance their lead in the AL East to 3.5 games with a 4-2 win over New York at Rogers Centre.

Shelby Miller’s winless funk is starting to take on historic proportions. In Atlanta’s 4-0 loss at New York against the Mets, Miller loses in his seventh straight start and his 15th without a win over 23 straight outings—tied for the second longest in major league history. To once again prove that Miller’s slide has been a team effort, the Braves have averaged 1.4 runs per game over his last 17 starts.

The Milwaukee Brewers name 30-year-old David Stearns as their new general manager, making him the youngest GM currently in the majors. He is not the youngest ever to take such a job: Theo Epstein (Boston) and Jon Daniels (Texas) were both 28 when they began their GM tours.

Tuesday, September 22
Jake Arrieta becomes baseball’s first 20-game winner on the season, and in style. At Wrigley Field, the Cubs right-hander shuts down the Brewers on a walk and three hits while striking out 11 as Chicago sails to a 4-0 win. It’s Arrieta’s third shutout of the year, and he lowers his season ERA to 1.88—second only to the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke.

The Cubs’ Kris Bryant homers for the 26th time this year, setting a franchise mark for rookies. With 98 RBIs, he also holds that record as well for Cubs first-timers—in just 140 games.

Mike Trout belts his career-high 40th homer—and Albert Pujols immediately follows up with his 36th, his most in four years as an Angel—as Los Angeles of Anaheim nips the Astros in Houston, 4-3, and closes to within 2.5 games of the Astros for the second AL wild card spot.

There is good news elsewhere within the Astros’ organization: The team’s top minor league affiliate in Fresno wins the Triple-A title, defeating the Columbus Clippers (Cleveland’s affiliate) by a 7-0 count at a neutral site in El Paso, Texas.

Making his second start after missing a month to injury, the Tigers’ Daniel Norris has a perfect game through five innings and 63 pitches—but he’s removed from the game at that point because he’s on a limited pitch count. Four Detroit relievers keep it a no-hitter until one out in the ninth when the White Sox’ Tyler Saladino cracks a one-out triple and later scores the tying run. The Tigers recover and win in ten innings, 2-1.

Wednesday, September 23
Baseball loses a genuine, loveable legend with the passing of Yogi Berra at age 90. The Hall-of-Fame catcher, manager and coach seemed to be remembered more for his naturally short (5’7”), semi-goofy demeanor and 100% goofy quotations known as “Yogi-isms,” adages that include “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded,” “90% of the game is half mental” and, our favorite, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Baby boomer kids like us at first looked at him and thought, “Why would they name this guy after Yogi Bear?” (It was the other way around, of course.)

But hidden behind the one-liner façade is a stellar career of baseball that included 358 home runs, ten World Series rings, three AL MVPs over a five-year stretch, a terrific eye at the plate (he rarely struck out) and behind it, as evidenced by his expert handling of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The tributes pour in for Berra. Commissioner Rob Manfred calls Berra “a beacon of Americana.” The Yankees cite him as an “American hero.” President Obama calls him an “American original” and “jovial prophet.” Bob Costas: “I never saw him when he didn’t have a smile on his face.” And in his honor, the top of Manhattan’s Empire State Building is lit in blue and white vertical streaks to evoke Yankee pinstripes.

Between the loss of Berra and Ernie Banks in January, it’s been a tough year for baseball holding on to its most sacred ambassadors.

Final Yogi-ism: “Make sure you go to your friends’ funerals…or they won’t go to yours.”

Marcus Stroman throws seven scoreless innings and the Blue Jays take the rubber match of their three-game series against the Yankees at Rogers Centre, 4-0. Toronto now has a 3.5-game lead over New York with ten games to play, and finishes the season series against the Yankees with a 13-6 record—all while they are currently a collective 23-24 against the other three AL East teams.

Neil Walker knocks in six runs on four hits and the Pirates spank the Rockies at Coors Field, 13-7, to ice their third straight postseason spot—likely their third as a wild card—all coming on the heels of an all-time-record 21 consecutive losing campaigns.

Thursday, September 24
After making the postseason as a wild card last year, the Royals clinch their first divisional title since 1985 with a 10-4 drubbing of the visiting Seattle Mariners. Johnny Cueto earns his third win as a Royal and his first in his last seven starts, but his Kansas City ERA in 11 starts remains an un-Cueto-like 4.99.

With the Royals guaranteeing themselves a first-place finish, who now has gone the longest without winning a division? Colorado and Miami, two recent expansion teams born in 1993, have never finished first (though they’ve both made it to the World Series as a wild card), but among teams that have been around longer, the Pittsburgh Pirates now own the longest first-place drought, having last won a divisional title in 1992.

Not all the news for the Royals on the day is good: Closer Greg Holland, struggling with decreased velocity and a subpar 3.83 ERA, is out for the rest of the season with a tear in his right elbow. Wade Davis takes over as Kansas City’s closer.

The Yankees draw to within three games of the idle Blue Jays with a 3-2 win over the White Sox on Carlos Beltran’s three-run homer in the third. Chris Sale takes the loss for Chicago but in the process records his 1,000th career strikeout; among starting pitchers, only Kerry Wood reached the milestone in fewer innings (853) than Sale (872.1).

Friday, September 25
It isn’t pretty, but the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez sets a major league record with his 17th straight home win without a loss to start a career despite giving up six runs in five innings. Fortunately for him, he leaves the game with a 12-6 lead over Atlanta; the Marlins barely hang on from there to “reward” Fernandez, 12-11.

The Blue Jays defeat Tampa Bay at Toronto, 5-3, to ensure their first postseason appearance in 22 years—and yet, nobody realizes it. It is pointed out after the game via social media that although no other team is eliminated from the wild card race, the three contending AL West teams (Texas, Houston and Los Angeles of Anaheim) play each other in the final week, with all scenarios thus guaranteeing Toronto a wild card spot at the very least.

Last year, the Royals snapped what was, at the time, the longest current drought by a team without a postseason appearance. That left the Blue Jays, entering this season, with the longest such run at 22 years. Now that Toronto is headed for October, the team that’s now gone the longest without a playoff game is the Seattle Mariners, who last showed up in 2001.

The Cubs back into their first postseason spot since 2008, losing at home to the Pirates, 3-2, but later clinching a wild card spot when the Giants lose at Oakland, 5-4. Gerrit Cole wins his 18th game and Mark Melancon closes out his 51st save for Pittsburgh; it’s the 15th time this year that Melancon has saved a Cole win, the second most by a starter/closer tandem since Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley combined to do the same 19 times in for the 1990 Athletics.

The Phillies’ Aaron Altherr becomes the first player to hit an inside-the-park grand slam since 1999 and adds a solo over-the-wall shot as part of a four-hit day to lift Philadelphia over the Nationals at Washington, 8-2.

David Ortiz doubles three times and Xander Bogaerts collects three more hits on his quest for a possible 200 on the year, but the story on the night for the Red Sox in their 7-0 home win over Baltimore is Rich Hill, who dials a two-hit shutout while striking out ten batters. The 35-year-old southpaw, who has bounced around and struggled in recent times—he found himself starting this season on the independent circuit—has started three games for the Red Sox and allowed three runs in 23 innings while striking out ten batters in each.

Hill is the second pitcher in major league history to strike out ten batters in his first three starts for a team and the first ever to do so in his first three starts after having not started a game in over five years.

A day after clinching the AL Central crown, the Royals rest most of their everyday regulars—and the Indians’ Carlos Carrasco takes advantage, pitching a one-hit shutout with 15 strikeouts in Cleveland’s 6-0 win at Kansas City to keep its faint wild card hopes alive.

Saturday, September 26
A nostalgic pairing of two of Oakland’s Big Three from the early 2000s—the Giants’ Tim Hudson and once-and-current Athletic Barry Zito, making his first start of the year after performing in the minors all season—turns into a dud as neither pitcher gets past the second inning. The bashing continues after their departures with San Francisco winning a 14-10 slugfest at the Coliseum. The Giants’ Jarrett Parker, a call-up who the night before launched a 474-foot tape measure homer, blasts three more over the fence—his final blow a grand slam that breaks a 10-10 tie.

Parker has five homers in his last nine at-bats. The last Giant to do that: Barry Bonds, naturally—or maybe not so naturally—in 2004.

The Mets clinch their first divisional title since 2006—and only their second since 1988—as Lucas Duda’s first-inning grand slam propels New York to a fast start and an eventual 10-2 rout of the Reds at Cincinnati. It’s the Mets’ tenth straight win on the road, setting a club record.

Houston’s Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, a day after having collided with one another on a pop fly, each hit two homers—part of a six-homer bonanza for the Astros in a much-needed 9-7 win over the Rangers to keep their aspirations of winning the AL West (to say nothing of a wild card) alive. According to Elias, it’s only the second time in American League history that middle infielders in the starting lineup for the same time went deep at least twice.

Sunday, September 27
A day after being eliminated from the postseason, the Washington Nationals—the team most everyone (including us) picked to win it all—let it all hang out in the worst way. After Bryce Harper fails to hustle on an eighth-inning pop-up in a 4-4 game at home against the lowly Phillies, he is greeted in the Nationals dugout by a fiery, fuming closer Jonathan Papelbon; words are exchanged, and then blows, as Papelbon grabs the NL MVP candidate by the throat and shoves him against the dugout wall before being separated by teammates.

In the ninth, Harper is removed from the game (he is not injured from the fracas), and Papelbon, now pitching, falls apart—walking two, hitting another, allowing two steals and serving up a home run to Andreas Blanco to ignite an eight-run Philadelphia rally before being removed to a chorus of boos from local fans, some of whom are well aware of the dugout brawl. The Nationals lose, 12-5, and drop to 79-76.

Telling someone on your team to hustle out a pop fly isn’t a bad idea, unless: 1., you’re not the manager or coach; 2., your team has just been eliminated from the postseason; 3., the guy you’re chewing out is, arguably, baseball’s best player; and 4., you just recently came from a team for which you spent all year publicly bitching about wanting to leave.

Papelbon and Harper are said to clear the air after the game, and Papelbon tells reporters that he was in the wrong. Obviously. Harper shrugs off the incident to the media, saying, “I mean, he apologized, so, whatever.”

This has not been a good week for Papelbon. The Harper brawl comes four days after he was ejected for hitting Baltimore’s Manny Machado near the head with a fastball and being suspended three games by MLB for it. He’ll serve that suspension after today—and the Nationals are adding four more games for the Harper fight, essentially ending his season.

Papelbon is contracted through next season with the Nationals, so they’re stuck with him for another year—unless they trade him. They might be thinking about it.

The Astros defeat the Rangers, 4-2, taking the series against Texas and cutting the Rangers’ lead in the AL West to 2.5 games. The winning pitcher is Dallas Keuchel, who wins his 19th game of the year—and, in the Astros’ last game of the regular season at Minute Maid Park, improves to an unprecedented 15-0 at home.

A month after throwing a no-hitter on Sunday Night Baseball, the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta takes a perfect game into the seventh before another national TV audience and a packed Wrigley Field before yielding a leadoff hit to Pittsburgh’s Gregory Polanco in the seventh. It’s the only hit allowed in seven frames by Arrieta, who strengthens his NL Cy Young Award chances with his 21st victory while lowering his season ERA to 1.82. Chicago prevails, 4-0.

In his first start since July 28—and a day after the death of his father—the Royals’ Chris Young fires five perfect innings against the Indians at Kansas City before being removed due to a restricted pitch count. The Royals’ bullpen keeps the no-hitter intact until Cleveland rookie Francisco Lindor—hitting .358 since the All-Star Break—successfully bunts his way onto first. Some Kansas City players later grumble about the bunt hit, but Lindor points out that the score was only 2-0. The Royals still win, 3-0.

Monday, September 28
A big opportunity for Pittsburgh to make a run at first place in the NL Central is soured with a 3-0 home loss to the front-running Cardinals to start a three-game series; a sweep would have put the Bucs in a tie with St. Louis, but now they’re four games back with five to play. All three Cardinal runs score in the ninth to break a 0-0 tie.

There’s a frightening moment in the seventh when rookie St. Louis left-fielder Stephen Piscotty makes a diving attempt at a Josh Harrison fly ball—and his head collides with the knee of oncoming center-fielder Peter Bourjos. The collision renders Piscotty bloodied and unconscious and he’ll be carted off the field, but he’ll be released from the hospital the next day with only “a couple of bruises.”

The Cardinals somehow manage a nine-inning shutout despite issuing ten walks to the Pirates, who leave 16 men on base.

With Jonathan Papelbon suspended and Bryce Harper given “the day off,” Max Scherzer takes center stage for the Nationals and takes a no-hitter into the eight inning before allowing a run on two hits, but still easily earns the win in Washington’s 5-1 make-up victory over the Reds at Nationals Park.

In another make-up game rained out from earlier in the year at Chicago, the Cubs break up a 0-0 tie in the 11th when pinch-hitter Chris Denorfia slams a solo homer. It is said to be the first time, ever, that a pinch-hitter hit a solo homer in extra innings to win a 1-0 game.

Tuesday, September 29
The Dodgers clinch their third straight NL West title by defeating the defending world champion Giants and ace Madison Bumgarner with ease in San Francisco, 8-0. Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw delivers from the mound in style, throwing a one-hit shutout while striking out 13 Giants.

No, the Dodgers did not celebrate by jumping into McCovey Cove, figuring that the water temperature was a bit cooler than that of the Chase Field pool they invaded a few years ago while winning the West out in Arizona.

For a day at the least, the Angels claim the second wild card spot by ripping the A’s apart at Anaheim, 8-1, while the Astros lose at Seattle by a 6-4 count. It’s the Angels’ seventh straight win, matching their longest streak of the year.

The New York Mets, trying to establish home field advantage in their upcoming NLDS match-up against the Dodgers, lose 4-3 at Philadelphia—but for all it’s worth, they establish a NL record by scoring three or more runs in their 32nd straight road game.

Justine Siegal becomes the first female coach in major league history when the A’s hire her to be a guest instructor for the upcoming Arizona Fall League campaign. She had previously coached for the independent Brockton Rox, which made her the first coach in pro baseball annals.

Wednesday, September 30
The Blue Jays clinch the AL East title in typical Toronto fashion, romping over the Orioles in the first game of a doubleheader at Baltimore, 15-2. Ryan Goins has five hits for the Jays while Jose Bautista smacks his 40th home run, the eighth player to reach the milestone this season.

Last year, only one player hit 40 homers (Nelson Cruz, with exactly 40). The eight players who’ve reached 40 in 2015 are the most since 11 managed to do it in 2006.

In the second game of a doubleheader at Pittsburgh, the Cardinals get a Jason Heyward grand slam and seven shutout innings from Tyler Lyons to win both their 100th game and the NL Central title with an 11-1 rout of the Pirates. The loss for Pittsburgh, who maintains a hold of the top NL wild card spot, denies them of an opportunity to also win 100 on the year with three games left.

St. Louis is the first team to post 100 victories since the 2011 Phillies; it’s also the Cardinals’ eighth time reaching the century mark.

Perhaps taking advantage of a Dodger hangover a day after Los Angeles clinches the NL West, the Giants’ Mike Leake throws his first career shutout, a two-hitter in San Francisco’s 5-0 victory. It’s only Leake’s second win in nine starts since joining the Giants at the trading deadline.

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