This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: September, 2016
The Death of Jose Fernandez Rich Hill Gets Robbed of Perfection
Steve Clevenger Tweets His Way Out of Baseball Twins, Very Bad


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
104 19 34 7 0 10 24 9 0 0 2

There was a time when the Dominican-born slugger would have found it an achievement just getting through an entire season without spending a hefty fraction of it on the disabled list. Those days are gone, as Cruz is wrapping up his third straight season logging at least 152 games—and, not coincidentally, his third straight year with 40 or more homers, something that hasn’t been done since Ryan Howard in the late 2000s. Cruz went deep in his first three games of the month, and saved his most prodigious streak for a three-game series against the Twins (but of course), with four jacks and eight RBIs. Now bad for a 36-year-old man..


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
91 22 35 9 0 6 22 13 5 1 2

There may be no hotter hitter in the majors over the last two months than Freeman, who’s helped power up a previously lifeless Atlanta offense, energized his teammates and pushed the Braves toward a strong finish to an otherwise awful year. The highlight for September was a 30-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors this season and the third longest in Braves history, just seven behind Tommy Holmes’ memorable 1945 run that, at the time, set a NL record. Word on the street is that Suntrust Park, the Braves’ new home for 2017, will have a relatively short reach to right field—and that’s bad news for pitchers having to face the left-handed hitting Freeman, especially after the way he’s wrapping up this campaign


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Jake Smolinski, Oakland A's

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
71 6 10 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0

A few years back, we anointed the outfielder from Rockford, Illinois as one of our “Teasers” of 2014, one who made the absolute most of his call-up with impressive numbers. Like many (but not all) of our Teasers, Smolinski’s career trajectory has been far from ideal. He was hitting over .300 as late as July 27, but he shrunk in August—and absolutely disappeared in September, with his respected power bat so feeble he failed to register even a single RBI while playing almost every day. Sorry, A’s fans: When Josh Reddick leaves the building, this is what you get. It’s not fair; it’s Oakland.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Brandon Moss, St. Louis Cardinals

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
83 7 7 0 0 3 6 7 1 0 0

Speaking of ex-Athletics, there’s Moss, who can still supply a little muscle, as he did on occasion this past month by knocking out three homers. Beyond that, nothing. Do the math above and you’ll see a guy hitting below .100 for September, sending his season average plummeting to .225. Moss has never been a threat to win a batting title with a career .241 mark, but if the Cardinals are going to make any noise in the playoffs (assuming they even get there), they’ll need Moss to do more than just hit the occasional deep fly.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Sean Manaea, Oakland A's

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-0 18 10 1 1 4 0 1 0 0 15

Maybe if more guys like Smolinski above had hit better for the A’s in September, this guy might have won all three of his starts. This guy, being the Indiana-born Manaea, who along with Jharel Cotton gave A’s fans visions this past month of future, fleeting greatness on the mound before Billy Beane trades them away. Manaea was sharp in all three of his outings but, after easing to an 8-0 win at Kansas City, failed to pick up victories against the Astros and Angels as his teammates could only give him a run of support in each game. Still, hope springs eternal at the aging Coliseum, so we’ll see if Manaea can leverage this strong finish to a strong 2017.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
5-0 37.2 22 2 2 4 0 1 0 0 31

Another month, another great effort by another Cubs pitcher. This time the merry-go-round swings us to Lester, the veteran southpaw whose sterling September has put him firmly in the NL Cy Young Award conversation alongside teammate Kyle Hendricks. For anyone who recalls Jake Arrieta’s out-of-body second-half performance last season, they should heed what Lester has done this year since the All-Star Break: in 13 starts, he’s gone 10-0 with a 1.34 ERA, and at upload time he’s got one shot of becoming the NL’s first—and perhaps only—20-game winner on the year.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Doug Fister, Houston Astros

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-4 23 43 31 30 11 0 3 1 0 13

The last year or so hasn’t exactly been the best of times for the tall right-hander. Injury and ineffectiveness caused him to spiral out of Washington’s rotation in 2015 after a superb showing the year before, he didn’t receive a $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals, moving onto the Astros for less than half of that—though incentives would have brought that total to $12 million. If he’s earned any of that extra money, it certainly wasn’t because of a dreadful September in which he got hammered over and over again—particularly by the Mariners, who throttled him for 12 runs in five innings over two starts. He’s a free agent once more this winter; you think the Astros will give him a qualifying offer?


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jarred Cosart, San Diego Padres

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-3 12.1 15 18 17 11 0 0 1 0 7

At least the Astros don’t have to worry about Cosart, who showed early promise in Houston before being sent on to Miami, which sent him on to San Diego, which sent him onto the shelf after he clearly looked out of sync. After a decent first month for the Padres in August, the 26-year-old Texan lost his command in September and dearly paid for it as the pitches that did hit the strike zone got hit hard. A bad elbow was to blame, which is why he left his last start after throwing just an inning. The offseason’s upon us, Jarred. Rest up.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Boston Red Sox (19-8)

The Red Sox continue to smack the daylights out of the cowhide and lead the world in hitting, but a funny thing is happening on the way to the playoffs: They’re pitching. A staff which had held the team back from lapping the field for much of the season finally got its act together in September with a nifty 3.05 team ERA, and the results were telling: The Red Sox at one stage won 11 straight games, flew past the Blue Jays and Orioles and eased to, hard to believe, only their fourth divisional crown since the AL was sliced into three units 22 years ago. (Thank goodness for the wild card, which has given Boston October life seven other times during that same period.) Here’s another weird fact: The Red Sox have finished first twice in the last five years—and finished last in the other three.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Los Angeles Dodgers (17-10)

The Dodgers had fun with Giants arch-nemesis Madison Bumgarner after his latest on-field debate with Yasiel Puig, printing up T-shirts that yelled, “Don’t Look at Me!” It was the tip of the iceberg for a joyous month at Chavez Ravine in which the Dodgers raced past the struggling Giants and eased to their fourth straight NL West title, winning it via walk-off in their regular season home finale on an extra-inning home run from oft-used Charlie Culberson—the perfect retirement gift for Vin Scully, calling his final game at Dodger Stadium. What’s impressive is that the Dodgers’ stars gave way to unlikely heroes in September. The all-but-admonished Puig revived his game; Joc Pederson somehow hit .300; Josh Reddick, after a miserable August, hit .400; and five relief pitchers combined to throw 34.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Now comes what’s been the hard part for the Dodgers this decade: Winning in October.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Minnesota Twins (8-19)

This is the third go-around this season for the Twinkees in this category, so you can probably guess who’ll wind up end up here next month as we dishonor the very worst for the whole year. But for now, let’s just talk about what the Twins did in September—which isn’t far off from what they did in April, and May, and June, and so on. They hit worse (.231) than any other AL team despite ten more homers from Brian Dozier and a long-overdue breakout by blue-chipper Byron Buxton, and their pitching staff remained lost at sea, with Ervin Santana once again saving them from a total collapse. Breath deep, Twins fans: The nightmare is almost over.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Milwaukee Brewers (10-20)

When all is said and done, the 70-win Phillies will be able to sit back somewhat content and call the 2016 season a success, given that almost everyone (but us) predicted them to be the majors’ worst. And, really, their September wasn’t all that bad; they were 10-11 against everyone not named the Braves and, well, 0-6 against those named the Braves—which does not help to inflate one’s ego with Atlanta playing as piss-poor as it has this year. Except in September, when it plays the Phillies and go…ah, you get the picture.



Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(September 2016 Edition)

Even the Intern Had to Know This Was Wrong
ESPN’s Baseball Tonight Twitter feed said this on September 2: “On this date in 1927, Babe Ruth hit his first HR. He would go on to set a single-season record with 60 home runs.” That must have been a helluva September for the Bambino.

Did Vin Scully Tell This Story?
The last two of four Dodgers to pitch on September 5 against Arizona at Chavez Ravine were…Jesse Chavez and Josh Ravin.

Take Your Disposable Razor and Shove It
Miami pitcher Andrew Cashner says that although he’s enjoyed his time with the Marlins since being traded from San Diego this summer, he won’t re-sign with them unless they trash their policy of banning any facial hair.

Intentional Ball, Unintentional Result
This is why MLB should keep forcing pitchers to actually throw four pitches to complete an intentional walk: On September 10 at New York, Yankees rookie catcher Gary Sanchez leaned across and hit a 51-MPH soft toss from Erasmo Ramirez to the warning track on what was supposed to be part of a free pass. The ball was caught, but the Yankees got a run when Brett Gardner tagged from third and scored.

New Moon, Apparently
Most Yankee fans applauded David Ortiz for his final appearance at Yankee Stadium, but others sought to thank Big Papi in less endearing ways. Someone created a web site called MoonBigPapi.com with the goal of getting as many Yankee Stadium bleacher patrons as possible to turn their backs, lower their pants and moon Ortiz when he came to bat. The site created a media buzz but little else, judging from the lack of dropped pants.

Any Tooth to This One?
The Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig lobbed a souvenir ball to a female spectator in the Yankee Stadium stands—and knocked out one of her front teeth.

And There’s No Ring to This One
A young man proposing to his girlfriend during a game at Yankee Stadium opened the ring box…only to find no ring. A frantic search by everybody in the section had a happy ending moments later when the ring was found. Hopefully they found a missing tooth as well.

So…Cycling Helmet, or Batting Helmet?
The Cubs’ Ben Zobrist rode a bike one mile from his home to Wrigley Field…in full uniform.

A Phony Parting Gift
In his final appearance at Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards, David Ortiz was presented with a dugout phone that the Red Sox’ star smashed three years ago with his bat.

Sigh
Four baseballs signed by Jose Fernandez washed up on shore 20 blocks north from the location where he was killed in a boating accident. Authorities determined that they came from the boat.

Sigh II
Someone stole a Fernandez high school jersey that was being displayed at a vigil mourning the Marlins ace. It was later returned.

Sigh III
Headline in Newsday after the Mets defeated the Marlins 12-2, a few days after Fernandez’s death from a boating accident: “Smooth sailing with sharp Noah.”

Maybe He Just Hates Flowers
A man jumping onto the field at San Francisco's AT&T Park during a game offered a white flower to Giants outfielder Angel Pagan—who grabbed the guy and body-slammed him to the turf.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
With major league lineups being infiltrated by young call-ups—many of them without a clue as to how to connect off more veteran pitchers—you knew there would be no let-up in the strikeout parade in September. Sure enough, there were 6,667 tabulated, which would have broke the monthly record established just earlier in August had there been a September 31st. Overall, baseball set a new record for K’s in one season by over 1,000 from 2015.

League vs. League

Having clinched its 13th straight year of interleague dominance, the American League played out the string in September and padded its win total over the National League to a 165-133 margin, winning 13 of 24 contests against the senior circuit during the month.

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The Ballparks on This Great Game

Thursday, September 1
The Minnesota Twins, who ended August with a 13-game losing skid, begin September by breaking out of it with an 8-5 win over the visiting Chicago White Sox. Byron Buxton, just recalled (again) from the minors, belts a three-home run that’s part of a five-run Twins rally in the second inning.

In the first game of a highly anticipated four-game series at Wrigley Field between two top National League teams, the Chicago Cubs defeat the San Francisco Giants 5-4 in a battle of the bullpens after both starters bomb. The Cubs get five perfect innings from their relievers after Mike Montgomery gives up four runs on three hits, three walks, two wild pitches an a hit batsman; the Giants’ pen isn’t quite as stout, replacing Jeff Samardzija (who throws 47 pitches in the first inning alone and leaves after four frames) and bowing on a two-run single in the seventh from Addison Russell.

Better late than never: The Atlanta Braves, starving for offense (to say nothing of wins) for much of the year, finally are seeing their bats come alive as they score seven or more runs for the fifth straight time and wrap their first home sweep of the season with a 9-6 win over the San Diego Padres. Freddie Freeman continues his hot hitting of late with his 28th home run.

Christian Yelich homers for the third straight game at Citi Field and the Miami Marlins deny New York a shot of a four-game sweep by defeating the Mets, 6-4. The win also helps to keep the Marlins (68-66) relevant in the NL wild card race.

Friday, September 2
In his first appearance for Los Angeles since being demoted to the minors—and nearly getting traded to Milwaukee after being placed on waivers—Yasiel Puig nets two singles in four at-bats. But it’s not enough for the Dodgers, who lose at home to San Diego, 4-2.

The Dodgers’ loss means that the San Francisco Giants stay two back in the NL West after their own defeat at Chicago, 2-1. The Cubs’ Jon Lester takes a no-hitter into the seventh—and extends the Giants’ run of hitless at-bats from the day before to 40—before Hunter Pence breaks it all up with a solo home run.

Mike Trout allays those who feared he didn’t escape a freeway accident two days earlier without injury by smashing a home run in his first at-bat at Seattle. But his blast, part of a four-run rally in the first for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, is easily overcome by the Mariners—who plate ten in the first two frames on their way to an 11-8 victory.

The Boston Red Sox trounce the A’s at Oakland, 16-2, and that’s nothing new. It’s the fourth straight game in which Boston has racked up at least 12 runs against the A’s, something that no team has done against a particular opponent since Pittsburgh did it six straight times against the New York Giants in 1901. Travis Shaw leads the Red Sox’ carnage with two doubles, a homer and five RBIs.

In the type of game that leaves old-timers scratching their heads, the Brewers use seven pitchers to finish off a 1-0 victory over the Pirates at Pittsburgh. Junior Guerra, coming off the disabled list, is lifted after 3.1 innings when he hits his scheduled 70-pitch limit, but six relievers help preserve the shutout. The numerous pitching changes (among other things) runs the time of game to three hours and a minute, and it’s only the third time seven pitchers have been needed for a 1-0 contest; the other two have taken place just in the last few years.

Saturday, September 3
Tonight, the Red Sox will not score a dozen times against the A’s—but they’ll come awfully close, notching 11 and leaving the 12th in scoring position in the ninth, becoming the first American League team to score at least ten against the same opponent in five straight games as they hammer their way to an 11-2 win at Oakland. Yoan Moncada, the highly touted 21-year-old from Cuba making his first start, nabs a double, single and RBI, while Rick Porcello (once again well supported) collects his 19th win to lead the majors. Combined with Toronto’s 7-5 loss at Tampa Bay, the Red Sox are now tied for first in the AL East with the Blue Jays.

Albert Pujols strokes two home runs to claim sole possession of ninth place on the all-time list with 588 career dingers, ahead of Frank Robinson. The Angels hit five overall, scoring early and often again and this time hanging on easily to best the Mariners at Seattle, 10-3.

Don’t expect Pujols to reach Sammy Sosa, next on his radar at 609, until next spring at the earliest.

Welcome home, Coco Crisp. The once-and current Cleveland Indian, just traded to the Tribe, returns to the place where he began his major league career in 2005 and has three hits and three runs against Jose Fernandez and the Miami Marlins in an 8-3 victory. Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer, after allowing three runs on four hits in the first inning, doesn’t allow another hit until being removed with one out in the ninth.

The New York Mets, working with a patchwork rotation, get six solid innings out of Robert Gsellman—making just his third major league appearance—and Curtis Granderson gets a rare hit with runners in scoring position (he was batting just .116 in such situations) to bring home two runs, break a tie and give New York a 3-1 home win over Washington. The Mets are still miles (9.5 games) behind the Nationals in the NL East, but are just a game behind St. Louis (9-1 losers at Cincinnati) for the final wild card spot.

If the Houston Astros fail to make the postseason, they’ll likely point to their inability to beat the AL West-leading Texas Rangers as a principal reason as to why. The Rangers crush the Astros 12-4 for their seventh straight win, while improving to 13-2 against Houston on the season.

Sunday, September 4
The Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez has a no-hitter broken up with two outs in the eighth after umpires overturn an out call at first base, awarding an infield single to the A’s Marcus Semien. Perhaps the bigger news is that the Red Sox, who have been bludgeoning the A’s nonstop this season, can’t tally once on the day at Oakland against Kendall Graveman and two relievers—while Boston closer Craig Kimbrel, fighting to extend a 0-0 game into extra innings, walks the first batter he faces in the ninth and next surrenders a double to Khris Davis that wins it for the A’s, 1-0.

With the Red Sox losing, the Blue Jays reclaim first in the AL East with a 5-3 win at Tampa Bay on Russell Martin’s two-run homer in the eighth. In pitching a 1-2-3 ninth, Toronto closer Roberto Osuna becomes the youngest player (at 21 years and seven months) to reach 50 career saves.

More Albert Pujols history takes place right off the bat at Seattle when his home run is not only the 134th first-inning shot of his career (breaking a three-way tie with Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds), but it’s followed by a blast from C.J. Cron, making the Angels the first team ever to hit back-to-back homers in the first inning in three straight games. But the thrill of the first is deadened an inning later when Angels starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker has his skull fractured by a 105-MPH line drive from the Mariners’ Kyle Seager, landing him in the hospital overnight (where he’ll undergo surgery to prevent brain swelling). The Angels’ bullpen takes over and keeps Seattle at bay with a 4-2 victory.

Had Shoemaker been wearing one of the MLB-approved protective caps that no pitcher wants to wear because it’s too heavy and not fashionable, he may have avoided injury.

Jose Abreu drives in a career-high seven runs largely on the strength of two three-run homers, and Tim Anderson’s two-run double in the 12th gives the White Sox a 13-11 victory at Minnesota.

The Giants take a 2-1 lead to the bottom of the ninth at Chicago and are primed for a series split with the Cubs, but closer Santiago Casilla suffers his seventh blown save (that’s tops in the majors) on a two-out single from Jason Heyward—who four innings later singles again to bring the winning run home for the Cubs in a 3-2 victory.

With the Giants losing, the Dodgers extend their NL West lead to three games with a 7-4 decision over the San Diego Padres at Los Angeles. Getting the win in his major league debut is Jose De Leon (not related or to be confused with 1980s pitcher Jose DeLeon), who strikes out nine and walks none over six innings.

Only three other pitchers—Johnny Cueto, Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey—have struck out more batters in their debuts.

Monday, September 5
After a pitching duel between Justin Verlander and Chris Sale can’t settle a 2-2 tie, Detroit finally breaks out in the 11th on Justin Upton’s three-run homer, and Francisco Rodriguez wraps up a 5-3 win by securing his 425th career save—giving him sole possession of fourth place on the all-time list.

Minnesota’s Brian Dozier belts three home runs—he leads the majors with 24 since the All-Star break—but it’s far from enough as the visiting Kansas City Royals notch nine unanswered runs after falling behind early and defeat the Twins, 11-5.

Zack Greinke returns to Dodger Stadium for the first time since leaving Los Angeles for a monster contract with Arizona—and gets welcomed with a career-high five home runs belted by his ex-teammates in a 10-2 loss. Greinke allows four of the dingers in the fifth inning alone to tie a major league record shared by 34 other pitchers (including two who did it earlier this season).

After getting silenced by Cubs pitchers in Chicago, Denver’s Coors Field does not become Cure Field for the Giants, who are shut out on two hits by Colorado’s Chad Bettis, 6-0. It’s only the second time since the ballpark opened in 1995 that a pitcher has allowed only two baserunners in a complete-game effort.

The Giants tie a major league record by collecting four or fewer hits in their fifth straight game.

While a current Rockies pitcher delivers one gem, an ex-Rockies ace produces another. Ubaldo Jimenez gives up three runs on two hits in a shaky first inning at Tampa Bay, but settles in quickly and doesn’t allow a hit the rest of the way in a complete-game, 7-3 Baltimore win. It’s the first time, since shortly before he was traded away by Colorado in 2011, that Jimenez has gone the distance.

The St. Louis Cardinals hand the Pirates their seventh straight loss (sending them a game below .500) with a 12-6 whitewashing at Pittsburgh. In earning the win, Adam Wainwright is okay on the mound, better with a bat—collecting two hits and three RBIs. In fact, his second knock of the night, a fourth-inning single, is his tenth of the year—but his first that doesn’t go for extra bases.

For the season, Wainwright has six doubles, a triple, two homers and a single.

Tuesday, September 6
One strike away from ending a seven-game losing streak at Pittsburgh, the Pirates serve up three home runs to St. Louis—including a solo shot from Matt Carpenter that’s the Cardinals’ 15th pinch-hit homer of the year to set a major league record—and go down to defeat, 9-7. St. Louis overall belts five over the fence and ties a NL mark by going deep in 25 straight games—a record shared by the Padres, who reached it this past July.

Washington defeats Atlanta 9-7 at Nationals Park, but the highlight of the evening belongs to the Braves when rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson, the top pick in the 2015 amateur draft, flies around the bases in the third inning for an inside-the-park home run and the first round-tripper of his career. Swanson is the first Braves player to hit an inside-the-park homer since 2001 and the first to do so for his first career homer since 1985.

Toronto’s bid to maintain sole possession of the AL East lead falls inches short when Justin Smoak’s deep fly to left with two outs and the bases loaded is caught against the top of the wall by the Yankees’ Brett Gardner, sealing a 7-6 win for New York.

Wednesday, September 7
From the sub-.500 depths come the Mets, who win their 14th game in their last 18 tries—and their 14th straight overall against Cincinnati—as Jose Reyes homers on the game’s first pitch and Noah Syndergaard contributes five shutout innings to give New York a 6-3 road win. The franchise record for most consecutive wins against one opponent is 15, against Pittsburgh from 1986-87.

The Cardinals could have used a home run to stay ahead of the Mets in the wild card race, but they lose out at Pittsburgh, 4-3—ending not only the Pirates’ eight-game skid, but the Cardinals’ NL record-tying streak of 25 games with a home run. Jung Ho Kang’s blast in the eighth breaks a 3-3 tie for the Bucs.

The first start for Washington’s Stephen Strasburg in three weeks is going along fine until the third inning, when feels a “pinch” in the back of his right elbow and departs. The Nationals employ ten pitchers overall and survive a 5-4, 11-inning home victory over Atlanta.

Jonathan Villar provides the Brewers with all of their offense via two solo homers—one from each side of the plate—and center fielder Keon Broxton robs the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo of a game-tying homer in the ninth to help secure a 2-1 win over Chicago at Milwaukee.

Villar becomes the first player since Carl Crawford in 2009 to accrue 15 homers and 50 steals in a season.

Thursday, September 8
The Yankees and Rays combine for seven home runs—all of them solo—and the last of those is belted by New York’s Tyler Austin to lead off the bottom of the ninth and win the game at Yankee Stadium, 5-4. The victory brings the Yankees, infused with youth and 15-8 since Alex Rodriguez played his final contest, to within two games of the second AL wild card spot.

Houston drops a half-game behind the Yankees in the wild card hunt after losing in controversial fashion at Cleveland, 10-7. A four-run Indians fourth is capped by a wild pitch that brings home two runs—except that it should never have been ruled a wild pitch as David Paulino’s delivery hits the dirt and ricochets off the bat of Lonnie Chisenhall. Everyone but umpire Jim Joyce seems to believe it’s a foul ball; Chisenhall turns away in disgust and Houston catcher Jason Castro calmly asks for a new ball, both unaware the ball is ruled live by Joyce. Not even the other three umpires can say they saw the ball tipped foul. After minutes of confusion, several umpire huddles (foul tips are not reviewable) and an ejection to Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, the wild pitch stands.

It may be too little and too late for Pittsburgh, but Ivan Nova continues to be a godsend for the Pirates after being acquired from the Yankees. The 29-year-old right-hander throws his second complete game and improves to 5-0 in seven starts for the Bucs as he scatters a run on six hits in a 4-1 victory at Cincinnati.

Nova has struck out 32 and walked just two in 46.1 innings since joining the Pirates. Not bad for a guy who posted a 5.31 ERA for the Yankees from 2014 through July 31 of this season.

The Padres destroy Colorado at San Diego, 14-1, as rookie second baseman Ryan Schimpf knocks in four runs on a double and 18th home run in 215 at-bats this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Schimpf’s 50 career hits to date include 38 for extra bases—far and away the most by any major leaguer within his first 50.

Friday, September 9
Rick Porcello becomes the majors’ first 20-game winner of the season—and the first for the Red Sox since Josh Beckett in 2007—as Boston slams the Blue Jays at Toronto, 13-3, in the first game of a crucial series between the two top AL East teams. The Red Sox bang out 18 hits, including at least two each from seven different players, and now own a two-game lead in the division.

The Yankees win their sixth straight game and get louder in the wild card conversation with a 7-5 defeat of the Rays at New York. Rookie catcher Gary Sanchez, white hot in August, has his first home run—and RBI—in 11 games.

His back recovered, Clayton Kershaw makes his first appearance in 11 weeks but lasts only three innings and is easily outdueled by Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who throws seven shutout innings and strikes out 14 in a 4-1 win over the Dodgers at Miami.

With Kershaw available, the Dodgers are 41-37. While he was out, they were 38-24. Go figure.

Behind seven shutout frames from Jon Lester (who improves to 16-4), the Cubs hand the Astros a 2-0 defeat at Houston and reach 90 wins for the second straight season—the first time they’ve done that since 1928-30, during the high times of Hack Wilson and manager Joe McCarthy.

Saturday, September 10
In Miami, the Dodgers’ Rich Hill has a perfect game on 89 pitches through seven innings—and that’s when his manager, Dave Roberts, makes a decision that will leave him “sick to his stomach” and pulls him from the game. Three Los Angeles relievers combine to allow the Marlins’ only two hits over the final two innings to cap a 5-0 victory, as Roberts is thinking more long-term and wants to keep the fragile Hill (with a persistent blister on his pitching hand) active for the rest of the regular season and likely beyond.

This is the latest a pitcher has been removed from a major league game with a perfect game intact. It’s also the second time this year that Roberts has pulled a starting pitcher after seven innings without allowing a hit; Ross Stripling was removed after 7.1 no-hit frames at San Francisco on April 8. The Dodgers lost that game.

While there have been a number of no-hitters completed using multiple pitchers, no perfect game has ever been thrown using more than one pitcher.

The Blue Jays get one back against Boston and even up the weekend series against the Red Sox with a 3-2 victory at Toronto. J.A. Happ improves to 18-4 with six solid innings, while Melvin Upton Jr.’s two-run homer in the second proves to be the crucial blow. The Blue Jays move back to within a game of the Red Sox in the AL East.

Felix Hernandez, who historically hasn’t gotten the best of support from his Mariners teammates, is backed by 14 runs for the second straight start as Seattle deconstructs the A’s at Oakland, 14-3. King Felix throws six shutout innings and is now 23-8 lifetime against the A’s, with 12 of those coming at the Oakland Coliseum—the most by a visiting pitcher since the stadium debuted for baseball in 1968.

Sunday, September 11
David Ortiz passes Jimmie Foxx for 18th on the all-time home run list with his 535th blast, Dustin Pedroia cranks out two hits to run his hitting streak against Toronto to 29 games, and the Red Sox outlast the Blue Jays 11-8 to take the three-game series and extend their AL East lead back to two games. The Jays drop into a second-place tie with the Orioles, who defeats the Tigers at Detroit, 3-1.

The Marlins, who haven’t had a starting pitcher go the distance in a record 409 straight games, come within an out of snapping that as Jose Urena is removed after 8.2 innings of a 3-0 victory over the visiting Dodgers. It’s the final meeting between these two teams this season, with Miami winning six of seven—and that is sure to bring satisfaction to Marlins manager Don Mattingly, fired last year by Los Angeles.

The Giants scratch back to within three games of the Dodgers in the NL West as they may finally be showing signs of snapping out of their deep post-All-Star break funk. A sharp Matt Moore outduels Arizona’s Zack Greinke and the Giants take a three-game series at Phoenix for San Francisco’s first series sweep since the break; its last also came against the Diamondbacks, just before the break.

Chris Sale might be in stronger position to earn AL Cy Young Award votes than, say, 20-game winner Rick Porcello—but only if had better support from his White Sox mates. The southpaw is yet again terrific, allowing two runs over eight innings while striking out 12, but Chicago is shut down on two hits by the Royals’ Ian Kennedy and three relievers in a 2-0 loss. Sale has won only one of ten starts—with a 2.47 ERA—since the All-Star break.

In defeat, Sale reaches the 200-K mark for the fourth time in his career—an achievement matched only by one other White Sox pitcher, the great Ed Walsh.

Eric Hosmer hits his 100th career homer, joining many other Royals with over 100—but only one, George Brett, has more than 200.

Solo home runs rule the day at Anaheim, as the Angels get power from two unlikely sources: Andrelton Simmons, who belts two over the fence after having just one in 385 prior at-bats this season, and Yunel Escobar, with only his fourth in 452 ABs. Their combined three homers are enough to administer a 3-2 defeat upon the Rangers, who get all of their scoring on two Adrian Beltre blasts.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the five total runs are the fewest ever scored in a major league game in which multiple players have hit multiple homers.

Monday, September 12
NL Cy Young Award candidate Kyle Hendricks continues to erode what little obscurity he has left by taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning at St. Louis, only to see it end on a leadoff homer by the Cardinals’ Jeremy Hazelbaker. He’s removed at that point but gets credit for the Cubs’ 4-1 victory, all while lowering his season ERA to a major league-best 2.03.

An interesting moment takes place as the Cubs ready to pull Hendricks after the Hazelbaker homer. Chicago catcher Miguel Montero is on his way out to the mound in an effort to stall for time and give closer Aroldis Chapman more time to get ready, but home plate umpire Joe West tells Montero that if he does, it will count as a mound visit. Montero goes “huh?” and a livid Cubs manager Joe Maddon confronts West on the issue—and gets ejected for it.

While a mound visit technically includes a manager or coach, an umpire does have the authority to declare any on-mound conversation between the catcher and pitcher to be a mound visit if he feels the players are intentionally stalling. This happens almost every night somewhere in baseball, but rarely do umpires call them on it—except Joe West tonight.

The White Sox become the seventh team in AL history to score in every inning as they beat up the Indians at Chicago, 11-4. As with the other six occurrences, the White Sox achieve the feat on their own home turf, without the need for a ninth inning; thus, no AL team has ever scored in all nine innings of a game.

The Red Sox nearly duplicate the White Sox’ efforts on the same night, but after scoring at least once against Baltimore in each of the first seven innings at Fenway Park, they go down 1-2-3 in the eighth. But there’s few complaints otherwise for Boston fans, who watch the Sox annihilate the Orioles 12-2; David Ortiz’s 33rd homer is the 536th of his career, tying Mickey Mantle for 17th on the all-time list.

Minnesota’s Brian Dozier belts his 40th homer of the year—making him the fourth second baseman, after Rogers Hornsby, Davey Johnson and Ryne Sandberg, to reach the milestone—but as usual it’s not enough for the woeful Twins, who suffer a 4-2 loss to the Tigers at Detroit.

Dozier also becomes only the second Twin, after Harmon Killebrew, to hit 40 since the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961.

Tuesday, September 13
The Giants continue to make an art form out of blowing late leads. They take a 4-1 lead into the ninth at home against San Diego, and are one strike away from surviving a pesky Padres rally when Ryan Schimpf crushes a three-run shot to right-center to cap a five-run outburst and send San Francisco to a 6-4 defeat.

Taijuan Walker fires a three-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and no walks, giving the Mariners their seventh straight win with an 8-0 blowout of the Angels at Anaheim. The current streak has catapulted Seattle back into the AL wild care race, as the Mariners are currently 2.5 games back of the top two teams (Baltimore and Toronto).

Vin Scully declares that he will not announce any Dodgers postseason games, making it official that the team’s regular season finale at San Francisco on October 2 will be his very last broadcast.

Wednesday, September 14
Mark Trumbo’s 42nd home run and 100th RBI accounts for the lone run in the Orioles’ 1-0 victory at Boston, dealing Rick Porcello with his first home loss of the year after 13 wins. It’s also the first time this year that the Red Sox, who’ve averaged 7.5 runs every time Porcello makes a start, have given him no support at all.

The Nationals defeat the Mets at Washington, 1-0, on a Wilson Ramos homer in the final regular season game played between the two teams this season. The big sidebar story belongs to ex-Met Daniel Murphy, who has a hit in each of the 19 games played against his former team and bats .413 overall against them this year with seven homers and 21 RBIs.

Thursday, September 15
San Diego general manager A.J. Proller spent much of 2015 muscling the Padres up with All-Star power, and much of this year getting rid of it; now MLB believes he’s gotten too mischievous in doing the latter. Proller is suspended a month without pay for not providing appropriate medical information into a MLB database shared by all 30 teams in advance of numerous Padres trades in mid-summer. According to an ESPN report, Proller instructed his medical staff to keep two different sets of records: One for the league database, another with assumedly more intensive information to be kept internal.

The Cubs lose at home to Milwaukee, 5-4, but still become the first team on the year to clinch a divisional title when second-place St. Louis loses at San Francisco, 6-2. It’s Chicago’s first NL Central crown since 2008.

Trailing 5-1 to the Yankees after seven innings, the Red Sox get one back in the eighth and then stage a dramatic rally in the ninth when they plate five—all with two outs—to stagger New York at Fenway Park, 7-5. The comeback victory puts Boston two games up over Baltimore (7-6 losers at home to Tampa Bay) and Toronto (7-2 winners at Anaheim) in the AL East; the Yankees drop five games back and, more crucially, are now three back in the wild card race with 16 to play.

The A’s finish off a four-game sweep at Kansas City—and likely finish off any remaining chance that the defending champion Royals will be able to return to the postseason—with a 14-5 demolishment. For the series, the A’s outscore the Royals 43-12; it’s the most runs Oakland has scored in a series of any length since relocating from Kansas City in 1968.

You have to go back to 1935 to find the last time the A’s scored more runs in a series—and that was a seven-game series at Philadelphia against the White Sox. There were three doubleheaders and a single game played over four days, with the A’s notching 46 runs.

Friday, September 16
Jonathan Lucroy’s two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth rescues the Rangers with a 7-6 walkoff victory over the visiting A’s. It’s the ninth time this year that Texas has come from behind in the ninth inning or later to win a ballgame, and that’s a franchise record.

Seattle’s wild card chances take a hit and their eight-game winning streak comes to an end, even with Felix Hernandez on the mound. The visiting Astros get seven shutout innings from Collin McHugh and Hernandez gets roughed up for six runs in 4.1 innings as Houston takes a 6-0 victory. The Mariners drop three games back in the AL wild card race, with the Astros right behind at four back.

The overall futility of the Cincinnati bullpen is underscored in historic fashion. A seventh-inning homer off Blake Wood by the Pirates’ Jung Ho Kang ties the game at 7-7 in advance of a 9-7, 10-inning win for Pittsburgh; the homer is the 93rd given up by Reds relievers this season, setting a major league record.

W.P. Kinsella, who in 1982 wrote the novel Shoeless Joe—which seven years later became the hit film Field of Dreams—passes away in Vancouver at the age of 81 in what is described as a “doctor-assisted” death, recently made legal in Canada. Kinsella wrote many books on baseball, including a biography of Ichiro Suzuki published only in Japan, but none were more popular than Shoeless Joe, the title of which did not survive for the film version but did include the memorable line “Build it, and he will come.” Kinsella was said to love Field of Dreams to the point that it nearly brought him to tears the first time he saw it.

Saturday, September 17
The Indians survive a first-inning injury to pitcher Carlos Carrasco and use an MLB-record nine pitchers to record a shutout, 1-0 over Justin Verlander and the visiting Tigers in ten innings. With the win, Cleveland moves its magic number of clinching the AL Central to seven—but if it makes the postseason, it will be without Carrasco, out for the year after being diagnosed with a fractured pinky in his throwing hand from Ian Kinsler’s sharp comebacker.

The Giants are three outs away from taking their third straight win against St. Louis and delivering a major blow to the Cardinals’ wild card hopes—but the ninth inning continues to prove to be the most difficult for San Francisco. Santiago Casilla blows his ninth save opportunity of the year (extending his major league lead) and the Cardinals notch two tallies to win, 3-2. St. Louis is within two games of the Giants and Mets in the NL wild card race.

It’s the eighth time this season the Giants have lost a game when taking a lead into the ninth inning, tying a franchise mark. Conversely, they haven’t won any game when entering the ninth when trailing an opponent.

The Mets are tied with the Giants for the first wild card slot thanks to Curtis Granderson, who becomes the first Met to homer twice in extra innings—one in the 11th to re-tie the visiting Twins after Byron Buxton had gone deep in the top of the frame, and again an inning later to win it, 3-2. Granderson’s game-winning homer is also New York’s 201st this season, setting a franchise record.

The news on the day isn’t all good for the Mets. Pitcher Jacob deGrom is shut down for the rest of the season and may need surgery to repair scar tissue that is affecting his Tommy John-rebuilt elbow.

The Red Sox up their AL East lead to three games over both the Orioles and Blue Jays (both of whom lose on the day) with another come-from-behind victory over the Yankees at Boston, 6-5. It’s Xander Bogaerts’ turn to be the big guy offensively for the Red Sox, with two doubles, a home run (his 20th) and three RBIs.

The Angels see to it that the Blue Jays don’t stay on pace with the Red Sox by delivering a 6-1 home victory over Toronto behind Ricky Nolasco’s six shutout innings and Albert Pujols’ 30th homer of the year. It’s the 14th time that Pujols has reached 30 in his career; Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez are the only other players to have done the same.

Jon Gray strikes out a Rockies-record 16 batters, walks none and concedes four hits in an 8-0 shutout victory over the Padres at Denver. It’s the second shutout thrown by a Rockies pitcher this month at Coors Field; they’ve only thrown four at home over the previous nine-plus seasons.

After a mostly solid showing in the second half, the Reds are beginning to relapse—thanks again to an out-of-bounds pitching staff. Cincinnati is dumped on twice by the visiting Pirates in a doubleheader, 10-4 and 7-3; the Pirates collect 22 total hits on the day, but also 19 walks—the most ever given up in a double-dip by the Reds since the pitching mound was moved back to its current location of 60’6” in 1893.

Sunday, September 18
Miguel Cabrera becomes the youngest major leaguer since Hank Aaron to reach 2,500 hits when he singles in the third inning of the Tigers’ 9-5 win at Cleveland. Aaron was 33 years and 127 days old when he notched his milestone hit; Cabrera is just 26 days older.

Cabrera needs 800 hits to crash the all-time top-ten list in career hits; barring a catastrophic breakdown, he could easily reach that goal before turning 40.

On the eve of a critical ten-game road trip against divisional opponents, the Red Sox finish off a four-game sweep of the Yankees, 5-4, and maintain their lead in the AL East at three games over Baltimore. Again, Boston does it coming from behind—scoring five unanswered runs after trailing 4-0 on the strength of two Hanley Ramirez home runs.

The Orioles keep pace with Boston and take a one-game lead over Toronto (4-0 losers at Anaheim) in the AL wild card race as solo homers from Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo are enough to overpower the visiting Rays, 2-1. Taking the loss for Tampa Bay is Jake Odorizzi, who sets a post-Deadball Era AL record by failing to get a win for the 12th time when allowing two or fewer earned runs.

The first in what is expected to be many dominoes falls as a thoroughly disappointing season comes to a close in Arizona. Senior VP of baseball operations De Jon Watson is fired by the Diamondbacks as the team, blessed with high hopes before Opening Day after bringing on top pitchers Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, are 23 games below .500 and a game out of the NL West cellar.

Monday, September 19
The first-place Red Sox make a definitive first statement to start a three-game series at second-place Baltimore. Rick Porcello wins his 21st game and goes the distance on 89 pitches (lowest for any complete-game effort this year), while Mookie Betts homers for the eighth time this year at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, giving Boston a 5-2 win to up its AL East lead to a season-high four games.

Betts is two home runs shy of the record for the most by a player at a visiting ballpark, set in 1922 by Detroit’s Harry Heilmann at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. (Heilmann hit just 11 elsewhere, including all of his home games at Tiger Stadium.)

The Giants’ Madison Bumgarner is nearly flawless for seven innings, allowing just one hit to the Dodgers while barely outdueling Clayton Kershaw. But a 1-0 lead is far from safe for a self-destructive San Francisco bullpen which again coughs up a save opportunity in the ninth, losing 2-1. It’s the fifth time this month that the Giants have blown a ninth-inning lead and lost, tying a major league record last set by the 1992 Mets.

Bumgarner makes sidebar news by setting a Giants modern-era record for lefties with 241 strikeouts on the season—and also by getting into yet another testy, benches-clearing argument with the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig after the latter grounds out to end the seventh.

The Rangers continue to be every bit as good in the ninth as the Giants are bad. Ian Desmond strokes a single to being home Elvis Andrus and defeat the Angels in walkoff fashion, 3-2; the win is the 46th for Texas when trailing at some point in the game, and the team is now 35-10 in one-run games.

In yet the latest example of how bad Cincinnati’s pitching has been this season, the Reds go to Wrigley Field and get smacked for three home runs by the Cubs, raising the total of deep flies allowed this season to an all-time record 242, breaking the old mark of 241 held by the 1996 Tigers. Chicago improves its record to 95-55 with a 5-2 triumph.

In a win brought to you by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Braves pick up a 7-3 victory over the Mets at New York as Aaron Blair earns his first win in 13 career starts while Dansby Swanson singles three times with three RBIs. Both players were acquired by the Braves (along with two other players) from Arizona for pitcher Shelby Miller, who’s struggled badly for the Diamondbacks this year.

The Royals let Yordano Ventura loose and he responds with his first complete-game performance in 91 career starts, scattering three runs on nine hits to defeat the White Sox at Kansas City, 8-3.

Tuesday, September 20
David Ortiz’s swan song in the majors continues to be a thing of absolute beauty. In the Red Sox’ second straight 5-2 win at Baltimore (and sixth straight victory overall), Big Papi smokes his 36th home run of the year—breaking Dave Kingman’s 1986 mark for the most by a player in his final season. Mookie Betts adds to the Boston fun with three hits to become the first player on the year with 200.

Betts, who is gaining volume in the AL MVP chatter, is the first player since Miguel Cabrera in 2012 with at least 200 hits, 100 runs and 100 RBIs.

Toronto takes over sole possession of second place in the AL East—and the top wild card spot—with a 10-2 rout of the Mariners, whose own wild card health is approaching life support status. J.A. Happ pitches the minimum five innings to pick up his 20th win of the year, making it the first time since 2008 that multiple AL pitchers rack up at least 20.

Houston’s chances of earning a wild card spot is only a little better, but the Astros do pull to within two games of the Orioles (with Detroit in between) with a 2-1, ten-inning victory at Oakland. Just a few hours after Betts hits the 200-hit mark in Baltimore, Jose Altuve does the same with an eighth-inning single.

The NL wild card race now is a three-way tie between the top contenders for the slots. The Mets lose at home to Atlanta, 7-3; the Giants, managing (for once) to avoid a ninth-inning meltdown, take a 2-0 victory at Los Angeles; and the Cardinals romp over the Rockies at Colorado, 10-5, behind Adam Wainwright’s four RBIs to give him 18 on the year—the most by a pitcher in one season since the designated hitter was established in 1973.

Wednesday, September 21
In what will be his final appearance on a baseball mound three days before being killed in a boat accident, the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez throws eight shutout innings and strikes out 12 Nationals in a 1-0 win at Miami. Over 42 career starts at Marlins Park, Fernandez is 29-2 with a 1.49 ERA; his 253 strikeouts this season are the most ever by any pitcher throwing as few as his 182.1 innings.

Fifteen years to the day that Mike Piazza stroked his memorable home run to help defeat Atlanta in New York City’s first sporting event following the 9-11 attacks, history almost repeats itself. Trailing 4-3 with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes launches a deep drive to right-center, but the Braves’ Ender Inciarte leaps above the top of the wall and snags it, stealing Cespedes’ walkoff bid and sealing the win for Atlanta. Inciarte’s grab denies the Mets the chance to take a one-game lead in the NL wild card over San Francisco and St. Louis, both of whom lose.

Yankee rookie Gary Sanchez, hot in August and not to enter September with a ten-game streak without even a RBI, has re-heated back up in a big way. During the Yankees’ 11-5 drubbing of the Rays at St. Petersburg, the 23-year-old catcher homers twice and knocks in five runs, giving him eight homers over his last 12 games, five over his last four and 19 through the first 45 games of his career to set a major league record.

In defeat, the Rays go deep five times, all with the bases empty—with four of those in one inning to set a franchise mark.

The Yankees’ win typifies a day in which the AL wild card race tightens considerably. Front-runner Toronto loses a 12-inning affair at Seattle, breathing life back into the Mariners’ playoff hopes—they’re two back of Baltimore, which loses again at home to Boston, 5-1. Elsewhere, Houston takes a 6-5 matinee victory at Oakland to move within a game of the Orioles for the second wild card spot while Detroit, also a game back, is rained out at Minnesota. The Yankees are 2.5 back.

Thursday, September 22
A night after Yoenis Cespedes is denied of a big-time homer, Jose Reyes is not—and neither will Asdrubal Cabrera later. With the Mets trailing the Phillies 6-4 in the ninth with one out, Reyes drills a two-run shot to tie the game—and after Philadelphia retakes the lead in the 11th with a pair of runs, it’s Cabrera’s turn, launching a three-run homer to win the game, 9-8. New York remains tied for the top NL wild card spot with the Giants, who win at San Diego, 2-1. (St. Louis is idle and drops a half-game back of both.)

The Elias Sports Bureau says it’s the first time ever that a major league team has hit multiple homers to overcome leads of two or more runs in the ninth inning or later to win.

The Orioles erupt for some offense against Boston on one swing of the bat as rookie Trey Mancini smashes a three-run homer in the third off David Price for his second home run in as many days as a major leaguer. But the Red Sox notch solo runs in the fifth and seventh to pull away with a 5-3 win and sweep a four-game series over the Orioles at Baltimore and run winning streaks for both themselves and Price to eight games.

Mancini becomes the first player in the 116-year history of the Orioles (and St. Louis Browns before them) to homer in each of his first two games.

Perhaps the one thing more disappointing than the Orioles’ offense in their four-and-out against Boston is attendance at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The crucial series averaged less than 22,000 fans per night, a figured likely padded by an influx of Red Sox fans. Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones addressed the turnstile counts by calling it “not sad, just, like, eerie.”

Don’t look back, Baltimore, because the Detroit Tigers aren’t there anymore—they’re ahead of you. The Tigers take a doubleheader from the Twins at Minnesota—they’ve now won ten straight games at Target Field, the longest active streak for any team at a visiting ballpark—by scores of 9-2 and 4-2 to take a half-game lead over the Orioles for the second AL wild card spot.

On a lousy day for the Twins—who are four losses shy of matching their worst performance since moving to Minnesota in 1961—it’s a mixed bag for their one star hitter on the year, Brian Dozier. His 42nd homer in the first game is the 40th he’s hit while playing at second base, setting an AL record—but he goes hitless in the second game to end a 24-game hit streak.

Seattle back-up catcher Steve Clevenger—traded from Baltimore to the Mariners during the offseason for Mark Trumbo, who currently leads the majors in home runs—is suspended without pay for the remainder of the season after posting a tweet in which he calls President Obama and Black Lives Matter “pathetic” and that “everyone involved” in violent demonstrations recently held in Charlotte, North Carolina “should be locked behind bars like animals.” Clevenger then adds: “Black people beating whites a thug got shot holding a gun by a black officer haha s**t cracks me up! Keep kneeling for the Anthem!”

Insensitive? Yes. Racist? Debatable. Defensible? Constitutionally, yes. Clevenger is entitled to his opinion, and others are entitled to respond, as many have in anger. Maybe there’s a legitimate counterpoint to be found in Clevenger’s tweet, but it’s all but defeated by his poor choice of words.

Meanwhile, it could be argued that the comments of the Orioles’ Adam Jones earlier this week—in which he called baseball “a white man’s game”—could be labeled as equally insensitive, but yet no one has criticized him. And that might be because any such criticism would, itself, be labeled as insensitive. Let’s see what happens when a white basketball player condemns the NBA for being “a black man’s game” and watch as political correctness—as legit as it is—gets exposed for sometimes overreaching.

(Actually, Jones is wrong: Baseball is not a white man’s game but a global one, with one of three players on major league rosters born outside of the United States.)

The trend of athletes sitting, kneeling and raising their fists during the national anthem has been tolerated and even applauded, because even those that beg to differ respect their right to make such a statement. But to snuff out the counter-argument, as SB Nation did by not allowing online comments below its write-up dismissing Clevenger’s tweets as “stupid”, “very unpopular” and “racist”—only deepens the mistrust. Does there need to be a conversation on these issues? Yes. But both sides need to be heard, not just one. (And yes, it would be nice to see someone other than Clevenger holding the mic.)

Friday, September 23
After failing to reach base through the first six innings against the A’s Kendall Graveman at Oakland, the Rangers bust through for three runs in the seventh (two on Adrian Beltre’s 31st home run, giving him 100 RBIs) and triumph 3-0 to clinch their fourth AL West title in the 2010s. Cole Hamels improves to 15-5 with seven shutout innings.

The Cubs formally lock down home field advantage for the NL playoffs as Jake Arrieta takes his 18th victory with seven scoreless frames in a 5-0 home win over St. Louis. The 98 wins for the Cubs are the most by the team since 1945—the last time they went to the World Series.

David Ortiz’s two-run shot off the Rays’ Chris Archer in the first inning is all the scoring the Red Sox need to triumph 2-1 at Tampa Bay for their ninth straight win. The loss for Archer is his 19th on the year, and his 11th straight against Boston—the longest active drought by a pitcher against one opponent.

Just a few days after breaking the mark for home runs in a final season, Ortiz also breaks the RBI mark with 124. The old record of 123 was set in 1920 by Joe Jackson, who at the time didn’t know he was playing in his last campaign; he was banned for life after the year for his role in fixing the 1919 World Series.

Milwaukee manages a 5-4 home victory over the Reds after snuffing out a first-inning Cincinnati rally with its second triple play of the year—and the seventh overall in the majors this season, the most seen in baseball since 11 were turned in 1979. Joey Votto’s line shot to first is snared by the Brewers’ Chris Carter, who steps on first to double off one Reds baserunner, then quickly throws to second to triple off another. An inning later, Carter will set the pace offensively for the Brewers with his 38th home run, establishing a personal best.

Wil Myers’ first-inning, three-run home run gives the Padres a lead they will never relinquish against the visiting Giants in a 7-2 victory; the blast is the 76th hit by the Padres at Petco Park this season, the most they’ve ever hit in 13 years at the ballpark.

Saturday, September 24
Like the Giants, the Nationals have their own even-year thing going, although it’s not as well known—yet. Behind 5.1 innings of shutout relief from Reynaldo Lopez, Washington eases past the Pirates at Pittsburgh, 6-1, to clinch its third NL East title in five years, having won it previously in 2012 and 2014.

The Tigers pick a fine time to end the majors’ longest active streak of consecutive home wins when leading in the ninth inning or later. Detroit closer Francisco Rodriguez cannot hold a 4-2 lead against the Royals and allows five runs—three on an Eric Hosmer homer—and the Tigers drop back behind Baltimore for the second AL wild card spot with a 7-4 loss. They had won 110 straight games at Comerica Park holding a lead in the ninth or later.

The Orioles retake the second spot with a 6-1 home win over Arizona. Wade Miley is one out shy of a complete game, Mark Trumbo adds to his major league-leading home run total with his 45th clout, and Trey Mancini becomes over the third player ever—and second this year, after Colorado’s Trevor Story—to go deep in each of his first three games.

Toronto preserves its 1.5-game lead for the top AL wild card spot as Jose Bautista’s three-run homer finally breaks the ice in the bottom of the eighth and gives the Blue Jays a 3-0 home victory over the Yankees.

Sunday, September 25
The baseball world wakes up to devastating news: Overnight in Miami, a 32-foot speedboat with Miami ace pitcher Jose Fernandez strikes a jetty near Miami Harbor at high speed and flips over, killing Fernandez and two other men on board. The 24-year-old Fernandez leaves a girlfriend, who is pregnant with their first child; the Marlins quickly announce that the day’s scheduled home game against Atlanta will be cancelled.

A midday press conference at Marlins Park includes all of Fernandez’s teammates, manager Don Mattingly, team president of baseball operations Michael Hill and team president David Samson, who reads a letter from absent owner Jeffrey Loria. Mattingly and Hill both break down into tears at points while trying to address Fernandez’s joyous personality. Speaking on behalf of the players is infielder Martin Prado, who says: “We’re not robots. We’re humans, and we feel. I understand the fact that we’ve got to play games, and we’ve got to be professional about it. But in our hearts, there is a lot of pain.”

Over a fantastic four years marred only by Tommy John surgery in 2014, Fernandez compiled a 38-17 record and 2.58 ERA, with 589 strikeouts in 471.1 innings; his 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 2016 is tops in the majors. A two-time All-Star, Fernandez was also the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year and finished third in that year’s NL Cy Young Award vote.

The loss of Fernandez is a sucker gut-punch to family, fans and the game of baseball. He was a flamboyant figure who seemed to enjoy every moment within the lines and beyond them, and he was on the cusp of becoming one of the game’s central faces, one which held high marketing value for MLB in a time when it badly needs it.

Before embarking on his fateful boat ride, Fernandez asks Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna to join him; not only does he decline, but he also warns Fernandez not to go out so late after midnight. Fernandez probably would not have gone out at all had his next start, originally scheduled for Sunday, been pushed back a day.

A month later, toxicology reports will be released showing that Fernandez had cocaine in his system at the time of the accident, and that his blood alcohol content level was .147—nearly twice the leagl limit. In March 2017, it will be determined that Fernandez was behind the wheel when the accident occurred.

Many baseball greats have left us during or just past the prime of their careers—Thurman Munson, Addie Joss and Ross Youngs quickly come to mind—but Fernandez was only in his fourth season and, clearly, his best was yet to come. This may be as crippling a loss of greatness that could have been as baseball will ever feel.

On Vin Scully’s last day working the broadcast booth named after him at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers reward him, their fans and themselves with their fourth straight NL West title in dramatic fashion. Corey Seager’s home run with two outs in the ninth against Colorado sends the game into extra innings, and then bench rider Charlie Culberson ends it an inning later with a solo shot to defeat the Rockies, 4-3. Here’s how Scully calls it.

Eleven is the lucky number for the Red Sox at Tampa Bay. Boston pitchers combine to strike out 23 Rays—including a major league-record 11 straight—and Dustin Pedroia dances his way around catcher Luke Maile in the tenth to produce a 3-2 victory, the 11th straight for Boston. Combined with Texas’ 7-1 loss at Oakland, the Red Sox are now tied with the Rangers for the AL’s best record.

Tom Seaver still holds the individual mark with ten straight strikeouts, in 1970 against San Diego.

Before his final game at St. Petersburg as a player, David Ortiz tells the Rays to cancel a pregame ceremony honoring him after hearing the news of Jose Fernandez’s death.

The Mets record their largest shutout victory ever, 17-0 over the Phillies at New York to take a one-game lead in the NL wild card race. Adding to the carnage is Curtis Granderson, whose 30th home run makes him the first player to reach that number for two teams based in New York, after belting over 40 in consecutive seasons for the Yankees in 2011-12.

After falling behind 10-0 the day before, the Mets have scored 25 unanswered runs to tie a franchise record.

Nelson Cruz opens the scoring for Seattle in the second with a solo homer and ends it four frames later with another, sending him over 40 for the third straight year and sending the Mariners to a 4-3 victory over the Twins at Minnesota. It’s the 100th loss of the year for the Twins, only the second time they’ve done that since moving from Washington in 1961; before that, the Senators lost 100 or more five times since their 1901 inception.

Monday, September 26
Playing for the first time since the death of Jose Fernandez, the Marlins take the field all wearing Fernandez’s #16 uniform and defeat the Mets at Miami before a crowd of 26,933 (stunningly, well short of a sellout). Miami leadoff batter Dee Gordon sets the pace by hitting the third pitch he sees for a home run—his first in 75 games this season—and later adds three singles as Miami scores all of its runs within the first three innings.

It’s an utterly emotional night for the Marlins, who hold a tearful pregame ceremony honoring their lost ace; players encircle the mound, hug one another and, at times, break down from the emotion of it all; a trumpeter plays a mournful variation of Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

The Cleveland Indians clinch their first AL Central title since 2007 with a 7-4 victory at second-place Detroit. It’s the Indians’ 14th win in 16 tries against the Tigers this season.

The Cubs hit triple figures in wins for the first time since 1935 with a 12-2 blowout of the Pirates at Pittsburgh. Kyle Hendricks throws six shutout innings to lower his season ERA to 1.99, and Javier Baez knocks in six runs—four on a fourth-inning grand slam.

The Yankees begin the regular season’s final week knowing that they still have a fighting chance for a wild card spot—and fight is exactly what they do against the Blue Jays at Toronto. An early rash of hit batters leads to the ejection of Yankee starting pitcher Luis Severino and three New York coaches, but the Yankees get the last laugh with a five-run rally in the ninth to defeat the Blue Jays, 7-5.

Though the Yankees suffer most via the ejections, the repercussions of the benches-clearing spats may be worse for the Blue Jays. During the scrum, Toronto reliever Joaquin Benoit—2-0 with a 0.38 in 23.2 innings since being acquired by the Jays in late July—tears a calf muscle during one of the scrums and is lost for the rest of the season.

It’s not a good day for the Nationals, even beyond the 14-4 drubbing they take from the visiting Diamondbacks. Catcher Wilson Ramos, having a fantastic year, tears an ACL and will be out for the rest of the 2016 season.

Tuesday, September 27
The Red Sox’ 11-game win streak comes to an end at the hands of the Yankees, who produce a 6-4 victory at New York behind three home runs—including the 20th each on the year for rookie Gary Sanchez and shortstop Didi Gregorius. At the end of play tonight, 107 major leaguers have hit at least 20 homers on the season—topping the previous high mark of 103 in 1999.

The Amsterdam-born Gregorius becomes only the third European-born major leaguer to hit 20 homers in a season. The other two are Bobby Thomson (born in Glasgow, Scotland) and Mike Blowers (born in Germany).

Hunter Renfroe, called up earlier by the Padres after winning the Pacific Coast League’s MVP award, drills two home runs and knocks in all seven runs for San Diego in a 7-1 home win over the Dodgers. He’ll go deep again with four more RBIs the next day as well, becoming the first rookie to accumulate three homers and 11 RBIs over two successive games since Fred Lynn in 1975.

Wednesday, September 28
Freddie Freeman extends his hitting streak to 30 games—the longest in the majors this season—to fuel the Braves, playing anything but the punchless side that stumbled out of the gate back in April, to a 12-2 strong-arming of the Phillies at Atlanta. Freeman’s streak will come to an end a day later.

It’s not the ideal way to celebrate a divisional title, but Boston clinches the AL East for the first time since 2013 despite blowing a 3-0 lead in the ninth at New York, losing 5-3 to the Yankees. The meltdown starts with Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, who fails to retire any of four hitters he faces, walking three while throwing a wild pitch; it ends with Joe Kelly serving up a grand slam to Mark Teixeira to give the Yankees the win.

It’s the 404th home run of Teixeira’s career—but just his first done in walkoff fashion in a regular season game. (He did win a game going deep in the 2009 ALDS against Minnesota.) The most career homers without a walkoff now belongs to Norm Cash, at 377.

The Red Sox are able to clinch thanks to the Orioles, who knock off the second-place Blue Jays 3-2 with a late-inning comeback of their own at Toronto. Trailing 2-0 in the eighth, the Orioles notch a run on Mark Trumbo’s 46th homer of the year, than strike twice in the ninth off Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna on a pinch-hit blast from Hyun Soo Kim. The Orioles close to within a game of Toronto for the top AL wild card spot while maintaining a one-game advantage over Detroit for the second.

Nolan Arenado’s fourth-inning single brings home the Rockies’ first run on the night as the Rockies shut down the Giants 2-0 and keep San Francisco from stretching its lead over St. Louis (2-1 losers at home to Cincinnati) for the final NL wild card spot. With that first run, Arenado ensures his second straight season of at least 40 home runs and 130 RBIs, something previously done only twice by players age 25 or younger: Chuck Klein (1929-30) and Jimmie Foxx (1932-33).

The win goes to Tyler Chatwood, who throws eight shutout innings and owns the majors’ best road ERA on the year at 1.69.

John Jaso becomes the first Pirate to hit for the cycle since 2004, as his five RBIs help defeat the Cubs and Jake Arrieta at Pittsburgh, 8-4.

Kennys Vargas’ two-run homer in the sixth at Kansas City ends a near-record drought of 103 straight innings in which the Twins had not score multiple runs. It’s the lone good news on the night for Minnesota, which drops a 5-2 decision to the Royals for its 102nd loss.

The record for the most consecutive innings without multiple runs remains 106, set by the 1942 Phillies (who finished 42-109).

Thursday, September 29
The Cardinals get away with a 4-3 home win over the Reds when Yadier Molina’s ninth-inning, two-out double brings home Matt Carpenter—even though he should have not scored on the play. Molina’s drive bounces over the fence and rebounds back on the field from a retaining wall behind, but umpires fail to call it a ground rule double—and the Reds’ video review spies, seated upstairs, frantically call down to the dugout to have the ruling overturned, except nobody answers the phone or tells a clueless manager Bryan Price about it. The fortuitous win keeps St. Louis a game behind San Francisco for the final NL wild card spot, as the Giants defeat the Rockies, 7-2.

In the finale of a surprising low-scoring series between two of the AL’s hottest hitting teams, the Orioles win for a second straight day and tie the Blue Jays for the top AL wild card spot with a 4-0 victory. Ubaldo Jimenez allows just a hit through 6.2 scoreless innings before being removed after his 116th pitch.

Heavy rain in the Northeast wreaks baseball havoc. A relentless downpour causes the cancelation of the Indians-Tigers game at Detroit, meaning that a make-up will be played a day after the end of the scheduled last day of the regular season should the Tigers still be alive for a wild card spot. Meanwhile at Pittsburgh, in a game with almost nothing on the line, the Cubs and Pirates are washed out after six innings of a 1-1 tie; as it’s the last meeting between the two teams this season, play will not be resumed at a later date and it thus becomes the first major league game to officially end in a tie since 2005.

In his final start of the season, Chris Archer avoids his 20th loss by earning credit for the Rays’ 5-3 win over the White Sox at Chicago. Mike Maroth, with Detroit in 2003, remains the majors’ last 20-game loser.

Friday, September 30
Madison Bumgarner collects his 100th win—at 27, he’s the youngest Giant to get that far since Christy Mathewson—and San Francisco maintains its breathing space over St. Louis for the second NL wild card spot with a 9-3 drubbing of the visiting Dodgers.

Baltimore takes over second place in the AL East—ergo, the league’s top wild card spot—by pouncing on the Yankees at New York, 8-1. Not surprisingly, home runs have much to with it, as the Orioles crank out three (including the 47th from Mark Trumbo) to become the fifth team in major league history to reach 250 in a season.

Toronto drops behind the Orioles—and is now just a half-game ahead of Detroit for the final AL wild card—with a 5-3 loss at Boston. The Red Sox are fueled by Dustin Pedroia, who cranks out his 200th hit of the year and extends his hitting streak against the Blue Jays to 30 games—tied for the second longest ever by a Red Sock against one opponent—while David Ortiz collects a homer and three RBIs to increase his career total against the Jays to a wowing 62 and 191, respectively.

Detroit moves closer to the Blue Jays with a 6-2 win at Atlanta behind Miguel Cabrera, who punches out two homers to pass Hank Greenberg for third on the Tigers’ all-time home run list with 307.

Behind six strong innings and 12 strikeouts from Yu Darvish, the Texas Rangers secure home field advantage for the entire playoffs (including the World Series, owing to the AL’s victory at the All-Star Game) with a 3-1 defeat of the Rays at Arlington.

Carlos Rodon ties an AL record by striking out the first seven batters, ending the night with ten overall through six innings as the White Sox have no trouble with the Twins, who few teams have had trouble with this entire season. The 7-3 loss is the 103rd for Minnesota, the most by the franchise since dropping 104 as the Washington Senators in 1949.


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