This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: September, 2017
Can Anybody Beat the Indians? Fitbit Part: The Red Sox’ Sign Stealing Caper
Everybody’s Digging the Home Runs Bruce Maxwell Takes a Knee

Best and Worst of the Week

Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

90 29 28 7 0 15 32 27 1 0 2

Just when it looked like opposing pitchers had come up with the book on how to neutralize the king-sized rookie slugger and threw it at him, he threw it right back with a fierce vengeance. Judge rebounded from an awful second half to-date and saved his year’s most awesome display for September, launching 15 homers and surpassing Mark McGwire for the most by any rookie in any season. So what if he struck out over 200 times—outs are outs, right? Judge certainly has Rookie of the Year honors locked down; the question becomes, does he have enough carry with the BBWAA to win the MVP? Stay tuned.

J.D. Martinez, Arizona Diamondbacks

99 26 40 8 0 16 36 6 1 0 1

The “J.D.” stands for Julio Daniel, but it might as well as been Just Dingers this past month. Martinez started September in historic fashion with a four-homer night at Los Angeles, then kept the power tuned up until he tied the NL record for September. Since jumping off the Titanic, er, Tigers, late in July, Martinez cranked out 29 homers for the Diamondbacks in just 62 games—just the kind of highlight one doesn’t mind putting on his resume before hitting the free agent market. Last crazy stat: Martinez ended the season with 45 homers—in just 118 games.

Guillermo Heredia, Seattle Mariners

70 4 10 1 0 0 0 5 0 1 0

The Cuban native might have some wondering if he’s related to 1990s pitcher Gil Heredia, but he’s not—and truth be told, even the older Heredia, who was paid to throw, probably hit better than the current-day Mariner managed in September. Very little went right for the 26-year old, with few hits, no power and not even a RBI among 70 at-bats. A bad shoulder is to blame—in fact, he’s due for offseason surgery to repair it. A good idea, obviously.

Matt Wieters, Washington Nationals

51 5 6 2 0 1 3 5 1 0 0

After practically being neglected on the free agent market last winter before the Nationals gave him a 30% pay cut from 2016, the four-time All-Star had some convincing to do. The doubters have not been swayed, as Wieters’ game both at the plate and behind it has continued to bring diminishing returns; his horrid September only intensified the negativities. Wieters’ deal with Washington gives him the option to say yes to $10.5 million in 2018; after all of this, he’d be stupid to say no.

Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

5-0 43 31 6 4 3 0 1 1 0 50

The ace of aces in the Cleveland rotation continued his summer reign, stifling opponents, aggressively throwing strikes and yielding very little. Kluber went three straight starts without allowing an earned run, and its’ likely he’s passed Chris Sale as the favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award. So, after taking this honor for the second straight month, look for Kluber to be back in this same spot next month when we lay down the scoop on the AL’s best pitcher of the year

Stephen Strasburg, Wash. Nationals

4-0 32.2 19 4 3 7 0 1 0 0 40

For a while this season, people were talking up Max Scherzer as the league’s best pitcher. Now, he might not even be the best on his own team. Along came Strasburg—but then, that hardly rates as a surprise given that he’s likely baseball’s best #2 rotation guy. The tall right-hander was in about as prime a form as he’s ever been this past month, headlining it all with a franchise-record streak of 35 straight scoreless innings. He also appears to be peaking at the right time—especially now that it looks like Scherzer’s fragility make play a big role in the postseason.

Mike Fiers, Houston Astros

0-1 9 19 16 16 5 0 1 1 0 6

If the backend of a rotation has a trap door, then the 32-year-old right-hander fell right through it to end the season. Not only was Fiers bad, he was stupid—throwing behind the head of the Angels’ Luis Valbuena in what would be his final appearance of the regular season, costing him an ejection and a five-game suspension. Even as the Astros roll into the playoffs, don’t be surprised if Fiers doesn’t get asked to come along for the ride. A 9.29 ERA over the final two months tends to do that.

Matt Harvey, New York Mets

1-4 22.1 43 28 28 12 0 3 3 1 13

The Dark Knight rises…and falls, as in, kerplunk. Had Hurricane Harvey possessed such feeble strength as this Harvey, Texans might have endured nothing more than a stray shower. The turbulent 28-year-old, once-upon-a-time ace ran completely out of gas in September, returning from a shoulder injury that had him sidelined the prior two-plus months; out of six starts, he only made it to the end of five innings once. Since begging Terry Collins to stay on the mound during that fateful World Series finale a few years ago, Harvey just hasn’t looked the same.

Cleveland Indians (25-4)

Usually we have to wait until the last week of the month to get a clear idea of who’s earning this honor, but the Indians made our choice pretty academic before September was even halfway done. Winning their first 15 games of the month had a little something to do with it—but even after their impressive 22-game win streak came to an end, they still stayed strong enough to take 10 of the next 14 games to finish the month. As you’d expect, the Indians dominated the team statistical rankings, but their pitching was particularly stellar—posting a 2.17 ERA (next best: Yankees, at 3.38), striking out 10 and walking 1.7 every nine innings pitched. Don’t say you weren’t warned, AL postseason contestants.

Chicago Cubs (19-9)

It’s taken the defending champs some time, but it appears they’ve finally revved into high gear after sputtering about for much of the year. The Cubs’ prognosis was in some doubt as late as 10 days into the month after getting swept at home by the upstart Brewers, but they quickly righted matters with a seven-game win streak; overall, they ran up a 15-3 record to end the month and easily secured their second straight NL Central title. They lacked numerical dominance—but when you’re the champions, you figure out how to win. Don’t say you weren’t warned, NL postseason contestants.

Detroit Tigers (6-23)

Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton all had pretty good efforts in September; it’s a shame for Detroit fans that they don’t play at Comerica Park anymore. While those ex-Tigers flourished with contending teams, what was left of this unit badly limped to the finish line—and that’s putting it mildly. The Tigers weren’t just beat, they were beat up—allowing 10 or more runs in nine of their losses. And of course, they lost all seven games they played against Cleveland, doing their best imitation of the Washington Generals. You would think the late Mr. I would have maintained some of the integrity and kept some of the aforementioned stars, right?

Cincinnati Reds (10-17)

How long will this Cincinnati rebuild go on? Just when it looks like the Reds are ready to turn the corner, they stumble upon a dead end. For the first half of the month, the Reds played pretty good ball, but then they finished on a 1-10 note, including losses in their last six home games. The pitching, which has been this team’s Achilles for far too long now, was not the problem; the usually reliable offense was, ranking unusually low in both runs and home runs. Someday, Cincy fans, someday.

Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(September 2017 Edition)

Don’t Believe Everything You Read—Especially on Twitter
The Braves’ Micah Johnson read an official team tweet that he’d been designated for assignment—and was later told that it was an errant message.

Sometimes it Takes Foul Balls to be a Sideline Reporter
Mets sideline reporter Steve Gelbs was in the midst of doing an on-air segment during the team’s visit to Houston on September 2 when this happened.

Parental Discretion Advised
And it’s not because it’s a Deadspin link—which usually means writers using gratuitous profanity—but because of a video clip graphically showing the Phillies’ Pedro Florimon breaking his ankle trying to beat out a throw at first base.

Blowing It
With Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida, someone in the Braves in-park entertainment chair decided it was a good idea to play the Scorpions’ Rock You Like a Hurricane during a break in a game at Atlanta. Perhaps to pay amends, the Braves later announced that they would give free tickets to those temporarily evacuating Florida to Atlanta.

Irma la Acide
On the day the Marlins were officially knocked out of contention to win the NL East, their radio team was also knocked off the air for the 10-8, 11-inning loss at Atlanta by Hurricane Irma, which caused technical problems back in Miami. Like anyone in Florida was going to be glued to a Marlins broadcast on this day anyway…

America First
Reds manager Bryan Price was in a heated argument with umpires at New York on September 10 when God Bless America began playing. Price stopped, took off his cap and bowed to the ground in between umpires, and then went back to arguing as soon as the song ended. (It’s all shades of a Monty Python skit where arguing characters suddenly stand at attention with a playing of God Save the Queen because the Queen has tuned in.)

Illicit Solicit
Ronnie Cho, a candidate for New York’s city council, issued a press release publicizing an endorsement from retired Yankees legend Derek Jeter—before Jeter, through his charity organization, publicly denied giving Cho such a nod.

Magmum PO’d
A bachelor party consisting of 45 guys dressed as Tom Selleck from Magnum, P.I.—wearing Hawaiian shirts, Tigers caps and thick mustaches—were all ejected during a game at Detroit’s Comerica Park. Reason: The group was said to be “catcalling,” while at least one of them was smoking. We’re sure that overly obnoxious behavior had a bit to do with it as well.

Six-Month Gem
Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel pitched nine innings against Tampa Bay this year, allowing no runs, no hits, one walk and striking out 23.

Tough Breaks
A day after his daughter broke her collarbone, Detroit reliever Alex Wilson had his shin broken by a line drive from Minnesota’s Joe Mauer on September 23. Wilson, who also had cancerous skin removed from his nose earlier in the year, later said, “You know, 2017 wasn’t really kind to me.”

When Home Field Advantage Goes Too Far
Umpires ejected a Yankee Stadium fan for yelling out pitch locations when the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez was at bat.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
It should come as no surprise that major leaguers yet again raised the bar on total strikeouts for a season, pushing the final figure for 2017 to 40,104—a 2.8% increase over the previous year. To help get there, a monthly mark was also set when 6,941 Ks were recorded in September, besting the previous mark set earlier this May. For the record, it’s the 11th straight year that the record has been reset. Teamwise, the Milwaukee Brewers set the season mark with 1,571, while Indians pitchers blew away the former mark of striking out opponents by 100, up to 1,614—almost exactly 10 a game. A total of 136 hitters struck out at least 100 times, with eight of them alone representing the Texas Rangers. And so, the epidemic continues.

This Year’s Proof That Everybody’s Hitting Home Runs
A highly active and historic year for home runs came to an end with an all-time high 6,105 recorded in 2017—an 8.8% increase over the year before and, wait for it—a 46% rise over the 4,186 hit just three years ago, in 2014. In that apparently long-ago campaign, just one team (Baltimore) hit over 200, at 211; that would have ranked 16th in 2017, as 18 teams overall had at least 200—while only two teams (the Pirates and Giants) averaged less than one a game. Individually, the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton came within one long blast of a hallowed 60 for the year, while 41 different players hit at least 30. If you need proof that this trend will continue, check this out: Ten rookies hit at least 20. The old record was six.

Next Year’s Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Amongst the numerous acculades achieved by rookie Aaron Judge this year—the rookie home run record, the Home Run Derby title, likely Rookie of the Year honors, possible MVP honors, etc.—he also ends the 2017 season with the longest active hitting streak, at 13 games. That's a long way from Joe DiMaggio's hallowed 56-game run in 1941, but if Judge has something to build on for his sophomore season, making a run at Joltin’ Joe would be cool.

League vs. League

The American League put an exclamation point in ensuring its 14th straight year of interleague supremacy over the National League, winning 17 of 24 games in September (and the first day of October) to run its final record on the year to 160-140. The 151st victory, which clinched the AL’s latest season of success, pretty much said it all: Minnesota 16, San Diego 0.

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Friday, September 1
Clayton Kershaw returns to the mound after a 40-day absence with back pain, and fires six shutout innings to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a 1-0 victory at San Diego to break a season-long five-game losing skid. The Dodgers have won a franchise-record 16 straight games in which Kershaw has started.

Despite his extended time on the shelf, Kershaw’s 16 wins on the year still is tied for the major league lead, with Arizona’s Zack Greinke and Milwaukee’s Zach Davies alongside him.

Another 1-0 result on the evening shows that the Milwaukee Brewers, despite their penchant for striking out and muffing defensive plays, are pitching a heck of a lot of better than they used to. A first-inning home run from Neil Walker is all the Brewers need as Jimmy Nelson allows just three hits with 11 strikeouts over seven innings and closer Chris Knebel shuts down the Washington Nationals by striking out the side in the ninth.

This is the fourth time that Walker has hit a solo homer in a 1-0 game; only Ted Williams (with five) has done it more in major league history.

Baseball’s hottest team, the Cleveland Indians, roll into September by achieving its second doubleheader sweep in three days. The victims on this day are the hapless Detroit Tigers, playing their first two games without their two top Justins—ace Justin Verlander and slugger Justin Upton, both of whom were traded the day before as the team continues to clean house and reduce massive payroll. After a tight 3-2 decision in the first game won on Francisco Lindor’s ninth-inning single, the Indians roll over the Tigers in the second game, 10-0, for their ninth straight victory overall.

Saturday, September 2
One week after a devastating hurricane with torrential rain killed 47, displaced over a million and caused an estimated $125 billion in damage in southeast Texas, the Astros return to Houston for an emotional day-night doubleheader and sweep the New York Mets by scores of 12-8 and 4-1. In the first game, Houston racks up on the Mets’ Matt Harvey—making his first start since mid-June—for seven runs over two innings. In the nightcap, the Astros respond to the Mets’ ice-breaking run in the sixth by having their first four batters reach in the bottom of the frame; they will all score to cement the second victory on the day.

There are 30,000 tickets sold for both games, but the crowds are noticeably lighter as some ticket holders still have pressing issues to deal with in their flood-stricken neighborhoods.

The Mets’ injury woes continue when third baseman Wilmer Flores hits a foul tip off his face, which bloodies up from the impact; he is forced to leave the game.

The Twins tear apart Kansas City at Minneapolis, 17-0, for their largest shutout victory in 117 years of franchise play. Eduardo Escobar leads the Minnesota attack with two homers, a triple and six runs batted in as the Twins maintain a 1.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels for the American League’s second wild card spot. The Royals, meanwhile, have suffered three shutout losses of 12-0 or worse in just the last week.

The Angels avoid losing ground to the Twins with a thrilling come-from-behind victory at Texas. Down 4-2 in the ninth and down to their last out, the Angels tie it on C.J. Cron’s line shot that clears the fence near the left-field foul pole; they rack up three runs in the 10th to win, 7-4.

Albert Pujols has a pair of hits and RBIs each in the Angels’ win; since being labeled by ESPN as the majors’ worst hitter this season earlier in the week, Pujols has gone 12-for-29 with two homers and 10 RBIs.

Are these the Dodgers we were seeing earlier in the year? In a doubleheader at San Diego (rescheduled as such due to rare Petco Park rainout early in the season), Los Angeles is swept by the lowly Padres, 6-5 and 7-2—even as rookie slugger Cody Bellinger returns to action after two weeks on the shelf and belts his 35th homer, tying Mike Piazza’s 1993 franchise rookie season mark. Yangervis Solarte one-ups the Dodgers’ game-tying rally in the ninth by hitting a walk-off homer to win the first game; the Padres break Yu Darvish in the second game, scoring five times off him in just three innings.

Bellinger will break Piazza’s record the next day, in yet another loss to the Padres.

All the earlier talk of the Dodgers’ chances of matching or breaking the all-time season record for wins is fast evaporating as they have now lost seven of eight. To reach the 116 victories recorded by the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners, they’ll now have to win 24 of their remaining 27 games.

With Justin Verlander and Justin Upton traded and Miguel Cabrera beginning a six-game suspension for his recent role a brawl, the Tigers have their talent level further sapped when it’s announced that veteran DH Victor Martinez will undergo a heart procedure and miss the rest of the year. The 38-year-old Martinez has had issues with an irregular heartbeat all season.

Sunday, September 3
The Indians take their 11th straight victory with an 11-1 romp at Detroit behind Jose Ramirez’s five extra base hits—the 13th such performance in major league history. Three of Ramirez’s hits are doubles, giving him a major league-leading 47 on the year, and the other two are home runs—the first of which is a bizarre sequence in which the ball bounces twice off the top of the fence, then gets knocked over by Tigers outfielder Mikie Mahtook, attempting to bare-hand the carom.

Adding insult to insult to the next day, Mahtook will drill a deep drive to the very same spot—and will have his bid for a home run robbed by Kansas City’s Alex Gordon. The look on Mahtook’s face as he rounds first base—having already slapped the first base coach’s hands in celebration—is priceless.

Arizona finishes off a three-game sweep of the Rockies in Colorado and solidifies its NL wild card standing with a 5-1 victory. Zack Godley improves his season ERA to 3.21 with six sharp innings, as the Diamondbacks restrict the high-powered Rockies to just eight runs in three games in the thin air of Denver. Arizona has now won 10 straight games, two shy of their franchise mark; they have played 79 straight innings without once trailing.

A year ago we laughed off Tim Tebow’s proclamation that he’d give baseball a try. A year later, we’re not exactly impressed with what he’s accomplished, but we’ll certainly give him points for making it through an entire minor league season. Here’s the dope on Tebow, who just completed his first year of baseball: A .226 average, eight homers and 52 RBIs in 126 games split between low-A ball in Columbia of the Sally League and the high-A St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League. Perhaps Tebow’s most glaring numbers come on defense, with 10 errors and a .917 fielding percentage playing the outfield. Say what you want about the man—to that end, there are many opinions about him—but when he puts his mind to something, he makes pretty decent gains.

Monday, September 4
The white-hot Diamondbacks meet the first-place—but ice-cold—Dodgers, and nothing changes amid the recent momentum thanks to Robbie Ray and J.D. Martinez. Ray allows just three hits in 7.2 shutout innings with 14 strikeouts, but even that pales to the big night put forth from Martinez, who becomes the 18th major leaguer—and second this year—to belt four home runs in Arizona’s 13-0 thrashing at Los Angeles. It’s the first time a player has hit more homers than the opposing team has hits, and three of Martinez’s shots come in each of the last three innings.

Only once before have there been two four-homer performances in a season, and that took place in 2002, courtesy of Mike Cameron and Shawn Green.

There’s some murmuring that the Dodgers’ once-invincible status in the NL West may be in danger as they and the Diamondbacks go in opposite directions, but it seems unlikely that Arizona, still down 12.5 games with 24 to play, can catch Los Angeles. The bigger danger for the Dodgers is this: If they don’t snap out of their funk while the Diamondbacks refuse to cool off, guess who Los Angeles will likely face in the NLDS?

The Dodgers’ nine losses in the last nine days match the total number of losses they suffered in the previous two months before.

If it’s September, it must be time to bulk up the bench and bullpen with call-ups and use them all if you must to win a game. Such is the case in Oakland, where the Angels expend an AL-record 12 pitchers to defeat the A’s in 11 innings, 11-9. Kory Calhoun’s two-run triple in extras wins it for the Angels; they trail Minnesota (11-4 losers at Tampa Bay) by a half-game for the second AL wild card spot.

Carlos Martinez deals his second shutout of the season as he blanks the Padres on three hits at San Diego, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 win. St. Louis has won four of five games and strengthened its hand in the NL wild card race, trailing Colorado for the second spot by three games.

Tuesday, September 5
The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry takes on an interesting twist as the Red Sox are accused of—and later admit to—stealing signs in a recent series at Fenway Park against New York. The scheme went like this: A Red Sox trainer in the dugout, looking at an Apple iWatch he was wearing, would relay information to one or two players in the dugout, who in turn would relay information to batters and/or baserunners on the field in regards to what type of pitch was about to be thrown. The Red Sox shrug their shoulders and suggest, with “everybody else does it” moxie, that it’s all no big deal. Boston team president Dave Dombrowski: “Do I think sign-stealing is wrong? No, I don’t. I guess it depends on how you do it.”

Counter—and counter-counter—accusations fly in the wake of this discovery. The Red Sox claim that the Yankees are illicitly using cameras from their TV Network, YES, to steal signs; then there’s a bizarre claim by the Yankees that Boston pitcher Doug Fister was using his mouthguard as a secret listening device.

After looking at all the evidence, Major League Baseball will fine both teams with an undisclosed amount.

As busy as the day is off the field for the Red Sox, it gets even busier on it at night. They rally for two runs in the ninth off Toronto closer Roberto Osuna—resulting in his major league-leading 10th blown save of the season—to send a 2-2 game into overtime. Nothing gets settled until 10 innings later, when Hanley Ramirez’s single brings home the winning run to end the season’s longest game by innings, 3-2 in 19. To get the win, the Red Sox need 12 pitchers—tying the AL record set just a day earlier by the Angels.

This is the second longest game by innings in the 106-year history of Fenway Park.

While Boston stays alive to win despite trailing into the ninth inning, the Yankees perform the opposite—losing after taking a 6-5 lead into the final frame. At Baltimore, Manny Machado’s third walk-off homer in as many weeks brings home two and gives the Orioles a 7-6 win over New York, dropping the Yankees 3.5 games back of the Red Sox in the AL East race—while the Orioles gain strength in the crowded AL wild card race.

Justin Verlander shines in his first start for Houston, allowing but a run in six innings in the Astros’ 3-1 victory at Seattle. The Mariners’ Angel Miranda departs after six innings of his own without surrendering a hit—but walks six, including three in the third that helps yield the Astros’ first run. Cameron Maybin’s two-run shot in the seventh is the deciding blow for Houston.

The Tigers administer a 13-2 punishing of the Royals at Detroit, as JaCoby Jones and John Hicks become only the second pair of rookies in major league history to each hit two homers in the same game for the same team. The other duo was Joey Votto and Jay Bruce for the 2008 Reds.

This is the fourth time in the last nine games that the Royals have lost by double digits.

Wednesday, September 6
For the first time in major league history, two teams are carrying winning streaks of at least 13 at the same time. In Chicago, the Indians pull away late and Carlos Carrasco throws a three-hitter with nine strikeouts as Cleveland takes its 14th straight, 5-1 over the White Sox. The Indians are the first team since the 1935-36 Cubs to have winning streaks of at least 14 games in successive seasons.

Later out in Los Angeles, the Diamondbacks complete an impressive sweep of the suddenly clueless Dodgers (who’ve lost six straight and 11 of 12) with a 3-1 victory to extend their streak to a franchise-record 13. The Dodgers gather one small silver lining in the loss; they draw first blood in the first inning on a Cody Bellinger single, ending the Diamondbacks’ run of 98 consecutive innings without trailing—just three frames shy of the all-time mark set by the 1942 Yankees.

The Dodgers score just two runs in being swept in three games by Arizona, and hit only .143 for the series.

Some sources say that the all-time record for consecutive innings without trailing belongs to the 2002 Oakland A’s with 102, but we looked it up—and it didn’t happen. They did rack up a run of 96 innings during their famous 20-game win streak, but even that can be disputed because at one point during the streak they did trail by a run—only to take the lead back in the bottom half of the same inning.

Joe Panik’s five hits lift the Giants to an 11-3 rout in Colorado, ending the Rockies’ 10-game win streak at Coors Field against San Francisco. For the series, Panik knocks out 12 hits, said to be the most in a three-game series by any major leaguer since Eric McNair also collected 12 for the White Sox against the St. Louis Browns in 1939. On the flip side of Panik, there’s once-and-current Giant Pablo Sandoval, whose return to San Francisco is not going to plan. His pinch-hit strikeout in the sixth extends a hitless run to 38 at-bats—the most by a non-pitcher in Giants history.

Sandoval will stretch his slump to 0-for-39 two days later before hitting a three-run homer against the White Sox in Chicago.

A day after the public war of words between the Red Sox and Yankees, the sign-stealing paranoia appears to be spreading elsewhere. In Oakland’s 3-1 home victory over the Angels, Los Angeles catcher Juan Graterol continuously stares down Oakland hitters entering the batter’s box—he later claims they were trying to peak in and steal his signs, while the A’s claim they weren’t stealing anything and are tiring of Graterol’s intimidation tactics. By the fourth inning, the A’s Matt Chapman has had enough and confronts Graterol at home plate. After umpires intervene, Chapman says something that home plate umpire Mike Everitt apparently doesn’t agree with, and ejects him.

Chapman, after the game to reporters: “That’s not a very comfortable feeling, having the catcher staring at you while you’re digging in the box.” To which a Deadspin reader comments: “Let me just assure Chapman that nobody is watching the Oakland Athletics in September.”

The Reds give rookie pitcher Luis Castillo his “final” start of the season—and after throwing eight superb innings with 10 strikeouts and no walks against the struggling Brewers, one wonders why they won’t him pitch any further. (Apparently, it’s an innings limit thing.) Castillo’s gem helps ease Cincinnati to a 7-1 home win to sweep the Brewers in three games.

Though Castillo ends his season with a 3-7 record, his ERA is a sparkling 3.12—music to the ears of Reds fans who’ve watched their team post the majors’ worst staff ERA.

Thursday, September 7
The Indians blast away at the White Sox, 11-2, to extend their winning streak to 15—setting an all-time franchise record. They also finish off an 11-0 road trip, only the fifth time a major league team has gone undefeated on a swing of 11 or more games; the last team to do it was the 1957 Cincinnati Reds.

Because the Indians had never won more than 14 in a row in their 117 years of play, a local installation company decided in July that they would offer a promotion promising full rebates of all services should the team win 15 straight between August 1 and the end of the season. They now have to give back $1.7 million to customers.

The Phillies lose the first of a four-game set with the Nationals in Washington, 4-3, but outfielder Odubel Herrera has a pair of hits to extend his hitting streak to 20 games, the longest in the majors this season. That leaves the 1972 season as, still, the only one where no player ran up a run of 20 or more games.

Herrera’s run will end a couple of days later at 21 games.

Gene Michael, the former Yankee infielder, manager and executive who played a major role in building the team’s dynasty during the 1990s, dies at the age of 79. An underwhelming shortstop in the Yankees’ lean years from 1968-74, he briefly coached New York and bounced around as manager—as most anyone did under the turbulent reign of George Steinbrenner—between 1981-82; he also piloted the Cubs for parts of 1986 and 1987 before returning to the Yankees, eventually as the team’s general manager. It’s from there that he helped cement the core of the great Yankee teams of the late 1990s and 2000s, convincing Steinbrenner to hold on to hot prospects Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera (among others) without rashly trading them for proven stars, as Steinbrenner did so often during the 1980s. The result was six AL pennants from 1996-2003, including four world titles—including three in a row from 1998-2000.

Friday, September 8
In the first Friday night game ever played at Wrigley Field, Ryan Braun’s 300th career home run in the first is all the Brewers need to defeat the Cubs, 2-0. The victory cuts Chicago’s lead in the NL Central to four games each over Milwaukee and St. Louis (4-1 winners over Pittsburgh). But it’s a costly win for the Brewers; pitcher Jimmy Nelson, who improves to 12-6 with five shutout innings, departs the game after jamming his shoulder while diving back into first base after hitting a single. The injury will require surgery that will end his season.

Make it 16 straight wins for the Indians, who come home and shut down the Orioles, 5-0 before over 30,000 fans. Edwin Encarnacion blasts a three-run homer in the first to set the pace, while Mike Clevinger throws six shutout innings to help maintain it.

Despite winning the AL pennant last year, taking the Cubs to extras in the seventh game of the World Series and continuing to dominate the AL Central for most of 2017, the Indians still have an outside shot of drawing less than two million fans to Progressive Field. Hard now to believe that there were 455 straight sellouts at this ballpark back in the 1990s.

While Cleveland’s long streak continues, Arizona’s comes to an end at Phoenix before a Friday night crowd of “just” 27,000. (Maybe those who didn’t show had a Final Destination-like premonition that the Diamondbacks would lose.) A six-run fourth off Patrick Corbin ignites the visiting Padres to a 10-6 win to end the Snakes’ run at 13.

Yu Darvish becomes the fastest pitcher to reach 1,000 strikeouts—that is, he faces fewer batters (3,368) to achieve the milestone—but it’s not enough to shake the Dodgers’ prolonged funk. After taking an early 4-1 lead, the Dodgers fall prey to the visiting Rockies, who plate four in the fifth to prevail, 5-4—extending the Dodgers’ losing snap to eight. Los Angeles has lost seven straight at Dodger Stadium, the longest skid since 1999.

The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw had previously held the mark broken by Darvish, with 1,000 Ks within the first 3,980 batters he faced.

Saturday, September 9
Jose Abreu hits for the cycle, and his one home run accounts for six hit on the night by the White Sox over the visiting Giants in a 13-1 rout. It’s the seventh cycle performed this year in the majors, one short of the record set in 1933 and 2009; Abreu becomes the first Cuban native to do it, ever.

The news of Milwaukee pitcher Jimmy Nelson (shoulder) being done for the season doesn’t faze the Brewers. In fact, they return to Wrigley Field and annihilate the Cubs, 15-2, behind five shutout innings from Chase Anderson and five RBIs from leadoff batter Hernan Perez. The Cubs’ lead in the NL Central is thinned down to three each over the Brewers and Cardinals.

After winning seven straight games as an emotional pick-me-up in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Astros have now dropped three in a row, including two today in a doubleheader at Oakland by scores of 11-1 and 11-4. Houston’s two starting pitchers (Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock) throw well enough to each earn victories, but they leave before the real chaos begins; Astros relievers will combine to allow 17 runs on 14 hits and 11 walks—including five with the bases loaded in the first game alone—in just 5.1 innings of work on the day.

The Diamondbacks are coasting after eight innings over San Diego, 7-2, then get stunned as the Padres plate six runs in the ninth to score a come-from-behind victory, 8-7, at Phoenix. The loss goes to closer Fernando Rodney, who suffers his first blown save in over two months—while his four runs allowed jumps his season ERA to 4.68.

It’s the first time ever that Arizona has lost a game leading by five or more runs after eight innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that leaves four teams that still have never blown such a big lead so late—two of them recent entries into major league play (Miami and Colorado), the other two teams (Texas and San Diego) that have been around for nearly 50 years or more.

Chris Sale strikes out eight Rays over six shutout innings as Boston breezes to a 9-0 home triumph over Tampa Bay. The Red Sox ace has struck out 57 Rays this season, setting a team mark previously held by Smoky Joe Wood during his phenomenal 34-5 campaign in 1912, when he collected 56 Ks against the St. Louis Browns.

Sunday, September 10
With three weeks left to the season, the Nationals become the first team to clinch a division by defeating the Phillies at home, 3-2, while the second-place Marlins lose at Atlanta 10-8 moments later. It’s the fourth time over the last six years that Washington has placed first in the NL East. Leading the way is Stephen Strasburg, who fires eight shutout innings (allowing two hits) to run his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 34—topping the previous franchise record of 32.2 set in 1975 by Woodie Fryman. Ben Lively goes the distance in taking the loss, in what is the Phillies’ first complete-game performance this season.

The complete game continues to trend as an endangered species; 54 have been thrown this season, and it’s safe to say that pitchers will not extend that mark to 78—last year’s total which represents the fewest ever thrown in one year.

Aaron Judge smokes a pair of home runs to make him the second major leaguer (after Mark McGwire) to hit 40 as a rookie, and last year’s AL Rookie of the Year Gary Sanchez adds two himself (giving him 30 on the year) as the Yankees clobber the Rangers at Arlington, 16-7.

The sky-high Indians make it 18 straight wins, defeating the Orioles 3-2 at Cleveland on a nationally televised Sunday night affair before just 21,000 at Progressive Field. That leaves the Tribe just two games shy of the AL record set by the 2002 A’s, and seven shy of the all-time mark of 26 set by the 1916 Giants. (Some historians like to slap an asterisk on the Giants’ run because there was a tie thrown in; the longest, truly uninterrupted streak belongs to the 1935 Cubs, who won 21 straight.) Trevor Bauer picks up his ninth straight win to improve to 16-8, tying Chris Sale for the AL lead in wins despite a 4.33 season ERA.

While the Indians stay hot, the Dodgers, unfathomably, stay ice cold. Los Angeles drops its 10th straight game—and 15th over its last 16—with an 8-1 loss to Colorado at Dodger Stadium. Mark Reynolds’ grand slam, snapping a Rockies-record 20 straight hitless at-bats with the bases loaded, blows open a close game in the eighth. The Dodgers’ skid is the majors’ longest this season.

Just saying: No team has ever won a World Series when suffering a losing streak of 10 or more games during the regular season.

Things get even more interesting in the NL Central race. The Brewers finish off a three-game sweep at Chicago, 3-1, as Zach Davies throws seven strong innings to earn his major league-leading 17th win of the year. With the Cardinals sweeping the Pirates in St. Louis, the Cubs’ divisional lead is narrowed to two over the Brewers and Cardinals.

Monday, September 11
Pete Rose’s career record is broken…no, not that one. The all-time hit king’s more obscure mark of the most times awarded first base from catcher’s interference is broken by the Yankees’ Jacoby Ellsbury, who has his swing interfered with for the 30th time in his career. The moment comes during the Yankees’ 5-1 road win over Tampa Bay…at Citi Field, the Mets’ home which is being used as temporary quarters for the Rays just a day after the Tampa-St. Petersburg region is wracked by Hurricane Irma.

The checked-out Tigers are no match for the rampaging Indians, who easily disassemble Detroit at Cleveland by an 11-0 count for their 19th straight win—tied for the second longest in AL history. Carlos Carrasco throws six shutout innings for his 15th win of the season.

After a spate of rare Bay Area thunderstorms delay the proceedings at San Francisco by three hours, the Giants hand the Dodgers their 11th straight loss, an 8-6 victory that ends after 2:00 in the morning. The losing streak is the longest for the Dodgers since their move to Los Angeles in 1958.

Tuesday, September 12
The 2002 A’s have company in the record book—and are in danger of being erased from it. Francisco Lindor hits a leadoff home run in the first, and Corey Kluber rides it all the way to the finish, firing a five-hit shutout to improve his AL Cy Young Award chances as the Indians win their AL record-tying 20th straight game at Cleveland, 2-0 over Detroit.

The Indians have won each of their 20 games by an average margin of five runs, and have hit more home runs (39) than they have allowed opposing runs (33). Despite all of the above, history doesn’t seem to be a big selling point in Cleveland; the game draws 24,654 or roughly two-thirds of capacity at Progressive Field. There are nine other games played on the day attracting bigger crowds.

There are more fans (28,852) at Minneapolis’ Target Field, but maybe they presaged the combination of historic events coming to them. The Twins destroy the Padres, 16-0, setting a ballpark record with seven home runs—one each in the first seven innings, something no other major league team has previously ever done. (The seven dingers also tie a San Diego mark for the most it’s ever allowed.) The Minnesota win also clinches the 14th straight season in which the American League has out-won the National League in interleague action.

The Dodgers finally win a game to end their 11-game snap—but it isn’t easy. Clayton Kershaw keeps a lid on the lowly Giants for six innings, but the bullpen keeps Los Angeles fans on the edge through to the ninth inning, where closer Kenley Jansen gets out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam to preserve a 5-3 victory at San Francisco. The Dodgers’ win comes with a bonus as they officially clinch a postseason spot.

Mookie Betts, having a disappointing campaign by his standards, cranks out two homers and six RBIs—he had just one and five, respectively, over his previous 22 games—as the Red Sox demolish the A’s at Boston, 11-1. Dustin Pedroia adds three hits to extend his hitting streak against Oakland to 25 games, the longest active streak for a major leaguer against a single team.

Pedroia will earn hits in the next two games of the three-game series, extending his run against the A’s to 27. The major league record is held by Vladimir Guerrero, who hit safely in 44 straight games against Texas from 2004-06.

Major League Baseball announces its 2018 schedule, and it includes some new wrinkles. Opening Day will come on Thursday, March 29—the earliest a season has ever begun—with all 30 teams in action. It’s the start of a season that will feature more off-days for teams per the recently approved Basic Agreement between teams and players.

Somewhat stealing the thunder are the Oakland A’s, who announce that an April 18, Tuesday night game against the Chicago White Sox will include free admission for all fans. (Of course, the parking and concessions will still cost you.)

Wednesday, September 13
Move aside, Moneyball. The Indians set an AL record by defeating the Tigers at Cleveland, 5-3, for their 21st straight win, eclipsing the old mark set 15 years earlier by the Oakland A’s. Jay Bruce’s three-run homer in the first sets the tone, and Mike Clevinger improves to 4-0 with a 0.76 ERA on the year against the Tigers with 5.2 solid innings.

A strange and potentially troublesome moment occurs in the third inning. Just two pitches after the ejection of Detroit manager Brad Ausmus and catcher James McCann for arguing balls and strikes, replacement catcher John Hicks completely misses a Buck Farmer fastball that looks easily catchable—and strikes umpire Quinn Wolcott just above his left chest, knocking him to the ground in pain. Wolcott recovers and resumes his umpiring, but some in the media on hand skeptically opine that Hicks intentionally didn’t touch the throw so it would hit Wolcott as a retaliation for the ejections. Even Wolcott is seen on video as he’s sitting up shortly after getting hit, asking his fellow umpires: “They didn’t do that on purpose, did they?” Ausmus furiously denies the accusation after the game; MLB will investigate but ultimately not dole out any punishment.

The long, ugly relationship in Boston between the Red Sox and racism—as indirect as it sometimes has been—rears its ugly head again at Fenway Park during the Sox’ 7-3 loss to Oakland. During the fourth inning, a group of fans seated in the first row of the Green Monster seats unfurls a huge black banner with white lettering reading, “Racism is as American as Baseball.” Within minutes, the sign is removed and the fans ejected from the ballpark; it’s later revealed that the fans are aligned with local social justice groups, protesting the well-publicized incident earlier this season at Fenway when Baltimore’s Adam Jones, an African-American, was the target of racist heckling.

Our question: How did these folks get this large banner—which looks roughly to be 12 feet wide by 16 high—through security?

Amid a lost season, Rhys Hoskins continues to be quite the discovery for Philadelphia. In the Phillies’ 8-1 home victory over Miami, the 24-year-old Sacramento native smokes his 17th home run in just his 33rd major league game since making his debut on August 10; no other major leaguer has hit 12 within his first 33 games. Hoskins also singles, walks and hits a sacrifice fly, raising his average to .310; his three RBIs give him 37 on the year.

The Cubs keep a short arm’s distance from the Brewers in the NL Central race thanks to Willson Contreras and Albert Almora Jr.—who combine to knock in nine runs from the #4 spot in the lineup during Chicago’s 17-5 home pasting of the Mets. Contreras knocks in three runs on two singles in three at-bats before being replaced in the order by Almora Jr., who hits a bases-loaded triple and three-run homer in his only trips to the plate. He’s only the third player in modern times to knock in six runs while making just two plate appearances in a game.

Thursday, September 14
The Indians extend their winning streak to 22 in dramatic fashion at Cleveland against the Royals, 3-2. Trailing by a run and down to their last strike, Francisco Lindor lofts a fly ball that hits off the left-field wall just beyond the reach of Alex Gordon, scoring the tying run; an inning later, Jose Ramirez leads off with his 50th double of the season (essentially turning a single into a two-bagger with tremendous hustle), then scores the game-winner two batters later on Jay Bruce’s poke down the right-field line.

Just perhaps, Aaron Judge is showing signs of awakening from his second-half slumber. The Yankees’ rookie bopper goes deep twice against Baltimore and drives in six runs, and Gary Sanchez sets a season home run record for Yankee catchers as New York runs it up on the Orioles at home, 13-5. Judge has hit 11 of his 43 homers this year against the Orioles, and that ties Hal Trosky’s major league mark from 1934 for a rookie against any one team. (Trosky hit his 11 against the White Sox.)

James Shields snaps a string of 18 straight winless road starts—with quite a bit of help from his friends as the White Sox trounce the Tigers at Detroit, 17-7. Avasail Garcia has four singles, a home run and seven RBIs; Rookie Yoan Moncada scores five times after reaching on four hits and two walks. Shields was 0-8 with a 7.94 ERA in his last 18 starts away from home before earning this win.

Friday, September 15
Baseball’s second longest-ever win streak—and the longest, ever, without being interrupted by a tie—is over. In Cleveland, the Indians have an early 3-1 lead over Kansas City erased by the sixth, and this time they fail to bounce back and lose, 4-3—despite having leadoff hitters reach base in three of the final four innings. Jason Vargas earns his 16th win of the year for the Royals to tie for the AL lead, and Mike Minor earns his first career save by striking out the side after allowing a leadoff single to Yandy Diaz in the ninth.

One streak continues for the Indians; Francisco Lindor doubles to lead off the first, extending his run of consecutive games with an extra base hit to nine. That ties the franchise record set by Hal Trosky (in 1934) and Sandy Alomar Jr. (1996-97). The major league record is 14.

The Brewers defeat the Marlins, 10-2, on the road…in Milwaukee. Originally scheduled for Miami’s Marlin Park (which suffered minor damage from Hurricane Irma), the weekend series is moved to Wisconsin as South Florida continues to clean up. A crowd of 19,000, almost all rooting for the Brewers—Milwaukee fans travel well, apparently—happily watch as the Brewers break up a 2-2 tie in the eighth with eight runs, a rally that includes home runs from Eric Thames, Neil Walker and Domingo Santana.

To make the Marlins as much at home as they possibly could, the Brewers dot Miller Park with potted palm trees and plastic pink flamingos.

There is baseball being played in Florida as the Rays return home to St. Petersburg, and look ready to wrap up a victory over the Red Sox—but Boston rallies for three runs in the ninth to tie the game at 5-5 before 16,000 fans. The game labors on through the 14th, where the two teams exchange a run; in the 15th, the Red Sox finally say “enough” with seven runs to run off with a 13-6 decision. In triumph, nine Boston pitchers combine to strike out 24 Rays—breaking by one the franchise mark set the previous September in another extra-inning game at St. Petersburg.

Oakland’s Daniel Mengden, owner of a career 2-10 record and 6.59 ERA, throws a two-hit shutout with seven strikeouts and no walks against the Phillies in Philadelphia. The Phillies’ only hits come on a pair of singles from shortstop J.P. Crawford.

Saturday, September 16
The Indians get back on the winning track and then some—clinching their second straight AL Central crown while maintaining a two-game lead over the Astros for AL home field playoff advantage with an 8-4 home win over the Royals. Francisco Lindor has three hits including his 40th double of the season, extending his streak of games with an extra base hit to 10; Carlos Carrasco earns his 16th win of the year, giving Cleveland three pitchers with at least 16 on the season—the first time the Indians have achieved that since 1956 when Early Wynn, Mike Garcia and Bob Lemon each won 20 for the Tribe.

The Dodgers look to firmly be back on track as they enhance their NL home field chances over their biggest challenger, the Nationals—winning at Washington, 3-2, for their fourth straight victory. Cody Bellinger belts his 38th homer to tie Frank Robinson’s 1956 NL record for rookie home runs in a season.

The Rockies hand the Padres their second 16-0 pounding in four days at Colorado, thanks in large part to their leadoff men. NL MVP candidate Charlie Blackmon knocks in four runs on a double and home run before being removed early; his replacement, Pat Valaika, hits a grand slam in his only at-bat. It’s the first time in major league history that two players from the same team knock in four runs from the #1 spot.

Blackmon’s 89 RBIs and 81 extra-base hits both set NL records for a leadoff hitter.

The result represents the largest shutout victory in Rockies history. For the Padres, they have lost five straight games—and have been outscored 44-4 during this stretch.

The Yankees beat up the Orioles once again, 9-3, to keep pace with the Red Sox in the AL East race while improving their season record to 82-66. Hence, New York ensures its 25th winning season, a streak second only to their remarkable 39-year run from 1926-64.

Sunday, September 17
Detroit’s Matthew Boyd is one out away from pitching a no-hitter against the White Sox at Comerica Park when Tim Anderson drives a double to deep right-center to spoil it. It’s the lone “rats” moment on an otherwise perfect day for the Tigers, who wallop Chicago, 12-0.

Six no-hitters have been broken up in the ninth inning or beyond (Rich Hill) this season; Boyd’s is the first where he was just one out away.

Justin Verlander’s home debut at Houston since his trade from the Tigers is a memorable one. The veteran ace allows a run on three hits with 10 strikeouts through seven innings as the Astros breeze to a 7-1 win over Seattle to clinch their first divisional title since taking the NL Central in 2001.

The Nationals salvage a win in their three-game series against Los Angeles, pulling away late for a 7-1 win at Washington behind Ryan Zimmerman’s two home runs and another sharp outing for Stephen Strasburg. Zimmerman’s 33 homers on the year ties a career high, set back in 2009; Strasburg allows a run over six innings, but his franchise-record streak of consecutive scoreless frames ends at 35.

Monday, September 18
At Philadelphia, the Dodgers get home runs from their first two batters—including a leadoff inside-the-park job from Chris Taylor—but the Phillies overcome the early deficit and Clayton Kershaw, who gives up the first grand slam of his career to lose, 4-3. Aaron Altherr’s bases-loaded shot in the sixth provides the Phillies with all of their run support on the night.

Here comes yet another young slugger setting rookie home run records. This time it’s Oakland’s Matt Olson, whose two-run homer in the third at Detroit gives him 14 over his last 20 games—tying the major league record for the most within a 20-game stretch by a rookie, set previously by Rudy York in 1937 and Mark McGwire in 1987.

Olson has 45 home runs on the season—22 for the A’s and 23 for Triple-A Nashville. He’s only the second player in the last 30 years—Giancarlo Stanton being the other—with 20 home runs for both a major and minor league team in the same season.

Miguel Elias Gonzalez, a 21-year-old lower-level minor league pitcher in the Baltimore farm system, is killed in yet another traffic accident that takes away the life of a professional baseball player in the Dominican Republic. Reports say that a truck tipped over on top of Gonzalez’ car; he dies later at a nearby hospital.

Tuesday, September 19
With nearly two full weeks to spare, MLB sets a record for home runs in one season. The old record of 5,693, set in 2000, is broken in Toronto where Kansas City’s Alex Gordon, of all people—among all major league qualifiers, he’s the one with the lowest slugging percentage—goes deep in the Royals’ 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

The Indians take their winning act back on the road and, behind another strong if petite (six innings) start for Mike Clevinger, defeat the Angels at Anaheim, 6-3. It’s their 12th straight road victory to tie a franchise mark, and their 25-1 record over their last 26 games is unparalleled in AL history.

For the first time since signing on to manage the Cubs, Joe Maddon returns to Tampa Bay and guides his team to its season-high seventh straight win, 2-1. The only baserunner allowed by the Cubs is a sixth-inning home run by ninth-place hitter Bing Miller, hit off of Chicago starter Mike Montgomery (who goes six innings). The crowd of 25,046 is the largest at Tropicana Field since Opening Day.

Max Scherzer improves to 15-6 on the year and surpasses 250 strikeouts for the fourth straight year as the Nationals defeat the Braves at Atlanta, 4-2. Only three other pitchers, all of them Hall of Famers—Randy Johnson, Ferguson Jenkins and Pedro Martinez—have collected at least 250 Ks in four straight years.

Wednesday, September 20
Chris Sale becomes the first AL pitcher since Pedro Martinez to record 300 season strikeouts when he hits the milestone with his 13th—and final—K of the night, allowing just four hits and no walks in eight dazzling innings as Boston shuts out the Orioles at Baltimore, 9-0. The win clinches a postseason spot for the Red Sox, while their three-game sweep of the Orioles essentially deals a death blow to Baltimore’s wild card chances.

The Yankees stay three back of Boston with their own three-game sweep, routing the Twins at New York, 11-3. Aaron Judge goes deep for the 45th time this season, while his three RBIs give him 101—making him the second rookie (after Ted Williams in 1939) to accumulate 100-plus RBIs, runs and walks in the same season; Didi Gregorius’ 25th homer sets a Yankee record for shortstops, eclipsing Derek Jeter’s 1999 mark. All this, and the game is overshadowed by a totally sobering moment in the fifth inning when a wicked line foul smacked by the Yankees’ Todd Frazier strikes the face of a two-year-old toddler seated just beyond the third-base dugout; the girl is hospitalized but is said to be “doing alright” the next day.

In the wake of this incident, the Reds, Padres, Rockies and Mariners all immediately announce plans to extend their safety nets; the Yankees initially remain mum on the subject—likely because they don’t want to tick off those paying up to $1,000 for prestigious “Legends Suite” seats near the dugouts—but at season’s end announce that, yes, they will extend the netting.

Since 2002, the Yankees are 78-31 against the Twins; that’s easily the best non-interleague record by one team against another—and that doesn’t even count New York’s 12-2 mark against the Twins in postseason play during this same time span.

In the Royals’ 15-5 rout of the Blue Jays at Toronto, Mike Moustakas sets a franchise record by hitting his 37th home run of the season. Moustakas had sat on 36 for 19 days before breaking Steve Balboni’s mark of 36 in 1985. The Royals remain the only major league franchise without a player having ever hit 40 homers in a season.

The Diamondbacks beat up on the Padres at San Diego, 13-7, in yet another epitome of this year’s home run epidemic. Nine home runs are hit between both teams, the most ever at Petco Park; three of them come off the bat of San Diego rookie Hunter Renfroe. Two others are hit by the Padres, running their season total to 180—setting a franchise mark established just last year.

Former major leaguer Raul Mondesi is sentenced in his native Dominican Republic to eight years in prison and fined $1.3 million after being convicted on corruption charges. Mondesi was accused of misusing $6.5 million (or 300 million Dominican pesos) while serving as mayor of San Cristobal.

Thursday, September 21
After taking a 3-2 lead in the eighth, the Brewers move to the ninth at home against the Cubs and call on once-and-current Brewer Jeremy Jeffress to save the day, because breakout closer Corey Knebel is unavailable after pitching three straight days. But Jeffress can’t get the job done, allowing a two-out RBI single to Javier Baez—and an inning later, Kris Bryant drills a two-run homer to lift Chicago to a 5-3 victory in the first of a crucial three-game series at Miller Park.

The Brewers remain one back of Colorado for the second NL wild card as the Rockies lose their fourth straight—second by shutout—at San Diego, 3-0. Clayton Richard, who on the day signs a two-year, $6 million extension with the Padres, celebrates by hurling 7.1 shutout innings to record the win.

Tightening the NL wild card race even further are the Cardinals, who move to within 1.5 games of the Rockies with an 8-5 victory at Cincinnati. Dexter Fowler leads the way for St. Louis, knocking out three hits (including two doubles) and achieving his fourth straight multi-RBI game.

Friday, September 22
The Dodgers clinch their fifth straight NL West crown as Cody Bellinger’s three-run homer, his 39th of the year, sets a NL record for a rookie and provides Los Angeles with the bulk of their scoring in a 4-2 home win over the Giants.

The Indians, seeking their 28th win in their last 29 games to match the 1884 Providence Grays, lose on a tie-breaking, walk-off home run by Seattle’s Nelson Cruz in the bottom of the ninth to give the Mariners a 3-1 triumph. The Cleveland loss also ends a franchise-record streak of 14 straight road wins.

For the third straight day, the Brewers lose after being ahead or tied in the ninth inning or later as they drop another 10-inning decision to the Cubs at Milwaukee, 5-4. This time, the winning run scores when Brewers closer Corey Knebel surrenders a bases-loaded walk to Tommy La Stella. The Cubs, with eight games left to play in the regular season, now lead the NL Central by five.

With Milwaukee’s loss, St. Louis takes over second place in the NL Central and remains 1.5 games behind Colorado (4-1 winners at San Diego) with a come-from-behind, 4-3 victory at Pittsburgh, scoring twice in the ninth inning.

Justin Verlander continues to make like Randy Johnson circa late 1998, finding late-season rejuvenation in an Astros uniform. The 34-year-old veteran allows but a single and two walks over seven shutout innings as the Astros handles the Angels at Houston, 3-0. Verlander is now 4-0 with a 0.64 ERA in four starts since being traded from Detroit; no pitcher has ever won each of his first four starts with as low an ERA after a midseason trade—not even Johnson, who after being dealt from Seattle late in 1998 went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in 11 starts for Houston.

Four apparently is the magic number this season for the Reds’ Scooter Gennett. Hitting from the #4 spot, Gennett—who made big news early in the year with a four-homer performance—brings home four runs in the first inning with his fourth grand slam of the season, breaking a Cincinnati team mark. But it’s the only scoring on the night for the Reds, who bow to the visiting Red Sox, 5-4.

The Diamondbacks outlast the Marlins in a 13-11 slugfest at Phoenix, as Arizona catcher Chris Ianetta drives home eight runs on two homers and a single. The most RBIs Ianetta had ever collected in any one of 1,030 previous career games was six.

The Tigers announce that manager Brad Ausmus will not be back for 2018, citing that a fresh start is needed for the franchise after jettisoning most of its veteran talent late this year. At least Ausmus will be allowed to finish out the 2017 season—meaning that, for the moment, the season continues without a midseason managerial firing.

The last time a full major league season was played without a manager being fired was in 2006.

Saturday, September 23
A day after President Donald Trump calls out pro football players kneeling in front of the American flag in protest against social injustice as “son of a bitches” who should be fired by their owners, Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell becomes the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem before a home game against Texas. Teammates and A’s fans, a cross-section of the predominantly left-leaning Bay Area, largely support the stand taken by Maxwell, the Hispanic son of a U.S. serviceman who says he is speaking on behalf of those who don’t have a voice.

While the kneeling trend goes into overdrive the next day at NFL games—more as a protest against Trump’s statements than anything else—Maxwell will remain a lone voice of visual dissent in baseball. Part of the reason may be that less than 10% of all major leaguers are African-American, while over 25% are foreign-born—in sharp contrast to the totally domestic, mostly black makeup of NFL players. As a result, other major leaguers appear hesitant; Tampa Bay pitcher Chris Archer, an African-American, said he was ready to take a knee for the national anthem as well but backed out, saying that feedback from his teammates prevented him from doing so.

The Cubs and Brewers are fit to be tied, as for the third straight day both teams are deadlocked after nine innings—but this time, the Brewers prevail by scoring a run in the ninth and two in the 10th to win at Milwaukee, 4-3. Chicago closer Wade Davis suffers his first blown save of the season—and his first after securing 38 straight saves going back to last season—and then takes the loss on Travis Shaw’s two-run homer in the 10th.

The Brewers move to within a game of Colorado for the second NL wild card spot after the Rockies suffer their third shutout loss in four games. The Padres’ Jhoulys Chacin—fantastic at home, terrible on the road—allows just one hit through six shutout innings to improve to 13-10, one win shy of his career high, in San Diego’s 5-0 home triumph.

No other team in existence had gone its first 24 years without being shut out three times in a four-game stretch.

Chacin is 9-3 with a 1.79 ERA at Petco Park; on the road, he’s 4-7 with a 6.93 mark.

On the flip side of the Rockies’ misfortunes, the Red Sox make it three shutout wins in four games as Eduardo Rodriguez gives up three hits over 7.2 innings in a 5-0 victory at Cincinnati. The game is noted for the ninth-inning appearance by Reds pitcher Luke Farrell, son of opposing Boston manager John Farrell; it’s the first time a son has pitched against a team managed by his father. Farrell will allow two walks in a scoreless inning.

Sunday, September 24
After a five-year absence, the Arizona Diamondbacks are officially back to the postseason. J.D. Martinez’s walk-off RBI single gives the Diamondbacks a 3-2 home win over Miami, to clinch both a wild card spot and home field for that one-game playoff. Martinez now has 58 RBIs in 57 games since being traded from Detroit.

Clayton Kershaw spreads out a run on eight hits through eight innings to improve to 18-4 on the year in the Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over the Giants at Los Angeles. In his last 200 starts, Kershaw has posted a remarkable 2.03 ERA—barely besting the former low post-Deadball Era mark of 2.04 produced by Greg Maddux over a 200-start stretch of his own from 1992-98.

The regular season heads into its final week with no pitcher having won more than 18 games. There will ultimately be no 20-game winners for only the third time in major league history; the other two seasons came in 2006 and 2009.

The Twins have the second AL wild card spot all but wrapped up after sweeping the Tigers in four games at Detroit, winning the finale 10-4. For the series, Minnesota outscores the Tigers, 39-12.

The Tigers continue to show how badly they have fallen off the cliff since letting go of many of their top stars late in the season; they’re 11-37 since August 4, with 10 or more runs allowed in 13 of those losses. Adding injury to insult, Miguel Cabrera—the one superstar who remains on the roster, but having his worst year yet—is declared done for the season after he’s discovered to have two herniated discs in his back.

Monday, September 25
After a superlative first half followed by a prolonged second-half slump, it clearly appears that Aaron Judge has adjusted back to full strength. The Yankees’ mega-rookie, a day after hitting a pair of home runs against Toronto, belts two more in New York’s 11-3 home victory over Kansas City—giving him 50 on the year to break Mark McGwire’s all-time rookie record from 1987. He’s also the first American Leaguer to hit 50 since Chris Davis in 2013.

It took a little while longer than expected, but the Dodgers achieve their 100th win of the season as Logan Forsythe goes 3-for-3 with four RBIs and Yu Darvish shuts down the Padres through seven excellent innings in a 9-3 home triumph over San Diego. It’s the first time the Dodgers have won 100 in a season since 1974.

Tuesday, September 26
The Pirates smother the Orioles at Pittsburgh, 10-1, behind a massive night for Andrew McCutchen—who goes 4-for-4 with two home runs, one a grand slam that’s the first of his career, and a personal-best eight RBIs. McCutchen had hit the most homers (200) to start a career without a grand slam; the record for the most in a career, past or present, without a slam belongs to Glenn Davis with 191.

The Red Sox’ magic number to clinch the AL East remains at two as they bow at home to Toronto, 9-4, while the Yankees defeat Tampa Bay at New York, 6-1. Boston ace Chris Sale is ineffective on the mound, surrendering a career-high four home runs, while continuing a blatant on-off trend in which, since the start of August, he’s allowed no runs in his four wins—but is 0-4 in seven other starts with a 7.30 ERA and 13 homers allowed.

The Blue Jays are paced by Teoscar Hernandez and Josh Donaldson, who each hit a pair of home runs batting #1 and #2 in the lineup, respectively. They become only the second such pair to hit multiple homers for the same team in the same game during the modern, post-1900 era.

Albert Pujols may be having what some strangely regard as the worst year of any everyday major leaguer in 2017—the only record he’s broken is for career grounding into double plays—but he’s still good enough for 100 RBIs. In the Angels’ 9-3 victory at Chicago over the White Sox, Pujols brings home two runs to earn triple-digit RBI totals for the 14th season, matching Alex Rodriguez’s major league mark.

Wednesday, September 27
Despite losing at Cleveland, 4-2, the Twins still manage to complete the AL postseason picture by clinching the second AL wild card spot after their nearest competitor, the Angels, lose in 10 innings at Chicago against the White Sox, 6-4. The Twins thus become the first major league team ever to reach the playoffs a year after losing 100 games.

Now, the Twins will have to get the playoff monkey off their backs; they’ve lost 12 straight playoff games dating back to 2002.

The Chicago Cubs complete a strong second-half bounceback to take its second straight NL Central title, defeating the archrival Cardinals at St. Louis, 5-1 before a crowd wearing as much Cubbie Blue as Cardinal Red. It’s the first time the Cubs have made the postseason over three straight seasons since winning the NL pennant from 1906-08.

After entering the All-Star Break below .500 at 43-45, the Cubs have since gone 46-24.

The Astros look more than ready for the postseason—while the Rangers look more than ready for October golf. At Arlington, the Astros finish carving up their intrastate rivals with a 12-2 rout, ending a three-game sweep in which they outscored Texas 37-7. Jose Altuve’s first-inning single gives him 200 hits for the fourth straight season.

J.D. Martinez’s powerful second half in an Arizona uniform reaches historical heights, as the ex-Tiger homers for the 16th time in September—tying a NL record held by Ralph Kiner in 1949. Martinez’s solo blast is the first of three runs to cross the plate off Giants closer Sam Dyson in the ninth to give the Diamondbacks a 4-3 victory at Phoenix.

Thursday, September 28
Giancarlo Stanton’s march to 60 homers takes a big leap as he goes deep twice at Miami to give him 59 on the season in the Marlins’ 7-1 win over Atlanta. It’s Stanton’s 10th multi-homer performance of the year, one shy of the major league record.

If this is a playoff preview, then it doesn’t bode well for the Red Sox, who are drubbed at home by the Astros, 12-2. Jose Altuve has three more hits while Carlos Correa has his second straight four-hit game, which includes a home run after belting two the day before at Texas. The Astros have now won four straight games by nine or more runs, the first time that’s ever happened in the modern era.

Despite the loss, the Red Sox clinch at least a tie for the AL East title as the Yankees lose at home to Tampa Bay, 9-6.

The Cardinals’ longshot aspirations to make the postseason are snatched away, literally, in the bottom of the 11th of a 2-1 loss to a second-string Cubs team resting its regulars. After Chicago rookie Taylor Davis, making his first career start behind the plate, rips a RBI double to give the Cubs a lead in the top of the 11th, the Cardinals’ Paul DeJong launches a deep drive to center that Leonys Martin steals just above the wall to end the game—and knock St. Louis out of the playoff picture.

Friday, September 29
The Rockies clinch at least a tie for the NL’s second wild card spot with a 9-1 win over the Dodgers at Denver. Charlie Blackmon hits one of four homers for Colorado—all of which come with two outs and two strikes—and later adds a RBI single to give him 103 on the season, 101 from the leadoff spot to set a major league record.

The Astros’ streak of double-digit offense ends with only three runs at Boston, but it’s enough to edge the Red Sox, 3-2, for their 100th win of the year to stay alive for home field advantage in the AL postseason. Houston joins the Dodgers and Cleveland as only the sixth trio of 100-game winners in MLB history, and the first since the Yankees, Braves and Giants all won at least 100 in 2003.

Meanwhile, the Giants ensure that there will be no 100-game losers in the majors this season. At San Francisco, Chris Stratton throws 6.2 shutout innings and the Giants ease to an 8-0 victory over San Diego for their 63rd win of the year.

The Phillies, the NL’s next worst team with 65 wins, reassign manager Pete Mackanin to the front office, becoming a special assistant to the general manager. He will be allowed to finish out the season in the dugout, meaning that baseball still hasn’t experienced a “midseason” firing thus far in 2017. In two-plus seasons with the Phillies, Mackanin posted a 173-237 record.

Saturday, September 30
What little suspense is left in framing the 2017 postseason picture is erased. In Boston, the Red Sox defeat the Astros, 3-2, to clinch the AL East for the second straight year. It’s the first time since 1915-16 that the Red Sox have finished first in successive seasons; that 101-year drought was the majors’ longest active among the “original” 16 teams.

The consolation prize for the second-place Yankees is that Aaron Judge continues to add to his rookie legend. In New York’s 2-1 victory over Toronto, Judge hits his 52nd homer of the year, 33 of which have come at Yankee Stadium—setting a franchise mark previously held by Babe Ruth when he collected 32 at the Polo Grounds in 1921.

The Astros’ loss gives AL home field advantage to Cleveland, despite the Indians’ 2-1 loss at home to the White Sox. In defeat, starting Cleveland pitcher Corey Kluber allows a run over five innings, all but locking down his second AL Cy Young award in four years with a major league leading 2.25 ERA.

The NL playoffs are set today as the Rockies reach for the first time since 2009, representing the second wild card. Colorado’s entry into October is secured when the Brewers cough up a 6-0 lead at St. Louis, as the Cardinals rally multiple times—including a four-run outburst in the eighth to ultimately give them a 7-6 victory.

As much a publicity stunt as anything—the awful Tigers need something upbeat to end their season on—Detroit second baseman Andrew Romine becomes the fifth major leaguer to play all nine positions during Detroit’s 3-2 win at Minnesota. Romine starts in the outfield, moves around the infield, catches in the seventh (committing a passed ball) and faces one batter as a pitcher in the eighth (inducing Miguel Sano into a ground out) before ending the night at first base.

A day after announcing his retirement at age 32, the Giants’ Matt Cain makes his final appearance and pitches five shutout innings before departing with a 1-0 lead. Naturally, as they seemed to have done often when Cain has taken the hill, the Giants mess it up—blowing a 2-1 lead in the ninth and losing at home to San Diego, 3-2.

Cain’s average run support over his 331 starts for San Francisco averaged out at 3.87—which, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is the lowest among 81 pitchers who’ve made 200 or more starts since Cain’s debut. Despite a solid 3.68 career ERA, Cain finishes his 13-year major league lifespan with a sub -.500 record at 104-118; one of those wins was the lone perfect game in Giants history, thrown in 2012. In the postseason, Cain started eight games and posted a 4-2 record with an excellent 2.10 ERA. He won’t make the Hall of Fame—he’ll get some votes, probably as a protest against his lack of support—but he’ll be greatly remembered in the hearts of all Giants fans.

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