This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: September, 2018
Parity in the NL, Imbalance in the AL How Low Can the Orioles Go?
David Wright’s Short But Sweet Goodbye Wow, Christian Yelich!


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Tommy Pham, Tampa Bay Rays

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
95 26 35 5 6 5 16 18 1 2 5

It was a pretty good month for ex-Cardinals outfielders (the A’s Stephen Piscotty was among the runners-up for this month’s honor), but no one, ex-Redbird or otherwise, put together better offense in the Junior Circuit than Pham, who left one Saint (Louis) for another (Petersburg) and found total bliss. The 30-year-old Las Vegas native, who arguably was the Cardinals’ biggest all-around threat in 2017 before stumbling to a .247 average when traded away to the Rays, really got his groove back this past month with average, power and speed (six triples, five steals). The Rays would really love to bottle Pham’s home-stretch energy for the next few years—in part because he’s not a free agent until 2022. And that of course music to the low-rent Rays.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
88 24 31 6 2 10 33 23 1 2 6

Last year, Yelich was a solid but vanilla supporting cast member on Giancarlo Stanton’s Marlins. This year, he’s your likely NL MVP. The 26-year-old outfielder really turned it up in the final two weeks to propel both the Brewers into the postseason and himself away from the morass of modest MVP candidates—hitting .462 with 13 extra base hits and 20 RBIs over his last 12 games. Yeah, Yelich has got that “aw, shucks” look about him, but the language gets a lot more coarse from opponents who are chasing down his every line drive that’s not headed over the fence.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
53 2 7 1 0 0 1 2 0 1 0

Just about nothing went right for the Orioles in 2018, and the veteran slugger was one of the team’s biggest headaches. After taking some downtime in an attempt to rediscover himself in midseason, Davis found himself falling back on hard times in September; he had just one hit in his last 37 at-bats with 20 strikeouts before calling it a season with four games to go. His .168 season average is the worst ever recorded by a player with enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title—but we’ll tell you about this and more next month when we reveal our best and worst of the year, because it’s pretty likely Davis will be the top choice for the worst.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Brian Dozier, Los Angeles Dodgers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
46 4 4 3 0 1 5 5 0 1 1

This was not the Brian Dozier the Dodgers were hoping for when they acquired him a couple of months back. They were expecting the Dozier who averaged 35 homers in each of his past three seasons and had a knack for going on second-half tears. Instead they got someone who put up the above anemic numbers, the tail end of an overall disappointing effort in Dodger Blue. “Baseball’s weird, so Dozier is bound to be the hero today, right?” tweeted Dodgers reporter and TGG friend Howard Cole late during Dozier’s dismal month, using all sarcasm intended. Given the penchant of Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts to play with lineups the way a kid plays with crayons, Dozier may or may not get the playing time he desires in the postseason—however long that may go—so he’d like to get a little footing back to enhance his free agent portfolio for 2019.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Reynaldo Lopez, Chicago White Sox

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
2-1 33 19 4 4 9 0 1 2 0 35

Remember when the White Sox traded Adam Eaton to the Nationals and Chicago fans got all excited about getting pitching prospect Lucas Giolito in exchange? Well, they also got this guy, the 24-year-old Dominican-born righty who was quite alright to finish the season. Lopez had five strong September starts and finally suffered his first loss with his last outing—his first defeat in nearly two months—with a tough 2-1 decision to the Twins, but he brought his season ERA from near 5.00 down to a very respectable 3.91 over 188.2 innings. The White Sox are dearly hoping that his momentum will continue toward ace-like level in 2019.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
3-1 33 20 7 4 8 0 1 1 0 34

The 25-year-old Dominican, who impressed late last season for the Reds and gave hope that maybe somebody on this team could pitch, got off to a rough start in 2018 as his season ERA bounced around the mid-5.00 range through the All-Star Break. After more turbulence in August, Castillo finally righted the ship in September—getting back into a positive jet stream with a streak of good outings. He saved his best for last, throwing 8.1 shutout innings before being removed in a 0-0 game at Miami on September 21. Perhaps the extra year of seasoning will bring Castillo into a more relaxed state for 2019 and provide more consistent results through the entire year. The pitching-starved Reds certainly hope to God that this will be so. .


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-4 22.1 30 26 23 12 1 1 5 0 14

Remember when the White Sox traded Adam Eaton to the Nationals and Chicago fans got all excited about getting pitching prospect Lucas Giolito in exchange? Well, crap. It’s been a long, tough first full season for the 24-year-old right-hander from Santa Monica, California, and it looked as if he was turning the tide with a decent August. Then came September and, well, crap. In two of his five starts this past month, he couldn’t even get out of the second inning. His other three starts were mostly meh. The good news is that Giolito is still young and the emergence of Reynaldo Lopez (above) could take the pressure off him in terms of what the Eaton trade has brought in return to Chicago. But patience among big-league front offices don’t last forever.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Vince Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-3 17.2 29 21 21 6 0 3 2 0 19

At some point we’re going to find out who Vince Velasquez really is. If this past month is any indication of an answer, it clearly does not bode well for the 26-year old from California. Phillies fans have found him frustrating, because he has electric stuff and on occasion will absolutely shine—but more than not of late, he hasn’t been bringing his best stuff. The Phillies became very tenuous as the month progressed and Velasquez regressed; he averaged just 3.7 innings over his last nine starts. So maybe Velasquez was just tired as game 162 neared—or maybe this is just who he is.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Houston Astros (21-6)

With the A’s breathing down their neck to start the month, the Astros did what experienced world champions do and took care of matters—winning 10 of their first 11 games in September, and never losing consecutive games for the entire month as they built their cushion to six games over Oakland to finish the campaign. Pitching carried the day for the Astros, furnishing an AL-best 2.99 ERA, while an offense once known for its free-swinging struck out only 174 times—an eye-opening figure for this day and age, and by far the majors’ lowest figure. And now it’s go time for the Astros in an attempt to become the first repeat champions since the 1998-2000 Yankees.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Milwaukee Brewers (19-7)

So the Cubs thought they could brush aside the Brewers with little problem to take the NL Central? Not so fast, insisted this Brew Crew. Milwaukee rampaged down the home stretch, winning nine of its final 10 games—and although the spotlight shined brightest on likely NL MVP Christian Yelich (above), other heroes at Miller Park emerged this past month, including an exceptional bullpen (2.03 ERA in September) that had to get into action early and often as starters averaged less than five innings per outing, and dominated opponents as if they were jumping out of spring training totally fresh. This should be a fun bunch to watch in October, regardless of how long they last.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Baltimore Orioles (7-20)

In the season’s last week, the Orioles endured through several postponements, but that was just fine for this beat-up dog; by then, the O-No’s were probably just wishing that the whole season could have been postponed. A disastrous campaign came to a disastrous end, as the Orioles performed the status woe and limped to the finish line about as bandaged up as the German author at the end of The Producers. For the month, Baltimore was 1-4 against the two other, more respectable 100-game losers (the Royals and White Sox) and never won back-to-back games. There’s nothing much more to say about these guys…until next month, at least, when we name our worst AL team of the year. Take a good guess as to who that will be.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
San Francisco Giants (5-21)

The Giants began the month on the fringe of postseason consideration, but the bottom completely fell out as an inexperienced offense, trying far from its best to fill in the holes left behind by the injured or departed (Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen, Brandon Belt, et al), simply could not produce. San Francisco hit .211, averaged 2.6 runs per game and did no justice for a pitching staff that performed rather well from start to finish this year in spite of its own health issues. It will be interesting to see how the Giants react to a second straight disappointing campaign; the recent dismissal of GM Bobby Evans could be harbinger of a much bigger shake-up ahead, so stay tuned.


Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(September 2018 Edition)

Beetlemania
The Padres put a halt to a giveaway of beach hats at Petco Park on September 1 when workers discovered grain beetles hiding within them. Fans who did get their hats were asked to give them back later, in return for vouchers for a beetle-free lid to be supplied sometime in the near future.

Is This Better?
After hitting a home run that was overturned on review and ruled a long foul, the White Sox’ Daniel Palka sent out another a few pitches later that barely managed to stay fair.

“But I Don’t Wanna to be a Pirate!”
The subhead above is the perfect Twitter reply, from sportswriter Justin McGuire, to this screen capture of Pittsburgh teammates Kevin Kramer and Kevin Newman.
Newman and Kramer

All You Had to Do Was Walk There
The Nationals’ Trea Turner was thrown out at second on a stolen base attempt even though Bryce Harper had just taken ball four for a walk. How? Because Turner overslid the bag, and was therefore technically on his way to third.

Rubber Sold
The Mets’ Todd Frazier made a dive into the first row of the Dodger Stadium stands to make what umpires ruled a fantastic catch on a foul ball—but it turned out the ball Frazier showed the umpire was a rubber souvenir ball that was nearby. Funny how none of the Dodgers fans called B.S. on him; “This dude deserves an Oscar for Best Actor in a Misleading Role,” concludes The Athletic’s Jayson Stark.

As Harmonious as Steinbrenner and Martin
The Tigers’ TV broadcast team of Mario Impemba and Rod Allen got into a “severe” altercation following a September 4 game and had to be separated by co-employees. The argument was said to be over a chair.

Eye Get This
The Orioles on September 18 became the first pro sports team to wear uniforms with Braille type. The move was praised for bringing awareness to what’s being done to make the lives of blind people better, but many couldn’t resist the irony of a 110-loss team making such a gesture.

Eye Don't Got This
In a somewhat related note, the Orioles’ David Hess was hit in the eye while throwing a football before a game at Tampa Bay on September 7. For added protection, he wore an LSU helmet in the dugout during the game to follow.

No Time to Change
Perhaps protesting the Cubs’ one-day road trip to Washington (due to an earlier rainout), Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo boarded the flight to D.C. in full uniform.

You Must First Answer These Three Questions…
So when the Mets’ Todd Frazier approached home plate after hitting a game-winning homer against the Marlins on September 13, what was umpire Tom Hallion thinking by standing on top of the plate?

Pay Up, or the Banner Gets It
The banner celebrating the Red Sox’ AL East title fell off a truck two days before the Red Sox actually clinched the division—and two men who found it held it hostage for a few days, hoping to receive tickets in exchange. The Red Sox did not oblige, even after the two men returned it.

Could it be the “Steal My Stuff” Sign?
For the fourth time in 18 months, someone broke into the home of the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig. This time they tried to drag out a safe, but fled without taking it.

Not Your Ideal Topping
A food worker at Detroit’s Comerica Park was fired after a video showed him spitting on a pizza for sale to customers.

Boomer-arang
A ball that the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton hit for a home run at Boston’s Fenway Park was thrown back on the field by an irate Red Sox fan—and hit him on a bounce as he was rounding second base.

Holy Ty Cobb
Only 16 players hit .300 or better this season, the lowest figure since 1978.

Next Year’s Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
The Royals’ Whit Merrifield ends the 2018 season with a 20-game hitting streak intact, which happened to be the longest in the majors this year. He’ll start the 2019 campaign 36 games away from tying Joe DiMaggio’s hallowed 1941 record of 56 straight. Good luck, Whit—you’ve got all offseason thinking about how you’ll get there, game by game, through early May.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
Well, major leaguers went and did it this year; they struck out more times than they got hits. For the first time ever, there were more Ks than Hs in a full season, thanks in part to, once again, the raising of the strikeout bar. Players whiffed 41,167 times, a 2.6% increase over the old record from last year—and they got there in style in September, striking out over 7,000 times (7,074, to be exact) for the first time ever in one month.

Not surprisingly, the record book was also rewritten for teams as the White Sox struck out a record 1,594 times while Astros pitchers easily reset the mark for striking out opponents with 1,687; the Yankees joined Houston as the first two teams to average 10+ Ks per game.

We don’t know about you, but we’re starting to pine for the days back in the 1980s when a team like the Cardinals would bunt, run, hit-and-run, slash, run some more—and never strike out. Coaches and tutors must find a way to reverse the trend, and quick—before Rob Manfred and the rules committee does it for them with something completely stupid.

League vs. League

Congratulations to the National League, which for the first time since 2003—if you’re doing the math, that’s 15 whole years—won the interleague wars and finished with a winning record against the American League. The senior circuit easily withstood a comeback attempt by the AL in September, splitting 30 interleague games to finish the year with a 158-142 record. And it has the horribly weak AL Central largely to thank; that division’s three little pigs—the Tigers, White Sox and Royals—each were 6-14 against NL competition. Take away that collective 18-42 mark, and the AL gets its 16th straight year of interleague dominance. But that’s not how it works. Everything counts.





Saturday, September 1
Matt Kemp, whose post-All-Star numbers (.205, three homers) have badly suffered in comparison to those before that got him into the Midsummer Classic to begin with, belts a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to propel the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 3-2 home victory over Arizona—tying the Diamondbacks for first place in a very tight National League West; Colorado is just a half-game back after defeating the Padres at San Diego, 4-2.

The Chicago Cubs ease to a 7-1 win at Philadelphia to increase their lead in the NL Central to 4.5 games over St. Louis (4-0 losers to Cincinnati), but this game will be best remembered for an unusual moment in the eighth inning with Phillies reliever Austin Davis on the mound. In line with a growing trend across the majors, Davis at one point refers to a cheat sheet to better understand the hitters he’s facing—but veteran umpire Joe West comes out to confiscate it, saying that the sheet qualifies as a “foreign substance” on a pitcher and is disallowed from using it.

After the game, West says that he was trying to interpret the rules as best he could but didn’t throw out Davis because he knew he wasn’t trying to cheat. But he also admits that he needs further guidance for similar situations in the future, stating that “until (Major League Baseball) says it’s okay to carry this, he can’t do it.” A day later, MLB will concur—just so long as the cheat sheets aren’t made of sandpaper.

Oakland’s Khris Davis becomes the first major leaguer this season to break the 40-home run barrier as his solo shot ignites a four-run rally in the eighth, but it’s not enough as the A’s fall to the visiting Seattle Mariners, 8-7. It’s the third year that Davis has hit 40 or more homers for the A’s; only Mark McGwire and Jimmie Foxx have done the same for the franchise—and Davis joins only Foxx among those who did it consecutively.

Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez, recently plagued by knee issues, makes his first start since July 14 and strikes out a career-high 12 White Sox in 5.2 innings as the Red Sox sail to a 6-1 victory at Chicago. The lone run tallied off of Rodriguez ends both his evening and a streak of 22.2 consecutive scoreless innings.

Sunday, September 2
After being tormented by a series of ninth-inning losses in August, the Dodgers are discovering that all things eventually even up. For the second straight day to start September, Matt Kemp emerges as the hero for Los Angeles as he rips a two-run, ninth-inning double on the first pitch from Arizona reliever Archie Bradley—who Kemp homered off of the previous night for the eventual game-winner in the eighth—to give the Dodgers another 3-2 win and sole possession of first in the NL West.

At Houston, the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani makes his first appearance on the mound in three months and lacks stamina, lasting just 2.1 innings while his velocity noticeably declines along the way. He also allows the Astros to grab an early lead which they’ll hold all the way to a 4-2 final. George Springer and Alex Bregman both homer for the Astros.

In his 81st career start, the New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard goes the distance for the first time as he scatters a run on two hits with 11 strikeouts in a 4-1 victory at San Francisco. The Mets are 13-7 when Syndergaard starts; they’re 48-68 when he doesn’t.

The Texas Rangers set a franchise record with 13 extra-base hits (six doubles, one triple and six homers) to destroy the Minnesota Twins at Arlington, 18-4. Jurickson Profar stands out with four hits including two doubles and a home run; the team’s final five runs come off of Twins catcher/emergency pitcher Chris Gimenez in the eighth.

A question for Minnesota manager Paul Molitor: Now that we’re in September and you have an expanded roster after calling up five players including two relievers, why are you still using a position player to save your bullpen? Let’s face it, the splurge of non-pitchers pitching in the majors this season continues to wreck the game. True, it’s fun to watch an infielder take the mound and have fans ask aloud, “Do you think he’ll get anyone out?” Often, they can’t. It’s just the managers’ way of applying a mercy rule, putting in someone to get mercilessly beat up while not blowing through the bullpen. If they’re not careful, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred will activate a real mercy rule—something the bigwigs in New York have actually contemplated—and reduce the sport to Little League protocol. Then Manfred can next think about allowing all players a juice box after the game and a trophy after the season.

Monday, September 3
By allowing one run in six innings at Los Angeles against the Dodgers, the Mets’ Jacob deGrom breaks Dwight Gooden’s 1984 team record and sets a major league mark within one season by allowing three or fewer runs in his 25th straight start. But deGrom gets yet another no-decision as he leaves with the game tied at 1-1; Brandon Nimmo unlocks it with a three-run homer off of the Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda in the ninth. Matt Kemp’s bid for a third straight heroic finish is stifled when, as the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, he hits into a double play to finish the Mets’ 4-2 victory.

In the first game of a big three-game series at Milwaukee against the NL Central-leading Cubs, the Brewers bounce back from a 3-2 deficit by scoring one run in the eighth and another in the ninth on Christian Yelich’s run-scoring ground out to triumph, 4-3. The Brewers cut the Cubs’ divisional lead to four games.

After a 22-6 August, the St. Louis Cardinals are 0-3 in September—and painfully so, especially if your name is Bud Norris. A day after surrendering three runs in a 10-inning defeat to Cincinnati, the Cardinals’ closer can’t hold a 3-1 lead in the ninth at Washington as Bryce Harper belts a two-run, game-tying homer; an inning later, Harper will win it on a sacrifice fly, 4-3. The Cardinals are 1.5 games behind the Brewers in the wild card race.

Not getting the decision is the Nationals’ Max Scherzer, whose 11 strikeouts put him over 250 for the year for the fifth time in his career; only three other pitchers—Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens—have also surpassed 250+ at least five times.

Tuesday, September 4
The Seattle Mariners, struggling of late and slowly falling further out of the AL wild card race, find a little fight—unfortunately, it’s in their own clubhouse. Before an evening game at Seattle against Baltimore, Dee Gordon tells reporters to leave the clubhouse—and moments later, a violent scrum comes crashing through the clubhouse door in front of said stunned reporters, with said Gordon and Jean Segura in the middle of it. It’s reported that Segura was unhappy with Gordon dropping an easy pop fly the night before. In the game to follow—which Gordon sits out and Segura goes 0-for-5—the Mariners drop a 5-3 decision to the lowly Orioles as the Seattle bullpen wastes Wade LeBlanc’s six shutout innings before a crowd of 11,265, the smallest at Safeco Field in four years.

The Diamondbacks, who had scored two runs on five hits in each of their last four games—all losses—rebound with a 6-0 home triumph over San Diego behind Robbie Ray’s 6.1 shutout innings. Unfortunately for Arizona, it remains a game in third place in the NL West as the Dodgers and Rockies also win.

The increase in protective netting has cut down on fan injuries this season, but that doesn’t mean that everyone’s safe. During the ninth inning of Detroit’s 8-3 win at Chicago over the White Sox, a line drive from the Tigers’ Jeimer Candelario reaches the first row down the right-field line, well beyond the end of the netting, and hits a man smack in the face. The man, profusely bleeding, is taken to an area hospital with a broken nose.

Wednesday, September 5
Colorado’s Trevor Story homers three times—one of which goes 505 feet, a record for both Coors Field and the Statcast era—to help lift the Rockies to a 5-3 victory over San Francisco and pad their lead in the NL West over the Dodgers by 1.5 games. Story is the 17th player in the 26-year history of the Rockies to go deep thrice in a game. The Rockies have won 18 of their last 20 home games against the Giants.

On the day he is told by the Angels that he should undergo Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow, Shohei Ohtani picks up a bat and goes 4-for-4 with two homers in a 9-3 victory at Texas. Ohtani is hitting .288 with 18 home runs in 247 at-bats in his first season in the majors.

Maybe it’s time for the Angels to decide how they want to realistically use Ohtani in the long term: As a pitcher, or a hitter. He’s good at both, but he always seems dogged by injury when he takes the mound—and if he is indeed due for Tommy John, that will sap the Angels of his bat—unless he can keep hitting like this with a shredded elbow.

Ronald Acuna Jr. once again homers in a leadoff at-bat for the Braves, and Atlanta takes a 7-1 lead into the eighth inning against Boston. But never count the Red Sox out. They score six times to tie the game in the eighth, then after falling behind on a Freddie Freeman solo homer in the bottom of the frame score two more in the ninth on a two-run shot from veteran Brandon Phillips—playing his first game with Boston—to snag a wild, 9-8 comeback victory. Phillips is the oldest Red Sock ever to homer in his debut with the team. The leadoff homer by Acuna Jr. is his eighth this season, breaking the 1996 team record held by Marquis Grissom; he’s one shy of the rookie season record held by Chris Young in 2007.

You missing me, Washington? That’s what former National and once-and-current Cardinal Matt Adams must be asking after St. Louis’ 7-6 road win over the Nationals. Adams hits a three-run homer in the first inning and adds a solo shot in the sixth; they’re his first two homers (and first RBIs) in five weeks, breaking a 3-for-44 slump.

The Rays come into tonight’s game at Toronto having allowed five or fewer hits in each of their last seven games against the Blue Jays (tying a live ball era record against one team, held by the 1968-69 Orioles against the Washington Senators), but the Jays collect five hits in the first inning alone and add 11 more in the innings to follow to romp over Tampa Bay, 10-3.

Thursday, September 6
Thank you, Cleveland, you’ve been wonderful! The Padres, who traded closer Brad Hand and fellow reliever Adam Cimber to the Indians at the trading deadline, profit from the player they received in return, top catching prospect Francisco Mejia. Making his first start for San Diego, the 22-year old Dominican belts his first two career homers and knocks in four in the Padres’ 6-2 win at Cincinnati. Mejia entered the game 2-for-16 in his big-league career, including a 0-for-1 for the Padres.

After doubling in his first major league at-bat the night before, Toronto first baseman Rowdy Tellez collects two-baggers in his first two at-bats of today’s game against the Indians and becomes the first player ever to double in his first three career at-bats. Tellez is upstaged by the Indians’ Francisco Lindor, who homers twice among four hits to give Cleveland a 9-4 win at Toronto.

Friday, September 7
The Baltimore Orioles suffer their 100th defeat as they get waxed at Tampa Bay, 14-2. It’s the third time that the Orioles have reached triple digits in losses since moving to Baltimore in 1954, and the 141 games it takes them to reach 100 is the fewest in franchise history since the 1939 St. Louis Browns got there in 140.

There is a moral victory of sorts for Baltimore in that they score two runs off of Rays starter Blake Snell—who wins his 18th to tie Corey Kluber for the major league lead; it’s the first time in 14 home starts that Snell has allowed more than one earned run, which had been the longest such streak since at least 1913, when ERA began being counted as an official stat.

Scott Schebler’s sixth-inning grand slam propels a five-rally for the Reds in their 12-6 home win over San Diego and gives Cincinnati nine different players with slams this year—tying the 2000 Cardinals for the most in one season.

Top Chicago White Sox prospect Michael Kopach, who was 1-1 in four starts for Chicago with a 5.02 ERA after being called up, will miss the rest of the year—and the 2019 season as well—after being determined that he’ll need Tommy John surgery.

Amid all of the positives of a blockbuster season for the Red Sox comes this negative: Dustin Pedroia. The 35-year-old second baseman and former AL MVP is declared done for the season even as he barely began it. Pedroia had just one hit in 11 at-bats this season—all coming in late May—as he struggled to recover from offseason knee surgery.

The surviving family of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who died at age 54 in 2014 from cancer of the salivary gland, reaches a confidential settlement with U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company. A spokesperson for U.S. Smokeless Tobacco says that the settlement “was in the best interest of the company.” Translation: It wanted to avoid the sting and long-term ramifications of losing a high-profile court case.

Saturday, September 8
Kansas City’s Jorge Lopez, making just his seventh career start, takes a perfect game into the ninth inning at Minnesota—but then concedes a leadoff walk to Max Kepler, followed by a Robbie Grossman single. Lopez will be removed but will get credit for the Royals’ 4-1 victory. No Royal has ever thrown a perfect game—and no one from the team has thrown a no-hitter since Bret Saberhagen in 1991.

Since the last perfect game thrown by Felix Hernandez in 2012, Lopez is one of five pitchers to take a perfecto into the ninth, only to be unable to finish it. The six years since Hernandez’s gem is the longest gap since a 13-year stretch which ended in 1981 with Len Barker’s perfect game.

The legend of Rowdy Tellez continues. The Sacramento native blasts his first career home run in the fifth inning at Toronto against the Indians, making him the fourth player to have his first seven career hits all go for extra bases after his first six were doubles. (The other three to do it were Johnny Mize, Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Altherr.) Tellez is the first with seven extra-base hits through his first four career games. A single late in the game will give Tellez his first non-extra-base hit, and the Blue Jays, despite 18 total hits on the night—including 10 for extra bases—fall to Cleveland, 9-8.

In what many are considering as an ALCS preview, the Astros make it two out of two at Fenway Park as they defeat the Red Sox, 5-3. Charlie Morton goes the minimum five innings to improve his record to 14-3, and Alex Bregman becomes the youngest Astro (at age 24) to hit 30 homers in a season with a solo shot in the third.

Perhaps it’s time for the Washington Nationals to consider putting a retractable roof on their ballpark. No venue has been toyed more by Mother Nature this year than Nationals Park, and after a Friday evening start the night before was interrupted twice by five hours’ worth of rain delays, the Nationals and Cubs have to start from scratch as part of a doubleheader swept by Washington, 10-3 and 6-5. In the first game, Max Scherzer goes the distance for the second time this season and 10th for his career, scattering three runs on nine hits with 11 strikeouts and no walks for his 17th win of the year. The second game ends at 1:44 a.m., as rain delays disrupt both games. The double-loss knocks the Cubs’ lead in the NL Central over Milwaukee down to 2.5 games.

Sunday, September 9
It may be too little, too late for the surprising Rays…or maybe not, the way they’ve been playing. Yonny Chirinos bails out “Opener” Ryne Stanek (making his 25th start of the year of two innings or less) after he walks the bases full in the first inning and throws 6.1 decent innings, while the Rays counter with five first-inning runs and never look back in an 8-3 victory over Baltimore. It’s the Rays’ 11th straight home win—matching a franchise best—and they improve to 78-64 overall on the year. That’s eight games back of second wild card holder Oakland, with three weeks left to play—but we’ve seen more amazing things in baseball history down the stretch.

The Dodgers take the rubber game of a three-game series at Colorado, defeating the Rockies 9-6 on Justin Turner’s four hits that include two doubles and a home run. The Dodgers move to within a half-game of the front-running Rockies in the NL West race; since a weak, injury-riddled first half, Turner is hitting .385 since the All-Star Break.

The Red Sox avoid what might have been a mentally deflating three-game sweep at home to the Astros as Mitch Moreland’s RBI single in the ninth defeats Houston, 6-5. Boston easily remains baseball’s best team by the record (at 98-46), but finishes its regular season series against Houston with three wins and four losses.

In the Indians’ 6-2 loss at Toronto, Jose Ramirez steals a base to become the first player since 2012 with 30 homers and 30 steals in a season. With 37 homers already, Ramirez has a shot at becoming only the fifth player to go 40-40.

Monday, September 10
Make that 12 straight at home for the Rays—in nail-biting fashion. Down a run and down to their last out against Cleveland, Ji-Man Choi hammers a two-run homer off Indians closer Brad Hand (who suffers his first blown save since being traded to Cleveland six weeks earlier) and Tampa Bay escapes with a thrilling 6-5 win before 12,724 fans—roughly half of whom seem to be rooting for the visiting team. The Indians nearly win despite a rough start for Corey Kluber, who throws a career-high 44 pitches in the second inning before being removed with two outs as the Ray build up an early 4-1 lead on him.

Despite the small crowd, the Rays are able to push over the one million mark in attendance—leaving just the Miami Marlins (747,000) as the only team shy of the milestone this season.

In his first appearance at Detroit since being traded by the Tigers over a year ago, Justin Verlander strikes out 10 and earns credit for the Astros’ 3-2 victory before nearly 20,000 fans. Verlander joins Gerrit Cole as the first pair of teammates with 250 Ks each in a season since Arizona’s Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2002. All three Houston runs come in the third inning without the benefit of an extra-base hit.

The Cubs’ lead in the NL Central, which just a week earlier was five games, is now down to just one. In the first of a three-game series at Wrigley Field against the second-place Brewers, Chicago’s Jon Lester departs in the sixth of a 2-2 tie with back stiffness, and replacement Carl Edwards Jr. throws a wild pitch on his first delivery—allowing Mike Moustakas to score with what will be the eventual game-winning run in a 3-2 Milwaukee victory.

The third-place Cardinals keep pace with the Brewers and also gain on the Cubs as Matt Adams’ three-run homer in the eighth is the prime moment in a four-run rally to give St. Louis an 8-7 home victory over Pittsburgh. Making his first start in four months for the Cardinals is 37-year-old veteran Adam Wainwright, who allows four runs over five innings; so does Pirates counterpart Trevor Williams, who concedes more than two runs for the first time in 10 starts; he had allowed just four tallies over his previous 54.2 innings.

Tuesday, September 11
Chris Sale starts and throws a single inning, Brock Holt blasts a three-run homer to ignite a late offensive splurge and the Red Sox close out the Blue Jays at Boston, 7-2, to be the first team this season to clinch a postseason spot. The Red Sox take a page out of Tampa Bay’s playbook by using Sale, in his first appearance in a month, for just one frame; seven relievers take it from there to complete the win.

It’s feeling like 1964 all over again for the Phillies, but it slow motion. Philadelphia is double-dipped by the visiting Nationals, 3-1 and 7-6—the latter game blown in 10 innings after Washington scores three in the ninth to tie—and has now dropped 16 of its last 22 games to fall 6.5 back of St. Louis for the second NL wild card spot. The game-winner for the Nationals in the nightcap is a solo homer from Juan Soto, his second of the game; his three multi-homer efforts this season puts him at the top all-time among those under the age of 20.

The Nationals have won four games against the Phillies this season in which they trailed after eight innings.

The Angels ride their bullpen all the way and nearly no-hit the visiting Rangers, who don’t get their first knock until Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s one-out single in the eighth off Blake Parker, the team’s seventh pitcher. Cuban native Jose Fernandez—no relation to the late Miami Marlins ace—provides the game’s only run with his first career home run to give Los Angeles a 1-0 victory. It’s the fourth time that a team has used eight pitchers to complete a nine-inning shutout; the Angels were the last to do it in 2014, against Oakland.

With Buster Posey on the mend following hip surgery and Andrew McCutchen dealt away, the Giants have checked out. San Francisco suffers its 10th straight defeat as the Braves’ Mike Foltynewicz goes the distance for the second time this season (and his career) by scattering a run on six hits in a 4-1 Atlanta victory at AT&T Park.

Arizona’s Ketel Marte drives in four runs to back Zack Greinke, and the Diamondbacks gain crucial ground on the Rockies in the NL West with a 6-3 win at Colorado. In defeat, the Rockies’ Trevor Story collects his 40th double and becomes the first shortstop to accumulate at least 40 doubles, 30 homers and 25 steals in a season.

Mike Fiers is getting even for his disintegration act to end the 2017 season. Banished by the Astros late last season after a poor September spiced with a five-game suspension for throwing at hitters, the 33-year-old right-hander is doing everything right for Oakland as he allows a run on four hits through six innings to give the A’s a 3-2 win at Baltimore. Fiers is now 5-0 with a 2.72 ERA in seven starts for Oakland—all of them won by the A’s—since a late trade from Detroit.

Wednesday, September 12
The Rays’ Blake Snell allows just one hit—a leadoff homer from the Indians’ Jose Ramirez in the seventh—through seven innings for his major league-leading 19th win of the year, 3-1 at St. Petersburg.

Snell’s former teammate, Jake Odorizzi, does him one inning better by taking a no-hitter into the eighth before the Yankees’ Greg Bird raps an RBI double; it’s the only hit Odorizzi will allow in the Twins’ 3-1 victory at Minnesota. The Yankees’ lead for the first AL wild card is now a single game after the A’s blow out the Orioles at Baltimore, 10-0.

The Brewers take the rubber match of their series at Chicago, defeating the Cubs 5-1 behind recent acquisition Curtis Granderson—who finishes a double shy of a cycle. Milwaukee is back to within a game of the Cubs in the NL Central, while the season series between the two teams ends with the Cubs having won 11 of 19.

The Red Sox become the sixth fastest team in major league history to reach 100 wins, edging the Blue Jays at Boston 1-0 on Anibal Sanchez’s wild pitch in the fifth inning that scores Rafael Devers. There is a concerning moment in the eighth when the Jays’ Devon Travis loses the grip on his bat, and it flies clear over the protective netting, striking a Red Sox fan in the head. He is shaken up but walks out of the stands on his own power, before being removed on a stretcher as a precaution.

This will not help Arizona’s pursuit of a postseason spot; leading 4-3 at Colorado in the ninth, Yoshihisa Hirano serves up a two-run, one-out home run to DJ LaMahieu to give the Rockies a stunning 5-4 win, knocking the Diamondbacks 3.5 games back in the NL West race. The walk-off victory helps extend Colorado pitcher Jon Gray’s streak of consecutive starts without a loss to 14, a Rockies record.

This is the latest that the Rockies, who have made all four of their postseason appearances as a wild card, have ever held first place in a season.

A day after the Astros’ Alex Bregman sees the end of two streaks reaching base—37 games overall, and 48 on the road—he continues his dark horse quest for the AL MVP at Detroit. In a four-run fifth, Bregman belts his 50th double, knocks in his 100th run and scores his 100th as Houston sweeps the Tigers with another one-run victory, 5-4. Bregman is the fourth player to accumulate 50 doubles and 30 homers in a season before turning 25. The others? Lou Gehrig, Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols.

Thursday, September 13
It turns out that David Wright’s late-season effort to return to the Mets’ fold is all about one last series. The veteran third baseman, who hasn’t appeared in a major league game since early 2016, announces that he’ll play the Mets’ final series of the season and then retire, leaving him as the all-time franchise leader in hits, runs, RBIs, doubles and walks. At a press conference, Wright does not make retirement official but also says that the building up of injuries to his neck and back have made it that he does not see returning in 2019 “as a possibility.”

The Rockies all but stick a fork in the Diamondbacks’ NL West chances, knocking Arizona back 4.5 games with a smashing 10-3 victory. Nolan Arenado knocks in his 100th run and ensures a 30-100 season for the four straight year, while Trevor Story continues his late-season MVP push by clubbing his 33rd home run. The Dodgers remain 1.5 games back of the Rockies with a 9-7 win at St. Louis.

In the loss, the Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt ends a franchise-record streak of 48 straight road games reaching base.

Billy O’Dell, a dependable pitcher who provided numerous solid seasons for the Orioles, Giants and Milwaukee Braves, dies at the age of 85. The South Carolina-born southpaw had a highly respectable 3.29 career ERA, including a 2.18 mark in his first year with the Braves as a reliever in 1965. Before that, he won most of his 105 games in stints with Baltimore (1954-59) and San Francisco (1960-64), including a 19-14 for the pennant-winning Giants in 1962.

Friday, September 14
The Rays have visions of sweeping Oakland at St. Petersburg and further favoring their odds of a late surge toward the postseason—but the A’s’ Khris Davis has other ideas. The slugger connects on his major league-leading 42nd homer in the 10th inning to give the A’s a 2-1 victory and move them nine games ahead of Tampa Bay for the second AL wild card with barely two weeks left to play.

While the AL wild card race looks all but academic, that is far from the case in the NL. At St. Louis, the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler tames the Cardinals for eight shutout innings to give Los Angeles a 3-0 win—tying St. Louis for the second NL wild card slot.

The Dodgers also gain ground on Colorado in the NL West race, as the Rockies lose at San Francisco, 2-0. The Giants’ Chris Stratton, revived after some work on his mechanics a month ago, pitches a two-hit shutout, striking out seven and walking two to end San Francisco’s 11-game losing skid, its longest since its 1951 season when it bounced back to win the pennant.

The NL’s two top rookies get it on at Atlanta. The Nationals’ Juan Soto keeps his Rookie of the Year hopes going with his 20th homer of the year, but the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. simply has the better night—knocking out two singles, a double and triple to pace Atlanta to a 10-5 drubbing of Washington and Max Scherzer, who has an off-night by allowing six runs in four innings. With their sixth straight win, the Braves are now 7.5 games up on the Phillies in the NL East.

For this series, the Braves are offering free tickets and half-price on concessions for anyone fleeing Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, which makes landfall today as a Category 1 storm with relentless heavy rain.

In only the second Friday night game ever played at Wrigley Field, the Cubs edge the Reds, 3-2, on Ian Happ’s three-run homer in the seventh. Cole Hamels starts for Chicago but does not get the decision; the two earned runs allowed is the most he’s given up in a start at Wrigley dating back eight starts to 2006, the longest such streak in Wrigley history.

There is bad news on the day for the Cubs; reliever/closer Pedro Strop will be out for the rest of the regular season and is a question mark for the postseason (should the Cubs get there) after suffering a strained hamstring during a game at Washington the night before.

Saturday, September 15
The Dodgers retake the NL West lead after bashing the Cardinals at St. Louis, 17-4, as Yasiel Puig belts three home runs with seven RBIs—that, on top of a two-homer performance the night before. Cody Bellinger chips in with six RBIs, making he and Puig only the second pair of Dodger teammates to each knock in at least six in a game.

The Indians score all 15 of their runs in the first four innings and breeze past the Tigers at Cleveland, 15-0, to become the first team this year to clinch first place as they take their third straight AL Central crown. Jose Ramirez finishes a home run shy of the cycle, and Mike Clevinger throws six innings of one-hit shutout ball.

Soto vs. Acuna Jr., Round 2: At Atlanta, the Nationals’ Juan Soto shows his rookie counterpart, the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr., that he can run, too. The 19-year old becomes the youngest player to swipe three bags in one game—upping his season total to five—to help Washington to an easy 7-1 victory to snap the Braves’ six-game win streak.

Sunday, September 16
In a matchup of two prime Cy Young Award candidates from each league—and the first involving two pitchers with sub-2.00 ERAs and 100 innings thrown since Dwight Gooden faced John Tudor late in 1985—the Red Sox just get the better of the Mets at Boston, 4-3. Chris Sale starts for the Red Sox and throws three shutout innings as he continues to be slowly re-integrated back into the rotation after dealing with shoulder issues; the Mets’ Jacob deGrom deals for five innings and surrenders three runs, all of them coming in the third—but extends his major league-record streak of consecutive starts allowing three or fewer runs to 27.

The Cardinals avoid a four-game home sweep against the Dodgers with a 4-0 victory buffeted by Adam Wainwright’s six shutout innings. In being blanked, the Dodgers end a run of 23 straight games with at least one home run—the longest streak in the majors’ this season, and one shy of the franchise record of 24 in 1953.

In the White Sox’ 8-4 loss at Baltimore, Yoan Moncada becomes the first major leaguer to strike out 200 times this season after going 0-for-5 with three whiffs. Moncada is 22 Ks shy of Mark Reynolds’ all-time mark of 223; he has 13 games to try and avoid it. The Orioles meanwhile, avoid the potential stigma of losing 120 games by winning for the 43rd time this season.

Monday, September 17
Jacob Stallings, the third catcher on the Pirates’ depth chart, strokes a two-out, tie-breaking single in the ninth to give the Bucs a 7-6 home victory over Kansas City—and in the process clinches the 151st victory for the National League in interleague competition against the American League this season. That ensures a winning record against the junior circuit, ending a 15-year drought. In sync, the Pirates also reach above .500 for the first time in a month.

The Brewers’ Christian Yelich becomes only the third major leaguer in modern (post-1900) times to hit for the cycle twice in a season—and the first ever to do it twice against the same team, completing the achievement with a triple in the sixth as the Brewers shut down the Reds at Milwaukee, 8-0.

Tuesday, September 18
Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell becomes the first pitcher to reach 20 wins on the year—and also collects his 200th strikeout—as he allows but one hit over five shutout innings in the Rays’ 4-0 victory at Texas. Snell is the second Ray to win 20, following David Price in 2012.

According to STATS, Snell is the first pitcher to win eight straight starts and hold opponents during that time to a batting average below .150 since Gaylord Perry in 1974.

The Red Sox have a chance to clinch a divisional title for the first time ever in New York against the hated archrival Yankees—but after Nate Eovaldi fires six shutout innings, the Boston bullpen lays an egg as Neil Walker’s three-run homer in the seventh eventually wins it for New York, 3-2. The game is primarily noted for the return of Yankee boomer Aaron Judge, who goes 0-for-4 in his first action in two months.

In the second game of a big NL West showdown at Los Angeles, Chris Taylor unknots a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 10th with a walk-off solo home run to give the Dodgers a 3-2 win over Colorado, extending their division lead over the Rockies to 1.5 games.

In Oakland, the A’s are leading 4-1 over the Angels in the sixth when, with one out and the bases loaded, an Andrelton Simmons fly down the right-field line is snared well over the railing by an A’s fan, depriving Oakland’s Stephen Piscotty from making a catch. Umpires will say there is no interference because there was no guarantee that Piscotty would have made a tough catch. Seizing on a second chance, Simmons singles in one run, and that’s followed by a hit batsman—and then a Kaleb Stewart grand slam to give the Angels a lead they will not give up as they prevail, 9-7.

With the minor league season having been completed, a round of musical chairs takes place with teams switching affiliations with big-league clubs. The Washington Nationals strike a two-year partnership deal with the Fresno Grizzlies, making them the third team to affiliate with Fresno in just the last five years. Taking over the Nationals’ former Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse will be the New York Mets, while the Texas Rangers partner up with the Nashville Sounds.

Wednesday, September 19
The Dodgers make it a three-game sweep of the Rockies in Los Angeles, as Yasiel Puig breaks up a 2-2 tie in the seventh with a three-run shot for a 5-2 victory. Also going deep is Matt Kemp, giving the Dodgers a NL-record seven players with 20 or more homers. Los Angeles leads the NL West by 2.5 games.

The Royals follow the Orioles as the second team this season—and likely not the last—to lose 100 games, dropping their third straight one-run decision at Pittsburgh, 2-1. Getting the job done on the mound for the Bucs is Chris Archer, who allows one run in seven innings. It’s the fifth time that the Royals have reached triple digits in defeats; they have to win five or more of their remaining 10 games to avoid tying the franchise record for the most losses (106) in one season.

Two outs away from being shut down by the White Sox at Cleveland, the Indians get a walk-off grand slam from Jason Kipnis to triumph, 4-1. There’s extra value in Kipnis’ game-winner in that it’s the 1,000th hit of his career; he’s only the second player (after Davey Lopes) in major league history to hit a slam with number 1,000.

Thursday, September 20
The third time is the charm for the Red Sox, who avoid a sweep and clinch the AL East at New York for the first time ever—scoring six runs over the seventh and eighth innings to register an 11-6 victory over the Yankees. AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts leads the charge offensively for Boston, going 5-3-4-5 in the box score with two doubles and his 30th home run. The consolation prize for the Yankees is that Luke Voit’s homer in the second not only gives New York a franchise-record 246 homers on the year, but it gives the Yankees a major league-record 12 players with at least 10 in one season.

The A’s gain a game on the Yankees in the race for AL wild card home field advantage, clobbering the Angels at Oakland, 21-3. Three times the A’s score at least five runs in an inning, and eight different Oakland players plate at least twice—the most by the franchise since a 1929 game. For the Angels, rookie catcher Francisco Arcia becomes the first major leaguer ever to catch, pitch, and hit a home run—providing mercy-rule relief on the mound over the final two innings, allowing three runs.

The Phillies, second in the NL East, begin a critical home stretch in which they face the first-place Braves seven times over their final 11 games. It doesn’t start well for Philadelphia; the Braves score five times over the seventh and eighth innings to pull away with an 8-3 victory, increasing their lead in the division to 6.5 games.

The Rays’ faint postseason hopes lose even more light with a ninth-inning meltdown at Toronto. Leading 8-2, Tampa Bay relievers Jaime Schultz and Sergio Romo combine to fall apart, surrendering seven runs on three homers—the last a solo shot from Justin Smoak for the game-winner. The seven-run rally ties the Toronto record for the most as a ninth-inning comeback.

Friday, September 21
She blogs, he sits. A year and a half after Cubs shortstop Addison Russell is accused of domestic abuse by his wife, she posts more details about the abuse—and in a kneejerk reaction, MLB forces a paid leave upon Russell, pending further investigation. Russell vehemently denies the allegations through a statement released by the players’ union, saying that they are “completely false.”

There’s no reason to doubt Russell’s wife, but the danger continues to be that anyone with a bone to pick could dream something up, forcing MLB to fall over and, momentarily, cautiously take her word for it. This viewpoint may seem callous to some, but this we guarantee: The first time it’s revealed that a woman is making this stuff up—and it’s happened before in pro sports—baseball will accordingly suffer a blow that will place scorn upon accusers in the future who have a legitimate claim.

It almost seems ironic; on a night that Texas wins a game that doesn’t go the scheduled distance—defeating the Mariners at Arlington, 8-3, in a contest shortened to seven innings by rain—the Rangers fire manager Jeff Banister before he can finish the season. Banister guided the Rangers to AL West titles in his first two seasons (2015-16), but dropped to 78-84 last season and is suffering even worse in 2018, as Texas is headed toward a last-place spot with a 64-88 record. He is handed his pink slip before the Rangers’ wet win.

The Astros clinch a postseason appearance for the second straight year by thrashing the Angels at Houston, 11-3. The offensive spark is led by Yuli Gurriel, who homers twice and drives in a career-high seven runs. But Gurriel’s feat is only one half of a bigger historical night; his younger brother Lourdes Gurriel Jr. also goes deep twice for Toronto in a 11-3 loss to the visiting Rays, making them the first siblings in major league history to each hit two homers on the same day.

The misery continues for the Angels, who’ve lost their last three games by scores of 10-0, 21-3 and 11-3; the -36 run differential is the largest over a three-game span since the Washington Senators put up a -38 in May 1951.

Saturday, September 22
The Atlanta Braves become baseball’s biggest surprise among this year’s divisional winners, as the team many didn’t even expect to reach .500 captures its first NL East title in five years with a 5-3 victory over the Phillies at SunTrust Park. Mike Foltynewicz has a no-hitter snapped in the seventh on a leadoff single by Odubel Herrera, but improves to 12-10 on the year for Atlanta with a 2.88 ERA.

Also clinching on the day are the Yankees, who secure a spot in the AL wild card game with a 3-2, 11-inning victory at New York over Baltimore. But the winning run is costly; it’s discovered a day later that shortstop Didi Gregorius has torn cartilage in his right wrist after his game-winning slide home. The Yankees fear he’ll be gone for the long term, but he’ll be back within a week.

The Orioles become the first team since the 2003 Tigers to lose 110 games in a season.

The 2018 Tigers are much better than the 43-119 edition from 2003, but they’re still not that good. Yet there are several feel-good moments in today’s 5-4 win at Detroit over Kansas City; the victory ensures that the team will not lose 100 games (they’re at 63-92), and 39-year-old Victor Martinez, playing in what he says is his final game, beats out an infield single in his lone at-bat for his 2,153rd career hit. Martinez also finishes up with a career .295 average and 246 home runs. The back of his baseball card also provides a counter to today’s hitters; he never struck out 100 times in any one season.

Just when it looks like the Angels finally have their pitching back to normal, ka-boom. Leading 5-1 going to the bottom of the eighth at Houston, the Astros pile nine runs on three relievers (all of them actual paid pitchers, not position players), and the Angels lose, 10-5; it’s their fourth straight game allowing at least 10. The runs come too late for Houston starter Justin Verlander, who exits after six terrific innings in which he allows just one hit and strikes out 11—padding his season total to a career-high 280. Teamwise, Houston sets a major league mark with its 1,615th strikeout; they’ll likely become the first team ever to average 10 Ks per game over an entire season.

Continuing on the theme of strikeouts, Cleveland’s Mike Clevinger strikes out six in five innings of work to give him 202 Ks for the year—making the Indians the first team ever to have four pitchers with at least 200. Michael Brantley’s 11th-inning single brings home the winning run in Cleveland’s 5-4 home victory over Boston.

Sunday, September 23
The Miami Marlins finish their 2018 home schedule with a 6-0 victory over Cincinnati before a crowd of 13,595—officially giving them a total season gate of 811,104, the first time a team has drawn under a million since the Expos in their last season at Montreal in 2004. The attendance figure is also half of what the Marlins reportedly drew in 2017—though it’s said that the team’s new owners (led by Derek Jeter) have been far more honest in their turnstile accounting.

The Cubs score all six of their runs in the first three innings, and Kyle Hendricks cruises for 7.2 innings to defeat the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, 6-1, to maintain a 2.5-game lead in the NL Central with a week to go. The game is more noted for what happens in the broadcast booth; White Sox play-by-play man Ken “Hawk” Harrelson announces that this will be his last game after 44 years behind the mic—33 of them with the White Sox. Asked what he’ll do in retirement, Harrelson—in one of his typical, less-than-tacit responses—says he’ll likely be doing what he usually does outside of the booth: “…Watching Walker, Texas Ranger and turning a lot of Smirnoff into urine.”

Besides his outspoken nature which goes back to his playing days in the 1960s, Harrelson thoroughly divided the baseball public into two camps: One that loved his blatant homerism and barstool charm, the other that couldn’t stand it. But say this for Hawk: He must have been doing something right to survive that long in the booth.

Blake Snell continues his electric home stretch, firing 6.2 shutout innings with 11 strikeouts to improve to 21-5 with a 1.90 ERA in Tampa Bay’s 5-2 win at Toronto. Since coming off the disabled list in August, the 25-year-old southpaw is 9-0 in 10 starts with an immaculate 1.11 ERA, allowing just 29 hits in 56.2 innings.

Monday, September 24
On a wet night in St. Louis, the Cardinals slip up against wild card rival Milwaukee. After taking a 4-3 lead over supersonic Brewers reliever Josh Hader in the sixth, the Cardinals give up single runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, with Christian Yelich—emerging as the top NL MVP candidate—driving in two of those runs for Milwaukee. The Brewers’ 6-4 win puts them up three games over the Cardinals in the wild card race; the Rockies, 10-1 winners at home versus Philadelphia, remain 3.5 back.

Hader not only allows three runs, but also ends a major league-record streak of 17 straight outs logged as strikeouts when Yadier Molina manages to pop out.

It’s good news-bad news for the A’s as the Yankees defeat the Rays at Tampa Bay, 4-1. The bad news first: The Yankees’ win keeps them ahead of Oakland for home field in the AL wild card game. The good news: The A’s are ensured of being in that game—home or away—as the Rays’ loss officially clinches the last AL postseason spot for Oakland. Eight Yankee relievers hold the Rays to just two hits—including Dellin Betances, who pitches a perfect eighth but ends a streak of 44 straight appearances with at least one strikeout, an AL record.

The A’s, who later win at Seattle, 7-3, have notched 95 victories—the most by a team with the majors’ lowest payroll since 1987.

In a major mismatch, the Red Sox ease to a 6-2 home triumph over the Orioles (who are now 60.5 games behind Boston in the AL East) to break the all-time franchise record with their 106th win of the season. It also clinches home field advantage for the entire postseason, including the World Series. Nate Eovaldi strikes out 10 Orioles in five innings of work, and Mookie Betts’ two hits raises his major league-leading batting average to .343.

After three different seasons trying to nab 20 wins—only to hit a ceiling at 18—Corey Kluber finally reaches the milestone by taming the White Sox over seven shutout innings in Cleveland’s 4-0 win over the White Sox at Chicago. Kluber had won 18 games each in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

Following a second lackluster season of results, the Giants fire general manager Bobby Evans. Under Evans, the Giants eschewed any attempt to tank by buffeting the aging core of their three-time World Series roster with more veterans—but despite strong pitching this season and the majors’ second-highest payroll, the Giants’ moribund offense has weighed the team down in the standings.

Nice guy, fall guy: One wonders if Evans was simply taking orders from boss and predecessor Brian Sabean, as well as Giants ownership—which has too much pride and equity to go the tank route. The idea of a half-filled AT&T Park is anathema to the Giants—in reality, it’s already happening, though the “official” attendance counts say otherwise—so expect them to continue to stay competitive as they can.

Tuesday, September 25
If the Brewers’ Christian Yelich was emerging as the top NL MVP candidate the night before, he all but clinches the honor tonight at St. Louis. The 26-year-old outfielder triples in three runs in the fourth and adds a three-run bomb in the ninth, totaling six RBIs as Milwaukee rips apart the Cardinals, 12-4, to solidify their wild card chances. Ryan Braun adds two homers and Jesus Aguilar adds his 34th for the Brewers.

The Cardinals do not go down quietly; Matt Carpenter and manager Mike Shildt are both ejected in the seventh after a third-strike call conversation between Carpenter and home plate umpire Will Little.

For the second straight year—and only the third time in their history—the Astros reach 100 wins with a 4-1 win at Toronto. Alex Bregman sets the tone with a two-run homer in the first; closer (and former Blue Jay) Roberto Osuna, answering a din of boos as he takes the mound in the ninth, secures his 20th save on the same day a domestic assault charge against him is dropped by his accuser, a woman who lives in Mexico who did not want to travel to Toronto to testify against him. Osuna was suspended 75 games by MLB because of the allegation, and likely precipitated his trade to Houston.

This is how good the Oakland bullpen has been in 2018; they had yet to lose a game when leading after seven innings. Until tonight, at Seattle. Trailing 8-5, The Mariners notch two runs in the eighth on Denard Span’s double, tie it in the ninth on Kyle Seager’s RBI single—then go home in the 10th on back-up catcher Chris Herrmann’s two-run blast to win, 10-8.

In his final start of the season, the Nationals’ Max Scherzer is once again sharp for seven innings, striking out 10 to eclipse the 300 mark—joining 16 others in the modern era who’ve crossed the milestone. Anthony Rendon supports Scherzer with a 3-for-3 night and four RBIs to give Washington a 9-4 home victory over Miami.

Wednesday, September 26
Despite the Cardinals’ best efforts to avoid Christian Yelich—who officially goes 0-for-0 with five walks—the Brewers squeeze out a 2-1 victory at St. Louis to clinch their fifth-ever postseason spot. Who scores both runs for Milwaukee? The answer to that would be Yelich, on Travis Shaw singles in the third and fifth innings. The Brewers remain just a half-game behind the Cubs, 7-6 winners in 10 over the Pirates, for first place in the NL Central.

The Rockies’ German Marquez ties a major league record by striking out the first eight Phillies that he faces, and Colorado stomps its way to a 14-0 rout which, combined with the Dodgers’ 7-2 loss at Arizona, gives the Rockies sole possession of first place in the NL West. Strangely, as it was with the two others who struck out the first eight—Jim Deshaies in 1986 and Jacob deGrom in 2014—it’s the opposing pitcher who puts bat to ball to end the streak as Philadelphia’s Nick Pivetta reaches on a throwing error by Marquez.

With 11 total Ks on the night, Marquez sets a Rockies season record with 221.

Speaking of deGrom, the Mets ace makes his final start of a most interesting campaign, and it’s a beauty: Against the Braves, he allows just two hits in eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts—and actually earns the win—as the Mets prevail at New York, 3-0. deGrom finishes the year with a 1.70 ERA—the majors’ second lowest since 1995—despite an ordinary 10-9 record. He’ll enter the 2019 season having allowed three or fewer runs in 29 straight starts, an ongoing MLB record—though Tampa Bay “opener” Ryne Stanek might challenge him as he’s at 28 such straight “starts,” none of which have gone more than two innings.

The Mets were 14-18 in deGrom’s 32 starts this season, averaging just 3.5 runs per outing; they’ve averaged 4.5 runs per game when someone else takes the hill.

The sadsack Orioles set a franchise nadir with their 112th loss—and in typical going-down-in-flames fashion, getting pummeled 19-3 in the first game of a doubleheader at Boston. The Red Sox’ barrage includes nine doubles, five home runs and, a six-RBI game for Rafael Devers and Mookie Betts’ 30th stolen base of the season—making him the first-ever Red Sock with 30 homers and steals. The consolation prize for the Orioles is that they take the nightcap, 10-3, over a lineup of mostly back-up Red Sox. They finish the year 3-16 against Boston.

Out with the (somewhat) old and in with the new? On what might be the last game at Washington with Bryce Harper wearing a Nationals jersey, top 21-year-old prospect Victor Robles has a breakout day with four hits (including a double and home run) and five RBIs from the leadoff spot to propel the Nats to a 9-3 win over Miami. Harper himself goes 0-for-4—dropping his season average to .244—and the impending free perhaps relaxes anxious Nationals fans after the game by calling Washington “my city.”

The Blue Jays announce that manager John Gibbons, who has led Toronto for all or parts of 11 seasons, will be released of his duties at the end of the season. The team is ensured of a losing season, the second straight under Gibbons—that on the heels of consecutive (but losing) appearances in the ALCS. Gibbons has a career 793-788 record as skipper.

Thursday, September 27
The Yankees blitz the Rays at St. Petersburg, 12-1, in a game marked by four home runs (including two from Giancarlo Stanton) and numerous players on both sides getting hit. This leads to the ejection of New York starter CC Sabathia, who plunks Jesus Sucre to start the Tampa Bay sixth; with his departure, Sabathia finishes the year two innings shy of 155 for the year—which would have activated a $500,000 bonus clause. Chump change, perhaps, for Sabathia—who has estimated career earnings of $252 million.

Sabathia will be suspended for the first five games of the 2019 season as a result of his action.

The scheduled game between the Astros and Orioles at Baltimore is postponed by inclement weather. Although the game will be made up as part of a doubleheader two days later, it’s nevertheless the 54th time a game has been called off this season—the most in Major League Baseball since 1989.

Friday, September 28
For the first time since May 2016, David Wright steps to the plate for the New York Mets, grounding out in a pinch-hitting role. Wright has battled numerous maladies that have shortened his career; he plans to call it a day this coming weekend. The Mets lose at home to the Marlins, 8-1.

The Marlins’ win is their 63rd of the year—but even had they lost this game and the next two to end the season, they would still finish a loss short of 100, because a potential make-up game against Pittsburgh has already been canceled on account of insignificance.

The scramble for the NL postseason results in only slightly more clarity. The Rockies clinch their fifth-ever postseason spot with their eighth straight win, a 5-2 victory over the Nationals at Denver as David Dahl connects for a home run in his fifth straight game. Colorado’s bid for its first-ever NL West title remains tense as they hold a one-game lead over the Dodgers, who win at San Francisco, 3-1. Los Angeles assures itself of at least a 163rd tiebreaker game as the Cardinals lose at Chicago, 8-4; the Cubs’ victory keeps them a game up in the NL Central over Milwaukee, which gets two homers from Ryan Braun—including a go-ahead solo shot in the eighth—to defeat Detroit, 6-5.

Baltimore ‘clinches’ a sub-50 win campaign with its 113th loss at home against Houston, a 2-1 defeat thanks to Marwin Gonzalez’s tie-breaking single in the eighth inning for the Astros. Taking a break from the action—and for the remaining three games this season—is the Orioles’ Chris Davis, ending one of the worst performances by a player ever in the majors. The slugger ends his season with a .168 average—the worst ever recorded by a qualifying player—with 16 home runs, 49 RBIs and 192 strikeouts in 470 at-bats.

Saturday, September 29
The penultimate day of the regular season ends with two of the NL’s three divisions knotted at the top. In the Central Division, the Brewers edge the Tigers at Milwaukee, 6-5, on two more homers from Christian Yelich—who now has a shot at winning the NL’s triple crown—to tie the Cubs for first place after Chicago drops a 2-1 decision to the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Despite its win, St. Louis is eliminated from wild card consideration—because out west, the Dodgers clinch their sixth straight postseason berth with a 10-6 victory at San Francisco, tying the Rockies (who finally lose, 5-2, to Washington) for first in the NL West.

Gleyber Torres’ fourth-inning homer at Boston gives the Yankees 265 for the year, setting the all-time mark as they knock the 1997 Mariners off the record book in their 8-5 win over the Red Sox. The victory also gives New York 100 wins for the year—joining the Red Sox and Astros in triple-digit territory and making it the first time ever that three teams in the same league have done so in one season—and deprives Boston manager Alex Cora of tying the rookie mark for wins in one year; the most he can get is 108, which would be one short of Ralph Houk’s first-year total for the 1961 Yankees.

Before a packed house at New York’s Citi Field, the Mets’ David Wright starts, walks, fouls out—and then departs in what will be the final appearance of his 14-year career, as the Mets eventually go on to defeat the Marlins in 13 innings, 1-0. Wright steps down as the franchise leader in hits, runs, RBIs, doubles and walks; only Darryl Strawberry (252 home runs) has gone deep more for the Mets than Wright (242).

The Chicago White Sox lose at Minnesota, 8-3, striking out nine times to increase their season total to 1,579—setting (or resetting) the all-time mark established last year by the Brewers, who whiffed 1,571 times.

To no one’s surprise, the Astros take a doubleheader from the very lowly Orioles at Baltimore, 4-3 and 5-2, to set a franchise mark with 103 wins on the year. Houston’s previous high-water mark was 102 in 1998.

Sunday, September 30
The 162nd day of regular season action ends with both the NL Central and NL West titles unresolved. Each team fighting for first place—the Cubs and Brewers in the Central, the Dodgers and Rockies in the West—all annihilate their opposition by a combined score of 48-5 to set up multiple tiebreaker contests for Monday.

The Brewers smother the Tigers at Milwaukee, 11-0, opening up a somewhat tight game late with six runs in the seventh inning. Ninety miles down the road at Chicago, the Cubs get a four-hit day from Anthony Rizzo and a two-run shot from the struggling Willson Contreras to pound the Cardinals, 10-5. Both teams will square off the next day at Chicago to decide the NL Central.

Meanwhile out West, the Rockies get a break as the visiting Nationals decide to sit Max Scherzer (who was scheduled to start); Colorado thus goes on a 12-0 rampage as Charlie Blackmon hits for the cycle, while Nolan Arenado goes deep twice to temporarily take the NL home run lead with 37. The Rockies travel tomorrow to Los Angeles and take on the Dodgers, who destroy the Giants at San Francisco 15-0, to determine first place in the NL West.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose contract expires at the end of the season, announces that today’s finale, a 5-3 victory at Anaheim over the A’s, will be his last as manager—ending a 19-year run that included seven playoff appearances, six divisional titles, and a memorable world title in 2002. Scioscia was 1,650-1428 with the Angels, and he currently ranks 18th among all managers in wins. Oakland manager Bob Melvin doesn’t believe that the 60-year-old Scioscia has piloted his last game, telling reporters afterward, “I think he’ll manage until he goes to the grave.”

In the Twins’ 5-4 win at Minnesota over the White Sox, Joe Mauer looks to be playing the final game of his 15-year career, knocking out a double in four at-bats and, more nostalgically, playing briefly behind the plate as catcher (his original position) for the first time since 2013. If this is indeed his swan song, Mauer will finish with 2,123 hits to place fourth on the all-time Senators/Twins list, sixth in runs with 1,018, second behind Sam Rice in doubles with 423, fourth in walks with 949 and ninth with 923 RBIs. His lifetime .306 average is fifth in the Minnesota era (since 1961). After the game, Mauer insists he’s “not 100% sure” that he’ll retire, but all the tea leaves suggest that to be the case.

The White Sox' loss is their 100th of the year—joining the Orioles and Royals as dubious members of the triple-digit defeat club. It's only the second time that three teams from one league have lost 100 or mroe games in the same season; in 2002, the Tigers, Royals and (Devil) Rays all suffered 100+ losses.

The Mets’ Noah Syndergaard tosses a five-hit shutout, the first blanking of his career, as the Mets edge the Marlins for the second straight day by a 1-0 score. It’s Syndegaard’s second complete game of the year; he threw a two-hitter, allowing one run, in defeating the Giants earlier this month. Overall, Syndergaard’s gem is just the 19th shutout and 42nd complete game thrown by a major leaguer this season; they both represent all-time lows, knocking the 2017 figures (27 and 59, respectively) out of the record book. Furthermore, this is the first season ever in which not one pitcher has thrown more than two complete games or more than one shutout.


The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.


share this page with a friendShare this page with a friend.

Have a comment, question or request? Contact us at This Great Game.

© 2018 This Great Game.