The Texas Rangers ended the cardiac-comeback dreams of the AL wild card Tampa Bay Rays and entered their second straight ALCS appearance this past Tuesday thanks primarily to first-year Ranger Adrian Beltre, who became the seventh player in postseason history to smack three home runs in a game; all three homers were solo and proved vital in Texas’ 4-3 win at Tropicana Field. Beltre’s bid for an unprecedented fourth home run came short when he lofted a routine fly to the outfield in his final at-bat of the day.
Here’s the short list and quick synopses on the other hat trick performers:
Babe Ruth, 1926. The Bambino had the first three-homer performance of his legendary career in Game Four of the World Series against the Cardinals at St. Louis’ Sportsman’s Park. All three homers came in his first three at-bats; he walked in his final appearance. The Yankees won, 10-5, but Ruth’s feat would be overshadowed in the long run by Pete Alexander’s magnificent (and perhaps sober) pitching in the final two games of the series that gave victory to the Cardinals.
Babe Ruth, 1928. Ruth again, once more against the Cardinals in St. Louisadding vengeance in his third shot against Alexander, who this time couldn’t rescue the rampaging Yankees. New York won the game, 7-3, and ended up sweeping the Cardinals.
Bob Robertson, 1971. The young Pirate first baseman banged three over the fence at San Francisco’s Candlestick Parknot an easy place to do itand added a double to lift Pittsburgh to a 9-4 win over the Giants in Game Two of the NLCS. It helped the Pirates even the series against the Giants, and they never looked backwinning the series in four.
Reggie Jackson, 1977. Certainly the most famous three-homer performance of any game, regular or post. An absolutely locked-in Jackson stroked home runs off three different Dodger pitcherseach on the first pitchin his final three at-bats to seal the Yankees’ first world title in 15 years.
George Brett, 1978. A year later, the Kansas City star matched Jackson with a trio of blasts at Yankee Stadium during Game Three of the ALCS against the Yankeesbut unfortunately for the Royals, they were all solo shots and New York prevailed by a 6-5 score, finishing off a three-game sweep.
Adam Kennedy, 2002. The unlikeliest entrant on this list, the light-hitting second basemanwho hit seven homers on the yearbelted three in the Anaheim Angels’ pennant-clinching 13-5 win over Minnesota; his third was a three-run shot in a 10-run seventh inning.
The Painful Exit
This is the second straight year in which the Phillies’ season ended both at home and with Howard at the plate. Last year, he watched a call strike three at the knees from San Francisco closer Brian Wilson to end the NLCS.
Not only did the Philadelphia Phillies put an end to their season hopes with Friday’s 1-0 loss to St. Louis that gave the Cardinals the NLDS, but they also may have suffered a crippling blow to their 2012 chances as well. On the very last out of the series’ last game, slugging star Ryan Howard stumbled out of the box after hitting a routine grounder and ruptured his Achilles’ heel. It was revealed over the weekend that the severity of the injury was so bad, Howard could miss the entire 2012 campaign.
Elias Sports Bureau Fact of the Week
The first-inning run scored by the Cardinals against the Phillies in the decisive Game Five of the NLDS was the first time ever that all runs (in this case, one) were scored in a postseason game before the first out was recorded.
WTF Moment of the Week
Not since Enos Slaughter in 1946 have we seen a mad dash in St. Louis like this one.
Milwaukee closer John Axford will take the win over the blown save in the ninth inning of the crucial deciding game of the NLDS against Arizona. But he would have rather nailed it down when asked. His blown save was the only one in any of the four LDS series.
Headed For Trouble?
We couldn’t help but notice that the heroes of the two clinching NLDS series this past Friday nearly came to blows in St. Louis last month. On September 7, the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenterwho threw a three-hit shutout to KO Philadelphia in the NLDSwas in the midst of wrapping up a four-hit blanking against the Brewers when he struck out the Brewers’ Nyjer Morgan; the fiery Milwaukee outfielder, whose game-winning single in Game Five of the NLDS against Arizona moved the Brewers on, apparently took exception to Carpenter’s exalted reaction and began exchanging angry words; it took Prince Fielder to keep Morgan from going full throttle toward the mound and Carpenter.
The incident was brought up again in advance of Game One of the NLCS when Milwaukee pitcher Zack Greinke, of all people (he usually lays low per his past woes with social anxiety disorder), publicly labeled Carpenter’s exuberant mound tactics as “phony.”
Carpenter starts Game Three against the Brewers on Wednesday at St. Louis; if the series goes seven games, he would be called upon to start the deciderin Milwaukee.
An Odd Reunion
The Brewers and the Cardinals in a rematch of the 1982 World Series…in the 2011 NLCS.
Where Are You?
The Diamondbacks sold out Game Three (their first home game) of the NLDS against Milwaukee, but in Game Four, only 38,83010,000 shy of capacityshowed up. Maybe competing action in the Arizona Fall League simply proved too irresistible for the locals.
Why the Yankees Lost
Here’s fuel for thought when breaking down the New York Yankees’ ALDS exit to the Detroit Tigers: During the season, the Yankees were just 25-27 against the other four best AL teams (Detroit, Texas, Tampa Bay and Boston).
Need Mo' Mo
Mariano Rivera pitched in his 32nd postseason series in the Yankees’ 3-2 games loss to Detroit in the ALDSand threw fewer pitches than any of the other 31. The silver lining: All eight of Rivera’s pitches in the series were strikes, and he didn’t allow a hit, lowering his career postseason ERA to 0.70.
TGG Goes to CafePress
We’ve always gotten raves for how we look at This Great Game, and now you can own a piece of the brand. We’ve opened a page at the popular CafePress site, with apparel, mugs, clocks and other items dressed in the TGG brand now available. We don’t just throw the logo and be done with it, adding in some fun baseball trivia. We even have a boy brief for the ladies that says on the backside: “If baseball is on your mind at this point, we’re just what you need.” Now you can show the world that you’re a baseball expert...and you’ll look good, too. Check it out now!
Now Playing at TGG
In our latest installment of the They Were There section, TGG's Ed Attanasio chats with the oldest living ex-major leaguer, 100-year old Connie Marrerocurrently living in his native Cuba.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
A Day-by-Day Review of the Week:
Texas starter Colby Lewis allows just one hita Desmond Jennings home runthrough six innings, and the Rangers reward him with a four-run eighth that will prove the difference in their 4-3 win at Tampa Bay, giving them a two-games-to-one edge in their ALDS. Jennings hits two homers in the loss.
Monday, October 3
Justin Verlander forges his way through eight innings, striking out 11, to help the Detroit Tigers to outlast the New York Yankees in Game Three of their ALDS, 5-4. CC Sabathia walks six and allows four runs, but Rafael Soriano is charged with the loss when he gives up a tie-breaking home run to Delmon Young in the seventh. Both Verlander and Sabathia are pitching on two days’ rest after pitching an inning in Friday’s series opener, delayed until Saturday when rain hit in the second inning.
Tuesday, October 4
The Rangers become the first team to clinch a LDS behind three solo homers from Adrian Beltre, as Texas defeats the Rays again by a 4-3 score. In reaching the ALCS for the second year in a row by eliminating Tampa Bay, the Rangers are 5-0 in postseason play at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg over the last two seasons.
Ben Francisco rips a three-run shot in the seventh and provides the Philadelphia Phillies with all the runs they need in a 3-2 win at St. Louis, giving them a 2-1 game lead in the NLDS against the Cardinals. Cole Hamels throws six shutout innings; Albert Pujols smacks three doubles in the loss.
Facing elimination, the Yankees rest their season’s hopes on beleaguered starting pitcher A.J. Burnettwho delivers, allowing just a run in 5.2 innings while the Yankees rack up ten runs on Tiger starter Rick Porcello and an ineffective bullpen to win, 10-1, and tie their ALDS series at two games apiece.
Arizona stays alive in its bid to advance to the NLCS by clobbering the Milwaukee Brewers at Phoenix, 8-1; Paul Goldschmidt becomes the third rookie in postseason history to hit a grand slam and knocks in five runs overall on the evening.
Wednesday, October 5
The Diamondbacks build up a quick 5-1 lead in the first inning thanks to their second grand slam in as many days (from Ryan Roberts), then hold off the Brewers to even their NLDS with Milwaukee in a 10-6 romp.
The Cardinals even up their NLDS with the Phillies with a 5-3 win at St. Louis behind David Freese’s four RBIs and Edwin Jackson’s six solid innings after a patchy start. Just in case, the sellout crowd at Busch Stadium gives Pujols big ovations every time he comes to the plate in what is the last home game of the seriesand perhaps the last one with Pujols in a Cardinal uniform.
Thursday, October 6
The Tigers advance to the ALCS by knocking out the top-seeded Yankees in Game Five at New York. Back-to-back home runs by Dan Kelly and Delmon Young propel the Tigers to a 2-0 first-inning advantage, and starter Doug Fister and three relievers hold off various Yankee rallies to secure the win.
Friday, October 7
Facing the Brewers will be their NL Central rivals, the Cardinals. Chris Carpenter throws a three-hit shutout and outduels the Phillies’ Roy Halladay, 1-0. The Cardinals’ only run scores immediately in the first when Rafael Furcal leads off with a triple and scores easily on Skip Schumaker’s double. Carpenter now owns a 6-3 lifetime postseason record with a 2.94 ERA.
The NLCS is set. The Milwaukee Brewers overcome a ninth-inning rally by the Diamondbacks and rebound in the bottom of the tenth, as Carlos Gomez (who singled and stole second) scores on Nyjer Morgan’s sharp bouncer up the middle to clinch the Brewers’ second-ever visit to the NLCS, 3-2.
Saturday, October 8
The Rangers take Game One of the ALCS over Detroit at Arlington, nicking away at a labored Verlanderwho allows three runs on five hits and two walks among 82 pitches in four innings. Texas closer Neftali Feliz allows a leadoff bunt single in the ninth but then strikes out the next three batters to preserve the win. Two rain delays in the middle of the contest lasts a combined two hours.
Sunday, October 9
In Game One of the NLCS at Milwaukee, the Brewers' Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder both hit home runsBraun's shot is a titanic 463 feetand beat up Cardinal starter Jaime Garcia for six runs in less than five innings on their way to a 9-6 win. Zack Greinke, who has yet to lose at Miller Park this year, picks up the win despite allowing six runs in six innings.
Thank Goodness He Doesn't Have a Family
Now we apparently know where Tim Lincecum takes out his anger after losing another well-pitched, low-scoring ballgame for the Giants. A former landlord is suing the two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher, saying he trashed his Mission District apartment in San Francisco to the tune of $200,000. Lincecum’s lawyer calls the suit “unwarranted.” Lincecum had the lowest ERA (2.74) among qualifying starting pitchers with a losing record (13-14) this season. Somebody ought to also check Matt Cain’s pad while we’re on the subject.
For Sale: A Memento of Infamy
Just in time for its 25th anniversary, the ball that skimmed through the legs of Bill Buckner that denied the Red Sox a long-sought world title in 1986 is being put up for auction. Songwriter Seth Skirsky currently owns the ball (he bought it from actor Charlie Sheen in 2000 for $64,000) and wants to put it up for bid on eBay. The starting offer: One million dollars. We’ll see.
Muskrat Love for Tito
If relieved Red Sox manager Terry Francona can’t find work elsewhere in the majors and the emergency analyst gig with Fox doesn’t leverage into something more permanent, he has a job waiting for him as manager of the Laconia Muskrats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. If Francona takes the offer, he’ll be paid $6,000, will be allowed to shack up with a host family, be given a 25% discount at a local Mexican restaurant and 25 tokens at a local arcade. Jim Stallings of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette jokingly reported: “Rumor has it the Houston Astros are scrambling to match the offer.”
The (Busy) Home of the Braves
This probably won’t ease the pain of Atlanta fans after the Braves’ September collapse, but Turner Field has been named in an international study as the most “successful” outdoor sports venue in the world based on its activity. The study, undertaken by PlayTheGame.org, reported that the 15-year old facilityinitially used for the 1996 Summer Olympics and then converted into a baseball-only venuewas in use 52% of the time over the past year, more than any other stadium.
Arrested of the Week
Also making the baseball blotter this week was the sport’s last 30-game winner, Denny McLain. The troubled ex-pitcher, a fugitive of sorts in Canada while Louisiana officials sought his capture after he stiffed a few folks over scrap metal, claimed he became disoriented and accidentally drove across a bridge back into the States; border officials checked his name out, discovered he had an outstanding warrant for his arrest as well as a 131-91 lifetime record, and arrested him. In custody, McLain was able to settle the matter and the charges were dropped.
Houston outfielder Jordan Schafer, once suspended by baseball for 50 games after being accused of using HGH, was arrested in Florida this past week after being caught in possession of marijuana. The dope was apparently included as part of three peanut butter cups. (“Hey! You got your weed in my peanut butter and chocolate!”)