Late Hours in the East, Jolly Roger over St. Louis

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It’s hard to imagine, but Pulitzer prize winner  Dave Barry wrote that baseball today is boring. He wasn’t up last night deciding what to put in his column. The top two teams in the National League East provided high drama, and further west the Pirates emerged from a four-game losing streak to overpower the division-leading Cardinals. I’ll start with them, since recently in this space I wrote of their late  misfortunes. Lefty pitcher James Anthony (J. A.) Happ pitched the Buckos to their first win this week following a sweep by the Brewers. The long, lean lefthander from Illinois fired 7 innings of shutout ball in a 9-3 Pirates win, giving up only 3 hits to the Cardinals who still have a lead of five and a half games over pittsburgh. While the visitors put up an early 2-0 lead, it took a run in the 8th and 4 in the 9th to send away the Cards for good.

Meantime, the top two teams in the East both needed extra innings to decide their games. In Miami, the Marlins scored 3 early off Jacob DeGrom, but the Mets took him off the hook. In the seventh, Yoenis Cespedes launched a two-run shot to put the Mets ahead 4-3. The crowd reaction made it feel like a home game, with good reason. To start with, the Mets’ 7-Line Army travels well. Second, Miami’s large population of New York escapees is a well known fact. Third, Cespedes is a Cuban defector, and any heroic deed done by one of those in Miami is liable to set the crowd roaring. The Marlins grabbed the lead however, requiring a game-tying single by Kelly Johnson to send the game into extra innings. In the last of the eleventh, Marlins’ Martin Prado got his fifth hit of the night, (a career high for him,) off beleaguered Mets’ reliever Eric O’Flaherty, who along with Bobby Parnell I sincerely hope will be doing something else while the rest of the Mets face the league’s best in the playoffs. Prado doubled home Christian Yelich for the win. Tonight, the Mets go with Bartolo Colon against Brad Hand who has never beaten the orange-and-blue.

The Nationals were able to gain a game on the Mets with a 5-2 win which also took extra innings. The Braves, on a ten-game losing streak for the first time in 9 years, had this game won until a 9th-inning single by Matt Den Decker. With the game knotted at 2 in the last of the tenth, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman put up singles, setting the stage for Michael Taylor. Taylor had missed the last 3 games with a sore knee, but had been hanging around the bat rack trying to show his manager Mattt Williams that he was ready if needed. The call of duty came when the Nationals needed a pinch hitter for their pitcher Jonathan Papelbon. Taylor was summoned. He launched the second pitch he saw over the fence in left center, a 3-run walkoff home run for a 5-2 Nats win.  The home standing Nats are now within 5 games of the Mets in the NL East. Both games of importance in that division take place under the lights. The Nationals go with Gio Gonzalez (9-7,) while the Braves go with their unluckiest pitcher Shelby Miller. While his record is 5-12 and he hasn’t had a win in 19 starts, his ERA is a tiny 2.56. He’s put up a 2-1 record in 6 starts facing tonight’s opponents, the Nationals. After this weekend the two top teams in the East meet at Nationals park in a series that re-invents the term Must See TV. But that’s just the way I see it.

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