Last night was no night to turn off your TV or power down your computer before the eighth inning. 4 different games were decided by rallies in the 8th, a fifth featured a category 5 argument that could have left a star in suspended animation, and a sixth took 12 innings to be decided. If you or your coworkers have red eyes or heavy lids around the water cooler, and have to hit the coffee even harder than usual this morning, no wonder. And God help you if you’re like me, one of the unfortunate who for different reasons can’t drink coffee. Even Mormon baseball fans are probably asking for a special dispensation if they were tuned in to one of last night’s late late shows.
For once, I won’t start with the Mets comeback win, because it took place after the Cardinals’ 8th-inning rally. The Cubs had taken the first two of their series in St. Louis and had their horse, John Lester on the hill. Feeling his oats, he only gave up a run and 2 hits in 7 innings, while his mates built him a 3-1 lead. In dinosaur times when I was a boy, say 1975, Lester would have continued into the 8th and maybe (GASP) the 9th. Not in today’s baseball. Pedro Strop was the first of 3 Cubs relievers to undo all of Lester’s good work in a matter of 4 batters. After a walk and a single to set the table, Matt Carpenter singled a run home to close the gap to 3-2. That done, Stephen Piscotty slammed a two-run double to put the Cards ahead 4-3, a lead they kept.
At Yankee Stadium, the 8th-inning rally involved one mighty swing, by Baltimore’s Steve Pearce, to break a 3-3 tie and power his Orioles to a 5-3 win. On this night, Carlos Beltran brought home all 3 Yankees runs but it wasn’t enough. Only the fact that the Bluejays were slaughtered 10-4 by Boston keeps the Yankees within shouting distance of the first-place Canadians.
Meantime, a couple of hundred miles to the south, the Mets pulled their third unlikely comeback win out of their hats in guess what inning, the 8th. This one was every bit the pitching duel it should have been, considering the starters were Jacob DeGrom and Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals held the narrowest of leads, 2-1 entering the 8th. Wilmer Flores, who has become something of a folk hero to mets fans since his near trade on July 29, was due to lead off. Mets manager Terry Collins called him back and sent in Kelly Johnson, who the Mets had picked up near the trade deadline. Like so many moves Collins has made over the last few weeks, this one worked like a charm. Johnson unleashed an unlikely home run to level the game, 2-2. With one out, Curtis Granderson singled. Exit starter Strausburg. Unlike Collins, every button Nats manager Matt Williams has pushed has been the self-destruct button. Enter Drew Storen. Exit the baseball, blasted into another dimension by Yoenis Cespedes. That’s 14 home runs and 36 rbis in 36 games since Cespedes joined the Mets, a stretch in which the Mets have won 25, losing 11.
In Anaheim, the Angels carried a 2-1 lead into the eighth. The Dodgers knotted the score, but this time the home team had an answer. The much maligned Albert Pujols singled home what proved to be the winning run as the Angels beat the Dodgers, 3-2. While the 8th inning didn’t turn the tide of the game in Cincinnati, it provided rare excitement in a city with great tradition and one of this year’s worst teams. The Pirates had built a 5-1 lead on their first grand slam of the season, hit by Jung Ho Kang in the sixth. In the 8th, with the Reds down 5-3 their best player Joey Votto lost any semblance of self control on a called strike by umpire Bill Welke. Votto’s teammates and another umpire were required to keep Votto from making contact with Welke. If he had made contact, he would have been facing a suspension. That’s automatic in baseball. Votto and his manager Bryan Price were ejected. For Votto it was his third ejection, which is a lot for any player in a season.
The night’s bonus baseball was played in Kansas City, where neither 8 or 9 were enough for a decision. It took a Miguel Sano home run in the 12th inning to give Minnesota a 3-2 win over the Royals. Texas lost in Seattle, making it vital for the Twins to take this game to stay close as they try for the second wild card spot in the American League, a position the Texas Rangers now hold.
After all of last night’s action, tonight features a relatively light schedule, with 8 games on the slate. Easily the most meaningful contest is in the Bronx, where the top two teams in the American League East, the Yankees and the Bluejays go at it to begin a four game series. The Yankees need a four-game sweep similar to the Boston Massacre of 1978 to put themselves in a position to win the division. Sadly, they lack the hitting or the pitching the 1978 Bronx Bombers had, and didn’t make the moves their owner would have made back then. So another flag is unlikely to fly over 161st Street. But that’s just as I see it.0