Mets win East; Cards Win but Lose Top Starter

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While the Cardinals have the best record in baseball this season, the human toll they have paid for this season’s success  has been higher than most teams have to pay in any year.  It began during the last World Series when outfielder Oscar Taveras was killed in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic. The season had barely gotten going when ace pitcher Adam Wainwright was shelved with a ruptured achilles tendon. While he has been cleared to resume baseball activities, he remains on the disabled list and it isn’t clear when or if he can be activated. At the end of May, Matt Adams went down until September 11  with a torn right quadriceps which required surgery. Outfielder Matt Holliday suffered a similar injury that has twice landed hin on the disabled list, though not on the operating table. That being said they easily had the best start of the year, going 33-17 in their first 50 games and even now have the sport’s best record.    Last week their superstar catcher Yadier Molina suffered a torn ligament in his thumb. And now, their opening day starter and leading winner, Carlos Martinez is finished for the year with a grade 2 shoulder strain. He’s had a shoulder problem before, losing time in 2012 while still in the minors with shoulder tendonitis.

Martinez was not a lock to make the rotation  in spring training. During the winter he had to deal with the loss of his good friend, Taveras. What pitching he had done the last two seasons was mostly out of the bull pen. He not only made the rotation but was selected as an All-star, along with his catcher Molina.  Now, a week after turning 24, Carlos Ernesto Martinez won’t pitch again until 2016. Friday night he left after only 7 pitches against the Brewers. He finishes with a 14-7 record, a 3.01 ERA and 184 strikeouts in 180 innings. While that bodes well for the future, the Cardinals will miss him as well as their catcher when their  playoffs begin.

Mets Crowned Division Champs in the Queen City

The Mets started yesterday with a magic number of 1 and showed no inclination to wait for word of the Nationals’ result. Good thing they didn’t wait, as that result was a 12-inning Nationals win. The Mets clinched the division with authority, slamming the Reds 10-2. After a 12-5 demolition the night before, Reds’ starter Johnny Lamb went to the slaughter yesterday afternoon. After walking David Wright with one out in the first he struck out Yoenis Cespedes, making it seem like he might manage the inning. However, Daniel Murphy singled and Travis D’Arnaud walked, bringing up Lucas Duda who had crushed a pair of 3-run home runs Friday night. He didn’t disappoint the many Mets fans populating Great American Ballpark, launching a grand slam for a 4-0 lead before Mets starter Matt Harvey had thrown a pitch. With two outs in the visiting second, Curtis Granderson continued the onslaught by hitting a solo shot, his second of the series, and number 25 of the year. The Reds put up two in the second but the Mets weren’t done.In the third, facing reliever Carlos Contreras, Michael Cuddyer doubled home Murphy and Duda. Harvey lasted into the 7th when Addison Reed replaced him. In the 9th David Wright put an exclamation point on the game by drilling a 3-run home run for the final margin of 10-2. The team Casey Stengel christened “The Amazing Mets” took their sixth Eastern Division and their first since 2006. The first 3 division championships were followed by World Series appearances in 1969, 1973 and 1986. In 1988 they were overwhelming favorites to beat the Dodgers, who they had beaten 10 out of 12 in the regular season. But the Dodgers were that year’s team of destiny behind limping Kirk Gibson. His iconic home run in game 1 against Oakland won’t be forgotten if baseball lasts another 200 years.  2006 was the year the Cardinals beat the Tigers to win it all. Now, unless the Pirates pass by the Cardinals to win the Central Division, the Mets would play the Dodgers while the Cardinals play the winner of the Pirates-Cubs wild card game.

Happy Birthday Michael Jack Schmidt

Harry Kalas, the Philadelphia broadcaster told the world who Michael Jack Schmidt was, especially when he launched one of his 548 home runs.  The Hall of Famer turns 66 today. The Dayton, Ohio  native, who led the Ohio U. Bobcats to the College World Series  made his MLB debut with the horrific Phillies team of 1972 as a September call-up. He had been drafted in the second round the year before. Another Hall of Famer was a first-round pick that same year, Jim Rice. Schmidt was an All-star a dozen times over, took 10 Gold gloves, 3 NL MVP awards and one world championship in 1980. He led the league 8 times in home runs, 4 times in RBIS. I have 3 personal memories of him that will last me a lifetime. One was on April 17, 1976. I was at my uncle’s house watching the new wonder, cable-TV which was years away from coming into our house. On that day at Wrigley Field, Mike Schmidt hit four home runs in a game. On May 26, 1990, on a freezing wet night in Philly, I was at Veterans’ Stadium when his number 20 was retired, joining Steve Carlton, Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts. The ceremony, and the string band concert that led up to it were a lot more memorable than the game, in which the Phillies were demolished by the Braves. Finally, in 2002 I met Mike Schmidt in person in Charleston, South Carolina. He had gone there for a charity golf event with Johnny Bench and former Mets manager Davy Johnson. It was a pleasure to talk to him. Shaking hands with him after our interview his hand, along with Don Mattingly’s was the biggest I’d shaken in my life. When speaking about Schmidt’s athletic ability, Pete Rose said “To have his body I’d trade him mine and my wife’s-and I’d throw in some cash.” For his part, Schmidt has spent years lobbying to have Rose allowed back into baseball which would make him eligible for the Hall of Fame. Happy birthday, Mike Schmidt.

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