Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Saturday, Sept. 24.
When the Rangers were still the new kids in the Dallas area, Mike Shropshire was a relatively young reporter who covered them from 1973–75. As early as 1971 he had been photographed and called “the best writer in Texas.” If he was reading his press clippings he may have wondered what he was doing or what God would punish him by making him cover what was usually an awful Rangers team in an inadequate and largely empty ball park, particularly in 1973. While the 1974 season was respectable for the Rangers, Shropshire called his book about the period “Seasons in Hell.” I wonder what his take would be, concerning the Rangers who won their 7th American League west division last night. The clincher came in this era’s least adequate ball park, the Oakland Coliseum. The Rangers shut out Oakland 3-0 to win their second AL West in a row and 7th since 1996. After a year off they won back-to-back division crowns in 1998–99, then didn’t win one for a decade until going back-to-back in 2010–11. The good times really got rolling when The Ballpark In Arlington opened in 1994. Over their first 22 years the Rangers played in the stadium Shropshire described so eloquently in his book. Arlington Stadium (known as Turnpike Stadium until the Rangers came) had been designed for a Texas League team and may have been OK for that purpose. Not having lived there it amazes me the Rangers weren’t able to get a new park built sooner than they did. It took the ownership of George W. Bush and his fellows to finally manage it although the future president had become governor of Texas and unloaded his shares before the team played a game in the new park. They’ve lost two World Series, in 2010 against the Giants and the next year losing to the Cardinals. The Rangers and Indians have clinched their divisions, leaving the East and the wild card spots to be decided.
With a 5-0 win over the lifeless Cardinals the Cubs have now clinched home field for both the NLDS and NLCS, assuming they get that far. To make it official the Nats lost later in the evening to the Pirates, guaranteeing home field advantage to the Cubs. It appears certain they will host the wild card team, be it the Mets, Giants or Cards while the Nationals face the Dodgers. The Friendly Confines of Wrigley have been friendly indeed to this year’s Cubs who are 56-23 in their yard with two home games left. Meantime, the Orioles kept their fading hopes alive for one more night when it seemed unlikely they could do so. For 6 innings they were shut out by Shelby Miller, who is all of 2–12 this year after a 5–17 mark a year ago. However Pedro Alvarez homered with two out in the 8th, Matt Wieters did likewise an inning later and in the 12th Mark Trumbo’s 44th blast of the year was a walkoff winner. The O’s had been swept in their house in a four-game series by the Red Sox leading into last night’s game. They were the only team all year not to score off Shelby Miller-the pitching version of Madonna circa 1986. But this unlikely win keeps the O’s up there with the Tigers, Blue Jays and Red Sox. Their foes aren’t helping the Orioles’ cause. The Red Sox edged the Jays 2-1, the Blue Jays slaughtered the Yankees 9-0 and by beating Kansas City the Tigers won their fifth straight to maintain the second wild card spot as of now.
Today’s earliest game is a meaningful one. The Tigers and Royals meet again as the Tigers try to continue their 2007 Rockies-style run to the playoffs. The Tigers send out Daniel Norris against the Royals’ Yordano Ventura who went the distance this past Monday, something few pitchers do in modern baseball. The Cubs play the Cards, who have the look of a team that just wants to go home. They share that sorry look with the Giants. Those are the only two games starting at 1:05. The next bunch begin 3 hours later. The Blue Jays try to maintain the first wild card spot as they face CC Sabathia who they brutalized for 7 runs when they saw him in August. The Red Sox send out 21-game winner Rick Porcello at 6:10 in St. Pete as they edge toward clinching the eastern division. The O’s send out a deeply troubled and distracted Wade Miley against the D-Backs at 7:05. He’s troubled because he’s 8-13 and he hurt his back in his last outing. He’s distracted because he goes on paternity leave after the game. If I were the D-Backs bench I’d yell “Push, push, push,” in his general direction to throw him off his game. The Mets’ Noah Syndergaard has strep throat and can’t pitch, so Sean Gilmartin will start. He hasn’t thrown more than 15 pitches in an outing so it’s a good thing the Mets have multiple pitchers they can go to even after Gabriel Ynoa only lasted two innings last night. Jonathan Niese was the last Met to leave in the first inning of a game and I predict Gilmartin either leaves in the first or doesn’t come out for the second. If the Giants have any hope at all, it’s in Madison Bumgarner’s hand. He faces the Padres in an 8:40 PM Eastern start.
For today I’ll dispense with the usual baseball birthdays so I can listen to my alma mater play college football. If anybody special has a birthday today I’ll present it in this space tomorrow.0