September Baseball isn’t Always Pretty, but We Need It

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Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Wednesday, September 5.
With the rosters expanded to 40 men (if a team wishes to do so) the brand of baseball you get isn’t exactly what you’ll see next month when the playoffs begin. But these games, ugly as some of them are must be played to see which teams will in fact be playing baseball or golf next month. The Yankees got a much needed 5–1 win in Oakland, and the Cardinals slogged through a particularly messy 11-8 win over Washington.
If we went right from August to October, Thanks to a plague of injuries the team with the second-best record in the game might not have held a wild card. The Yankees need to struggle to hang onto the one they have until the end of this month, but they at least have the chance to play to keep it. To maintain a playoff spot they have to win games, which they’ve done all too infrequently of late. On a recent home stand they lost 2 out of 3 to both the Tigers and White Sox-two truly dreadful teams almost guaranteed to lose 100 games when all is said and done. Worse even than that, the Yankees lost Monday night in the first game of a vital trip to the west coast. As he did in Boston on August 2, CC Sabathia failed to put the team in position to win game 1 of a vital series. However, last night the Yankees bounced back, which certainly didn’t happen in Boston where they were unceremoniously swept in 4 straight. Last night, while the country slept, (even New York, the city that supposedly never sleeps) the Yankees rallied late for a 5–1 win in Oakland. With the win their lead on the first wild card slot (and the home game that goes with it) is back to 4.5 games.
For quite a while it looked like the same old same old for the Yankees as they didn’t get a hit until there were 2 out in the 6th. However, starting hurler J.A. Happ kept the game at 1-0 Oakland and lasted into the 7th, which no other Yankee starter has done seemingly since David Cone. Aaron Hicks walked with the bases full off Jeurys Familia to tie the game at 1, so when Happ left he wasn’t on the hook.
Luke Voit used the force (Now why doesn’t John Sterling call him Luke BaseWalker when he launches one?) to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. The former Cardinal minor leaguer hit his shot off Fernando Rodney whose face Voit doubtless saw on baseball cards in his boyhood. Aaron Hicks then singled a run home to make it 3-1. An inning later, Adeiny Hechavarria hit his first Yankee home run. No game produces cooler oddities than baseball. Who did the man with the impossible name to spell or pronounce hit his first major league dinger against? The Yankees and Phil Hughes back in 2012 when Hechavarria was with the Blue Jays. Since then he’s spent time with Miami, the Rays and the Pirates. The Cuban native didn’t last a month in the Steel City, but with Yankees’ shortstop Didi Gregorius out he’ll get some playing time in. He also is no stranger to third base in case Miguel Andujar needs a few games as DH before the playoffs. Andujar and fellow rookie star Gleyber Torres have never played a season as long as the one they will play assuming the team does more winning in September than it did in August.
I’m not sure where the phrase “coyote ugly” came from, but it applies to the Cardinals’ 11-8 win over the Nationals. The Nats know they’re going nowhere, considering how many players they have unloaded recently. The Cardinals’ situation is just the reverse. They’re trying to catch the Brewers who aren’t helping by winning their last two games against the Cubs. With the win, the Cards remain a game and a half behind the Brewers in search of the first wild card slot and a chance to play a wild card game at Busch Stadium rather than somewhere in another time zone.
The truly awful part of this game was the Cardinals’ pitching. They walked 11 Nats, and that takes doing in this season when more hitters strike out than do anything else. The Nats have nothing to play for, so why should they stand around and watch. Most of the 44 balls required to walk 11 men must have been farther off course than “The Minnow” when it ran aground. The Cardinals weren’t standing and staring into space. Marcell Ozuna hit two home runs for his first multi-homer game since they got him in the Marlins’ fire sale. The Cards hit 3 more bombs including Yadier Molina’s grand slam in the 9th and they needed all the runs they got.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 4-run lead early. Ozuna hit his first home run in the second inning. Matt carpenter followed that up with a 2-run single. Osuna, Paul DeJong and Patrick Wisdom all hit home runs in the 6th after the Nats had tied the game. The Nats’ h alf of the fifth was truly unwatchable. Cards’ starter John Gant walked his fifth man to load the bases and was replaced by Tyler Webb. Webb spun out of control as he walked a man, gave up a 2-run double to Bryce Harper and walked another run home before he was ushered off the field. The Cardinals’ rally in the 6th made it a 7-4 game, and with the score 7-5 Molina unleashed his 9th-inning wallop. That almost wasn’t enough. Reliever Dominic Leone gave up 3 9th-inning run and Jordan Hicks had to rescue him and save the game.
The Cards haven’t just walked 11 men last night. They’ve walked 29 in 3 games, which is nearly 10 freebees per game against major league hitters, a few of whom can hit the ball without being allowed free passes. I wish I knew how much hair the Cardinals’ manager Mike Shildt and his pitching coach Mike Maddux have lost of late. I can’t think of anything more likely to stress out a manager or pitching coach than watching their pitchers walk 11 members of a bad ball club on a hot muggy night in the middle of a heat wave in Washington. The 29 walks in 3 games are more than their starter Miles Mikolas (13–4) has walked all season.

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