Two Losing Teams at Least Get One Special Night; Jays and Mets Bead the Odds

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Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Friday, Sept. 21. While neither the Mets or Blue Jays have much to write home about this season, last night’s game was special for both of them. Down 8–2 in the last of the 9th the Jays put up 7 to beat the Rays. Meantime, the Mets beat the Nationals in 12 innings in spite of a baker’s dozen strikeouts for Max Scherzer.
Nobody in Vegas would be dumb enough to bet on the Mets with Jason Vargas pitching against Max Scherzer. Mad Max twirled a no-hitter at the Flushing 9 in 2015 while the Mets were on the road to the World Series. This year he’s on a quest for 300 strikeouts. He should manage it, given his ability and the frequency with which batters strike out in the modern game. Clayton Kershaw struck out 300 in 2015, Chris Sale did it a year ago. In 7 innings last night Scherzer carved 13 more notches on his way to 300. His total is 290 with 2 starts left. He won’t win 20 thanks to the Mets. With only 2 starts remaining Max is standing on 17 victories. The Mets even tallied 3 earned runs against Scherzer, easing his ERA up from 2.53 to 2.57. The Mets’ own Jacob DeGrom has a 1.78 ERA but only an 8–9 record. Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce hit back-to-back jacks against the man who has won the last 2 Cy Young awards. That fact is a testament to his ability and durability, considering Clayton Kershaw has lost large bites of 2016, 2017 and 2018 on the shelf. Kershaw isn’t in the discussion for this year’s Cy Young award because of his fragility, while there’s no doubt of his gifts when he’s able to pitch.
Once Scherzer left the hill, the Mets put up their 4th run and had a 4-2 lead to work with. Anthony Swarzak entered the game in the last of the 8th and let the only two men he saw reach base. Juan Soto doubled both runs home off Robert Gsellman, and there went Jason Vargas’ chance to get a rare win. Vargas had given up just one hit and had a 3-0 lead until the last of the 6th. Anthony Rendon unleashed a 2-run home run, the only runs the Nats would score until the 8th. Tension built in the 10th to the point where Mets’ manager Mickey Callaway was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. At last in the 12th, former National Jose Lobaton lifted a scoring fly ball to give the Mets the run they needed to win.
North of the border, the cause looked hopeless for the Jays against the Rays who have been astonishingly good even though they’re not playoff material. Their “opener” strategy when their starting pitching fell apart was so radical that other teams have copied it. They cruised into the last of the 9th with an 8-2 lead over the home standing Blue Jays. For Tampa Bay, Tommy Pham had 3 hits and the team stole 4 bases off the helpless Jays’ catchers. Somehow, a basic single by C.J. Cron plated 3 Rays’ runs. That’s how the balls have bounced for them. Visions of the clubhouse spread must have been dancing through their heads. I know for a fact, especially once I married, if our team took a large lead into the last inning I would be counting the outs and imagining what would come next-a cold drink, a hot meal and time to talk to my wife. For the Rays, in the home 9th, suddenly everything went wrong. The Jays’ entire offense had been a two-run home run by Rowdy Tellez in the second inning. When the issue should have been settled, Tellez doubled a run home and Danny Jansen went yard, good for 3 runs. Exit pitcher Jaime Schultz. The outstanding Rays’ reliever Sergio Romo came to grief as the Jays’ rally proved relentless, and was assisted by Romo’s own teammates. With the score at 8-6 the Rays should have ended the game. Kendrys Morales hit a shallow pop-up to right center, what I once heard called a “toy fly ball.” Four Rays converged on it, and nobody caught it. While you can’t give an error to anybody, Morales got first base. Lourdes Gurriel JR. then took one out of the lot to tie things up. The next batter, Justin Smoak drove the first pitch high, wide and handsome to the joy of as many members of the crowd who stayed long enough to see their team’s amazing rally. It was the second win in 42 years the Jays picked up when they were down by 6 in the 9th. The first was on July 30, 2017 when the Angels held a 10-4 lead on the Jays as the 9th inning began.
Both Tellez and Janson spent much of 2018 at AAA Buffalo. 6 of the 9 men who batted in the 9th were minor leaguers for at least part of the season. Using as many of the younger players as he can, Jays’ manager John Gibbons has seen his team win 5 of the last 6 games.

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