A Week before the Second Season; No Didi for Yankees going Forward; Some Pitchers Well Above Average

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Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Monday, September 24. Roughly a week from now the postseason will begin with two wild card games. The Yankees took a big hit at the worst time, while elsewhere pitchers are wrapping up special seasons.
Somehow as the Yankees won their game Saturday night and clinched a playoff spot, an important fact didn’t get mentioned until yesterday. On a head-first slide into home plate to score the winning run, shortstop Didi Gregorius tore cartilage in his wrist, effectively ending his season and giving the Yankees yet another major hit in a season where they have absorbed many. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez each spent almost half a season on the DL, and both before and after his injury Sanchez played poorly. A source with a good eye for talent gave me a one-word quote: “Lazy,” applied to Sanchez. I couldn’t say such a thing from where I sit, but I’ll listen when a sighted fan who’s watched thousands of games tells it like he sees it. The Yankees, as I’ve repeatedly said have lacked starting pitching since the start of 2017 and that lack of depth damaged their 2018 season more than it did a year ago. But losing Gregorius just now with the postseason looming is a serious hit. Two of their infielders, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres are rookies. They have great talent but they make rookie mistakes and will be especially prone to do so come postseason.
Even with a limited schedule of broadcasts I was “gassed” when my rookie season ended. That’s the universal term for exhausted around the baseball world. These guys will be feeling it, and Gregorius who played to the end a year ago would have given them a huge lift. Even the best of men can fail if either their leadership is poor or they have no leadership at all.
In the rest of the world, while this hasn’t exactly been a rewrite of 1968, as I thought it might be early on, some pitchers are pitching as they never have. While Max Scherzer has 2 no-hitters and 2 Cy Young awards from years past, he had never approached 300 strikeouts. Now he’s got that lofty number in his sights with 290 and two starts to go. With the Nats going nowhere there’s no reason to keep Scherzer from reaching 300 strikeouts.
Further south, the Rays’ one true starting pitcher is a true ace. Blake Snell has 21 wins against 5 losses and a tiny 1.90 ERA in a division where he repeatedly has to face the Yankees and Red Sox. Again his team is going nowhere, so he’ll probably make one more start. Out west, the Rockies’ Kyle Freeland has done an astonishing job for a pitcher whose home office is Coors Canaveral. His team could well be in the wild card game and he would be the logical man to carry the mail that night. Up to now his record is 16–7 with a 2.84 ERA. No Rockie in 8 years has approached numbers like that. His team is tied for the second wild card slot with St. Louis. As of now Milwaukee would host the wild card game. The goofy part is, the Rockies are also a game and a half behind the Dodgers in quest of the NL west prize. Now I’ll really get crazy-the Brewers are only two and a half games behind the Cubs for first place in the Central division. And they’ve done it all without starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson who had shoulder surgery late in 2017. Their Princeton alum, Brent Suter was lost to Tommy John surgery in July and still the Brewers have kept rolling.
Are we having fun with this wild card format yet? If not, let me remind you that the D-Backs and Rockies played a donnybrook of a game in last year’s wild card tilt with Arizona winning 10–8 in a duel that would just give us a little sample of what was to come. On the other side, the Yankees erased an early Twins’ lead and won going away.
The Red Sox, Indians and Braves have won their divisions and the Astros are on the cusp of doing so. For these teams the goal is not to get anybody hurt, except for the Astros whose goal is to see if their hurt players can be healthy by the time they have to face their opponent. Just for starters, Carlos Correa’s back has been troublesome all year. I’ve lived that nightmare and wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Jose Altuve (Al Too Vay for JAWS users) and George Springer have also missed considerable time but aren’t listed as injured as of now. Among the Houston pitchers, Lance McCullers jR. has been on the DL with a sore arm since early August. Charlie Morton left yesterday’s game with a hurting shoulder. No starting pitcher can go down now, least of all Morton who has been particularly frustrating for the Yankees if the Astros have to face them. Oakland’s pitchers are also a MASH unit. While Paul Blackburn may or may not pitch again this year, too many have already been written off. They are Kendall Graveman, Daniel Gossett and maybe worst of all Sean Manaea. The architect of this year’s one no-hitter had shoulder surgery earlier this month, while the other lost A’s all had the more familiar Tommy John surgery. While the Yankees and Mets’ locker rooms look like emergency rooms at rush hour, the Red Sox are remarkably devoid of injuries to players of any consequence. Their one injured difference maker, Dustin Pedroia has been out all year, and look what they’ve done with him out of sight and out of mind.
Tonight, the Astros go with Dallas Keuchel against the Blue Jays. Dallas is a key part of the machine for Houston. He took a comebacker off his dome his last time out, but stood up and kept pitching. It was a brave act, though his team lost. Boston sends Nathan Eovaldi against the pathetic Orioles lineup who have had all they could do not to lose 120 games like the 1962 Mets did. They would have except for the number of times they beat the Yankees. Both the Yanks and Rays will have “bull pen games” as Jonathan Holder tries his hand as a starter for the visiting Yankees. The Cubs will go with Cole Hamels at home against the Pirates. The Indians’ Corey Kluber will try to stay sharp against the White Sox, also in Chicago. He got it done last Tuesday in Cleveland, striking out 11 PaleHose in 8 innings. The game with the most significance takes place in St. Louis where the Brewers are the visiting team. And they would choose tonight to use a spot starter, Dan Jennings who has never started in the bigs. He faces Jack Flaherty who may end up pitching the wild card game for St. Louis. The Rockies turn to John Gray as they host the Phillies in Denver. Clayton Kershaw, once the undisputed best pitcher on the planet faces the D-Backs in Phoenix. If somehow the Dodgers missed the playoffs, Kershaw might never pitch in Dodger blue again. He holds an “opt out” clause in his contract. Would that lefty ever look good in a set of pinstripes, if H&H Steinbrenner would for once show that they are their father’s sons and spend the money to get quality. Oakland’s Daniel Mengden makes his first start since the end of June when the A’s visit the Mariners. He faces the Big Maple, James Paxton who was cut down by pneumonia (in August) and missed two starts.

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