Rays Get the Lowe Down
The Tampa Bay Rays entered play on Saturday tied with the Cleveland Indians for the second and final Wild Card berth in the American League. They were also riding high after winning Friday night’s game in 11 innings on a walk-off RBI single by shortstop Willy Adames.
They received an unbelievable effort from Tyler Glasnow who functioned as the club’s opener on Saturday -- striking out seven batters over three scoreless innings to begin the ballgame. The right-hander now boasts a sensational 1.92 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 72/12 K/BB ratio across 56 1/3 innings on the season.
The Rays also jumped out to an early lead, pushing two runs across in the third inning on RBI singles from Travis d’Arnaud and Joey Wendle. Adames then extended their lead to 3-1 with a solo blast in the seventh inning.
The Red Sox battled back though, as Rafael Devers clubbed a two-run homer in the eighth to force extra innings. Then Mitch Moreland crushed a two-out, solo homer in the top half of the 11th inning to put the Rays in a one-run hole.
Not a problem. Travis d’Arnaud led off the home half of the 11th inning with a double into the gap in left-center field. That’s when Nate Lowe strode to the plate to take on Josh Smith. After getting ahead in the count 2-0, Lowe crushed a ball over the wall just inside the foul pole in left field, sending the Rays’ home faithful into a tizzy.
It was the second straight walk-off win in the 11th inning for the Rays, and their 10th extra-inning victory this season -- tying them with the Astros for the most in all of baseball.
When asked about the moment after the game, Lowe told reporters, “As cliche as it sounds, there’s not a whole lot better than hitting a walk-off homer in a pennant race… I still smell like Gatorade everywhere even though I just showered. I don’t know if my jersey will ever be clean. I’ll take it every minute.”
The 24-year-old became just the third player in Rays’ franchise history to hit a home run with his club trailing in extra innings, and it was only the ninth time in club history that a rookie has ever hit a walkoff home run.
Their victory, combined with the Indians falling to the Phillies on Saturday night, puts the Rays in sole possession of that second Wild Card spot with seven games left to play.
Speaking of teams fighting for Wild Card berths, the Chicago Cubs entered play on Saturday in desperate need of a victory after dropping a pair of heartbreaking decisions to the Cardinals on Thursday and Friday.
You’ll recall on Thursday that the Cubs received the surprise emotional boost of Anthony Rizzo returning to the lineup -- who even crushed a ball out of the yard off of Jack Flaherty. A stunning ninth inning rally off of Carlos Martinez to erase a three-run deficit, only to see the victory slip through their hands as Craig Kimbrel served up a solo homer to Matt Carpenter in the 10th inning. Back at the yard on Friday, they missed numerous opportunities on offense in a crushing 2-1 defeat. Saturday was basically do or die.
The Cubs’ offense got to work early in this one, taking advantage of the poor command of Cardinals’ right-hander Dakota Hudson. After a one-out double by Nicholas Castellanos, the Cubs drew four consecutive walks -- the last two by Ben Zobrist and Victor Caratini each forcing in runs. Jason Heyward followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Cubs an early 3-1 edge.
It would be short-lived though. The Cardinals fought back hard against Jose Quintana, retaking the lead at 5-3 in the fourth inning. There’s no quit in these Cubbies though, as Ian Happ swatted a two-run homer in the fifth to tie it back up.
The Cubs then pulled ahead in the sixth inning as rookie shortstop Nico Hoerner connected on his third home run of the season, putting the Cubs back on top 6-5. Once again, the Cardinals struck back. In the top half of the seventh inning, Marcell Ozuna obliterated a Kyle Ryan offering for a two-run homer, giving the Cardinals the lead once again at 7-6.
In the home half of the seventh. Tony Kemp appeared to have struck out as he swung through strike three against Giovanny Gallegos. However, the umpire instead called a balk on Gallegos, allowing Ben Zobrist to advance to third base and giving Kemp another shot, though he was still in an 0-2 hole. Kemp made the most of his second life, crushing the next pitch over the wall in center to give the Cubs an 8-7 lead.
The score would remain that way into the ninth inning, where closer Craig Kimbrel was called upon to protect a one-run lead. Fresh off of giving up that home run to Carpenter on Thursday, Kimbrel began this outing by attempting to fire a fastball in for a first-pitch strike against Yadier Molina. The cagey veteran backstop was ready for it though, pouncing on the very first pitch and sending it over the wall in left-center for a game-tying home run.
Then, before the Cubs' home faithful at Wrigley Field had a chance to recover from that gut-punch, Paul DeJong clubbed the very next offering over the wall in center to give the Cardinals the lead.
In just 20 2/3 innings on the season, Kimbrel has now surrendered a career-high nine home runs. For the season, he now owns a cringe-inducing 6.53 ERA and 1.60 WHIP to go along with his 0-4 record and three blown saves.
The Cubs attempted some heroics of their own in the ninth inning as Javier Baez surprisingly came out to pinch hit with two-outs in the inning, but he wound up going down on strikes against Carlos Martinez to end the ballgame -- and perhaps ending the Cubs’ postseason aspirations as well.
After the three straight soul-crushing losses, the Cubs now sit a full three games back of the Brewers for the final Wild Card spot in the National League. With seven games to play, their hopes are dimming by the day.
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Paxton Keeps Winning
What James Paxton has been doing for the Yankees over the last couple of months has been pretty remarkable, and it may not be getting the attention that it deserves.
On Saturday, Paxton defeated the Blue Jays for the second consecutive outing, this time allowing just one unearned run on three hits while striking out seven over six strong innings of work. By securing another win, Paxton has now emerged victorious in each of his last 10 starts. Not his last 10 decisions, but 10 wins in 10 consecutive starts.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Paxton is just the sixth pitcher in Yankees’ franchise history (seventh occurrence) to win 10 consecutive starts, joining Jack Chesbro (14 in 1904), Russ Ford (12 in 1910), Ron Guidry (11 in 1979, 10 in 1978), Whitey Ford (11 in 1961) and Lefty Gomez (10 in 1932).
Prior to this streak, the 30-year-old hurler was in the midst of a very disappointing season. After losing to the Red Sox on July 26 he sat at 5-6 on the season with an underwhelming 4.72 ERA and 1.51 WHIP.
During this ridiculously successful run, he has compiled a 2.25 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 68/20 K/BB ratio over 60 innings. He has gone from a 5-6 record and terrible ratios, to a guy that’s now 15-6 with a 3.73 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.
He’s also looking like a guy who could be the Yankees’ top starter heading into the postseason. The way he’s throwing the ball right now, there isn’t a better option to take the ball to begin the Bombers’ quest for a World Series title.
He’ll get a chance to extend his streak to 11 straight when he does battle against the Rangers in Arlington in his final start of the regular season on Saturday.
Padres Axe Andy Green
Just when it looked as though we would go through an entire season without a big league manager losing his job, the Padres relieved Andy Green of his managerial duties on Saturday. Bench coach Rod Barajas will serve as the interim manager over the final week of the regular season.
In a statement Saturday, Padres’ general manager A.J. Preller said, "I want to thank Andy for his tireless work and dedication to the Padres over the last four seasons… This was an incredibly difficult decision, but one we felt was necessary at this time to take our organization to the next level and expedite the process of bringing a championship to San Diego. Our search for a new manager will begin immediately."
Green served four seasons at the helm of the rebuilding Padres, compiling a 274-366 record. The Padres looked like a surprise team in the first half of 2019 though, led by free agent acquisition Manny Machado and rookie phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. The train seemed to come off the tracks though after Tatis Jr. was lost for the season due to injury. After sitting at .500 through the first half, the Padres tumbled to a 24-40 record in the second half, ultimately costing Green his job.
Preller alluded to that very thing when talking to the media on Saturday, explaining "As we got to these last few months, we just felt like we didn't really see enough progress… When you look at the team, we feel like we have more talent than the way we were playing."
The Padres now have the advantage of being the first team to begin their managerial search. Interim manager Rod Barajas is likely to receive consideration, as will Moises Alou -- who serves as a special assistant to the team currently -- though it remains unclear if Alou has any desire to manage at the big league level.
American League Quick Hits: Bo Bichette sat out Saturday’s game and remains in the league’s concussion protocol after taking a pitch off the brim of his helmet during Friday night’s contest… The Yankees got good news from the MRI on the injured hamstring of Gleyber Torres as it revealed no structural damage. He sat out Saturday’s game as a precautionary measure. … Avisail Garcia was held out of the Rays’ lineup on Saturday after leaving Friday’s game early due to illness. … Max Kepler missed his seventh straight game due to lingering shoulder soreness… Mitch Haniger (back, groin) looks unlikely to return before the end of the season. … Miguel Cabrera was scratched from the Tigers’ lineup due to lingering soreness in his right knee. … Jose Ramirez (hand) could return to the Indians’ lineup on Sunday. … Tommy La Stella (leg) ran the bases without issue on Saturday and is still hopeful to return to the Angels before the end of the season. … Austin Adams will undergo an MRI on his left knee after hyperextending it while covering first base during Saturday’s game against the Orioles. … Giancarlo Stanton homered and drove in two runs as the Yankees topped the Blue Jays. … Cheslor Cuthbert swatted a pinch-hit, go-ahead two-run homer in the ninth inning to lead the Royals past the Twins. … David Fletcher went 3-for-5 with a homer and two RBI as the Angels topped the Astros. … Kole Calhoun socked his 33rd dinger in that victory for the Halos. … Wade Miley lasted just one inning in a loss there, allowing four runs on four hits, a walk and a hit batsman. He owns a 9.14 ERA over his last four starts and may have pitched his way out of the team’s postseason rotation. … Marcus Semien went 3-for-3 with a homer, two RBI, three walks and two runs scored as the Athletics obliterated the Rangers. … Danny Santana smashed his 26th home run in a losing effort there. … Tim Lopes delivered a pinch-hit, go-ahead RBI single in the 13th inning to lead the Mariners past the Orioles… Tim Anderson swatted his 18th home run of the season as the White Sox topped the Tigers in Motown.
National League Quick Hits: Kolten Wong was held out of action for the second straight day due to his hamstring injury. … Max Muncy was absent from the Dodgers’ lineup after tweaking his quadriceps during Friday’s game against the Rockies. He admitted that he would have been in there had it been a playoff game though, and is considered day-to-day. … Josh VanMeter was scratched from the Reds’ lineup on Saturday after catching the illness that has been running rampant through the Reds’ clubhouse. … Nick Senzel is set to undergo surgery next week to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. … Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies sat out on Saturday as the Braves plan to give their regulars plenty of rest over the final week-plus of the regular season. … Justin Turner (ankle) returned to the Dodgers’ lineup on Saturday after missing the previous 10 games. … After appearing as a pinch-hitter on Saturday, Javier Baez (thumb) said that he hopes to return to the Cubs’ lineup on Tuesday against the Pirates. … Elias Diaz was pulled from Saturday’s game against the Brewers with a right knee injury. … Asdrubal Cabrera was pulled from Saturday’s game due to right ankle soreness. He’s considered day-to-day. ... Anthony DeSclafani struck out seven over six innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Mets. … Zack Wheeler was equally as good on the other side, firing seven innings of one-run ball and fanning seven in a no-decision. … Max Fried picked up his 17th win of the season, holding the Giants to five hits over 5 ⅓ shutout innings. … Trent Grisham homered, drove in three runs, walked and scored twice in a lopsided victory over the Pirates. … Stephen Strasburg struck out six over seven shutout innings in a tough-luck no-decision against the Marlins. … Kurt Suzuki came through with a pinch-hit, three-run double in the 10th inning to lead the Nationals to victory in that one. … Brad Miller homered twice in a victory over the Indians… Bryce Harper smacked a go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth inning to put the Phillies ahead to stay in that one. … Hunter Renfroe clubbed his 33rd home run in a loss to the Diamondbacks. … Abraham Almonte went 3-for-4 with a triple and three runs scored in the win for the Snakes. … Luke Weaver fired two perfect innings in his return from the injured list on Saturday. … Ryan McMahon crushed his 23rd home run as the Rockies bested the Dodgers. … Kyle Freeland threw a pair of scoreless innings against the Dodgers in his return from the injured list.