This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: September, 2019
The Year of the Home Run Goes Out in Style Parity? Not in MLB
Enjoy Your Retirement, Bochy, Yost, and Globe Life Park


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Marcus Semien, Oakland A’s

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
101 25 35 9 1 8 19 16 1 1 3

In the past, the seven-year shortstop had been tagged with a reputation for being something of an error machine, but he’s never been that bad defensively—all while his hitting had gradually become more and more underrated. Both those tags should now be erased. As he set a career mark for fielding percentage (.981), Semien also evolved into quite the leadoff spark for the A’s, and his strong September merely catapulted his numbers into personal-best territory for the season. Semien showed good power (43 doubles and 33 homers) and good patience (82 walks)—not to mention a .285 average that rises above the .250ish career he had been all but stuck on. His 123 runs ties Reggie Jackson (1969) for the most by an Oakland Athletic. Semien is due for his final year of arbitration before 2021 free agency; pay him well, Oakland.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Tommy Edman, St. Louis Cardinals

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
103 22 36 6 4 6 14 6 0 6 6

A lot of folks are talking about the meteoric second-half rise of sudden ace Jack Flaherty in St. Louis, but lost in the conversation is Edman, the 24-year-old rookie shortstop who bloomed into a kinetic offensive resource for the division-winning Cardinals. This past month, the shortstop hit well both for average and power, showed off his speed with four triples and six steals, and played the good soldier by getting hit six times—though opposing pitchers groused that he never did much to get out of the way of their inside deliveries. It goes without saying that the Cardinals might not be in the postseason without the efforts of Flaherty (see below—again), but that’s an incomplete thought without bringing Edman’s contributions into the conversation.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Marco Hernandez, Boston Red Sox

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
59 4 10 2 0 0 3 1 0 0 0

There was quite a bit of low-end roster deadweight trying to forge the Red Sox to the end of a disappointing post-championship campaign, and Hernandez’s turn was pretty much the epitome. The 27-year-old Dominican native had skimmed the majors in the past few years, with look-see’s with the Red Sox in 2016-17, but he missed all of 2018 recovering from shoulder surgery; he showed good signs when he returned to Boston this summer, hitting .303 entering September before it fell apart. The Red Sox are looking at a possible rebuild this winter, so Hernandez may see himself as part of the future at Fenway Park—but he can’t have slip-ups like this.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Austin Slater, San Francisco Giants

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
47 3 6 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0

Like Hernandez above, Slater has been bouncing between the minors and the bigs and previously showed decent (if not awesome) numbers to suggest he could stick long-term as, at the very least, a utility-type performer. But this hurts. The 26-year-old outfielder failed to compile a single extra-base hit and walked just once as he couldn’t even save a typically solid but meatless batting average. It’s hard to gauge if the Giants are going to move moderately in the wake of Bruce Bochy’s exit or scrub out the bathtub and start fresh; for Slater’s sake, if they do the latter, he better not get rinsed down the drain.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
5-0 42 20 6 5 7 0 1 2 1 74

Is there anyone that Gerrit Cole can’t strike out? The 29-year-old right-hander just kept racking up the K’s with an insane number of monthly strikeouts that has been surpassed by others—just not in as few innings. In fact, Cole ends the year having struck out 13.82 batters per nine innings, surpassing Randy Johnson’s 13.41 back in 2001. The question for Cy Young Award voters becomes: Cole or Justin Verlander? Both won 20 games, both struck out 300 batters, both have WHIPs in the 0.80s. Cole is often considered the sidekick to the veteran Verlander in the Astros rotation, but that perception may change once the BBWAA tallies up the votes.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
3-1 44 17 4 4 8 0 1 2 0 53

There are some pitchers who just barrel into the postseason looking unstoppable. Mike Scott in 1986 is one of them. Jake Arrieta, back in 2015—he’s another. Now we can add Flaherty into this mix. The young righty earns his second straight appearance in this slot after another fantastic month that was even better than the previous one, as he further proved that whatever he did to fix a 4.64 ERA at the All-Star Break, it’s still working. In four of his six September starts, Flaherty went at least seven innings and allowed no runs. Add it all up since the start of August, and Flaherty’s ERA in his final 12 regular season starts comes to a scintillating 0.77. If you love baseball—we mean, really love it—Flaherty on a postseason mound has to be appointment TV.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Wade Miley, Houston Astros

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-2 11.1 28 21 21 7 0 1 0 1 6

The Astros are regally set at the top of their rotation for October thanks to Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke. But if they have to get to a fourth starter deep in a playoff series, they may have to settle for Miley—who after a strong first five months of the season utterly collapsed in September. His first two starts of the month were downright horrible; he combined to allow 12 runs on 12 hits while earning just one out. In his next start, at Kansas City, Miley appeared to get it together—earning the win while allowing a pair of runs over six frames. Then he imploded again, conceding four runs in another one-inning stint against the Angels. Miley says he feels fine, but needs to find out why hitters are “recognizing” his pitchers quicker than usual. If he doesn’t, he may be nothing more than luxury box window dressing while his teammates battle it out on the October turf.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jose Quintana, Chicago Cubs

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-1 18.2 37 27 23 5 0 1 2 0 15

First rule of having your team secure a team option on you for the next season: Don’t become the Worst Pitcher of the Month in September. This is the path that the 30-year-old Quintana has stumbled upon—and it may cost him $10.5 million, as the Cubs will mull over whether to pay him $11.5 million for 2020 or buy out the last year of his contract for $1 million. Quintana’s month got off to an okay start, picking up a win against the Brewers despite not being terribly sharp—but the next (and last) four starts of the season were horror-show quality, giving up more runs than innings thrown in each. This is particularly alarming, considering that Quintana has enjoyed a happy medium throughout his career; not great, but nowhere near rotten. Yet now the Cubs have to think about this. Think good thoughts, Jose.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Houston Astros (19-6)

If this past month is a prelude to what’s to come in the postseason, Astros fans should buckle up and enjoy the ride—because it’s going to be a lot of fun. Justin Verlander got the month started with a no-hitter; they crushed teams by 10, 15, even 20 runs; George Springer sprung back to health with three homers on the 22nd; Gerrit Cole kept striking everyone out; and the team finished the year with a franchise-record 107 wins. What’s particularly striking is an offense that nailed 58 homers—setting the all-time team mark for one month, set just the month before—and did so while striking out fewer than any other team. Powerful, disciplined, dominant—at this typing, anything other than a second world title in three years will be disappointing for the Orange and Blue.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Milwaukee Brewers (20-7)

The Brew Crew spit the bit in the season’s final weekend as they failed to wrestle away the NL Central title from the Cardinals. But let’s put all of this into perspective and go back to September 10, the day Christian Yelich broke his kneecap and was declared done for the season; at that point, many believed the Brewers were done with him. But the team grouped together and made it happen—especially a pitching staff that stifled the competition with an MLB-best 3.01 ERA in September. This is a team that still has last year’s spirited (yet ultimately unsuccessful) playoff run fresh in its mind; let’s see if it can leverage that experience, combined with its late-season momentum, into something more rewarding.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Detroit Tigers (7-20)

Who else did you expect? For the fourth straight month, the Sigh-gers disgrace this podium of shame as they played out the string like zombies wandering through the apocalypse. Individually, there were some standouts; Victor Reyes (.330, six steals) was one of the few who seemed to be playing with purpose while pitcher Tyler Alexander had some decent starts. But the sum of all parts equals a team that just doesn’t have the horses to compete, and look a long way from doing so. If you think the team checked out, you should see the fans—that is, if you could; only a tiny fraction of the announced crowd of over 17,000 for their home finale actually made its way through the gates on a nice weekday afternoon.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
San Diego Padres (7-19)

It’s a disappointing finish for a Padres team that showed signs of breaking out earlier in the year. Without top rookie Fernando Tatis Jr., the team reverted back to its recent bad habits of hitting poorly for average in pursuit of the home run and striking out a ton in the process. The Padres lost 15 of their last 17 games and scored only 52 runs during that timeframe—and that includes 23 runs in a three-and-out at Coors Field, so if you do the math that’s…29 runs in those 14 other games. Granted, the Padres are a work in progress and they should be better in the years to come as their more youthful talent matures, but this late plunge is nonetheless sobering—and it very possibly cost manager Andy Green his job.


Wild Pitches

Yes, They Can’t Believe This Really Happened
(September 2019 Edition)

Get Up, Joe
Veteran umpire Joe West, 66, was a little too close to the action as the Mets’ Rajai Davis slid into him at home plate on September 1. What was perhaps the most curious part of the moment was what took place after the slide; West, doubled over Davis, had to literally be helped back to his feet after nearly 10 seconds.

Oh, Brother!
The Marlins’ Brian Moran made his major league debut on September 5 at Pittsburgh—and the second batter he faced was his brother, the Pirates’ Mike Moran, who he struck out.

Samurai Juice Ball Investigator
A Japanese swordsman dared to attempt splitting a 100-MPH baseball in half with his weapon. Here’s how it went.

Strange Coincidence, Part I
After a 6-4 loss to the Pirates on September 9, Giants skipper Bruce Bochy—who’s managed from 1995-2019—had a career managerial record of…1,995-2,019.

Strange Coincidence, Part II
After a 4-3 win over the Reds a day later, the Mariners record from 1995-2019 was…1,995-2,019.

Strange Coincidence, Part III
On the 18th anniversary of 9-11, the Mets scored nine runs on 11 hits in a 9-0 victory over Arizona that featured 18 total hits.

They Have Left Brooklyn, You Know
A background graphic on ESPN’s SportsCenter congratulated the Dodgers for becoming NL East champions.

Just a Bit High
The Rangers’ Shawn Kelley threw a pitch as time was being called on September 13 against the A’s. Fans in the second deck had no idea they’d be the ones playing catcher.

Forever Gone in a Cloud of Dust
The NFL’s Oakland Raiders played what many believe will be the last game (for the foreseeable future, anyway) on a field that includes a baseball dirt infield when it lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 28-10, on September 15 at the Coliseum. With a scheduled move to Las Vegas in 2020, the Raiders will be the active last team to share a sports facility with an MLB team.

Are Ya’ Yella, Red?
Cincinnati pitcher Amir Garrett, who earlier in the year wanted to take on the entire Pirates team in front of their dugout, made a run for it after wildly celebrating a strikeout of the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber—who was left waiting and ready in the proverbial boxing ring.

You (and Many Others) be the Judge
For the third straight year, the Yankees’ Aaron Judge led all major leaguers in uniforms sales

The Human Pinball
The Orioles’ Stevie Wilkerson made this most unusual and incredible catch—and somehow managed not to hurt himself—on the last day of the season in Boston.

Whatever You’re Trying Rob, It Ain’t Working
The average time of an MLB game in 2019 was a record-high three hours, five minutes and 35 seconds.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Hitting Home Runs
The book is closed on what is bound to be remembered for the foreseeable future as the Year of the Home Run, with 6,776 home runs compiled—an astounding 11% rise over the previous record set in 2017. Not surprisingly, the 1,069 dingers belted over the fence in the season’s final month set a September record as well, easily surpassing the 1,001 hit back in…you guessed it, 2017. Breaking down 6,776 further, there are some other eye-opening facts. There’s two teams (the Twins and Yankees) both breaking the 300 barrier, with the Twins setting the standard for a future record-breaker with 307; there’s the Orioles, who became the first team to give up 300 homers, with 305; there’s 15 teams—half of MLB—that set or tied team records; and there’s the 58 players who hit at least 30, more than double the total from 2018. For those who couldn’t get enough of the home run madness, hope you enjoyed it; word on the street is that MLB commish Rob Manfred wants the ball deadened for 2020.

This Month’s Proof That Everybody’s Striking Out
While the home run did its spike thing, the strikeout continued to trend gradually upward as it has for years and years. Yet another season record was established as 42,823 total Ks were registered, up from 41,207 last season. Though Houston pitchers fell 16 K’s shy of breaking their own mark from the year before (they struck 1,671 this season), the Tigers didn’t disappoint on the hitting end—besting the White Sox’ 2018 mark of 1,594 Ks at the plate by just one.

League vs. League

As September dawned, it was never a question of whether the National League would win the season series over the American League in interleague play; it only needed to win five of the remaining 37 games against the Junior Circuit. The NL, in fact, did far better than that, going 20-17 in the season’s last month to finish with a 166-134 mark; that’s the best record the NL has ever compiled since interleague play began in 1997. It’s also the second straight year that the NL has finished above .500, all following 14 straight years of AL dominance. Once again, the blame for the AL’s paltry performance could be laid at the doorstep of the AL Central—which produced a woeful 36-64 record against the NL; even the Twins (101-61) and Indians (93-69) couldn’t earn winning marks, both finishing 8-12 against NL competition. But the Blue Jays were the absolute worst within the AL, winning just three of 20 games against the NL in 2019.





Sunday, September 1
Justin Verlander throws his third career no-hitter, allowing just one baserunner—a first-inning walk to Toronto’s Cavan Biggio—while striking out 14 Blue Jays. But he has to sweat it out to the end not only to pick up the no-no, but the win; a 0-0 tie is unknotted in the top half of the ninth when back-up Houston infielder Abraham Toro belts a two-out, two-run blow off of former Astros closer Ken Giles to for a 2-0 victory. Verlander caps the gem in typical Verlander fashion, saving his hardest stuff for the end—throwing between 96 and 97 MPH to the game’s final batter, Bo Bichette, who grounds out. Only Nolan Ryan (seven) and Sandy Koufax (four) have thrown more no-hitters; Verlander matches three others (Bob Feller, Cy Young and 19th Century ace Larry Corcoran) with three.

Verlander is the first pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters in the same road ballpark; his previous no-no was on May 7, 2011 at Rogers Centre while pitching for the Detroit Tigers.

The Washington Nationals can’t stop hitting, as Anthony Rendon smokes his 32nd homer while Juan Soto adds three hits including two doubles and his 31st homer in a 9-3 trouncing of the visiting Miami Marlins. But pitching gets the nod on a historical front for the Nationals; Patrick Corbin strikes out eight to surpass 200 on the year, making him the third Washington pitcher (along with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg) with 200-plus Ks. They’re the first National League trio with at least 200 since the 1969 Astros (Larry Dierker, Don Wilson and Tom Griffin).

The Los Angeles Dodgers use four solo home runs—extending their season total to a franchise-record 238—to account for all of their runs in a 4-3, 11-inning victory at Arizona. There is a sobering moment when Dodgers rookie reliever Dustin May—already having a tough day by allowing all three Diamondbacks runs in the fourth—gets hit in the head on a return line drive from Josh Rojas. Writhing in ground in pain, May is able to eventually walk off under his own power and pass all concussion tests, listed with a contusion to the right side of his head.

Cleveland pitcher Carlos Carrasco makes his return to the mound in a relief role against Tampa Bay—his first appearance in three months since being diagnosed with leukemia, which it is said he has overcome. Carrasco is given a standing ovation by Rays fans at St. Petersburg, before allowing a run on two hits in an inning of work in the Indians’ 8-4 loss.

Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman knocks in all five of the Braves’ runs—four of them on a pair of two-run homers—to help defeat the visiting Chicago White Sox, 5-3. Freeman sets a career high in RBIs with 114.

Monday, September 2
The New York Yankees suffer their first shutout in 220 games as Texas’ Mike Minor fires 7.1 scoreless innings to lift the visiting Rangers to a 7-0 victory. The shutout-less streak had been the second longest in major league history; a 308-game run by the 1931-33 Yankees remains the longest ever.

Los Angeles and Colorado turn Dodger Stadium into Coors Field for a night, combining for 11 home runs and 11 doubles as the Dodgers survive with a 16-9 decision. Joc Pederson leads the Dodgers’ early carnage with a leadoff homer in the first—a record fifth straight game that the Rockies have surrendered a long ball to the first batter—and adds a double and another homer before departing after a hard hit against the outfield wall making an outstanding catch in the fifth inning. Overall, the Dodgers hit seven homers, tying a Dodger Stadium record for the most by one team; it’s also their 20th game this season with at least four, setting an MLB mark previously held by the 2017 Baltimore Orioles.

Not since a 1931 game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs have both teams each put up at least 11 extra-base hits in a game.

This is the first major league game for Gavin Lux, considered the cream of the crop within a vaunted Dodgers farm system. The 21-year-old infielder has a double, single and scores three runs.

A day after Justin Verlander strikes out 14 in his no-hitter against the Blue Jays, the Astros move on to Milwaukee where Gerrit Cole nails 14 Brewers over just six innings of work, allowing just one run in Houston’s eventual 3-2, 10-inning victory. Hard to believe, but it’s the first time ever that pitchers from the same team have struck out 14 batters in consecutive games.

Since his last defeat on May 22, Cole is 11-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 17 starts, with 166 strikeouts and 26 walks over 110.2 innings.

The Year of the Home Run has also had great impact on the two Triple-A circuits—The Pacific Coast League and International League—which conclude their regular seasons today. The 5,749 homers hit between both leagues account for an astounding 61% increase over the 3,652 hit last year. For the first time, both leagues are using the same ball used in major league games.

Chace Numata, a catcher who split 77 games between the Double-A and Triple-A levels of the Tigers’ organization, is killed in a skateboarding accident in the early morning hours in Erie, Pennsylvania. The 27-year-old Hawaii native falls forward and strikes his head on the pavement in front of him. He was a 14th-round draft pick in 2010, but had yet to play a game in the majors.

Tuesday, September 3
A highly anticipated NL East battle featuring top aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer has the ending few would have imagined. Both pitchers allow four runs before departing, and the New York Mets build upon a 5-4 lead in the ninth by adding five more runs—but the Nationals respond in unkind, notching seven runs—the last three on Kurt Suzuki’s three-run home run—to deliver a 11-10 shock win for Washington. It’s the biggest ninth-inning comeback in Nationals/Expos history.

Serving up the Nationals’ last two hits and taking the loss is Mets closer Edwin Diaz, who after a shining (57 saves) season for Seattle in 2018 has saved 25 games with six blown opportunities, a 1-7 record and 5.65 ERA for New York.

In defeat, Mets catcher Wilson Ramos extends his hitting streak to 26 games, the longest in the majors this season and exceeded in Mets history only by Moises Alou’s 30-game run in 2007. The streak will end the next day.

In a battle of likely 100-game losers, Kansas City’s Jorge Soler sets a franchise record by belting his 39th home run of the year, eclipsing Mike Moustakas’ 38 from 2017. The Royals edge the Detroit Tigers, 6-5, on Ryan O’Hearn’s pinch-hit, walk-off solo shot in the ninth.

The National League clinches its second straight winning campaign against the American League in interleague play, with all three NL teams beating their AL opponents on the day to extend the Senior Circuit’s interleague mark on the year to 152-117. One of those victories comes at Chicago with the Cubs easing past Seattle, 6-1, as Nick Castellanos hits his 12th homer in just five weeks for Chicago after accruing 11 in four previous months for Detroit.

Miami’s Miguel Rojas launches a solo home run in the ninth at Pittsburgh, and Garrett Cooper launches another in the 10th to give the Marlins a 5-4 win over the Pirates—snapping a franchise-record skid of 15 straight road losses. The Pirates, meanwhile, are 16-33 since the All-Star Break.

Wednesday, September 4
In a 7-3 victory over the visiting Rockies, Joc Pederson’s two home runs help the Dodgers break the all-time NL season mark of 249 held by the 2000 Astros. Pederson runs up a streak of six straight at-bats with an extra-base hit (five homers and a double) before striking out in the sixth; it’s the longest such streak since Larry Walker also had six straight in 1996.

The Reds’ Michael Lorenzen just about does it all for Cincinnati in an 8-5 home win over Philadelphia. The reliever blows a 5-4 lead in the seventh but atones with a two-run homer in the eighth to cap the game’s scoring, thus picking up the win; and for good measure, he bows to closer Rafael Iglesias in the ninth—taking over in center field. He thus becomes the first player to snag both a home run and a win while playing the field since Babe Ruth in 1921.

Perhaps sensing some momentum, Cincinnati manager David Bell starts Lorenzen in center field the next day against the Cardinals. He’ll go 0-for-3 with a walk and strikeout.

A day after breaking the Royals’ all-time home run season record, Jorge Soler belts his 40th of the year in a 5-4 home win over Detroit. The Royals had been the only MLB team never to have a 40-homer man.

Zac Gallen, traded to Arizona at the end of July from Miami, takes a no-hitter into the seventh inning at Phoenix before the Padres’ Manny Machado breaks it up with a one-out single. It’s the only knock that Gallen will allow over seven frames as the Diamondbacks beat San Diego, 4-1; over 68 innings this season, Gallen has a nifty 2.50 ERA in spite of a 3-4 record.

Thursday, September 5
The Astros fall quickly behind the visiting Mariners 7-0 after an inning and a half—with starter Wade Miley conceding five of those tallies without getting a single out before being removed in the first—but they bounce back, tying the game in the eighth and winning it in the 13th, 11-9, on Michael Brantley’s two-run homer. The win keeps Houston one game behind the Yankees for AL home field advantage, and improves its home record against AL West teams to 24-2.

Meanwhile, the A’s—Houston’s primary AL West opponent—does their own digging out from a deep deficit to defeat the Angels at Oakland. Down 6-1 after the seventh-inning stretch, the A’s pile on seven runs to take the lead, then add two insurance tallies in the eighth to prevail, 10-6. The win spoils yet another good day for the Angels’ Mike Trout, who goes 3-3-2-2 in the box score with his 45th home run to tie the Mets’ Pete Alonso for the major league lead.

Cleveland loses ground in the AL Wild Card chase to the A’s and Rays (6-4 home winners vs. Toronto) as they are shut down in a 7-1 loss to the visiting Chicago White Sox and Reynaldo Lopez. After failing to make it out of the first inning in his previous start, Lopez goes the distance, allowing just one hit and three walks while striking out 11. It’s the first complete game of his four-year career.

In the first of six games over the next two weeks between the NL East’s top two teams, the Braves deal a 4-2 blow to the Nationals at Atlanta behind a terrific effort from Max Fried (seven innings, one hit, no walks, nine strikeouts). Ronald Acuna Jr.’s hits his 37th homer and steals his 34th base, as he continues a legit push to become baseball’s fifth 40-40 ballplayer.

Friday, September 6
The A’s and Tigers finish a four-month-old game delayed by bad weather, as Oakland adds two runs in the ninth to put away Detroit, 7-3, for its 16th straight win against the Tigers. The game, which started in Detroit, is finished up in Oakland just before the two teams begin the first of three regularly scheduled games against one another for the weekend. In that first game to follow, the Tigers score two runs each in the seventh and eighth, erasing a 4-0 Oakland lead, and emerge victorious, 5-4, on a Will Castro’s RBI double in the 11th.

The belated victory from May officially gives (or gave) Oakland an 11-game win streak that ended on May 28; it was their longest win streak since the then AL-record 20-game run of 2002.

Three solo homers from A.J. Pollock are not enough for the Dodgers, who succumb to the Giants at Los Angeles, 5-4. It’s the second time in two years that Pollock has accomplished a hat trick of power; he hit three solo shots for Arizona on April, 30, 2018—against the Dodgers.

Chris Duncan, a major league outfielder of five years for the St. Louis Cardinals, dies after a seven-year battle with brain cancer at age 38. The son of former Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, Chris hit .293 with 22 homers in just 280 at-bats as a rookie for the 2006 Cardinals team that won the World Series over Detroit. A year later, he added another 21 homers with 70 RBIs, but after two more part-time campaigns was traded to the Red Sox, where he was sent to Triple-A—never to return to the majors as he languished with sub-.200 averages in the minors through 2010. He turned to radio, doing broadcast work for ESPN before stepping down at the start of this season.

Boston Class-A farmhand Yusniel Padron-Artiles sets a professional baseball record by striking out 12 straight batters in the Lowell Spinners’ 2-1 victory over Batavia in a New York/Penn League playoff game. Padron-Artiles strikes out 14 overall through six shutout innings of work.

Saturday, September 7
On the day that Mitch Garver homers twice to give Minnesota a 5-3 home win over the Indians and build its lead over Cleveland in the AL Central to 6.5 games, the Twins learn that pitcher Michael Pineda (11-5, 4.01 ERA) is suspended 60 days for used of PEDs, cancelling him out of the upcoming postseason and the first month-plus of 2020. The penalty is actually reduced by 20 games from 80, after Pineda convinces an arbitrator that the drug in question was ingested without his knowledge.

Arizona rookie Alex Young fires eight shutout innings with 12 strikeouts and two hits allowed as the Diamondbacks defeat the Pirates at Pittsburgh, 2-0. It’s Arizona’s 11th win in their last 12 games, as they continue to engender serious consideration in the NL wild card race. Young is 7-3 with a 3.38 ERA after 13 appearances (12 starts).

The Braves win their ninth straight and 13th straight at home—their longest such streak since 1897—with a 5-4 victory over the Nationals, who are increasingly resigned to the fact that they’ll have to settle for a wild card spot. Josh Donaldson belts his 36th homer in victory, joining teammates Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman with over 35 on the year.

Sunday, September 8
After dropping a 10-5 decision to the Yankees at Boston, the Red Sox fire president Dave Dombrowski, largely considered the chief architect in building last year’s championship team. With a disappointing season that will likely see the Red Sox miss the postseason, a roster burdened by mega-contracts to David Price, J.D. Martinez and Chris Sale, and the upcoming struggle to retain impending free agent Mookie Betts, the move signals a possible mini-reset or even a total refresh; that will depend on how active the team is on the trading market this winter.

With three home runs, the Yankees reach 268 on the season—surpassing the 267 they belted last season to set an MLB record recently broken by Minnesota.

The Detroit Tigers become the first of likely many teams to punch their ticket to the abyss of 100 losses. In Oakland, the Tigers bow to the A’s and Sean Manaea (seven innings, one run, two hits, 10 strikeouts) by a 3-1 count to drop to 42-100 on the year. This, after two straight seasons in which the Tigers lost 98 games; it’s their first 100-loss campaign since their dreadful 43-119 performance of 2003.

The Astros absolutely clean up on the Mariners at Houston, scoring 13 runs within the first three innings and coasting to a 21-1 rout. Gerrit Cole, on his 28th birthday, goes eight dominant innings and allows just one baserunner—a fourth-inning home run to Shed Ford—while striking out 15. It’s the second time this year that the Astros have won a game by 20 or more runs; the only other team to do that twice in a season was the 1939 Yankees.

Miami rookie pitcher Sandy Alcantara, winless in his last 12 starts, take matters into his own hands by shutting down the visiting Royals, 9-0. It’s the 43rd complete game thrown by a major leaguer this season, surpassing the 42 recorded last year; it’s the first time since 2011 that there’s been an increase in pitchers going the distance.

For Alcantara, it’s his second shutout of the year; he blanked the Mets on two hits on May 19.

Monday, September 9
So the A’s are ready to cool off the Astros with Mike Fiers, who owns a franchise record-tying 21 straight starts without a loss, on the mound, right? Wrong. Instead, the Astros virtually pick up from where they left off the day before against Seattle, racking up 11 runs in the first two innings largely on the strength of six homers—the most ever hit by a team within the first two frames—before cruising to a 15-0 rout at Houston. The seven home runs belted by the Astros overall sets a franchise record for the most ever hit in a home game, and they become the first team since the 1953 Red Sox to win consecutive games by 15 or more runs. As for Fiers, he’s gone after one-plus innings, allowing nine runs on nine hits.

The second of two homers pounded by Houston rookie Yordan Alvarez reaches Minute Maid Park’s high-altitude third-deck seats past the right-field foul pole; it’s said to be only the second ball hit in that sliver of seating since the park opened in 2000. The Astros the next day will repaint with orange the seat where his home run landed.

Playing his first major league game, 22-year-old shortstop Nico Hoerner—filling in for Addison Russell, who was hit in the face by a pitch the day before—collects three hits including a two-run triple and two-run single to help the Cubs pull away from the Padres at San Diego, 10-2.

In the first of a four-game series between NL wild card wannabes, the Mets defeat the Diamondbacks at New York, 3-1, behind two solo homers from rookie Pete Alonso—giving him a major league-leading 47—and seven more solid innings from Jacob deGrom, who strikes out 11 while allowing a run on three hits. The Mets are 1.5 games behind Arizona, who’s 2.5 back of the Cubs for the second wild card spot.

Even an appearance by David Ortiz—his first public outing since being shot in his native Dominican Republic on June 9—can’t blow away the smoke of gloom in Boston in the aftermath of Dave Dombrowski’s firing the night before. After Big Papi throws out the ceremonial first pitch, the Red Sox suffer a 5-0 defeat to the Yankees to officially eliminate the defending champions from the AL East race while finishing their season series against New York with a 5-14 record. Boston was last shut out at home 360 days earlier, also to the Yankees.

Tuesday, September 10
The Brewers’ postseason chances suffer a major blow when MVP candidate Christian Yelich breaks his kneecap from a foul ball off his bat in Milwaukee’s 4-3 win at Miami; he is declared out for the rest of the season. The 27-year old finishes the year with a .329 average, 44 home runs, 97 RBIs, 30 steals and a 1.100 OPS that’s the highest in Brewers history.

The Cubs, with their own health issues—Javier Baez is out until at least the postseason—blow an opportunity to pad their lead over the Brewers for the second NL wild card spot. At San Diego, Steve Cishek can’t hold onto an 8-8 tie when, with one out and one on in the 10th, he walks the next three batters—the last of which forces in the winning run for the Padres in a 9-8 decision. Chicago’s lead over Milwaukee for the last wild card spot remains at one game.

The Dodgers nab their seventh straight NL West title with a 7-3 victory at Baltimore, making them the second earliest team (after the 1975 Reds) to clinch a division. Corey Seager smacks two homers with five RBIs, while Walker Buehler is once again brilliant—allowing four hits with 11 strikeouts and no walks over seven shutout innings.

In the divisional era, only two teams have had longer streaks of first-place showings: The Braves (14 from 1991-2005, the cancelled 1994 season omitted), and the Yankees (nine from 1998-2006).

After two dominant games in which they outscored their opponents by a combined 36-1 margin, the Astros are forced to feel the other side of the equation as they’re destroyed by the A’s at Houston, 21-7. Oakland gets at least two hits from each of its nine starting batters for the first time since at least 1908, while the Astros become the first modern-era (post-1900) team to experience two games within a three-game span in which the winning team scored at least 20.

The losing pitcher is Wade Miley, who lasts just a third of an inning (allowing seven runs) after giving up five runs without recording a single out in his previous start. He’s the fourth pitcher to go consecutive starts without retiring more than one batter while allowing five or more runs. (The other three are Mel Parnell, Elmer Riddle and Burleigh Grimes.)

In defeat, the Astros still manage to hit four home runs to break the franchise record of 249 set in 2000. Those four are split between Martin Maldonado and George Springer, who have two each; the A’s also get a pair of multi-homer efforts from Matt Olson and Sean Murphy, making it only the second time ever that both teams have multiple players hitting multiple homers. The first time: Just one month earlier, in another game between the A’s and Astros. (Olson homered twice in that game.)

The Indians remain a half-game behind the A’s for the second AL wild card with an 8-0 romp at Anaheim behind Zac Plesac, who hurls a four-hit shutout on 114 pitches. It’s the fifth shutout thrown by a Cleveland pitcher this season.

Minnesota shuts down the visiting Nationals, 5-0, behind seven shutout innings from Jose Berrios. On the other side, Washington starter Anibal Sanchez throws well (allowing two runs in seven frames), but sees an end to a 17-game unbeaten streak—the longest by a pitcher 35 years or older since Roger Clemens in 2001.

The Twins may have broken the MLB team record for home runs in a season, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be the record-holder at year’s end. In Detroit, the Yankees blast away with six homers, tying the Twins for the major league lead with 276—and yet they lose to the anemic Tigers, 12-11, as Jordy Mercer’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth favorably decides it for Detroit.

In his first major league appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery over a year ago, Johnny Cueto allows just one hit through five shutout innings on 69 pitches, then watches as the Giants nearly blow another late lead but survive with a 5-4 home win over Pittsburgh.

Before the game, the Pirates announce that reliever Kyle Crick will undergo season-ending injury on the index finger of his pitching hand after the latest Pirate-on-Pirate clubhouse tussle—this one between Crick and closer Felipe Vasquez over locker room music. This is the latest internal tidbit that pretty much ices the Pittsburgh roster as the majors’ most toxic—to itself.

Wednesday, September 11
It’s official: The 2019 season is the (Latest) Year of the Home Run. In Baltimore’s 7-3 home win over the Dodgers, the Orioles’ Jonathan Villar hits a three-run, tie-breaking homer in the seventh that’s the majors’ 6,106th of the year—breaking the all-time season record from 2017 with two and a half weeks still to play.

The Red Sox are shut out by four Blue Jays pitchers in Toronto on two hits—none of them for extra bases, ending a streak of 158 consecutive games in which Boston had at least one. That’s six games shy of the all-time mark, set by the 2004-05 Red Sox. Toronto’s 8-0 win is fueled by Rowdy Tellez, whose 19th home run of the year is also the seventh just against the Red Sox.

Tyler Flowers’ three-run homer in the fourth is all the support Dallas Keuchel needs to secure Atlanta’s 3-1 victory at Philadelphia. Keuchel gets help from the bullpen as reliever Chris Martin, taking over him in the seventh, throws the Braves’ fifth-ever immaculate inning (nine pitches, nine strikes, three outs). After a so-so start following a mid-season signing with the Braves, Keuchel is 5-0 with a 0.97 ERA over his last six starts.

The Mariners, who’ve already been no-hit twice this season, get that dreaded feeling of déjà vu in Seattle as the Reds’ Sonny Gray takes a no-no into the seventh inning. But after walking one batter and hitting another, Gray serves up a one-out, three-run gopher ball to rookie Kyle Lewis—homering in his second straight game to start his big-league career. It’s a definitive turning point in the Mariners’ 5-3 victory.

Lewis will go deep in his next game as well, making him only the second major leaguer—after Trevor Story in 2016—to do so in each of his first three career games.

Thursday, September 12
A day after smacking five home runs to tie a team record, the Mets do one better and set the new mark with six as they beat up on the Diamondbacks, 11-1, and finish off a four-game sweep of Arizona by a combined score of 26-4. Juan Lagares has two of New York’s homers and drives in six runs; the Mets are 1.5 games ahead of Arizona in the wild card chase, but remain two games behind the Cubs and Brewers for the final wild card spot.

The Cubs maintain their wild card pace with a 4-1 victory at San Diego as Yu Darvish hurls six shutout innings with 14 strikeouts. Since the start of July, Darvish is 4-2 in 12 starts with a 2.71 ERA—and has struck out 99 in 73 innings while walking only six.

The A’s make it three straight at Houston by holding on to defeat the Astros and Justin Verlander, 3-2. The win gives Oakland the top seed in the AL wild card sweepstakes as Tampa Bay loses at Texas, 6-4. Meanwhile, the Astros’ third straight loss to an AL West opponent comes after losing just two of their previous 33 home games against divisional competition.

After being rained out the previous day, the Yankees win two over the Tigers at Detroit, 10-4 and 6-4—but lose two players as DH Edwin Encarnacion (oblique) and catcher Gary Sanchez (groin) suffer injuries and are sent back to New York for tests. The Yankees are the first team to sweep six doubleheaders in a season since 1979—though all of them were created via make-ups of rained-out games and not originally scheduled as such.

Friday, September 13
The latest Mets soap opera becomes front and center as Noah Syndegaard—publicly at odds against manager Mickey Callaway over who should catch for him—takes the mound at New York against the Dodgers. Syndegaard pitches five innings, four of them good—one of them not so good, giving up four runs including a three-run homer from rookie Gavin Lux before departing in a 9-2 loss. Syndegaard had lobbied for backup catcher Tomas Nido to be his batterymate, but instead he gets Wilson Ramos, a much better hitter who’s #1 on the depth chart.

When Nido catches, Syndegaard’s ERA is 2.45; when Ramos catches, it’s 5.20.

In the first game of an important NL Central series at St. Louis, the first-place Cardinals throttle the Brewers, 10-0, behind two homers and a career-high seven RBIs from Paul Goldschmidt. Adam Wainwright pitches six scoreless for the Redbirds.

In the Rockies’ 10-8 win over the Padres at Denver, Nolan Arenado opens the scoring with a first-inning home run—his 40th of the year, giving him 40+ three times in his career to tie Vinny Castilla for the most in Colorado history. The 28-year-old third baseman needs three more jacks in the Rockies’ final 14 games to set a career high.

In only the second-ever matchup between two teams both 50 or more games under .500, the Orioles (48-99) avoid their 100th loss of the year with a 6-2 victory at Detroit over the Tigers (43-103). Trey Mancini hits his 31st homer and drives in three for Baltimore.

With almost nothing at stake beside whatever pride is left between these two teams, the meeting of the woeful Orioles and Tigers begs the question: Should relegation and promotion become part of the major league landscape? We discuss that in our Opinion section.

Saturday, September 14
The Diamondbacks become the first team in the modern era to win despite having just one runner safely reaching base, as they defeat the visiting Reds 1-0 on a Nick Ahmed triple followed by a Jarrod Dyson sac fly in the third inning. The victory snaps a six-game skid for Arizona, desperately clinging to NL wild card hopes.

It’s a double/double-whammy for the Indians, who lose two at home against the Twins in a day-night doubleheader to suffer setbacks in the pursuit of two postseason goals. In the first game, another strong effort by the Indians’ Mike Clevinger is outdone by a quintet of Minnesota relievers in a 2-0 loss, and a 5-4 lead in the nightcap is undone by a five-run Twins rally in the eighth, capped by Miguel Sano’s grand slam. The double-slip knocks Cleveland back 5.5 games of the Twins in the AL Central—and 2.5 back of the second AL wild card spot.

For the second straight day, the Cubs smack the visiting Pirates about, crushing Pittsburgh by a 14-1 count after a 17-8 drubbing the day before. Four home runs give Chicago 237 on the year, breaking the all-time franchise mark of 235 set in 2004; the record-breaker comes courtesy of likely 2019 Teaser Nico Hoerner, who’s 10-for-24 with a pair of homers and 11 RBIs in just six games since being called up to the expanded roster.

A battle of prime NL Cy Young Award candidates in New York doesn’t disappoint and ends in a sterling stalemate as the Dodgers’ Hyun-jin Ryu and the Mets’ Jacob deGrom both toss seven shutout innings against one another before departing. In the end, it’s the Mets who prevail, 3-0, on Rajai Davis’ pinch-hit, three-run double in the bottom of the ninth.

The Astros’ Zack Greinke allows a run over six innings at Kansas City and cements his first career win in five tries against the Royals, his original team, in a 6-1 victory. Greinke thus becomes the 19th pitcher to have won at least one game against all 30 MLB teams—and the second active, along with Max Scherzer.

Just call them the Or100Les—again. Baltimore clinches its second straight 100-loss season at Detroit in typical Orioles fashion; they surrender a game-tying home run to Victor Reyes in the bottom of the ninth, and after netting a one-run lead in the top of the 12th are countered with five by the Tigers—the last four on a John Hicks grand slam—to lose, 8-4.

Sunday, September 15
The Cubs finish applying the wrecking ball to the Pirates at Chicago, scoring in seven of eight eligible innings on their way to a 16-6 crushing. Kris Bryant blows out two homers for the Cubs, while Nick Castellanos garners a pair of doubles to increase his major league lead to 54. The 47 total runs racked up by the Cubs against Pittsburgh are the second most by a NL team in a three-game series since 1900.

The Brewers get clutch magic from a reliable old source as it stays a game behind the Cubs for the NL’s second wild card spot. With Milwaukee behind 4-3 and down to its last strike in the ninth, Ryan Braun—having an awful September—unloads a grand slam on Junior Fernandez’s hanging slider; all three baserunners scoring ahead of Braun had been walked by John Gant, who suffers his first loss after a 10-0 start to the year. The Brewers then have to sweat out a ninth-inning rally by the Cardinals to survive with a 7-6 victory.

Braun’s slam is the 232nd homer of the year for Milwaukee, breaking the club mark from 2007.

Mike Trout is shelved by the Angels for the remainder of the season so he can undergo surgery to repair a tissue issue in his foot. As with a season-ending injury to Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich earlier in the week, the early departure for Trout could hinder his MVP chances—though with a 1.083 OPS that’s the second-best of his storied career to date, it will be hard to ignore him in the vote.

In Trout’s absence, Albert Pujols steps it up with a double, home run and four RBIs to hand the Angels a 6-4 home victory over Tampa Bay. Pujols ties Ty Cobb for fifth on the all-time total bases list with 5,854.

Oakland finishes off a three-game sweep of the Rangers at Arlington, 6-1, and moves 1.5 games ahead of Tampa Bay for AL wild card spot #1. With home runs by Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman, the A’s become the second team on the day (after the Brewers) to set a season home run record with 244 on the year; the 1996 team held the old mark at 243.

Monday, September 16
Marcell Ozuna knocks in all four runs for the Cardinals as they take a 4-2 victory over the Nationals at St. Louis and retain their two-game lead in the NL Central. Washington is without manager Dave Martinez, who undergoes a heart procedure back home; he’ll be back at week’s end.

The Nationals’ wild card lead is slimmed down to a half-game over the Cubs and a game over the Brewers, as both latter clubs are victorious on the day. Chicago strikes early against the visiting Reds on a three-run homer in the first from Kyle Schwarber, easing to an 8-2 win; the Brewers get three RBIs from former Padre Corey Spangenberg as they defeat San Diego at Milwaukee, 5-1, ensuring a ninth straight losing record for the Padres.

Hall-of-Fame reliever Mariano Rivera is bestowed with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the White House. According to baseball-almanac.com, the Panama native is the 15th baseball-related individual to receive the prestigious honor—and only the second, after Roberto Clemente, to be born outside of the U.S.

Tuesday, September 17
With a two-run triple in the ninth, Toronto’s Cavan Biggio becomes the first Blue Jay since 2001 to hit for the cycle—and joins his father, Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, in becoming only the second father-son duo to both hit for the cycle in their MLB careers. Biggio also steals two bases in lifting the Jays to an 8-5 win at Baltimore. Craig Biggio hit for the cycle in 2003; the other father-son duo who cycled is Gary Ward (1979) and Daryle Ward (2000).

Miguel Sano’s 482-foot home run in the third inning at Minnesota against the White Sox gives the Twins a record five players with at least 30 on the year, joining Nelson Cruz, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario and Mitch Garver. The game itself carries on to a thrilling third act; both teams score a run in the 11th, and after the White Sox post two runs in the top of the 12th, the Twins counter with three to win, 9-8—as Ronald Torreyes gets hit with the bases loaded to bring home the victorious tally.

San Francisco rookie Mike Yastrzemski makes his first major league visit to Boston’s Fenway Park where his grandfather, 80-year-old Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, reigned for 23 years in a Red Sox uniform—and the two of them embrace on the field before the start of a very long night in which the Giants outlast the Red Sox in 15 innings, 7-6. The younger Yaz fails to disappoint; he belts his 20th homer early in the game and later adds a double. Both teams combine to use 24 pitchers, with the Giants employing 13 of them; both numbers tie existing records for one game.

This is the first victory by the Giants at Fenway Park since winning Game Seven (or Game Six, if you discount a 6-6 tie in the second game) of the 1912 World Series.

The Cubs drop into a tie for the second NL wild card spot with Milwaukee (3-1 winners over San Diego) with a 4-2 loss at Chicago to the Reds, all despite 13 strikeouts from Yu Darvish—eight of those consecutive to establish a franchise mark. The win goes to Sonny Gray, who continues an impressive first campaign for Cincinnati with his 32nd straight start allowing six or fewer hits—breaking Nolan Ryan’s all-time record among non-openers. (Sorry, Ryne Stanek.)

Two late home runs fail to bring the Braves back from an early deficit in a 5-4 loss at Atlanta to the Phillies, but they do help break the team record for homers on the year as the team surpasses the 235 hit back in 2003. The Braves are the ninth team to break its season home run mark in 2019.

Pittsburgh closer Felipe Vazquez, already the subject of much controversy in the Pirates’ clubhouse, is arrested on multiple felony sex charges after allegations emerge of a 2017 dalliance with a 13-year-old girl in the Pittsburgh area. Without Vazquez, the internally turbulent Pirates—probably the one team more than any other that can’t wait for the season to come to an end—drop a 6-0 decision to the visiting Mariners as Marco Gonzales wins his 16th game of the year for Seattle.

Wednesday, September 18
The Giants’ 11-3 pounding of the Red Sox in Boston gives Bruce Bochy his 2,000th career managerial win, joining 10 others in major league history. The other 10 are all in the Hall of Fame—but only two of them, Connie Mack and Bucky Harris, lost more games; unless he changes his mind and returns for 2020, Bochy is guaranteed to finish below .500 as well—but with three World Series rings backed by a genuine, good-guy persona, he’ll still likely get to Cooperstown.

In defeat, the Red Sox’ Rafael Devers hits his 30th home run of the year, giving the Red Sox two players (along with Xander Bogaerts) who both have 30 homers and 50 doubles; that’s an MLB first.

It’s a 100/300 celebration in Houston as the Astros finish off a sweep of the Rangers, 3-2, and become the first team this year to reach 100 wins. The winning pitcher is Gerrit Cole, who improves to 18-5 in 2019 and becomes the 18th pitcher to record 300 strikeouts in a season. Only Randy Johnson, in 2001, reached 300 Ks in fewer innings—and just barely, at 197.2 versus Cole’s 198.1.

It’s pointed out that the Astros are the first team to have three straight 100-win seasons—and three straight 100-loss seasons (2011-13)—in the same decade.

Another day, another team setting a franchise season mark for home runs. Today it’s the Mets, who surpass the 224 hit in 2017 thanks to Pete Alonso’s solo shot (his 49th of the year) against the Rockies in the sixth; a four-run rally in the ninth will propel New York to a 7-4 win at Colorado and keep its NL wild card hopes alive.

Right behind Alonso in the home run race is Cincinnati’s Eugenio Suarez, who belts his 48th of the year to set a record among Venezuelan-born platers in a 3-2, 10-inning win at Chicago over the Cubs. Andres Galarraga (47 with the 1996 Rockies) held the old mark.

Trailing 7-1 after four innings and 9-5 after eight, the Blue Jays erupt for six runs in the ninth—including a two-out grand slam by Randal Grichuk that puts Toronto on top—in an 11-10 win at Baltimore. Grichuk is the third American Leaguer in the last 40 years to homer in the ninth with the bases loaded, two outs and three runs down; the other two—Dave Winfield in 1992 and Justin Smoak in 2018—were also Blue Jays.

Thursday, September 19
With an easy 9-1 win over the Angels at New York, the Yankees record their 100th win of the year and clinch their first AL East title since 2012. It’s the 21st time that the Yankees have reached triple digits in victories; second on that list is the A’s—with 10. Manager Aaron Boone, meanwhile, becomes the first manager to win at least 100 in each of his first two years.

As it seems to have been for most of the year with the Yankees, the day’s good news doesn’t come without some bad. Pitcher Domingo German, looking at a possible 20-win season, is placed on administrative leave after allegedly slapping his girlfriend.

Behind six more shutout innings from Mike Clevinger, the Indians shut down Detroit 7-0 at Cleveland for their 17th straight win over the Tigers. They’re the first team since the Phillies against the expansion Houston Colt .45s (Astros) in 1962 to win 17 in a row against a single opponent within one season.

The continued second-half brilliance of the Cardinals’ Jack Flaherty is on display at Chicago as the 23-year-old right-hander fires eight innings of one-run, three-hit ball—but St. Louis closer Carlos Martinez coughs off three runs in the ninth to deny Flaherty victory as the Cubs take it into extras. Matt Carpenter quickly comes to the rescue, launching a solo homer in the 10th off of Craig Kimbrel to give the Cardinals a 5-4 win—and drop the Cubs behind the Brewers for the final NL wild card spot.

Question: Martinez departs from the game with a one-run lead in the ninth before the game-tying run, which is charged to him, scores—but he still gets credit for a hold?

Friday, September 20
The Braves clinch their second straight NL East title—and will make their sixth postseason appearance this decade—with a 6-0 win over the Giants at Atlanta. Mike Foltynewicz fires eight shutout innings for the win, and Ronald Acuna Jr. goes deep for the 41st time this season while eclipsing the 100-RBI mark.

Jacob deGrom enhances his chances for a second straight NL Cy Young Award with seven shutout innings and, just as importantly, gets actual run support as the Mets upend the Reds at Cincinnati, 8-1. Pete Alonso belts his 50th homer to become the second rookie ever to reach the milestone, and Jeff McNeill improves his batting average to .321 as he chases two players (Christian Yelich, at .3292, and Ketel Marte, at .3286) both out for the rest of the season, for the NL batting title. New York stays 3.5 games behind the Brewers for the second NL wild card spot—but time is running out.

The Nationals are holding onto the #1 wild card spot as they defeat the Marlins at Miami, 6-4, behind three homers—making them the 11th team this year to set a franchise season record. Trea Turner goes deep twice and Asdrubal Cabrera adds another dinger to give Washington 218 jacks on the year, surpassing the 215 hit in 2017.

Though the Marlins clinch their third-ever 100-loss season, they feel good enough with manager Don Mattingly that they officially extend his contract for two more seasons, plus a mutual option for a third season in 2022.

Since scoring 47 runs in a three-game weekend sweep of the Pirates, the Cubs have lost four straight with just nine total runs and, worse, fall behind the Brewers by two games for the second wild card spot. Once again saying thanks in Chicago are the Cardinals—who take advantage of two walks to lead off the sixth before Yadier Molina brings them both home on a single; they’re the only two runs the first-place Cardinals will need in a 2-1 victory.

There will not be a repeat champion in baseball for a 19th straight year as the Red Sox are officially eliminated from a postseason berth in a 11-inning, 5-4 loss at Tampa Bay. Mitch Moreland’s second home run of the game, tying the score in the ninth, is wasted as the Rays’ Willy Adames singles home the winning run two innings later.

Everybody do the Palka! After a miserable 2-for-61 to the year, the White Sox’ Daniel Palka—who last year was a viable AL Rookie of the Year candidate with 26 homers—pokes out three singles to help lift Chicago to a 10-1 rout over the hapless Tigers in Detroit.

Saturday, September 21
Disappointed in what will be their ninth straight losing season despite the addition of top free agent Manny Machado and the presence of numerous standout rookies, the San Diego Padres sack Andy Green in the majors’ first managerial firing this year, a week before the end of the regular season. The miniscule Green never won more than 71 games in any of four seasons with the Padres, and was 69-85 in 2019.

The week-long implosion of the Cubs continues. At Wrigley Field, Chicago takes an 8-7 lead into the ninth against the Cardinals—but the first two pitches thrown by Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel are sent over the fence by Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong. St. Louis closer Carlos Martinez, pitching in his fourth straight game, makes the 9-8 lead stand up for the Cardinals. With Milwaukee trouncing Pittsburgh 10-1 and Washington pulling away at Miami in 10 innings, 10-4, the fading Cubs are now three games behind in the NL wild card race.

The Rockies end a 12-game losing streak at Dodger Stadium with a 4-2 win over Los Angeles, denying the Dodgers a shot at their 100th win. The dozen losses were tied for the most consecutive by a visiting team at Chavez Ravine.

Good pitching of any kind is hard to come by for the Rangers in the early innings at Oakland. The first three Texas pitchers (Brock Burke, Luke Farrell and Jonathan Hernandez) combine to allow nine runs on eight hits and six walks, throwing more balls (46) than strikes (41) as the A’s run away with a 12-3 victory. It’s the first time since 1984 that a team fails to have either of its first three pitchers last more than two-thirds of an inning. It’s the seventh straight loss for the Rangers.

Sunday, September 22
The Astros finish off their regular season home schedule in grand style. George Springer homers in each of his first three at-bats, Justin Verlander pitches the minimum five innings needed to pick up his 20th win, and the Astros become the first team since the 1998 Yankees to rack up 60 home victories with a 13-5 thrashing of the Angels to clinch their third straight AL West title. It’s the second time Verlander has won 20 in a season; he went 24-5 in his 2011 MVP campaign for Detroit.

Springer’s hat trick is a record-tying 22nd by a major leaguer in 2019.

The Twins outpace the Royals at Minnesota, 12-8, behind two homers from Miguel Sano and a solo shot from Nelson Cruz for his 40th of the year and 400th of his career. Cruz thus joins Hank Aaron (1973) and Barry Bonds (2003-04) as the only players age 39 or older to hit 40 in a season.

The Royals become the fourth team to lose 100 games this year, tying an MLB record; it’s their second straight triple-digit loss ledger, and their sixth in the last 18 years. But the news is not all bad on the day for Kansas City; Whit Merrifield collects three hits to become the majors’ first 200-hit player on the season.

It’s the fourth time in the last seven years that Cruz has hit 40 or more; in the three he didn’t reach the milestone, he has hit 39, 37 and 39.

Oy vey, Cubs. Without any trust in his bullpen (especially closer Craig Kimbrel), Chicago manager Joe Maddon sticks it out with starter Yu Darvish into the ninth inning with the Cubs ahead of the Cardinals, 2-1. But Jose Martinez hits a leadoff triple and scores on a sac fly, and Paul Goldschmidt will double home the go-ahead run later in the frame to give St. Louis another last-minute, one-run victory over the Cubs, 3-2, to complete their first four-game sweep at Wrigley Field since 1921. It’s the first time since 1915 that the Cubs have lost five straight games by a single run—with the opponent scoring the winning tally in the final inning of play in four of those games.

Monday, September 23
Kansas City manager Ned Yost announces that he will retire at the end of the season, leaving behind a 16-year career as pilot that includes two pennants and a world title with the Royals in 2015. The 65-year-old Yost led Milwaukee from 2003-08 and the Royals since 2010; with his and Bruce Bochy’s retirement, that leaves Oakland’s Bob Melvin and Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle (both on the job with their prospective teams since 2011) as the majors’ longest tenured—though Hurdle will also soon be on his way out after a turbulent season.

The Mets’ playoff chances devolve into critical condition after being upended at home by the lowly Marlins, 8-4. Jesus Alfaro blasts a pair of home runs—including a fifth-inning grand slam—and knocks in five runs for Miami. New York is five back of Milwaukee in the NL wild card hunt with six games to play.

It feels like home for Paul Goldschmidt, who returns to Chase Field for the first time since being traded by the Diamondbacks in the offseason. The St. Louis star hits a two-run homer in his second at-bat and overall has two hits and three runs scored as the Cardinals take a 9-7 victory at Arizona, officially eliminating the DBacks from postseason consideration.

Tuesday, September 24
The Nationals sweep the Phillies in a doubleheader by scores of 4-1 and 6-5 to clinch a NL wild card spot—while at the same time eliminating Philadelphia, the top NL East pick by many prognosticators (including us) back in the spring. Trea Turner is the day’s hitting star, garnering three hits with two runs in the first game before launching a go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning of the nightcap.

It’s especially satisfying for Nationals fans to witness their team both clinch while knocking out a Phillies team with ex-Washington star Bryce Harper—but for all it’s worth, the Phillies’ megastar retains some personal satisfaction of his own when he faces Nationals reliever Hunter Strickland for the first time since the two fought on the mound at San Francisco a year ago. Pinch-hitting against Strickland in the seventh, Harper blasts a 442-foot drive that’s clocked at over 116 MPH—the hardest ball Harper has ever hit in the Statcast era—for his 34th homer of the year.

The Orioles pound the Blue Jays at Toronto, 11-4, behind Trey Mancini’s five hits, but they also make history in an unwanted way by becoming the first team ever to allow 300 homers within a season on Derek Fisher’s third-inning shot for the Jays. Baltimore had long since broken the all-time record for home runs allowed in a year, previously held by the 2016 Reds (258).

Gerrit Cole remains practically untouchable for the Astros, who defeat the Mariners at Seattle, 3-0. The 29-year right-hander gains his 15th straight win (improving to 19-5 on the year) and strikes out at least 10 batters in his eighth straight outing to tie a record within one season as he punches out 14 Mariners. Cole’s 313 strikeouts on the year is the most ever by an Astro and the AL’s highest total since Nolan Ryan K’d 341 in 1977.

Equally untouchable of late is the Cardinals’ Jack Flaherty, who takes a no-hitter into the seventh at Arizona and strikes out 11 with just one hit allowed over seven frames. But he gets a no-decision as the Diamondbacks tie the game in the ninth—and the proceedings continue for a long, long time until the 19th when Ildemaro Vargas hits a bases-loaded, walk-off single to give Arizona a 3-2 win. It’s the longest game both by innings and time (six hours and 53 minutes) in Chase Field history.

This is the eighth time this season that Flaherty has taken a no-hitter into the fifth inning.

In another marathon out west, the Rockies survive a 16-inning affair at San Francisco that employs a combined 25 pitchers between the two teams to set a major league record. (The old record of 24 had been tied just a week earlier by the Giants and Red Sox at Boston.) The 8-5 loss is the 82nd of the year for the Giants, ensuring manager Bruce Bochy of a third straight sub-.500 campaign as he bows out at year’s end.

Jose Ramirez’s hand appears to be just fine. In his first game back since breaking his hand exactly a month earlier, the Cleveland star hitter belts a three-run homer and grand slam within the first three innings of an 11-0 rout at Chicago over the White Sox; the seven RBIs set a career high for Ramirez. Despite the win, the Indians remain one game out in the AL wild card race.

The Mets stay on life support in the NL wild card race, bouncing back to grab a 5-4, 11-inning win over the Marlins at New York. Getting credit for the win is Mets reliever Paul Sewald, who gets his first-ever victory after a 0-14 start—the most losses without a win to start a career in NL history. Terry Felton, who went 0-16 with Minnesota from 1979-82, remains the tops (or bottom) in MLB history.

Wednesday, September 25
The National League playoff field is set as the Brewers score six times in the first at Cincinnati and ease to a 9-2 victory, becoming the second team to secure a wild card spot while eliminating both the Cubs and Mets. It’s only the second time that Milwaukee has made it to the postseason in consecutive years, also reaching the playoffs in 1981-82.

The Twins clinch their first divisional title since 2010 and grab their 98th win—the franchise’s highest win total since the 1970 club also won 98—with a 5-1 victory at Detroit. Rookie Randy Dobnak keeps the Tigers caged by allowing just an unearned run on one hit and no walks over six innings.

Upcoming AL playoff participants need to be reminded that it’s not just Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole they need to worry about within the Astros’ rotation. At Seattle, the recently acquired Zack Greinke is within two outs of his first career no-hitter when he gives up consecutive hits to the Mariners. But he does improve his Houston record to 8-1 as the Astros triumph, 3-0, to record their 104th win of the season—setting a franchise record.

The Red Sox become the latest team to set a season mark for home runs as they send three over the fence at Texas to surpass the 238 they hit back in 2003. Boston takes a 10-3 victory over the Rangers.

Thursday, September 26
The Twins become the first-ever team to reach 300 home runs as Jonathan Schoop’s seventh-inning blast at Detroit hits the milestone and helps Minnesota pull away with a 10-4 win. For the Tigers, they finish their home schedule with a 22-59 record, tying the 1939 St. Louis Browns for the most losses suffered by a team in its own ballpark (the Browns did it in fewer games, finishing 18-59). Worse, the Tigers’ -221 run differential sets another mark, surpassing the -215 established by the Phillies in their very first year of play in 1883.

The announced crowd for the home finale at Comerica Park is listed at 17,557, but the number of those who actually show up looks to be more in the 1,000-2,000 range.

Mike Minor would like to record his 200th strikeout on the year, and the Rangers do everything they can to ensure he gets it. At Arlington, Minor gives up five runs but toils into the ninth inning with a 7-5 lead; with one out and Minor stuck at 199, he gets the Red Sox’ Chris Owings to pop up in foul territory near home plate—but Rangers players appear lackadaisical in chasing it down and let it drop, in theory to give Minor a shot of finishing the strikeout on Owings. Sure enough, he does. It’s the final out Minor records after 126 pitches as he’s removed and earns the win for Texas.

Despite the risk taken by the Rangers in allowing new life to Owings—especially with the Red Sox down two runs in the ninth—Boston manager Alex Cora is said to be displeased with the infielders’ tactics not going full throttle to catch the ball. More understandably, Texas manager Chris Woodard isn’t happy, either.

In what is likely his last game in a Seattle uniform—and perhaps his last game, period—the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez allows three runs in the first two innings and settles in, not allowing any more tallies in a 5.1-inning performance as the visiting A’s carry on to a 3-1 victory and clinch at least a tie for an AL wild card spot. As he departs the mound, a teary-eyed Hernandez is given a standing ovation from the T-Mobile Park crowd of 20,000—including the last likely gathering of yellow-shirted fans in the “King’s Court” down the left-field line. A free agent at season’s end, it’s assumed that the rebuilding Mariners will likely pass on bringing back the 33-year-old Hernandez, who’s 9-22 over the last two seasons with a 5.82 ERA.

Long-time Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman calls the last game of his Hall-of-Fame career as Cincinnati drops a 3-2 decision at home to the rampaging (17 wins in their last 19 games) Brewers. The 77-year-old Brennaman had announced earlier in the year that this would be his last season, and wanted to conclude his career in the Reds’ home finale rather than in their last three games on the road. Brennaman has been the Reds’ voice since 1974, when the very first game he called was the contest in which Hank Aaron tied Babe Ruth’s career home run mark at Riverfront Stadium.

Despite the loss, the Reds are the 13th team to set a franchise mark for home runs in a season, as Aristides Aquino’s first-inning solo shot is the team’s 223rd of the year to break the old mark set in 2005.

Friday, September 27
Victories by Tampa Bay and Oakland, combined with Cleveland’s 8-2 loss at Washington, cements the AL postseason slotting as the Indians are eliminated from wild card contention. The Rays, who prevail 6-2 at Toronto, clinch their first playoff spot since 2013; the A’s make it two October appearances in a row despite a 4-3 loss at Seattle. The only suspense left between the Rays and A’s is to who will host the wild card game against each other, as both teams own the same record (96-64).

The Rays are the second team to make the playoffs despite being saddled with the majors’ lowest Opening Day payroll. The other team: The 2018 A’s.

All roads through the AL playoffs will likely lead through Houston. The Astros shut down the Angels at Anaheim, 4-0, and clinch home field advantage with their 105th win; they remain one victory ahead of the Dodgers for the majors’ best record. After Jose Urquidy’s six shutout innings, Will Harris—the Astros’ second reliever—throws baseball’s eighth immaculate inning of the year in the eighth inning, tying 2017 for the most in one season.

The Twins join the Astros, Dodgers and Yankees in the 100-win club by clinching their second triple-digit total in franchise history (they won 102 in 1965) with a rain-shortened 6-2 victory at Kansas City. The four 100-win teams set an MLB season record, as does the eight teams who have either 100 wins or losses. Jose Berrios technically goes the distance for Minnesota, throwing all six innings before the rain becomes too much.

In a 14-7 thrashing of the Rangers, the Yankees overtake the Twins in the team home run race by depositing six over the wall at soon-to-be-closed Globe Life Park in Arlington. This is the 34th time this season that a team has hit at least six homers in a game—nearly twice the previous mark of 18 set back in 2003. Despite the onslaught, Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton fails to record his 11th victory in as many starts because, literally, of a pain in the butt; a muscle tightens up in his buttocks and forces him to leave after just one inning.

Saturday, September 28
The Mets’ Pete Alonso breaks Aaron Judge’s 2017 rookie record with his 53rd home run of 2019, a third-inning solo shot against the Braves at New York. Alonso’s blast follows up a two-run homer by veteran catcher Rene Rivera—his first of the season—to give the Mets all the runs they’ll need in a 3-0 victory over Atlanta.

The Brewers and closer Josh Hader are one out away from defeating the Rockies at Denver, 2-1, and tying the Cardinals (on their way to losing 8-6 at home to the Cubs) for first place in the NL Central. But Colorado pinch-hitter Sam Hilliard says “not so fast, my friend.” Hilliard’s opposite-field drive barely clears the Coors Field fence in left and ties the game; an inning later, Trevor Story will end it with another solo homer to defeat Milwaukee, 3-2, leaving the Brewers a game behind St. Louis with one day to play.

Justin Verlander becomes the 18th pitcher to reach 3,000 career strikeouts—and later, his 3,006th and final K of the year will make him the 18th to earn 300 in a season, as the Astros come back to defeat the Angels at Anaheim, 6-3. With the win, Houston clinches home field advantage for the entire playoffs, including the World Series.

Verlander and Gerrit Cole become the second pair of teammates to each record 300 strikeouts in a season; the other was Arizona’s Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2002. Verlander is also the second pitcher to record both his 3,000th career K and 300th of a season in the same game; the other was Johnson in 2000.

The Nationals and A’s earn home field for next week’s wild card games. Washington piles up nine runs in the second inning—four on Gerardo Parra’s grand slam—to ultimately outlast the visiting Indians, 10-7; Oakland gets a solo homer from Ramon Laureano and five shutout frames from Brett Anderson to edge the Mariners at Seattle, 1-0.

In their loss at Washington, Cleveland connects on four homers—including two from Jordan Luplow—to set a franchise mark for one season with 222. Later out in Phoenix, the Diamondbacks will get two homers from rookie Christian Walker (who knocks in five runs) to tie their team mark of 220. With these achievements, half of MLB’s 30 franchises have either set or tied season home run marks in 2019.

Sunday, September 29
The Cardinals end the last remaining bit of suspense in the upcoming postseason puzzle by clinching the NL Central title with a 9-0 win over the visiting Cubs. All nine of St. Louis’ runs are collected within the first four innings—more than enough for second-half wonder Jack Flaherty, who throws seven shutout innings and becomes only the second pitcher ever to post a sub-1.00 ERA after the All-Star Break.

Before the game, the Cubs announce that manager Joe Maddon—whose contract is expiring after today—will seek a new employer in a decision that is mutually agreed upon by the two parties. Maddon managed five years at Chicago, winning an average of 94 games per season and, most memorably, bringing a championship to Wrigley Field for the first time in 108 years in 2016.

There will be another managerial change in the NL Central as the Pirates’ Clint Hurdle is fired after a disappointing and turbulent 69-93 campaign racked with clubhouse dissension. Hurdle managed nine seasons at Pittsburgh and helped the Bucs break their 20-year streak of losing campaigns with their first of three straight playoff appearances in 2013.

Bruce Bochy pilots the final game of his storied career in San Francisco as the Giants are shut down by the Dodgers, 9-0, to finish off a three-game sweep. A three-time World Series champion with the Giants, Bochy finishes his 25-year MLB career with a 2,003-2,029 record, but he’s not entirely done managing yet; he will take on piloting duties for the French World Baseball Classic team next spring. The win for the Dodgers, meanwhile, gives them a franchise-record 106—though they had better winning percentages in 1953 (.682) and three times before the start of the modern era (1889-90 and 1899).

Though it’s Madison Bumgarner’s turn to pitch, Bochy tells the 10-year Giants ace and soon-to-be free agent to rest up. But Bumgarner does get into the action as a pinch-hitter, lining out against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw—himself making an unusual one-inning relief appearance.

It’s Auld Lang Syne at Arlington’s Globe Life Park, which holds its final major league game to close out 26 seasons of service as the Texas Rangers’ home before bowing to Globe Life Field across the street for 2020. Lance Lynn, wrapping up a superb season for Texas, allows just a run on two hits (one of them an Aaron Judge homer) through 7.1 innings to grab his 16th win and the last ever at the ballpark, 6-1 over the Yankees.

Judge’s homer gives the Yankees 306 for the year—but the Twins will finish the year resetting the bar on team home runs with 307, as they pound out three dingers in a 5-4 loss at Kansas City. Minnesota’s MLB-record total is 40 more than the old mark set by the Yankees last season.

The Rangers finish with a lifetime 1,145-936 record at Globe Life Park.

Gerrit Cole joins fellow Astro Justin Verlander as the first pair of 20-win teammates since 2002, and sets a major league record (within one season) with his ninth straight start striking out 10 or more batters as Houston defeats the Angels, 8-5. Cole goes the minimum five innings and allows one run while striking out 10; his 13.82 K’s per nine innings this season also sets an MLB season mark, previously held by Randy Johnson (13.41 in 2001).

Pedro Martinez still holds the mark for most consecutive games with at least 10 strikeouts with 10—eight at the end of 1999, and two to start 2000. Cole can match that record in his first start of 2020.

Cole’s 16 straight wins to end a season is the longest such streak since Carl Hubbell in 1936; Hubbell would win his first eight of 1937 as well, running up a 24-game streak that remains the majors’ longest ever.

The Astros are the first team not be given a single intentional walk over an entire season since the statistic became official in 1955.

The White Sox help put the Tigers out of their 2019 misery, scoring four times in the sixth to produce a comeback 5-3 victory over Detroit (47-114) in Chicago. Tim Anderson goes 0-for-2 for the White Sox but still leads all major leaguers with a .335 batting average; his 15 walks are the fewest ever accumulated by a batting champion, topping by one the old mark held by Brooklyn’s Zack Wheat in 1918. Meanwhile, the season ends fittingly for the pathetic Tigers; Travis Demeritte strikes out for the final out, and in the process breaks the record for the most K’s suffered by a team in one season with 1,595; the old mark of 1,594 was held by the White Sox from the year before.

After the Tigers, the Orioles finish the year with the majors’ second worst record at 54-108 as they lose in the ninth at Boston, 5-4, on Rafael Devers’ walkoff single. The Orioles lead as late as the sixth inning; had they held on to win, it would have been their first and only sweep of any kind this season.

Monday, September 30
The Angels dismiss first-year manager Brad Ausmus after a forgettable year in which the team finished 72-90—their worst showing since 1999—despite another MVP-level campaign from Mike Trout. Pitching problems, particularly a week rotation exacerbated by the stunning July death of Tyler Skaggs, became the primary problem for Ausmus.


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