What’s Happening in Baseball Today

The First Pitch: September 27, 2023

One of the greatest players—and greatest guys—within the sport of baseball has left us with the news that Hall-of-Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson has passed at the age of 86. 

Understandably nicknamed “Mr. Oriole,” Robinson first put on a Baltimore jersey late in 1955—the team’s second year in Charm City after moving from St. Louis—and remained with the O’s all the way through 1977, leaving millions of witnesses astonished with his remarkable display of defensive skills at third base that earned him 16 Gold Gloves, all consecutively; only pitcher Greg Maddux (with 18) has won more. 

The peak of Robinson’s defensive wizardly was on full display during the 1970 World Series, when he made one fantastic play after another as he helped lead the Orioles to a five-game triumph over the Cincinnati Reds. He didn’t just field brilliantly during that postseason, but he hit pretty well to boot—collecting 16 hits (six for extra bases) in 33 at-bats over eight playoff games, taking the World Series MVP. 

Offensively, Robinson racked up 2,848 career hits, 268 home runs, 1,357 RBIs, 15 All-Star appearances and the 1964 AL MVP, when he posted personal bests with a .317 average, 28 homers and 118 RBIs. He ranks second on the franchise all-time lists in hits, runs, doubles and RBIs; he’s fourth in home runs. 

In our interview with Robinson back in 2020, he talked about his approach to fielding: “My goal was to be aggressive and not wait for the ball. I was always working to get a jump on the ball by anticipating where it was headed. I was blessed with decent hand-eye coordination, and seemed to have a sense where the ball was going to be hit.” 

The Cubs blow a monumental chance to improve their NL wild card chances by blowing a 6-0 lead at Atlanta—with the Braves’ final two runs in their 7-6 comeback victory delivered courtesy of Sean Murphy’s catchable, two-out fly ball in the eighth completely missed by Chicago right fielder Seiya Suzuki. The loss not only drops the Cubs into the third (and final) NL wild card spot barely over the Marlins (rained out) and Reds (11-7 winners at Cleveland), but clinches the NL Central for the Brewers (who lose to St. Louis, 4-1), and reduces to one the magic number for the Braves’ controlling home field advantage for the entire postseason. 

The Braves’ rebound includes their 300th home run of the year, belted by Ronald Acuna Jr. (his 41st); they’re the third team to hit 300 in a year, along with the Twins and Yankees from 2019.  

Editor’s Note: We stupidly spaced a week ago when we prematurely declared the Brewers NL Central champions; they actually clinched a postseason spot on that day. Apologies.

The AL West race tightens up as the first-place Rangers are clubbed by the Angels at Anaheim, 9-3, while third-place Seattle closes to within three games of Texas—and more importantly, a half-game of Houston, holding the third AL wild card spot—with a 6-2 home win over the Astros. Mariners starter George Kirby throws six shutout innings and survives a bizarre moment when a foul ball is thrown from the crowd back at him, scraping his chest. (The mom of the teenager who threw the ball was not happy.)

The Rockies lose the second game of a doubleheader against the visiting Dodgers, 11-2, and suffer their 100th loss of the year—the first time they’ve ever reached triple digits in defeats over their 31-year history. They had earlier staved off the inevitable with a 4-1 win in the first game. In the nightcap, the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman strokes his 58th double of the season as he continues his quest to become baseball’s first 60-double guy since 1936

Colorado isn’t the only team setting a futility mark on the day. The A’s are blasted at Minnesota, 11-3, for their 109th loss of the year—setting the Oakland record previously held by the 1979 team which drew 300,000 fans to the Coliseum during the dying last days of Charlie Finley’s tumultuous tenure. The Twins are propelled by Matt Wallner’s first-inning grand slam, the sixth this year by a Minnesota rookie to snap an MLB record.

Congrats, Your Box Score Line Was the Best (Hitters Edition)

5-3-3-6—Christian Walker, Arizona
The 32-year-old first baseman crushed it at Chicago against the White Sox, belting two homers and a triple in the Diamondbacks’ 15-4 rout. The big night gives Walker 33 homers and 103 RBIs, his first season over the century mark.

Congrats, Your Box Score Line Was the Best (Pitchers Edition)

8.2-3-0-0-3-7—Seth Lugo, San Diego
A somewhat wobbly ninth kept the Louisiana native an out way from his first career shutout (and complete game), as a couple baserunners and 123 pitches were too much for Padres skipper Bob Melvin to let him continue for even one more batter—even as he likely faced six months of rest before his next outing—in an eventual 4-0 win at San Francisco. The win gives Lugo eight for the year on 146.1 innings—both career-high marks.

It Was Whatever-Something Years Ago Today

1914: In his second-to-last game as a member of the Cleveland team named after him, Nap Lajoie collects his 3,000th hit in the Naps’ 5-3 home victory over the Yankees. He’s the third player, after Cap Anson and Honus Wagner, to reach the milestone. 

1953: The St. Louis Browns play their final game before moving to Baltimore, dropping a 2-1, 11-inning decision to the White Sox before 3,174 fans at Sportsman’s Park. The loss caps another miserable season for the Browns—their 40th below .500 in 52 years, their eighth with 100-plus losses, and a year in which they lose an AL-record 20 straight home games. 

1963: The fledgling Houston Colt .45s, well established as the ninth-place team in their second NL season, field an all-rookie lineup against the Mets, losing 10-3. Despite the gimmick, the lineup in later years won’t sound so bad; it includes Joe Morgan, Rusty Staub, Jim Wynn and Jerry Grote. It also features starting pitcher Jay Dahl, who makes his major league debut at 17, and outfielder Aaron Pointer—whose siblings will eventually make it in show biz as the Pointer Sisters. The average age of the starting lineup is 19. 

1973: In his last start of the year, the Angels’ Nolan Ryan goes the distance—all 11 innings—and strikes out 16 to total 383 on the year to surpass, by one, Sandy Koufax’s all-time season record in a 5-4 victory. The record-breaker comes with the last batter he faces, the Twins’ Rich Reese. 

1998: Roy Halladay, making his first major league start, is one out away from a no-hitter when the Tigers’ Bobby Higginson belts a home run to ruin it. He’ll get the final out in Toronto’s 2-1 home win. 

1999: Tiger Stadium hosts its final game as Detroit defeats the Royals 8-2 before a packed house. The Tigers’ Robert Fick hits the last home run, an eighth-inning grand slam that reaches the outfield rooftop. 

2012: Detroit pitcher Doug Fister sets an AL mark by striking out nine straight batters in the Tigers’ 5-4 home win over the Royals. Fister collects only one other K over 7.2 innings of work, for which he does not get credit for the win. 

2022: After allowing a single to the Mets’ Jeff McNeil, Miami reliever Richard Bleier, who in 296.1 previous career innings had committed only three balks, matches that total in the next at-bat as McNeil is gifted 90 feet three times to score. Though six other players have previously balked three times in an inning, none of them committed all three in a single at-bat. Bleier, along with Miami manager Don Mattingly, will both get ejected after arguing the calls; the Marlins overcome the triple whammy and win at home, 6-4.

You Say It’s Your Birthday

Winner of 136 games Jon Garland is 44; 6’11” reliever Jon Rauch is 45; 2000s pitcher Vicente Padilla is 46; Hall-of-Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt is 74. Born on this date is four-time All-Star pitcher Whit Wyatt (1907) and 1920s Negro Leagues outfielder Jelly Gardner (1895).

A special Bushers Birthday Salute to catcher Mike Loan, whose lone major league appearance—at age 17—came with the 1912 Phillies, knocking out a hit in two at-bats in a 7-3 loss to the Cardinals on September 18.

Shameless Link of the Day

The A’s 109th loss yesterday is tied for the second-worst total in franchise history; here’s the story of their first 109-loss campaign, and how it came so abruptly after a period of greatness under long-time A’s manager Connie Mack.

Remembering Ed

Eric Gouldsberry’s heartfelt tribute to late TGG co-founder Ed Attanasio has been posted. Read about this wonderful, giving and entertaining man, who left us too soon.

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