This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: September 2022

Here Comes the Judge, Roger Maris    Albert Pujols Enters the 700 Club
New Rules: What’s Changing for 2023    October Welcomes Back the Mariners

August 2022  •  Comebacker Index    October 2022

Thursday, September 1

Atlanta rookie Spencer Strider has a night to remember in a 3-0 win over the Colorado Rockies. Over eight shutout innings, the 23-year-old right-hander allows just two hits and, more ceremoniously, strikes out 16 batters with no walks; the only major league rookie to ever strike out more batters without a pass is Kerry Wood, during his memorable 20-K shutout in 1998. Strider does set the Braves’ mark for strikeouts in a nine-inning game, regardless of status or number of walks.

The Braves’ all-time mark for strikeouts is 18 by Hall of Famer Warren Spahn—though he needed 15 innings to get there in a 1952 marathon.

In what many believe is a preview of the upcoming National League Championship Series, the New York Mets take the rubber match of a three-game series against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-3; it’s the first time in five weeks that the Dodgers have lost consecutive games. The Dodgers start Clayton Kershaw in his first outing in nearly a month; after walking three batters in the first—the third of which forces home the Mets’ first run—he settles in and allows only one hit over five innings. But the Mets rally for a pair of runs in each of the first two frames after Kershaw’s departure, and hold on over the final two innings as closer Edwin Diaz gets the rare role as set-up guy in the eighth, allowing one run (on no hits) but preserving the lead.

Friday, September 2

Yu Darvish strikes out nine, including the 3,000th of his professional career, while throwing seven shutout innings in San Diego’s 7-1 victory over the Dodgers at Los Angeles. Of his 3,003 total K’s, 1,753 have come with MLB teams; the other 1,250 were registered in Japan. For the Dodgers, it’s their first losing streak of three or more games since June 10-12; their season high is four, from May 11-14. It’s also the first time they’ve lost by five or more runs in 228 games, which is by far the longest such streak in MLB history.

In his first major league game, Cincinnati third baseman Spencer Steer becomes the 128th player in MLB history to go deep in his first at-bat, putting the Reds on the board in the fifth inning in advance of a 3-2, come-from-behind home win over the Rockies. Steer walks in his first at-bat, then later adds another walk and a ninth-inning double, scoring the winning run on Jonathan India’s infield single.

Steer is the fourth Reds player to homer in his first at-bat; of the 128 players overall who’ve achieved the feat, 56 have done it since 2000. 

According to STATS, Steer’s 4.000 OPS is the highest ever by a player making his major league debut with a minimum of three plate appearances.

It takes a near-brawl and two walk-off plate appearances—one resulting in a false alarm—but the Chicago White Sox emerge as 4-3 victors over the visiting Minnesota Twins in the start of a crucial weekend series that will help shape the balance of power atop the AL Central. After tying the game in the eighth on Yasmani Grandal’s solo homer, the White Sox rally in the ninth, loading the bases after Andrew Vaughn is plunked on the shoulder by Twins closer Jorge Lopez. But Vaughn isn’t happy about getting hit, and jaws with Lopez on the way to first, initiating a benches-clearing moment that results in nothing more than heated conversation—and an ejection for temp Chicago manager Miguel Cairo, complaining after umpires issue warnings to both dugouts. With the bases loaded, Jose Abreu is next nicked himself on the wrist, forcing home the game-winner—except that video review shows that the ball actually struck the knob of his bat, nullifying the HBP. One pitch later, Abreu hits a slow grounder that the Twins cannot retire Romy Gonzalez (racing home from third) on, and the White Sox finally claim their win.

With the victory, the White Sox close the gap on the second-place Twins by two games; they’re three back of the first-place Cleveland Guardians, who suffer not only a 6-1 home loss on the day to Seattle but the loss of two of their starting pitchers, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale, to the Injured List. Plesac (3-11, 4.39 earned run average) is out with a broken hand, suffered while pounding the mound in frustration after giving up a home run on August 27.

Detroit outfielder/DH Austin Meadows waives the white flag on a miserable first season with the Tigers, saying he needs not only to heal from various issues suffered through the campaign (from regular injuries to COVID to vertigo) but also from mental struggles, as he relates in a statement posted on his Twitter account. After hitting 27 home runs last year for Tampa Bay—and 33 in the full season before that, in 2019—Meadows has not belted a single homer this year in 128 at-bats, while batting .250 for the Tigers.

Saturday, September 3

The White Sox’ Dylan Cease is one out away from the majors’ second individual no-hitter in 2022—but to get that last out, he has to face the Twins’ Luis Arraez, leading the American League in hitting. Arraez wins the battle, poking a line-drive single to right-center on a 1-1 count—but Cease easily wins the war, wrapping up a one-hit shutout as the White Sox destroy the visiting Twins, 13-0. Chicago’s win, coupled with Cleveland’s 4-0 home loss to Seattle, narrows the range between the AL Central’s top three teams to two games—with the first-place Guardians leading the Twins by a game, and the White Sox by two.

Cease is the second pitcher this season who fails to get the final out of a potential no-hitter; St. Louis’ Miles Mikolas, on June 14, was the other.

In a battle between the AL Central’s two bottom feeders, the Royals beat up on the Tigers at Detroit, 12-2, behind four home runs—including the 20th of the year for Bobby Witt Jr., who becomes the fifth player in major league history—and the second this year, after the Mariners’ Julio Rodriguez—to collect both 20 homers and 20 steals in his rookie campaign.

Two other divisional races continue to tighten. The Rays make it two in a row at St. Petersburg against the Yankees with a 2-1 triumph, closing in to within four games of New York in the AL East; and in the NL East, Atlanta (2-1 victors over the visiting Miami Marlins) are just two back of the Mets, who lose to the sadsack Washington Nationals, 7-1. Worse for the Mets, they’re threatened with the possible loss of Max Scherzer, who departs after five innings (allowing just a run) due to a flare-up of his oblique that earlier sidelined him for seven weeks. Scherzer insists after the game that he’ll be ready for his next start—but he actually won’t take the mound again for another 16 days.

Sunday, September 4

Arizona pitcher Zac Gallen continues to pile on the zeroes. In a 5-1 win against the visiting Milwaukee Brewers, the 27-year-old right-hander fires seven more shutout innings, extending his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 41.2; that’s the longest since Zack Greinke threw 46 straight such frames in 2015, and just one inning away from tying the all-time Arizona record set by Brandon Webb in 2007. Gallen does tie a major league mark with his sixth straight start allowing no runs; sharing the record is Greinke (during the noted streak above), Orel Hershiser (1988) and Don Drysdale (1968).

The Braves are now just one game back of the Mets after a rain-interrupted 7-1 home victory over the offensively listless Marlins. The game’s bittersweet turn for Atlanta occurs when a nearly two-hour rain delay puts a halt to a no-hit bid by the Braves’ Max Fried, who throws five hitless innings on just 67 pitches before the tarps are unfurled. Aiding the Braves at the plate is Marcell Ozuna, whose solo homer is his first since a DUI arrest in mid-August.

There have been 11 starts this season made by pitchers in which they allowed no hits through five or more innings. Only one of them, the Angels’ Reid Detmers on May 10, has gone the distance to gain credit for a no-hitter.

The Yankees avoid a sweep by the Rays at St. Petersburg thanks to Aaron Judge, who belts a solo homer in the first inning and scores the eventual game-winner in the seventh as New York pads its AL East lead over Tampa Bay back to five games with a 2-1 victory. Judge’s homer is his 53rd of the year, surpassing the 52 he compiled in his 2017 rookie campaign.

The third time is not going to be the charm for Dallas Keuchel. The Texas Rangers, the former Cy Young Award winner’s third team this year, releases him after he failed to impress in two starts, losing both with a 12.60 ERA. Between the Rangers, White Sox and Diamondbacks this season, Keuchel is 2-9 in 14 starts with a 9.20 ERA.

Monday, September 5

It’s a big day for both the Toronto Blue Jays and Bo Bichette at Baltimore. In the first game of a doubleheader, Bichette’s three singles and two RBIs helps lift Toronto to a 7-3 win—but the 24-year-old shortstop is just warming up. In the nightcap, Bichette blasts three homers, his first being a three-run shot to put the Jays ahead to stay in an 8-4 victory. The sweep gives Toronto more postseason security, extending its lead over the Orioles for the third and final wild card spot by 4.5 games.

Bichette’s hat trick is the first by a major leaguer since the end of June; the 66 days in between without one is the longest drought seen in MLB since 2014, when no one hit three homers after June 9.

With team rosters expanded to 28 players in September (it used to be 40), two pitchers enjoy excellent debuts. In Houston, top Astros prospect Hunter Brown fires six shutout innings, allowing just three hits and a walk to help hand Texas its ninth straight defeat, 1-0. Later out in San Diego, Arizona’s Ryne Nelson—10-5 at Triple-A Reno, but with a 5.43 ERA—gives up a double to the first batter he faces (Jurickson Profar) but then retires the next 17 Padres before Profar doubles off him again. Nelson allows four hits in seven shutout innings as the Diamondbacks ease to a 5-0 win.

The Giants win for the first time in their last nine tries against the Dodgers, hammering out five home runs in a 7-4 victory at Los Angeles. The five jacks are tied for the most the Giants have hit in a road game against the Dodgers, whether the venue is Dodger Stadium or Ebbets Field before it; two of them come off the bat of Lewis Brinson, the former first-round draft pick and back-to-back recipient of TGG’s Worst NL Hitter of the Year (2018-19) who’s looking rejuvenated after a strong stint at the Triple-A level and a trade to the Giants from Houston.

Mark Littell, a reliever for the Royals and Cardinals from 1973-82, passes away at the age of 69. While he was a solid performer, putting together a career 3.32 ERA with 56 saves, Littell is unfortunately best known for serving up the home run Chris Chambliss swatted out to give the Yankees the 1976 AL pennant. Elbow injuries cut Littell’s career short, forcing to step away from the game at age 29.

In our interview with Littell a number of years back, he looked back on the aftermath of the Chambliss moment: “The winter was very hard and every once in a while someone would rip into me. One waiter just lit into me and then they fired him right on the spot, so some people supported me through that time.”

Tuesday, September 6

Minor leaguers take one step closer to becoming unionized. The Major League Baseball Players Association reports that it has received union authorization cards from easily more than 30% of the minor league workforce needed to allow the union to represent them in future talks. If MLB accepts, then bargaining on any future contract can begin. If it doesn’t, then minor leaguers would need to vote on unionization; should 50% say yes, then MLB would be required to bargain with them. For the moment, MLB isn’t saying anything…which might be saying something.

Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich belts what’s officially the longest home run of the year, a 499-foot monster to Coors Field’s second deck of bleachers in right-center field to lead off the first against the Rockies. It’s just the beginning of a typical night at Coors, where no lead is safe; the Rockies tie the game in the eighth with a five-run rally, then come back from a run down in the bottom of the 10th as Randal Grichuk’s 457-foot grand slam wins the game, 10-7.

We have a tie at the top of the NL East. The Mets drop their third straight game, losing at Pittsburgh 8-4—while later out West, the Braves will survive a 10-9 decision over the A’s at Oakland for their sixth straight win. It’s the first time this season that Atlanta has held at least a share of first place; just four weeks earlier, the Braves were seven games back of the Mets.

In the Red Sox’ 8-4 loss at Tampa Bay, shortstop Xander Bogaerts goes hitless in three at-bats, ending a franchise record-tying, nine-game streak with multiple hits. Bogaerts will enter the record books tied with Roy Johnson (1934), Jim Rice (during his 1978 MVP season) and Kevin Youkilis (2007).

The Rangers end a season-long nine-game losing streak, edging the Astros at Houston 4-3 as Mark Mathias scores on Framber Valdez’s seventh-inning wild pitch. Valdez gives up all four Texas runs over 6.2 innings, but is officially gifted with his 23rd straight quality start—three short of the MLB record—because only two of the runs are earned.

Wednesday, September 7

It’s a good day for teams battling in the standings with both New York teams—but it’s an even better day for the Yankees and Mets. That’s because while the Braves, Blue Jays and Rays all win, the Yankees and Mets also win—twice.

The Mets take a doubleheader from the Pirates at Pittsburgh, winning by 5-1 and 10-0 scores; Jacob deGrom throws seven shutout innings in the nightcap for his fifth win in seven starts. Even with Atlanta winning in Oakland, 7-3, the Mets’ daily double gives them a half-game lead back in front of the Braves.

Meanwhile in the Bronx, the Yankees take two as well—upending the Twins in a 5-4, 12-inning battle in the first game before having it easier in the nightcap with a 7-1 triumph, as Gerrit Cole strikes out 14 over 6.2 innings of work. With the sweep, the Yankees ensure a 21st straight winning season series record against Minnesota, the longest active streak by one MLB team against another; since 2001, the Yankees are 96-36 against the Twins—112-38 if you count postseason games.

The Cardinals are the first team this year to win a game after trailing by four or more runs entering the ninth inning. After the visiting Nationals rack up four runs to undo a 1-1 tie in the eighth, the Cardinals respond in kind in the ninth—and do one better, plating five to win 6-5 and increase their lead in the NL Central over Milwaukee to a comfortable 9.5 games with 25 left to play. The walk-off moment occurs when Tommy Edman brings home two baserunners on a deep double.

According to STATS, MLB teams this season had gone 0-817 entering the day when trailing by four or more runs in the ninth.

Thursday, September 8

The Marlins not only snap a nine-game losing skid, they have a rare offensive burst as they rally for two runs in the ninth to overcome the Phillies at Philadelphia, 6-5. It ends a 36-game streak in which Miami scored five or fewer runs in nine innings (they did score six on August 26 against the Dodgers, but that sixth run came in the 10th inning of a 10-6 loss).

The longest streak by a major league team scoring five or fewer runs is 42 games, set by the Braves from 1967-68.

Friday, September 9

Don’t say you didn’t see this coming: After loudly pondering for years about its wish to do so, MLB announces that starting next season, it will institute a pitch clock, defensive shift ban, larger bases and a quota on pickoff attempts per at-bat. (No word on whether the gift runner will return for extra innings in 2023.) Here are the details: Pitchers will have 15 seconds to deliver their pitch with no one on base, and 20 seconds when there are baserunners. Teams must have two infielders on each side of second base, eliminating the shift. Bases will be enlarged from 15 inches to 18. And pitchers will be allowed no more than three pick-off attempts per at-bat.

The rules are approved by a committee consisting of six league executives, four players and an umpire. Curiously, the four players all vote against the pitch clock and shift ban. Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ, who’s not one of those reps, appears to toe the party line when he tells ESPN: “The players’ point of view is that we would rather move slowly and make sure the game looks the way the game looks now and keep making changes if we needed to, in a stricter direction, as opposed to going all the way strict and working backwards from there.” Additionally, Boston reliever Matt Strahm calls the rules “unnecessary” while appearing on a podcast. “It’s frustrating,” Strahm says, “because I would be willing to bet 75-80% of players were willing to talk pitch clock or have a pitch clock, but the fact that they didn’t listen to any input from us players on how to perfect the pitch clock, and they just kind of rolled with what they had down in Triple-A and said, ‘Here it is.’”

Our opinion: A pitch clock is fine with us, since there’s already a rule in the books (Rule 8.04) that’s been ignored for years limiting the time pitchers have to throw a pitch. We do, however, agree with the players on the shift ban; it meddles with defensive strategy, and it rewards hitters for not having to adjust to the situation—and baseball has always been about adjusting. As for the pick-off quota and larger bases, that seems to be an attempt to jumpstart the running game in baseball and make it more exciting. We’ll see.

In another key bit of news out of 1271 Sixth Avenue in New York City, MLB has agreed to accept the inclusion of minor leaguers into the ranks of the major league players’ union. It may not be the ideal choice for MLB, but its backs are against the wall of late with an out-of-court settlement for past and present minor leaguers, and heat coming down from a bipartisan Congressional committee looking into whether to revoke baseball’s antitrust exemption.

It’s a Coors Field Special at Denver. The Rockies take an 8-1 lead over Arizona, immediately relinquish it when the Diamondbacks plate nine in the fifth, then scratch back until Elias Diaz’s three-run homer in the game wins it in the ninth, 13-10. The game features seven RBIs from Diaz, and a 504-foot homer from the Rockies’ C.J. Cron—the longest in the majors this season, eclipsing the 499-foot shot hit by Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich just three days earlier, also at Coors Field.

This is the first time since 2008 that a team gives up nine or more runs in an inning—and still wins. It’s also the 78th time since the opening of Coors Field in 1995 that both teams have scored 10 or more runs in the same game.

For the first time since the season’s first week, the Mets are out of first place in the NL East. New York loses at Miami, 6-3, to drop a half-game behind the Braves—who are triumphant out at Seattle, defeating the Mariners 6-4 behind four home runs.  The Mets were out of first for only one day this season, on April 11.

Saturday, September 10

Albert Pujols connects on his 696th career home run, tying Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the all-time list; that blast, along with an RBI double and single, comes in handy for the Cardinals as they defeat the Pirates at Pittsburgh, 7-5, and maintain their comfortable eight-game lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central. The homer is Pujols’ 33rd at PNC Park, easily the most by any visitor at the Pirates’ 21-year-old ballpark; second on the list is Anthony Rizzo—with 17.

In the Angels’ 6-1 victory at Houston, Mike Trout goes deep for the sixth straight game—breaking a franchise record held since 1977 by Bobby Bonds—while Shohei Ohtani tolerates a blister for five innings, allowing a run and improving to 12-8 on the year. Trout’s 34 homers ranks second in the AL, and although that’s well behind Aaron Judge’s circuit-lapping 55, keep in mind that Trout has only played in 99 of the Angels’ 139 games this season.

Sunday, September 11

A day after tying Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the all-time home run list, Albert Pujols surpasses him with a 403-foot, two-run blast that’s a big part of the Cardinals’ four-run, ninth-inning rally to defeat the Pirates at Pittsburgh, 4-3. Though five players have hit more homers since the All-Star Break than Pujols’ 12, he’s only needed 103 at-bats to collect them—while the other have all logged 160 or more.

Arizona’s Zac Gallen gets the ultimate challenge to his ongoing streak of consecutive scoreless innings thrown: Coors Field. For the first three innings, Gallen has the upper hand at Denver’s mile-high House of Abundant Hitting—retiring the first nine Rockies he faces—before stumbling in the fourth, allowing the first three Colorado batters to reach. All three will eventually score and end Gallen’s streak at 44.1 innings, the longest in Diamondbacks history and the seventh longest in MLB history. Gallen will recover from the one-off off-inning, retiring the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings before he’s removed; he’ll pick up the win as the Diamondbacks use speed as much as the bat to register a 12-6 win, stealing six bases—tied for the most by any team in a game this season.

In one of the most exciting games of the season—certainly one of the most exciting ninth innings—the Mariners walk-off an 8-7 victory over the Braves before a packed house under the retractable roof at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park. Down 6-2, the Braves pack on five runs on a three-run blast from Michael Harris II (his second bomb in as many innings) and a two-run, go-ahead shot by Robbie Grossman. But the Mariners answer back; with one out in the bottom half of the inning, Julio Rodriguez belts his second homer of the day to tie it; two batters later, Eugenio Suarez will go deep for his second time in the game to win it.

Harris and Rodriguez are the first pair of players aged 21 or younger to hit two homers each in the same game.

Cleveland finishes off a three-game sweep of the Twins at Minnesota—and all but finish off the Twins’ postseason hopes with it. Shane Bieber allows just a run over 6.1 innings, while Steven Kwan continues to have a dazzling rookie season with three hits (including his fourth homer) and a stolen base in a 4-1 victory. The Guardians lead the Twins by 4.5 games and the White Sox (10-3 losers at Oakland) by three in the AL Central; Minnesota will get a last-chance shot at playoff relevance (to say nothing of revenge) this coming week as a five-game series between the Twins and Guardians looms back at Cleveland.

In an absolutely tragic incident, former major league reliever Anthony Varvaro, who became a police officer for the New York/New Jersey Port Authority following his playing days, is killed in an auto accident at age 37 while on his way to a 9-11 memorial ceremony on this, the 21st anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America. Varvaro pitched for Seattle, Atlanta and Boston from 2010-15, appearing in 166 games (all in relief) and posting a fine 3.23 ERA. A native of Staten Island, Varvaro became an officer for the Authority soon afterward.

Monday, September 12

The Dodgers become the first team to clinch a postseason spot, but only after they get past Arizona rookie pitcher Ryne Nelson—who shines in his second career start. Nelson throws six scoreless innings against Los Angeles after tossing seven zeroes in his first outing seven days earlier at San Diego; his 13 consecutive scoreless frames to start a career sets a Diamondbacks record. But after his departure, the Dodgers cut loose on the Arizona bullpen, scoring six times over the final three innings to defeat the DBacks, 6-0.

This will be the 10th straight postseason with the Dodgers represented; only the 1991-2005 Braves (14) and 1995-2007 Yankees (13) have made it to October in more consecutive seasons. The Braves’ streak does not take into account the 1994 season, which had no postseason—though had that year’s work stoppage not interfered, Atlanta would have likely still have made it into October.

The Dodgers celebrate their most recent trip to the playoffs…for the second day in a row. They thought they had clinched it the day before and celebrated in the clubhouse, but were then told of one obscure scenario in which, somehow, the Padres come back to win the NL West title and the Dodgers becoming the odd team out via a tiebreaker with the Cardinals. The microscopic odds of that becoming reality vanish with the Los Angeles win at Phoenix.

Mike Trout is now on the doorstep of history alongside Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly and Dale Long. For the seventh straight game, the all-world slugger goes deep, just one short of the mark held by the three aforementioned names, in the Angels’ 5-4 loss at Cleveland. The Guardians’ victory pushes their lead in the AL Central to three games over the idle White Sox.

Tuesday, September 13

Aaron Judge belts a pair of game-tying homers—giving him 57 on the year—and after being intentionally walked in the 10th is one of three baserunners to score on Gleyber Torres’ double that will eventually lead the Yankees to an 8-7 win at Boston. Judge has 20 more homers than the Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber, the guy currently in second place in MLB; no major leaguer has had that big a gap between first and second since the end of the 1928 season, when Babe Ruth’s 54 homers were 23 more than NL co-leaders Jim Bottomley and Hack Wilson.

Mike Trout goes hitless with a walk in four plate appearances—and thus homerless, ending his streak of consecutive games with a home run at seven, one short of the major league record. His Angels lose, again, as Oscar Gonzalez’s tie-breaking two-run homer in the sixth leads to a 3-1 Cleveland win.

A philosophical Trout says after the game, “I just got to start a new streak, I guess.”

The Twins’ Joe Ryan has seven no-hit innings in the books on 106 pitches—too many to continue, believes Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli, who moves on with the bullpen to a chorus of Target Field boos in the Twins’ 6-3 win over Kansas City. The Royals don’t collect their first hit until one out in the ninth, when Bobby Witt Jr.’s double sparks a last-gasp, three-run rally that falls halfway short of its goal. Ryan does try to talk Baldelli out of pulling him, to no avail. Baldelli is thinking less about history and more about trying to reach the postseason—adding that they need to preserve Ryan for an important five-game series with the first-place Guardians this coming weekend.

Miami ace Sandy Alcantara can’t hold onto a slim 1-0 lead in the seventh, surrendering a two-run homer to the Phillies’ Nick Maton that will prove to be the game-winner for Philadelphia in a 2-1 decision. Despite taking the loss, Alcantara does reach one milestone by becoming the first major leaguer this season to surpass 200 innings; it’s the second straight year he’s gotten there, making him the first pitcher since Corey Kluber to log two such straight campaigns over 200. (Kluber actually did it five straight years, from 2014-18.)

Wednesday, September 14

The Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina pair up to break the all-time MLB record for most starts as pitcher and catcher, appearing for the 325th time together to pass the old mark held by Detroit’s Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan. Neither player disappoints; Wainwright allows a run over five innings to pick up his 11th win, while Molina’s second-inning RBI single gives the Cardinals a lead they’ll never relinquish in a 4-1 home victory over Milwaukee before a packed house at Busch Stadium. Albert Pujols caps the St. Louis scoring on the day with an RBI double in the eighth—giving him 2,200 for his Hall-of-Fame career.

Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez hits a lead-off homer in the first and later steals a base to become the third major league rookie ever to collect 25 homers and steals each, joining Mike Trout and Chris Young, in the Mariners’ 6-1 home win over San Diego. Luis Castillo throws six shutout innings for the Mariners, improving his record to 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA over eight starts since being traded from Cincinnati.

Jose Ramirez’s two-run homer in the eighth breaks a tie to give the Guardians a 5-3 victory, increasing Cleveland’s AL Central lead to four games—and ensuring the Angels’ seventh straight losing season with their 82nd loss. That dubious skid is the longest active in MLB, and tied for the longest in Angels history—matching the Halos of 1971-77.

The Mets are swept in a series of three or more games for the first time this season, losing to the visiting Cubs, 6-3. Chicago nets all of their runs in the first inning—five off a highly ineffective David Peterson Despite the sweep, the Mets remain in first place in the NL East by a half-game over the Braves, who succumb to the Giants at San Francisco, 4-1. Interesting to note: Atlanta is the only team left in the majors this season which has yet to be swept in a series of three or more games.

Thursday, September 15

The Tampa Bay Rays honor the late Roberto Clemente on a day named in his honor by fielding the first all-Latin batting lineup in MLB history. It’s not a publicity stunt; with this rollcall, the Rays demolish the Blue Jays at Toronto, 11-0, closing the gap with both the Blue Jays and idle Mariners to a half-game in the race for the #1 AL wild card seed. Randy Arozarena nabs three hits, while Yandy Diaz and Isaac Paredes each hit home runs for the Rays. Earning the win for the Rays is Baltimore-born Shane McClanahan, making his first start in three weeks; he fires five shutout innings to lower his season ERA to 2.13, second in the majors behind Houston’s Justin Verlander.

Friday, September 16

The Astros become the second MLB team (after the Dodgers) to clinch a postseason spot, and they do it in style—riding a three-homer performance from Yordan Alvarez and five no-hit innings from Justin Verlander (making his first appearance in 19 days) to defeat the visiting A’s, 5-0. All three of Alvarez’s homers are solo, and each go at least 430 feet; since Statcast began tracking home run distances in 2015, only Nelson Cruz (during a 2019 game) has managed to hit all three of his round-trippers over just 400 feet. Alvarez is the third player to perform the hat trick multiple times in Houston franchise history, joining Jeff Bagwell (who did it thrice) and Glenn Davis. Verlander, on a short leash as he returns from a calf injury, throws 79 pitches and allows two baserunners on a walk and HBP; it’s the second time this season that he’s thrown at least five no-hit innings before being removed, having tossed six no-hit frames in his second-to-previous start on August 23 against Minnesota. Despite the recent layoff, Verlander still leads the AL with 17 wins—and his 1.78 ERA leads all major leaguers.

Besides Verlander, three other pitchers are given starting assignments on the day without giving up a hit—but fall well short of nine innings to complete a no-hitter. The Dodgers’ Dustin May (five innings at San Francisco) Cincinnati’s Fernando Cruz (1.2 at St. Louis) and Toronto’s Trevor Richards (1.0) each do not allow a hit, though the latter two are ‘openers’ and May, like Verlander, is throwing on a short pitch count after returning from recent injury. Sign of the times.

In a thrilling game at St. Louis, the Cardinals come from behind to defeat the Reds, 6-5, on the strength of Albert Pujols’ 698th career homer, back-to-back RBI doubles in the seventh from All-Stars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, and an immaculate ninth-inning save from Ryan Helsley, who gets all three outs on nine pitches, nine strikes. It’s the 18th save for Helsley, who’s ERA has dropped to a very fine 1.21 as he’s firmly taken over the Cardinals’ closer role. His immaculate inning is the third in St. Louis history, after Bob Gibson in 1969 and Jason Isringhausen in 2002; it’s the fifth accomplished this year by an MLB pitcher.

John Stearns, a fearless, hard-nosed catcher for the Mets during lousy times for the franchise, dies at the age of 71. A gifted athlete who starred as both a catcher and a football safety/punter for the University of Colorado, Stearns was drafted by the Phillies but quickly found himself with the Mets, who were in the midst of a major downslide as owner M. Donald Grant refused to dive head-first into the infant years of free agency. Stearns was named to the NL All-Star team four times, not so much because he was All-Star-worthy but because no one else on those awful Mets teams were worthy of being the sole representative. Still, Stearns was highly respected by his teammates, and he wasn’t afraid to use his football instincts on the field, as he was known to take down opposing players in a brawl, invading fans disrupting the game and, once taking down Braves mascot Chief Noc-A-Hama, because he and his teammates had tired of his pregame dance routine and felt the urge to “clothesline this guy.” For all of the above, Stearns was nicknamed “Bad Dude.” Stearns’ career was cut short by a banged-up throwing arm; in his post-playing days, he did a little bit of everything in the baseball world, from scouting to broadcasting to minor-league managing to instructing.

Saturday, September 17

It took Ozzie Albies three weeks to come back from a broken foot—and just two days to go back on the shelf. The Atlanta second baseman breaks his right pinky while sliding into second base in the fourth inning of the Braves’ 4-3 home win over Philadelphia; he is certainly done for the regular season, and his participation in any part of the upcoming postseason lies in doubt. The Braves notch all of their runs off the bat of Ronald Acuna Jr., who belts a two-run homer in the third and, an inning later, drills a two-run double. The Braves remain one game behind the Mets (5-1 winners at New York against the Pirates) in the NL East—though both teams are tied in the loss column with 55 each.

The Dodgers win their 100th game of the year in their 144th try with a 7-2 decision at San Francisco. It’s the fewest number of games that an MLB team has needed to reach 100 since the 2001 Mariners—and the fewest by a NL team since the 1909 Pirates.

Cleveland takes a giant leap toward the AL Central title with a home doubleheader sweep of the fading Twins by scores of 5-1 and 7-6—the latter contest going 15 innings, the second longest game in the (hopefully) brief gift runner era started in the 2020 pandemic season. After blowing a 5-0 lead late in the nightcap, the Guardians hang through extra innings, exchanging a run with Minnesota in the 13th before rallying for the game-winner in the 15th when Twins shortstop Jermaine Palacios bungles Amed Rosario’s grounder, allowing Austin Hedges to score.

The irony of Rosario’s game-winning at-bat is that it’s not one of the eight hits he accrues during the double-dip. The 26-year-old shortstop has four hits in each game, the first time that’s been done in a doubleheader since Andy Van Slyke in 1994. The eight total hits are the most in a twinbill since the Angels’ Lee Thomas poked out nine in 1961. 

The Guardians leave 20 men on base in the second game, the second most in the gift runner era; the Braves left 22 on base in a September 2020 game lasting 13 innings.

The Cardinals sweep a doubleheader against the visiting Reds, 5-1 and 1-0 (in 11 innings), reducing their magic number to clinch the NL Central to eight. Of note in the second game, however, is the performance of Reds rookie pitcher Hunter Greene, making his first start in nine weeks; the big right-hander strikes out 11 over six shutout innings and throws 47 of his 81 pitches over 100 MPH—the most triple-digit deliveries in a single game since velocities began being officially measured in 2008. The owner of the next three highest totals in a start—at 39, 38 and 38—is also Greene, this season.

Sunday, September 18

Aaron Judge is at the precipice of history on multiple fronts. In the Yankees’ 12-8 win at Milwaukee, the über-slugger belts two home runs to give him 59 on the year—just two shy of Roger Maris’ all-time AL record with 16 games still left to play. Judge’s multi-homer effort is his 11th of the year—tying Hank Greenberg (1938) and Sammy Sosa (1998) for the most in MLB history. Add a double and single to his performance, and Judge’s four hits raise his batting average to .316—leaving him a close third in the AL batting race, trailing Boston’s Xander Bogaerts (also .316) and Minnesota’s Luis Arraez (.317). As he’s already well ahead in the home run and RBI departments, Judge has a credible shot at taking the AL’s triple crown.

The Mets tie a nine-inning major league record (and set a franchise mark) by striking out 20 Pirates in a 7-3 home win. Jacob deGrom nabs 13 of those K’s in just five innings of work, but collapses to start the sixth when the first three Pirates reach base—the last on Oneil Cruz’s three-run homer that ties the game and ends deGrom’s day. The Mets rally for four runs in the eighth inning to seal the victory and remain one game ahead of Atlanta (5-2 home winners against the Phillies) in the NL East.

The 20 strikeouts suffered by the Pirates shatter their previous nine-inning record of 17. 

Only Alex Cobb, in 2013, has struck out as many batters as deGrom in fewer (4.2) innings.

For the fifth time this year, Miami’s Sandy Alcantara goes the distance, allowing a run on seven hits over 103 pitches (77 of them for strikes) in the Marlins’ 3-1 victory at Washington. The five complete games are the most thrown by an MLB pitcher since Corey Kluber and Ervin Santana each tossed five in 2017; no other team this season has thrown more than three.

The Orioles quickly extinguish a big-inning threat at Toronto by fielding the 39th triple play in franchise history, turning the hat trick when the Blue Jays’ Matt Chapman lines out to Jorge Mateo, starting a sequence in which baserunners Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette will be doubled off at second and first, respectively. The play is key to the Orioles’ come-from-behind, 5-4 win, as they rally for three runs in the ninth. The win enhances Baltimore’s thin AL wild card hopes; they’re four games back of current #3 wild card seed Seattle, 5.5 back of #2 Tampa Bay, and six back of #1 Toronto.

Monday, September 19

The Mets are in the postseason for the first time in six years, as Max Scherzer pitches six perfect innings in his first start in 16 days for his 200th career win while Pete Alonso’s three-run homer in the fourth off Brewers ace Corbin Burnes sets the tone for a 7-2 victory at Milwaukee. The Mets still need to clinch the NL East—and they remain only a game ahead of Atlanta, which defeats the visiting Nationals by a 5-2 count.

After just 68 pitches, Scherzer is removed because of the two-week layoff as the Mets are loathe to push him deep into a game with his oblique a chronic issue of late. The Mets’ goal is to have both Scherzer and Jacob deGrom as rested and sharp as possible for the playoffs.

Just three days after clinching their own playoff spot, the Astros do one better and officially claim the AL West for the fifth straight full season—not counting the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, a year in which Houston finished below .500 yet still made it to within one game of the World Series. The champagne pops in the Astros clubhouse following a 4-0 win at Tampa Bay. Jose Altuve hits a leadoff homer in the first, and Luis Garcia throws five shutout innings to improve to 13-8 on the year.

Record-breaking speedster and 1962 NL MVP Maury Wills passes away at his home in Sedona, Arizona at the age of 89. Wills is best known for breaking Ty Cobb’s then-season stolen base record of 96, becoming the first major leaguer to reach triple-digits with 104 steals in 1962. He was such a thorn in opponents’ sides that, in the heat of that year’s pennant race with the Giants, the Dodgers came to Candlestick Park and discovered that the infield had been excessively watered down in an attempt to slow up his speed on the basepaths. Wills led the NL in stolen bases six times—all consecutively, from 1960-65—and finished his career with 586, ranking 20th on the all-time list. After his playing career came to an end, he took up managing with the Seattle Mariners, which not only ended poorly (he won only 26 of 82 games) but created controversy when he was suspended two games in 1981 for telling umpires to extend the batter’s box one foot closer to the mound at the Kingdome; his opposing manager, Oakland’s Billy Martin, sniffed out the ploy and asked the umpires to measure.

Tuesday, September 20

It’s a ninth inning to remember for Yankee fans—and baseball fans in general—as Aaron Judge’s solo homer, igniting a five-run, game-winning rally, makes him the sixth player in MLB history to reach 60 in a season. He’s just one behind Roger Maris’ AL-record 61 from 1961. For the Bronx crowd of 40,000, the euphoria doesn’t end there. After the Yankees load the bases with a double, walk and single, Giancarlo Stanton steps to the plate and sends a wicked line drive over the left-field fence, giving New York a 9-8 walk-off win over the visiting Pirates. It’s the second walk-off slam by the Yankees this year, each hit while trailing by three runs; the only other team to do that twice in a season was the 1956 Pirates, with one of those hit by Roberto Clemente on an inside-the-park slam—the only walk-off slam in MLB history.

The Rangers pull off their second triple play of the year, denying the Angels from turning an already productive sixth inning (three runs scored) into a monster one. The three outs are recorded when Max Stassi’s sharp grounder is scooped up at third by rookie third baseman Josh Jung, who begins the around-the-horn sequence. It’s not enough for Texas, who lose at Arlington, 5-2.

The other triple play pulled off by the Rangers came on April 20 at Seattle against the Mariners; Texas lost that game, too, 4-2.

Canada announces that it will no longer bar unvaccinated major leaguers from coming to Toronto to take on the Blue Jays, as part of a nationwide relaxation of COVID restrictions that was in affect for over two years.

The Blue Jays will likely play into October as they increase their lead for the #1 AL wild card seed by two games at Philadelphia with an 18-11 victory, a game that sets the Citizens Bank Park record for most runs scored by both teams combined.

Wednesday, September 21

The eyes of Baseball continue to be trained on the Yankees and, more specifically, Aaron Judge—but it’s his teammates who steal the limelight in a 14-2 home rout of the Pirates. While Judge does have a good night—ripping two doubles with a walk—he does not tie Roger Maris’ AL season home run record. But in the first inning, the Yankees get a grand slam from rookie outfielder Oswaldo Cabrera; it’s the first time in MLB history that a team has hit a slam in the first inning of a game following a walk-off slam (Giancarlo Stanton) the night before. Later, in the midst of an eight-run explosion in the eighth, Gleyber Torres becomes the fifth Yankee with multiple homers in one inning.

It’s a painful but historic night for the Mets, who bow to the playoff-chasing Brewers at Milwaukee, 6-0. New York collects only four hits, but they do get three additional baserunners via hit-by-pitch; the last one drilled, Luis Guillorme in the ninth, is the 106th Met plunked on the year—breaking the one-year-old MLB season record held by the Reds.

Mets manager Buck Showalter, who’s been complaining about the frequency of hit batters this year, nevertheless asks for the record-breaking ball after Guillorme is plunked.

The Padres’ Blake Snell takes a no-hit bid into the seventh at San Diego against St. Louis when the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols breaks it up with a two-out single; he’ll give up another hit before calling it a night with seven shutout innings and 13 strikeouts, earning the victory in a 1-0 win. Snell, who’s been averaging 18.3 pitches per inning in 2022, compiles 117 total throws on the night—tied for the eighth most in a game this season.

The Royals, on their way to their sixth straight losing season as they near 100 losses for the third time in those six years, fire President of Baseball Operations Dayton Moore as ownership cites a lack of progress. Moore was considered the key builder of the successful Royals teams of the mid-2010s, building astutely from within and winning consecutive pennants, the last resulting in the franchise’s second World Series triumph when it toppled the Mets in 2015. General manager J.J. Picollo will take over Moore’s spot.

Thursday, September 22

Kolten Wong drills three home runs and knocks in all five runs for the Brewers in their 5-1 victory at Cincinnati, keeping them 2.5 games behind Philadelphia for the third and final NL wild card spot. It’s the 22nd hat trick by a Brewers player, and the first since Christian Yelich in 2019; Milwaukee nets only other hit on the night, a single by Willy Adames.

Seattle rookie George Kirby is shaky for arguably the first time this season, ending an MLB-record streak of 22 starts to begin a career allowing no more than one walk as he concedes three passes in just 2.1 innings at Oakland. Worse, he allows five runs on seven hits to end his day early. From there, the news gets much better for the Mariners, who come from behind after Kirby’s departure and score six unanswered runs to defeat the A’s, 9-5.

Before Kirby, the record holder for the most consecutive starts to begin a career allowing no more than one walk (openers omitted) was Bill Swift, with 10 in 1932.

The Guardians finish off a three-game sweep at Chicago over the White Sox and are in excellent position to wrap up their fourth AL Central title in their last seven years. Shane Bieber tosses 7.2 solid innings while Jose Ramirez knocks in two runs to give him 117 RBIs on the year as Cleveland takes a 4-2 win and reduces its magic number for clinching the division to four. The Guardians have won 10 of their last 12 games combined against the White Sox and Twins, who are second and third (respectively) in the AL Central.

In a 3-2 win at Pittsburgh, Cubs rookie Hayden Wesneski completes the team’s first immaculate inning (nine pitches, nine strikes, three outs) since 2004 when he sits down Jack Suwinski, Zack Collins and Jason Delay. All pitches are thrown within the zone (meaning the Pirates aren’t chasing), all but one are below 90 MPH, and the final strike on all three batters are sliders. But perhaps more eye-opening than Wesneski’s inning, the fifth accomplished in Cubs history, is that it’s the fifth caught by catcher Yan Gomes, which although not verified must be an MLB record—given that there have been 111 immaculate frames thrown in the 147 years of major league history that we know of.

The Yankees clinch their 65th postseason spot—the most in MLB history—as they down the Red Sox at New York in 10 innings, 5-4. Harrison Bader’s sac fly in the eighth ties the game; Josh Donaldson’s single in the 10th wins it. Aaron Judge is 0-for-2 with three walks, striking out and sending a deep fly that’s caught at the center-field wall as he remains one homer behind Roger Maris for the most in AL season history.

Friday, September 23

Albert Pujols takes care of business on a historic night in Los Angeles. The once-and-current Cardinals slugger opens the scoring with a two-run homer in the third inning; it’s his 699th career shot, his 200th against a left-hander (the Dodgers’ Andrew Heaney) and his 1,400th extra-base hit. In his next at-bat an inning later, Pujols launches his 700th big fly—and his 500th off a right-handed pitcher (Phil Bickford) to up St. Louis’ lead to 5-0 in what will ultimately end in an 11-0 rout. Pujols’ milestone blast makes him the fourth MLB player to reach 700; the others, of course, are Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714). Additionally, Pujols is the first player born outside of America to reach 700; neither he nor Aaron have ever hit 50 or more in a season.

This is the fourth multi-homer game this season for Pujols, all after turning 42 years of age. Other players with two homers in a game aged 42 and over are Bonds (three times), Carlton Fisk (twice), and Enos Slaughter, Darrell Evans, Dave Winfield and Julio Franco (one each). 

The unnamed fan who catches Pujols’ 700th ball gets the ball authenticated by MLB officials, turns down several efforts by the Cardinals to hand the ball over to Pujols, and leaves Dodger Stadium before the game ends with prized possession in hand. Pujols is diplomatic in his public response to the decision, saying after the game that “souvenirs are for the fans.”

A day after Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley throws MLB’s fastest pitch of the 2022 season at 104 MPH, Giants closer Camilo Doval matches him on his second-to-last pitch of the night, a cutter that misses outside the plate. Doval will wrap up the save in a 6-5 victory at Arizona, the fifth straight for San Francisco as they try to salvage a .500 campaign after winning a franchise-record 107 games in 2021.

The game is noted for the return of pitcher Shelby Miller, who’s struggled for seven years to return to his early-career form with the Cardinals and Braves. Pitching against the Diamondbacks—who acquired him from Atlanta in 2015 in exchange for Dansby Swanson—Miller pitches 2.2 shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out seven. No Giants reliever has ever struck out that many in as many innings or less.

Saturday, September 24

Atlanta’s Kyle Wright becomes MLB’s first—and likely only—20-game winner of 2022, going 5.1 innings to secure the score in the Braves’ 6-3 win at Philadelphia. The achievement is all the more impressive for Wright, considering that he came into the year having won just two career games over bits of four seasons; he’s Atlanta’s first 20-game winner since Russ Ortiz won 21 in 2003.

Framber Valdez’s bid to equal the major league mark for consecutive quality starts fails as he gets bumped about by the Orioles at Baltimore. The burly southpaw still has a shot to get in the six innings with three or fewer earned runs allowed as he enters the sixth, but he concedes one more run and is relieved with one out. Valdez’s final line on the night is 5.1 innings with seven runs allowed (four earned) on 11 hits; though his 25 straight quality starts is an MLB record within one year, he falls one game short of the overall mark shared by Bob Gibson (1967) and Jacob deGrom (2018). Despite Valdez’s off night, the Astros still survive the Orioles, rallying for four runs in the ninth and holding on to triumph, 11-10. It’s Houston’s 100th win of the year, the fifth time it has reached triple digits; three of the four previous such seasons came from 2017-19.

The Mariners extend pitcher Luis Castillo, who they acquired from Cincinnati at this year’s trading deadline, for five years and $108 million. The 29-year-old right-hander has a career 47-55 record, a deceiving mark considering his 3.57 ERA over 146 starts; so far in 2023, he’s 7-6 with a 2.83 figure. Castillo was due for his last year of arbitration in 2023 before becoming a free agent.

Sunday, September 25

Miami manager Don Mattingly announces before his team’s 6-1 loss against the visiting Nationals that he will not be returning to the Marlins for the 2023 season. The decision is said to be a mutual one between the Marlins and Mattingly, who’s been the longest serving manager in franchise history, leading the team for seven years—with only one ending in a winning record, and that was a 31-29 mark in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. Combined with his five previous years managing the Dodgers, Mattingly career’s managerial record is 883-947.

The Guardians are officially clinched as the AL Central’s top dog, taking the division for the first time since winning three straight titles from 2016-18 with a 10-4 victory at Texas. Rookie Steven Kwan starts the scoring with an RBI single in the third, then caps it with an eight-inning grand slam. Cleveland looks to be in position to get the #3 seed in the AL playoffs, which will force it into the first (pre-ALDS) round along with the three wild card teams in the expanded MLB postseason bracket.

The Mariners are still four games ahead of the Orioles for the AL’s final wild card spot, but a loss like the one they suffer to the Royals at Kansas City is bound to give them extended heartburn. With eight runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth, the Mariners take an 11-2 lead and seem to have the game well in hand—but the Royals, who once infamously erased an 11-0 lead in 2002 against an Oakland team attempting to set a then-AL record for consecutive wins, score 11 in the bottom of the sixth to take a 13-11 lead. (Five Seattle walks help the Royals’ cause.) The Mariners can only scratch one more run on the board before bowing, 13-12.

The 11-run outburst is the most by the Royals in an inning since 2004.

The Mets maintain their 1.5-game NL East lead over the Braves behind six more sharp innings from Max Scherzer, and slugger Pete Alonso—who drives in five runs and sets a franchise mark with 128 on the year in a 13-4 rout of the A’s at Oakland. Scherzer improves his season record to 11-4 and lowers his ERA to 2.13, which is good enough to lead the league—but because of several oblique injuries, he won’t have enough innings to qualify for the league title.

Monday, September 26

Bryce Elder adds his name to the long list of Atlanta rookies who’ve been thriving for the Braves in 2022. At Washington, the 23-year-old right-hander throws the first shutout by an Atlanta rookie pitcher since Paul Marak in 1990, scattering six hits and a walk in the Braves’ 8-0 wipeout of the Nationals. Elder needs 106 pitches to complete the gem; he had gone eight starts without a win, which was notched in his debut outing back on April 12—also against Washington. With the loss, the Nationals become the first team—and likely not the last—to suffer 100 defeats on the year. It’s the fifth time that the Expos/Nationals franchise has hit triple-digits in losses, and the third time since the team moved to Washington; it lost 100-plus in consecutive seasons from 2008-09. The Nats aren’t in danger of setting the club record for losses, which is 110 in the ballclub’s inaugural 1969 campaign in Montreal.

Tuesday, September 27

The Yankees clinch their 14th AL East title over their last 27 seasons—but only their second in their last 10—with a 5-2 victory against the second-place Blue Jays at Toronto. New York will represent the #2 seed in the AL playoff bracket, earning a bye during the wild card round.

While the Yankees take the win and the division, Aaron Judge is becoming increasing avoided by opposing pitchers as he remains stalled in his attempt to tie Roger Maris’ AL season home run record. In each of his five appearances against the Blue Jays, Judge draws the count full—and ends up walking four times; with his one official at-bat, Judge lines out to third. Interestingly, there’s no walks in the game by any other player on either team.

The Cardinals also celebrate in the clubhouse, taking their 12th NL Central title in the Wild Card Era (since 1994) with a 6-2 win over the divisional rival Brewers at Milwaukee. St. Louis will likely own the #3 seed in the NL bracket, meaning they’ll have to participate in the wild card round against the #6 seed—which may be the Brewers, who are 1.5 games behind the Phillies for the final spot.

In throwing the final two innings to secure the St. Louis win, closer Ryan Helsley deals the year’s fastest pitch, at 104.2 MPH—just five days after he had thrown the previous high of 104.0 MPH, a velocity matched a day after that by the Giants’ Camilo Doval.

For the fifth time this year, the fourth time this month and the third time in just his last four games, Baltimore’s Anthony Santander goes deep twice in a 13-9 loss at Boston. The switch-hitter ties Ken Caminiti’s 1996 record of hitting homers from both sides of the plate four times. With six home runs over his last four games, Santander also matches Luke Scott (2009), Albert Belle (2000) and Ken Williams (1922) for the most over a similar stretch of games in Orioles/Browns history.

Another major league record is tied on the day, though Miami pitcher Richard Bleier would prefer it be someone else. After Jeff McNeil singles for the host Mets in the eighth inning, the Marlins’ reliever balks him to second—then third, and finally home. Bleier, who had never committed a balk over 296.1 previous career innings at the major league level, thus sets an MLB record for most balks in an inning shared by six other players—and is the first to do it within a single at-bat. First base umpire John Tumpane calls all three balks, incurring the wrath of Bleier and Miami manager Don Mattingly; both are ejected as they strenuously argue the calls. The Marlins survive Bleier’s balk-o-rama to defeat the Mets, 6-4; with the loss, New York is tied with the Braves at the top of the NL East with identical 97-58 records.

Pete Alonso is responsible for three of the Mets’ four runs, drilling his 40th homer in the fourth inning. He’s the first Mets player with multiple seasons of 40 or more.

The Guardians bow to the visiting Rays in 11 innings, 6-5, but not without watching one of their own, reliever Enyel De Los Santos, achieve the fourth immaculate inning in franchise history. The 26-year-old right-hander, in his only frame of relief after the departure of starter Shane Bieber, retires Christian Bethancourt, Jose Siri and Taylor Walls on a combined nine pitches, all of them strikes. It’s the sixth immaculate inning to be thrown in MLB this season—and the third in just the past 12 days.

Wednesday, September 28

Sixty-one years and 61 Aaron Judge homers in 2022 later, Roger Maris finally has company in the record book under “most season home runs in American League history.” In his fourth plate appearance of the night at Toronto, Judge—who earlier walks, flies out and grounds out—lacerates a drive off Blue Jays pitcher Tim Mayza well over the left-field wall, ricocheting off the facing below the first row of bleachers and into the Toronto bullpen to tie Maris’ mark. Of all of the blasts Judge has hit this year, this one is the hardest—leaving his bat at 117.4 MPH; the two run-shot breaks a 3-3 tie in the seventh, as the Yankees roll from there to an 8-3 victory.

Two fans seated in the first row of the bleachers reach well over the railing in vain to try and scoop up Judge’s searing drive; had one of them managed to grab it, it would have potentially netted them hundreds of thousands of dollars on the auction block. Instead, it caroms down to the Jays’ bullpen, where the ball is held onto until the Yankees send reliever Zack Britton—whom Toronto ballplayers recognize—to collect the ball on Judge’s behalf.

In his postgame presser, Judge is asked if he felt relaxed before hitting #61. “Of course,” he replies, “I’m playing a kid’s game.”

Roger Maris Jr., son of the 1961 home run champ and present at Rogers Centre for Judge’s 61st, says that a 62nd homer from the Yankee bopper would make him the true home run season king, stating that the home run totals racked up in the Steroid Era by Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa were all illegitimate. “I think most people (think they were),” he adds.

The Dodgers set the all-time franchise record for season wins, notching their 107th of the year at San Diego over the Padres in a 1-0, 10-inning victory. The decisive tally occurs when Freddie Freeman collects his MLB-leading 192nd hit to bring home Mookie Betts—hopefully one of the last gift runners we will ever see.

The dominance of the Dodgers over the past four years has been impressive, to say the least. The old record of 106 season wins was accomplished twice—both during MLB’s last two full seasons, 2019 and 2021. In between, during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, the Dodgers were 43-17 for a higher win percentage of .717. The Dodgers need to win at least four of their remaining seven games to set another team mark for the highest win percentage in a full season (.682, on a 101-47 record in 1899).

Thursday, September 29

Many folks believe that triple crown threat Aaron Judge has already wrapped up the AL MVP, but Shohei Ohtani says not so fast, my friends. The two-way superstar walks his first batter at Anaheim against the A’s, then retires 23 in a row before conceding his first hit of the night to end a no-hit bid with two outs in the eighth. Ohtani will finish the frame and get credit for the win, a 4-2 Angels victory; he improves his season record to 15-8 and lowers his ERA to 2.35. At the plate, his two singles extend his hitting streak to 14 games, the longest active run in the majors.

For Oakland, the loss is its 100th of the year—something not unexpected given the front office’s total depletion of top talent before and during the season. This is the 16th 100-loss campaign for the franchise that began in 1901; no other MLB team has suffered that many triple-digit loss totals during the same period. It is, however, only the second time that the A’s have lost 100 in the 55 years they’ve been stationed at Oakland; the other occurrence took place in 1979, when a similarly gutted-out roster (courtesy of mercurial owner Charles Finley) lost 108.

The Blue Jays clinch a spot in the postseason without moving an inch, as they sit idle on the day while the fading Orioles are defeated at Boston, 5-3—mathematically ensuring Toronto’s first trip to the playoffs (the expanded 2020 tournament not included) since 2016. Tampa Bay could have also clinched, but it bows at Cleveland, 2-1; Seattle’s 10-9, 11-inning triumph over the visiting Rangers reduces its magic number to nabbing its first postseason spot since 2001—and eliminating the Orioles—to one.

Friday, September 30

The Mariners are in the postseason for the first time since winning 116 games in 2001, and they have Cal Raleigh to thank. Pinch-hitting in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, no one on base and a 3-2 count against the visiting A’s, the 25-year-old catcher lifts a high fly down the right-field line and into the stands, sending the sellout crowd at T-Mobile Park into delirium as he crosses the plate to wrap a 2-1 walk-off victory.

Raleigh is the 10th player in MLB history to secure a postseason spot for his team with a game-winning homer. The first and best-known player to make the list is Bobby Thomson with his 1951 ‘Shot Heard ‘Round the World’ for the New York Giants.

With Seattle’s reservation for the playoffs assured, the pro sports team in North America with the longest active playoff drought now belongs to basketball’s Sacramento Kings, who last appeared in the NBA playoffs in 2006.

The Mariners’ entry into the postseason—coupled with Tampa Bay’s clinching of its fourth consecutive playoff spot with a 7-3 win at Houston—officially knocks Baltimore out of the October conversation. But all is not lost on the day for the Orioles. They ride Jordan Lyles’ seven excellent innings to edge the Yankees at New York, 2-1; it’s the Orioles’ 81st win of the year, thus ensuring their first non-losing record in six years. Baltimore will be the first MLB team in the modern era to finish at .500 or above a year after losing 110 games.

The Braves win Round One of a crucial three-game series in Atlanta against the Mets. Austin Riley and Matt Olson hit back-to-back homers against New York ace Jacob deGrom in the second to give the Braves a lead they will never relinquish, ultimately prevailing by a 5-2 score. Max Fried goes the minimum five innings to pick up his 14th win for Atlanta, while deGrom surrenders three runs (all of them solo homers) over six innings, otherwise striking out 11 with no walks.

The Tigers are shut out for the 22nd time this season, the most for an AL team since the 1973 introduction of the designated hitter, as the Twins’ Joe Ryan and two relievers blank Detroit on six hits in a 7-0 decision.

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