The Month That Was in Baseball: September 2023
Friday, September 1
The New York Yankees make home run history on two fronts in their 6-2 win over the Astros and Justin Verlander at Houston. In his first big-league at-bat, Jasson Rodriguez—nicknamed The Martian because a scout once said his batting skills were “out of this world”—goes deep on his first swing, becoming the youngest Yankee (at 20 years, 206 days) to hit a homer in his first at-bat. He’s also be the first Yankee to do so in his initial at-bat since Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin both did it on the same day in 2016. Speaking of Judge, he’ll also send a noteworthy drive over the wall in the fifth inning with his 250th career homer, setting the mark for the fewest number of games (810) needed to reach the milestone. It’s also Judge’s 30th homer of the year, in just 81 games as he’s been sidelined by a number of injuries thus far in 2023.
The Astros’ loss deprives them of an opportunity to take sole possession of first place in a very tight AL West race. Houston remains tied with Seattle (defeated by the Mets at New York, 2-1) and a game ahead of Texas (who suffers a 5-1 loss at home to Minnesota).
Miguel Cabrera raps out two singles to pass Robin Yount and tie George Brett for 18th on the all-time list with 3,154, as his Detroit Tigers defeat the White Sox at Chicago, 4-2. Starting the final full month of his Hall-of-Fame career, Cabrera can also surpass Adrian Beltre (3,166) and, more ambitiously, Cal Ripken Jr. (3,184) on the list before he retires.
MLB officials announce that the pitch clock will be used in the upcoming postseason as is, with no alterations. Players had argued for a little extra time to “breathe” in the more stressful playoff environment, but MLB claims that the clock is working just fine and should continue to do so in October. The good news is that the dreaded gift runner will, for the moment, remain abolished for the postseason—and pure baseball will become a thing again.
A few weeks later, MLB will also state that the pitch clock will be overseen by “neutral” operators who will not have worked the clock during regular season games involving teams in the postseason.
Saturday, September 2
Three years after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic that almost wiped away an entire season of baseball, the current version of the virus has struck the Cincinnati clubhouse as four Reds pitchers—including Sunday’s scheduled starter Brandon Williamson—have come down sick with the virus. The other three are fireballer Hunter Greene and relievers Ben Lively and Fernando Cruz. All four players—and several “support staff” members of the club who’ve also been infected—must remain apart from the team for a minimum of seven days before being cleared to return.
With the handicapped staff, there’s another breakout of a good kind as the Reds, blanked for eight shutout innings by the Cubs’ Javier Assad, rally for two runs in the bottom of the ninth to triumph at home, 2-1. The win puts the Reds in a mathematical tie with San Francisco and Arizona for the third NL wild card spot.
There are some changes at or near the top of the all-time Statcast leaderboard. At Colorado, Rockies center fielder Brenton Doyle catches a fly ball and, with Toronto’s Davis Schneider ready to tag from third base, launches a throw timed at 105.7 MPH—the fastest ever recorded since the Statcast’s debut in 2015, barely edging a 105.5-MPH toss from Aaron Hicks in 2016. Schneider, wisely, sticks at third base. Doyle’s less noteworthy but bigger contribution on the night occurs in the fifth when his bases-loaded triple puts the Rockies ahead to stay in an 8-7 victory over the Blue Jays.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Ronald Acuna Jr. launches a 454-foot solo homer which sails at 121.2 MPH—the third-fastest round-tripper in Statcast annals—to give the Braves a 1-0 lead in the third inning; Orlando Arcia’s three-run bomb in the 10th will be the bigger blow for Atlanta, which makes it three in a row over the Dodgers with a 4-2 win—the Braves’ 90th of the year against 45 losses.
Miguel Cabrera has his 49th career four-hit game, and his first since 2021, surpassing George Brett for 18th on the all-time hit list with 3,158 as the Tigers dismantle the White Sox at Chicago, 10-0.
Sunday, September 3
In the Mets’ 6-3 home win over Seattle, Pete Alonso belts two home runs to become the fifth major leaguer to have 40 homers at least three times over his first five years. The others are Ralph Kiner (who did it four times) Eddie Mathews, Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols. No other player has ever hit 40 or more twice while wearing the Mets jersey. Alonso’s four RBIs gets him over 100 for, also, the third time in his career; only David Wright, with five, has done it in more seasons for the Mets.
The loss for the Mariners is the first they’ve suffered by more than two runs since July 19—a stretch of 40 games.
The Phillies maintain their 2.5-game lead for the #1 NL wild card spot with a 4-2 victory at Milwaukee, but also see the end of Trea Turner’s five-game streak with at least one home run—which had tied a Philadelphia record accomplished seven previous times, including twice by Chase Utley in 2018. Turner does grab two singles to extend his hitting streak to 14 games, the longest active streak in the majors.
It’s a three-game sweep for the A’s, outlasting the still-sinking Los Angeles Angels at Oakland, 10-6. The A’s win, combined with Kansas City’s 7-3 home loss to Boston, puts the A’s (42-95) a half-game ahead of the Royals (42-96) for the second worst record in MLB. All 10 of the A’s runs are scored between the sixth and seventh innings.
Monday, September 4
Julio Urias’ off-year is now threatening to go off the rails. For the second time, the 27-year-old Dodgers pitcher is arrested for felony domestic violence; he’s later released on $50,000 bond, and is due in court on September 27, while the Dodgers are in Colorado taking on the Rockies. Urias previously was arrested—but not charged—for suspicion of domestic battery in 2019. MLB levied a 20-game suspension on him then; under the league’s current domestic abuse policy, no pitcher has ever been suspended twice.
The reigning NL ERA champ has seen his figure more than double this season to 4.60—but still maintains a decent record at 11-8. A prolonged absence from the Dodgers will further handicap a rotation already without Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin for the rest of the year.
The Guardians are hoping for a late surge to catch first-place Minnesota in the AL Central—but in the first contest of a three-game series at Cleveland, the Twins have much different ideas. Behind six home runs, including the third grand slam in eight games for rookie Royce Lewis, the Twins lower the boom with a 20-6 stomping, extending their lead over the second-place Guardians by six games. Lewis is the fourth player—and first rookie—with three slams in an eight-game span, joining Lou Gehrig (1931), Jim Northrup (1968) and Larry Parrish (1982). Overall, he has five homers over those eight games; only Gehrig managed to poke out an additional two along with his three slams as well.
The bases-clearing shot by Lewis comes off of starting Cleveland pitcher Lucas Giolito, who allows nine runs over three innings. It’s the third time this season he’s allowed at least eight runs in a start—with each one of those outings occurring while pitching for different teams, having also cratered for the White Sox (against the Mets on July 18) and the Angels (August 2 against Atlanta). According to STATS, Giolito is the first pitcher since Bill Magee in 1899 to give up eight-plus runs for three different teams in the same season.
The Astros also turn it on to start another big series at Texas, defeating the Rangers 13-5 to tie Seattle for first in the AL West while Texas drops a game behind in third. Making history for Houston is Mauricio Dubon and Jose Altuve, who become the first pair of #9 and #1 hitters in the lineup to hit back-to-back home runs twice in the same game—each going deep in the sixth and ninth innings.
The Baltimore Orioles remain in cruise control, defeating the Angels at Anaheim 6-3 to improve its AL-best record to 87-51. The Orioles also guarantee an 84th straight series without being swept—the third longest such streak, behind 106 by the 1903-05 Giants and 125 by the 1942-44 Cardinals.
The Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber becomes the fourth player this season to reach 40 homers, reaching the milestone for the second time in as many years with a fifth-inning solo blast in a 9-7 win at San Diego. Schwarber also singles and walks three times, raising his season batting average to .193; no major leaguer has ever hit 40 or more homers while batting below .200.
Tuesday, September 5
Picking up from the previous night in which he belted two home runs among four hits, the Astros’ Jose Altuve cranks out solo homers in each of Houston’s first three innings during another offensive rampage at Texas, 14-1 over the Rangers—giving the Astros sole possession of first place by a game over Seattle (7-6 losers at Cincinnati) and two over the Rangers.
Altuve’s hat trick is the first of his career, and the second by an Astro this season (Kyle Tucker, July 21); Only Carl Reynolds (1930), Mike Cameron (2002) and Manny Machado (2016) had previously hit homers in each of the first three innings of an MLB game. Only Bobby Lowe, in 1894, has hit home runs in four straight innings; Altuve hit one in the ninth inning of the Astros’ previous game before going deep in the first three innings tonight.
Of the three other round-trippers hit by Houston on the night, two are crushed by catcher Martin Maldonado, batting in the #9 spot. It’s the second straight day that both the Astros’ #1 and #9 batters each hit at least two homers; according to STATS, only twice before has it happened even once—by the Yankees in 2020, and the Phillies earlier in June.
Giancarlo Stanton becomes the 58th player in major league history—and the fourth quickest by number of games—to reach 400 career home runs, blasting a two-run, sixth-inning shot measuring 451 feet at Yankee Stadium to help give New York a 5-1 win over the Tigers. The three players to reach 400 in fewer games than Stanton’s 1,520 are Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth and Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees’ win, their seventh over their last eight games, brings them back to .500 for the first time in three weeks.
Wednesday, September 6
It begins as a highly-anticipated duel between Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer—future Hall of Famers who began the year as teammates with the Mets, now currently helping competing teams in the AL West. It ends as the final blow in a three-round pummeling by the Astros, who for the third straight night knock out the Rangers at Arlington, 12-3. Verlander goes seven innings, allowing a run, to improve to 11-7 with a 3.23 ERA; on the flip side, Scherzer takes the brunt of the Astros’ pounding by conceding seven runs on six hits (three of them home runs) in just three innings. He drops to 12-6 with a 3.91 ERA. Overall, the Astros crank out five home runs, including two from Jose Abreu, whose seven RBIs ties a career mark. The defending world champions hold a three-game lead over Texas—which has dropped 15 of 19 games since August 15—and are one game up on the Mariners, who avoid a three-game sweep at Cincinnati with an 8-4 win.
For the series, the Astros outscore the Rangers 39-10, belting a phenomenal 16 homers in the process. The total number of runs is one shy of a franchise record for a three-game series, while setting the club mark with the home run count; over MLB history, only the Yankees, who belted 19 in 2020 against Tampa Bay, have hit more in a three-game series.
Lance Lynn continues to show all the qualifications to perform as a pitcher at the Home Run Derby, serving up three more round-trippers while allowing eight runs overall against the Marlins in the Dodgers’ 11-4 loss at Miami. The veteran right-hander has given up 40 homers this season, the first pitcher to reach that number since Dylan Bundy in 2017.
Thursday, September 7
The Braves get back on track, and Adam Wainwright is still having a terrible year. Ronald Acuna Jr. sets the pace for Atlanta in its 8-5 home win by drilling the 42-year-old Cardinal’s first pitch—a lazy 85-MPH delivery square in the middle of the plate—over the fence just left of center, his first of two home runs on the game. Acuna needs just six more homers to become baseball’s fifth 40-40 player—and the first to be at least 40-60, as he continues to lead the majors in stolen bases. Overall, the Braves hit five homers for the 10th time this season—just one behind the MLB record held by the 2019 Twins. Four of the round-trippers are hit off of Wainwright, who’s 3-11 with a disastrous 8.19 ERA following his latest defeat. He’s trying to reach 200 career victories, but he’s stuck at 198 with 11 straight winless starts.
Friday, September 8
In the Dodgers’ 8-5 win at Washington, Freddie Freeman collects his 53rd double of the year to break Johnny Frederick’s all-time franchise mark of 52 from his 1929 rookie season. It’s the most two-baggers by a National Leaguer since 2013, when Matt Carpenter sliced out 55 for the Cardinals.
Off the field, there’s mixed news for the NL West leaders. An MRI performed on Mookie Betts’ left foot, injured after a foul ball ricocheted off it, comes back negative—positive news for Betts, whose return to the lineup will now be sooner than later. Meanwhile, the Dodgers announce that Walker Buehler will not return from his second Tommy John surgery in time to be activated for the coming postseason, preferring that the young would-be ace focus on Spring Training next year. Buehler’s absence will strain a Los Angeles rotation missing Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and (eventually) Julio Urias.
The Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen has a full nine innings of fun on a Friday matinee at Wrigley Field, throwing his first true career shutout, a three-hitter allowing one walk and striking out nine in a 1-0 victory over the Cubs. Corbin Carroll’s eighth-inning single brings home the only run of the game for Arizona, which maintains a half-game lead over Miami for the third NL wild card spot. Gallen does have another shutout listed in his career log, but it was a seven-inning effort during one of those pandemic-influenced seven-inning doubleheaders in 2021 at Atlanta against the Braves.
It’s a strange night for the Mariners and, especially, sophomore pitcher George Kirby at Tampa Bay. Entering the night with a streak of 33.1 straight innings without having conceded a walk—the longest seen in the majors since Corey Kluber’s 41.1-inning run in 2018—Kirby walks the first batter (Yandy Diaz) he faces, hits the third batter (Harold Ramirez) and allows another walk to the fourth (Randy Arozarena). The Rays gather two runs in that first inning, but that’s all they can muster until the seventh when they rally for four more runs off Kirby, who after the game fumes about being asked to stay in the game—an unusual reaction, given how often pitchers get miffed these days for being pulled too early. The Mariners lose the game, 7-4, but the AL West remains the same as the first-place Astros are shelled 11-2 by the Padres at Houston and the third-place Rangers bow to last-place Oakland at Arlington, 6-3.
The Colorado Rockies announce a two-year, $20 million extension for pitcher German Marquez, who’s not expected to return from Tommy John surgery until mid-2024. Marquez was set to receive either a $16 million team option or $2.5 million buyout next year, so the new deal will erase those options. Marquez needs just three strikeouts to become the Rockies’ all-time leader, and 17 to become the first with 1,000.
Saturday, September 9
Ronald Acuna Jr. has just about had it with pitchers trying to brush him off the plate or worse, especially in the first inning. At Atlanta against the Pirates, the MVP candidate takes several pitches very inside in his first at-bat and starts squawking at the guy throwing them, Pittsburgh starter Johan Oviedo—who squawks back. The distance between the two narrows quickly as umpires and teammates rush to separate them. Once cooler heads prevail, Acuna walks to finish the plate appearance, and reaches base three more times (on another walk and two singles), while Oviedo will be gone by the fourth inning, allowing three runs on nine hits—but in the end it’s a win for the Pirates, who tag the Braves with an 8-4 loss.
The Orioles record their seventh straight victory and clinch their first campaign of at least 90 wins since 2014 by surviving a 13-12 slugfest at Boston against the Red Sox. Despite being outhit 23-14, the Orioles stay ahead from the third inning on, survive a furious ninth-inning rally by the Red Sox in which both the tying and winning runs are left on base. Baltimore also make its hits count; nine of them go for extra bases—including five home runs, two from catcher James McCann—while the Red Sox nab five long hits, with just one homer.
The last time an MLB team collected 23 or more hits in a nine-inning game and lost was on June 3, 1930 when the Phillies—on their way to batting .315 as a team yet losing 102 games—were defeated at cozy Baker Bowl by the Cardinals, 11-10.
Sunday, September 10
The Yankees are no-hit through the first 10 innings by the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes (eight), Devin Williams (the ninth) and Abner Uribe (the 10th, with a little help from right fielder Sal Frelick), overcome Milwaukee rallies in the 11th and 12th to keep the game going, then finally triumph 4-3 in the 13th on Kyle Higashioka’s RBI double. Burnes walks two batters over his eight no-hit frames and could pitch the ninth, but is relieved by Williams because he has no chance to earn a nine-inning no-hit win with the game still scoreless.
It’s only the fourth time in MLB history that a no-hit bid is broken up in the 11th inning or later, a short list that includes Harvey Haddix’ bizarre, 13-inning perfect game bid in 1959.
The Yankees’ win is offset by news that 20-year-old Jasson Dominguez, the youngest major leaguer with four home runs over his first seven games, tore a UCL in his right elbow the day before and will be out as long as 10 months. In 31 at-bats this year, Rodriguez had four homers, a double and seven RBIs on eight hits for a .258 average—and .677 slugging percentage.
The Braves achieve the first of what’s expected to be many clinching milestones, becoming the first team this season to officially book a spot in the postseason with a 5-2 home win over Pittsburgh. Matt Olson’s two-run single caps a four-run rally in the seventh to put the Braves ahead to stay.
While the Braves are ensuring October baseball, the Royals are the first to ensure the embarrassment of 100 losses, reaching triple digits for the seventh time in franchise history—all of them taking place since 2002—with a 5-2 loss at Toronto. The tarnished event takes place despite the presence on the mound of red-hot pitcher Cole Ragans, who throws five shutout innings to increase his streak of consecutive scoreless frames to 26. But in the sixth, Ragans goes completely wild, walking three batters and throwing wild pitches on three straight deliveries—two of which aren’t even close—that brings in two runs before he’s mercifully removed.
The worst record in Kansas City franchise history is 56-106; for the Royals to avoid resetting that mark, they’ll have to win 13 of their remaining 18 games.
The Astros’ Kyle Tucker has been fast enough to steal 28 bases this year, but he hadn’t had a triple all season—that is, until the sixth inning of Houston’s 12-2 rout over the visiting Padres, with not just one, but two, triples within the frame. He’s the first Astro with two three-baggers in the same inning, and the first major leaguer to do so since Colorado’s Cory Sullivan in 2006. Houston moves 2.5 games in front of second-place Seattle (6-3 losers at Tampa Bay) in the AL West.
Monday, September 11
It’s a good night for the Mariners to talk about history—but not the ongoing playoff race. Second-year Seattle outfielder Julio Rodriguez belts a two-run, game-tying home run in the 10th inning to keep the Mariners alive at home against the visiting Angels, thus making him the second player in franchise history after Alex Rodriguez (in 1998), and the fourth youngest in MLB after A-Rod, Mike Trout and Ronald Acuna Jr., with 30 homers and steals each in the same year. Despite Rodriguez’s heroics amid his sixth game of at least four hits since August 16—a 21-game span in which he’s batted .443 with 11 home runs and eight steals—the Mariners are defeated in 11 by the Angels, 8-5, dropping them a half-game behind the Rangers (10-4 winners at Toronto) not just in the AL West but also for the third AL wild card slot.
Atlanta slugger Matt Olson becomes the first National Leaguer since Pete Alonso in 2019 to reach 50 homers, hitting the milestone shot in a second-game 7-5 loss against at Philadelphia. (They win the first game in 10 innings, 10-8). Olson is the second Braves player with 50 or more homers in a season, along with Andruw Jones (51) in 2005; he’s become not only the runaway MLB leader in homers (the sidelined Shohei Ohtani is second with 44) but his 127 RBIs are 24 ahead of the next three guys (Alonso, Mookie Betts and Kyle Tucker), all tied for second.
Tuesday, September 12
Home runs of historic proportions rule in Atlanta’s 7-6, 10-inning win at Philadelphia. Matt Olson’s 51st blast of the year, putting the Braves on the board in the fourth, ties Andruw Jones’ season franchise record; Marcell Ozuna’s shot in the fifth is Atlanta’s third of the game and 281st of the year—breaking the all-time NL season team record previously held by the 2019 Dodgers; and a solo homer in the ninth by the Phillies’ Trea Turner, sending the game into extras, is his 11th over his last 13 games—tying a Phillies mark.
The Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright finally gets a win, finally ending a horrible run of 11 straight starts without one. At Baltimore, the 42-year-old veteran allows a pair of runs on seven hits through five innings for his 199th career triumph. St. Louis prevails 5-2 behind Wainwright and Richie Palacios, who hits a pair of solo homers after entering the game for the injured Nolan Gorman.
The Rangers grabbed one former Mets ace (Jacob deGrom) who went down for the season in May, and now another they took from New York may also be done for 2023. Max Scherzer suffers an arm strain in the midst of throwing 5.1 shutout innings in Texas’ 6-3 win at Toronto; the injury is severe enough that he’s definitely ruled out of the remaining two-plus weeks of the regular season and is termed “unlikely” to play in the postseason—should the Rangers get there.
Wednesday, September 13
The Braves clinch first place for the 23rd time since the start of divisional era in 1969, conquering the NL East with a 4-1 win at Philadelphia. Austin Riley belts his 35th homer and drives home three, while Spencer Strider improves to an MLB-best 17 wins against just five losses, with one run allowed on four hits and nine strikeouts over seven innings.
No other team has won more divisional titles than Atlanta since 1969; the Dodgers will soon make it 21 to place second on that list.
The Oakland A’s lose their 100th game—and nearly get zero hits in the process. At Houston, the A’s are no-hit into the ninth from Hunter Brown (five innings) and three relievers, but Ryan Noda breaks up the combo bid with a one-out single, initiating a two-run rally against the Astros’ Ryan Pressly. It’s far from enough for Oakland, which drops a 6-2 decision.
Following up on a 60-102 mark in 2022, the A’s will finish with back-to-back campaigns of at least 100 losses for the first time since a three-year stretch from 1920-22, when Hall-of-Fame manager Connie Mack was still attempting to right the ship after tearing apart his championship roster of the early 1910s.
Thursday, September 14
The Red Sox, on their way to a second straight last-place finish in the AL East, fire general manager Chaim Bloom, who was brought in from Tampa Bay late in 2019 to do Tampa Bay things—that is, win on a budget in one of baseball’s most competitive divisions. Outside of a second-place finish and an ALCS appearance in 2019, Bloom couldn’t do that, with an overall .500 record since his hiring.
Bloom likely won’t be missed by the Red Sox base, who despised the organization for sending dynamic megawatt star Mookie Betts to the Dodgers and letting go of shorter Xander Bogaerts to free agency. The Red Sox and Bloom almost had no choice but to give third baseman Rafael Devers to a nine-figure extension, or risk having Fenway Park burnt to the ground.
There are times, late in the season, when teams with no stake in the playoff picture just want to hurry up and get the year over with. To wit: The Pirates defeat the Nationals, 2-0, on a late summer afternoon in a game that takes one hour and 50 minutes—tied for the quickest game this year. It’s the 13th MLB game this season that’s taken less than two hours to finish with the pitch clock in use for the first time; that matches the total number of similar games played over the previous 13 seasons. Mitch Keller pitches eight shutout innings to speed things along for the Bucs.
Don’t forget about Tampa Bay, which nobody forgot after its remarkable start to the year—all before the Orioles came along and stole both the Rays’ oxygen and the AL East lead. In the first contest of a three-game series—the last in the regular season between the two teams—the Rays take a 4-3 win at Baltimore as Luke Raley breaks a 3-3 tie in the seventh with a solo homer, while the Tampa Bay bullpen pitches four perfect innings in relief of Aaron Civale to extend its run of consecutive innings without being charged with an earned run to 34. The Rays move to within one game of the Orioles—and are on tied in total wins with 91 each.
Friday, September 15
The Twins’ Royce Lewis sets a franchise record and ties the MLB rookie record by belting his fourth grand slam of the year, the first blow in Minnesota’s 10-2 rout of the White Sox at Chicago to extend its lead in the AL Central to eight games. Lewis has five career slams over 66 games; the next fewest number of MLB games in which a player hit five slams was 139 by Rudy York; additionally, Lewis’ four slams over his last 18 games sets a record; Don Mattingly had hit four in a span of 39 games in 1987. Finally, there’s this: Lewis is already eighth on the all-time list of grand slams in the 123-year history of the Senators/Twins.
The Rockies’ Chase Anderson no-hits the Giants through seven innings at mile-high Coors Field—but not only does he leave without a chance to complete the no-no, but departs with his team trailing, 1-0, as three of his five walks leads to the game’s only run to that point. In the end, it’s a happy ending for the Rockies—and a very frustrating one for the Giants—as Colorado finally gets to superb Giants starter Logan Webb (one run on four hits allowed through eight) in the eighth inning to tie. Then, after conceding a ninth-inning run, the Rockies rally for two more tallies off Giants closer Camilo Doval to win, 3-2. It’s Doval’s eighth blown save of the year—six of those occurring since the All-Star Break.
Anderson’s seven no-hit innings are the second most thrown by a pitcher at Coors Field; Hideo Nomo remains the only player with a complete no-no, accomplishing it for the Dodgers in the ballpark’s second year in 1996.
With another quality start without a win, Webb becomes the first MLB pitcher this season to surpass 200 innings thrown.
A ninth-inning rally by the Cardinals falls short against the visiting Phillies, as the bases are left loaded in a 5-4 loss—the 82nd of the year for St. Louis, clinching its first losing record since 2007 and second in just 24 years. The Cardinals’ attempted comeback is a late response to being handicapped in the first inning by four Philadelphia runs, spotlighted by Nick Castellanos’ three-run homer.
The Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. enhances his MVP résumé as his pair of singles makes him the first MLB player this season to reach 200 hits on the year. Despite another productive night for Acuna, scoring twice to pad his modern Braves season-record total of 135, Atlanta will take a 9-6 loss at Miami, sweetening the Marlins’ wild card chances.
Carlos Santana joins eight other active MLB players with over 1,000 RBIs, reaching the milestone with his second solo home run of the night in Milwaukee’s 5-3 home win over Washington. For those keeping score, the 37-year-old Santana officially becomes one of 303 major leaguers with 1,000 or more ribbies.
Saturday, September 16
A day after suspense of a sort had been cast on the Angels’ clubhouse when it was noticed that Shohei Ohtani’s locker stall was cleared out—with team reps stating that they would explain later—it’s revealed that Ohtani wants to focus on treatment to heal a tear in his pitching elbow so he can be as ready as possible for Opening Day 2024. The question is: What uniform will Ohtani, a free agent after the 2023 season, be wearing? Ohtani is said to be looking at multiple options, including a second Tommy John surgery—which would eliminate any chance to return to the mound in 2024. He could continue to hit, as he did in 2019 while recovering from his first such procedure. But for now, Ohtani appears to have played his last game for the Angels in 2023—and perhaps ever.
Matt Olson sets the Braves’ franchise record with his 52nd home run, erasing Andruw Jones’ 51 in 2005 from the record books—while the team matches the 2019 Twins with five players at 30-plus homers after Ozzie Albies launches his 30th. All this, and Atlanta suffers its second loss in as many days at Miami, 11-5, as the Marlins sit a half-game behind both Arizona and the Chicago Cubs for the final NL wild card spot. The Marlins’ big blow comes in the eighth from Jazz Chisholm Jr., who drills the team’s first grand slam of the year—thus joining the other 29 teams who had previously hit at least one this season—to cap all scoring in the eighth inning.
Chisholm will hit another slam the very next day. They’ll be the only two hit by the Marlins all season.
The Dodgers clinch their 10th NL West title in their last 11 years, defeating the Mariners at Seattle in 11 innings, 6-2. The game is scoreless after nine innings, and the two teams trade a run courtesy of the gift runner in the 10th, but in the 11th the Dodgers explode for five runs on four singles and two walks (one intentional). The defeated Mariners remain in third place in the AL West, 1.5 games behind first-place Houston and a game behind second-place Texas. Both the Astros and Rangers lose on the day as well.
The Orioles rebound, ending a season-high four-game losing snap and reclaiming first place in the AL East with an easy 8-0 home win over the Rays. Rookie Grayson Rodriguez throws eight shutout innings for the win, while the Birds’ final two runs, in the fifth off Tampa Bay reliever Erasmo Ramirez, ends a streak of 36 straight scoreless innings thrown by the Rays’ bullpen.
The Padres’ 5-2 win at Oakland is the 346th by a National League team over its American League counterparts, ensuring a winning record in interleague play for 2023. It’s only the third time in the last 20 seasons that the NL has won bragging rights over the AL. Not surprisingly, the A’s have contributed the least to the AL’s efforts, fielding a league-worst 14-31 record against NL opponents this year.
Sunday, September 17
The Orioles get single runs in the eighth, ninth (to tie), 10th (to tie again) and 11th to defeat the Rays, 5-4, on a day when both teams officially clinch postseason spots. More importantly, Baltimore’s victory—earning a split in the four-game series—puts them two games ahead of Tampa Bay at the top of the AL East. Whichever team wins the division is all but assured to be the top seed in the AL playoffs. All-Star catcher Adley Rutschman plays a role in three of the Orioles’ four late-inning rallies. He belts a solo home run in the eighth, singles home the tying run in the 10th, and scores the game-winning tally in the 11th on Cedric Mullins’ sac fly.
The Orioles’ presence in October will be their first since 2016. For the Rays, it will be their fifth straight postseason appearance.
The season series between the two teams concludes with the Orioles taking eight of 13 games.
The Angels’ miserable post-trade deadline experience continues, dropping to 12-31 since the start of August as the opposing Tigers finish off a three-game sweep at Anaheim with a 5-3 victory. The Halos’ defeat is their 82nd of the year, ensuring their eighth straight losing record—the longest active streak in the majors.
Monday, September 18
Adam Wainwright becomes the third pitcher in St. Louis Cardinals history (after Bob Gibson and Jesse Haines) to rack up 200 career victories, reaching the milestone with seven shutout innings in a 1-0 home win over the Brewers. The 42-year-old right-hander gives up four hits and a pair of walks on 93 pitches; the Cardinals’ lone run comes on Willson Contreras’ fourth-inning home run, his 20th of the year, before a crowd of 33,176 at Busch Stadium.
Wainwright is content enough with the start and the milestone that he’ll decide, a week later, that it’s his last start in this, his final season at age 42. However, he’ll later make two hitless appearances as a pinch-hitter, one of which is a strikeout in the season’s final game.
Tuesday, September 19
In the latest—hmmm, perhaps not the last—iteration of “This time, definitely,” The Rays announce agreement on a new ballpark, this one at the site of their current home, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The Trop will be bulldozed to make way for an 86-acre development that will include the new ballpark, housing, retail, restaurants and a black history museum. For shovels to start hitting the ground, the 30,000-seat ballpark—which the Rays claim they will contribute at least half of the proposed $1.3 billion cost for—must be approved by city and county politicians.
Skepticism abounds with this latest announcement. Numerous other new ballpark projects have been agreed to by the Rays around the Tampa Bay area, only to have those deals quickly fade out. Plus, the placing of the proposed new yard at the same site where Tropicana Field currently sits will only ratchet up the feelings of many Tampa area residents who say that it’s too distant for them to reach—one reason the Rays still draw so poorly despite fielding a remarkably competitive team on a shoestring budget.
Once again, Blake Snell still can’t finish what he starts—though what he does in between is impressive, if not a tad bit wild. For the third time in his career, the San Diego southpaw departs with at least five no-hit innings—seven, in this case—adding four walks and 10 strikeouts on 104 pitches against the visiting Rockies. Snell doesn’t get a win for his effort—the Padres break a scoreless game in the bottom of the ninth on Xander Bogaerts’ two-out, two-run homer to win, 2-0—but he does lower his season ERA to an MLB-best 2.33 and enhances his chances of winning the NL Cy Young Award.
This is only the third time Snell has pitched into the seventh inning this season; he has yet to pitch into the eighth. Although 18 pitchers have thrown more innings, only one (Gerrit Cole) has thrown more pitches—with just one more (3,069) than Snell.
Ronald Acuna Jr. helps get the Braves back on track after suffering through a mini-skid, belting his 38th and 39th homers while stealing his 67nd base in a 9-3 home win over Philadelphia. In defeat, the Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber strikes out three times to total 203 on the year, breaking his own team record set last season.
Also making unwanted whiff history is Eugenio Suarez, who becomes the first Seattle Mariner to strike out 200 times in a season during the team’s 7-2 win at Oakland. Like Schwarber, Suarez broke his own team record to get there, bypassing the 196 he absorbed in 2022. Suarez becomes the 12th player in the history of the game to strike out 200 times in a season.
The Cubs wipe out the visiting Pirates, 14-1, with substantial help from Alexander Canario—who does something no other MLB player has ever done: Hit a grand slam and drive in five runs in his first-ever major league start. Canario’s slam comes as part of an eight-run rally in the eighth inning, as the Cubs maintain a half-game lead over Miami for the second NL wild card spot.
Wednesday, September 20
The top three teams in the AL West remain a half-game apart, as the Astros keep their slim lead over the Rangers and Mariners with a come-from-behind, 2-1 home win over Baltimore; Seattle keeps pace with a 6-3 win at Oakland as Julio Rodriguez knocks in his 100th run of the year, and the Rangers obliterate the visiting Red Sox, 15-5—keeping them a half-game back as well.
The Rangers’ rout is their 26th game of the year scoring 10 or more runs, setting a franchise record held since 2008; they’ve outscored opponents by 10 or more runs in 11 games, the most by a team in one season since the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers (who also did it 11 times).
In Arizona’s 7-1 home win over San Francisco, Corbin Carroll steals his 49th and 50th bases of the year—then drills his 25th homer in the seventh. He thus becomes the first MLB rookie to go at least 20-50, and the ninth player (regardless of time service) to go 25-50. It’s the fifth straight win for the Diamondbacks, securing their hold on the second NL wild card spot; for the Giants, they’re the third team in line hoping to reserve the third and final spot, but time is of the essence.
Milwaukee reliever J.C. Mejia, who’s never been that good at the major league level as reflected in a career 2-7 record and 8.32 ERA, is handed his second PED suspension; this one will last a full 162 games. Mejia was sidelined 80 games for his first positive in August 2022; he is not to be confused with (nor is he related to) former reliever Jenrry Mejia, who was suspended three times for steroids, with the third resulting in a lifetime ban from the game—though he was reinstated in 2019, allowing him to make what would end up being a failed minor league audition in the Boston organization. He’s currently pitching in Mexico.
Thursday, September 21
It’s a night of milestones for the Braves, who ride to a 10-3 victory at Washington. Ronald Acuna Jr. becomes the first player since Alex Rodriguez (in 2007) to score 140 runs in a season, Matt Olson knocks in his 132nd run to tie Gary Sheffield‘s Atlanta-era mark from 2003, Ozzie Albies follows Acuna and Olson as the third player with 100 RBIs this season, and Max Fried pitches six innings to get the win—the 24th straight for the Braves when their starting pitcher goes six or more frames. That latter streak is the longest by an MLB team in modern times.
The Dodgers sink the Giants below the .500 mark (and further out of the NL wild card conversation) with a 7-2 home win. Falling just an out short of earning credit for the victory is Emmet Sheehan, who throws 4.2 hitless innings but shows wildness with four walks and a hit batsman that leads to one of the Giants’ runs. The Giants contribute to their own misery with two errors, two wild pitches (both of which bring home Dodger runs) and a J.D. Martinez sac fly to short right that Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski initially doesn’t bother to throw home on—because he thinks he’s caught the third out of the inning.
In his major league debut back on June 16, Sheehan no-hit the Giants through six innings; he’s the first major league pitcher to have multiple hitless outings of at least four innings in the same season against the same team.
Friday, September 22
Another day, another milestone for Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr.—but this is a pretty big one. With his 40th home run to lead off the Braves’ 9-6 win at Washington, Acuna becomes baseball’s first 40-60 player—40 homers, 60 steals and change—and the fifth to surpass the 40-40 barrier in general. Acuna joins Matt Olson among Atlanta players with at least 40 bombs this season; Austin Riley (37) and Marcell Ozuna (36), both of whom also go deep against the Nationals, could make it an unprecedented quartet. Only three previous teams have featured three such players: The 1973 Braves, and the 1996-97 Rockies.
Continuing to make up for lost playing time, the Yankees’ Aaron Judge wallops three homers and drives in six of his team’s seven runs in a 7-1 home win over Arizona. It’s Judge’s second hat trick of the year (his other coming just a month earlier), thus making him the first player in Yankee history to accomplish that feat. He’s tied for third in the AL with 35 homers, despite having missed 54 games.
The Milwaukee Brewers clinch a postseason spot with a massive 16-1 rout of the Marlins at Miami, piling up 12 runs in the second inning—the second most they’ve scored in an inning, after the 13 they notched in a 1990 game. Adding a wider grin on the night, the Brewers in the ninth send to the mound burly slugger Rowdy Tellez to get the final three outs; that he does, pitching a scoreless frame, allowing a hit with one strikeout. Christian Yelich has the big night offensively for the Brew Crew, pounding out two homers and a double to go with five RBIs, while Josh Donaldson collects his third round-tripper in his 10th game with Milwaukee after being released by the Yankees.
The Twins collect their 12th divisional title as the only winning team in the sad, bad AL Central. They take care of business with an 8-6 home win over the Angels, as Pablo Lopez improves to 11-8 on the year, while Alex Kirilloff produces a solo homer and two sac flies to assist at the plate.
The good news for the Twins this postseason? They won’t have to face the Yankees, who’ve knocked them out of the playoffs five times over the past 20 years; overall, the Twins will enter October having lost a record 18 straight postseason games.
Freddie Freeman punches out two singles in a 5-1 loss to the visiting Giants, making him the third major leaguer this year—and the first Dodger since Adrian Beltre in 2004—to collect 200 hits in a season. The achievement also represents a personal best for Freeman, whose previous high was 199 from just last season.
Saturday, September 23
Los Angeles Dodgers stars Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw establish noteworthy feats in their 7-0 home win over San Francisco. Betts knocks in two runs to give him 105 RBIs on the year—all of them while batting first in the order—breaking Charlie Blackmon’s MLB leadoff record of 103 from 2017. (Betts needs to look behind his back, though; the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. has 101 RBIs batting leadoff this season.) On the mound, Kershaw throws five shutout innings to earn his 210th career win, passing Don Drysdale for second in Dodgers franchise history; the 35-year-old lefty needs 23 more to match Don Sutton at the top of the list.
Behind Jordan Montgomery’s seven shutout innings, the Rangers make it two straight at home against fellow AL West contender Seattle, taking a 2-0 victory. With the win, Texas creates breathing space at the top of the division, with a 1.5-game lead over Houston (which falls at home to lowly Kansas City) and a two-game advantage over Seattle.
Down 9-0 after three innings at Cincinnati, the Pirates break out the spinach and score 13 unanswered runs over the next five innings—then hang on for dear life as the Reds rally late and leave the tying run on base in the ninth, as the Bucs finally prevail 13-12. The nine-run comeback is the biggest in Pirates franchise history, while it matches the biggest blown lead in Reds annals; the loss is the fourth straight for Cincinnati, which drops 2.5 games behind the third NL wild card spot.
The Padres, with an eight-game winning streak, take a 2-2 game against the visiting Cardinals into extra innings—where they’re 0-11 this year. “When trends collide,” writes St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Derrick Gould on X. The trend that prevails is the overtime mark, as the Cardinals rally for three in the 10th to come away with a 5-2 victory. The San Diego defeat puts a damper on its desperate last-minute rush toward NL wild card territory, dropping to 76-79 on the year.
Sunday, September 24
It’s the end to a perfect weekend for the Rangers, who sweep the Mariners at Arlington—while the Astros are being swept away by the 102-loss Royals at Houston. Texas gets a season-high six home runs—including two from Marcus Semien, the second of which deflects off the glove of Mariners center fielder Julio Rodriguez over the fence—to outlast Seattle, 9-8, and extend its lead over the third-place Mariners by three games. The Astros, meanwhile, fall 2.5 games behind the Rangers in the AL West after being defeated in their regular season home finale by the Royals, 6-5; they finish 39-42 at home, after going 186-85 there over the previous four seasons.
The Braves are the first MLB team this season to top 100 wins, reaching the milestone with an 8-5 victory in the second game of a doubleheader at Washington. It’s the third time that the Braves have produced 100 victories in back-to-back seasons, having previously accomplished it from 1997-99 and 2002-03.
The Yankees suffer a 7-1 home defeat to Arizona, eliminating them from postseason contention for only the fourth time in the last 29 seasons. At 78-77, New York now takes to the road for its final seven games of the season, at Toronto and Kansas City—with the hopes of avoiding its first losing record since 1992.
The Twins beat up on the visiting Angels, 9-3, but in the process surpass the 2021 Cubs for the most batting strikeouts ever recorded in a season, with 1,600; they’ll go on to become the first MLB team ever to average 10 whiffs per game. On the plus side, Joe Ryan and four Minnesota relievers combine for 16 strikeouts against the Angels—the fifth time this season that Twins pitchers have racked up at least 16 in a game; they had done it 11 times in 122 previous seasons, only once before 2000. (They’ll do it a sixth time on October 1 during the season’s final game.)
Monday, September 25
The regular season’s final week begins with the Texas Rangers threatening to sap all of the suspense out of the AL West race. Behind Jon Gray’s six sharp innings and three solo home runs—including back-to-back bombs from Adolis Garcia and Mitch Garver—the Rangers defeat the Angels at Anaheim, 5-1, maintaining their 2.5-game lead over Houston and reducing its magic number to win the division to four.
The Astros manage not to lose ground on the Rangers—and more importantly, improve their chances of landing a wild card spot—with a 5-1 victory of their own at Seattle to begin a critical three-game series against the third-place Mariners. Justin Verlander takes a shutout into the ninth before being removed, improving to 6-3 with a 3.57 ERA in 10 starts since rejoining the Astros from the Mets; Yordan Alvarez’s 439-foot blast in the fourth is his 30th homer of the year, in just 391 at-bats.
Adding insult to defeat, the Mariners’ Teoscar Hernandez strikes out in all three of his at-bats—giving him 202 whiffs on the year to join teammate Eugenio Suarez (207) with over 200. Hernandez and Suarez are the first pair of MLB players with 200+ in the same season..
Tuesday, September 26
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 it also clinches the NL Central for the Brewers (who lose to St. Louis, 4-1), and reduces to one the magic number for the Braves to control 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.
This is the fourth time that the Brewers have captured first in their division—with each occurrence taking place since 2011. It doesn’t include the 1981 season, when the Brewers collectively had a better record than any other AL East team—but because of the midseason player strike that erased a third of the schedule, that season was split into two halves with the Brewers winning the first half and finishing third in the second.
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.
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.
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 an embarrassingly small 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.
The Phillies win their sixth straight game and lock up their second consecutive wild card berth on Johan Rojas’ 10th-inning single to defeat the visiting Pirates, 3-2. Extra innings are required after Henry Davis belts a solo home run in the eighth off the Phillies’ Craig Kimbrel—who for the first time in his career suffers blown saves in back-to-back appearances. (Ironically, the Phillies will win both of those games.)
Wednesday, September 27
Forget 40-40; the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. swipes two bases against the visiting Cubs to become baseball’s first 40-70 player. This year’s new rules making stolen bases a much easier thing has helped, but it’s a staggering achievement nonetheless. Acuna’s steals are hardly vanity-driven; they both help the Braves in multiple late-inning rallies, as Atlanta erases one-run leads by Chicago in the eighth, ninth and 10th to win, 6-5; Acuna scores the game-winner on Ozzie Albies’ one-out single after his 70th steal.
This is the second time in 12 days that the Cubs have lost three late-inning leads; it also happened on September 16 at Arizona, with all three leads blown in extra innings.
The Astros put a major dent in the Mariners’ postseason hopes—and bruise some of Seattle’s egos as well—as they take a three-game series at T-Mobile Park with an 8-3 victory. Mauricio Dubon’s three-run homer in the fourth puts the Astros ahead to stay; a three-run rally later in the seventh gives the team further breathing space. That latter burst of offense comes an inning after reliever Hector Neris’ strikeout of the Mariners’ Julio Rodriguez, with Neris celebrating by angrily walking toward and shouting at the young Seattle star—prompting both benches to empty out.
The Yankees’ two marquee stars group up to assure not only that their team will not suffer a losing record for the first time in 31 years, but also that they won’t finish last for the first time in 33 seasons. In a 6-0 win at Toronto, Aaron Judge powers out two homers and drives home four of the six Yankee runs, while Gerrit Cole all but clinches the AL Cy Young Award with a two-hit shutout, the fifth of his career. The Yankees improve to 81-77 on the year; the worst they could do is finish at an even .500.
The Padres win for the first time this year in extra innings after previously losing 12 games beyond the ninth, tallying three times in the 10th to defeat the Giants at San Francisco, 5-2. The victory keeps San Diego from sharing futility rights with the 1969 Montreal Expos, who in their very first season went 0-12 in extras.
Thursday, September 28
It’s a very good day to be an Orioles fan. On the field, the O’s clinch the AL East title for the first time since 2014, notching their 100th win of the year with a 2-0 decision over Boston before 27,543 home fans. It’s the first time Baltimore has recorded 100 victories since 1980, completing a rapid and unprecedented rags-to-riches rise; the Orioles are the first team to go from 110 losses to 100 wins in a span of just three seasons.
Off the field, the Orioles also put to rest rumors of a possible departure from Baltimore and fabled Oriole Park at Camden Yards by signing a 30-year lease extension at the 31-year-old facility. The current lease was set to expire at the end of this season as Orioles management publicly hemmed and hawed over the details of an extension, which calls for a maximum of $600 million in state funds toward improving the ballpark and the surrounding area.
Atlanta clinches home field advantage for the entire postseason with its 103rd win, 5-3 over the visiting Cubs—whose postseason aspirations lay in peril following the three-game sweep. Matt Olson’s 54th home run of the year for the Braves not only increases his RBI total to 136—setting a modern Braves record—but it’s also the 47th round-tripper hit by the team in the first inning, breaking an MLB mark previously held by the 2019 Reds.
Hugh Duffy holds the pre-modern franchise RBI mark, with 145 in 1894—a year in which the Beaneaters, as the Braves were then known, finished third in the NL at 83-49, with a .331 team batting average including a .440 mark from Duffy. Different times.
Suspense and tension of two totally different sorts accommodate the remaining battles for postseason spots. In New York, the Marlins rally for two runs in the ninth to take a 2-1 lead over the Mets—but then the rains, which has been a problem for much of the four-game series, begins to come down hard; the tarps are unfurled, staying over the infield for over the next three hours before umpires tell both teams to head home for the night. With a win, Miami would have moved a full game ahead of the Cubs for the final NL wild card spot; if the regular season ends this Sunday with the spot still unsettled and the Marlins still involved, they’ll have to return to New York from Pittsburgh (where they’re playing the final three scheduled games) and finish the ninth inning against the Mets on Monday—weather permitting.
The Marlins are hardly thrilled with the weather—but seem less thrilled with Mets officials who they feel could have done a better job of keeping the field in playable shape and allowing the game to continue. Miami GM Kim Ng, biting her lip, tells reporters in a brief statement: “Without getting into the details, obviously this is an unfortunate incident.”
Out west in Seattle, the Mariners improve their underdog chances of making the playoffs in dramatic fashion, as J.P. Crawford smacks a two-run, two-out, ninth-inning double to the left-field corner that evades Texas rookie outfielder Evan Carter—never mind that the optics suggest Carter didn’t go 100% after the nothing-to-lose fly ball. Seattle takes a 3-2 comeback win over the Rangers, and moves within a game of idle Houston for the final AL wild card spot.
Friday, September 29
One of the big lessons of the 2023 season is to never, ever count the Miami Marlins out. Just a week ago, the Marlins were on the outside looking in, two games out of the third and final NL wild card spot. Now they’re 1.5 games up on the Cubs and Reds for that final spot, and they’re breathing down the necks of the Diamondbacks, who are entangled in one of the few series this weekend that counts for both teams, as the opposing Astros are seeking an AL wild card.
The Marlins’ 4-3 win at Pittsburgh is their latest via the comeback route, and their latest one-run triumph; Miami is an MLB-best 33-13 in such games this year. Down 3-0 in the eighth, the Marlins rally for all four of their runs—the last coming on Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s sacrifice fly. It’s the sixth time this year that the Marlins have won a game when trailing by three or more runs after seven innings; no other MLB team has ever accomplished that many comeback victories within one season.
J.P. Crawford’s grand slam in the fourth inning is the big blow for the Mariners in a definitive 8-0 victory over Texas before 45,000 home fans, while the Astros outlast Zac Gallen and the Diamondbacks at Phoenix, 2-1, behind Jose Urquidy’s six shutout innings and Jose Abreu’s sixth-inning double to bring home both runs. Seattle stays alive in the hunt for a wild card spot—and the remote possibility that it could win the AL West, should the Mariners, Rangers and Astros all finish with identical records; the Mariners would prevail in the first tiebreaker, as they have the better combined record (14-12) against the other two teams.
Should the Rangers survive all of this and reach the postseason, they’ll have to do it without starting pitcher Jon Gray for at least the first week. The 31-year-old right-hander has been placed on the 15-day Injured List with a strained forearm, handicapping a Rangers rotation already missing Max Scherzer and, of course, Jacob deGrom.
The postseason managerial merry-go-round begins a little early as the Giants, not waiting until the final day of the season, fire Gabe Kapler after four years and a 295-248 record. Outside of an out-of-body 107-55 campaign in 2021 that earned him NL Manager of the Year honors, Kapler presided over a .500 club, relying heavily (perhaps too heavily) on analytics as he aggressively swapped out position players and pitchers during games with near-reckless abandon. Though Kapler wields a terrific reputation as a humanitarian, his baseball managing skills suffered by comparison; rumor had spread that he had lost the Giants’ clubhouse and, thus, his days were numbered.
Without Kapler, the Giants fall at home to the Dodgers, 6-2, as Los Angeles slugger J.D. Martinez knocks in his 1,000th career run with a three-run homer in the sixth inning to put the game away. Martinez’s 103 RBIs on the year makes him one of four Dodgers with at least 100, tying a franchise mark.
The Royals tee off on the Yankees and Carlos Rodon, who caps a forgettable first year in pinstripes by failing to retire the first eight Kansas City batters he faces; they all score, Rodon is removed (finishing the year with an atrocious 6.85 ERA), the Royals notch nine overall in the first and take a 12-5 home win. Bobby Witt Jr. caps the scoring on the night with a two-run home run in the seventh, making him the first player in Royals history to record 30 homers and steals each in the same season.
Saturday, September 30
On the regular season’s penultimate day of scheduled play, all 12 postseason participants are established. For some of those, it’s now just a matter of seeding.
In the American League, the Mariners are knocked out of the playoff picture with a 6-1 loss at Seattle to the Texas Rangers, doomed by Luis Castillo’s wobbly start (four runs, five walks allowed in 2.2 innings) and the Mariners’ lack of potent hitting against Texas starter Andrew Heaney and three relievers. The Rangers still have the AL West title to fight for, as a loss to Seattle and a win by the Astros at Arizona on the season’s final day would officially give Houston first place based on the first tiebreaker of head-to-head competition (the Astros beat the Rangers nine of 13 times this season).
The Toronto Blue Jays also figure into the fluidity of the AL playoff seeding. After dropping a 7-5, 10-inning decision against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays—who at 98-63 hold the first AL wild card spot—the Blue Jays would take the second spot with a win and a loss by the Astros; if both teams win, along with the Rangers, Toronto will still secure the #2 spot because it won its season series against Houston. Should the Jays and Astros win, while the Rangers lose—giving all three teams a 90-72 record—then the Jays would bottom out as the #3 wild card seed.
It’s not that either of these three teams are dying for that #2 wild card; that would mean playing the Rays in the wild card round, while the #3 team would take on AL Central champ Minnesota, who holds a far lesser record than the Rays—and has an active 18-game losing streak in the playoffs.
It’s a little less complicated in the National League. If the Marlins, who clinch a wild card spot with a 7-3 win at Pittsburgh, win their final game, they’re the #2 seed; win or lose, they maintain that seed with a loss by Arizona, which also clinches a wild card berth despite a 1-0 loss to the Astros. The Marlins will still be alive for the #2 spot if they lose to the Bucs and the DBacks win—but they would then be forced back to New York on Monday to finish off (and win) a one-run game they led in the ninth four days earlier against the Mets before heavy rains halted it.
Despite having already secured home field advantage for the entire postseason, the Braves take care of unfinished business on a personal level in a 5-3 victory over the visiting Nationals. Ronald Acuna Jr. steals his 73rd base of the year, breaking the post-1900, ‘modern era’ franchise mark held by Otis Nixon in 1991, while starting pitcher Spencer Strider goes the minimum five innings to pick up his 20th win of the year; his third of seven strikeouts eclipses another modern season team record of 276, formerly held by John Smoltz in 1996.
For only the fifth time in franchise history—and the first since 2018—the White Sox suffer their 100th defeat, falling to the visiting Padres by a 6-1 count. It’s a sharp and disappointing descent for a team expected by more than a few preseason prognosticators to win the weak AL Central. The Padres, meanwhile, earn a silver lining through their own underwhelming season, as they avoid a losing record with the win.
There’s been very little disappointment for the 101-60 Orioles this season, but perhaps their biggest bummer is confirmed as it’s announced that All-Star closer Felix Bautista, whom last pitched on August 25, will undergo Tommy John surgery—all but ensuring his absence for the entire 2024 campaign. In his injury-shortened season, Bautista was 8-2 with a magnificent 1.46 ERA and 33 saves.
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