This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: September 2021

The Red(Hot)Birds Soar to the Postseason    “CardGate” in Tampa Bay
Ryan Braun Retires: What Legacy Does He Leave Behind?

August 2021    Comebacker Index


Wednesday, September 1

For the first time in three months, the San Francisco Giants are no longer in first place in the NL West, bowing to the visiting Milwaukee Brewers, 5-2, and extending their losing streak to four games. 

Taking over at the top are the Dodgers, who come from behind to defeat the Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles, 4-3. The defending champions are lifted by Max Scherzer, who pitches six shutout innings (allowing three hits and no walks) before departing with a bothersome hamstring. 

Just when you thought it can’t get weirder for the New York Mets…it gets weirder. But then again, these are the Mets, so always expect the expected weirdness. Mets GM Zack Scott, some seven hours after he reportedly left a team function at owner Steve Cohen’s house, is found by police at a White Plains, New York traffic light in the early morning hours yesterday, asleep at the wheel. Once awakened, the 44-year-old Scott refuses a breathalyzer test and is arrested for DUI. The Mets release a statement in which they were “surprised and deeply disappointed” in the incident; Scott pleads not guilty to the charge a day later, and afterward will be placed on administrative leave by the Mets. 

On the field, the Mets’ scheduled home game against Miami is washed out as biblical-like rains, the remnants of Hurricane Ida, soaks the New York area. 

Eighteen months after it hit the Americas, COVID-19 is still very much a thing—and one of the reasons it’s not going away anytime soon is because people remain stubborn to embrace being protected from it. Several cases in point from the world of baseball: MLB Network commentators John Smoltz and Al Leiter have been barred from in-studio work after the two refuse to go along with the network’s just-announced policy that all employees be vaccinated. Smoltz and Leiter will continue their segments remotely, but it will be interesting to see if Smoltz is allowed in the booth for upcoming Fox broadcasts with Joe Buck. Also, former catcher Bob Boone, a front-office employee of the Nationals since their move from Montreal to Washington in 2005, resigns from the team after refusing to go along with its vaccine mandate. The Nationals and Astros are currently the only two MLB teams with such a mandate for all non-playing employees. 

Minnesota pitcher Kenta Maeda undergoes Tommy John surgery, ending his 2021 season and likely keeping him out for all of 2022. The 33-year-old pitcher, in his second year with the Twins, was 6-5 over 21 starts with a 4.66 ERA. 

Thursday, September 2

Miami’s Miguel Rojas gets the Marlins off on the right foot by slamming a first-pitch, leadoff home run at New York—and the Mets’ Jonathan Villar responds in kind to start the bottom half of the first, hitting a first-pitch round-tripper himself. There may have been another time, long ago, when leadoff hitters for both teams hit first-pitch, first-inning homers, but memories fade faster than official stats logged away in a database—thus, this is the first known instance of it happening since at least 1985. As for the rest of the game, the Mets survive a sloppy 4-3 victory that features seven errors, four by Miami. It’s New York’s fifth straight win. 

Errors also doom the Pittsburgh Pirates, who lose 6-5 in 11 innings when Wilmer Difo’s failure to catch Ian Happ’s short infield pop-up allows gift runner Sergio Alcantara to score safely with the winning Chicago run. But at least the Bucs are mistake-free at another position; Pittsburgh catchers have gone 176 straight games without committing a passed ball, the longest such streak in the post-1900 modern era. 

Friday, September 3

The first game of a critical NL West series between the majors’ two top teams, by the record—the Giants and Dodgers—do not disappoint. Before a packed house at Oracle Park—with many fans wearing Dodger Blue—the Giants take an early 1-0 lead and squander one opportunity after another to add insurance. That costs them when the Dodgers tie the game in the ninth against Giants closer Jake McGee, sending the game into extras. The teams trade a gift run in the 10th, and the game looks headed to the 12th when the Giants’ Buster Posey, with two outs and the bases loaded, hits a routine grounder to Dodgers second baseman Trea Turner—whose throw sends first baseman Will Smith off the bag on an exceptionally close play confirmed by video review. The Giants’ 3-2, 11-inning win puts them a game ahead of the Dodgers, but two more games beckon in what will be the last series between the two teams…in the regular season, that is. 

In Toronto, the Blue Jaysand  Oakland A’s—two teams chasing the AL wild card spot—engage in an intense contest that grows only more so when the score gets close. Tied at 2-2 in the fifth, the Jays’ Alek Manoah hits Josh Harrison and Starling Marte with back-to-back pitches—with the hit on Marte a bean to the helmet. Both are okay—but the rest of the A’s, who clear the dugout before cooler heads prevail, are clearly upset. Comeuppance follows as both runners scored on a Matt Olson double, the first two of six unanswered runs that put the A’s up by the seventh, 8-2. Then the Jays do answer; they score six to tie in the bottom of the eighth—with the last four plating on Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s grand slam—and after the A’s reply in the top of the ninth with a pair of runs, Toronto hits back with three on former Athletic Marcus Semien’s round-tripper for an 11-10 victory. It’s only the second time in 458 games this year that a team trailing by six in the eighth inning or later has come back to win. 

Long-time Cardinals Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina pair up for the 300th time as pitcher and catcher—the third-longest battery tandem in MLB history—and the milestone is made all the more satisfying as St. Louis smashes the Brewers at Milwaukee, 15-4. Wainwright allows two runs (one earned) over 6.1 innings to improve to 14-7, while Molina’s ninth-inning grand slam, the seventh of his career, is one of six Cardinals homers on the night, two others of which are belted by Nolan Arenado

Two streaks end for the Phillies as they get drilled in Miami by the Marlins, 10-3. It’s Philadelphia’s first loss after six straight wins, and it’s the first time in seven games that they fail to score at least seven runs. A seven-run seventh by the Marlins breaks a 3-3 tie and puts the game out of reach. The MLB record for consecutive games with seven-plus runs (11) remains a tie between the 1936 Tigers and 1938 Yankees. 

Saturday, September 4

No team had a longer active dry spell without a complete-game shutout from one of its pitchers than the Milwaukee Brewers—until tonight. Adrian Houser retires the first 12 Cardinals he faced in Milwaukee, and goes the distance scattering just three hits with no walks on 100 pitches as the Brewers prevail, 4-0. It’s the first shutout thrown by a Milwaukee pitcher since Kyle Lohse tossed a two-hitter against Cincinnati on September 24, 2014—a span of 1,011 games. 

The Tampa Bay Rays tie a team record with six home runs, all of them accounting for the team’s final eight runs en rout to an 11-4 victory over the visiting Twins. All 11 runs are scored within the first four innings. Once-and-current Rays pitcher Chris Archer picks up his first win for Tampa Bay since rejoining the team following a three-year absence. 

In the Braves’ 7-6 loss at Colorado, second baseman Ozzie Albies hits his 25th home run of the year, making Atlanta the second team after the 2008 Marlins to have four infielders with at least 25. The three others Braves are first baseman Freddie Freeman (28), third baseman Austin Riley (28), and shortstop Dansby Swanson (26). 

Sunday, September 5

The Giants win bragging rights in a three-game series—and the season series in general—against the Dodgers with a nationally televised 6-4 home win over Los Angeles. In taking their 10th win over the Dodgers in 19 tries this year, the Giants finally overcome Walker Buehler—who in 12 previous appearances (10 starts) against San Francisco had gone 7-0 with a 1.83 ERA—by zinging him for six runs through only three innings of work before he’s pulled. The Dodgers make it interesting at the end as Albert Pujols drills his 678th career home run, a two-run shot to cut the lead to two in the ninth, but the Giants hold on to retake first place in the NL West by a game. 

In a day that features five grand slams across the majors, three of them take place at Wrigley Field—with the last one a walk-off slam from Frank Schwindel to give the Cubs an 11-8 victory over the Pirates, who’ve lost six straight. The three slams tie a major league record for one game—but it’s the first time all three were go-ahead hits; Bryan Reynolds puts the Bucs ahead with his base-cleaner in the third, before the Cubs’ Matt Duffy erases that lead a half-inning later with a slam of his own. 

This is the eighth streak of five or more losses suffered by the Pirates this season. 

There’s another walk-off slam in Milwaukee, where the Brewers’ Daniel Vogelbach caps a five-run rally by clearing the bases with one out in the ninth to secure a 6-5 win over the Cardinals. It’s one of four MLB games on the day in which a team scores five or more runs in the ninth inning; according to STATS, that had not happened since July 3, 1940

Since going for 24-for-24 in save opportunities to start a career—a major league record—the Cardinals’ Alex Reyes has saved only seven of 12 opps with a 7.02 ERA. 

A solo home run by Cleveland’s Franmil Reyes in the third inning at Boston gives the Indians their 19th straight game in which a player goes deep, the longest such streak in the majors this season—and tied for the longest in Cleveland history. It’s a mere contribution for Cleveland in an 11-5 win, avoiding a weekend sweep at the hands of the Red Sox. 

Monday, September 6

Don’t ever quit on the Rays; they’ll find a way to beat you when given the chance. And that’s what the Red Sox find out, the hard way. Boston cruises early with a 7-1 lead with Chris Sale on the mound—but in the fourth, a two-out, bases-loaded fly ball by Nelson Cruz is lost in the sun by Red Sox center fielder Alex Verdugo—one of two errors on the play, as Tyler Motter’s attempt to cut down Cruz at third sails wildly past, allowing Cruz to get up and complete his circuit to make it 7-5—and end Sale’s day. From there, the Rays peck away at the deficit, tying it in the ninth on a more legitimate (read: error-free) inside-the-park round-tripper by Austin Meadows; the Rays notch two in the 10th to complete the comeback, 11-10. It’s Tampa Bay’s 43rd come-from-behind victory—the most in MLB this season—and the first time that the Rays have come back from six runs down to beat Boston (they failed in their first 69 attempts). 

Of historical note, Tampa Bay rookie Wander Franco notches four hits—three singles and a triple—to extend his on-base streak to 36 games, tying Mickey Mantle’s AL record for the most by a player under 21 years of age. 

The surging Blue Jays embarrass the Yankees in the Bronx, 8-0, as Marcus Semien drills two home runs (giving him a whopping 37 on the year) while Vladimir Guerrero Jr. reachs 40 for the first time in his career. The milestone shot for Guerrero makes him and his father the second father-son duo to both hit 40 in a season, after Cecil and Prince Fielder. (The Fielders are still one up in one regard; they both hit 50 in a season.) 

Do the Rangers have a possible ace for the future? Seven days after allowing a hit over five shutout innings in his first major league start, A.J. Alexy practically duplicates the feat in his second—allowing a hit over six shutout frames as Texas rolls to a 4-0 win at Anaheim over the Angels. Alexy thus becomes the first MLB pitcher since 1900 to allow no runs and a hit through five-plus innings in each of his first two starts. 

The Phillies bomb away at the Brewers at Milwaukee, launching six home runs in a 12-0 pasting. Two of the bombs come from Brad Miller, the 15th multi-homer game of his career. The six-pack of power is a homer short of a Phillies record for a road game, previously set twice; one of those contests came earlier this year at Cincinnati, on June 1. 

Charlie Morton is being rewarded for his first year of pitching in an Atlanta uniform. The Braves extend the 37-year-old right-hander with a $20 million contract for 2022. The deal includes an additional $20 million team option for 2023 with no buyout. Morton is 13-5 with a 3.47 ERA this season for Atlanta. 

Tuesday, September 7

Tampa Bay inflicts yet another pounding upon the Red Sox, who’ve given up at least 11 runs in each of their last three games; the Rays’ 12-7 win isn’t nearly as close as it sounds, as the Red Sox scored six runs later after trailing, 12-1. Nelson Cruz wallops two home runs to make him the oldest player (at age 41) to collect 30 in a season, while Wander Franco walks to surpass Mickey Mantle as the AL player with the longest on-base streak (37 games) before turning 21. The Rays, who’ve never won 100 games in a season, only need to go 12-11 the rest of the way to reach the milestone. 

The Dodgers’ Albert Pujols hits his 112th career home run at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium—but only the second while not wearing a Cardinals’ uniform. Pujols’ first-inning solo shot—the 679th homer of his star-studded career—is his first at St. Louis since visiting back in 2019 as a member of the Angels. The Dodgers roll to a 7-2 win, remaining a game behind the Giants (12-3 winners at Colorado) in the NL West. 

The Padres’ Blake Snell experiences yet another bittersweet effort on the mound, taking a perfect game into the seventh but losing it—and the contest itself—when he walks the Angels’ David Fletcher and Jack Mayfield, both of whom steals bases and then score on Jo Adell’s single to break a scoreless tie at San Diego. The Angels add two more runs after Snell’s departure and take a 4-0 victory. 

It his last four starts, Snell has allowed just six hits over 26.2 innings with 40 strikeouts and six walks—but has only won one of them, losing twice. 

Wednesday, September 8

After a 14-month delay due to the pandemic, the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020 is officially inducted in Cooperstown. The four new members chosen—Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and late union boss Marvin Miller—are the sole inductees honored, as no one in 2021 was elected. Before a pro-Yankees crowd on the lawn of the Clark Sports Center near the Hall, Jeter pays tribute to everyone from his parents to Hank Aaron to Rachel Robinson, widow of Jackie Robinson, while fans taking pictures from the crowd include basketball sports icon Michael Jordan. Walker, in a goofier speech, wears a SpongeBob lapel on his jacket while taking a picture of the crowd with his iPhone. Simmons, the first Cooperstown entrant chosen by the Veterans Committee after going one-and-done (3.7%) in the general vote years earlier, pays special thanks to Miller—who’s represented at the podium by his successor in the MLBPA, Don Fehr

Minnesota’s Joe Ryan, in his second major league appearance, retires the first 19 Cleveland batters he faces until Amed Rosario finally breaks up the perfecto bid with a seeing-eye hit through the infield with one out in the seventh. The 25-year-old right-hander finishes the inning with just the one hit allowed and picks up his first career victory, a 3-0 decision over the Indians. 

Thursday, September 9

It’s tough to tell whether the Blue Jays are red hot, or if the Yankees are ice cold. In this case, two things could be equally true. Toronto finishes off a four-game sweep of the Yankees at New York, 6-4, behind three home runs including the 42nd from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The Jays are so dominant in the sweep, the Yankees never once led at any point in any of their four losses—the first time that’s happened to them in a four-game series since 1924. The victory puts the Blue Jays, who’ve won seven straight games overall, ahead of the Yankees (who’ve lost six straight) for the second and final AL wild card spot. 

Guerrero has three home runs in a series for the eighth time this year, setting an AL record. 

Friday, September 10

Trevor Bauer’s continuing failure to get legal closure on the sexual assault charges leveled at him by a former “companion” has cost him a chance to pitch again this season. MLB, the players’ union and Bauer agree to have his administrative leave extended all the way through the postseason, effectively ending the right-hander’s first campaign with the Dodgers which consists of 17 starts, an 8-5 record and a 2.59 ERA over 107.2 innings—all for $38 million in salary. Rachel Luba and Jon Fetterolf, Bauer’s agents, release a statement which says: “Today Mr. Bauer agreed to extend his administrative leave through the playoffs in a measure of good faith and in an effort to minimize any distraction to the Dodgers organization and his teammates. He continues to cooperate with the MLB investigation and refute the baseless allegations against him.” 

His 500th career home run behind him, the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera is barreling toward his next big milestone: Career hit #3,000. In Detroit’s 10-4 home win over Tampa Bay, the 38-year-old Cabrera ropes out two singles to extend a string of consecutive at-bats with a base hit to nine before finally being retired late in the game. The last player older than Cabrera with nine or more straight hits was Ty Cobb, who was just a gray hair older in May 1925

Another 38-year old star makes historical waves as well when Joey Votto clubs his 30th homer of the year in the Reds’ 4-2 win at St. Louis. The veteran first baseman becomes the oldest Cincinnati player to hit 30, and the first time he’s hit 30 (let alone 20) since smacking 36 in 2017

Saturday, September 11

There is now no dispute: The 2021 season is categorically the Year of the No-Hitter. Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes (eight innings, one walk, 14 strikeouts) and Josh Hader (one inning, two K’s) combine to shut down the Indians, 3-0, at Cleveland for the ninth official no-no of the year, surpassing the eight registered in 1884 (when baseball was a bit different than it is today). Burnes, who allows his only baserunner in the seventh on Myles Straw’s leadoff walk, is removed after eight hitless with his pitch count at 115. It’s the seventh time this year that he’s allowed two or fewer hits over six or more innings. 

Nobody has seen the dark side of this year’s no-hit splurge more than the Indians, who are held hitless for an MLB-record third time this season. Zach Plesac is Cleveland’s starter in all three games. 

Sunday, September 12

Max Scherzer piles up the history in an outstanding effort at Los Angeles against the Padres. He takes a perfect game into the eighth, becomes the 19th pitcher in MLB history to record 3,000 strikeouts, and ties Sandy Koufax and Chris Sale with his third career immaculate inning, setting down San Diego hitters in the second on nine pitches, all of them strikes. Eric Hosmer’s one-out double in the eighth breaks up the perfecto bid, but by then the game is pretty much in the Dodgers’ bag as they finish a three-game sweep of the Padres with an 8-0 win. Only Randy Johnson needed fewer frames to reach the 3,000 milestone. 

Francisco Lindor, dogged by Mets fans throughout his first year at New York following a trade from Cleveland, becomes the nighttime star as he drills three home runs—his third putting the Mets ahead to stay in the eighth as they take a 7-6 win over the visiting Yankees. The victory gives the Mets bragging rights over the Yankees for the season, having won four of six matchups; it’s their first winning record against the Bronx Bombers since 2013

Lindor’s first career hat trick is also the first by a player in either a regular season or postseason game between the Mets and Yankees. 

The surging Blue Jays annihilate the Orioles at Baltimore to the tune of a 22-7 rout, scoring 16 runs over just the first three innings. Add 11 runs from their last inning played the night before, and the Jays set an MLB record by plating 27 runs over a four-inning stretch. Toronto, which has won 14 of its last 16 and overtake the Red Sox for second in the AL East (and thus the AL wild card lead) by percentage points, strokes five home runs; two of those come from Lourdes Gurriel Jr., including his fourth grand slam of the year to set a Toronto season record. 

One bright note for the Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle hits his 28th home run, tying Cal Ripken Jr.’s franchise rookie record. 

Monday, September 13

The Giants, a team few thought would be a legitimate contender in 2021, become the first ballclub to clinch a postseason berth after stomping the visiting Padres, 9-1. Four home runs—all off San Diego starter Yu Darvish through the game’s first four innings—catapults the Giants to their first playoff spot since 2016

Toronto continues rolling, flattening the visiting Rays, 8-1, for its 12th win over its last 13 games. The bottom of the order stars for the Blue Jays, with batters #5-9 combining to go 15-for-21—but Vladimir Guerrero Jr., batting third, pokes out a solo home run to give him 45 on the year, eclipsing the 44 his namesake father hit back in 2000 for his personal best. With AL highs in home runs and batting average (.318) while a close third in RBIs (103), Guerrero has a chance to take the AL triple crown of hitting. 

In a matchup of fortysomething pitchers—the first since 2015 when Toronto’s R.A. Dickey faced off against the Mets’ Bartolo Colon—40-year-old Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright gets the better of the Mets’ Rich Hill (41), firing six shutout innings in improving his season record to 16-7 as St. Louis ease to a 7-0 victory at New York. It’s the highest win total for Wainwright since notching 20 in 2014. Meanwhile, the Mets’ loss ends a streak of eight straight defeats decided by a single run. 

Hey Siri, show me the first player since at least 1920 to accrue four hits and five RBIs in his first major league start! Jose Siri, a 26-year-old Dominican native, has a whale of a night in the Astros’ 15-1 rout at Arlington against the Rangers, which includes his first two career home runs. 

Tuesday, September 14

After failing to receive an offer from any team this season as his controversial career declines at age 37, Ryan Braun announces his retirement from the game—ending a life in baseball tainted by steroids, villainy and shame. For the first half of his 14-year career, Braun was a lightning presence in the Milwaukee lineup, exploding on the scene in 2007 with a .324 average, 34 home runs and 97 RBIs over just 113 games to win NL Rookie of the Year honors; he made the All-Star team over each of his next five seasons, and in 2011 won the NL MVP in a close vote over the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp. But following that stellar campaign, Braun was tagged with a positive steroids test—one he successfully fought off as he claimed the tester had inappropriately stored the blood sample, even suggesting that he was a target due to his Jewish heritage. 

But he had no excuse to give when he was caught a year later as one of the star patients in the notorious Biogenesis scandal, which cost him a 65-game suspension and all credibility to his career. Braun’s supporters quickly fled, and he was booed even by his home fans in Milwaukee once he returned. Assumedly off the roids, Braun carried on for seven more seasons, contributing occasional solid numbers that nonetheless were nowhere near the statistical marvel of his pre-Biogenesis stature. He finishes his career as the Brewers’ all-time leader in home runs (352) while he’s second or third in almost every other major offensive category—but his legacy will forever be stained by his connection to steroids. Had it all been legit, he would have had a decent shot of making the Hall of Fame; but with this book closed, he has no chance. 

A day after the Giants became the first team this year to clinch a postseason spot, the Dodgers—2.5 games behind San Francisco in the NL West—join them as the second with an 8-4 victory over the visiting Diamondbacks. It’s the ninth straight year in which the Dodgers will make the playoffs, a franchise record. 

Seattle is rewarded with the 2023 All-Star Game, the second time that T-Mobile Park (originally named Safeco Field) will host the event, having first held it in 2001. This is curious, given that brand-new Globe Life Field in Arlington might have been assumed to be the leader in the clubhouse. But in the wake of MLB stripping this year’s All-Star Game from Atlanta over Georgia’s restrictive voting rights measures, it’s possible that the league is taking a wait-and-see approach on Arlington as Texas politicians engage in their own far-right tactics. 

Wednesday, September 15

The Yankees score twice in the top of the ninth on Brent Gardner’s single to defeat the Orioles at Baltimore, 4-3. The win keeps New York in a three-way tie for second with Toronto and Boston in the AL East, but on a more historical note it’s the 82nd victory of the year for the Yankees, clinching their 29th straight winning campaign. That’s the second longest in MLB history, behind the Yankees’ own 39-year reign of supremacy from 1926-64. 

Despite four more home runs to increase their NL team lead to 222, the Giants bow to the visiting Padres, 9-6, to end their nine-game winning streak—and have their lead in the NL West shrink to 1.5 games as the Dodgers defeat the Diamondbacks down at Los Angeles, 5-3, behind Julio Urias’ MLB-best 18th win. It’s the 15th time this year that the Giants have hit at least four homers in one game; only the 2019 Dodgers (22) have hit more among NL teams. Also to note: The Giants have scored at least six runs in 10 straight games, the second-longest streak in modern (post-1900) club history following a 15-game stretch in 1929

Thursday, September 16

The Cubs take early command at Philadelphia with a 7-0 lead after three innings—then get outscored the rest of the way by the Phillies, 17-1, as neither Kyle Hendricks nor five relievers can hold down the fort in a 17-8 loss. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before; on June 30 at Milwaukee, the Cubs also led 7-0 but then proceeded to surrender 15 unanswered runs to the Brewers. According to STATS, the Cubs are the first team in modern (post-1900) times to, twice within one year, have a seven-run lead in a game before losing by at least seven. 

Hendricks, who just a month earlier was leading the majors in wins, has won just one of his last seven starts with a horrid 9.08 ERA.  

Friday, September 17

The Giants stretch their lead in the NL West over the Dodgers (3-1 losers at Cincinnati) to two games in the most unlikely of ways at home against Atlanta. After blowing a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth on Travis d’Arnaud’s three-run home run, the Giants tie it up in the bottom half on a pinch-hit homer from Donovan Solano—making his first appearance since contracting COVID 24 days earlier. In the 11th, San Francisco manage to load the bases with one out—but with the pitcher’s spot due up and the Giants out of bench players, they have to settle for using starting pitcher Kevin Gausman as a pinch-hitter; he delivers, sending a fly ball deep enough to score Brandon Crawford and give the Giants a 6-5 victory. 

Beyond Solano and Gausman, here’s one more unexpected nugget from the game: None of the Giants’ eight hits are singles. They have four doubles and four home runs. 

The Orioles win (or lose) the race nobody wants to break the finish line with, as the first team to lose 100 games. Baltimore drops a 7-1 decision to the Red Sox and Chris Sale, who improve to 4-0 in six starts this year in his return from a second COVID positive. It’s the fifth time since moving to Baltimore in 1954 that the Orioles have lost 100-plus games; three of those five have taken place in the last four years. 

An hour later in Houston, the Diamondbacks join the Orioles with their 100th loss—though at least they make the Astros sweat. Madison Bumgarner has a no-hit bid spoiled in the sixth on a two-run Jose Altuve home run, but the Diamondbacks fight back to force extra innings and score one in the 10th to temporarily take the lead—before the Astros respond with a pair of runs, the last ending the game as Tyler Clippard hits Chas McCormick with a bases-loaded pitch to cap a 4-3 Houston victory. This is only the second time that the Diamondbacks have endured triple-digit losses, after a 51-111 campaign in 2004

In the Cardinals’ 8-2 home win over the Padres, San Diego reliever Austin Adams hits his 24th batter of the year—the most by any pitcher within one season since Jack Warhop plunked 26 in 1909. Here’s the eye-opening part; Adams has only needed 49.2 innings to collect his total. The guy with the next fewest amount of innings to hit more is Gus Shallix, who nailed 26 batters over 199.2 innings in 1884. Adams’ mind-bending penchant is all the more of a head scratcher when you consider that in 40 previous innings entering the season, he had only hit two batters. 

Saturday, September 18

The Brewers clinched their fourth consecutive playoff spot with a 6-4 home win over the Cubs, as catcher Manny Pina’s second homer on the day breaks a 4-4 tie in the eighth while Corbin Burnes strikes out 11 more batters over six innings. Milwaukee is just five wins away from matching a franchise-best 96 wins for the year, while its needs to go 9-5 or better the rest of the way to achieve its first-ever 100-win campaign. 

After a series of awful outings on the road, the Padres’ Yu Darvish finally gets it back in gear and outduels an in-form Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright with seven shutout innings—but then he is replaced in the eighth by reliever Emilio Pagan, who also hasn’t been at his best lately. Unfortunately for the Padres, Pagan does not get it back in gear— giving up three runs, the last two on Tyler O’Neill’s two-out home run to put the Cardinals ahead to stay, 3-2. The loss drops the Padres (76-72) 2.5 games behind St. Louis for the second NL wild card spot, with the Reds (77-72) and Phillies (76-72) providing direct competition. 

Getting more viral attention from this game than the result is a heated dugout chat between San Diego stars Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr., which really isn’t much ado about anything. Machado is seen (and heard, via nearby iPhone videos later posted on social media) barking at Tatis moments after the latter extensively argued a third-strike call to end the top of the fifth inning—but Machado is simply encouraging Tatis, with tough love, to get over it and get back out on the field. Tatis puts up brief resistance before grabbing his glove and dragging himself out of the dugout. 

Sunday, September 19

Eddie Rosario, acquired by the Braves from Cleveland at the end of August, becomes the second Atlanta hitter this year (after Freddie Freeman on August 18) to hit for the cycle in a 3-0 win at San Francisco. The easy hit—the single—in his last at-bat in the ninth nets the achievement; overall, he earns the cycle on a total of just five pitches. The win pads the Braves’ NL East lead over the Phillies (who later lose at New York) to two games, while the Giants’ NL West lead shrinks back down to a game after the Dodgers defeat the Reds at Cincinnati, 8-5, behind Clayton Kershaw’s first win since June. 

It’s all or nothing for the Cubs’ Patrick Wisdom at Milwaukee; he strikes out in four of his five at-bats, but belts his 27th home run of the year, helping to plate the final three of Chicago’s six runs in a 6-4 victory over the Brewers. Wisdom breaks Kris Bryant’s 2015 Cubs rookie record for homers, and he’s done it in an astonishingly economical 321 at-bats; though this is his fourth year of activity in the majors, he had not accrued the required at-bats during the three previous seasons to shed his rookie eligibility. 

The Cubs won just four of 19 games against the Brewers this season; they had lost 11 straight to Milwaukee before Sunday’s win. 

Monday, September 20

Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez blasts his 46th home run in the first game of a mini-DH at Cleveland to set the MLB mark for most dingers by a player performing primarily at catcher, topping Johnny Bench’s 45 from 1970 while tying Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the major league lead this season. Perez’s shot plates the final two runs for the Royals in a 7-2 win; they win the second game as well, 4-2. 

In that nightcap, former outfielder Anthony Gose—last seen at the big-league level as an outfielder for Detroit in 2016—returns reincarnated as a supersonic pitcher for Cleveland. Gose pitches 1.2 innings, allowing a run on a hit and walk while striking out one; of the 39 pitches he throws, eight of them hit 100 MPH on the speed gun. 

Jon Lester joins Houston pitchers Justin Verlander (226 career wins) and Zack Greinke (219) as the third active pitcher with 200 lifetime victories, reaching the milestone by allowing a pair of runs on two hits through six innings to give the Cardinals their ninth straight win, 5-2 at Milwaukee. It’s the seventh victory in just 26 starts for Lester this year, but his fourth in 10 such assignments since joining the Cardinals from Washington at the end of July. St. Louis remains three games ahead of Cincinnati (which defeats Pittsburgh, 9-5) for the final NL wild card spot. 

Right-handed pitcher Shane Baz, the latest top prospect to break in for Tampa Bay, has an unenviable assignment in his major league debut: Taking on the high-powered Toronto Blue Jays and Cy Young Award candidate Robbie Ray. The 22-year-old Baz does well—very well. In five innings, he allows two runs on two hits with five strikeouts and no walks, while throwing 78.5% of his pitches for strikes (51 of 65)—the highest strike rate for any major leaguer in his debut since pitches began being officially tracked in 1988. Most importantly, Baz gets the win, 6-4 over the Blue Jays. 

“Agua under the bridge” is what Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo well later tell reporters after a touchy incident ticks off the Blue Jays. the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier is tagged out on a play at the plate by Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk—but the contact between the two loosens Kirk’s card (or cheat sheet) practically onto Kiermaier’s lap. As Kirk walks away unaware that the card, wrapped around his wrist, has separated from him, Kiermaier takes a look at it, picks it up—and walks back to the Blue Jays’ dugout. Kiermaier claims he didn’t even know what the card was and “never even looked at it,” before also admitting, “I’m not going to drop it or hand it back.” 

Tuesday, September 21

Late heroics keep the NL West race at status quo. Albert Pujols singles in the gift runner from second to give the Dodgers a 5-4, 10-inning win at Colorado, but later in San Diego the Giants fight back from a 4-1 deficit and break a 5-5 tie in the ninth on LaMonte Wade Jr.’s single to defeat the Padres, 6-5. San Francisco remains a game up on top of Los Angeles, as both teams are easily on track to win over 100 games—something the National League has not seen from two divisional rivals since the Giants and Braves both surpassed the mark in 1993

Wednesday, September 22

The Rays clinch their seventh postseason spot—and the first time they’ve done it in three straight seasons—with a 7-1 victory over the Blue Jays, marred by a bizarre but not unexpected retaliatory plunking of Kevin Kiermaier late in the game. Even in spite of a well-publicized, face-to-face apology from Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash to Toronto counterpart Charlie Montoyo a day after the incident, Blue Jays reliever Ryan Borucki feels there still needs to be retribution—and drills Kiermaier square in the back to lead off the eighth. Borucki is summarily ejected—as is Toronto pitching coach Pete Walker, who comes out tongue firing seconds later. 

Holding the AL’s top wild card spot are the Red Sox, who grab their seventh straight win with a 12-5 home rout of the Mets. Boston scores in each of its first six innings, with nine runs over the first three thanks to Kyle Schwarber, who has his biggest day yet as a Red Sock since being picked up from Washington at the trading deadline. Schwarber drills home runs in each of the first two innings, the third game this year in which he’s accomplished that; only Mookie Betts had previously done the same, in 2016 for Boston. He’s also the first MLB player ever to collect nine homers over a five-game stretch against one team. 

The Reds will miss the playoffs this year, but manager David Bell has been rewarded for a job well done with a two-year extension. Under Bell, the Reds are in position to capture their second straight winning season after six straight below-.500 records. 

Thursday, September 23

For the first time in their 121-year history, the Chicago White Sox are going to the postseason in back-to-back seasons. The Pale Hose clinch the AL Central with a 7-2 road victory at second-place Cleveland in the first game of a mini-doubleheader, as Tim Anderson belts a pair of home runs among three hits with four RBIs. Chicago’s ticket to the playoffs also makes manager Tony La Russa the first pilot to lead an MLB team to the postseason in five different decades—and no one had led the same team to the playoffs over as long as stretch as La Russa, who also guided the 1983 White Sox into October, 38 years earlier. 

It looks as if the rampaging Cardinals are finally going to be cooled off by the Brewers, who score four quick runs off St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright before knocking him out after four innings. But down 5-0, the Cardinals plate eight unanswered runs and stun Milwaukee for their 12th straight win, tied for the second longest in franchise history. It’s also the first time this year this year that the Cardinals trail by as much as three runs in the seventh inning or later and come back to win; they were winless in 48 similar situations. 

The Cardinals’ comeback isn’t the biggest of the night. Those honors go to the Phillies, who turn around a 6-0 deficit and scored 12 unanswered against the visiting Pirates, winning 12-6 to close within two games of Atlanta (6-4 losers at Arizona) for the NL East lead. This is the second time this year that Philadelphia has won a game by six or more runs after trailing by six at one point; no MLB team since 1900 had previously done that. J.T. Realmuto, who doesn’t even start for the Phillies, is the big force offensively with three hits (two singles and a homer) and four RBIs. 

Ironically, the first of the Phillies’ two big comebacks took place a week earlier against the Cubs, who became the first team to lose two games by seven-plus runs after leading earlier in each game by seven.  

In their loss, Pirates catcher Michael Perez committed two passed balls, snapping an MLB-record streak of 193 straight games without a Pittsburgh backstop committing even one.  

Leave it to Coors Field to ruin Max Scherzer’s mean streak in Dodger Blue. The Rockies bunch up three runs off the ace pitcher in the second, ending his streak of 38 straight innings without allowing an earned run; overall, Colorado piles up five runs on Scherzer over five innings, matching the total number of earned runs he allows in his first nine starts for the Dodgers after his trade from Washington. The Dodgers spare Scherzer his first loss in a Los Angeles jersey by bouncing back to win in 10 innings, 7-5, and close back to within a game of the Giants—who lose a 7-6, 10-inning affair in San Diego—in the NL West. 

Scherzer six strikeouts pass Justin Verlander (still mending from Tommy John surgery) for the most career K’s by an active pitcher, at 3,016. (Verlander is sitting on 3,013.) 

Arizona manager Torey Lovullo has made some pretty boneheaded in-game decisions as the Diamondbacks have sunk to a 49-104 record, threatening their franchise nadir of 51-111 from 2004. But DBacks management likes Lovullo enough that he’s being brought back on a one-year extension for 2022, with a club option for 2023. 

Friday, September 24

There’s simply no stopping the Cardinals. The Redbirds sweep a mini-DH at Chicago by scores of 8-5 and 12-4, extending their winning streak to an MLB season-high 14 while tying the franchise mark from 1935; in that earlier run, the Cardinals won only two road games—both of those also during a doubleheader at Chicago. More importantly for the Cardinals, their double-rip of the Cubs reduces their magic number to clinch the second NL wild card spot to four. 

During the first game, Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O’Neill both go deep for the 30th time this year, giving the Cardinals three players (along with Nolan Arenado) with at least 30 bombs for only the second time. The first trio, from 2004, consisted of Albert Pujols (46), Jim Edmonds (42) and Scott Rolen (34). 

The Giants became the first team this season to reach 100 wins with a 7-2 beating of the Rockies, maintaining their one-game lead in the NL West over the Dodgers—who defeat the Diamondbacks at Arizona, 4-2, and will likely be the second to reach the 100-win mark. It’s the eighth time that the Giants have won 100 in a season—though if the Dodgers pass them up and win the West, then San Francisco will have the frustration of knowing that in the last four times it reached 100, it only finished first outright once; they tied the Dodgers at 101-61 in 1962 (ultimately winning two of three in an extended playoff), and finished a game behind the 104-58 Braves in 1993

Cedric Mullins’ three-run homer in the second makes him the first Orioles player to collect 30 home runs and steals each in one season since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954. But because these are the Orioles (49-105), Mullins, big blast isn’t enough as the visiting Rangers pile on five runs in the ninth to take an 8-5 result. Mullins is not the first player in franchise history to reach 30-30; Ken Williams (39 homers, 37 steals) did it in 1922 when the Orioles were known as the St. Louis Browns. 

Because every game matters at this point for the Braves (trying to hold on to the NL East lead) and the Padres (carrying a mathematical pulse in the wild card race), a scheduled game between the two teams in San Diego is preceded by the completion of a contest halted by rain back in Atlanta on July 21. Ironically, the last thing anyone expects to get in the way of finishing this game in San Diego is rain, but that’s exactly what happens as a monsoonal drift from Mexico delays the start of the restart by an hour and five minutes. After the rare Petco Park rain delay, the two teams finally finish things off amid numerous odd circumstances. First, the Braves are the home team in San Diego; A game-tying home run in the sixth from the Braves’ Adam Duvall—who was playing for Miami when the game started two months earlier—is hit off of the Padres’ Daniel Hudson, who began the game pitching elsewhere for Washington. And Fernando Tatis Jr.’s homer in the seventh, which serves as the game-winner in a 6-5 Padres victory, is officially his 30th of the year—which means that the 40th homer he hit two days earlier against the Giants was technically his 41st. 

In the originally scheduled game that follows, the Braves’ Max Fried throws the majors’ first nine-inning shutout in 20 days as he blanks the Padres on three hits in a 4-0 victory that takes a tidy two hours and 28 minutes. 

Saturday, September 25

Trailing 4-2 entering the seventh inning against the Cubs at Chicago, the Cardinals score three runs followed by three more in the ninth for a come-from-behind, 8-5 victory—the team’s 15th straight to set an all-time franchise mark. Harrison Bader is the prime offensive force for St. Louis with three singles, a home run and two steals, while Cardinals defense keeps the Cubs at arm’s length by turning four double plays—including a wild dual-rundown outcome that’s scored 3-2-5-4-2-8-6. The Cardinals’ magic number for clinching the second NL wild card is three, as the Padres are eliminated with a 10-8 home defeat to Atlanta. 

The Rays, who earlier in the week clinched a postseason berth, formally capture the AL East for the fourth time and second straight year with a 7-3 win over Miami. Mike Zunino raps his 32nd home run (done over just 319 at-bats) while Shane McClanahan ties Josh Fleming for the team lead in wins with just 10, an indication of the Rays’ analytics-driven, share-the-wealth pitching strategy. 

The game is played before the Rays’ largest crowd of the year, a “sellout” gathering of 23,783—Tropicana Field’s other 20,000 seats are tarped—on the day the Rays announce that they will place a banner inside the domed facility touting the team’s possible future dual-city split between St. Petersburg and Montreal. Which, as it currently stands, can’t happen until 2028 as the Rays are locked in their current ballpark lease. After the banner idea is broadly panned in all circles, the Rays will perform an about face and apologize for considering the idea. 

Brandon Belt’s second home run of the night at Colorado—giving the Giants a fifth-inning lead they will not let go of in a 7-2 win over the Rockies—is the 236th hit this year by San Francisco, setting a franchise record. The previous season high was 235 by the 2001 Giants sparked by Barry Bonds’ record-breaking 73. 

The Giants are the only team this year, so far, to set a team record for homers. That contrasts with the latest ‘Year of the Home Run’ in 2019, when 14 teams set season marks. 

Although the Rockies haven’t been a factor in the postseason picture all year, they draw a crowd of 45,000 to Coors Field for the game as they hold an extensive pregame tribute to Larry Walker, the first Rockies player selected to the Hall of Fame; his #33 uniform is officially retired by the team. 

Sunday, September 26

The Brewers became the latest divisional champion, taking the NL Central with an 8-4 win over the Mets before a crowd of over 40,000 at Milwaukee. It’s the team’s fourth divisional title, and they can rest easy for the next week and prepare for the postseason knowing that they’ll be the #2 seed on the NL side. Meanwhile, the loss for the Mets (73-82) guarantees them a losing record after spending much of the season’s first half on top in the NL East. 

It’s learned a couple of days later that during the Brewers’ postgame celebration, hard-throwing Brewers reliever and reigning NL Rookie of the Year Devin Williams breaks his hand while attempting to punch a wall after claiming he was “upset” about something in the moment. What that would be after a team clinches a postseason spot is interesting, but we’ll continue to repeat the moral of this incident until we’re blue in the face: When you take on an inanimate object, the inanimate object will win, every day of the week. Williams will undergo surgery and miss the rest of the year, including the playoffs—a potentially huge blow to the Brewers in October. 

There’s also bad news for Giants, who also win with a 6-2 result at Colorado. First baseman Brandon Belt—leading the team with 29 home runs over just 325 at-bats this season—suffers a broken left thumb while attempting a bunt, of all things. While he’s immediately declared out for the regular season’s final week, his status for the postseason is unclear. 

A day after setting the franchise mark for consecutive victories, the Cardinals add to it with a 4-2 decision at Chicago. Aside from the general 16-game run, the Cardinals have also won 11 straight on the road, one shy of another team record; with St. Louis finishing its season at home this week, its 11 straight road wins to finish a season is the longest such streak since the 1887 Phillies also ended the year with 11. 

The Yankees are back on top of the AL wild card pyramid after sweeping a three-game series at Fenway Park against the Red Sox, relegated to the #2 slot. As in its loss the day before, the bullpen again fails the Red Sox, blowing a 3-2 lead in the eighth—first with Aaron Judge’s two-run double, followed by a two-run home run from Giancarlo Stanton, who knocks in 10 runs over the three-game series. Boston now needs to worry about holding onto the final wild card berth, as it leads Toronto by one game, Seattle by two and Oakland by three; all three trailers won on the day. 

Monday, September 27

One hundred and six years after adopting the name, Cleveland plays its final home game as the Indians and take an 8-3 victory over the Royals before 13,131 fans at Progressive Field. On the eve of his 30th birthday, Eddie Rosario propels the Indians with his sixth four-hit game of the year—the most by a Cleveland player since Joe Carter in 1986—and Bradley Zimmer hits a solo home run off his brother, Kansas City pitcher Kyle Zimmer. It’s only the fourth time in MLB history that one brother has belted a homer off another; the other three occurred in 1904 (George Stovall, off Jesse Stovall), 1933 (Rick Ferrell, off Wes Ferrell) and 1976 (Joe Niekro, off Phil Niekro). 

The Indians, soon to be known as the Guardians, need to win five of their remaining six games to secure a ninth straight winning record. The franchise record is 10, from 1947-56. 

If the Mariners do make the playoffs for the first time in two decades, they’re going to have Oakland’s Cole Irvin to thank. The left-hander has started five games against Seattle in 2021 and lost them all—including tonight’s 13-4 rout at T-Mobile Park—with an 8.69 ERA. Irvin is 10-15 with a 4.18 ERA this year, but 10-10 and 3.60 when the crash-and-burn totals against Seattle are omitted. The Mariners are 1.5 games behind Boston for the second AL wild card spot, while the A’s postseason chances are on life support. 

Tuesday, September 28

The Cardinals run their win streak to a remarkable 17 games and become the latest team to officially book a ticket to the postseason, clinching the second NL wild card with a 6-2 home win over NL Central champ Milwaukee. Adam Wainwright picks up the win as he extends his season totals to 17 wins (against seven losses), 206.1 innings and 174 strikeouts—all three numbers being his highest accrued figures since 2014—while Nolan Arenado blasts his 34th home run and drives in two runs overall to increase his yearly total to 105, proving that he doesn’t need mile-high air for power inflation. 

There have been only eight winning streaks since 1900 longer than the Cardinals’ current run; two of those occurred without a tie getting in the way. 

One of the teams eliminated from wild card competition with the Cardinals’ win is the Phillies, whose only remaining path to the postseason is to overcome the Braves and win the NL East. But they make that journey a bit more difficult by losing the first game of a massive three-game series at Atlanta, 2-1, to fall 3.5 games back with five to play. (Worse, they’re four back of the Braves in the loss column.) The Braves’ experiment to have power slugger Jorge Soler lead off seems to be working; his two-run single in the third brings home both Atlanta runs, while Charlie Morton (see below) throws seven sterling innings to keep the Phillies from responding. 

In the AL wild card race, the Yankees take an important 7-2 win at Toronto to move two games ahead of wild card #2 leader Boston, which blows a slim lead and loses at Baltimore, 4-2. (This, on the 10th anniversary of the Red Sox’ blowing another lead at Camden Yards and losing the season finale and wild card spot.) Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, in form at a most critical moment, combine to go 4-for-7 with a pair of homers and five RBIs to lift New York over the Blue Jays. 

By losing to the Yankees, the Blue Jays not only fail to tie the Red Sox for the #2 spot, but they’ve fallen behind a half-game to Seattle, which moves to within a half-game of Boston with its latest victory, a 4-2 home win over the fading A’s. The Mariners have won nine of their last 10 games, and 11 straight against Oakland; according to STATS, Seattle is the first team to win that many contests consecutively against a single team that was 10 games above .500 at the start of each of those games. 

Five years after Vin Scully ended a 67-year career with the Dodgers and departed the broadcast booth, long-time Los Angeles Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrin announces that he’ll be doing the same. The 2022 season will be Jarrin’s last at the mic, capping a 64-year run with the Dodgers that began in 1959—the team’s second season in California after its historic and controversial move from Brooklyn. The 86-year-old Jarrin was honored with the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for baseball broadcasting excellence in 1998, making him the second Spanish-language broadcaster (after Buck Canal) to earn the honor. 

Wednesday, September 29

The Cardinals’ franchise-record win streak is history, as the Brewers deny victory #18 with a 4-0 shutout at St. Louis. It’s possible that the Cardinals, a day after clinching the second NL wild card spot, are taking their foot off the gas pedal—as several regulars including Nolan Arenado, Tyler O’Neill and Tommy Edman are given the day off. 

The AL wild card race becomes more of a toss-up after Wednesday’s results. In Toronto, Bo Bichette’s second home run of the night breaks a tie in the eighth inning and results in the eventual winning run for the Blue Jays in their 6-5 defeat of the Yankees. Marcus Semien adds a first-inning solo homer off Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, giving him 44 for the year—breaking the all-time MLB record for second basemen in one season. 

Bichette’s big night puts him over the 100-RBI mark, joining three other Blue Jays (Semien, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez); they’re the first MLB quartet to each have 100+ RBIs since Gary Sheffield, Andruw Jones, Javy Lopez and Chipper Jones did it for the 2003 Braves. 

Out west, the Dodgers bounce back off the ropes from a potential three-game NL West deficit with four to play by launching four homers in the eighth, overcoming a three-run lead by the visiting Padres to triumph, 11-9. The win improves the Dodgers to 10-0 when Max Scherzer gets the ball—although it’s Scherzer’s worst outing yet in a Los Angeles uniform, allowing six runs (five earned) on 11 hits through 5.1 innings. 

The Dodgers remain two back of the Giants, who squeeze out a 1-0 home win over Arizona for their 104th victory of the year—the most since the team moved to San Francisco in 1958. 

Tampa Bay will officially enjoy home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs after blanking the Astros at Houston, 7-0. Drew Rasmussen holds the Astros scoreless on one hit through five innings, while Wander Franco collects three hits to extend his on-base streak to 43 games—tying Frank Robinson (1956) for the longest such run by a player under the age of 21. Houston’s magic number for clinching the AL West remains at one. 

In Kansas City’s 10-5 home win over Cleveland, Salvador Perez ties Jorge Soler’s two-year-old team mark for season home runs with his 48th, a three-run shot in the first inning. The burly catcher leads the majors by two over Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. 

The Texas Rangers clinch their first 100-loss campaign since 1973, dropping a 7-2 decision to the Angels at Arlington. Starring as usual for the Halos is Shohei Ohtani, who deposits two singles—including a 109-MPH sizzler that literally rips through the glove of Texas second baseman Andy Ibanez—and adds two steals to give him 26 on the year. 

“When you start breaking gloves,” said Angels manager Joe Maddon of Ohtani, “you’re the MVP.”  

Thursday, September 30

The Braves finish off a three-game sweep of the second-place Phillies at Atlanta and clinch their fourth straight NL East title with a 5-3 victory. Jorge Soler’s leadoff homer in the first opens the scoring; Austin Riley adds his 33rd of the season in the fourth; Ian Anderson pitches six strong innings for the Braves, and Will Smith throws a 1-2-3 ninth to secure the save. 

Only three teams over the past 50 years—the 1974 Pirates, the 1984 Royals and 1989 Blue Jays—have spent more time below .500 during the season than the Braves, who logged 126 days with a losing record and were 52-55 on August 3 before winning 34 of their next 51 games. 

Bryce Harper goes 0-for-the-series against the Braves, perhaps losing NL MVP votes in the process. 

The Astros eliminate what little suspense is left in chasing the AL West title by taking their fourth divisional crown over the past five years in a 3-2 home win over Tampa Bay. All three Houston runs come on Carlos Correa’s 25th home run in the fourth inning. For Astros skipper Dusty Baker, this will be trip #11 to the postseason while at the helm of an MLB team. In defeat, the Rays witness the end of rookie Wander Franco’s on-base streak at 43 games as he goes hitless in four at-bats; he thus shares the record for players under the age of 21 with Frank Robinson, who also reached base in 43 straight in 1956

In an otherwise rotten year for the Rangers, they at least have Adolis Garcia, a strong candidate for AL Rookie of the Year. The 28-year-old Cuban breaks a club rookie mark with his 31st home run in Texas’ 7-6 win over the visiting Angels. Only Baltimore’s Ryan Mountcastle (33) has more homers among rookies. 

The Pirates becoame the fourth and last team to lose 100 games this year, suffering a 9-0 home blowout loss to the Cubs. It’s the eighth time in franchise history that the Bucs have lost 100, and the first since a 57-105 mark in 2010. Rafael Ortega helps seal the Pirates’ fate with a first-pitch, leadoff homer in the first, and steals of third base and home an inning later.

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