September 27, 2013
What You Need to Know
A Bronx Goodbye
The Thursday Takeaway
The Yankees failed in their attempt to grant Rivera a save situation for the road, but in the end, the way Thursday’s series finale unfolded led to a more touching scene than even the most heartfelt handshake line could have produced. Rivera entered in the eighth inning with runners at first and second, and he made quick work of Delmon Young and Sam Fuld to help rookie Dellin Betances out of a jam. In the top of the ninth, he coaxed a ground out from Jose Lobaton and a popup from Yunel Escobar.
Were the Yankees ahead by a run or two, manager Joe Girardi might have felt compelled to stick with Rivera and give him a chance to record regular-season save no. 653. Under these circumstances, he had something much greater in mind.
Girardi sent the two other active members of the core four, Derek Jeter—who is on the disabled list, but will be its last man standing—and Andy Pettitte—who made his last Yankee Stadium start on Sunday—to the mound with Matt Daley ready in the bullpen. Pettitte made the call to Daley and then hugged Rivera as the 43-year-old broke down in tears, with the crowd and the players in both dugouts and bullpens on their feet. It was the first of many hugs for Rivera, who tipped his cap on his way back to the dugout and made a curtain call after he was done embracing everyone inside it.
Rivera’s 1 1/3 perfect innings brought his career ERA down to 2.209, one one-thousandth of a run better than the record previously held by Eddie Cicotte. If he does not toe the rubber in Houston this weekend, by that metric and many others, Rivera will go down as the best of all time.
Quick Hits from Thursday
Matt Garza coughed up a first-inning run to the Angels on a pair of singles and an RBI fielder’s choice by Mike Trout, but the Rangers bounced back with a fine rally in the home half of the frame, featuring four singles and a sacrifice fly. The scoreboard read 3-1 Texas, and Ron Washington’s team seemed headed for victory, a result it had enjoyed only seven times in Garza’s first 12 starts with the club.
Garza got two quick outs to begin the top of the second. And then, all of a sudden, the wheels came off. Not from Garza—from the fielders behind him.
The Rangers went around the infield making errors. Andrew Romine reached on a ball booted by first baseman Mitch Moreland. J.B. Shuck moved Romine to second with a single. Then Erick Aybar reached on an error by second baseman Ian Kinsler, who picked up a second error on the play by throwing the ball away and allowing all three runners to move up an extra base. Trout followed with an infield single to third base, but Adrian Beltre wasn’t content with that outcome. He misfired, too, allowing Shuck and Aybar to score the tying and go-ahead runs.
It was a veritable
Fortunately, Garza—despite getting knocked around for 11 hits in addition to the four errors—was able to limit the damage, with a little help from left fielder Craig Gentry. The Angels began the fifth inning with three straight hits and a walk, but they failed to score in the frame, because Gentry gunned down Howie Kendrick at the plate on the third base hit. A couple of lineouts stranded the remaining three runners.
Moments later, the Rangers loaded the base with nobody out in the last of the fifth and also failed to score. Finally, in the next inning, Leonys Martin delivered a crucial two-run double, plating Gentry and Adam Rosales to put Texas ahead 5-4. Martin’s two-bagger was the first extra-base hit of the night. The first 21 were all singles, despite the fielders’ best efforts to make them more.
But the razor-thin margin wouldn’t last long, as Tanner Scheppers promptly served up a leadoff triple to Kole Calhoun, who scored on a single by Mark Trumbo. Joe Nathan preserved the 5-5 tie in the top of the ninth by fanning Calhoun and Trumbo with Josh Hamilton on third and one out, setting the stage for the aforementioned heroics from a player not yet old enough to drink.
Jurickson Profar waited only three pitches before going yard and becoming the youngest player to turn in a walkoff blast since Miguel Cabrera did it in his major-league debut on June 20, 2003. He joined Geovany Soto, Martin, and Beltre in the art of walking off the Angels with a long ball, which the Rangers have now done in the last four meetings between the teams at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Meanwhile, at Target Field…
But Perez did not complete the ninth inning. He faced six batters and gave up four runs, the last two on a home run by Josmil Pinto, before giving way to Joe Smith with the Indians clinging to a 6-5 margin. Smith allowed an infield single to Trevor Plouffe and then walked Chris Colabello to put the tying run 180 feet away from the plate. Blood pressures were spiking around Cleveland. The baseball gods were being summoned to help. At last, Smith fanned pinch-hitter Oswaldo Arcia to narrowly preserve what should have been a comfortable win.
After all of that drama, the junior-circuit wild card picture looks precisely as it did 24 hours ago. The Rays are a game ahead of the Indians, who are a game in front of the Rangers. That’s good news for the incumbents and bad news for the challengers in Texas, who now have one less day to make their move. The Indians and Rangers will stay where they are for the weekend; the Rays will cross the border for a three-game set with the Blue Jays.
Braves fans who were waiting nervously for Jason Heyward to rediscover his swing in the wake of a month on the shelf with a broken jaw don’t have to wait any longer. The outfielder fell into a 2-for-15 rut in his first five games back, but he shook it off and put a big-time hurtin’ on the visiting Phillies last night.
Batting at the top of Fredi Gonzalez’s order, Heyward kicked off the bottom of the first with a 421-foot bomb off of Tyler Cloyd. The Braves batted around in that frame, so Heyward was back up again to start the second—and he added a double. Eight Braves came up in the second, so Heyward was on deck to begin the third—and after pitcher David Hale struck out he tacked on another double. Only five Braves batted in the third, so Heyward would have to wait until the fifth for his fourth chance in the box—and, when that one came around, he smacked yet another two-bagger.
Four plate appearances. Four extra-base hits. How’s that for a day? Not enough, apparently.
Heyward’s fifth and final try came in the bottom of the seventh, and he improved to 5-for-5 with an infield single. It was the first five-hit outing of Heyward’s career and the first contest in which he collected more than three extra-base knocks.
It also helped the Braves draw even with the Cardinals in the race for the senior circuit’s best record. That, too, will be decided this weekend, as the Braves keep entertaining the Phillies and the Redbirds welcome the Cubs.
Defensive Play(s) of the Day
What to Watch for This Weekend