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The Thursday Takeaway
We’re coming down to it now. The end of the season is close, oh so close now. Today is September 16th, and the playoffs begin just after the calendar turns to October. What began in April is now coming to a close.

Between then and now, there was quite a lot of baseball that was played. With a season as long as this, and with off days being so few and far between, it’s no wonder that players break down and wither at times. There is ample time for even the most elite athlete to be run down by the grind of the big-league season.

Dellin Betances is one such player.

Thursday night marked the 69th time that Betances would enter a game for the Yankees. He has been a rock for New York. The only remaining member of the original big three that began the year spreading terror from the back of the Yankee bullpen, Betances was arguably the best of the three. (So, arguably, were the other two.) He was the first one into the fire, and would toss multiple innings if it was so demanded of him. Joe Girardi deployed his weapon liberally. It paid massive dividends.

Entering Thursday night’s game, Betances was rated higher than Felix Hernandez, J.A. Happ, Tanner Roark and Ervin Santana by WARP. He had struck out 120 men in just under 70 innings of work.

It would be Betances’ third consecutive day of work, and he had been very shaky of late. All month, the towering reliever has looked like a hollow husk of himself. It’s not that the blistering-fast heater or knee-buckling curve have lost steam. Instead, Betances hasn’t been able to put the pitches where he’s wanted them. He’s looked wild. Gassed.

This was especially the case on Thursday, when Betances entered the game to retire two Red Sox batters and seal a much-needed victory, in a game in which Masahiro Tanaka took over the AL lead in ERA and looked like someone who deserved to at least be mentioned in the Cy Young conversation. It didn’t happen.

The Yankees sorely needed Betances in the heat of the summer. He was a makeshift middle relief corps and a high-leverage fireman all rolled into one. He helped them get to where they are now. He may have already fired all his bullets, though, and Girardi's got little choice but to keep dropping him into the middle of the O.K. Corral.

Quick Hits from Thursday
The Cubs lost on Thursday, largely due to a man named Scooter. They still managed to have a good day.

Johnny Cueto went the distance yet again for San Francisco, doing the business to a St. Louis team that’s doing its best to keep pace in futility with the Giants. Because the two teams were playing each other, someone technically had to win. The Giants did their best to not trip over themselves.

The St. Louis loss meant that the Cubs officially clinched the division, which they unofficially did at some point in April. Time to get your goat memorabilia out.

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Let’s forget for just a moment that Ryon Healy spells his first name with an O. That’s weird, but again, we’re forgetting that for just a moment. Seriously though, an O?

Oh my. Let’s talk about this instead. Healy’s homer went all the way over the Kauffman Stadium fountains for 480 feet of dinger. That’s a lot of dinger. It’s the fifth-longest bomb hit this year.

That’ll do. We’ll forgive the spelling thing for now.

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Offense isn’t exactly Carlos Sanchez’s strong suit, at least not at the big-league level. He entered the day with a microscopic .170 TAv, which is just about as bad as it gets unless you’re playing with a bat made of a gaseous substance. It’s quite simply not what you want.

He made it work on Thursday:

In the long run, that walk-off win doesn’t mean very much for either team. The White Sox are still bad, and the Indians are still making the playoffs, and winning the division. But for now, Sanchez gets to firmly tell his TAv to shove it.

Defensive Play of the Day

What we need now is an intrepid credentialed journalist to go into the Pirates clubhouse and ask Ray Searage if he taught J.A. Happ how to do that, too. Searage would deserve some cookies if he says yes with a straight face. Come on, folks. Let’s make it happen.

What to Watch on Friday
An AL Central clash of the titans kicks off at 7:10 when Michael Fulmer and Corey Kluber do battle for the Tigers and Indians. Detroit is looking to maintain ground in the Wild Card race, so this will be a very important series for them. The Klubot will have his fazers set to “oh my goodness I can’t hit that damn pitch.”

At 9:40, Zack Greinke will once again face off against his old buddies from Los Angeles, but this time he’ll be doing it in Arizona. The last time he faced them in LA, they knocked him around for four home runs. Ideally he’d like to make that number go down. Kenta Maeda will pitch for the Dodgers.

And finally at 10:10, the red-hot Mariners seek to further their Wild Card dreams and sink those of the Astros. Seattle has somehow managed to pull within two games of a playoff berth. It’ll be Collin McHugh going for Houston against King Felix Hernandez at Safeco Field. If you can’t watch this one on TV, try to get tickets for the King’s Court. It’ll be a good one.