The Weekend Takeaway
It’s been a tiring and triumphant weekend for the Mets, who were promised the long-awaited return of right-hander Jacob deGrom, then weathered news of deGrom’s imminent season-ending surgery, and finally prevailed in a three-game sweep over the Twins to secure the foremost position in the National League wild card standings.
DeGrom had not pitched for New York since September 1, and after watching an elbow injury blossom out of lingering forearm tightness, the club elected to play it safe with their no. 2 starter. On Sunday, deGrom was replaced on the mound by 23-year-old rookie Gabriel Ynoa, who tossed 4 â…” innings against the Twins in his first career start, allowing one run, one walk, and striking out eight batters before handing the game over to the bullpen.
It was the second consecutive 3-2 finish for the Mets, who bested the Twins the night before on Curtis Granderson’s extra-inning breakthrough. Down 2-1 in the 11th inning, Granderson belted a game-tying shot off of Minnesota right-hander Brandon Kintzler off of a sinker down and away:
In the next inning, Granderson lobbed Ryan O’Rourke’s slider over the fence for a walk-off homer, joining the Phillies’ John Mayberry Jr. as one of two major leaguers to hit game-tying and walk-off shots in consecutive extra innings.
With the sweep, the Mets took sole possession of the first wild card spot and now sit one game up on the 79-70 Giants.
Quick Hits from the Weekend
While the Mets and Giants lead the pack of National League wild card contenders by a comfortable margin, the AL race became far tenser over the weekend with the constant ping-ponging of the Blue Jays and Orioles.
The two AL East rivals entered Sunday with identical 81-67 records, each just three games behind the division-leading Red Sox. Despite six innings of two-run ball from Toronto starter Marcus Stroman, the Blue Jays couldn’t get their bats going against Anaheim’s Alex Meyer, let alone deal with the 13-minute delay caused when a swarm of bees launched a hostile takeover around first base.
Over in St. Petersburg, Florida, land of both killer bees and Burmese pythons, the Orioles got a leg up in the wild card rankings with four shutout innings from Wade Miley and a pair of home runs from Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo.
Despite an abrupt exit in the fourth inning after suffering a bout of upper back cramps, it was Miley’s most productive outing with the Orioles since he was swapped for now-Mariner Ariel Miranda at the trade deadline. It also marked his first scoreless appearance since a four-hitter with Seattle in June.
With Baltimore, the left-hander has operated as a semi-effective innings-eater at the back of the rotation, though he has yet to separate himself from the pack in any other category. His 3.90 DRA offsets a horrendous 5.80, and while his 7.0 K/9 rate is hardly enough to curb a 2.9 BB/9 and 1.5 HR/9, it’s not uncharacteristic on a club that ranks 20th overall with a combined 4.34 DRA and 23rd with a 103 cFIP.
Still, it’s nice to step back sometimes and admire a pitcher who can construct this kind of strike zone while allowing just two bases:
Coors Field is unkind to pitchers, punishing with its 116 Runs Factor and mocking with its terrifying prehistoric mascot, whose very name seems to suggest some underlying prejudice against the act of pitching itself.
Whatever dark magic keeps home runs up and strikeouts down didn’t appear to touch Rockies’ pitcher Jon Gray, who fired a complete game shutout against the visiting Padres on Saturday night. The right-hander collected 16 strikeouts over the course of the night, including his 200th career strikeout, a four-strikeout second inning and six consecutive whiffs between the second and third innings.
All told, San Diego batters sneaked four hits past Gray in nine innings, no two arriving in the same frame. Jon Jay found the most success against the 24-year-old starter, going 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and roping the Padres’ hardest-hit ball with an exit velocity of 96.4 mph.
More in keeping with Coors Field traditions, the Rockies’ lineup provided an eight-run backing, scoring three of eight runs on homers by Nolan Arenado and Tom Murphy. Unsurprisingly, Gray’s gem was just the third shutout hosted by the Rockies at Coors Field this season. Even more unsurprisingly, it also set a new record for most single-game strikeouts by a Rockies pitcher, one that will provide a substantial challenge for future hurlers to top.
No word yet on what Dinger thinks of this development.
Defensive Play of the Weekend
Look, Kevin Kiermaier’s a reasonable guy. He’s not going to deny you the chance to get a hit, like some baseball-guzzling, golden-gloved monster. But even the most generous of outfielders has his limits, and Kiermaier is drawing the line at grand slams.
What to Watch on Monday
Clayton Kershaw has only weathered two starts since coming off of the disabled list, but don’t think for a minute that he’s going to let the Giants get off easy on Monday night, especially not with rival ace Madison Bumgarner on the mound. This will be the third such meeting between the two hurlers since April and likely the last of its kind during the regular season. In their first matchup, Bumgarner took the better pitching line with six innings of eight-strikeout, one-run ball, but Kershaw bested him in their second showdown with seven scoreless frames and six strikeouts. The stakes are high for both the division-leading Dodgers and the second-place Giants, who sit five games out of first, but no matter who wins, one thing’s certain: This is a pitching duel you won’t want to miss (10:10 ET).
If, for whatever reason, you do miss the Giants-Dodgers throwdown, Mariners’ right-hander Taijuan Walker will look to follow up a three-hit shutout against the Blue Jays on Monday. Walker’s fourth season in the major leagues has come with its fair share of bumps and bruises, including the 41 days he spent sidelined with tendinitis in his right foot. His return to the majors has been a painstaking one, made all the more challenging by a season-worst outing against the Angels, during which he gave up six runs and three homers to Mike Trout and the home run-happy Angels in just â…” of the first inning. (As a personal aside, that happened to be the one Mariners game I flew home to watch in person this year. When Walker exited the mound to make way for switch-pitching wonder Pat Venditte, several fans were so distraught by the performance that they got up from their seats and left the game.)
Between Walker’s worst outing of 2016 and his best, the 24-year-old took some pitching tips from pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre and adjusted the mechanics on his leg kick and hip turn. It appears to have done wonders for the right-hander through one start already, and with a wild card spot in sight, the Mariners will have to hope for continued success from Walker on Monday night (10:10 ET).
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