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The Wednesday Takeaway

The Western Division of the National League is still very much in play, with the Colorado Rockies leading and the Arizona Diamondbacks in third place but within striking distance. The teams met at Coors Field, and the game lived up to the postseason implications at stake.

Just two batters into the action, as the fans were still finding their seats, Rockies first baseman Ian Desmond showed off his reflexes and athleticism by making a highlight-reel catch to rob Eduardo Escobar of an extra-base hit against Jonathan Gray.

In the top of the second, the Diamondbacks broke through: Paul Goldschmidt led off with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Nick Ahmed. Arizona threatened further damage, loading the bases with just the one out and providing an opportunity for Patrick Corbin to further help his cause. Instead, he rolled a textbook double play to second, and the rally was extinguished.

In the third, Escobar got a chance to avenge his hard-luck lineout from the first and he made the most of it. He unloaded a mammoth home run into the bullpen, his 21, to stretch the Arizona lead to 3-0. The Rockies needed an answer, and they got it in their half of the third. Gray outdid his counterpart in the hitting department, leading off with a double, and came around to score on a double from Nolan Arenado. Later, with DJ Lemahieu on third, Corbin unleashed a badly-timed wild pitch, allowing another run to score and shaving the Arizona lead to just one.

The two teams traded solo dingers in the fourth and fifth innings—Alex Avila going deep for Arizona, and Arenado answering for the Rockies—but as the game transitioned to both teams’ bullpens, the scoring quieted down. It was still 4-3 in favor of the Diamondbacks when the Rockies came up in the home half of the ninth, taking their last licks against the newly-installed Arizona closer, Yoshihisa Hirano.

Pinch-hitter Gerardo Parra led off with an infield single, and Charlie Blackmon laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the tying run into scoring position for Lemahieu. He swung at the third pitch and smashed a high fly ball the opposite way to right. It sailed over the scoreboard and ended the game. A 4-3 deficit, with one swing of the bat, turned into a 5-4 victory:

 

If the Rockies can hold on and win the division, we’ll look back at this game as a key moment in the race. Alternately, Arizona needs to bounce back in a hurry—the D-backs have a chance to undo this loss in the standings as the two teams play a final game in the series.

Quick Hits

The NL Central also has a three-horse race playing itself out down the stretch. The Cubs and Brewers, the top two horses, were finishing up their series at Wrigley Field. And newly acquired slugger Curtis Granderson provided for the Brewers what might be the perfect interpretation of the NL Central race during two of his at-bats.

Granderson led off with a drive directly at the “368” sign in left-center field. Unfortunately for him, he missed a home run by mere centimeters; the ball bounced off of the piece of string which started the netting at the top of the fence. Granderson stopped at third base, with a triple that felt like it should have been more. When he came up in the top of the ninth, Granderson was having none of that. He cranked a home run about ten feet to the right of where the first near-homer had gone, giving the Brewers a crucial insurance run as they held on to take the series.

Milwaukee officially trails Chicago by just one game. Let the race begin.

***

The Oakland A’s are likely headed for the playoffs—and regardless of how their season turns out, they’ve been one of the pleasant surprises. As for the Baltimore Orioles, well, they’ve made for far more effective kindling than a house full of newspapers. If I’d have asked, I bet a handful of you would’ve predicted the A’s double-digit victory. What you wouldn’t have predicted was the scoring breakdown: 10 runs in the third inning for the A’s, and absolutely no scoring elsewhere in the game. Matt Chapman was twice able to capitalize on RBI opportunities, and Tyler Olson smashed a big three-run dinger. Don’t worry, Baltimore fans. It’ll all be over soon enough. But in the meantime, let’s watch just how bad it can be:

 

***

Neither one panned out, but for a while, there were two no-hitters in play during the same night. First there was Minnesota’s Jake Odorizzi. He’s been inconsistent this year, and the Yankees have been one of the top offensive teams in the game. But Odorizzi had his best stuff, and he turned in his finest performance of the season—taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning, finally surrendering a double to Greg Bird, and yielding for the bullpen to finish the job:

 

***

Meanwhile, Odorizzi’s former teammate with Tampa Bay, Blake Snell, was polishing a gem of his own against Cleveland. Snell took his own no-hitter into the seventh and struck out nine as he earned his 19th win. Wins might not be looked at as much in modern awards voting, but make no mistake about it: every pitcher in the game wants to hit that big “2-0” in every season:

 

Defensive Play of the Night

The Astros held on for a 5-4 victory over the Tigers, but the Motor City Kitties came so close to making it interesting in the eighth inning. With a runner on first and two out, Dawel Lugo ripped a screaming line drive down the right-field line. George Springer had almost no time to react—but he was all over the ball, and he ended the inning with a spectacular diving grab. Per Statcast, that ball was down for a hit—and very probably plating the tying run—over 90 percent of the time:

 

What to Watch on Thursday

The Mets and Marlins were supposed to make up a rainout by playing a doubleheader… but rain pushed back the start time and knocked the second game off of the schedule. Welp. The teams will try and make up the rained-out game once again today. The third time’s the charm, right?

The Diamondbacks and Rockies, fresh off of the game of the night, will settle their series with one final day game. Clay Buchholz and Kyle Freeland take the mound for their respective teams. Both teams still have each other on the schedule again — and the Dodgers — before the season ends.

Speaking of the Dodgers, they’re active at St. Louis. Clayton Kershaw will take on the impressive rookie Austin Gomber. Both teams are in the Wild Card chase.

The Cubs are technically in the middle of a homestand, but they’ll spend a day traveling to Washington for a one-game makeup series with the Nationals. Mike Montgomery is the scheduled pitcher for Chicago against Joe Ross for Washington. On Friday, the Cubs will return home to host Cincinnati. Such is life when you’re playing September baseball in spite of the weather’s best efforts.

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