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The Thursday Takeaway

Austin Romine hit none of the four home runs the Yankees produced in dismantling the Rays 12-1 at Tropicana Field. But he did play a big role in the drama by nearly getting hit by an Andrew Kittredge pitch, ducking out of the way as it zipped over his left shoulder in the fifth. Romine’s teammates weren’t pleased—CC Sabathia in particular—and he made a mental note of it.

Sabathia also happened to be on the verge triggering a contract bonus that would have earned him another $500,000. All he had to do was stay in the game with an 11-run lead for a little while longer—don’t get hurt, don’t give up a bunch of runs all of a sudden, don’t get ejected—and the cash was his. Otherwise, there was no way Sabathia would get another opportunity to pitch before the playoffs next week.

So what did CC do? Despite having half a million reasons not to, he plunked Jesus Sucre on the left leg in the bottom of the sixth. The home-plate umpire ejected Sabathia after his second HBP of the game (the first of which might have prompted Kittredge to retaliate against Romine) and the bonus was done for. Unless manager Aaron Boone throws him out there for two innings in the regular-season finale in two days, Sabathia will finish with 153 innings; he needed 155 for the bonus.

While you and your wallet might be screaming at what seems like a reckless act, Sabathia likely became a legend in that Yankees clubhouse. If the goal was to fire up his teammates up by proving that he’s willing to throw away a half-million dollars for the sake of revenge, CC succeeded. Various sources list his career earnings at $236 million.

“I don’t really make decisions based on money, I guess,” Sabathia told the media. “I just felt like it was the right thing to do.”

Even after slamming the door on a good Rays team, this is all the proof you need that the Yankees are fired up and ready for the one-game match of doom with the Oakland Athletics in the AL Wild Card.

Quick Hits

Back on September 19, the Rockies fell 2 1/2 games behind in the NL West after losing to the Dodgers. It seemed like Los Angeles was heating up at the right time and the Rockies were going to settle for being in the NL Wild Card race. While the Dodgers have been playing well, the Rockies have gone on a tear ever since. They head into the final weekend with a one-game lead in the division–and Trevor Story continued to write more chapters in that story of his.

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Another team with a slender lead in their division is the Chicago Cubs after a 3-0 victory against Pittsburgh. Jon Lester kept the Pirates off the scoreboard for six innings and Chicago’s bullpen did the rest of the work, combining for a shutout. Even though Trevor Williams had another good outing, he was unable to keep David Bote from hitting a two-run triple that put the Cubs ahead for good.

Defensive Play of the Day

A dynamic center fielder for the Atlanta Braves made an impressive diving catch against an NL East rival on a cool September night in New York against the Mets. This could have been said any time during the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Andruw Jones was busy roaming the outfield, and it’s also true now that Ronald Acuna is out there.

What to Watch on Friday

The Cubs officially have punched their ticket to the postseason and the Dodgers are likely safe as well. Still, both teams will be trying their best to avoid the Wild Card, and things have gotten close in all three remaining NL races. What makes this juicy: If the Cubs and Dodgers are going to become division champions again, they’ll both have to do so by defeating their biggest rivals.

Chicago is starting a three-game series with the Cardinals (who are just a game back in the Wild Card), and the Dodgers will be ending against the Giants at AT&T Park. Other than making the playoffs themselves, the Cardinals and Giants (who won’t) would like nothing more than to play spoiler. And both are in prime position to inject a dose of chaos into the final weekend of the regular season.

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Robert Hacking
9/28
I'd like to see more people noting that he throw at the legs while Kittredge threw at a head. Big difference, there is a right way and a wrong way. You can kill someone with a baseball to the head.