Fantasy Baseball Final: October 1, 2015
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Here we are. The baseball calendar has finally turned its page to the most important month of the entire year; October. Five of the six MLB division titles have been claimed, and all that is left to be determined in the regular season’s final weekend is playoff seeding, wild card matchup and venue options, and that illusive American League West crown. Action got underway early today in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Cincinnati in hopes to get these remaining games on the schedule in before the rains foreshadowing Hurricane Joaquin hit the east coast.
After celebrating clinching the AL Eastern division yesterday in Baltimore, the Toronto Blue Jays pushed back ace David Price and sent their hangover lineup out to face the Orioles in their series finale. The O’s jumped out to an early 3-0 lead thanks to a first inning home run from Manny Machado, but were stuck waiting out a rain delay for a large portion of the afternoon following just one inning of play. The Machado show continued when play resumed over three hours later as the 23 year-old belted his second homer of the game, added two steals to bring his total to 20 on the year. His final line on the night included three hits, two home runs, two steals, three runs, three RBI and a walk. The 20th swipe of the year for Machado shatters his previous career high of eight, and makes him only the second player in Baltimore’s storied franchise history to hit over 30 homers and steal 20 bags in a year. The last to accomplish this feat for the O’s was Brady Anderson in his historic 1996 season.
The Cubs were also able to fit their game in this afternoon, and pulled within two games of the idle Pirates for the right to host the National League Wild Card game. Both Chicago and Pittsburgh have been dominate teams at home this season, and we saw how having home field advantage in a one-game playoff can affect the outcome as a result of the Pirates’ game against the Reds just two years ago. Jason Hammel scattered five hits in his five scoreless innings of work, and also struck out five in his win today over Cincinnati. Austin Jackson has been a nice fit for the Cubs, and his three-run homer in the third inning was the difference in the 5-3 win today. Chicago’s final series of the regular season is against the the fourth place Brewers, while Pittsburgh has to deal with the 100-win Cardinals who have been the best team in baseball seemingly all year long.
IF YOU ONLY READ ONE THING…
With just four days left in the regular season, there were still three possible teams who could win the American League West entering play on Thursday. The Los Angeles Angels faced off against the Texas Rangers in Arlington tonight with the AL West on the line. In order to win the division, Texas just needs to win two games in the series over L.A. The Angels scenario is a little more intricate as they will need to sweep this series on the road, and hope the Diamondbacks can take at least one game from the Astros in Arizona. Los Angeles jumped out ahead when Albert Pujols was driven in after ripping a double into the left-centerfield gap, but the momentum seemed to shift to the Rangers on the very play that gave the Angels the lead. Josh Hamilton made a phenomenal reaching grab while crashing into the left field fence, and got the ball in quickly enough to almost nab Albert at the plate. Hamilton then doubled later that inning and advanced on a flyball with a headfirst slide into the third base bag. It’s obvious that Josh Hamilton is nowhere near the player he was his first time around in Texas, but after accepting a diminished role with the ball club, the crowd was sent into an absolute frenzy watching him grind it out in that second inning, despite his teammates leaving him stranded on third. The Rangers scored four runs the next time the top of their order came up in the fifth inning and didn’t look back from there. The Angels still have a shot at the AL Wild Card, but will have to contend with the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros with just three games left to play.
WHAT WE DIDN’T EXPECT…
The New York Yankees were on the verge of being swept Thursday night by their hated-rivals the Boston Red Sox. The Sox have been out of the playoff hunt for some time now, but would have been more than happy to play the role of spoilers for the Yankees as the club has struggled to close out that American League Wild Card race. New York gave the ball to veteran lefthander C.C. Sabathia to stop the losing streak, which is something I never imagined I’d be writing at the start of the season to be perfectly honest; however, since the beginning of August, C.C. has been spectacular for the Yanks. Sabathia had a 2.98 ERA in his last eight starts with a 7.35 K/9 and just four home runs allowed. C.C. gave up just one earned run in five innings tonight and left the game in line for the win. Another player who has found the fountain of youth in the Bronx in outfielder Carlos Beltran. The 38 year-old has had an extensive injury history in his career, and appeared to be done early on after a miserable start to the 2015 season; but just like Sabathia, Beltran turned it on in the month of August, hitting .353 with 14 extra base hits and 15 RBI in 26 games. His 2-run homer in the second gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the night which clinched a spot in the playoffs for New York at long last. When you take a good look at Carlos Beltran’s career as a whole, his resume lends itself well to quite a few Hall of Fame votes. With one more year left on his contract, Beltran is closing in on 2,500 hits, 400 home runs, and 1,500 RBI as a switch hitter, making him arguably one of the top-5 players of all time with the ability to hit from both sides of the plate. He has been the peak of consistency when healthy since winning Rookie of the Year honors in 1999 at the age of 22, and has eight all-star game selections and three gold gloves to his credit as well. Beltran has been a five-tool player for the majority of his career, and if I had a vote, you’d be seeing his likeness enshrined in baseball history at the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown for sure.
– Hector Rondon (29)
– Luis Garcia (2)
– Zach Britton (35)
– Kenley Jansen (35)
– Dellin Betances (9)
– Brad Boxberger (41)
– Kevin Jepsen (15)
– Felipe Rivero (1)
– Shane Peterson (2)
In an effort to avoid limping into the playoffs, both physically and metaphorically speaking, the New York Mets conceded the final game of their three-game series in Philadelphia, and rested a majority of their starting roster in this afternoon’s 3-0 loss. New York has been cutting back on IP for their young rotation with the continual use of spot starters to give their core of talented arms some extra rest before heading into an NLDS matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Injuries have been spreading around the clubhouse like a common cold, and despite being in a dead heat with L.A. for home field advantage, Mets management feel it is more pivotal to make sure everyone is healthy for October baseball. Juan Uribe’s chest issue has not been improving as hoped, Steven Matz was pushed back in the rotation against Philly due to back stiffness, and Wilmer Flores was forced to leave Wednesday’s night game due to a similar issue. The most frightening injury of all however, came in the top of the third inning on Wednesday when Mets’ big acquisition Yoenis Cespedes took an 89-MPH fastball off his left hand. Yo had been hitting .287/.336/.610 with 17 homers in 53 games with the ball club, so Mets’ nation held its collective breath when their superstar outfielder had to be removed from the game immediately following the HBP. Fortunately, the X-rays came back negative for Cespedes and he could return to the Mets’ lineup at some point this weekend. New York will try to get back on a roll at home against the Washington Nationals with whom they’ve played 10-6 ball against this season.