Playoff watch: Good job, Pirates!
September, 4, 2013
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
Some quick thoughts on the most important results and plays of the day, and a look forward to Wednesday.
Key at-bat of the day: The Pirates had surrendered a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth, but Travis Snider pinch-hit for Vin Mazzaro leading off the ninth against Brewers closer Jim Henderson and smashed a 2-2 slider 418 feet to right-center for the go-ahead home run. It was a great at-bat as Snider fell behind 1-2 and fouled off two pitches to stay alive. After five straight mid-90s four-seam fastballs, Henderson tried to sneak a slider past Snider. Didn't work.
Pitching performance of the day: The Reds' Homer Bailey pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, in a 1-0 win over the Cardinals, five days after tossing 7 1/3 scoreless against the Cards (who are now a game under .500 since the All-Star break).
Most important win: The Pirates beating the Brewers 4-3 to move to 81 wins, clinching the franchise's first .500 season since 1992. Of course, that wasn't exactly reason to pop champagne in the clubhouse, since this team has designs on something much bigger than 81 wins.
If anything, it's more a moment for the fans -- for all those who suffered through the John Russell years, the rise and fall of Oliver Perez, the blown draft picks, Operation Shutdown, Jason Kendall's horrific injury, the Aramis Ramirez trade, the collapses of 2011 and 2012, Kris Benson's wife, dumping Jose Bautista and on and on and on. So, congrats to Clint Hurdle and the boys, but congrats to Pirates fans as well. Now, go win the division.
Oh the game. Besides Snider's heroics, Justin Morneau went 3-for-3 with a walk and Marlon Byrd went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, so some positive returns for the August trade acquisitions. But it was Andrew McCutchen who once again jump-started the offense, scoring three runs, including his 100th career homer in the first inning. Can you say MVP?
Most important loss: The Orioles couldn't muster any offense against Ubaldo Jimenez in a 4-3 loss to the Indians. While they made it interesting with Nate McLouth's three-run homer in the ninth off Chris Perez, Perez eventually got Chris Davis to ground out (two pitches after Davis had a check-swing strike on a breaking ball that actually hit him in the leg). Combined with the Yankees' dramatic five-run eighth to the beat the White Sox 6-4, the Orioles fell behind the Yankees in the wild-card race (with Tampa Bay still holding the lead on wild-card berth No. 2).
Awards watch: Max Scherzer lost! He's now 19-2, although he remains the Cy Young favorite. Scherzer pitched well in the Tigers' 2-1 loss to the Red Sox, but Will Middlebrooks' two-run single with two outs in the sixth was the game-winning hit. It was a first-pitch slider that Scherzer left up in the zone.
Wednesday's best pitching matchup: Yu Darvish versus Jarrod Parker (Texas at Oakland, 3:35 p.m. ET). Darvish has struck out 11 or more batters in five of his past seven starts. Parker had a 2.23 ERA in six starts in August, allowing 11 runs.
Player to watch: Just recalled from the minors, Zach Britton will make the start for the Orioles, his first since July, when he allowed five runs against the Rangers and didn't strike out a batter in five innings. Britton didn't exactly mow through Triple-A at Norfolk, posting a WHIP over 1.50. His last turn was good, however, with eight K's and no walks, although over his previous three starts he had 14 walks and 14 strikeouts. Buck Showalter wants to give his starters an extra day of rest -- and also line up Chris Tillman to pitch Monday against the Yankees instead of Sunday against the White Sox -- but this seems like a bit of a gamble.