By: Nate McMullen
It’s the best time of year, ladies and gentlemen. Finally, after months of waiting, we’ve made it to the second week of September in Major League Baseball. If you thought I was talking about football season, not so fast. Baseball season is entering the endgame, as teams desperately jockey for position in the race for October. The best ball is yet to come, so buckle up.
History: In another one of baseball’s infamous uber-specific firsts, the Reds’ Michael Lorenzen became the first player to earn the win on the mound, play in the field, and hit a home run in the same game since, you guessed it, Babe Ruth. Time for a little deep dive on Lorenzen’s stats: in 74.2 innings on the mound, he’s 1-4 with a 3.13 ERA, six saves, and 76 strikeouts. Meanwhile, in 20 at-bats (I was hoping he would have a few more), he’s collected six hits, a homer, and ten total bases. Lorenzen isn’t wholly a two-way player, but whatever he does, he does it well. Anybody else want to see a league of Lorenzen and Shohei Ohtani dominating both ways?
Family Affair: When Marlins’ Brian Moran made his major league debut on Thursday, he probably didn’t expect to see a familiar face. Sure enough, after getting the first out of the inning, he looked up to see his brother, Colin, squaring up in the box. Brian would emerge victorious, striking his little bro out for his first major league K. Big League milestone? Check. Eternal bragging rights? Double check.
Two of Us: This one’s pretty weird. The Giants visited Los Angeles this weekend to start what looked to be another record-boosting series for the Dodgers. Fortunately, the best game on Earth is also the most unpredictable, and the Dodgers found themselves down two run in the 9th. Giants’ closer Will Smith came on to close out the game and, after two quick outs, allowed a homer and a walk. Now, the winning run came to the plate in the form of… Dodgers’ rookie catcher Will Smith? Yes, a battle between Will Smiths in a historic rivalry with the game on the line. After falling behind 3-0, Smith came back with three straight strikes to punch out Smith and end the game. Oh, and there’s a movie coming out in October, called “Gemini Man,” which features a man being hunted by his clone, starring none other than Will Smith. Coincidence? I think not.
Performance Enhancing Dummy: You would think that these guys would have learned by now to be aware of what they ingest. Nevertheless, Twins’ Michael Pineda was suspended for 60 games after testing positive for PEDs. Pineda was 11-5 with a 4.01 ERA at the time of his suspension. He leaves the Twins with several capable starting pitchers and a 5.5-game lead in the AL Central, but he’ll miss the playoffs. That hurts.
A Weakness?: The Los Angeles Dodgers are untouchable… or are they? L.A.’s starting rotation has taken a hit of late, raising some concerns about their viability in October. Clayton Kershaw is 2-3 in his last five starts, putting up a 4.34 ERA in that span. He lost his last outing to the Giants. Hyun-Jin Ryu is having a nightmarish stretch, losing three of his last five starts thanks to a 7.27 ERA and 1.69 WHIP. Dustin May took a line drive to the noggin—he’s okay, fortunately, but 6.28 ERA doesn’t inspire confidence. Is there trouble in paradise? There’s still lots of baseball to be played, but the Dodgers must be wary of cooling off at the wrong time.
Riser: Am I going to write about the same team two weeks in a row? Um, yes, of course, especially when my Dbacks are finally showing some signs of life. Arizona is on an absolute tear, winning 12 of their last 14 and five straight, before Sunday’s loss. Ketel Marte is on an MVP-worthy run, slashing .483/.516/1.034 with four homers and 14 RBIs in his last seven games. There’s lots of baseball left to play, and to maintain such a torrid pace for both Marte and the team is unlikely. However, Arizona has put itself back in the running and made September a great month for Dbacks faithful. Let’s keep it going.
Faller: It’s a good sign for all contenders that this week’s Faller is a Chicago Cubs team that is 1.5 games up in the Wild Card and still has a shot at winning the division. However, the old Cubbies don’t look so good. They’ve lost three straight to the Brewers, putting them at a significant 4.5-game disadvantage in the Central. Meanwhile, Dbacks are sneaking up in the Wild Card, poised to bite. Chicago also lost Javier Baez to injury—possibly for a significant amount of time—and his replacement at shortstop, Addison Russell, took a pitch to the face on Sunday. Don’t look now, but the Cubs are in danger of totally missing the playoffs after building what looked to be a sustainable dynasty. Can you say hot seat, Joe Maddon?