On a Saturday in September, everyone’s mind goes to college football. TheSportsNotebook has previews of every significant TV game, including the biggest one, which is Arizona State-Stanford (7 PM ET, Fox). But our daily sports focus is baseball, with more playoff race drama and another division clinching on Friday night.
The Boston Red Sox completed their worst-to-first journey in the AL East with a 6-3 win over Toronto that sewed up the division title. Jon Lester capped off his own second half dominance with seven innings of one-run ball.
When the game got a little tight, manager John Farrell went for the kill. Koji Uehara was brought on for a five-out save. The skipper clearly had no interest in this race going on another day, and Uehara finished the job. Offensively, Dustin Pedroia and Daniel Nava combined for five hits in the 1-2 spots in the order and Boston can now spend some time drinking champagne and getting rested for the Division Series.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WILD-CARD RACE
Cleveland 2 Houston 1: This one was called by rain after seven, which kind of surprises me. They don’t often call games early anymore, even if the five innings are in, and when you consider the closeness of the game, its consequences in the playoff race and that Houston is in town all weekend, I’m surprised MLB didn’t make them finish it up tomorrow.
Kansas City 2 Texas 1: Another pitcher’s duel, and this one settled when Neftali Feliz walks in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth. Feliz was supposed to be out for the year, but has come back for September, and just couldn’t get it done here.
NY Yanks 5 San Francisco 1: C.C. Sabathia goes seven strong and A-Rod hits a grand-slam to break a 1-1 tie in the seventh.
Baltimore-Tampa Bay is in the 17th inning still tied 4-4 in the wee hours of the morning here. I think we’ll just offer some reflections on that one in Sunday’s edition of this space.
NATIONAL LEAGUE: WILD-CARD & CENTRAL
Cincinnati 6 Pittsburgh 5 (10): This one was nothing short of stunning. The Reds trailed 5-2 in the ninth with two outs and one man aboard. Then Pittsburgh shortstop Jordy Mercier committed a foolish throwing error when he failed to square his body on a slow chopper when he had time to make the play.
Then a bloop hit brought in one run and resulted in speedy Billy Hamilton coming in to pinch run. Hamilton stole second and then scored on an infield hit to tie the game! As blown saves go, Mark Melancon didn’t exactly get lit up, but the lead was gone. Joey Votto hit an opposite field home run to win it in the tenth.
St. Louis 7 Milwaukee 6 (10): The Cards got three hits apiece from Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday and Matt Adams, and when the latter hit a two-run shot to give St. Louis a 6-4 lead in the ninth, it looked over. But Brewer fans have learned the hard way that it’s not over if John Axford is coming into the game, and now Milwaukee got to see him come out of the opposing bullpen. Ax coughed up another save, and the Brewers tied the game before St. Louis won it in the tenth.
This is still the second straight game St. Louis has blown a lead late, even if they did get the win and extend their NL Central lead to two games.
Washington 8 Miami 0: Jordan Zimmerman went the distance in 107 pitches and the Nats broke a scoreless tie with seven runs in the sixth. The Nats would have been better served had the Reds lost, but they’re still within five games of both Cincy and Pittsburgh, who are tied for the two wild-card spots. Washington can hope the way Pittsburgh lost will trigger a downward spiral.
Atlanta can clinch the NL East with a win on Saturday. The main Fox game on Saturday will be Giants-Yankees at 1 PM ET. Yeah, shocking New York would get the telecast against a bad team, when there are no less than three genuine showdowns going on. MLB Network will fill in the gaps at 7 PM ET with split coverage of Reds-Pirates or Rangers-Royals.