29 for the 29th

  1. I love walkoffs – Jay Bruce hit a 9th inning, National League Central Division-clinching walkoff home run. The Reds topped the Astros, 3-2, sending them to the postseason for the first time in 15 years. It was the Reds’ eighth walkoff win of the season, their 21st victory with runs in their final at-bat and their 45th comeback win. It has been 10 years since their last winning season.
  2. Jay Bruce is the fifth player in MLB history to hit a walkoff clinching homer. He joins Bobby Thomson of the 1951 Giants, Hank Aaron of the 1957 Braves, Alfonso Soriano of the 1999 Yankees, and Steve Finley of the 2004 Dodgers.
  3. Like Jo-Jo, the Rays are heading back to where the once belonged – The Rays are headed to the postseason for the second time in franchise history, the second time in three seasons. Cy Young candidate David Price (19-6) finished his season shutting down the Orioles, 5-0. He scattered six hits over eight innings, struck out eight and walked none.
  4. Carlos Pena went 1-for-2 and hit his second homer of the month for the Rays. He upped his average to .199 for the season.
  5. Speaking of Soriano, any way you look at it, it was a bad night for the Padres. The tuckered Friars continued to sonambulate their way to the finish. Last night, they lost to the Cubbies, 5-2 thanks to a pair of Alfonso Soriano homers. With five Padres games remaining SD has fallen two games behind the Giants in the NL West race and 1.5 games behind Atlanta in the wildcard race. Poor Mat Latos, he has lost four straight, as his smoke is now just steam.
  6. The Padres have scored in only one of their last 25 innings.
  7. Thanks to the postseason talisman, the Braves secured a 3-2 win over the Marlins last night. Eric Hinske slammed a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the 7th to secure the win. Hinske has 11 homers on the season, three of which have been pinch-hit. He has five pinch-hit homers in his career.
  8. The Braves now have 45 come-from-behind wins of the season, second in the majors to the Yankees’ 47. The Braves also improved their majors-best home record to 54-23 and have all four remaining games at home.
  9. The Giants reduced their magic number to four with a 4-2 win over the Diamondbacks. Juan Uribe tied his career best by slugging his 23rd homer, Jonathan Sanchez (12-9) struck out six in six innings to reach 200 Ks in a season for the first time, and Brian Wilson earned his 46th save, leaving him two shy of the SF record set by Rod Beck in 1993. Wilson retired the final five batters for his sixth save in seven attempts when going five outs.
  10. Sanchez and Tim Lincecum join Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels as the only set of teammates with 200 or more strikeouts this season. Lincecum pitches tonight on regular rest with means that he will be available to pitch Monday on normal rest, if the Giants need him in a one-game playoff or, if Sunday is a must win in the regular-season finale against San Diego, Lincecum will be available on short rest for that game.
  11. The Trop

    The “crowd” to watch the Tampa clincher was announced as 17,891, about 5,000 below the Rays’ season average. With Rays like David Price and Evan Longoria addressing the disheartening and disappointing turnouts in Tampa, team president Matt Silverman announced that the Rays will make available 20,000 free tickets for tonight’s regular-season home finale against the Orioles.

  12. Joe Henderson wrote an interesting piece in yesterday’s Tampa Tribune wondering if perhaps Tampa is just a lousy baseball market.
  13. On more Tampa stat: 2010 home attendance through 80 games: 1,829,029, Average: 22,862/ 2009 home attendance through 80 games: 1,798,311, Average: 22,478.
  14. I did not watch the Ken Burns 10th Inning on PBS last night. I DVR-ed it and will probably watch Sunday afternoon. If you watched it, I would love to hear your opinion. I really have to be in the right mood to watch Doris Kearns Goodwin.
  15. The Royals beat the Twins 10-1, stretching the Twins’ losing streak to a season-high five games all since the Twins clinched the AL Central.
  16. Red Sox were officially eliminated last night, long after anybody thought it would happen. The fact that the Sox hung in there so long is a tribute to manager Terry Francona. Francona has never gotten a first place vote for Manager of the Year, and probably won’t this year either, but the man is good at what he does. Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald and Tyler Kepner of the New York Times have appreciations of his work.
  17. It was a long time coming – The Yankees clinched a spot in the postseason for the first time in 12 months. “Yankees win! Theeeeeee Yankees win!” So much for my John Sterling imitations. Yanks topped Toronto, 6-1, as CC Sabathia became the first Yankees pitcher with 21 wins in a season since Andy Pettitte in 2003.
  18. It was like a trade of two evil spies when yesterday it was announced that baseball players union executive Gene Orza has decided to retire and Bob DuPuy, who had served as MLB’s president and chief operating officer since March 7, 2002, is retiring as well. Baseball will be better off without each.
  19. The Reds finished fourth in the NL Central last year. They did not add a single significant free agent in the offseason, and their payroll on Opening Day was $76 million.
  20. Dusty Baker joins Bill McKechnie as the only managers to lead three different NL teams to the playoffs. Baker has also made it with the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs. McKechnie made it with the Pirates, Cardinals, and Reds.
  21. Toronto good guy Jose Bautista leads all of baseball with 52 homers after no homer hitting history to speak of before this season. He hit 16 with the 2006 Pirates and in 2004 he hit 24, 23 with double-A Altoona, and one after he was promoted to triple-A Indianapolis. “I’ve been tested four times, at least four times,” the Jays right fielder of Major League Baseball’s testing of players for performance-enhancing drugs, he told Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.
  22. As baseball says goodbye to Bobby Cox, we should also remember that Cito Gaston is retiring from his post as well. As much as I will remember a Cox umpirial tirade, I will also picture Clarence sitting on the Toronto bench silently and often stoically watching (and presumably analyzing, perhaps napping) the game around him. He retires after 13 years managing the Jays and another 10 as their hitting coach. Tonight, prior to the game, the Jays will honor Gaston. Bob Elliott provides us with an excellent profile of Gaston.
  23. Willie Randolph, who has spent the last two seasons as the Brewers’ bench coach would like to land one of the many managerial openings anticipated to be up for grabs in the major leagues this off-season. That would make him a good candidate in Milwaukee to replace Ken Macha who is expected to get the axe, the axe, the axe. Randolph was succeeded as the Mets manager by Jerry Manuel, who also is expected to get the axe, the axe, the axe, but it is unlikely that Randolph would be invited back to that maelstrom. Another possible landing spot of Willie could be Pittsburgh where he started his playing career (no, no Yankee fans, Willie was part of the deal that sent Doc Medich to the Pirates in 1975) and Pirates skipper John Russell looks as if he too will be put out of his misery.
  24. To their credit – The Pirates attendance at PNC Park this season was 1,613,399, highest at the stadium since 2007 and the 17th-highest in the franchise’s 124-year history. The average crowd of 19,919 was an increase over the 19,479 of last year, and seven games were sellouts. While the average crowd is the fourth smallest in Major League Baseball, it also represented what is expected to be one of the few increases. The Pirates finished 40-41 at home.
  25. Josh Hamilton hopes to return this weekend to the Texas lineup, taking light swings in the batting cage yesterday. Hamilton, recovering from fractured ribs, also shagged fly balls during batting practice but did not attempt to throw the ball.
  26. Rangers beat writer Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes that it is 70-30 Hamilton plays in the Division Series but it is less than 50% that reliever Frank Francisco does. Maybe much less.
  27. While we are on the subject of the Rangers, they lost to the Mariners, 3-1, as Justin Smoak got some measure of revenge for the AL West champs sending him to the last-place Seattle Mariners, by hitting a tiebreaking homer. The bigger story is that despite, CC Sabathia earning his 21st win and David Price winning his 19th, and no matter what the two-headed Red Sox hydra of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholtz do in their remaining games, in my mind Felix Hernandez is the AL Cy Young Award winner. Last night, against Texas, Hernandez (13-12) allowed one run, struck out five and walked two while pitching into at least the 7th inning for the 25th consecutive start, extending his club record. He is 6-3 with a 0.96 ERA (eight earned runs over 75 1/3 innings) in his past 10 starts. He also became the first pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2002 and only the seventh since 1980 to have a season with 30 quality starts (three earned runs or fewer while pitching at least six innings). He lowered his ERA to 2.27, best in the AL.
  28. Larry Stone of the Seattle Times reports that GM Jack Zduriencik has been assured that he will retain his job. I guess it must be his really cool hairstyle.
  29. Finally, yesterday I wrote about my Willie Mays 2010 All-Star team and like pushing a hornet’s nest, it created a lot of buzz. Briefly, the concept is that All-Stars should be recognized for excellence at the end of the season, not in July. The rosters are difficult to pick and I battled with a number of you on selections and I was swayed just once. I have agreed to drop Alex Rios from the AL squad and add Neftali Feliz. I have also changed the names of the teams to the Mid-Stars (the ones who play in the Mid-Summer Classic) and the All-Stars, the season ending best players who have played great baseball all season long. Do me a favor. Send the column to folks you might know who could bring a little publicity to the idea and then after that go on Facebook and see if I can get to host Saturday Night Live?

This is Jack Zduriencik, not Bill Chuck

This is Bill Chuck, not Jack Zduriencik