You missed some good stuff if you didn't stay up late for the West Coast action ...
1. It happened more than one night. How do you describe this game? Shocking? Stunning? Whatever label you want to use, it was a classic San Francisco Giants-Los Angeles Dodgers game that will add to the ledger of this rivalry. We had Madison Bumgarner versus Clayton Kershaw with Vin Scully at the mic at Dodger Stadium. We had Bumgarner initiate a little benches-clearing "discussion" when he yelled at his best buddy Yasiel Puig. And most improbably -- or, on second thought, maybe not improbable at all -- the Giants bullpen suffered another brutal, ugly ninth-inning meltdown as the Dodgers scored twice to win 2-1. But the big question everyone will be asking: Why did Bruce Bochy remove his ace after seven innings and 97 pitches and a slim 1-0 lead, knowing he'd have to get six outs from his beleaguered bullpen?
The chain of events:
After Puig grounded out to end the seventh, Bumgarner clearly mouthed, "Don't look at me," in Puig's direction a couple times, with an added expletive in there the third time he said it. The camera panned to Puig saying, "What?" Let's admit it: A fight makes every sporting event a little more entertaining, not just hockey. While this one didn't see more than some pushing and shoving, it was entertaining to see all the relievers rushing in from the bullpens:
Everyone loves to criticize Puig for not containing his emotions, but what about Bumgarner? He clearly doesn't like Puig -- see this from May of 2014 or this from September of that year -- but it's not fair to criticize Puig for some of his antics and leave Bumgarner untouched just because he's a good ol' boy from North Carolina. Bochy removed him after the incident, and maybe he stays in the game if he keeps his cool.
The Giants take the 1-0 lead to the bottom of the ninth. The Giants had lost eight games when leading after eight innings -- most in the majors. Only three other teams even have as many as five such defeats. They couldn't even get an out this time. Pinch hitter Andrew Toles singled off Derek Law. Corey Seager battled Javier Lopez, laying off a couple pitches and grounded a seeing-eye single past a diving Joe Panik. When things are going bad, things are going bad. Hunter Strickland came on, and Justin Turner singled to right to tie the game. And Adrian Gonzalez hit the game winner, Hunter Pence's flailing at a catchable ball symbolizing the state of the Giants' pen.
Look, Bochy didn't give up the hits, but it's odd to seem him panic like this, constantly shuffling the closer the past few weeks and now settling on a desperate ninth-inning-by-committee approach. That reads "panic" to me, and panic never works when it comes to managing a bullpen. I'd say the Giants are in trouble ... except this is the National League wild-card race and they're still tied with the Cardinals, just one game behind the Mets.
AND ENDED WITH THIS. pic.twitter.com/j51SIUProj— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 20, 2016
Every possible thing that was expected to happen in this game happened. It was a predictably fantastic show.— Doug Padilla (@DougPadilla) September 20, 2016
Clayton Kershaw: "That wasn't Puig's fault."— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) September 20, 2016
Kershaw on Bumgarner: "He stirred the fire on that one. He was asking for it."
2. Blue Jays win "home game" in Seattle. The Mariners had a chance to cut their wild-card deficit to a mere one game, putting even more pressure on the slumping Jays, who entered with MLB's worst record in September. They were facing a struggling Marco Estrada with a 5.47 ERA in the second half (and a herniated disk in his back). With Safeco Field at least half-full of vocal Blue Jays fans, it felt like a Toronto home game. Estrada took a no-hitter into the seventh, but the game's big moment came after the Mariners loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth and John Gibbons called on closer Roberto Osuna to face Robinson Cano. He fell behind 2-0, but Cano lined out to the warning track in right field. A Leonys Martin two-run homer in the ninth only made the final score 3-2. The Jays tied the Orioles for the two wild-card spots and increased their lead to 2 1/2 over the Tigers and three over the Mariners and Astros.
The Mariners have dug themselves a heckuva hole now. Really need to win the next two. Kuma and Felix. As you'd want it to be (I think).— Mike Salk, 710 ESPN (@TheMikeSalk) September 20, 2016
3. Rick Porcello makes another Cy Young statement. Porcello became the first pitcher to throw a complete game in 2016 with fewer than 90 pitches, as he required just 89 in beating the Orioles 5-2. Porcello has gone seven-plus innings in each of his past 11 starts, during which he has posted a 2.34 ERA. How's this for company:
Longest streak of 7+ IP, 3 or fewer runs - Red Sox— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 20, 2016
Rick Porcello 2016
Pedro Martínez 2000
Cy Young 1904
11 starts each
The victory increased Boston's lead over Baltimore to four games with 12 remaining, and the Red Sox can put away the O's depending on how the other three games go in this series. It also seems like the AL Cy Young race, once crowded with 10 or so candidates, is probably down to five guys:
Porcello: 21-4, 3.08 ERA, 210 2/3 IP, 174 SO, 4.8 WAR
Corey Kluber: 17-9, 3.12 ERA, 204 2/3 IP, 215 SO, 6.4 WAR
Chris Sale: 16-8, 3.03 ERA, 210 2/3 IP, 215 SO, 5.4 WAR
Masahiro Tanaka: 13-4, 2.97 ERA, 193 2/3 IP, 160 SO, 5.6 WAR
Zach Britton: 2-1, 0.59 ERA, 45-for-45 saves, 61 1/3 IP, 3.9 WAR
Porcello's WAR was pre-Monday night, so that should a get slight bump. Anyway, you can probably eliminate Tanaka since he doesn't beat Porcello on old-school stats like wins or Kluber on new-school stats like WAR and strikeout rate. Britton is the wild card here, trying to become the first closer since Eric Gagne in 2003 to win the Cy Young Award. Who do you like?
4. 35-10. Rangers fans know what that number means: That's the team's record in one-run games, a .778 winning percentage that would edge the 2012 Orioles' record of 29-9 (.763). This 3-2 victory over the Angels ended with Ian Desmond's walk-off hit:
Now, the record is a reflection of: (A) bad pitching; (B) the cozy dimensions of Great American Ballpark; (C) rabbit ball; (D) global warming; (E) Alfredo Simon (he was so bad, he's counted separately from the bad pitching in (A)).
Get this, however: While the Reds have allowed 135 home runs at home and 107 on the road, the pitching has actually been worse overall on the road -- 4.57 ERA at home, 5.26 on the road. Great American Ballpark increases home runs, but Reds opponents have hit 17 points higher on the road. On the bright side for the Reds, Joey Votto is hitting .416/.502/.650 in the second half.