Underdogs. Everyone loves them. I am not without my affinity for the lesser, but recently I find myself drawn to two particular teams that are in the playoff hunt in spite of the fact they were thought to have no business being there. I am not enamored with them because of their underdog status, per se, but because their contention defies logic. I'm talking of course, about the Orioles and Athletics.
The Orioles have been sticking around all season, though everyone has been waiting for their inevitable demise. The Athletics started poorly, but have rallied and now have a solid chance at a wild card spot, and an outside shot at even winning the division.
I don't know how they're doing it. No one does. You know why no one does? The Orioles and Athletics started Lew Ford and Seth Smith at DH last night, respectively, and won. This last month or so is going to be so fantastic, you guys.
Hitter Who Hit Well Last Night: Pedro Alvarez, 4-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R
Have a day, Pedro Alvarez. He looked like a prime candidate for a demotion after the first two months of the season, but has posted an .839 OPS since June. The Pirates may not make it all the way to the end, but Alvarez's turnaround has to be encouraging for the front office and the fans.
Pitcher Who Pitched Well Last Night: Yu Darvish, 7 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 10 SO, 0 R
Darvish has had command issues all year, but had it going against the Rays. His WHIP wasn't great, but if Darvish can pitch like this the rest of the way, their offense should have no problem racking up wins for the team.
Defensive Plays That Inspired Awe:
Yadier Molina got a grill-full of Josh Harrison on this play:
This caused a pretty silly tweet to come from the MLB account:
Yadier Molina was forced to exit after this devastating collision, but he held onto the ball because he's a man: atmlb.com/Pqs8tr— MLB (@MLB) August 28, 2012
That led to my favorite response:
Yadier Molina can't be a man, he's not 40!— Dan Wade (@Dwade) August 29, 2012
I am, by all accounts, a man. But I would drop that ball 100/100 times if I got dumptrucked like Molina did. Mercy.
This also happened:
I don't consider this a great play however. This is like your approach shot to the green that ricochets off a tree branch, bounces off a sprinkler head, and rolls six inches from the pin. Cool? Yes. On purpose? No way.
The Most Dickish Move That Happened Last Night:
Hey, when you're Juan Rivera, you'll do anything to help people remember you still play baseball.
An Injury to a Noteworthy Player: Matt Kemp wrecked his knee and jaw doing this:
X-rays were negative. He is listed as day-to-day.
Players/Performances of Note:
Orioles: Chris Tillman, 7 IP, 1 H, 4 BB, 5 K, 0 R. Perhaps Mr. Tillman got sick of those one-run nail biters the Orioles are so fond of this season, as he shut down the Pale Hose but good. Six runs of support doesn't hurt, be he certainly did his part.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, 5 IP, 9 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 5 ER. In his past three road starts in Miami, Strasburg had allowed 0 runs with 24 K. Nationals couldn't get anything going at the plate either, as they drop their fifth in a row.
Pirates: James McDonald, 7 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 0 R. McDonald has been up and down this season, but got back to his winning ways last night. This series is a crucial one to the Pirates' fleeting playoff hopes. So far, they've split the series with the Cardinals, and are now two games behind them in the wild card race.
Blue Jays: Ricky Romero, 7 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 2 ER. Romero has been a bit of enigma all his career, a guy whose "stuff" is way better than his numbers would suggest. He's been up and down all season, and if the Jays could hit, this performance should have been good enough for them to notch a win against the Yankees. Put my bet on him giving up six runs in three innings next go-round.
Rays: Rays hitters, 7 H, 0 R. This was their second consecutive one-run loss against the Rangers. This is not how you fight your way to another Cinderella season, boys.
Phillies: B.J. Rosenberg, 1 IP, 4 H, 4 R. Rosenberg came in at the top of the tenth inning in a tie game (obvs) against the Mets, and promptly gave up four earned runs on four hits, including a homer. Hey, did this guy pitch for the Brewers this year? (Hey-yo!)
Athletics: Bradon Moss, 2-5, 3 RBI, HR. I kind of wanted to give this to Tom Milone, who continues to have success despite underwhelming stuff. However, Mr. Moss hit a very far homerun and drove in half of his team's runs. Sorry Tommy, you'll have to find solace in the fact that you're like the most Oakland pitcher ever.
Twins: Josh Willingham, 1-3, 1 K, 0 RBI. Willingham did not have a great day at the plate, but he was hit by a pitch for the 14th time this season, giving him sole possession of first place in the American League in that category.
Dodgers: All of them. YOU JUST SPENT A FRAJILLION DOLLARS! YOU'RE STILL IN A PENNANT RACE! YOU SHOULD BEAT THE ROCKIES, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!
Angels: Mike Trout, 3-5, 2 RBI, HR. Who else? This game was a bit of a back and forth, with the Red Sox taking a one-run lead into the ninth, when Trout hit an RBI single, driving in the tying run. His homerun was his 25th of the season.
Braves: Kris Medlen, 8 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 9 K, 0 R. Since being converted to a starter this season, Medlen is 4-0 with a 0.83 ERA, and 29 K in 32 IP. Take that, Josh Daniel Bard.
Reds: Todd Frazier, 2-4, 2 RBI. Bryce Harper, Shmrice Harper. Frazier is a very strong candidate for the NL Rookie of the Year award. He helped his cause a little last night too, as he beat up on his biggest competitor for the award, Wade Miley of the Diamondbacks.
Tigers: Justin Verlander, 5.2 IP, 12 H, 3 BB, 6 K, 8 R. Zoinks, Scoob. Verlander getting roughed up is one thing. Getting roughed up by the Royals is another. Thanks to this outing, Verlander's ERA has ballooned to a nauseating 2.80. Joking aside, this does not help his case for the AL Cy Young award, with the things Felix Hernandez has been doing recently.
Brewers: Jeff Bianchi, 1-3, 3 RBI, HR. Who? Beats me, but this guy had all the RBI for the Brewers yesterday. I can't find a whole lot of info on this guy, perhaps The Common Man can help. It appears that he was drafted by the Royals, and recently waived by the Cubs. Some nice redemption then, I guess. (Side note: The Brewers' hitters rank fifth overall in wRC+, and their starting pitching ranks sixth in FIP. How bad does a bullpen have to be to turn that into a 61-67 record?)
Giants: Hector Sanchez, 1-1, 1 RBI. If you don't love pinch-hit, go-ahead hits in the ninth, you don't love baseball. The Giants continue to pad their lead of the Dodgers, which now stands at 3.5 games.