- Mark Townsend at Big League Stew2 hrs ago
If baseball games were played on paper, the Los Angeles Angels would probably be working on a third straight division championship. After spending money and adding big name free agents like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson to the roster, the expectations rose with the payroll, but the results remained disappointing.
Until now. The 2014 Angels currently own the best record in baseball at 95-57, and they've officially punched their ticket to the ALDS after clinching their first AL West division championship since 2009.
It wasn't always easy. Even with the remarkable record, the Oakland A's, who won the West each of the past two season, remained one step ahead deep into August. But it was the Angels who sustained excellence while the A's fell back. Here's a look at five big reasons why the Angels are in the postseason and on pace for 100 wins.
The existence of Mike Trout
Mike Trout has arguably been the best position player in baseball since debuting as a 21-year-old in 2012. He's now 23, and aside from a somewhat concerning rise in strikeouts, he's still getting better.
- Mark Townsend at Big League Stew3 hrs ago
An inning without a baserunner allowed is considered perfect, but there's actually a greater, far more rare single-inning achievement for a pitcher to shoot for. It's called the "immaculate Inning," and it stands for complete and utter dominance.
To be credited with an immaculate inning, a pitcher must strike out all three batters in an inning on the minimum nine pitches. It's something that had only been done 71 times by 66 different pitchers coming into this season, but New York Yankees right-hander Brandon McCarthy became the sixth different pitcher to throw one this season. That's a new single-season major-league record.
McCarthy joined the elite list by striking out Wil Myers, Nick Franklin and Matt Joyce inthe seventh inning of New York's 3-2 win.
"I actually didn't realize what it was until I got inside and I saw what it was on the broadcast," McCarthy said. "I was just happy it was three strikeouts, but I didn't realize what kind of an inning it was."
- Mark Townsend at Big League Stew3 hrs ago
The end of the AL West race could not have been more fitting given how the last few weeks have played out. While the Los Angeles Angels continued soaring, defeating the Seattle Mariners 5-0 in Anaheim behind C.J. Wilson's gem and C.J. Cron's three-run homer, the collapsing Oakland A's allowed another game against baseball's worst team, the Texas Rangers, to slip through their fingers, losing 6-1 after leading into the ninth inning.
Those results together allowed the Angels to unseat the two-time defending West champion A's, while claming their division crown since 2009.
The scene played out dramatically in Anaheim as the Angels wrapped up their victory about an hour before the A's loss concluded. An estimated 5,000 Angels fans who attended the game stuck around to watch the A's on the big screen at Angels Stadium, hoping for a chance to celebrate with the team.Thu, Sep 187:05 PM PDTSeattle at LA AngelsPreview Game
- Mark Townsend at Big League Stew5 hrs ago
Every now and then life slaps us in the face with a cold, hard dose of reality that puts its meaning back into perspective. It reminds us that our problems are usually minimal compared to those of others. That most of our bad days are actually good days in the grand scheme of things. And that as much as those we love frustrate us, yes, even the sports team we cheer for, it's not the end of our world.
Carlos Beltran and his wife, Jessica, didn't need that reminder. They had already experienced enough reality, pain and anguish, having lost two children before, both by miscarriage. Sadly, we learned on Wednesday they are going through that pain and anguish again, as Beltran announced that they had lost their unborn son.
Carlos Beltran, away from the team for personal reasons, just posted on his facebook page that he has lost his son. https://t.co/PmpD9VyFUG
Translation of Carlos Beltran's heartbreaking post on Facebook pic.twitter.com/r50IPpXnJg
- Mark Townsend at Big League Stew10 hrs ago
The Miami Marlins were optimistic that slugger Giancarlo Stanton would return to the lineup this season despite suffering multiple fractures, dental damage and a laceration from being hit in the face by a Mike Fiers 88-mph pitch.
That optimism disappeared on Wednesday, however, as the team announced Stanton will be shut down for the remainder of the 2014 season.
Giancarlo Stanton will miss the remainder of this season. He is expected to be ready for spring training. #GetWellGiancarlo
Despite missing what will amount to 17 games, Stanton stands a pretty good chance to hold on as the NL's home run king. He'll finish the season with 37 homers. Cubs' first baseman Anthony Rizzo is second with 31 homers, but he's been slowed recently by a back issue, making it unlikely that he'll go on a major tear over Chicago's final 11 games. Lucas Duda of the Mets checks in third with 27 home runs.Thu, Sep 184:10 PM PDTWashington at MiamiPreview Game
- Mark Townsend at Big League Stew11 hrs ago
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Major League Baseball didn't waste any time suspending Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon seven games for making what they determined to be a lewd gesture, as well as a not so swift or elegant exit on Sunday afternoon. However, punishment for umpire Joe West, who ejected Papelbon for the gesture and later grabbed him by the uniform to extract him from their heated confrontation, was a little slower to come.
That changed on Wednesday, as the league officially announced West will be suspended one game for initiating contact with Papelbon.
Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations, issued the following statement in regards to West's suspension.
The Washington Nationals are back on top in the NL East following a disappointing 2013 that found them on the outside looking in during the postseason.
Under rookie manager Matt Williams, the Nationals rebounded and separated themselves from the pack in a division that proved more competitive than most anticipated. Washington's playoff ticket was punched Tuesday night as they knocked off their nearest competitor and the team that unseated them in 2013, the Atlanta Braves, 3-0 at Turner Field.
The division championship is Washington's second, both of which have come in the last three seasons. Washington won 98 games in 2012, but fell 3-2 to the St. Louis Cardinals in a disappointing NLCS showing. Now they have a chance to redeem themselves for two seasons of falling short on expectations.
Before that journey begins though, here's a look back at five key factors that have led to their success in 2014.
All of the aces
The Baltimore Orioles were built to contend in 2014. It just seemed like they were built to contend in the wrong division at the wrong time.
The Boston Red Sox were coming off a World Series championship and looked just as good on paper. The New York Yankees signed Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, and though they had obvious holes on offense, everyone expected them to be filled adequately eventually. The Toronto Blue Jays were disappointing in 2013, but a bounce back was anticipated. And the Tampa Bay Rays are always there, waiting to strike when given an opening.
Yet here the Orioles are, popping champagne bottles on Sept. 16, with 12 days remaining in the regular season. The AL East is theirs following an 8-2 victory over the second-place Blue Jays. Their ticket to the ALDS is officially punched, which barring a big letdown they will host.
They are, arguably, the best story heading into October, and here are five big reasons why they have been able to shock the baseball world.
The signing of Nelson Cruz
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As Derek Jeter's final season winds down, only three stops remain on his farewell tour. Wednesday night will mark Jeter's final game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, and on Tuesday the Tampa Bay Rays joined the rest of baseball in honoring Jeter with a series of parting gifts.
In perhaps the most touching presentation during Jeter's final campaign, Don Zimmer's widow Soot Zimmer was joined on the field by Rays veterans Evan Longoria and Jose Molina. Together, they presented Jeter with a framed No. 66 Zimmer jersey, which we're guessing will immediately shoot to the top of Jeter's favorite gifts list.
Soot Zimmer is here. Jeter is being presented with a framed Don Zimmer No. 66 jersey.
- Mark Townsend at Big League Stew3 days ago
Every fantasy football league has that guy who either holds up the draft, or doesn't pay his dues on time. If you're unfortunate enough, sometimes you'll have both. Apparently, outfielder Jayson Werth was the latter guy in the Nationals team fantasy football league last season, and according to league commissioner and Nationals reliever Craig Stammen, it cost Werth his valuable spot in the league for 2014.
While making a radio appearance with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Thursday, Stammen revealed that Werth was way late paying his league dues. As in, months after the football season ended. And, as a result, Werth was not invited back.
“We kicked Jayson Werth out of the league this year,” Stammen said. “Jayson failed to pay last year. He didn’t pay until spring training, so we kicked him out of the league for late payment.”
Now that's a commissioner who's willing to put his foot down.