Big League Stew
- Mark Townsend at Big League Stew43 mins ago
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 acesWed, Sep 174:10 PM PDTWashington at AtlantaPreview Game
- Jeff Eisenberg at Big League Stew56 mins ago
Never before has anyone been so excited to wipe sticky pie filling off their faces than Orioles fans targeted by outfielder Adam Jones.
Each of the victims clearly considered it an honor to participate in the team's trademark celebration.
In the giddy afterglow of the Orioles' division-clinching 8-2 victory over Toronto on Tuesday night, Jones grabbed as many pies as he could find and smashed them in the faces of eager fans in the first row of the stands. It's unclear how many victims Jones racked up, but video of three different fans being pied had already surfaced on social media by late Tuesday night.
The pies were a clever way for Jones to involve Orioles fans in the team's division title celebration and a fitting method considering how the smashed desserts have become a staple of Baltimore victories.
- David Brown at Big League Stew1 hr ago
In a span of 58 days, the Washington Nationals turned a tight National League East race into a cakewalk. The Nats got seven shutout innings from Tanner Roark, along with a two-run homer by Ian Desmond in a 3-0 victory against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night that clinched Washington's second division title in three years. The Nats, who were tied with the Braves for the NL East lead July 21, put away Atlanta with 12 games to play in the season.
Washington celebrated at Turner Field by whoopin' and hollerin', and pouring champagne and beer, like teams that clinch are wont to do. Bryce Harper wore a firefighter's helmet and goggles. There was a sense of relief and accomplishment, but also of goals not yet achieved. Nats reliever Craig Stammen is one of the players who was with the club in 2012, a season that ended bitterly with a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the NL Division Series.
"For us, this isn’t good enough. We’ve got bigger goals in mind. That’s probably the difference. We’re not satisfied." -- Craig Stammen
- Jeff Eisenberg at Big League Stew2 hrs ago
The former Breaking Bad antihero added to repertoire by starring in a hilarious newly released six-minute commercial promoting the upcoming American League playoffs on TBS.
The premise of the videol is that Cranston's new project is a one-man show in which he portrays the entire American League playoffs without so much as a cameo appearance from a co-star. The video that follows includes Cranston imitating everything from Babe Ruth calling his shot before homering, to Derek Jeter's backhand flip throw, to Carl Yastrzemski's dramatic home run, to Kirk Gibson's famous World Series home run trot.
- Mark Townsend at Big League Stew3 hrs ago
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 CruzWed, Sep 174:05 PM PDTToronto at BaltimorePreview Game
- Jeff Eisenberg at Big League Stew4 hrs ago
The last time neither the Red Sox nor Yankees qualified for the American League playoffs, a gallon of gas cost barely a dollar, Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" was Billboard's No. 1 song and "Jurassic Park" was America's highest-grossing movie.
That 21-year streak will almost certainly end this season.
Baltimore took a giant step toward ensuring the playoffs won't include either Boston or New York on Tuesday night when it clinched the American League East championship with an 8-2 victory over second-place Toronto. First baseman Steve Pearce and third baseman Jimmy Paredes both belted home runs to power the Orioles to their first division title since 1997.
In the 17 years between Baltimore's division championships, Boston or New York have claimed every AL East title every besides 2008 and 2010 when Tampa Bay dethroned baseball's two big-budget behemoths. This year, the underachieving Red Sox haven't sniffed playoff contention since before the all-star break and the aging Yankees have hovered around .500 all season and began Tuesday six games out of the final Wild Card spot.Wed, Sep 174:05 PM PDTBoston at PittsburghPreview Game
- Mark Townsend at Big League Stew5 hrs ago
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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.Wed, Sep 174:10 PM PDTNY Yankees at Tampa BayPreview Game
- Jeff Eisenberg at Big League Stew7 hrs ago
One of the loudest ovations Tuesday night at Petco Park went to a member of the visiting team.
Philadelphia Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg ensured that when he inserted the son of San Diego's most beloved athlete into his lineup.
Tony Gwynn Jr. started in centerfield and hit leadoff against the Padres three months to the day after his 54-year-old father lost a four-year battle with cancer. It was the younger Gwynn's first plate appearance in his hometown since May 2012 when he was a member of the Dodgers.
Though Gwynn went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in Philadelphia's 5-4 loss to the Padres, that surely didn't detract too much from a special night. The crowd greeted him with a hearty ovation before his first at-bat and fans in the bleachers greeted him with chants of "Tony! Tony! Tony!" when he jogged to the outfield before the bottom of the first inning.
- David Brown at Big League Stew10 hrs ago
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Major League Baseball reportedly looked into disciplining right-hander Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays — but won't punish him — after he threw a pitch near the head of Caleb Joseph of the Baltimore Orioles on Monday night.
No discipline anticipated for Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman over head-high pitch to Orioles' Caleb Joseph, industry source said.
The Orioles believe that Stroman, a 23-year-old rookie, was retaliating in the sixth inning for Joseph blocking the plate illegally (the Jays say), and unnecessarily stepping on the hand of Toronto's Jose Reyes an inning earlier. Both teams were warned by the plate umpire immediately after Stroman's pitch, which Stroman later said simply slipped. After striking out Joseph to end the sixth, Stroman engaged the Orioles bench in unfriendly banter, and was shooed off the field by O's manager Buck Showalter.
- David Brown at Big League Stew11 hrs ago
Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis became a good Samaritan on Tuesday afternoon after encountering a serious traffic accident along southbound Interstate 295. An Orioles fan named Mike Soukup sent the details to reporter Roch Kubatko of MASN. The fan says Davis helped to lift an overturned pickup truck that had thrown one person from it and had another pinned underneath it.
Keep in mind that Major League Baseball sacked Chris Davis for amphetamines, and not some kind of Incredible Hulk gamma radiation steroid strength drugs, when it suspended him for 25 games recently.