September 14, 2011
Nine innings and nine items to get you going. Ladies and gentleman of the Stew, take a sip of morning Juice.
1. Wake up!: On his eighth attempt, ancient knuckleballer Tim Wakefield(notes) got his 200th career victory — though it took 18 runs of support by Boston's offense to ensure that it finally happened. The mood certainly was celebratory at Fenway Park after the Boston Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 18-6; note the silly look on Jason Varitek's(notes) face. He never gives silly looks!
They all had good reason to be happy: The 45-year-old Wakefield is a popular player who has been a slightly above-average pitcher (career adjusted ERA of 106) over his 19-year major league career. And he throws a difficult pitch few others even try. Rather than celebrate achieving a round number of 200 victories — with wins being the worst stat on which we measure pitchers — it's just enough to admire Wakefield for being pretty good for a pretty long time. It's been a neat career to watch. You're still creeping me out, 'Tek!
2. Oh, that hurts: The late-season surge by the Tampa Bay Rays has been fun for them — or, frightening, if you're the Red Sox — but the Orioles flung a monkey in the wrench by beating the Rays 4-2 in Baltimore to put St. Petersburg four games behind Boston for the wild card. Matt Wieters(notes) did the honors with a killer two-run homer against J.P. Howell(notes) in the eighth.
3. Keep going to Mo: Nobody credible can dispute the greatness of Mariano Rivera(notes), even if it's just been for one or two innings at a time over his 17 seasons. But he's compiled 600 career saves and has Trevor Hoffman's(notes) record in his sights (one more and they're tied) after the New York Yankees beat the Seattle Mariners 3-2.
Oh, and he wasn't even responsible for getting the last out. That's teamwork.
4. Oh, snap: The Braves needed a slap, and Brian McCann(notes) gave it to them by hitting a three-run home run to help them beat the Marlins 7-1 and snap a four-game losing streak. McCann had been slumping, and struck out with the bases loaded the night before as the Braves fell by a run. This, he says, feels better:
"Last night, I was the big downer," said McCann, who homered in the sixth with the Braves trailing 1-0. "It's nice to come through."
5. Nope: The Phillies still haven't clinched a playoff spot. The Astros beat them 5-2 after a three-run homer by Clint Barmes(notes), and the Cardinals beat the Pirates, so the postseason magic number remains at one.
6. No, you go ahead: Justin Verlander(notes) and the Detroit Tigers continued their unopposed march to the playoffs with a 5-0 victory at Chicago. The White Sox probably put up a fight, it just didn't look like it. They can't be eliminated by Detroit on their home field Wednesday, so they have that going for themselves. Verlander has 23 victories, which is neat, no matter how shady its statistical significance. He's also still on-course for the AL Cy Young.
7. Hold, please: The Los Angeles Angels kept pace in the AL West, beating the Athletics 6-3 in Oakland with the help of two Howie Kendrick(notes) home runs. It's not easy to hit two homers at night at the Coliseum, which doesn't let the ball carry much after dark. Texas, which is up by three games in the division, won at Cleveland 10-4.
8. Walk, yes. Shrimp, no: The Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Dodgers 5-4 and knocked one more game off the schedule, lowering their magic number to six. Chris Young came home on a bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning. No shrimp, though, because the game was on the road at Dodger Stadium. Up north, the Giants took 12 innings to beat the Padres 3-2. Keeping pace is not good enough, though, and they know it.
9. Cheese for everyone!: Ryan Braun(notes) hit a game-ending home run in the 11th inning — those are always fun — to send the Milwaukee Brewers to a 2-1 victory against the Rockies. Milwaukee's magic number is eight to clinch the NL Central.
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