When Your Team is Out of the Race

I freely admit to being a Mets fan. This is largely the fault of Howie Rose, their radio play-by-play man. The Mets radio team runs rings around John “Theeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees Win!” Sterling. Anyway, a couple of days ago, with the Mets well out of contention (even getting to .500 is a very long shot), he talked about why you should follow your team anyway. His point was that you’d get to be there when all these new, young players made their debuts (like I was there for Rhys Hoskins’ first game), and you could brag about it later.

This got me to wondering (especially with football stories starting to occupy the sporting press) – what sort of fun and interesting and amazing things happen with teams out of the playoff hunt in late September? Thanks to the “This Day in Baseball History” pages of National Pastime and Baseball Reference, I was able to dig up a lot of interesting things that happened on September 15 or later. The sorts of things that make following baseball worthwhile.

I’ve concentrated on events no more than ten years old, because we all know that if it happened before you were old enough to notice, it didn’t really happen.

September 15

2004 Though the Expos would eventually win 6-2, the Marlin’s Mike Lowell catches Expos’ catcher Brian Schneider napping at third base in the fourth inning. Schneider falls for the Hidden Ball Trick, not realizing the Marlins third baseman had not given the pitcher the ball after visiting the mound.

2011 At Coors Field. Pablo Sandoval of the Giants legs out a triple when his fly ball goes just beyond the reach of right fielder Carlos Gonzales. That completes his “cycle”; he’s the first Giant player to do it since 2007.

2015 It takes sixteen innings, but the Rockies beat the Dodgers 5-4. They also set a major league record by using a total of 30 players in the contest, including 13 pitchers. The Dodgers used 28 players (11 of them pitchers) to set a combined record for total players used in a game.

September 16

1988 After a two and a half hour rain delay, the Reds’ Tom Browning pitches a perfect game against the Dodgers, striking out eight and allowing only eight balls to be hit out of the infield in his 1-0 victory. Over three starts, including the perfect game, he retires 40 consecutive batters – one shy of a major league record.

2007 With the score tied at 7 in the bottom of the ninth, the White Sox DH Jim Thome wins the game with his 500th career home run.

September 17

2005 The Nationals are leading the Padres 5-0 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. A couple of hits later, Khalil Greene hits his first career grand slam to tie the game. It stays tied at 5 going to the bottom of the 12th, when, with two outs, Ramon Hernandez belts a three-run homer to give the Padres an 8-5 win.

2016 Curtis Granderson pulls off an extremely rare feat by homering twice in extra innings in the Mets’ 3 – 2 win over the Twins. His first homer, leading off the bottom of the 11th against Brandon Kintzler, ties the game at 2, while the second, off Ryan O’Rourke with two outs in the 12th is a walk-off homer. He is only the eighth player to hit two extra-inning homers in a game, and the third to do so in consecutive innings

September 18

2006 The Chicago White Sox end the top of the first at Cellular Field when the Detroit Tigers’ Carlos Guillen lines into a 5-4-4 triple play.

2006 The Dodgers, who are last in the National League in homers, hit four consecutive home runs in an inning when Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew, Russell Martin, and Marlon Anderson all go deep in the bottom of the ninth to tie the Padres, 9-9. San Diego pushes a run across in the top of the 10th, but Nomar Garciaparra hits a two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th to give the Dodgers the win.

2010 At Citi Field, Luis Hernandez falls to the ground in obvious pain when he fouls a ball off his right foot, and after a lengthy discussion, dismisses the team trainer to resume his turn at-bat. The Mets second baseman hits a home run on the next pitch he sees. The broken foot will end his season.

2013 In his first major league start Reds OF Billy Hamilton reaches base five times and steals four bases, becoming the first player to do so in the modern era. The Reds defeat the Astros, 6 – 5, as Hamilton scores a key run in the top of the 13th.

September 19

2002 In his major league debut, Twins’ rookie Mike Ryan strokes two singles, scores two runs and drives in two runs in the nine-run first inning against the Tigers. Unfortunately, the game is rained out in the second inning, meaning none of the statistics will be official.

2008 In Tampa Bay’s 11-1 rout of Minnesota, Carlos Pena’s fourth-inning home run is the result of the first reversal determined by baseball’s new instant replay system. Umpire Mike DiMuro at first signals fan interference, but changes the call after reviewing the video of the Rays first baseman’s line drive.

September 20

1992 Phillies’ second baseman Mickey Morandini catches Jeff King’s line drive, steps on second doubling up Andy Van Slyke, and tags Barry Bonds to complete an unassisted triple play in a 3-2 loss to the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium.

2007 September call-up J.R Towles, with his 4-for-4 performance and getting hit with a pitch with the bases loaded, establishes a franchise-record eight RBIs when the Astros rout the Cardinals, 18-1

2014 Oliver Perez records the first four-strikeout inning in Diamondback history when a dropped third strike allows the first batter to reach base in the seventh frame of the team’s 5-1 loss to Colorado at Coors Field.

September 21

2004 Raul Ibanez, in the Mariners’ 16-6 rout over LA, ties an American League record shared by over 20 players when he collects six hits in the nine-inning contest.

September 22

2013 Felix Hernandez, making his first appearance since suffering a strained oblique, sets a record for strikeouts in a start lasting four or fewer innings when he whiffs 10 batters before the fifth frame in the Mariners’ 3-2 victory at Angel Stadium. The fans aren’t the only ones buzzing during King Felix’s performance as a swarm of bees in the outfield delays the contest for 23 minutes during the third inning.

September 23

2002 With two outs and two on in the seventh inning, the Cardinals stroke nine straight hits (seven singles and two doubles) to score ten runs on their way to a 13 – 1 win over the Diamondbacks.

2009 Trailing 8-0 at Dodger Stadium, the Giants score nine runs in the top of the seventh inning. Although L.A. will come back twice to send the game into extra innings, San Francisco tallies four runs in the top of the tenth frame for the 14-10 victory.

2010 Ichiro Suzuki, with his fifth-inning single off Toronto’s Shawn Hill, becomes the first major leaguer to compile ten consecutive 200-hit seasons, breaking the record he shared with Willie Keeler. The Mariner outfielder now has more 200-hit seasons than any player in AL history, surpassing Ty Cobb, and joins Pete Rose as the only other player with ten seasons with 200 or more hits.

2016 The top of the first at Miller Park ends when the Brewers turn a 3-3-6 triple play against the Reds. Joey Votto lines out to Chris Carter who steps on first to double off Scott Schelber; Carter then threw to shortstop Orlando Arcia who nailed Jose Peraza for the third out.

September 24

2013 Michael Wacha just misses becoming the 22nd rookie ever to throw a no-hitter when Ryan Zimmerman beats out an infield grounder with two outs in the top of the ninth inning for Washington’s only hit. The 22 year-old Cardinals right-hander comes within inches of fielding the ball that cost him his bid for history in the team’s 2-0 victory at Busch Stadium.

September 25

2003 Carlos Delgado becomes the 15th player in big-league history and only the fifth American League player to hit four home runs in one game. The Blue Jays’ first baseman’s first homer was the 300th of his career.

2010 Ina wild game which saw three five-run innings, Detroit third baseman Brandon Inge drives in the winning run in the bottom of the 13th to give the Tigers an 11-10 win over Minnesota.

2012 With Zack Greinke fanning 13 batters during his five-inning outing and the bullpen adding another seven, the Angels’ staff combines for 20 strikeouts in the team’s 5-4 victory over Seattle, tying the record for the most ever recorded in a nine-inning game. The Anaheim starter’s performance makes him the first hurler since 1920 to whiff 13 opponents in an outing that lasts less than six innings.

2015 Aaron Altherr hits an inside-the-park grand slam and adds three more hits including another homer as the Phillies defeat the Nationals, 8 – 2. The last player to have hit a slam inside-the-park was Randy Winn in 1999 and the last for the Phillies was Ted Kazanski in 1956.

September 26

1983 Cardinal Bob Forsch pitches his second career no-hitter, beating the Expos at Busch Stadium, 3-0. The 33 year-old Redbird right-hander first accomplished the feat against Philadelphia in 1978.

2009 Bronx native Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court’s newest member, throws the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium, a strike right down the middle of the plate, prior to watching her team defeat the Red Sox, 3-0. In 1995, Justice Sotomayor, as a U.S. District Judge, issued an injunction which led to ending the nearly eight month-long baseball strike.

(OK, it was a slow day…)

September 27

1998 In the Blue Jays’ 2-1 victory over the Tigers, Detroit pinch-hitter Bobby Higginson homers with two outs off of Blue Jay Roy Halladay to spoil the rookie’s bid for a no-hitter. Halladay comes within one out of allowing no hits in only his second major league start.

2003 With a startling rally, the Tigers avoid equaling the modern major league record of 120 losses set by the expansion 1962 Amazin’ Mets. It takes one of the biggest comebacks in franchise history when Detroit beats the Twins on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth after trailing by eight runs, 9-8.

2011 The Tampa Bay Rays kill a rally by the New York Yankees in the top of the sixth by getting Russell Martin to ground into a 5-4-3 triple play.

2011 After giving up five runs in the top of the tenth inning, the Diamondbacks score six times in the bottom of the frame in an amazing 7-6 come-from-behind victory over the Dodgers. Arizona infielder Ryan Roberts delivers the decisive blow in the Chase Field contest, a walk-off grand slam with two outs.

September 28

2006 At Coors Field in Colorado, James Loney collects four hits, including two homers, and drives in nine runs in a 19-11 victory over the Rockies. The rookie first baseman, who had one homer and eight runs batted in in 93 previous at-bats with the team, ties the franchise RBI mark set by Gil Hodges in his 1950 four-homer game and breaks the Los Angeles club mark held by Ron Cey.

2011 Jose Reyes leads off the season finale for the Mets by beating out a bunt for a single. The infield hit raises the shortstop’s average to a league-leading .337, nudging past Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun for the NL batting crown, the first in Mets history. Reyes immediately takes himself out of the game to preserve that title.

2012 Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds no-hits the Pirates, beating them 1-0. He’d walk only one batter while striking out ten.

2014 Jordan Zimmerman hurls the first no-hitter for the Washington Nationals since the team moved to Washington (and the first by any Washington pitcher since Bobby Burke in 1931) beating the Marlins 1-0. This was the final game for both teams for the 2014 season, and it was the second year in a row in which a no-hitter had been thrown on the final day of the regular season.

September 29

2001 Astros’ starter Dave Mlicki gives up homers on three consecutive pitches to Fred McGriff, Rondell White, and Todd Hundley. The back-to-back-to-back homers, which come in the first inning with two outs, enable the Cubs to beat Houston at Wrigley Field, 6-2.

2010 At the Ballpark in Arlington, with the Seattle-Texas game tied 5-5 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Nelson Cruz strikes out, apparently sending the game into extra innings. The third strike turns out to be a wild pitch, and when the catcher makes an errant throw to first base trying to complete the putout, Mitch Moreland, the base runner already on first, scores the winning run, giving the Rangers a 6-5 victory on a walk-off strikeout.

2013 Henderson Álvarez hurls the 5th no-hitter in Marlins history, and the first ever thrown at Marlins Park. The Marlins scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a wild pitch, with Álvarez standing in the on-deck circle . It was the first no-hitter to end in walk-off fashion since 1997.

2016 For the first time since the 2005 season, a major league game ends in a tie as rain stops the final scheduled contest of the year between the Cubs and Pirates in the 6th inning with the score at 1 – 1. The game will not be resumed as its result has no bearing on the postseason. The rules pertaining to ties were changed in 2007 making today’s situation the only one in which a tie game can now occur.

September 30

1984 On the last day of the season, Mike Witt of the Angels pitches a perfect game against the Texas Rangers, beating them 1-0.

2000 The Mariners outslug the Angels, 21 – 9. It is the most runs ever scored against the Angels and the two teams combine to have 18 players scoring runs in the game, one short of the American League record. Alex Rodriguez drives home seven runs for Seattle, with four hits, including two home runs. Meanwhile, the Athletics defeat the Rangers, 23 – 2, in the highest scoring game in Athletics history. Oakland scores nine runs in the 1st inning and eight in the 7th. Fourteen players score runs to set a new ML record.

2009 Ricky Nolasco, en route to the Marlins’ 5-4 victory over Atlanta in the season’s finale, sets a franchise record with 16 strikeouts. The 26 year-old right-hander’s performance includes whiffing nine consecutive batters, one shy of the major league record set by Tom Seaver with the Mets in 1970.

2009 Francisco Rodriguez becomes the fourth pitcher in the history of the game to yield two walk-off grand slams in the same season when Justin Maxwell goes deep, giving Washington a dramatic 7-4 victory over the Mets at Nationals Park.

2016 Carlos Rodon of the White Sox ties an American League record by striking out the first seven Twins batters he faces in a 7 – 3 win. Joe Cowley, another White Sox pitcher, had set the record back on May 28, 1986. For Minnesota, it is a team-record 103rd loss as they limp towards the end of a wretched season.

October 1

2006 Carlos Guillen, in the Tigers’ 10-4 win over the Rays, becomes the tenth player in franchise history to hit for the cycle. The Detroit shortstop stretches a single into a double in his last at-bat in the eighth inning to complete the rare event.

October 2

2009 B.J. Upton, in the Rays’ 13-4 rout of the visiting Yankees, becomes the first player in the 12-year history of the franchise to hit for the cycle. The fleet center fielder’s offensive output, which includes five hits and six RBIs, helps Tampa Bay to deny CC Sabathia of his 20th win this season, a feat which hasn’t been accomplished by a Bronx pitcher since Andy Pettitte posted a 21-8 record in 2003.

2012 Seven years after being beaned on the first pitch he saw in his only career plate appearance, derailing a promising career, Adam Greenberg gets a chance to bat again in the major leagues. The Miami Marlins send him up to pinch-hit in the 6th inning against the Mets’ R.A. Dickey. He strikes out on three pitches from the knuckleballer, but the crowd cheers wildly as his story of perseverance has made him a hero to many.

October 3

2015 In the second game of a doubleheader, the Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer becomes the fifth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in the season; both of which also featured no walks. The only baserunner came on an error by shortstop Yunel Escobar. Scherzer’s 17 strikeouts tied Nolan Ryan’s record for most in a no-hitter and included 9 straight whiffs.

If I was getting paid for this, I’d take the time to find out which of these teams were effectively out of the race at the time. But I’m not, so there.

So in addition to the usual personal and seasonal milestones, you get a bunch of no-hitters, “cycles”, wild comebacks, great plays, and outstanding performances.

In short, the same sorts of things that can happen every day at the ballpark.

Back in 2006, Major League Baseball and FOX had a couple of TV spots encouraging people to watch the playoffs even if their team wasn’t involved:

It’s kind of funny seeing them use the Cubs as an example, but the point is still valid.

Whatever team you root for, you’re a baseball fan first.

So follow the games, root for the rookies and September call-ups, and maybe you’ll be there when something amazing happens.




One thought on “When Your Team is Out of the Race

  1. You mentioned John Sterling at the beginning of your piece. I’m a Yankee fan, as is my wife Claire. We both think Sterling is an absolutely abysmal listening experience, not to mention terrible at broadcasting baseball. The sad part of it was that many years ago he replaced Hank Greenberg, who was quite good.



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