How Tuesday ended with one National League club all but eliminated from the postseason, another contender setting some home run records, a third contender showing a couple of vulnerabilities that might prove fateful come postseason time, and a couple of crazy (and heretofore unlikely) American League wild card sharps getting a little crazier . . .
* MARKDOWN DEPT. It looks like trading Mark Melancon to the Nationals hurt more than helped the Pirates. They thought dealing him for a longer-term pair of talents—Felipe Rivero (RP) and Taylor Hearn (minor league pitcher)—wouldn’t kill their postseason hopes. They may have thought wrongly. While the bullpen isn’t the only culprit in the eight-game losing streak that may have put paid to the Pirates’ 2016, ponder that before dealing Melancon they lost only three games they led after the seventh inning . . . but in the month since they dealt him they’ve lost three. Including one to the Marlins in which they led 5-3 at the seventh but the Fish yanked two runs out of Rivero and two more off erstwhile Texas closer Neftali Perez.
* HOW WE STOPPED WORRYING AND LEARNED TO LOVE THE BOMB DEPT. Nobody—including maybe the Cardinals themselves—can figure out how they got to be as powerful as they now are. How does clearing the fences in 25 straight—including Tuesday’s record-setting last-minute win over the Pirates, in which they hit three bombs in the ninth after starting the inning in the hole with two outs, plus a record fifteen pinch homers this season, strike you? Tuesday night, Matt Carpenter hit a two-run shot to right. Two hitters later, Randal Grichuk—two-run jack to left. Then Jhonny Peralta—opposite-field jack. In case you were wondering, nobody hit three bombs trailing with two out in the ninth before that trio did it. There went the Pirates’ 2017 postseason hope for all intent and purpose. They’re five and a half out of the wild card.
* THE BRONX IS BERSERKING DEPT. The crazy Yankees—somehow managing to stay something of a factor—got just as crazy in their ninth Tuesday. Maybe crazier. Getting the game to Dellin Betances looked like it was game over. Not so fast. An inning that began with the Yankees improbably up 7-4 against the Blue Jays was suddenly 7-6. Exit Betances after three walks, two infield hits, one out, and the bases loaded for Blake Parker, an August waiver pickup from Seattle. Then it was exit Kevin Pillar on strikes before Brett Gardner robbed Justin Smoak of extra bases and a possible bases-clearing hit with a run-down catch he made with his glove against the wall padding. That’ll be nine defensive runs saved for Gardner this season thus far, fifth in Show.
* BIRDIUS CRAZIUS DEPT. The crazy Orioles are staying way more of a factor after their Tuesday. Four scoreless bullpen innings. Three more home runs including Manny Machado’s salami. An 11-2 burial of the Rays. And only a game behind first place Toronto in the American League East. Hands up to everyone else who thought the Orioles were going to look forward to 2017 a little prematurely.
* CARD SHARKS DEPT. Not that it was a terrible Tuesday to be a wild card hunter overall. The Cardinals, the Mets, and the Giants won in the National League. (The Mets would like to thank the Pirates—not—for keeping the Cardinals in check enough for them to tie for the second card.) The Yankees, the Orioles, the Red Sox, and the Astros won in the American League. The best odds for wild cards among those teams not seen as possible to win their division? The Cardinals (63 percent), the Mets (61 percent), and the Tigers (35 percent).
* IT KEEPS YOU RUNNING DEPT. Dansby Swanson’s first major league homer was an inside-the-park job Tuesday night. The Braves’ rookie shortstop hit one that flew well over Nats center fielder Trea Turner’s head and ricocheted off the center field wall and back toward the infield. Swanson gunning it right out of the box helped his cause. So did Turner misjudging slightly where the ball might hit. So did Jayson Werth not exactly burning it to get to the ricocheting ball from left center. By the time any Nat picked up the ball, Swanson had rounded second, trotted out a few extra horses toward third, and had a clear path home. The relay throw was well offline as Swanson dove across the plate. It put the Braves up 3-0 in the second. Shame it went for nothing—the Nationals beat the Braves 9-7, thanks in large part to a three-run eighth. But if the effort on the Swanson insider was any indication, the Nats may be looking at a few heartbreaks or at least nervous breakdowns in the stands in the postseason. If not sooner.