And down the stretch we come!
In the 4 games series this week, Bob faced off against Paul. In game 1, Jose Berrios (8-18) scattered 10 hits over 8 innings and struck out 12 and Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a bases-loaded triple in the top of the 6th to defeat Joe Musgrove (4-10), 7-3. In game 2, the score was tied at 3 going into the top of the 9th when Manuel Margot cracked a single to drive in the go-ahead run. In the bottom of the 9th, Carson Kelly led off with a walk against Steve Cishek. Adam Eaton ran for Kelly. Whit Merrifield singled Eaton to 2nd. Wilmer Flores then dribbled one near the mound, it was going to be a close play at 1st, but Cishek’s throw sailed over Goodrum’s head at first, allowing Eaton to score the tying run. Ryan Yarborough came into the game and struck out Christian Yelich, but Starling Marte lined a 2 strike pitch into center field to bring home Merrifield and win the game for Paul. The series moved to Bob’s stadium, and Bob took an early 3-0 lead in game 3. Bob tacked on another run in the 6th on Eduardo Escobar’s 18th homer. Paul struck back in the top of the 7th with two outs, scoring 3 runs on back to back doubles by Merrifield and Eaton and Yelich’s 32nd homer. Bob’s team responded, scoring 6 runs in the 7th (ping, ping, ping) and 3 more in the 8th to win, 13-3. Gerritt Cole (10-13) struck out 10 in the win, and Brandon Woodruff (4-14) took the loss. Game 4 featured Max Scherzer against Masahiro Tanaka, but neither would figure in the decision. Paul took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the 9th, but JT Realmuto led off with a triple (his 5th) off of Sam Dyson (4-2) and Eduardo Escobar brought him home with a sac fly for Dyson’s 5th blown save. The game went to the 10th. With one out, Carlos Santana blasted his 25th homer off of Yimi Garcia (6-4), and Bob was unable to score off of Dyson, allowing Paul to clinch the split.
The next series saw Mark traveling to the Land of Dougald. Game 1 was an old fashioned pitcher’s duel. Luis Castillo (13-11) gave up just 2 hits and 1 run over 8 strong innings to win. Shane Bieber gave up 1 run before giving way to Tyler Clippard (3-4), who gave up a solo homer to Freddie Freeman (his 28th) to take the loss. Joakim Soria pitched a 123 9th for his 11th save. That was the only win for Mark on the week. In game 2, Matt Boyd (12-7) outdueled Mike Leake (10-11) to win, 3-2. Roberto Osuna picked up his 5th save. Game 3 was more of the same, as Mark only managed 2 runs off of Kyle Hendricks, who didn’t go long enough for the win. John Means (3-3) pitched 3 2/3 strong innings of relief and Mike Yastrzemski (8th) and Max Muncy (30th) homered to lead Dougald to a 5-2 win. Game 4 was another close affair, as the score was tied at 3 after 6 innings. Justin Turner hit his 11th homer off of Lance Lynn (10-10) in the 7th and Dougald’s bullpen was up to the task. Zack Greinke (13-7) got the win and Brad Hand got his 2nd save. Game 5 was also tight. Mark scored single runs in the 1st and 2nd and added 2 more in the 4th, but it was not enough. Dougald scored 3 runs in the 5th and another in the 8th, so the score was tied going into the 9th. Hector Neris (2-5) gave up a double to Tommy Edman in the top of the 9th, but was able to strand him at 2nd. With one out in the bottom of the 9th, Francisco Lindor hit his 2nd homer of the game (his 19th) off of Alex Colome to clinch the game for Dougald.
Rich went to John’s park in an effort to climb back into the playoff picture. In game 1, John jumped out in front with 4 quick runs off of Hyun-jin Ryu (10-9). Rich left him in the game, though, and came roaring back with 6 runs of his own in the 3rd and 6 more runs in the 5th. Ryu gave up two more runs in the 5th, but pitched a complete game with 232 pitches to win, 13-6. Noah Syndegaard (8-9) was the loser. John’s team settled down in the 2nd game and again took the early lead behind Mike Soroka. Soroka pitched 8 strong innings and was ahead, 5-1, when he came out after 8 innings. That’s when things started to unravel for John. Will Smith came in to pitch the 9th and walked John Donaldson. Max Kepler singled. Trey Mancini singled to load the bases. Gio Gonzalez (4-4) came in to relieve Smith. Charlie Blackmon singled, scoring Donaldson. Jose Ramirez ran for Blackmon. Gleybar Torres then cleared the bases with a double. Gonzalez threw a wild pitch. Juan Soto singled to score Torres. Mitch Garver then hit his 24th homer. Carlos Correa then singled before Gary Sanchez hit into a double play and Donaldson flew out. By the end of it, Rich was ahead, 8-5. In the bottom of the 9th, John loaded the bases but was only able to score 1 run, and lost, 8-6. Francisco Liriano (1-0) got the win and Pedro Baez picked up his 9th save. Game 3 was a pitcher’s duel between Walker Buehler (7-14) and John Flaherty (12-8). John was again ahead, 2-1, going into the 7th when Rich scored two runs. John wasn’t able to touch Rich’s bullpen, and Rich had taken 3 in a row with the 3-2 win. Ken Giles picked up his 12th save. Rich’s fans were abuzz with the news that their team was climbing back into the playoff race. Game 4 saw Rich take an early lead, 3-1, but John struck back, taking the lead with 3 runs in the 5th, highlighted by Yoan Moncada’s 5th triple. Rich was able to tie things up on Max Kepler’s 32nd homer in the 8th, and the score remained tied at 4 after 9. In the top of the 11th, Trey Mancini blasted his 2nd homer of the game (3rd) to give Rich the lead. Ken Giles (2-2) got two quick outs in the bottom of the 11th, but Jorge Soler smoked a double down the left field line. Ketel Marte followed that with a double of his own, and the game was tied once more. Giles intentionally walked Josh Bell, but escaped more trouble by striking out Victor Reyes. In the bottom of the 12th, two were out when Victor Robles got hit by a pitch. Moncada singled. Josh Taylor replaced Giles and promptly walked Jorge Polanco to load the bases. He then ran the count full to Jorge Soler before Soler hit one between third and short to bring home Robles and win the game for John. John then made things respectable by blowing up Julio Teheran (8-12) in game 5. Lucas Giolito (11-9) pitched 8 strong to win the game, 9-3. After the series, Rich is 2.5 games behind Phil for playoff position with 5 games on the road against Phil next week.
Phil was at home for 5 against Tim. Game 1 was a tight affair, with the score tied at 1 after 6. In the bottom of the 7th, Ramon Laureano doubled home Francisco Mejia to give Phil the lead and that’s where things stayed, 2-1. Clayton Kershaw (9-7) got the win and Sergio Romo (3-9) blew his 4th save and got the loss. Jose LeClerc earned his 1st save. Game 2 was very similar. Phil scored two runs in the 3rd off of James “Big Maple” Paxton (7-10) and Yu Darvish (7-7) was dominant, allowing only a single run in the 8th. Tim had a runner in scoring position in the 9th, but couldn’t bring him home, and Yusmeiro Petit picked up his 10th save. It was at this point in the series, with Phil about to put serious distance between himself and Rich, that Tim flipped the script. In game 3, Phil was ahead, 1-0, but Mookie Betts clubbed 2 homers and drove in all 4 of Tim’s runs to make a winner of Brad Keller (12-9) and a loser of Zack Wheeler (9-9). Jared Hughes notched his 3rd save. Game 4 looked bad for Tim, with Rick Porcello, who has been awful, taking the mound against Jeff Samardzjia. But Porcello held Phil scoreless through 5.2 and Tim had a 2 run lead (one of which was a leadoff homer by Bryan Reynolds, his 16th). In the bottom of the 7th, Phil struck back. There were two outs when Paul Goldschmidt walked. Alex Verdugo singled Goldschmidt to third, and pinch-hitter David Peralta doubled both in to tie the game. Tim didn’t give up, however, and scored in the 8th on doubles by Reynolds and Kolten Wong and held on to win, 3-2. Marcus Walden (2-4) was the winner, while Scott Oberg (2-6) absorbed the loss. Adam Ottavino pitched a clean 9th for his 8th save. Game 5 was another nail-biter. Tim was ahead, 3-1, going into the bottom of the 8th when Alex Verdugo (10th) and Willy Adames (3rd) hit back to back homers – Verdugo’s was his second of the game – to tie things up. In the top of the 9th, Harrison Bader was hit by a pitch (and injured for 7 games) and Kyle Schwarber, of all people, pinch ran. Bryan Reynolds then doubled in Schwarber and Tim held on to win, 4-3. Dropped 3 of 5 to Tim leaves Phil in range of John and keeps him 4.5 games behind John for first place.
The biggest marquee series of the week saw Robert traveling to Chris for 5. Going into the series, Robert had a 2.5 game lead for first place. Game 1 was close, right up until it wasn’t. Chris was ahead, 3-2 going into the bottom of the 6th when 6 straight batters reached, and Chris scored 6 runs to ice the game. The final score was 9-3 and Charlie “Don’t Call Me Craig” Morton (13-4) got the win over Marcus Stroman (12-12). In game 2, Chris scored 4 early runs off of Mike Minor (12-10) and Sonny Gray (17-8) struck out 10 and held Robert to only 2, as Chris took the 4-2 win and brought Chris to within a half game of first place. Game 3 was a back and forth affair. Robert scored single runs in the first two innings off of Madison Bumgarner (9-8), including a leadoff homer by Mike Tauchman (7th). Chris struck back with 3 runs off of Jacob deGrom (19-5), highlighted by a 2-run shot by Cody Bellinger (38th, tied with Mike Trout for 2nd in the league). Robert took advantage of a two-base error by George Springer to score 2 runs in the 4th and added single runs in the 6th (Eugenio Suarez’s 34th) and 8th. Chris scored a single run on a passed ball in the 9th, but fell, 6-4. deGrom had 12 strikeouts and Aaron Bummer picked up his 10th save. Once Robert tasted blood, he found it suited him and cruised to a 6-2 win in game 4, Chris scoring his two runs in the bottom of the 9th. Patrick Corbin (9-12) got the win and Stephen Strasburg (11-12) the loss. So, after a quick start in the series, Chris found himself once more 2.5 games behind Robert going into game 5. Game 4 started poorly for Chris, as Morton wasn’t sharp. Robert scored 1 in the 2nd and 3 in the 3rd (highlighted by Joey Gallo’s 38th homer, tying him for 2nd in the league). Chris answered with a single run in the 3rd. The score remained 4-1 until the bottom of the 6th, when Stroman seemed to develop a blister. Willson Contreras walked. Howie Kendrick committed a 1-base error on a Xander Bogaerts grounder. Michael Brantley lined out. Byron Buxton struck out. Adam Frazier then hit a three-run shot (6th). Cody Bellinger then doubled and Ronald Acuna made a 2-base error, allowing Bellinger to score. Workman replaced Stroman. George Springer singled. Anthony Rendon singled. Aaron Judge hit a 3-run shot (35th). Brandon Kintzler replaced Workman. Contreras singled. Bogaerts singled. Brantley doubled, scoring Contreras, but Bogaerts was thrown out at home to end the inning. Chris held on for the 9-4 win and is now 1.5 games behind Robert. Next week, Chris travels to Mark’s home for 5 games and Rob has a 4-game home and home against John.