Today was just about the craziest day in baseball that I can remember. So many things were on the line going into the final day of the 2011 season. In some scenarios we would have had the pleasure of watching two one-game playoffs on the same day; that didn’t happen, but here’s some stuff that did:
The Brewers capped their best season in franchise history, becoming the first Brewers squad to earn 96 victories. Their win versus the Pirates also earned them home field for their NLDS match-up against the NL West-Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Yovani Gallardo will start game 1 for Milwaukee at home on Saturday.
Zack Greinke surpassed 200 strikeouts while earning his 16th win of the season Wednesday night; he improved his record at Miller Park this season to 11-0 (the Brewers are 15-0 in Greinke starts at home). Greinke and Yovani Gallardo are the only two teammates in Brewers history to have 200 punch-outs in the same season.
Prince Fielder earned a walk in his final at-bat of 2011. That walk left his batting average for the season at .299, leaving the quest for his first .300 season short once again. The base-on-balls did however give Fielder more walks (107) than strikeouts (106) for the season. Pretty neat.
Ryan Braun did not win the batting title, going 0-for-4 while Jose Reyes got on base via a bunt single in the first and was subsequently pinch-ran for per his request so that his average would remain higher than Braun’s. Bush. League. Braun finished the year at .332, Reyes at .337.
Albert Pujols recorded the first season in his career in which he failed to hit .300 and drive in 100 runs. Pujols finished with a .299 average and 99 RBI.
The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp hit his 39th home run Wednesay; however that left him one short of becoming the fifth player in MLB history to record a 40/40 season.
Following Boston’s knack for collapsing, Adrian Gonzalez (.338) lost the AL batting title to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.344) after leading the race for almost every single day throughout the year.
Detroit closer Jose Valverde finished the season a perfect 49/49 in saves.
Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox were literally one strike away from a victory, yet the Boston closer ended up blowing the save and allowing Baltimore to win. Three minutes later the Tampa Bay Rays, who had just gotten out of a first and third nobody out situation in the eighth, walked-off with an Evan Longoria homer that squeaked inside the left field foul pole. Tampa Bay was down 7-0 to the Yankees going into the eighth inning, but thanks to sound baseball and a three-run Longoria bomb, the Rays pulled within one going into the ninth. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon pinch-hit Dan Johnson for Sam Fuld with two outs and the bases empty. Johnson was hitting .105 with one home run on the sesason. On a 2-2 pitch, Johnson crushed a home run deep into right field which barely snuck fair for a home run. The Rays were literally one strike away from losing, yet they scratched and clawed their way to an improbable AL Wild Card birth.
And lastly one more word about the NL batting title race I’ve been covering for quite some time… I think this excerpt from Tim Kurkjian’s ESPN.com article titled “Remembering the Amazing Ted Williams” says it best, and keep in mind how Reyes asked to be removed after a first inning bunt single…
“When he got to the final day of the season, a doubleheader at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Williams was hitting .3996, which rounded off to .400. Red Sox manager Joe Cronin gave Williams the option to play that day. Williams said if he couldn’t hit .400 from the beginning to the end of a season, he didn’t deserve it.
“I asked him about that final day,” Gwynn said, “and he said, ‘Hell yeah was I going to play.”’
Williams went 4-for-5 in the first game, the Red Sox overcame an 11-3 deficit to beat the A’s, 12-11, and Williams raised his average to .404. He insisted on playing the second game, and he went 2-for-3 to finish the season at .406. In the doubleheader, with all the pressure of .400, he went 6-for-8. “
The 82nd All-Star game has come and passed and Thursday brings MLB’s second half – which never fails to stir up drama. The NL has clinched home field advantage in World Series with a 5-1 victory over the AL All-Stars. The Milwaukee Brewers had three starters voted in, however, Ryan Braun sat out due to an ailing hamstring. Rickie Weeks hit lead-off and went hitless, but did steal a base and score a run. Fielder, starting at first base and hitting clean-up, delivered the big hit of the night – a three-run jack off of Texas starter C.J. Wilson – and was named the All-Star game MVP. At the end of the contest the Brewers made a drastic roster move. Milwaukee now has K-Rod and the Ax-Man at the back end of their pen. With Rickie Weeks playing like his hair is on fire, if Braun and Fielder keep mashing, the Brewers could be in line for a deep postseason run. Here are the top ten teams in baseball right now…
1. Philadelphia Phillies (57-34, 1st in NL East by 3.5 games)
Roy Halladay: (11-3) 2.45 ERA, 138 SO, 1.02 WHIP
Ryan Howard: (.257 BA/.353 OBP/.475 SLG) 18 HR, 72 RBI
2. Atlanta Braves (54-38, 2nd in NL East, 3.5 GB)
Jair Jurrjens: (12-3) 1.87 ERA, 65 SO, 1.07 WHIP
Brian McCann: (.310 BA/.381 OBP/.514 SLG) 15 HR, 50 RBI
3. Boston Red Sox (55-35, 1st in AL East by 1.0 game)
Josh Beckett: (8-3) 2.27 ERA, 94 SO, 0.95 WHIP
Adrian Gonzalez: (.354 BA/.414 OBP/.591 SLG) 17 HR, 77 RBI
4. New York Yankees (53-35, 2nd in AL East, 1.0 GB)
CC Sabathia: (13-4) 2.72 ERA, 126 SO, 1.16 WHIP
Curtis Granderson: (.269 BA/.361 OBP/.575 SLG) 25 HR, 63 RBI
5. San Francisco Giants (52-40, 1st in NL West by 3.0 games)
Matt Cain: (8-5) 3.06 ERA, 105 SO, 1.10 WHIP
Aubrey Huff: (.236 BA/.290 OBP/.361 SLG) 8 HR, 44 RBI
6. Milwaukee Brewers (49-43, 1st in NL Central, tied with STL)
Yovani Gallardo: (10-5) 3.76 ERA, 104 SO, 1.36 WHIP
Ryan Braun: (.320 BA/ .402 OBP/ .559 SLG) 16 HR, 62 RBI
Prince Fielder: (.297 BA/ .415 OBP/ .575 SLG) 22 HR, 72 RBI
7. Texas Rangers (51-41, 1st in AL West by 1.0 game)
Alexi Ogando: (9-3) 2.92 ERA, 78 SO, 1.01 WHIP
Adrian Beltre: (.273 BA/ .314 OBP/ .499 SLG) 19 HR, 71 RBI
8. St. Louis Cardinals (49-43, 1st in NL Central, tied with MIL)
Jaime Garcia: (9-3) 3.22 ERA, 100 SO, 1.25 WHIP
Lance Berkman: (.290 BA/.404 OBP/ .602 SLG) 24 HR, 63 RBI
9. Detroit Tigers (49-43, 1st in AL Central by 0.5 game)
Justin Verlander: (12-4) 2.15 ERA, 147 SO, 0.87 WHIP
Miguel Cabrera: (.311 BA/ .430 OBP/ .549 SLG) 18 HR, 59 RBI
10. Arizona Diamondbacks (49-43, 2nd in NL West, 2.0 GB)
Ian Kennedy: (9-3) 3.44 ERA, 106 SO, 1.15 WHIP
Justin Upton: (.293 BA/ .375 OBP/ .506 SLG) 15 HR, 46 RBI
If the season ended today:
1. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox
2. Jose Bautista, RF, Blue Jays
3. Curtis Granderson, CF, Yankees
1. Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers
2. Jose Reyes, SS, Mets
3. Matt Kemp, CF, Dodgers
AL Cy Young
1. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers
2. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees
3. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels
NL Cy Young
1. Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves
2. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies
3. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies