In this story:
Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I’m going to the Yankees’ game Saturday, and last night’s win made me much more optimistic about it.
In today’s SI:AM:
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As the second half of August rolls on, I think it’s worthwhile—for my benefit as much as the reader’s—to take a look at what’s going on around baseball. The final day of the season (Oct. 5, a Wednesday, oddly) is only seven weeks away, and the division and wild-card races are starting to shape up.
I already wrote about the Yankees and Mets last week, but I’ll start with them because they had very interesting days yesterday.
After losing 11 of their last 13 and failing to score more than three runs in eight days, the Yankees tried to provide a spark by calling up infield prospect Oswaldo Cabrera, who was in the middle of a torrid streak at the plate in Triple A, and center fielder Estevan Florial, who can take some at bats away from the struggling Aaron Hicks. The moves didn’t pay off immediately (neither Cabrera nor Florial reached base in last night’s game against the Rays), but they’re an indication the Yankees knew something had to change. And the Yankees’ offense did break out of its slump last night. They won 8–7 on Josh Donaldson’s walk-off grand slam in the 10th. The Yankees’ spot in the playoffs is all but assured (they’re 10 games ahead of Tampa Bay in the division), but they still need to turn things around and look more like a championship-caliber team by October.
The Mets also made a major call-up yesterday, promoting their No. 2 prospect, third baseman Brett Baty, after Luis Guillorme and Eduardo Escobar went on the injured list. And last night’s game against the Braves was a big one. After taking four of five against Atlanta two weeks ago, the Mets grew their lead in the division to seven games. But the Braves took the first two games this week in Atlanta to cut the lead to 3½ games. The Mets won 9–7 last night to avoid a sweep, though.
The only worry for the Mets at this point is injuries. In addition to Escobar and the versatile Guillorme, they also lost starter Carlos Carrasco this week. Carrasco could be out for a month and another member of the rotation, Taijuan Walker, might miss his next start after leaving Tuesday’s start with an injury. Catcher Tomás Nido is on the injured list with an illness, leaving Mets fans to clamor for another high-profile call-up. The catcher position has been an offensive black hole for the Mets this season, and their top prospect (one of the very best in all of baseball) is catcher Francisco Álvarez, who has 23 homers in the minors this year. If the Mets are looking for a boost down the stretch, Álvarez could provide a major lift to the offense.
The Braves are in fine shape, too. They’ve got a solid hold on the top NL wild-card spot with a record of 72–49, 6½ games ahead of the Padres, who currently hold the third and final wild-card spot. San Diego’s season has gotten very interesting in the past week with the suspension of Fernando Tatis Jr., who had been expected to provide a jolt to the team when he was ready to return from injury. The Brewers are just two games behind the Padres for that last wild-card position, with the Giants not dead yet at 5½ games back.
The most interesting team in the wild-card race might be the Phillies, who are currently just a half game ahead of the Padres and are poised to get a big boost soon when Bryce Harper returns from a long injury absence. Harper broke his thumb on June 25 and began taking batting practice this week. He could begin a minor league rehab assignment as soon as this weekend.
The two most compelling races are in the American League. The AL Central has three teams—the Guardians, Twins and White Sox, in that order—separated by two games and whoever doesn’t win the division is in serious danger of missing the postseason. The three wild-card spots are currently occupied by the Mariners (65–54), Rays (62–54) and Blue Jays (62–54). There are four teams within four games of the last wild-card spot: the Twins, Orioles, White Sox and Red Sox, in that order. That’s eight teams with a reasonable shot at claiming four postseason spots. Let the madness begin.
Like yesterday, today’s Daily Cover is a story featured on the front of the magazine’s football preview issue. This time, it’s Pat Forde on Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, the former walk-on who led the Bulldogs to the national championship:
… things I saw yesterday:
4. Brett Baty’s home run on his first MLB swing.
3. This bizarre fair ball in a Triple A game.
1. Marine Johannes’s pass during the Liberty’s big game-sealing run at the end of their upset win over the Sky. (Their 13–0 run to close the game was the third largest in WNBA playoff history.)
When the infamous “Pine Tar Game” between the Royals and Yankees resumed on this day in 1983, how long did it take to complete?
Yesterday’s SIQ: Who did Willie Mays pass on Aug. 17, 1966, to move into second place on the all-time home run leaderboard behind only Babe Ruth?
Answer: Jimmie Foxx. The homer was Mays’s 535th, surpassing Foxx’s total of 534.
Earlier in the year, Mays passed another Giants great, Mel Ott, with his 512th home run to become the National League’s all-time leader. Then he passed Ted Williams (521) to take third place on the leaderboard, leaving only Foxx between him and Ruth.
The pursuit of Ott’s mark weighed on Mays, but he had an easier time passing Foxx.
“I tied Ott’s record in Houston and then came home and no one let me forget that my next homer would be a record,” Mays told the United Press International after passing Foxx. “The pressure began building up, and I couldn’t help but feel it. The harder I tried, the worse off I was. This time, though, I got to 533 on Sunday, 534 two days later and 535 the next day. There wasn’t time for the pressure to build up.”
Coincidentally, the date of May’s 535th homer, Aug. 17, was the same as the date of his final home run, his 660th in 1973 off the Reds’ Don Gullett.
What’s the wildcard standings in the American League?
How many wild card spots in MLB?
How many MLB wild card teams are there in 2021?
Who is in the wild card?