Tuesday's theme: Blown leads in the ninth inning. Also: Bulletin-board quotes that actually paid dividends!
In eight seasons with the Rangers, Elvis Andrus said he couldn't remember a single time when an opposing player's quote was displayed in the clubhouse as "bulletin board" material. That changed Tuesday. After giving up the game-winning double to Rougned Odor Monday night, Astros right-hander Ken Giles made some controversial remarks that included him saying, "We have more talent than this team does. ... We're going to go out there tomorrow and just put them to the ground."
(Update: Giles' comments came in June. The Rangers have long memories!)
This happened in the second inning on Tuesday:
Trailing 2-1 in the top of the ninth, the Rangers then had the Astros exactly where they wanted them ... with Giles on the mound. The rally started when Odor struck out, but reached on a wild pitch. With two outs, Andrus tripled. Jurickson Profar then singled in the go-ahead run. The "less-talented" Rangers improved to 15-3 against the Astros and to 33-10 in one-run games (that .767 winning percentage would be the best since the 2012 Orioles' percentage of .763).
So, does that incredible record in one-run games foretell postseason success? Let's look at the past 10 seasons and how the best team in one-run games fared:
2015: Pirates: 36-17 (lost wild-card game)
2014: Padres: 33-21 (missed playoffs; best playoff teams were the Orioles and Cardinals, both 32-23, and both lost in the league championship series)
2013: Yankees: 30-16 (missed playoffs; best playoff team was the Indians at 30-17 and they lost the wild-card game)
2012: Orioles: 29-9 (lost American League Division Series)
2011: Tigers: 29-17 (lost ALCS)
2010: Phillies: 29-17 (lost NLCS)
2009: Marlins: 30-20 (missed playoffs; Angels went 27-18, also .600, and lost in ALDS)
2008: Brewers: 28-17 (lost NLDS)
2007: Diamondbacks: 32-20 (lost NLCS)
2006: Blue Jays: 20-10 (missed playoffs; best playoff team was the Mets at 31-16 and they lost in the NLCS)
Bottom line: It's not a predictor, but that simply reinforces our oft-stated belief that you can't really predict the postseason, no matter which indicators you wish to focus on. Of course, no team has ever gone 33-10 in one-run games, so I'm sure some Rangers fans would suggest they just know how to win these close games or try harder or focus better in the clutch or whatever. Even if you want to believe that, keep in mind that you're playing better teams in the postseason. Those teams have been clutch and focused all season as well. So this record is certainly fascinating and it speaks to a fun, magical season of sorts. I'm not dismissing the Rangers in the postseason by any means, but if they go all the way it's not because they "know" how to win these one-run affairs. (Now watch them go 9-1 in the postseason in one-run games.)
2. Jeurys Familia steals the win from Noah Syndergaard. It's not how you draw it up. Familia blew the save, but his teammates rescued him in the 10th, as T.J. Rivera hit his first career home run, pulling one out to left field off Mark Melancon to beat the Nationals 4-3. The Mets kept their half-game lead over the Cardinals for the second wild card. Syndergaard delivered the clutch outing the Mets needed, striking 10 and giving up one run in seven innings.
TJ Rivera, Fernando Salas, & Jerry Blevins - Exactly who I thought would be carrying us to big wins in September— Amazin Mets (@los_mets) September 14, 2016
3. Taijuan Walker was a mean dude. Ten days ago while on vacation in Seattle, I saw Walker pitch about as bad a game as any I've seen this season. The Angels hit three home runs in a row off of him, and he gave up several other hard-hit balls as he lasted only two outs. After a session with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., Walker finally gave in and took some advice. He tweaked his mechanics a bit, adding a little Felix-like twist that could help him hide the ball better (Jason Churchill of Prospect Insider suggested this a couple weeks ago). Two starts later, he pitched the best game of his career, taking a no-hitter into the seventh and finishing with an 11-strikeout, three-hit shutout of the Angels that included three strikeouts of Mike Trout.
Walker's curveball was his key pitch -- a pitch he threw a season-high 28 times, after throwing it 21 times in his previous start. He had thrown it only 20 times his previous three starts, so part of Stottlemyre's lesson was apparently, "Throw your curve more." The Angels went 1-for-9 against it with four Ks. He recorded four K's with his fastball and three with his splitter. His Game Score of 92 is tied for seventh-best in the majors in 2016. Oh, that's seven wins in a row for the Mariners, who have seen their playoff odds increase to 29 percent.
Mariners Rotation:— Gary Hill (@GaryHillJr) September 14, 2016
1.41 ERA past 7 games
5 quality starts in a row and 6 of 7
4. Maybe Hunter Strickland won't be fine as Giants closer. What a mess this is turning into. Protecting a 4-2 lead, Strickland gave up three hits and a walk, and with two outs (after a groundout), an increasingly desperate Bruce Bochy brought in rookie lefty Steven Okert, who had 9⅔ innings in the majors, to face lefty Ryan Schimpf. Right move? Panic move? Bochy has never been afraid to change closers during the season, but he always settles on somebody. At this point, he's drawing straws and hoping he doesn't get the short one. He drew the short one Tuesday. Okert threw four fastballs and the fourth one was a 1-2, 94-mph heater that Schimpf hit out to center field for a three-run homer and a 6-4 Padres win.
Before Ryan Schimpf, no player had hit 19+ HR in his 1st season, at age 28 or older, since Del Bissonette in 1928.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) September 14, 2016
5. AL East chaos! Red Sox and Blue Jays lose, Orioles and Yankees win. I want the odds of a four-way tie! FiveThirtyEight.com, however, holds steady in its belief that Boston, with a two-game lead over Baltimore and Toronto, will win the division, giving them 63 percent odds.