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We had an instant classic between the Brewers and Yankees on Sunday, but by night’s end, both teams had reason to be disappointed. Also: notes on the AL East race, the Braves clinched a playoff spot, and Zack Gelof is shining in Oakland. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to the Windup.
Brewers lose no-hitter, game: Maybe that’s just life sometimes
almost an all-timer.
When the ninth inning ended, the Brewers had gotten nine no-hit innings from starter Corbin Burnes and closer Devin Williams against the Yankees.
The only problem? The score was still 0-0.
In the 10th, after the Brewers failed to score, Abner Uribe was the next pitcher in line, and he also held the Yankees hitless (and scoreless) for an inning. Onward. The Brewers finally broke through for a run in the 11th, but one out into the bottom of the inning, Joel Payamps allowed an Oswaldo Cabrera double. The extra-innings no-hitter was dead, and the game was tied.
Oswaldo ties it up. pic.twitter.com/3EE4CnqyN1
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 10, 2023
The drama continued in the 12th inning. This time, the Brewers scored two runs, which is, incidentally, exactly how many runs scored when Giancarlo Stanton homered to lead off the bottom of the inning.
Finally in the 13th, Kyle Higashioka doubled home Everson Pereira for the walk-off win in the Bronx.
The loss means the Brewers are only up three games on the ascendant Cubs in the NL Central. For the Yankees, the stakes aren’t as immediately high, but they’re trying to avoid their first losing season since 1992. The win brings them to 71-72.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the 2023 Yankees if there wasn’t some disappointment mixed in with the celebration. Rookie sensation Jasson Domínguez has a tear in his UCL, and will likely need Tommy John surgery, which would keep him out until mid-2024. Oh right, and Luis Severino is also done for the year.
Ken’s Notebook: Rays–Orioles matchup could determine AL East
On Saturday, a Rays official wondered aloud about how the Orioles might react to the pressure of this week’s four-game showdown between the clubs at Camden Yards.
The series, which starts Thursday, effectively could determine the AL East title. But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in exchange for his candid thoughts, issued a caveat.
“We’ve got to be closer than four games back,” he said.
Both teams won Saturday, but the Rays pulled within three games on Sunday by defeating the Mariners at home, while the Orioles lost to the Red Sox on the road.
Next, the Orioles host the Cardinals for three games, while the Rays travel to Minnesota for three. Advantage Orioles, but these things, of course, do not always play out as expected.
As for pressure, the Orioles have not cracked all season, so it’s wishful thinking on the Rays’ part that the Orioles suddenly will relent. Much like the Rays, the Orioles rarely beat themselves.
Defensively, the Orioles do not grade out well on certain metrics, and for whatever reason, they struggle at Fenway Park, where they made three errors on Sunday. Defensive metrics, however, are not always reliable, and opponents generally consider Baltimore a strong defensive club.
When it comes to base running, the Orioles entered Sunday tied for the major-league lead in extra-base taken percentage with the Braves, Reds and Rays. They also ranked fifth in FanGraphs’ base running metric, behind the Cubs, Rays, Diamondbacks and Reds.
The big question with the Orioles remains their pitching, both starting and relief. The Rays, even with all their injuries, maintain a front three of Tyler Glasnow, Zach Eflin and Aaron Civale. But the Orioles’ top three starters, Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez and Dean Kremer, all have sub-3.00 ERAs since the All-Star break. And former ace John Means will make his first start Tuesday since undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2022. His return was delayed by a strain to a muscle in his scapula/upper back region that he suffered in May.
The Orioles’ bullpen without Félix Bautista is perhaps a bigger question. Entering Sunday, the team’s bullpen ERA since Bautista last pitched was 3.58, sixth in the majors over that span. But without Bautista, who is dealing with a UCL injury and likely is lost for the season, the group is simply not as dominant or deep.
Replacement closer Yennier Cano, who did not allow a run in 12 innings in August, is off to a rocky start in September. The good news: Shintaro Fujinami, acquired from the A’s in a trade July 19, has thrown 4 2/3 scoreless innings in his last four outings. One lefty, Cionel Pérez, has not allowed an earned run in 15 consecutive innings dating to July 26. Another, Danny Coulombe, has not allowed one in 10 innings since July 24, a span that included a two-week stint on the IL with biceps tendinitis.
The Orioles are not perfect, but they’ve already won 90 games, and are just three behind the Braves for the best record in the majors. They’re applying pressure, not feeling it. And this week, they could take a major step toward winning their first division title since 2014, and only their second since 1997.
Braves first to clinch postseason spot: Looks like we made it, look how far we’ve come
Oakland, Kansas City, Chicago (AL) and Colorado have all been officially eliminated from playoff contention, but on Sunday, we got our first punched ticket to the postseason.
It’s no surprise Atlanta was the first to do so. Going into last night’s 5-2 win over the Pirates, the Braves led the league in home runs (278), runs (821), and all three slash line numbers en route to their league-leading .847 OPS.
On the pitching side, their K/9 (9.52) was best in the game, while their HR/9 innings (1.09) tied for second. They also landed third in FIP (3.96) and fifth in ERA (3.90).
Of course, this all means they’re winning baseball games at an alarming rate. They’re 93-49 with 20 games left.
You might have noticed we’ve been running a weekly series here at The Athletic, pondering what the playoffs would look like if they started today. Atlanta would, of course, have a bye in the wild-card round — as would the Dodgers, Orioles and Astros.
As for the rest, there could be some big shifts this week. Both leagues feature a four-game series between a team currently in a playoff position and a team that is a half-game out of the final wild-card position (that would be Brewers/Marlins and Blue Jays/Rangers).
More Braves: Atlanta retired Andruw Jones’ number over the weekend.
Zack Gelof’s invisible triumph: I think I’d be good for you, and you’d be good for me
You’ve heard the old hypothetical questioning the existence of sound if a tree falls in an empty forest. I’m just simple enough to think that a sound is a sound even if nobody is there to hear it — just like a strong rookie campaign is a strong rookie campaign, even if it’s only the second half, and you’re playing for the 2023 Oakland Athletics.
Zack Gelof was Oakland’s second-round pick in 2021. After hitting .292/.381/.503 (.884) with 37 home runs and 43 stolen bases in 201 games across all levels in the minor leagues, he was called up on July 14 and has not slowed down a bit.
In 198 at-bats since the call-up, Gelof is hitting .278 (.868 OPS). He has been worth 1.8 bWAR, already good for third-most on the team, behind J.P. Sears (2.3) and Ryan Noda (2.2).
In that timeframe, Gelof leads the team in home runs (11), RBI (25), runs (30), hits (54), doubles (16) and plate appearances (219). His 10 steals rank second behind speed demon Esteury Ruiz (15).
It’s not entirely coincidental that the A’s have been better since his arrival. That’s not to imply that they’ve been good, but their 19-32 record since his arrival is a .373 winning percentage — almost exactly 100 points higher than their 25-67 record (.272) before his call-up.
Providing a little help during that stretch: a trio of pitchers — Luis Medina, Sears and Ken Waldichuk. If those names sound familiar together, that’s because they were 75 percent of the return for Frankie Montas, who was traded to the Yankees at the 2022 deadline.
This season has been dreadful in Oakland. But there’s real hope that they’ll be better in the near future — at least until their players’ salaries lead to another fire sale.
More A’s: Assistant GM Billy Owens dishes on the team’s 2023 minor-league All-Stars.
Handshakes and High Fives
More injury news for the Dodgers: David Peralta is the latest to leave mid-game, and Clayton Kershaw’s next start will be pushed back to Friday.
On Joey Votto’s 40th birthday, he (and some friends) came off the IL. Votto celebrated with a home run.
Sawyer Gipson-Long had an impressive debut on Sunday. Cody Stavenhagen has the backstory.
Jordan Walker’s first season in the big leagues has been a modest success. He credits Cardinals great Willie McGee for helping him with his defense. While we’re on the topic of NL Central mentorship, how about Jon Lester and Justin Steele with the Cubs?
Jim Bowden took a crack at ranking the top 10 likeliest locations for Shohei Ohtani in free agency.
Will the Astros hire a president of baseball operations above GM Dana Brown?
(Top photo of Corbin Burnes: Wendell Cruz / USA Today)