Good morning. I’m Kevin Sweeney, filling in for Dan Gartland. The final weekend of the MLB season could be wild.
In today’s SI:AM:
The MLB playoff picture
We enter the final weekend of the 162-game marathon that is the MLB season today. Playoff baseball this October promises to be electric, but this weekend’s games will have a distinct postseason feel for teams trying to extend their seasons. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about the stakes for the season’s final three days.
Five of six divisions are wrapped up. The Orioles’ rebuilding process came full circle Thursday night, with a 2–0 win over the Red Sox earning the O’s their 100th win of the season and clinching the American League East crown. In the process, the Birds have now locked up the No. 1 seed in the AL postseason and home field advantage through the ALCS. Not bad for an organization that lost 110 games just two seasons ago.
There’s plenty of drama out West in the final division left unclaimed. The Rangers could have cut their magic number to 1 with a win Thursday night, but a ninth-inning rally by the Mariners dealt Texas a blow and gave Seattle’s postseason hopes a huge jolt. The Rangers are three games ahead of the Mariners and two ahead of the Astros, and Houston is a game up on Seattle for the last AL wild card (though Seattle owns the tiebreaker. Both teams could get in if Toronto—a game ahead of Houston—has a rough weekend. In short: pure chaos.
Meanwhile, weather wreaked havoc on the NL wild card. The Marlins, stuck in a heated battle for the NL’s last playoff spot, took a 2–1 lead in the top of the ninth of Thursday’s game against the Mets. Then came the rain, and the game went into delay with just four outs to go. Teams waited more than three hours for the game to officially be suspended, and we now wait for a resolution. The Marlins really need this win for their postseason hopes, but there isn’t much time on the calendar.
The good news for Miami is that the Cubs lost again Thursday, pushing the Marlins a half game ahead of Chicago for the last postseason spot in the NL. Plus, Miami owns the tiebreaker and plays a sub-.500 Pirates team this weekend, while the Cubs face a division winner in the Brewers. The Reds are still lurking but likely need to sweep the Cardinals this weekend for any hope, and the Diamondbacks aren’t quite out of the woods yet to lock up their spot.
Got all that? It should be a fun weekend. There’s nothing like win-or-go-home baseball.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- Who are the next names to watch on the path to becoming NFL head coaches? Conor Orr has the list that will make you look smart.
- The Lions overwhelmed Jordan Love and the Packers on Thursday night. Matt Verderame says don’t blame the young QB for Green Bay’s brutal night.
- Celebrities from every walk of life will be in Boulder for USC-Colorado on Saturday. Richard Johnson sets the scene of what it’s like on the sidelines with Coach Prime.
- Jrue Holiday could be on the move again after being shipped to Portland in the Damian Lillard trade. Chris Herring lays out who could explore a trade for the star guard.
- Where the Heat go from here after missing on Lillard, as their title window with Jimmy Butler shrinks.
- Things aren’t going so well for the United States at the Ryder Cup.
The top five…
…things I saw last night
MLB announced on this day in 2004 that the Expos would be moving from Montreal to Washington. Which of the following cities was not a finalist to host the franchise before Washington was announced as the winner?
- Portland, Ore.
- Monterrey, Mexico
- Las Vegas
Yesterday’s SIQ: On Sept. 28, 1938, which Cubs player hit a dramatic walk-off home run that became known as the “Homer in the Gloamin’”?
- Tony Lazzeri
- Stan Hack
- Gabby Hartnett
- Billy Herman
Answer: Gabby Hartnett. The homer became legendary for a number of reasons. First, the Cubs were in the process of completing a dramatic season turnaround. On Aug. 20, they were nine games out of first place. As late as Sept. 4, they were seven games back. But as the first-place Pirates came to Wrigley for a three-game set at the end of September, Chicago had won 16 of its last 20 and was just 1½ games behind Pittsburgh in the standings. The Cubs won the first game to cut the deficit to just a half game. A win in the second game of the series would put the Cubs in first place for the first time since June 7.
The Pirates scored two runs in the top of the eighth to take a 5–3 lead, but then the Cubs tied it back up with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning. It was growing dark as the Pirates were retired in the top of the ninth, and the umpires met to decide whether play could go on. They decided that, no matter what, the bottom of the ninth would be the last inning played. MLB rules at the time dictated that a game called due to darkness would be replayed from the beginning. The Cubs were in prime position to get a critical win, but they risked having to start from scratch if they couldn’t break the tie in the bottom of the ninth.
After two quick outs, it was down to Hartnett, Chicago’s player-manager. He came through with a walk-off homer that gave the Cubs a much-needed victory. It was pandemonium on the field as Hartnett tried to circle the bases, Edward Burns wrote in the Chicago Tribune:
The mob started to gather around Gabby before he reached first base. By the time he had rounded second, he couldn’t have been recognized in the mass of Cub players, frenzied fans and excited ushers but for that red face, which shone out even in the gray shadows.
After the skipper finally had struggled to the plate, things became worse. The ushers, who had fanned out to form that protective barrier around the infield, forgot their constantly [rehearsed] pretty maneuver and rushed to save Hartnett’s life. They tugged and they shoved and finally they started swinging their fists before the players could carry their boss into the safety afforded by the tunnel behind the Cubs dugout.
A homer that legendary deserves a name of its own, and so Hartnett’s heroic blast has been known for 85 years as the Homer in the Gloamin’, a name believed to have been originated by Associated Press writer Earl Hilligan, who coined the phrase as a play on the 1911 song “Roamin’ in the Gloamin’” by Scottish singer Harry Lauder. (Gloaming is a Scottish word for “twilight.”)
The win put the Cubs in first place, and they won the next day to complete a three-game sweep before taking two out of three from the Cardinals to clinch the pennant.