By Sam McPherson
Major League Baseball games often are won or lost in the ninth inning, and the best teams rarely give up late leads while often stealing games themselves late in the contest. Here are some examples from last week’s MLB action you may have missed.
San Francisco finds its way out of the darkness with rare ninth-inning rally
One of the hallmarks of the Giants’ three World Series victories this decade was the team’s ability to produce late comeback after comeback. That clutch factor had been missing since the middle of the 2015 season for San Francisco, but on Wednesday in New York, they found it again.
It’s worth noting that this victory may have changed the course of the Giants season, as the team has won five of six games starting with this one, including a current four-game winning streak. Confidence can be contagious.
Houston’s Jake Marisnick comes up with impressive “walk-off” assist from left field
The term “walk-off win” probably jumped the shark a few years ago, but it’s still an exciting moment in baseball—no matter how it happens. On Thursday in New York, the Astros got a very different kind of last-play victory against the Yankees.
The two teams with the best records in the American League played an exciting four-game series, with the Astros emerging superior with three wins on the road. They couldn’t have done that without this stellar defensive play from their little-known left fielder.
A’s bullpen continues to implode no matter who they throw out there
Since the start of the 2014 season, the Oakland Athletics have blown 75 saves, and if that seems like a big number, it’s because it really is. The low-budget, small-market team has struggled to preserve late-inning leads, and that’s a primary reason why the A’s have lost so many games after three straight AL playoff appearances earlier in the decade.
It happened again all weekend in Texas, as Oakland’s newest free-agent closer—Santiago Casilla—blew his second save of the season in spectacular fashion on Friday night, before other relievers gave up leads on both Saturday and Sunday. It’s going to be another long season for the A’s if this keeps up.
Rangers post two straight walk-off wins at home
In addition to the weekend comebacks for Texas over Oakland, the Rangers had it rolling on Thursday as well, with another walk-off win—this one against the San Diego Padres. After a rough start to the season, Texas has now won six games in a row. What did we say about confidence as a contagion?
The Rangers are still 7.5 games behind the Astros in the AL West Division standings, but at least the defending division champs are headed up again right now instead of south like the A’s.
Arizona’s Zack Greinke flirts with a no-hit game
He has a Cy Young Award, three Gold Gloves and two MLB ERA titles to his credit, not to mention three All-Star game selections. There’s little that Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Greinke hasn’t accomplished, and he came close to adding a “no hitter” to his cupboard on Thursday.
Gregory Polanco’s home run came on an 0-2 pitch, so you know Greinke wishes he had that one back. Either way, the Arizona ace is doing just fine this year with a 4-2 record, a 2.79 ERA and 58 strikeouts in just 51 2/3 innings.