5 Things: Harper Hits No. 40, Rangers in First
By Andrew Kahn
This week’s recap mixes the fun and serious (in baseball terms). There was a record-setting game and some impressive and comical individual performances. Buckle up for the stretch run.
Bryce Harper hit his 40th home run on Wednesday. He’s the National League MVP, hands down. Harper became just the seventh player to club 40 dingers in a season before turning 23. The others: Eddie Matthews (who did it twice), Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Bench, Mel Ott, Juan Gonzalez, and Alex Rodriguez. Harper had his fourth straight multi-hit game on Thursday and is batting .417 in September. He will come up short for the Triple Crown (he’s first in average and homers but too far back in RBIs). The last-place Rockies have a couple of sluggers but they’ve been no more valuable than Harper.
(5)8 men out
It took the Rockies 16 innings to beat the Dodgers on Tuesday in Los Angeles. By the time the game was done, 58 players, including 24 pitchers, had participated, both major league records. That’s a lot of dudes. I’d buy a newspaper just to see that box score. It takes quite a bit of scrolling to get through it all on the internet. With expanded rosters, neither team had to do anything too crazy to set the record, though Mat Latos did make his first career relief appearance. It didn’t go well: He surrendered the game-winning homer to Nolan Arenado.
On Friday night, two major leaguers had non-contact falls. Carlos Gomez fouled a pitch off his own helmet, which was starting to come off before the ball made contact. Gomez, as he often does, went down to a knee taking a big cut, and then stumbled a bit more. His teammates were amused.
Cubs rookie Kyle Schwarber hit a homer in the second game of a double header and face-planted rounding first. It seems like Schwarber wasn’t sure if his ball had cleared the fence and tripped upon realizing he could coast. His teammates were equally amused. It was an eventful day for the kid. So, which was more embarrassing? My vote goes to Gomez because of the double-whammy factor.
On August 2, the Rangers were three games below .500 and in third place in the American League West, eight games back of Houston. On Thursday, they completed a four-game sweep of the Astros to take a 2.5-game lead in the division. They have not played well against most of the division, but they’re 12-4 against Houston. Last Friday, Colby Lewis took a perfect game into the eighth, an extreme example of the Ragners’ outstanding pitching during their turnaround. Acquiring Cole Hamels at the deadline helped, as did Derek Holland’s return from the DL. Yovani Gallardo rounds out a talented quartet. A team that averaged 92.5 wins from 2010 to 2013 (before plummeting to 67 last season) appears to be back on track at just the right time.
Race to the finish
The Rangers have obviously not locked anything up, and the Blue Jays lead by just 3.5 games in the AL East over the Yankees. Every other division is at least five games. The wild card spots are far from settled. The Astros would play in New York if the season ended now, but the Twins are just a game back of Houston and the Angels aren’t dead yet. In the National League, the only question is how the Central turns out. The Cards have a five-game division lead, and Pittsburgh is two games ahead of Chicago. The next closest team, San Francisco, is eight games behind the Cubs. It’s that time of year, when fans are starting to look at playoff schedules. Especially fans of the Mets, Astros, and Blue Jays, who haven’t witnessed playoff baseball in a while.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about baseball and other sports at http://andrewjkahn.com and his Scoop and Score podcast is on iTunes. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn
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