The Rockies are rolling. On Friday, the club extended their winning streak to a season-high eight games as they punched their ticket to the postseason for the second straight season.
It’s the first time in Rockies’ franchise history that they have advanced to the playoffs in consecutive seasons. They fell to the Diamondbacks 11-8 in the Wild Card Game last season.
While it’s nice to lock up a spot in the playoffs, there’s still work to be done for the Rockies. On the back of their current winning streak, they entered play on Friday with a one-game advantage over the Dodgers for the top spot in the National League West.
After knocking off the Nationals on Friday, the Rockies were glued to the television, watching the final few innings of the battle between the Dodgers and Giants, which the Dodgers eventually won 3-1.
One of the driving forces behind the Rockies’ current surge has been outfielder David Dahl. The 24-year-old outfielder entered Friday’s game having homered in four consecutive games. During that stretch, he had hit .444 (8-for-18) with four long balls and 11 RBI.
Dahl extended that impressive streak on Friday, taking Sammy Solis deep for a solo homer leading off the sixth inning, extending the Rockies’ lead to 5-2. In doing so, he became just the fourth player in Rockies’ franchise history to homer in five straight contests, joining Larry Walker, Dante Bichette and Nolan Arenado. On Saturday, he’ll have a chance to match Arenado’s club record of six straight.
Dahl wasn’t the only Rockie who helped power the team to victory on Friday. Charlie Blackmon got them on the board with a solo shot in the third, his 28th of the season. With the team trailing by a run in the fifth inning, Ian Desmond belted a go-ahead two-run shot, which was immediately followed by a solo homer from teammate Chris Iannetta.
They got strong work out of their starting pitcher once again as well.
Kyle Freeland surrendered just two runs over his six innings of work, improving to 17-7 on the season. He finishes the regular season with a stunning 2.40 ERA at Coors Field for the season, a new franchise record. At 2.85, he also holds the lowest ERA of any starting pitcher in club history, narrowly edging out Ubaldo Jimenez’s 2.88 from 2010. He also owns the lowest ERA of any left-handed pitcher in the National League that qualifies for the ERA title.
With the ridiculous season that Jacob deGrom is having, Freeland isn’t going to bring home the Cy Young Award, but he’s certainly going to garner plenty of votes for the honor, and rightly so. This has been one of the best season-long performances of any starting pitcher in club history.
The Rockies will take the field on Saturday looking to lock up at least a share of their first division title in team history. To achieve that, right-hander Jon Gray will need to outduel Nationals’ hurler Stephen Strasburg. This time, they’ll take the field already knowing the result of the Dodgers’ game, as they’ll take on the Giants earlier in the afternoon.
The Dodgers did their part to keep the pressure on the Rockies on Friday, knocking off Madison Bumgarner and the Giants to keep pace in the race for the division crown in the National League West.
While the Rockies are riding an eight-game winning streak, the Dodgers have won seven of their last 10 to stay right in the thick of things in the postseason race.
Justin Turner provided the necessary punch in this one, blasting a go-ahead two-run homer off of Madison Bumgarner in the fifth inning that proved to be the difference in the ballgame. He showed no ill-effects of the jammed thumb that he sustained on Wednesday.
Hyun-Jin Ryu delivered another masterful performance on the hill for the boys in blue, allowing just one run on four hits over six stellar frames. The 31-year-old southpaw now owns a phenomenal 1.97 ERA and 1.01 WHIP over 82 ⅓ innings in his 15 starts this season. A free agent at season’s end, Ryu will be a highly-sought after commodity on the open market.
With the Cardinals falling to the Cubs on Friday afternoon, the Dodgers’ magic number to clinch a playoff berth is now down to one. They’ll get two opportunities to punch their ticket on Saturday. The first will come when the Cubs and Cardinals do battle in Chicago at 1:00 PM Eastern on Saturday. If the Cardinals win that game, the Dodgers still have a chance to punch their own ticket with a victory over the Giants on Saturday.
Unlike the epic battles that are going on for postseason seedings in the National League, there hasn’t been much drama on the American League side of the ledger.
The only thing that was yet to be decided heading into play on Saturday was who would host the Wild Card Game between the Yankees and Athletics. With the Yankees’ victory over the Red Sox on Friday night, we now know that game will be played in New York on Wednesday.
Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge, who homered in the victory, expressed his excitement after the game on the joy of getting to play that do-or-die game at home, "That's huge, getting home-field advantage… You guys saw what happened in the playoffs last year. The fans, there's nothing like it. They've got some kind of magic, man, coming to the jungle. It's a crazy atmosphere. It's what you play for."
The Yankees also made a bit of history of their own on Friday. Along with Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks also homered in the win over the Red Sox. That gives the Yankees 264 home runs on the season, matching the 1997 Mariners for the most ever in a single season.
12 different Yankees have hit double-digit home runs this season -- Giancarlo Stanton (37), Miguel Andujar (27), Didi Gregorius (27), Aaron Hicks (27), Aaron Judge (27), Gleyber Torres (23), Gary Sanchez (18), Luke Voit (13), Brett Gardner (12), Greg Bird (11), Neil Walker (11), Austin Romine (10).
The Bombers should stand alone atop that list by the end of the weekend, though many of their regulars are likely to rest given the fact that their home field is now secured.
Miguel Andujar also socked his 44th double of the season on Friday, matching Joe Dimaggio for the most in a season by a Yankees’ rookie.
Bolstering his Resume
At this stage of the season, Christian Yelich has to be considered the front-runner for the National League MVP award. Just in case voters need an extra push though, he has continued to put up absolutely monster numbers in the final few weeks of the season.
That continued in Friday’s victory over the Tigers.
In a special moment for the Yelich clan, Christian had his younger brother, USMC Staff Sergeant Cameron, on hand to watch him play for the first time since 2016. The younger Yelich was honored on-field before the game and threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The elder Yelich wasted no time putting on a show for his sibling, crushing a two-run homer off of Jordan Zimmermann on the first pitch that he saw in the bottom of the first inning, helping to erase an early 3-0 deficit.
He spoke to reporters after the game, expressing his emotions over that first at-bat, "My heart was pumping a little bit in that first at-bat with how loud the stadium was and everybody I had in attendance watching… You're just trying to catch your breath, so for that to happen on the first pitch was really cool. It's really hard to describe. It was an awesome moment."
Teammate Ryan Braun, a former MVP winner himself, campaigned for his outfield-mate after the game, "I know [Craig] Counsell brought it up the other day, but it's almost Barry Bonds-esque, if you look at how rarely he's being pitched to and how often he's doing damage with the opportunities he's getting. Just continually stepping up and embracing the moment, embracing the situation he's in. There's a lot of pressure when you're in that MVP discussion, and for him to continue to elevate his game night in and night out, it's pretty remarkable. What we're watching is greatness right now."
Yelich leads the National League in batting average and slugging percentage, slashing a robust .322/.397/.588. His 34 home runs trail Matt Carpenter by two for the top spot in the National League, and he’s only five RBI behind Javier Baez for the top spot in that category as well.
With the way he’s hitting right now, if the season went on for another week we could be talking about a triple crown winner.
American League Quick Hits: Red Sox’ manager Alex Cora said in an interview on WEEI on Friday that whether Nathan Eovaldi or Eduardo Rodriguez is in the ALDS rotation depends on the opponent… Chris Davis is not expected to play over the final weekend of the season, and should finish the season with the lowest batting average in MLB history (.168) for a player qualifying for the batting title… Avisail Garcia left the first game of Friday’s doubleheader against the Twins due to right knee soreness… Christin Stewart is likely finished for the season due to a lower abdominal strain… Charlie Morton (shoulder) will rejoin the Astros on Saturday in Baltimore… Sam Gaviglio will start in the Blue Jays’ season finale on Sunday in place of Marco Estrada… Roenis Elias will start for the Mariners on Sunday in place of Mike Leake… Jose Berrios racked up nine strikeouts over seven innings of one-run ball in a win over the White Sox, pushing the right-hander over the 200-strikeout plateau for the first time in his career… David Hess fired seven innings of one-run ball in a tough-luck no-decision against the Astros… Gerrit Cole allowed one run on five hits over six innings against the Orioles, pushing him over the 200-inning mark for the season… Steve Pearce smacked a grand slam and drove in five total runs in a loss to the Yankees… Dawel Lugo crushed his first career home run -- a game-tying two-run shot off of Josh Hader -- as the Tigers eventually fell to the Brewers… Randal Grichuk came through with a pinch-hit bases-clearing triple, leading the Blue Jays to victory over the Rays… Mitch Garver went 4-for-5 and drove in a career-high six runs as the Twins crushed the White Sox in the nightcap of their doubleheader… Mike Clevinger picked up his 13th victory with six innings of one-run baseball against the Royals. He also topped the 200 inning mark for the first time in his career… Josh Donaldson swatted a grand slam as the Indians crushed the Royals… Shohei Ohtani went 3-for-3 with a double, two RBI and his 10th stolen base in a victory over the Athletics… Mike Trout swatted his 39th homer in that victory… Jaime Baria fired 4 ⅔ innings of no-hit ball, but was lifted after walking three batters in the fifth inning… Cameron Maybin went 3-for-5 with a double and four RBI as the Mariners beat up on Martin Perez and the Rangers…
National League Quick Hits: Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Friday that Pedro Strop (hamstring) still feels something in his landing leg when throwing off a mound… The Mets have shut down Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman for the remainder of the season to monitor their workloads… Bud Norris was lifted from Thursday’s game with left hamstring tightness. He’s likely done for the season… The Braves are cautiously optimistic they will have Dansby Swanson (hand) available for the NLDS… The Nationals plan to start Max Scherzer in their season finale on Sunday, if playoff implications are on the line… Brett Kennedy underwent season-ending surgery on Wednesday to repair the patellar tendon in his right knee. He’ll be fully healthy and ready to roll by the time spring training begins… Jorge Alfaro (quad) missed his fifth consecutive game on Friday, but is expected to return to the Phillies' starting lineup before the end of the weekend…. Austin Slater was pulled from Friday’s game after straining his elbow on a throw to the plate… Hunter Renfroe was scratched from the Padres’ lineup on Friday due to illness, but appeared as a pinch-hitter and delivered a game-tying homer in the 12th inning… Eugenio Suarez clubbed his 33rd homer in a loss to the Pirates… David Wright grounded out as a pinch-hitter Friday against the Marlins in his first at-bat since May 27, 2016… Miguel Rojas went 4-for-6 with an RBI and two runs scored in a victory over the Mets… Rhys Hoskins swatted his 34th home run in a loss to the Braves… Ryan Braun blasted a pair of home runs, including a go-ahead solo shot in the eighth inning, as the Brewers topped the Tigers… Freddie Freeman went 4-for-5 and drove in three runs in a win over the Phillies… Mike Foltynewicz struck out nine over five innings of one-run ball, surpassing 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career…