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Merry Clinchmas, everybody! Friday was a day for a pair of teams clinching postseason spots, leaving just two openings in the 12-team field (two National League wild-card teams). With just five days left in the regular season and no Game 163 to break a tie (those are now decided by head-to-head record first), there is sure to be a bit more drama, but Friday’s No. 1 headliner will be tough to top for just pure emotion.
Raleigh’s Walk-off HR Ends Mariners’ Playoff Drought
Years of frustration came pouring out with one swing of the bat. Rookie pinch-hitter Cal Raleigh crushed a solo homer with two outs in the ninth inning as the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland A’s 2-1 to clinch the team’s first playoff berth since 2001. It was the second walk-off in as many nights for the Mariners, who will be one of the three American League wild-card teams. Making the playoffs seemed improbable for Seattle back on June 19, when the M’s were a season-worst 10 games below .500. Things turned around quickly with a 14-game winning streak entering the All-Star break that got the Mariners back into contention.
HELLO POSTSEASON. pic.twitter.com/hEL4E46q2U
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) October 1, 2022
WE'RE GOIN' DANCING pic.twitter.com/FHkTjNrUqj
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) October 1, 2022
Rays Return To Postseason
Despite being decimated by injuries throughout the season, the Tampa Bay Rays persevered to make it back to the postseason for the fourth straight year. That became official when the Rays knocked off the AL West champion Houston Astros 7-3 to earn one of the AL wild-card spots. The Rays have been one of the hardest-hit teams when it comes to injuries, with only the Cincinnati Reds and Minnesota Twins having lost players for more days on the injured list, according to Spotrac. But as they seemingly do every year, the Rays are more about the sum of their parts than any specific player.
𝐖𝐄. 𝐀𝐑𝐄. 𝐈𝐍.#RaysUp pic.twitter.com/71ELZWWCsV
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 1, 2022
Braves Tag deGrom, Pull Even With Mets
Thanks to back-to-back homers by Austin Riley and Matt Olson off Jacob deGrom in the second inning, the Atlanta Braves toppled the New York Mets 5-2, leaving the two teams tied atop the NL East with five games left. Dansby Swanson also went deep off the Mets’ ace as the defending World Series champion Braves evened the season series, which would determine which team wins the division and which is the wild card if they finish the regular season tied. Atlanta has won the last four East titles.
A huge win to start the series 💪#ForTheA pic.twitter.com/tsiH4rG2Is
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) October 1, 2022
Phillies Snap Skid, Brewers Keep Up Pressure
The final two postseason berths are for the NL wild card, with the San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies, and Milwaukee Brewers playing musical chairs for those spots. The Padres are in the best position, even with their 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. The Phillies had lost five straight before beating the Washington Nationals 5-1 in the first game of what was supposed to be a doubleheader. The second game was postponed due to Hurricane Ian and will be made up as part of a twin bill Saturday. The Brewers, behind reigning NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes, handed NL Cy Young candidate Sandy Alcantara and the Miami Marlins a 1-0 loss. The results mean the Padres remain 1½ games ahead of the Phillies and the Brewers a half-game behind Philadelphia.
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) September 30, 2022
Morton Sticking With Braves
Right-handed starter Charlie Morton will be back for one and possibly two more seasons. The Braves announced they signed the 38-year-old to a one-year, $20 million contract for the 2023 season with a team option for $20 million for 2024 with no buyout. Previously, the Braves had an option on Morton for $20 million for 2023. In his second season with the Braves, Morton is 9-6 with a 4.29 ERA over 30 starts, with 200 strikeouts and 82 walks in 167⅔ innings.
Best Moments From Yesterday
Pujols Blasts 701
So much for round numbers. A week after hitting his 700th career homer, St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols smashed a 1-2 pitch into Big Mac Land for his 701st, a solo shot in the fourth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates to tie the game 1-1. Was it the last one of his career?
Pujols to Big Mac Land! pic.twitter.com/Mzq4vD630c
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) October 1, 2022
A Cool Thank You
The Chicago Cubs‘ season has been fairly miserable, but at least their social media team knocked one out of the park with this drone footage that was capped off by a thanks to their fans.
To the best fans in baseball,
You make Wrigley Field the Friendly Confines. pic.twitter.com/Gtdr3boTXH
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 30, 2022
Injuries and Other Moves
Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon plans on exercising his $15 million player option to remain in Denver next season.
In the official move, the Mets selected the contract of catcher Francisco Álvarez, their top prospect, and put infielder Darin Ruf on the 10-day injured list with a neck strain. Left-handed reliever Alex Claudio was designated for assignment to create space on the 40-man roster.
Second baseman D.J. LeMahieu was activated off the 10-day IL by the New York Yankees. Infielder Tim Locastro was optioned to Triple-A.
Catcher Brian O’Keefe had his contract selected by the Seattle Mariners. He replaces catcher Curt Casali, who went on the paternity list. O’Keefe, a seventh-round draft choice in 2014, would be making his MLB debut at age 29.
Articles You Should Read
Career minor-leaguers talk about never getting their dream fulfilled — Travis Sawchik, The Score
Another legendary Dodgers broadcaster, Jaime Jarrin, leaves Latino legacy — Dylan Hernandez, Los Angeles Times
The faces behind all of that ballpark trash and how it is collected — Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle
Ready for more manager and GM changes? Here’s a look at what teams are thinking — Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic
Fantasy Baseball Coverage
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)