Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. Do yourself a favor and watch MLB’s tribute to Brooks Robinson.
In today’s SI:AM:
It’s almost October
With only five days left in the MLB regular season, more than half of the spots in the postseason field have been claimed.
The Phillies clinched a wild-card spot and the No. 4 seed in the NL last night, while the Brewers secured the NL Central. That leaves five playoff spots up for grabs—two wild cards in each league and the AL West.
Philadelphia punched its ticket to October in dramatic fashion with a 10th-inning walk-off single by Johan Rojas. After sneaking into last year’s playoffs with an 87–75 record, the Phillies made life easier this year by clinching the No. 4 seed. That means that they’ll host the best-of-three wild-card series against the No. 6 seed, rather than going on the road for the quick series like they did last year.
Milwaukee will host the other NL wild-card series as the No. 3 seed. (The Braves and Dodgers will receive byes to the NLDS.) If the season ended today, that series would be against the Cubs in a tantalizing matchup of NL Central rivals. But the season doesn’t end today, and a lot can change between now and the actual end of the season Sunday.
The Cubs are locked in a tight race for one of the two remaining NL wild-card spots. Currently, the Diamondbacks hold the No. 5 seed at 83–74, while Chicago has the No. 6 seed at 82–75. The Marlins are a half game back of the Cubs, and the Reds are 1.5 games back. The Padres (4.5 games back) are theoretically alive but realistically eliminated.
Chicago is doing its best (or worst) to make this a more interesting race after blowing last night’s game against the Braves in spectacular fashion. The Cubs led 6–0 after the top of the sixth inning and then allowed Atlanta to score seven unanswered runs: three in the sixth, two in the seventh and two in the eighth. The final two runs will be talked about in Chicago for a long time if the Cubs don’t make the playoffs. With two outs in the eighth, Drew Smyly got Sean Murphy to hit a fly ball to right center. Right fielder Seiya Suzuki called off center fielder Cody Bellinger but then completely whiffed on a routine catch. What should have been an easy out to end the inning instead resulted in two runs to give Atlanta the lead.
The other notable result in the NL last night was a game that wasn’t played. The Marlins were supposed to face the Mets in New York, but the game was postponed after four straight days of rain caused by Tropical Storm Ophelia—the field was unplayable. The two teams will instead play a straight doubleheader today. The lack of rest between games isn’t ideal for a team fighting to make the playoffs.
In the AL, four teams are fighting for their playoff lives. The Blue Jays, Astros, Mariners and Rangers are jostling for three remaining spots in the field. Texas currently leads the AL West at 88–69, with Houston 2.5 games back. At the same time, the Astros are clinging to the third and final AL wild-card spot, a half game ahead of Seattle. Toronto has the second wild card with a 1.5-game lead over Houston.
The Mariners picked up a huge win last night over the Astros after dropping the first game of their critical series. George Kirby threw six shutout innings to lead Seattle to victory and keep pace in the playoff race.
Seattle is staring down an especially stressful final few days of the season. After tonight’s series finale against Houston, the Mariners will host Texas for four games that will make or break their season. No pressure.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson has died.
- Stephanie Apstein spoke with Gerrit Cole about how he limited home runs this season to become a Cy Young favorite.
- Matt Verderame takes a closer look at three plays from Week 3 in the NFL.
- Luke Easterling has a list of 32 college football players NFL fans should be paying attention to this season.
- Chris Mannix’s NBA mailbag features questions about Damian Lillard, Chris Paul and Terry Rozier.
- Chris Herring argues that Chris Paul should come off the bench for the Warriors, no matter how much he bristles at the idea.
- Travis Kelce has released the long-awaited podcast episode in which he addresses his visit from Taylor Swift.
- Adam Wainwright has pitched the final game of his career but says he wants to get at least one at-bat in this final homestand.
The top five...
… things I saw last night:
5. Arike Ogunbowale’s cold-blooded back-to-back threes.
4. The design that the Tigers mowed in the outfield grass for Miguel Cabrera’s final homestand.
3. Johan Rojas’s walk-off single to clinch the Phillies’ playoff spot.
2. Teoscar Hernández’s catch while crashing into the wall.
1. Elly De La Cruz’s 467-foot home run. (He had his first multihomer game of his career.)
Walter Alston made the only appearance of his MLB career on this day in 1936. It went very poorly. But he did go on to win four World Series as the manager of which franchise?
Yesterday’s SIQ: On Sept. 26, 1998, which SWAC school’s football program broke a nine-year, 80-game losing streak?
- Grambling State
- Prairie View A&M
Answer: Prairie View A&M. The Panthers stopped a two-point conversion attempt with 34 seconds left on the clock to defeat Langston, 14–12. The victory snapped the longest losing streak in NCAA football history.
The Panthers’ last win had come Oct. 28, 1989, and they had long been one of the worst programs in the SWAC. Their last winning season was in ’76. But things really went downhill when the program was suspended for the ’90 season amid allegations it used ineligible players. The school endured seven straight winless seasons before defeating Langston (ironically, the school that began the losing streak back in ’89).
Prairie View football has had some success in recent years, including a 9–1 season in 2009 that ended with a SWAC championship and a 7–5 season in ’21 in which the Panthers won the West division and lost to Deion Sanders’s Jackson State team in the SWAC title game.