MLB Hoosiers (Sept. 23): Caleb Baragar Gets 1st Start, Pitches Well in Giants' Win
In the thick of a playoff chase, you do whatever it takes to win every game. And for San Francisco Giants reliever Caleb Baragar, that meant making his first career start Wednesday night.
He still only pitched one inning and change, playing the "opener'' role that's become common with a hand full of major-league teams, and he was nearly perfect yet again, retiring all three batters he faced in the first inning in a 7-2 win over the Colorado Rockies. He gave up a double to Charlie Blackmon to lead off the second inning, and then came out of the game without Blackmon scoring.
The Giants are now 28-27 and have reclaimed a playoff spot — for now — in the National League chase with five games to go.
Baragar, the left-handed former Indiana baseball star, has now gone 14 consecutive appearances without allowing a run since Aug. 12. During that stretch, he's allowed only six base hits and his ERA has dropped from 11.25 to 4.35.
His 5-1 record leads the team as well. He's been a big piece in the Giants' turnaround this season, which started horribly – they were eight games under .500 at one time — in what was supposed to be something of a rebuilding year.
"Everyone's playing hard, and everyone's trying to win every single game,'' Baragar said. "Nobody's selfish. Everybody's doing their job to help the team. And I think just being on a team with that kind of camaraderie and getting us toward the playoffs is awesome."
Baragar treated the game like any other. He warmed up in the bullpen and then went straight to the mound, not coming out of the dugout like a normal starter would. He didn't want to mess with routine. He coaxed two flyouts and a groundout in the first inning, retiring the side on just 12 pitches.
Which was exactly the plan.
“The game is so much more fun here than it is in the minor leagues,” Baragar said. "It’s just been an unbelievable experience.”
Giants outfielder Alex Dickerson, another former Hoosier, has had a lot to do with this hot streak as well, and he was awesome again on Wednesday night. Dickerson was 3-for-5, with two doubles and two runs scored. His batting average is now up to .305 and has gone up .110 points since late August.
He's been killing the Rockies all season, with one game to go against them on Thursday. Dickerson is now 17-for-34 (.500) this year against Colorado with 11 extra base hits and 10 RBI in 9 games.
There are four teams fighting for the final two playoff spots in the National League, and the Giants reclaimed a spot with the victory. After one more game with the Rockies on Thursday, they finish the season with four games against the San Diego Padres this weekend in San Francisco.
The three other Hoosiers in the Pros — Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs, Aaron Slegers of the Tampa Bay Rays and Jonathan Stiever of the Chicago White Sox — have all already clinched playoff spots.
Other 'Hoosiers in the Pros' on Wednesday
- Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs: Schwarber went 0-for-2 with two walks in the Cubs' 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs, who are 32-24, have already clinched a playoff spot and are in good shape despite the loss to win the NL Central. They have a 3.5-game lead on the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds with four games to go.
- Jonathan Stiever, Chicago White Sox: Stiever did not pitch in Chicago's 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians. The White Sox have clinched a playoff spot, but fell out of first place in the American League Central with the loss, their fourth in a row. The Minnesota Twins now lead the division by a half-game. Chicago has lost four games in a row.
- Aaron Slegers, Tampa Bay Rays: Slegers did not pitch in the Rays' 8-5 win over the New York Mets, but he did get to enjoy a muted celebration as the Rays clinched the American League title, their first in 10 years. The Rays have the best record in the AL, ahead of the Twins and Oakland A's by two games each with three to go to earn the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs.
- * Kyle Hart, Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox placed Hart on the 45-day injury list on Tuesday, so his season is done with Boston. He struggled in his major-league debut, appearing in four games — three starts — but allowing 19 runs and 24 hits in just 11 innings.
- * Josh Phegley, Chicago Cubs: Phegley was designated for assignment by the Cubs and was sent to their alternate site on Sept. 3.
If the playoffs started today ...
We told you there would be constant change in these playoff pairings every day, and after Wednesday night's games, there were a whopping six changes among the 16 teams. The first round is a best-of-three series, playing at the home ballpark of the higher seed.
Here's what the playoff bracket would look like as of Thursday morning.
- No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays vs. No. 8 Toronto Blue Jays
- No. 4 Chicago White Sox vs. No. 5 New York Yankees
- No. 3 Minnesota Twins vs. No. 6 Houston Astros
- No. 2 Oakland A's vs. No. 7 Cleveland Indians
- No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. No. 8 Cincinnati Reds
- No. 4 San Diego Padres vs. No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals
- No. 3 Chicago Cubs vs. No. 6 Miami Marlins
- No. 2 Atlanta Braves vs. No. 7 San Francisco Giants