4 moments that changed the 2015 baseball season
It could have been one of the most memorable comebacks in Los Angeles Angels history, but instead it will go down as a mere footnote.
When the Angels scored five runs in the ninth inning Saturday to beat the Texas Rangers 11-10, they kept themselves in the postseason race for another day and prevented Texas from clinching the AL West. Then on Sunday, Texas beat the Angels, wrapping up the division and ensuring that Houston, not Los Angeles, would end up with a wild card.
The sheer length of the baseball season makes it hard to tell the difference between a fleeting moment of glory and a true turning point. Fortunately, we now have the benefit of hindsight, so even though that amazing ninth inning by the Angels ended up being fairly meaningless, here are four other moments that really did change the 2015 season:
May 17 - Jeff Banister shakes up his bullpen.
Banister, the Texas manager, told his relievers before a May 17 game against Cleveland that there were no set roles in the bullpen any more. The Rangers were 15-22 at that point, and closer Neftali Feliz had already blown three saves. Shawn Tolleson pitched the ninth for Texas that day, and the Rangers won 5-1.
A few days later, Tolleson earned the first save of his career. He would finish the season with 35 in 37 chances, adding stability to the late innings as the Rangers rallied to take the division by two games over Houston.
May 21 - Jaime Garcia returns to the mound.
Garcia made only nine starts in 2013 and seven in 2014. He had thoracic outlet surgery in July 2014 to alleviate numbness and tingling in his pitching arm and hand. So it was fair to wonder what the St. Louis Cardinals could expect from him this year, but in his first game back, he allowed only two runs in seven innings against the New York Mets, an encouraging sign for sure.
Garcia ended up making 20 starts, going 10-6 with a 2.43 ERA. For a team that lost Adam Wainwright early on, it's fair to suggest that Garcia's performance was the difference between winning the NL Central and dropping to a wild card. The Cardinals won the division by two games.
July 3 - Miguel Cabrera injures his left calf.
The Detroit slugger would not play again until Aug. 14, and the team he came back to looked far different from the one he left. The Tigers went 15-20 in the interim and were in bad enough shape at the deadline that they traded stars David Price and Yoenis Cespedes. Price led Toronto to the AL East title, and Cespedes played a huge role for the New York Mets in their NL East championship.
Shortly after the deadline, the Tigers let general manager Dave Dombrowski go. He's now running things in Boston, so the butterfly effect from Cabrera's injury could last a while.
July 29 - The Mets don't trade for Carlos Gomez.
They'll be talking about this night in New York for years. Reports surfaced that Gomez was going to the Mets, and Wilmer Flores, who was expected to leave New York in the deal, was wiping tears from his eyes on the field during a game.
The trade was never completed, though. Instead, the Mets kept Flores and traded for Cespedes. From July 31 on, Flores hit .296 with six homers. Cespedes hit .287 with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs in 57 games for New York. The Mets outlasted Washington in the NL East, and there's no telling what changes await the Nationals as a result.
Gomez, meanwhile, was traded to Houston and hit only .242 for the Astros, who made the playoffs but fell short in their bid for the AL West title.
LINE OF THE WEEK
With a respectful nod toward Ichiro Suzuki's relief pitching appearance Sunday (one inning, two hits, one run and countless smiles from baseball fans everywhere) the honor obviously goes to Washington's Max Scherzer, who struck out 17 while throwing a no-hitter against the Mets on Saturday.
The fact that Scherzer - who threw two no-hitters this year and posted a 2.79 ERA with 276 strikeouts - is not a front-runner for the Cy Young Award tells you everything you need to know about what Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta and Clayton Kershaw have done in 2015.