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  • Aaron Judge set a new record, Boston got its 8th walkoff win at home and the Brewers just won't go away.
By Jack Dickey
August 17, 2017

SOX WALK OFF

August has been kind to the Red Sox. Baseball spent much of the year waiting for Boston to pull away in the East—the Red Sox are the division’s most complete team—but again and again they would fail to string together the necessary wins. Heck, in July the Sox had a losing record, at 13-14. But to date in Octavian’s month they have gone 11-2, the majors’ best mark, and in the process they’ve put a little distance between them and the Yankees, who sit 4.5 back.

Wednesday night’s win was the kind of game the early-season Sox (and, well, most other teams) would have lost. But when you’re hot, you’re hot, and sometimes you even get to face a gassed Trevor Rosenthal, Zach Duke and John Brebbia defending a slim lead in a wild ninth inning.

The Cardinals had a two-run lead heading into the ninth, but Xander Bogaerts homered off Rosenthal, who then walked Mitch Moreland before being pulled. Duke struck out Brock Holt but walked Jackie Bradley, Jr., prompting Cardinals manager Mike Matheny to call upon the rookie Brebbia, who would be going for his first career save. Then, two pitches into Brebbia’s appearance, Matheny got tossed.

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The woebegone skipper is a frequent target for Cards fans, but this ejection happens to have been a prudent one. While Brebbia was pitching to Eduardo Nunez, home plate umpire Chris Segal called time on his own because he thought the pitcher was holding the ball too long, and he, the umpire, needed a break. (That’s a new one). Yadier Molina, the Cards’ catcher, immediately started berating Segal, risking ejection, so Matheny sprinted out to protect his player and pick up where he left off. “Since when do you get time? … It’s not your show, man! Nobody’s here to watch you!” Matheny bellowed, loud enough that microphones picked up every word.

Matheny was right—it wasn’t Segal’s show. It was Mookie Betts’. Brebbia retired Nunez before Betts ripped a double to deep left. Moreland scored easily from second and Molina, with a chance to tag out Bradley and send the game to extras, couldn’t come up with the throw home. That makes eight walk-offs in the team’s last 19 home wins, and brings Boston’s record at Fenway to 38-21, the AL’s best at home.

ANOTHER YANKEES SUBWAY SERIES WIN … AND “HISTORY” ACHIEVED ON BOTH SIDES

… But Boston’s AL East lead held at 4.5, because the Yankees took a third straight game Wednesday against the Mets in the Subway Series. It was the sort of win that has become the ’17 Yankees’ signature—starter throws an adequate game, Aaron Judge hits a ball to Saturn, bullpen silences the opposition.

There will be countless encomia devoted to Judge’s third-deck homer, so let’s dwell instead on the other feat the Yankee rightfielder achieved Wednesday night. In the ninth inning, facing Mets reliever Erik Goeddel, he struck out, giving Mets pitchers their fifth and final strikeout of the night. In doing so, Judge became the first position player to strike out in 33 straight games, breaking the record held by none other than Adam “Big Donkey” Dunn. MLB.com has Judge on pace to whiff 210 times total, which would be sixth all-time on the single-season list. Presumably his Rookie of the Year nod will make up for it.

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Not to be outdone in the dubious-achievement department, the Mets did this with usual catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

When right-handed hitters were at the plate, d’Arnaud played second. When lefties were up, he swapped positions with third baseman Asdrubal Cabrera. That’s gotta be some kind of record. (Officially, d’Arnaud handled the only chance he got all night, a Todd Frazier pop to second in the ninth.)

Mets manager Terry Collins said, though, that his strategy was far from novel—that he himself had been deployed in that fashion as a Pacific Coast Leaguer in 1976.

Such extraordinary arrangements were necessary Wednesday night because of late scratches to Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores. It’s the kind of maneuvering that would be delightful from Joe Maddon on an overachieving team with an 18-game division lead. From Terry Collins on an underachieving team 18 games out of first? It’s just embarrassing.

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BREWERS WON’T FIZZLE OUT

… Then again, this year, it’s not Joe Maddon with the plucky, overachieving bunch in the NL Central—it’s Craig Counsell. His Brewers, after a 7-6 win over Pittsburgh, are 63-59, in second place in the Central, just a game and a half back of Chicago. This time a week ago, the Brewers were four games into a six-game losing streak, one that left them at 9-18 in the second half and three games back of the Cubs. It had been a fun story—but it was over. Right?

Evidently, the Brewers weren’t on board with all that. Milwaukee has won four in a row, and in Wednesday’s game, came from behind in the eighth to beat the Pirates. The Brewers hit five homers, including two solo shots from Keon Broxton, a two-run dinger from waiver-trade addition Neil Walker, and a go-ahead two-run blast from catcher Manny Pina. Corey Knebel slammed the door in the ninth.

It’s awfully hard to make sense of these Brewers. Knebel has been one of baseball’s best relievers. Newcomer Travis Shaw ranks 21st overall in OPS. The 30-year-old Pina, who had all of 98 big-league plate appearances to his name before 2017, has a .790 OPS in nearly 300 plate appearances. Even Ryan Braun (hitting .404 in August) appears to have something left in the tank. Sure—the safe bet is that they’ll fade away. But when it comes to this bunch, nothing is as certain as it appears.

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