Best second-half MLB teams of wild-card era

Whether it comes as a strong finish to an already dominant season or an amazing comeback, or it’s a newly emerged contender coming out of nowhere, there have been some remarkable finishes in the recent history of Major League Baseball. The wild-card era has ushered in far more opportunity for the postseason than ever before but also has raised the stakes within the pursuit.

With 2019’s pennant chase preparing to take shape, let’s take a look back some of the great finishes of baseball’s modern postseason era. 1 of 20

Seattle Mariners, 1995

After owning a 34-35 record at the All-Star break, the ’95 Mariners went from last to first place in the season’s second half. Ken Griffey Jr returned from a two-month absence to hit 10 home runs over the final two months, Edgar Martinez won the AL batting title and Randy Johnson won his first Cy Young Award. The Mariners bested the California Angels in a tie-breaker game to claim their first division title in franchise history. They reached the AL Championship Series, led by a legendary performance by Martinez against the Yankees in the ALDS. Seattle lost to Cleveland in the ALCS. 2 of 20

Chicago Cubs, 1998

While the summer of ’98 is best known for the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, it also is known for a tight NL playoff race. Sosa’s Cubs were one of the hottest teams in the game in the middle of the year before cooling off late. Meanwhile, Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants won nine of their last 12 games to catch the Cubs. The teams squared off in one-game playoff in which Bonds nearly hit a ninth-inning grand slam amid a Giants rally that fell short. The Cubs hung on to win, and they reached the playoffs for the first time in nine years. 3 of 20

New York Yankees, 1998

Not all memorable second-half performances included airtight races to the finish. Take the case of one of the greatest teams of all time, the ’98 Yankees. They were dominant from start to finish, winning 20 games in three separate months en route to a record 114-win season. They won the AL East by 22 games, with a breakout season for a young Derek Jeter, who hit .324 with 203 hits. They finished the season 66 games over .500 and set a record for most wins in a season, 125, after sweeping the San Diego Padres in the World Series. 4 of 20

Cleveland Indians, 2001

Aided by Minnesota’s huge collapse, the 2001 Indians staged an incredible comeback to claim an AL Central title. After reaching the All-Star break 23 games over .500, the Twins dropped 15 of their first 20 second-half contests, losing their grip on the division in the process. Meanwhile, behind a 49-homer season from Jim Thome, after being five games back at the All-Star break, the Indians finished six games ahead to win a sixth AL Central title since 1995, going 9-3 against Minnesota in the second half. 5 of 20

Oakland Athletics, 2001

In the wild-card era, no team has had more second-half success than the 2001 A’s. They set a 162-game schedule record by going 63-18 over their final 81 games, which included an incredible 29-4 record over the season’s final month. Led by their hallowed three-ace rotation of Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson, along with a string of incredible starts from Cory Lidle, who went 11-2 after the break, the A’s set a record for most wins by a wild-card team with 102. It also was the most wins by a second-place club, but they still finished 14 games behind the record-setting 2001 Seattle Mariners.

6 of 20

Seattle Mariners, 2001

Led by an incredible jolt of energy from MVP/Rookie of the Year Ichiro Suzuki, the 2001 Seattle Mariners tied the 1906 Chicago Cubs for the most regular-season wins in history with 116. The team never posted a double-digit loss total in any month and saved the best for last. From Sept. 1 through Oct. 7, they went 20-7, with a 4-3 loss on the season’s final day, costing them a chance to set the outright record for most wins in a season. 7 of 20

Oakland Athletics, 2002

For a second consecutive season, in 2002 Oakland channeled second-half magic, going 24-4 in August, a run that included the bulk of one of the greatest winning streaks in MLB history. Oakland went undefeated from Aug.13 to Sept. 4, embarking on an AL-record 20-game winning streak — which included walk-off wins during the final three victories of the streak. However, taking over the division outright required a second, shorter winning spree, when Oakland won nine of its final 11 games over divisional foes to win the AL West. It was a season that changed the way the sport is perceived and inspired the book and movie”‘Moneyball.” 8 of 20

Florida Marlins, 2003

The 2003 Marlins are the definition of a team that got hot at just the right time. After losing eight of their final nine games in August, Florida entered the final month 13 games back in the NL East and barely in control of a wild-card spot. However, its “team of destiny” run — which included an NLCS victory aided by the “Bartman Game” vs. the Cubs and a stunning upset of the New York Yankees in the World Series — got underway quickly in September. Jack McKeon’s club went 10-2 to start the month and won seven of its last nine to claim the NL wild-card spot. 9 of 20

Minnesota Twins, 2006

In 2006, the Twins pulled off the biggest second-half comeback of the last quarter century, erasing an 11-game deficit in the process. With Johan Santana embarking on a 13-0 second half en route to claiming AL Cy Young Award honors, Justin Morneau capturing AL MVP and Joe Mauer being crowned as AL batting champion, the Twins went 49-27 in the second half. This allowed them to track down the Detroit Tigers, who had posted the game’s top record in the first half but stumbled south of .500 following the All-Star break. Ultimately the Twins won the AL Central on the final day of the season. 10 of 20

Colorado Rockies, 2007

On Sept. 15, Colorado was barely above .500 and 6.5 games back of the San Diego Padres. However, the Rockies soon turned the booster jets on, winning 13 of their final 14 games to incredibly reach 90 wins and force a one-game playoff for the NL wild-card spot. The game featured another incredible comeback, as the Rockies rallied from a two-run deficit in the bottom of the 13th inning, capped by Matt Holliday scoring a still-disputed run on a Jamey Carroll sacrifice fly to send the Rockies back to the postseason for the first time in six seasons.

By: Matt Whitener

https://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/articles/best_second_half_mlb_teams_of_wild_card_era/s1__29700269#slide_1

D-Backs Advance To NLCS, Will Face Dodgers.

Written by Jorge L. Ortiz at USA Today.com

 Breaking down the National League wild card game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies at Chase Field:

Diamondbacks 11, Rockies 8: The Diamondbacks advance to the NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Game 1 is Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

The game: Paul Goldschmidt’s three-run homer off Jon Gray set the tone, putting the Diamondbacks ahead 3-0 a mere eight pitches into the bottom of the first, but they needed plenty more help to fend off the hard-charging Rockies.

That included the first relief appearance since 2014 by left-hander Robbie Ray, who went 15-5 in 28 starts during the season. Ray took over in the fourth and gave up a run in 2 1/3 innings, throwing 34 pitches and getting credit for the win.

But his was hardly the most memorable performance by a pitcher in the game. That honor belongs to reliever Archie Bradley, and it was as a hitter. Bradley’s two-run triple in the seventh – on his fifth plate appearance of the season – put Arizona ahead 8-5.

Of course, then he would serve up two home runs in the eighth to allow the Rockies to narrow the gap in the wild and entertaining game. A.J. Pollock finally salted it away for the Diamondbacks with their fourth triple of the game, a two-run drive to right-center off Greg Holland to extend the lead to 10-7. Jeff Mathis followed with an RBI bunt single to cap the three-run eighth

Arizona leadoff man David Peralta and second-place hitter Ketel Marte combined for six hits, with Marte becoming the first player to hit two triples in a postseason game since the Philadelphia Phillies’ Mariano Duncan in 1993.

Daniel Descalso’s two-run homer off Tyler Anderson in the third inning stretched the Diamondbacks’ lead to 6-0 and the rout was on, or so it seemed.

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MLB Teams To Add Protective Netting

Written by Charlotte Carrol at SI.com

After a young girl was struck by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium during a Yankees–Twins game on Wednesday, the Reds became the first team to respond by announcing a plan to increase netting at its stadium, Great American Ballpark. The Mariners, Padres and Rockies have since followed suit.

“The Reds’ ongoing commitment to providing the best ballpark experience includes maintaining the safety and security of our fans,” the statement said.

The Mariners also announced a plan to increase netting at Safeco Field, but said the specifics of the plan are still being discussed.

“This is an issue that we’ve been concerned about for some time,” Mariners president Kevin Mather said. “We still have some details to work out, but the bottom line is expanded netting at Safeco Field is going to happen.”

The Padres’ statement specified that they will extend netting to the end of each dugout by Opening Day 2018.

Colorado didn’t unveil specific plans so much as acknowledge that the team is looking into expanding the netting. The Rockies highlighted “engineering issues” and vendor selection as parts of the process that make the endeavor so complex.

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The Mets Literally Gave The Rockies A Win Last Night

Written by Thomas Harding and Max Gelman at MLB.com

The dramatic walk-off walk Nolan Arenado drew Thursday to give his Rockies a 5-4 victory over the Mets occurred amid postseason implications and in front of 35,276 screaming fans at Coors Field. Yet it took Arenado back to carefree family days.

“On the Wiffle ball field with my cousins, for sure, I had a couple walk-off walks,” Arenado said. “They don’t want to throw to me.”

The Rockies, who entered the day holding the second National League Wild Card spot, took two of three from the Mets in a familiar scenario — a 5-4 score, with Arenado delivering at the end, and Mets reliever Hansel Robles (6-3) falling victim. Tuesday night, Arenado lashed an RBI single off Robles.

This time, Robles, after cruising through the eighth, hit ninth-inning leadoff man Jonathan Lucroy, and, with one out, walked Charlie Blackmon intentionally and DJ LeMahieu on five pitches. Robles, who said he experienced numbness in his right hand during the inning, worked ahead of Arenado, 0-2. Then he missed with four straight pitches, with the last one sailing past Arenado’s ear to the backstop — even though Arenado came up thinking swing.

“He’s a Major League pitcher who throws strikes usually, so the last thing I want to do is act like he’s not going to throw a strike,” said Arenado, who tallied his 16th game-winning RBI of the season.

“That’s certainly not the guy we know,” Mets manager Terry Collins said of Robles. “I don’t really have any idea what happened to him, and he had Arenado 0-2. … This kid’s got too much talent, got a great arm, pitched big, big innings for us in the past.”

Rockies closer Greg Holland (2-1), unavailable the previous two games because of a cut on the back of his right index finger that he suffered in what Rockies manager Bud Black had called a “kitchen accident,” struck out one and pitched around a hit and a wild pitch in the ninth.

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MLB Power Rankings After Two Months Of Baseball

Written by Matt Snyder at CBS Sports.com

Wednesday marks the final day of May, so we’re just about through two of the six months of the Major League Baseball season. Yes, mathematicians, we’re about one-third of the way through the MLB season.

For many, getting through Memorial Day is the right time to start looking at the standings and taking them seriously. For me, I’ve made it an Official Power Rankings rule that you aren’t allowed to say things like “it’s early” once we get to June. There are surprises and there will be turnarounds — both in the positive and the negative — moving forward for sure, but we’ve got a nice chunk of baseball banked.

Let’s zero in on the most surprising things so far and if I expect it to continue.

Twins are tied for AL Central lead

I liked the Twins to be better than last year, but how could they have possibly been as bad? They didn’t even win 60 games last year. To look at the AL Central this season without a horse in the race, it seemed pretty obvious the Indians would win it. They still probably will (that would be my prediction), but kudos to the Twins for this early-season run. Ervin Santana is throwing like a Cy Young candidate, Miguel Sano is hitting the ball harder than anyone, Robbie Grossman is an on-base machine and Jose Berrios has been filthy since his call-up.

Brewers lead the NL Central

The consensus coming into the season was that the Cubs would win the division with ease. If offered a fall-back option, most people would have likely taken the Cardinals. The Pirates have recently been a contender as well. The Brewers are still in the midst of a bit of a rebuild.

And yet, the Brewers hang onto first place past Memorial Day. Thanks in part to a ridiculous April from Eric Thames, the offense has exhibited great power throughout the season while getting fine rotation work from Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson. Corey Knebel has settled in as closer and done an outstanding job.

Alas, I don’t see this holding. The only reason the Brewers are still in first is the Cubs can’t get themselves together. But they will. Even if the Cubs only win 85-88 games, it’ll be enough to take the Central again. The Cardinals will finish second. The Brewers, though, continue to make progress with GM Doug Stearns’ rebuild. They won 73 games last year. Let’s assign them a .500 record this year, which is an eight-game improvement.

Last September, I said the Rockies were set up to be a sneaky contender this year, and nothing we’ve seen so far gives me any reason to change my mind. In fact, they’ll get back Jon Gray in the rotation and my hunch is Jeff Hoffman builds off his last outing at some point. The Rockies would then actually have rotation depth with those two, veterans Tyler Chatwood and Tyler Anderson and then young guns Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland and German Marquez. With their offense and the Greg Holland-led bullpen, that’s enough to grab the top NL wild card.

Yes, I have the Dodgers winning the NL West again. Again, though, I’d pick the Rockies as the top wild card right now.

Can the Diamondbacks remain in the mix for the second one? In my estimation, yes they can. The Cardinals will be there as well and the Mets probably find a way to hang around. Arizona’s success so far, though, seems real. They have a legit MVP candidate in Paul Goldschmidt and ace in Zack Greinke along with lots of other good pieces.

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Trea Turner Hits For Nationals 3rd Cycle

Written by Chelsea Janes at Washington Post.com

When Trea Turner slid into third base, having just completed the third cycle in Washington Nationals history, he dusted himself off and looked around, hoping someone would verify the feat.

“Wait a second,” he said, though he was not sure third base coach Bobby Henley had heard him when he did not receive an answer. Not until Turner saw the visitors’ dugout clamoring for the baseball did he know for sure.

“That was kind of my confirmation that I actually did it,” Turner said. “I saw people ask for the ball and I saw people clapping at me.”

 Tuesday night’s win was, as Dusty Baker put it afterward, “Coors Field at its finest,” a topsy-turvy contest in which the Nationals scored the game’s first seven runs and surrendered the game’s final seven runs . Joe Ross failed to last five innings, but never trailed. The Nationals’ offense — with a new-look lineup that included Turner hitting second and Ryan Zimmerman batting cleanup between Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy — scored a season-high 15 runs. Turner scored four of them.

Turner was not constructed for nights like Tuesday, when he wore a fleece mask and his long sleeves billowed as he chugged around the bases four times. Forty-degree evenings with gusting winds are not a common occurrence in Florida, where Turner played his high school ball, nor at North Carolina State, where he emerged as an elite prospect.

Sixty six minutes passed as a chilly rain fell before he got his shot. After the rain delay, temperatures sat in the mid-40s and only fell from there, producing the kind of night that normally belongs to pitchers and not to hitters, who risk paralyzing their hands with bad contact and see well-hit balls fall short of their destination. Turner, who admitted he’s “a baby when it comes to the cold,” seemed unaffected.

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Walt Weiss Resigns as Rockies’ Manager


Written by Liz Roscher at YahooSports.com

The managerial changes in major league baseball are rolling on. The Colorado Rockies announced on Monday morning that manager Walt Weiss has resigned his post. Weiss had helmed the Rockies since the 2013 season.

Weiss’ departure isn’t entirely unexpected. Weiss was in the last year of a three-year contract, and there were no negotiations to extend that during the season. And as Chris Cwik pointed out on Sunday in his column on managers in the hot seat, Weiss’ future in Colorado was very much in question. His managerial record is partly to blame: over four years, he racked up a record of 283-385.
Also to blame could be his relationship with general manager Jeff Bridich. Bridich apparently stopped including Weiss in decisions about player acquisitions this season,which is never a good sign for a manager. Weiss apparently addressed his relationship with the GM in a meeting he had with the owner of the Rockies on Sunday.

Weiss stepped down the very next day, so I’m guessing it didn’t go well.

Despite the overall results, it’s worth pointing out that Weiss did make progress with the team while he was there, though it was very, very incremental. The 2016 season was his best since 2013, his very first as Rockies manager. Of course, the 2014 and 2015 seasons were pretty bad for the Rockies, and that’s why progress had to be made in the first place.

Here’s an amazing factoid: in 2013, the Rockies finished fifth in the NL West with a 74-88 record. In 2016 they finished third in the NL West with a nearly identical 75-87 record.

The Rockies aren’t wallowing in the present. They’re wasting no time in moving forward and are already looking at candidates to replace Weiss.

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Rockies Rookie Hits 2 HR on Birthday


Written By Ben Weinrib at MLB.com

Cardullo hit a pinch-hit home run off Casey Fien in the seventh inning of the Rockies’ 7-0 win over the Dodgers in the first game of a split doubleheader. He topped that just hours later with a grand slam in the first inning of the second game off Dodgers starter Bud Norris.

“Every day I try to work hard, get better, and live in the present,” Cardullo said after the 10-8 loss in Game 2. “Obviously hitting two home runs today on my birthday was definitely special. I sat back and produced for the team.”

The journey has been long for Cardullo, who was a walk-on at Florida State before earning All-America honors his senior year. The D-backs selected him in the 24th round of the 2010 Draft, but the club released him after two years at Rookie-level ball. Four years of independent ball later — through London, Ontario; Florence, Ky.; and Pomona, N.Y. — the Rockies finally gave him a chance at with an invitation to Spring Training in January.

Cardullo played well enough to break camp with Triple-A Albuquerque and hit .308 with 17 home runs in 115 games before the Rockies selected his contract Friday.

“I’m at a loss for words with all the blessings that I’ve had this year,” Cardullo said. “Being given an opportunity to come to Spring Training, then making the team. Having a good year, and then the next thing you know I’m in the Major Leagues helping the team win. I’ve got to thank God for all his blessings.”

Cardullo collected his first career hit Monday, and his excitement after the homer was palpable on his first home run. He sprinted around first as the ball drifted over the outfield fence, and his trip around the bases — 18.8 seconds, according to Statcast™, on a 445-foot blast — was tied for the fourth-fastest time for a Rockies hitter this season.

“I didn’t know it was gone,” Cardullo said. “I knew I hit it pretty good. I thought it was going to bounce and hit the wall, and I was trying to get a triple out of that. Fortunately enough, it went over the fence. What a great feeling.”

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Story Might Have Best First Week Ever

Written by David Schoenfield at ESPN.com

You want to talk Trevor Story? OK, let’s talk Trevor Story. The Colorado Rockiesrookie shortstop slammed his seventh home in six games, a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth that gave the Rockies a 5-3 lead on their way to a 6-3 win against the San Diego Padres. There are all kinds of fun trivia related to his exploits and those of his teammates.

A few good ones:

— Story became the first player to hit seven home runs in his team’s first six games. Larry Walker (1997), Mike Schmidt (1976) and Willie Mays (1964) had each hit six. Pretty good company.

— Story has more home runs than 16 teams.

— Also, the Rockies are the second team to hit 17 home runs in their first six games, joining the 2006 Detroit Tigers.

How’s he doing his damage? Let’s review’s Story’s seven home runs, four of which have traveled 425-plus feet:

1. Off Zack Greinke: 0-1 fastball, line drive to right field.

2. Off Zack Grienke: 2-0 slider, fly ball to left-center.

3. Off Shelby Miller: 1-0 changeup, fly ball to left-center.

4. Off Patrick Corbin: 1-0 fastball, line drive to left-center.

5. Off Chaz Roe: 0-0 curveball, fly ball to left field.

6. Off Ryan Buchter: 3-2 fastball, fly ball to left field.

7. Off Brandon Maurer: 1-1 slider, fly ball to left-center.

You can see the impressive thing about these home runs: He has hit them against four different pitches. Sunday’s home run came against a hanging slider from Maurer that stayed up and over the plate. That’s what good sluggers are supposed to do — make you pay for a mistake.

It’s obviously too early to draw any kind of conclusion on Story. He has struck out eight times in 28 plate appearances and that was the knock against him coming up through the minors. Will his swing-and-miss tendencies get exploited at the major league level? While he had 70 extra-base hits in the minors last year, including 20 home runs, he also fanned 141 times in 130 games. He has just one walk so far but he hasn’t been overly aggressive and swinging at bad pitches. His chase rate on pitches outside the strike zone is 28.6 percent, just a tick above the major league average of 27.3 percent, and better discipline than teammates Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez.

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Rockies Rookie Sets Record

Written by Mark Kiszla at DenverPost.com

After touching ’em all with a home run trot, Rockies rookie Trevor Story reached out and touched the one person who could not be there in person at the ballpark: his late grandpa, the milkman.

“His name was Darrel Story. D-A-R-R-E-L. He died in 2012, during spring training,” Story told me Wednesday, after exhausting all his words on how he rewrote baseball history by hitting four home runs in three games to begin his major-league career.

Every time he rounds third and heads home, Story offers a quiet, little salute to his late grandfather as he hops on the plate. Rather than bat-flipping braggadocio, which seems to be all the rage in baseball, the 23-year-old Colorado rookie gives humble thanks after knocking a homer over the wall.

The gesture is so subtle and subdued, you might miss this home run celebration if not looking closely. Story gently raises his right fist under the chin, as if to push his head toward heaven, then briefly points to the sky and thanks Grandpa Darrel, who drove a Borden milk truck for a living in Texas on too many sizzling hot summer days to count.

“My grandfather was a big part of my baseball life. It’s a salute to him,” Story said. “He was at every single game. He would travel with me all through high school. My grandma, his wife, Norma, is with me right now, in Arizona, to see me play.”

Within a mind-blowing span of less than 72 hours, Story became the hottest trending word of the young baseball season.

“It’s kinda surreal,” he said, after the Rockies’ 4-3 victory against the Diamondbacks.

For those of you too busy picking your jaw off the floor to keep score at home, Story has smacked a fastball thrown by a Cy Young winner to the opposite field, reached out to jack a nasty slider into the bleachers, blasted an off-speed pitch into orbit with a 433-foot moon shot and, finally, during a Wednesday matinee, staked Colorado to an early lead with another towering homer that ricocheted off an electronic billboard at Chase Field

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