1. Home-plate collisions and extra innings. The final score reads Chicago Cubs 3, Pittsburgh Pirates 2, but there was a lot more to this game than 12 innings of playoff-like baseball between the teams that will likely meet in the National League wild-card game. Let's examine a crazy bottom of the eighth inning in Pittsburgh that led Joe Sheehan to tweet this:
If the last 20 minutes in Pittsburgh had happened in the postseason, it'd have inspired six books.— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) September 17, 2015
So what happened? Jake Arrieta, continuing his Bob Gibson impersonation, took a 2-1 lead into the inning, sitting at 99 pitches, with the only run scoring as a result of Arrieta's own two-out throwing error. Go to the bullpen? Not when you're the hottest pitcher in the game. Neil Walker reached on an infield single to start the inning, a play that Anthony Rizzo could have made. With pinch-runner Pedro Florimon running, Francisco Cervelli then lined a hard hit to shortstop Javier Baez, who somehow failed to catch the ball, and Florimon raced to third. It was ruled a single but it was a play that should have been made.
OK, runners at the corners, no outs. Josh Harrison hits a chopper to a charging Baez, who throws home. Considering the circumstances, it probably wasn't a smart play. If you don't make the out, it sets up a potential big inning for the Pirates. But Baez gets the out! With help from catcher Miguel Montero, who did a nice job blocking the plate as he received the ball, giving Florimon no path to score. This is the kind of play right in that gray area. The review let the play stand, ruling that Montero's positioning was a result of the throw. Hmm. I don't know. Montero was in a pretty effective roadblock as he waited for throw, providing Florimon no clear path to the plate. After a walk to Pedro Alvarez, Gregory Polanco hit a slow chopper to second, the tying run scoring, with the Cubs eventually turning your standard 4-3-4-2-5 double play.
The Cubs eventually won it in the 12th, with MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo hitting the go-ahead sacrifice fly.
2. Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers. He went 3-for-5 with two home runs and five RBIs as the Rangers roughed up Dallas Keuchel to increase their lead in the American League West over the Astros to 1.5 games.
Just how valuable has Prince Fielder been this series for #Rangers? He is hitting .615 with 3 homers, 8 RBI, 8 runs and 3 victories .— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) September 17, 2015
3. Ryan Goins, Toronto Blue Jays. Now playing shortstop with Troy Tulowitzki out, Goins is showing why he could be a Gold Glove contender at that position with plays like this. The quick release and length of throw is impressive; to me, one of the better plays I've seen this season, especially against a decent runner from the left side of the plate in Nick Markakis.
What a play my man RG17 ( @rgoins5 ) made tonight!! Wow it needs to be top play of the day...unless someone back flipped and caught a ball— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) September 17, 2015
4. Alex Wood, Los Angeles Dodgers. He had a chance at a Maddux -- that's a complete-game shutout with fewer than 100 pitches. But Don Mattingly pulled him after eight innings and just 78 pitches to have Kenley Jansen close out the 2-0 win over the Rockies. Hey, hard to go against going to Jansen there, even with the low pitch count. Plus it gave us one of my favorite quotes of the season:
Alex Wood on Mattingly removing him after 8 IP/1 H/78 P: "I was a little surprised. He went to shake my hand. I started pulling it back."— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) September 17, 2015
5. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians. (1) This play in the field. (2) Four RBIs at the plate as the Indians beat the Royals 5-1. (3) Don't forget about Lindor in the AL Rookie of the Year race. (4) Don't forget about the Indians in that second-wild card race, now 4 games behind the Astros.