One Last Dose

Thursday was an absolutely amazing night to be a baseball fan, as the Brewers, Mets, and Twins all produced walk-off wins. Jose Reyes scored the winning run on a Carlos Beltran ninth-inning single as the Mets beat a bunch of Cubs second stringers to take the Wild Card lead, but minutes later Ryan Braun's extra-inning grand slam moved the Brewers back into a tie for the NL's final playoff spot.

Meanwhile, Carlos Gomez and Denard Span helped erase a five-run deficit and Alexi Casilla delivered the game-winning single off Bobby Jenks in extra innings as the Twins swept the White Sox to take a half-game lead in the AL Central. For those of us with the MLB Extra Innings package it was nirvana, and better yet set things up for a thrilling final weekend.

While my first love pulls me away from football for one last Daily Dose, here are some other notes from around baseball .

* Cliff Lee turned in his third straight poor start Tuesday-watching his ERA rise from 2.28 to 2.54 over that span-and has also been bothered recently by a sore neck, so the Indians announced Thursday that he's likely done for the year. Lee was set to work the regular-season finale Sunday versus the White Sox and left open the possibility that he may pitch if the game impacts the AL Central race.

However, as much as the Twins would no doubt appreciate Lee taking one last turn in the rotation with their postseason hopes potentially on the line, there's no reason for the Indians to chance anything if he's less than 100 percent. "It's not my decision," Lee said. "My job is to pitch when they want me to pitch and that's what I'll do. I definitely want to pitch every chance I get."

Lee likely already has the Cy Young award wrapped up by leading the league in both wins and ERA, but Roy Halladay joined him in the 20-victory club Thursday by going the distance for the MLB-leading ninth time this year while allowing two runs in a complete-game win over the Yankees. Halladay is now second to Lee in both categories, and the gap between their overall performances is fairly slim:

Lee 31 22 3 223 2.54 170 34 .253
Halladay 33 20 11 246 2.78 206 39 .237

Advanced metrics like Win Probability Added and Fielding Independent Pitching also show Lee as superior to Halladay, and my hypothetical ballot would agree. However, the actual voting won't even be close when Francisco Rodriguez steals the save-obsessed vote, so it's worth noting what a fantastic year Halladay has had while playing in a much tougher division than Lee.

* Manager Lou Piniella benched just about every key player Thursday, but rookie Micah Hoffpauir almost single-handedly led the Cubs' reserves to a win over the Mets by going 5-for-5 with a pair of homers and five RBIs. He's 28 years old and accumulated nearly 2,700 plate appearances in the minors before getting his first taste of the majors, but Hoffpauir is having a historically great debut.

Hoffpauir has hit .387/.441/.613 with two homers and eight doubles in 68 trips to the plate, and his 1.054 OPS ranks sixth all time among first-year players with at least 65 plate appearances, sandwiched between Daric Barton (1.068) last year and Ted Williams (1.045) in 1939. Shane Spencer tops the list with a 1.321 OPS in 73 plate appearances for the Yankees as a 26-year-old rookie in 1998.

* Piniella announced the Cubs' postseason rotation Thursday and Game 1 of the NLDS will go to Ryan Dempster, who resumed starting after four seasons in the bullpen and has gone 17-6 with a 2.99 ERA and 175-to-83 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 201.2 innings. He'll be followed by Rich Harden, Carlos Zambrano, and Ted Lilly, which is a foursome that likely makes Chicago the NL favorites.

* After being allowed to pitch on three straight days twice in the span of 10 days, Mariano Rivera complained of shoulder soreness and is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam. He's done for the year, leaving Joba Chamberlain with any closing duties for the final three games. At the age of 38, Rivera ends up with the best WHIP (0.68) and second-best ERA (1.43) of his Hall of Fame career.

* Vladimir Guerrero was sporting a sub-.800 OPS as late as June 14, but a huge September has him on track to join Lou Gehrig as the only players to ever bat at least .300 with 25-plus homers in 11 straight years. He homered twice Thursday and is 27-for-64 (.422) this month, putting him at .304/.366/.523 with 27 homers in 141 games. A big weekend could give him an 11th straight .900-plus OPS too.

* As if losing their 101st game of the season wasn't enough for a Thursday, an anonymous "clubhouse insider" told the Seattle Times that Mariners teammates were so annoyed with Ichiro Suzuki earlier this year that they considered beating him up. Seriously. Jim Riggleman is just 33-54 since taking over as skipper and wasn't around for the early problems, but came to Ichiro's defense in a big way.

* Finally, from me, Matthew Pouliot, Patrick Dahl, Drew Silva, Nick Nelson, Nate Stephens, Matthew St-Germain, Derek Carty, and everyone else who contributed to Rotoworld's baseball coverage this season, thanks for reading. Of course, we go year-round, so our coverage will keep chugging along throughout the playoffs and what figures to be a busy offseason. In other words, no waiting 'til next year.

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