I like Matt Shoemaker, and not just because he is on my fantasy baseball dynasty team. In interviews, he seems like a good bloke. And at times, like the second half of 2014 when he posted an ERA of just 1.87, he has looked like a stud.
Of course, I mainly root for him, as Shoemaker was the recipient of a 105 mph line drive from Mariners Kyle Seager in September 2016. It caught him square on the side of the head, fracturing his skull and causing a massive brain bleed. A two-hour surgery was required to save his life.
He made one start this season for the Angels (and my dynasty team) before hitting the DL in April with nerve and tendon damage in his right forearm. Not a good combination for a starting pitcher.
The 31-year-old tossed an encouraging scoreless outing against the Rangers when he returned to the roster at the start of September. He also got through the first two innings in Thursday’s Facebook Watch game without conceding a run.
So, when Shoemaker retook the mound in the bottom of the third inning with a 1-0 lead, few expected the Athletics to come back and inflict the worst loss in Angels franchise history.
The five-run third inning was quickly followed by a seven-run fourth, rendering the game nothing more than an exhibition. But we still saw the Athletics score a further nine runs. They will be fun to watch in October.
The west coast time difference means we don’t get to see Mike Trout live on TV in the UK as much as I would like, but the superstar duly delivered a monster shot – his 36th home run of the season.
The game also featured an impactful appearance by an Angels two-way player. Surgery-bound Shohei Ohtani went 0-for-2 with a walk, but it was catcher Francisco Arcia who performed with both bat and ball. The 29-year-old hit a home run and tossed two innings of relief. Let’s just say he looks better with a bat in his hand than a ball.
The most important consequence of the 21-3 result was that it keeps the Athletics just 1½ games behind the Yankees in the battle for that all-important home-field advantage in the AL Wild Card playoff game on Wednesday 3 October.
That was the final Facebook Watch game of the season. I know there are critics, but I think it has been a great addition to help increase the audience, especially outside of the USA.
We still have a few more televised games in the UK during the final few days of the regular season. Here’s a quick look at the best of the selection.
Depending on results over the next couple of days, it is possible that the Braves will clinch the NL East title against the Phillies on Sunday. It is the free game on MLB TV at 6:35 pm (UK time).
Marlins vs. Nationals is an inconsequential matchup, but it is the free game on MLB TV at 9:05 pm on Wednesday.
Both BT Sport and MLB TV are showing the Rockies take on the Phillies at 8:10 pm on Thursday. This could be a great game if the Rockies are still in contention for one of the NL Wild Card spots. They are currently 1½ games behind the Cardinals.
Every game during the final three days of the regular season is free on MLB TV. Cardinals vs. Cubs at 7:20 pm on Friday could be important for St Louis. This game is also on BT ESPN.
The Yankees might still be playing to secure home-field advantage for the Wild Card playoff, which could give even extra spice to the final weekend against the Red Sox. Catch them at 6:00 pm Saturday or 8:00 pm Sunday.