Reyes Rises to Occasion: Jose Reyes Willie Randolph
Some of the criticism has been fair. Reyes hit .205 last September and his mental lapses always seem to occur at the worst time. But much of it hasn't been fair. He's been slammed for being unprofessional, for being carefree -- his elaborate handshakes and big smile the sign of someone who didn't care enough to stop New York's free-fall.
The truth? Reyes is a terrific player who went cold at the wrong time last year, but the Mets wouldn't have gotten as far as they did without him in the lineup. Tuesday night's win over the Cubs must have felt especially good to Reyes. His bases-clearing triple gave the Mets a bullpen-proof lead.
Johan Santana was the hero, but Reyes got the big hit. He ensured that the Mets would get a reprieve from all the collapse talk, kept them atop the wild-card race and helped them pick up a game on the Phillies. Has Reyes been vindicated? Not yet. But if the Mets do grab a playoff berth, Reyes' bases-clearing triple will be a big part of it.
- Vazquez Comes Up Small:Javier Vazquez did nothing to prove Ozzie Guillen wrong. The White Sox manager said Vazquez wasn't a big-game pitcher, and in the biggest game of Chicago's season to date, well, he wasn't much of a pitcher.
Should Guillen have said anything? No. Guillen does seem to have a touch for motivating his players, but he can go overboard sometimes, and saying what he did about Vazquez probably only increased the pressure on the pitcher. Things could get really scary for the White Sox really fast. Chicago isn't a good road team, and it has two left at the Metrodome.
If the Sox can't win the next two, they'll have, at best, a 1 1/2 game lead on the Twins entering the final weekend. Minnesota gets three with the Royals, while the Indians head to the South Side. Cleveland is 32-18 since the beginning of August, and if the White Sox need a win on Sunday, they'll send Vazquez to the mound against presumptive AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee. That's a long way of saying the White Sox need to take care of business in Minnesota, to avoid a very interesting final weekend of the regular season.
- Prince-ly Feat: Much like Reyes, Prince Fielder picked up the biggest hit of his team's season, clubbing a walk-off home run against the Pirates to keep the Brewers just one game back of the Mets in the wild-card race. Fielder is having a great September. He's hitting .319 and has a 1.049 OPS this month with six home runs.
- Wrap Party: The Diamondbacks came into Tuesday needing a big performance from Randy Johnson and got the exact opposite. Now it will take a minor miracle for Arizona to qualify for the postseason. Manny Ramirez, Joe Torre and all the Hollywood stars are almost certain to play in October.
- Excessive Celebration?: The Red Sox partied like they'd never won anything after clinching a playoff spot even though they've been the most successful franchise in baseball for most of the decade. It might seem strange for a team that has been through this before, but as manager Terry Francona has been quick to point out, it's no small achievement to make the playoffs.