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Baseball reflects on HOF pair Weaver, Musial

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Baseball reflects on HOF pair Weaver, Musial

One was born in St. Louis, the other became a star there.

Aside from that, Earl Weaver and Stan Musial were about as different as two Hall of Famers could be.

``Talk about your odd couple,'' said George Vecsey, the longtime sports columnist for The New York Times who wrote a recent biography of Musial.

Weaver was a 5-foot-6 rabble rouser whose penchant for quarreling with umpires belied a cerebral approach to managing that has stood the test of time. Musial was a humble slugger with a funky batting stance who was beloved by Cardinals fans and respected by pretty much everyone else.

Saturday began with news of Weaver's death at age 82, and by the end of the night Musial had died, too, leaving baseball to reflect on two distinguished careers rich in contrasts.

``Earl was well known for being one of the game's most colorful characters with a memorable wit, but he was also amongst its most loyal,'' Commissioner Bud Selig said.

Selig later released a statement after Musial's death at age 92.

``Stan's life embodies baseball's unparalleled history and why this game is the national pastime. As remarkable as `Stan the Man' was on the field, he was a true gentleman in life,'' Selig said.

A three-time MVP and seven-time National League batting champion, Musial helped the Cardinals win three World Series championships in the 1940s. His popularity in St. Louis can be measured by the not one, but two statues that stand in his honor outside Busch Stadium. After his death Saturday, Cardinals of more recent vintage began offering condolences almost immediately.

``Sad to hear about Stan the Man, it's an honor to wear the same uniform,'' said a message posted on the Twitter account of Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday.

Albert Pujols, who led St. Louis to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011 before leaving as a free agent before last season, offered prayers for Musial's family via Twitter.

``I will cherish my friendship with Stan for as long as I live,'' said a message posted on Pujols' site. ``Rest in Peace.''

Weaver was born in St. Louis, but his greatest success came as a manager in Baltimore. He took the Orioles to the World Series four times, winning one title in 1970.

Never a fan of small-ball strategies like bunting and stealing bases, Weaver preferred to wait for a three-run homer, always hoping for a big inning that could break the game open.

``No one managed a ballclub or pitching staff better than Earl,'' said Davey Johnson, who played under Weaver with the Orioles.

Johnson now manages the Washington Nationals and ran the Orioles from 1996-97.

``He was decades ahead of his time,'' Johnson said. ``Not a game goes by that I don't draw on something Earl did or said. I will miss him every day.''

While Musial could let his bat do the talking, Weaver was more than willing to shout to be heard. His salty-tongued arguing with umpires will live on through YouTube, and Orioles programs sold at the old Memorial Stadium frequently featured photos of Weaver squabbling.

Former umpire Don Denkinger remembered a game in which the manager disputed a call with Larry McCoy at the plate.

``Earl tells us, `Now I'm gonna show you how stupid you all are.' Earl goes down to first base and ejects the first base umpire. Then he goes to second base and ejects the second base umpire. I'm working third base and now he comes down and ejects me,'' Denkinger said.

Musial was a quieter type who spent his career far removed from the bright lights of places like New York and Boston. But his hitting exploits were certainly on par with contemporaries Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.

``I knew Stan very well. He used to take care of me at All-Star games, 24 of them,'' Hall of Famer Willie Mays said. ``He was a true gentleman who understood the race thing and did all he could. Again, a true gentleman on and off the field - I never heard anybody say a bad word about him, ever.''

Dave Anderson of The New York Times recalled growing up in Brooklyn, rooting for Musial. Those Dodgers crowds helped give Musial his nickname, Stan the Man.

``I thought he was going to knock the fence down in Brooklyn, he'd hit it so often,'' Anderson said.

Musial did it despite an odd left-handed stance - with his legs and knees close together, he would cock the bat near his ear and twist his body away from the pitcher before uncoiling when the ball came.

If that was a lasting snapshot of Musial, the images of Weaver will stay just as fresh - the feisty manager, perhaps with his hat turned backward, looking up at an umpire and screaming at him before kicking dirt somewhere and finally leaving the field.

None of those histrionics should obscure the fact that in the end, Weaver often had the last laugh - to the tune of a .583 career winning percentage.

``When you discuss our game's motivational masters, Earl is a part of that conversation,'' Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said. ``He was a proven leader in the dugout and loved being a Hall of Famer. Though small in stature, he was a giant as a manager.''

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Ynoa pitches 8 solid innings to lead Orioles past Rays 3-1

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Ynoa pitches 8 solid innings to lead Orioles past Rays 3-1

BALTIMORE  -- Gabriel Ynoa pitched eight innings of five-hit ball, Manny Machado homered and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 on Thursday night in a matchup between fading AL East teams.

Machado's two-run homer in the first inning off Matt Andriese (5-4) propelled the Orioles to their third win in 15 games. Baltimore has only a mathematical chance of reaching the postseason and must go 7-1 the rest of the way to avoid its first losing season since 2011.

Tampa Bay has lost nine of 13 since reaching the .500 mark on Sept. 5. The Rays began the day trailing Minnesota by four games for the second wild-card spot.

Ynoa (2-2) struck out three and walked two in earning his first win as a starter in six career tries. He failed to go past five innings in any of his previous starts.

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MLB Postseason 2017: Updated Wild Card Standings

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MLB Postseason 2017: Updated Wild Card Standings

The 2017 MLB Wild Card race is at full throttle and at this point it will be a matter of who gets hot at the right time.

Both races will not be settled this week. Likely we will have to wait until the final weekend to see who will be in the postseason.

With so many teams still in the hunt, the American League race is absolutely bonkers. While the National League looks more condensed, the schedule has this playing out up until the final game of the season.

RELATED: FULL MLB POSTSEASON UPDATE

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Specifically looking at the American League, the race for the second Wild Card spot is wide open. Ten teams are still mathematically alive but realistically it is six teams battling for one position.

The New York Yankees (85-67) completed an impressive three game series sweep over the Twins, winning the series by a combined score of 18-6. New York’s postseason magic number is three but they have their sights on the Boston Red Sox for the AL East Division.

Well ahead of everyone else in the race, the Yankees will still be a factor in the battle for the second Wild Card. They play three teams (Toronto – six games, Tampa Bay – three games, Kansas City – one game) that are still alive.

Losing five of their last six, the Minnesota Twins (78-74) are not sitting in a comfortable position. This weekend against the Tigers is crucial in solidifying their position because they travel to Cleveland next week for a three game series. That is a series they do not want to enter with a one-to-two game lead on the Los Angeles Angels

Being the first team out does not put the Angels (76-75) in a good position because they are currently in a series with the Indians and then travel to the Houston Astros over the weekend.

The Texas Rangers (75-76) are in a prime position to make-up ground playing Seattle and Oakland in eight of their final 11 games.

Both the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles face off this weekend for a four-game series. Anything but a sweep or a 3-1 series win would basically eliminate each team from contention.

AL WILD CARD RACE (AS OF SEPT 21):

New York Yankees:     +7.0
Minnesota Twins:           ---
Los Angeles Angels:     -1.5
Texas Rangers:             -2.5
Kansas City Royals:      -3.5
Seattle Mariners:           -4.0
Tampa Bay Rays:          -4.0
Baltimore Orioles:          -5.5
Toronto Blue Jays:        -7.0
Oakland Athletics:         -9.0

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Less crazy but perhaps more interesting is the race in the National League. It’s a four-team race for two positions, with two teams each from the West and the Central.

Sitting 6.5 games to the good, the Arizona Diamondbacks (88-65) are in a pretty good spot. They do not play a single team over .500 the rest of the way and can essentially be on cruise control the rest of the way until October.

The Colorado Rockies (82-70) are positioned the best out of the remaining teams. Plenty of opportunities for the team lie ahead to gain on their lead with the Padres on the road and the Marlins at home in their next two series.

If the Rockies were to slip, the Milwaukee Brewers (81-71) and St. Louis Cardinals (79-72) are right behind them. Both are preoccupied with their NL Central race with the Chicago Cubs that is still in each team’s control.

NL WILD CARD RACE (AS OF SEPT 21):

Arizona Diamondbacks:  +5.5
Colorado Rockies:             ---
Milwaukee Brewers:         -1.0
St. Louis Cardinals:          -2.5
Miami Marlins:                -10.0

RELATED: MIKE RIZZO PROVIDES UPDATE ON BRYCE HARPER