x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Late-season MLB call-ups adding a little pinch of excitement

No team would have room for such a specialist from April through August yet a pinch runner in September can make all the difference in the MLB, writes Gregg Patton.

The September call-up Billy Hamilton, who set the minor-league record with 155 stolen bases in 2012, stole second base and scored the winning run twice in his first five days with the Reds. Michael Hickey / Getty Images
The September call-up Billy Hamilton, who set the minor-league record with 155 stolen bases in 2012, stole second base and scored the winning run twice in his first five days with the Reds. Michael Hickey / Getty Images

It is a different kind of baseball in September, and not just because the intensity rises for the play-off chases ahead.

Strategically, it is different. With teams expanding from 25 to 40 players, to give minor leaguers a taste of the majors, managers have greater options for relief pitching match-ups, pinch-hitters, defensive replacements and, the most specialised of baseball tasks, pinch-running.

The Cincinnati Reds have taken full advantage of the latter. The September call-up Billy Hamilton, who set the minor-league record with 155 stolen bases in 2012, stole second base and scored the winning run twice in his first five days with the Reds.

His run defeated the St Louis Cardinals 1-0, in his debut game. Four days later, he raced home from second base on a single against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hamilton has yet to bat or play in the field, but he has four stolen bases during his time with the team; his career statistics may be the oddest in the game's history.

No team would have room for such a specialist from April through August.

The Boston Red Sox also used a new base-stealing artist, Quintin Berry, to forge a ninth-inning tie against the New York Yankees' elite relief pitcher, Mariano Rivera, before winning in extra innings last week.

September call-ups are an entrenched part of baseball. So entrenched that no one seems to mind the quirky changes they bring to the most decisive stretch of the season.

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