From Banker to Bullpen, Pujols Will Retire No Matter How Close He Is to 700, Little League Classic, More

Sunday brought us a pretty cool moment when a Mets farmhand made his major league debut just over a year removed from being out of baseball.

From Banker to Bullpen: Fisher Shines in MLB Debut

After a tough series with the Atlanta Braves last week, the Mets righted the ship with a sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies. Capped off with a Mark Canha bat flip in a wild come-from-behind victory for the Mets on Sunday, they handled their business.

With injuries to the rotation, the Mets were forced to start Jose Butto in Sunday’s finale against the Phils, and it wasn’t a pretty start for the rookie right-hander. Bhutto surrendered seven runs on nine hits over four innings of work. Buck Showalter might have considered pulling Bhutto earlier, but he needed those innings out of the 24-year-old rookie.

Behind Butto in the Mets bullpen was another older rookie (by baseball’s standards), 26-year-old Nate Fisher. Fisher worked as a commercial lending analyst at a bank in Omaha just 14 months ago after he was released by the Mariners, the team that signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2019. Fisher ended up performing much better than Bhutto in his MLB debut on Sunday.

After having his contract selected by the Mets on Sunday morning, Fisher made his big league debut in the fifth inning of a wonky offensive explosion in Philadelphia. He responded by firing off three innings of scoreless baseball. Fisher’s performance was good enough to give the Mets time to mount a comeback, but it was memorable for him for reasons outside of the box score.

“It’s been a crazy journey,” Fisher said. “I always believed in myself, never got down on myself. My family and support system have been so amazing and just so critical. I’m just so thankful for the people around me that kept me going when there was some uncertainty, and I’m just truly blessed for the opportunity.”

Orioles Top Bo-Sox in Little League Classic

Sunday night’s fifth annual Little League Classic at Muncy Bank Ballpark at Bowman Field featured two American League East foes jockeying for position in the Wild Card standings with just over a month to play on the schedule.

Boston, one of baseball’s more head-scratching disappointments this season, and Baltimore, one of baseball’s most exciting surprises, made for a great matchup. The play lived up to the billing as the O’s edged the Red Sox with a three-run rally in the home half of the eighth inning.

Fittingly, it was a little league-esque play that made the difference. In a game of home runs and strikeouts, Jorge Mateo belted a worm-burner down the third base line under the glove of an outstretched Rafael Devers to plate three.

Still, Sunday was more than the Orioles moving to 63-58 and 2.5 games behind the Mariners for the final Wild Card spot in the AL. Sunday was about making memories for youngsters aspiring to be there one day. It was also about reminding the big leaguers what it was like to be a kid playing the game often referred to as a kid’s game.

Mateo, the hero on Sunday night for the Orioles, said that as cool as it was putting on a show for the kids, it was a reminder of his childhood:

“It was really cool seeing all the kids get excited and really enjoy that moment and cherish it,” Mateo said through team interpreter Brandon Quinones. “It’s something that reminded me of my own childhood.”

Here are some cool moments from Sunday’s festivities that I found around Twitter:

Cards Win 7th Straight, Pujols Inches Closer to 700

Look, I know that most of the Cubs contingent here isn’t going to be thrilled about the extra Cardinals/Albert Pujols talk the next couple of weeks, but Pujols is chasing one of the most untouchable marks in baseball history in 700 home runs.

Pujols inched closer to that mark on Saturday when he went yard twice against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Pujols went 4-for-4 on Saturday and became the oldest player (42 years 217 days) since 1900 to go 4-4 with multiple HR in a game (per ESPN Stats & Info). The last player to accomplish the feat was Stan Musial in 1961.

The Cardinals thumped the Diamondbacks on Saturday (16-7) and then capped a sweep of Arizona on Sunday (6-4). The weekend sweep moved their current winning streak to seven games and their lead in the NL Central to five games over the Milwaukee Brewers. St. Louis has been the hottest team in baseball, winning 15 of their 18 games in August. Albert Pujols entered Sunday, hitting .438 with a 1.428 OPS and seven home runs in 17 games since the ASG.

Still, Pujols insists that the chase for 700 will end this season one way or another. The 42-year-old slugger reiterated to Bob Nightengale recently that he will still be retiring regardless of where the chase for 700 ends up.

“I’m still going to retire, no matter whether I end up hitting 693, 696, 700, whatever,” Pujols told USA TODAY Sports. “I don’t get caught up in numbers. If you were going to tell me 22 years ago that I would be this close, I would have told you that you’re freakin’ crazy. My career has been amazing.

“If I can’t hit 70 homers, I’m not coming back,” Pujols said, laughing. “No, I’ve had enough. I’m glad I made the announcement, this was it when I signed. Really, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Odds and Ends

  • The White Sox are promoting a slew of prospects from High-A and Single-A to Double-A Birmingham to create an interesting experiment they’re calling “Project Birmingham.” Colson Montgomery, who has played at both levels of A-ball this season, leads a group of 13 prospects heading to Birmingham for a prospect camp featuring some of their best young talents that will take place over the final month of the MiLB season.
  • I was a big fan of Adley Rutschman until he made me feel old as heck by listing Buster Posey as his favorite athlete. I’m still a fan, but … not cool, Adley. Not cool.
  • Andrew Benintendi hit his first home run as a Yankee (and his first since June), and it was the difference in a Yankees win over the Blue Jays on Sunday.
  • Gallo had himself a nice game on Sunday in another Dodgers win. Here’s a dart from left field to nail Joey Wendle at the plate to keep the Marlins off the board:
  • Fresh power rankings from MLB.com:

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