The Astros continue falling while Bryce Harper and Francisco Lindor continue rising.
The Wednesday Takeaway
The Pirates have been furiously trying to run down the Cardinals in the National League Central over the past few weeks. But even with the Pirates entering Wednesday just 3½ games behind the division leaders, the most likely outcome remained that they would square off with the Cubs in the NL Wild Card game, with our Playoff Odds pegging St. Louis at 80 percent to win the division. (And that's before St. Louis beat Milwaukee 5-4 on Wednesday.)
Pittsburgh pulling off the improbable comeback would certainly make for great September drama but so would a one-game playoff between the Cubs and Pirates, if their two one-run games to kick off their latest series was any indication. The Pirates took the series opener on Monday by a score of 5-4 and the Cubs evened the series on Tuesday, 2-1, behind a complete-game gem by Jon Lester. Wednesday's game—the third of the four-game set—pitted Jake Arrieta on the mound opposite A.J. Burnett, and while it wasn't the most fundamentally sound game, it featured the type of excitement that we can only hope is matched in a potential one-game playoff between the two squads.
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The Tuesday Takeaway
With first place in the American League West on the line in Arlington, the Rangers announced their intent to seize it loud and clear—and early—on Tuesday night. Derek Holland erased a leadoff single with a double-play ball and a two-out double with a groundout. Then the Rangers' offense went to work.
The Monday Takeaways
Twice on Monday night the Astros had the lead, with a chance to extend their advantage in the AL West over the Rangers, and twice the Rangers hit timely, downright cinematic home runs to take the lead. The Arlingtonians marched to an eventual 5-3 win.
The scoring in the game was back and forth the entire way. Jose Altuve opened things up with a solo home run off Cole Hamels in the first. Rougned Odor doubled Prince Fielder home in the second. George Springer drove Jake Marisnick home on a fielder's choice in the fifth, with Marisnick very narrowly beating the throw from first baseman Mitch Moreland. Moreland was of little fault in that exchange—it would have been a close play in any situation, and Marisnick moves well—but he got himself out of the nonexistent doghouse in the bottom of the sixth. After fouling off a first-pitch fastball from Scott Kazmir, he took another swing at the same pitch and put it into the left-field bleachers to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
The Wednesday Takeaway
When the Nationals took the field last night, their hopes of gaining ground on the Mets in the three-game showdown on their turf had already been dashed. The series victory had already been celebrated in the visitors' clubhouse. All the hosts could do now was avoid a sweep.
Washington's homegrown franchise cornerstones, Stephen Strasburg—the first-overall pick in the 2009 draft—and Bryce Harper, who followed in his footsteps in 2010, marched onto the diamond determined to deprive Mid-Atlantic headline writers of the "National disaster" puns they craved. A loss would justify those, of course, because there'd be no other way to spin a seven-game deficit with 23 left to play.
A long weekend saw a lot of baseball; get in here to find out what happened while you were grilling
The (Long) Weekend Takeaway
The National League East was sort of a race again, until it wasn't.
This weekend, the Nationals took three games from the epically awful Braves (I'll get to them in a bit) while the Mets dropped two of three to the Marlins in Miami. On Saturday, Matt Harvey threw a wrench into just about everything and seemed to put the very existence of time and space in doubt. Harvey is quickly creeping up on the 180-inning limit suggested by Dr. James Andrews, and if he were to keep pitching at his current pace he'd hit that before the Mets (presumably) begin the playoffs. Harvey was mum on his plans beyond Tuesday's scheduled start against the Nationals.
A Royals blowout and Kershaw lead yesterday's highlights
The Wednesday Takeaway
The Royals own a division lead of 12 games that is five and a half games bigger than any other division lead in baseball, and almost three times the combined number games the Astros and Blue Jays are ahead of their division rivals. On Wednesday night they proceeded to emphasize what everybody knew by pounding the Tigers into the dirt. They started off by hammering the somehow still active Randy Wolf for eight runs in 3 2/3 innings. Ben Zobrist got the scoring started by smoking a solo home run to left off a hanging curve in the first.
An unlikely duo strikes a blow for the Rays, and more of yesterday's action.
The Tuesday Takeaway
In early April of this year, the Orioles released catcher J.P. Arencibia and watched him sign a minor-league deal with the division-rival Rays. About a month after that, in a completely independent event, the Rays lost Drew Smyly to a torn labrum in his left shoulder. With the southpaw's season in doubt, the odds were solidly against either Arencibia or Smyly furthering the O's summer tailspin on the first day of September.
Smyly forewent surgery, which would have ended his year, and instead rehabbed his shoulder to the point where the Rays cleared him for duty in mid-August. The early results were mixed—two clunkers sandwiching one strong showing—and there was reason to wonder if the 26-year-old's arsenal would regain its crispness before 2016.
If Shelby Miller didn't have bad luck, he wouldn't have no luck at all.
The Monday Takeaway Shelby Miller woke up yesterday thinking he would start today. Then he got word from manager Fredi Gonzalez that Mike Foltynewicz had fallen ill and was going to be scratched because of flu-like symptoms. Miller, on regular rest anyway, agreed to take the rookie's place.
In so doing, the right-hander might have been hoping to drum up a little good karma for himself, karma that, ideally, would manifest itself in the form of run support. Miller had compiled a 3.24 ERA in his previous 18 starts, but the Braves had gone just 3-15 behind him, and the ex-Cardinal had no wins to show for his fine work on the mound. You'd be hard-pressed to find better evidence that win-loss records belong in the dustbin than his 0-10 record since May 23rd.
Dingers and no-hitters and division races. It's alllllll here.
The Weekend Takeaway
The Blue Jays' are good at offense; that's your weekend takeaway. Really, that's been the takeaway from the last month, but it came to a head this weekend, especially regarding Edwin Encarnacion.
Encarnacion has a 25-game hitting streak that began on July 26th. His ISO in August is .525. To say he's crushing the ball would be selling him short. Encarnacion has benefitted from a BABIP in the upper .300s, but he has also cut his ground-ball rate in half and replaced the missing grounders with line drives. He's cut his GB/FB ratio nearly in half from the first half to the second.
The weekend is here! What are you going to do about it?
The Thursday Takeaway Yordano Ventura's 10-month-long road from World Series stardom back to big-league dominance had no shortage of twists and turns. He was ejected from back-to-back starts in April, spent a month on the shelf with ulnar neuritis in his throwing elbow in June, and was briefly demoted to Triple-A, with only the season-ending injury to Jason Vargas' elbow sparing Ventura a summertime stint in Omaha. But the electric right-hander appears to have come out the other side just fine.
He'd held foes to two or fewer runs in three straight starts before Thursday, when the Orioles bore witness to the crispest stuff Ventura has wielded all season. He fired 36 four-seamers at the Birds and averaged—yes, averaged—99.6 mph with the fastball, approaching 102 and entering triple digits time and time again: