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The Thursday Takeaway
Joe Blanton pitched a shutout for the Phillies. Bryce Harper drove home the game-winning run for the Nationals. The Royals won at home for the first time this season.

And none of it matters, because Mariano Rivera wrecked his knee. He did not slip off the mound. He was not scrambling to field a bunt. He did not trip while covering first base. Rivera was doing something else that virtually every pitcher does and that he has thoroughly enjoyed doing throughout his career: shagging balls during batting practice.

Asked, after an MRI revealed a torn ACL and meniscus, if he would ever play again, the 42-year-old showed rare emotion and told reporters, “I don’t know.” That Rivera even spoke hours after learning that his career may hang in the balance is a testament to everything he stands for. Few players are able to gain the perspective necessary to face the media before the next morning. Rivera is synonymous with winning, the epitome of a quiet leader, and in Jon Paul Morosi’s words, the most “regal” baseball player we have ever seen.

If this is it for Rivera, then May 3, 2012, will forever be a dark day in the sport’s history. Regardless of allegiance, the baseball world is wishing Rivera well, and that unity is yet another sign of his importance to the pastime.

Rivera certainly is not giving up hope. The season will go on. And—to steal a line from Buster Olney’s daily column—“today will be better than yesterday.”

What to Watch for This Weekend

  • The Astros won four consecutive games just three times all of last season, but they’ll have a chance to do so for the first time this year when they host the Cardinals tonight (8:05 p.m. ET). The challenge? Becoming the first team to take down Kyle Lohse in 2012. Look for Carlos Lee—who is 21-for-70 with five homers lifetime against Lohse—to lead the way.
  • You won’t find a hotter hitter than Carlos Gonzalez heading into the weekend; the Rockies outfielder is 15-for-43 with seven big flies over his last 10 games, including a pair off Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday. Gonzalez has feasted on Braves pitching thus far in his career, posting a .318/.388/.705 triple slash over 49 plate appearances, so Atlanta will want to tread carefully this weekend. Tim Hudson gets dibs on trying to cool CarGo down tonight (8:40 p.m. ET).
  • Ervin Santana has started five games this season, lost all five of them, and somehow managed to allow 10 home runs in 30 2/3 innings. He kept the Indians in the yard in his last start, but still dropped to 0-5 because the Angels could not score behind him. Now working on an obscene 6.99 FIP, Santana gets the power-packed Blue Jays, who feature two of the top 10 home-run hitters in the American League, tonight (10:05 p.m. ET). Somewhere, Edwin Encarnacion is salivating.
  • Looking for rotation reinforcements, the Red Sox are going to give Aaron Cook a whirl on Saturday against the Orioles (1:10 p.m. ET), after the sinkerballing righty logged a 1.99 ERA over 33 1/3 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket. Cook has not been a serviceable big-leaguer since 2009, but Boston needed a replacement for Josh Beckett (shoulder soreness) and has decided to see if the 33-year-old has anything left. You know things are desperate when Mark Prior is on speed dial
  • No starting pitcher since 1990 has managed to go a full season with an ERA below 4.00 and a K/9 rate below 3.00. Yet, Derek Lowe — who will get the ball for the Tribe against the Rangers on Saturday (7:05 p.m. ET) — is currently carrying a 2.27 ERA despite having fanned only nine batters through 31 2/3 innings. The 38-year-old will need his inner Houdini and then some to maintain that pace through the weekend.