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The Wednesday Takeaway:

Baseball’s playoff race isn’t quite as exciting as it has been in recent years, but we still have one legitimate battle brewing. The Rockies, Cardinals, and Brewers are racing for the second Wild Card in the National League, with the Rockies just 1.5 games up heading into Wednesday.

The trailing Cardinals and Brewers saw their chances at a playoff berth take significant hits on Wednesday, though, as St. Louis fell 5-1 to the Cubs and Milwaukee suffered a 6-0 loss to the Reds. To make it worse, the Rockies stormed their way to a 15-9 win against the Marlins, gaining a full game in the standings and dropping their magic number down to three.

While this fight is far from over, it’s getting more and more unlikely that the second Wild Card changes hands in the final days of the season. With the Rockies receiving a day off on Thursday, look for the Brewers and Cardinals to try to inch a half-game up in the standings—as of right now, the pair are 2.5 and 3.5 games back, respectively, with the Cardinals’ elimination number all the way down to one.

Quick Hits

The Astros cruised to their 98th victory in classic Houston fashion: the standard 12-2 blowout has become routine, and those two home runs from Carlos Correa along with a George Springer grand slam are to be expected at this point.

But sandwiched between those big blasts was a fisted ground ball through the second base hole by Jose Altuve, an ordinary single which signified a milestone that was anything but. With that first-inning knock, the .347-hitting Altuve notched his 200th hit of the season, reaching that plateau for the fourth straight year.

Altuve joins rare company with that achievement, becoming just the fifth player since 1947 with four straight 200-hit years. The others in that exclusive club? None other than Ichiro Suzuki, Wade Boggs, Kirby Puckett, and Michael Young. Now with 1,246 career hits, Altuve is on track to reach 3,000 hits by age 35, which would make him the second-youngest player ever to make it to that lofty total.

Of course, "on track" only means so much, but that footnote reminds us that among superstars like Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, and more, the 5-foot-6 Altuve is raking his way to the history books in his own way. Amid a possible MVP season, the 27-year-old deserves to grace the rarified air of baseball’s best. He’s certainly earned that distinction.

***

A win’s a win, no matter the circumstance. Whether you’re 10 games up, 10 games back, on the brink of a clinch, or with your back against the wall, the feeling of a great win will resonate with players and fans in all situations. The Athletics may be 73-85 and well out of the playoff race, but you couldn’t possibly know that after watching their thrilling walk-off win against the Mariners on Wednesday.

With the score tied at 5-5 and one away in the inning, Mark Canha strode to the plate against Shae Simmons and, after watching a first-pitch cutter dive outside, drove a second cutter out to left field and into the bleachers for a walk-off home run.

***

It’s been a heck of a season for the Giants. And I don’t mean that in a kind way. Their ace missed half a season following a dirt bike injury, their offense forgot how to do the whole hitting thing, and their winning ways dissolved into a 62-97 record. After news of former rotation stalwart Matt Cain’s retirement, the Giants headed to the ballpark looking to recapture some of that early 2010s magic that gave Cain and their fans a decade to remember.

But, uh, narrative can only take you so far. You also need a serviceable offense and bullpen. Unfortunately, San Francisco is lacking in both departments. After squeaking out three runs, the Giants went into the bottom of the ninth with a 3-1 lead and Sam Dyson looking to close it out. Things got off to an inauspicious start when J.D. Martinez homered for the 16th time this month (yes, seriously), cutting the lead to one run.

Next up came Jake Lamb and A.J. Pollock, who both singled to put runners on the corners. While Daniel Descalso was unable to get the tying run home on a fielder’s choice, an intentional walk to Jeremy Hazelbaker loaded the bases. John Ryan Murphy followed and tied the game when Pollock scored on a one-hopper to the shortstop.

Finally, Dyson faced David Peralta. I’ll spare you the details, and just say: shrimp.

***

Here’s something crazy—the last time a defending World Series champion made it to the playoffs was back in 2012. I’m going to need to work a bit harder to effectively paint the Cubs as underdogs, but the defending champs have had a tough climb this season to reclaim the top spot in the NL Central over the Brewers. Luckily for Chicago, they’ve finally reached a major milestone in what’s been an arduous and rather frustrating journey, playing 16-9 ball in September to finally clinch their division.

This club is looking dangerous right now, like the group of players who stormed through the National League and won a World Series title just a year ago. While momentum might not be as real as we’d like, it’s hard not to watch the Cubs right now and feel confident about their playoff chances.

***

September baseball is weird. The White Sox walked it off in the 10th inning against the Angels, and the Twins started celebrating following a tough 4-2 loss against the Indians. Yup.

To somewhat clear it up, the Twins entered Wednesday with a magic number of one, needing either a win or an Angels loss to clinch the second Wild Card and head to the postseason. Despite the Twins losing their own game, Chicago came through in the clutch by knocking off the Angels. “Nicky Delmonico: Twins hero” may be a bit of a stretch, but … is it?

Defensive Play of the Day

Randall Grichuk is smooth. You know he glides through life with a slickness we can only dream of, making every green light, slipping through every open door, and, well, being the antithesis of clumsy. Why do I say this? Well, watch this nice little grab from Grichuk. The man is smooth.

What to Watch Thursday

If top-flight starters versus weak hangover lineups are your speed, check out Carlos Carrasco (3.43 ERA) at 12:10 pm ET looking to mow down the Twins’ lineup after their clinch the night before.

If you’d rather watch some baseball that may have a tangible impact on the playoff picture, then the two games to catch are the Brewers vs. Reds at 4:10 pm ET and the Cardinals vs. Cubs at 7:15 pm ET. The Cardinals are a loss away from elimination, and will put their season in the hands of Lance Lynn (3.47 ERA) against Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks (3.14 ERA). The Brewers, now 2.5 games back from the Rockies, will give Brent Suter (3.29 ERA) the ball against Sal Romano (4.43 ERA).

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Deadheadbrewer
9/28
The videos worked for my system today, after most suddenly stopped working a few months back, so if someone changed/did something in response to my comments and e-mails, then thank you!
LlarryA
9/28
There was more to the DBacks-Giants game: The Arizona crowd gave Cain a good round of applause when his retirement was announced. The middle innings were *bad*. AZ put in Jake Barrett for two innings of slow work, but then SF upped the ante with an inning of Cody Gearrin, who was taking 35-40 seconds between pitches (I timed him). He threw nearly 30 pitches, and not one ball was put into play (3K, 2BB). The final inning also included a video review of the play at the plate on Descalso's fielder's choice, followed by a double steal by Pollock and Descalso, which led to Hazelbaker getting the IBB.