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The Thursday Takeaway

On Thursday afternoon we got a bit of a playoff preview at Progressive Park when the Twins faced off against Cleveland in the final game of a three-game series. If the Twins can get past their playoff boogeyman in the form of the Yankees, then they’d still have a massive white whale to deal with in the form of the defending AL Champions.

For a while, Thursday's game was a pitcher’s duel, as both Ervin Santana and Carlos Carrasco managed to keep the opposing bats quiet for the first half of the game. However, this game ended up being a microcosm of the season in that once the second half of the game got underway, Cleveland began to leave Minnesota in the dust.

The game began to tip Cleveland’s way in the sixth inning, which is when Francisco Lindor led off the frame with a double. On his way to second, he had a tough time deciding whether to slide head-first or feet-first, so he made it in knee-first and gave Cleveland fans a moment of heart palpitations.

Fortunately, Lindor immediately flashed that famous smile of his to let everybody know that he was A-OK, and the rest of the stadium had a similar smile on their faces after Jason Kipnis hit a homer in the very next at-bat. The dinger put Cleveland on the board and it was smooth sailing from that point forward.

While this was all going on, Carrasco was still in the game and still making Minnesota’s offense look toothless for the day. Carrasco has thrown a few gems this year, and he added another ruby to that crown. He’d finish the day two outs away from a complete game, with zero earned runs allowed and 14 strikeouts under his belt.

Cleveland hit the 100-win mark for only the third time in franchise history and had another reason to feel confident going into the minefield of the playoffs.

Quick Hits

The NL Wild Card race is still going on, and the Brewers made sure that it’ll last for at least another day after they beat the Reds, 4-3. As you can imagine just by looking at the score, this was not an easy day for the Brewers. The Reds took the lead in the fourth inning, but Milwaukee fired back in the fourth and fifth innings to take the lead. Ryan Braun’s double in the fifth was what put the Brewers up 3-1.

The Reds came back with two runs in the next frame, but Milwaukee once again responded. This time, Brett Phillips hit a double that brought in what proved to be the game-winning run. Milwaukee’s still alive. The pulse is barely there, but it’s still going.

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Meanwhile, the Cardinals have been pronounced dead. As if watching the Cubs celebrate clinching another NL Central title in St. Louis wasn’t bad enough, the Cubs also made sure that the Cardinals would be watching the postseason activities from home for the second consecutive season.

St. Louis’ chances of snatching the second Wild Card spot were extremely slim, but you may as well keep trying to fight until it’s over. However, blowing bases-loaded opportunities can’t help, which is what happened when Kyle Hendricks got out of this third-inning jam with a strikeout.

The game ended up going into extra innings tied at one, and one ended up being a lovely number for Taylor Davis. That’s when the rookie picked up his first career hit and first career RBI to put the Cubs ahead for good.

As for the finishing blow, we’ll get to that later.

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There was another AL playoff preview on display, as the Astros went up to Boston to start their weekend series with the Red Sox. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if Houston does run into Boston in the playoffs, we probably won’t see the Astros thump the Red Sox by 10 runs like they did last night. However, it’s probably a good bet that Carlos Correa will be all over the place like beads at Mardi Gras, and he was ever-present at the plate at Fenway Park on Thursday.

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Boston’s loss kept the AL East door open for the Yankees. New York had a 4-1 lead after four innings, and it sure seemed like Didi Gregorius was going to be reporting some good news to the Yankee faithful.

Then Tampa Bay decided to hijack the news report with some breaking news of their own. The Rays broke out for seven runs in the top of the fifth inning, with six of those being credited to Sonny Gray. That sound you’re hearing right now is a sigh of relief from the people up in Boston.

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There are zero playoff implications going on in the series between the Braves and Marlins in Miami, but it’s still worth keeping an eye on because Giancarlo Stanton is still smacking dingers out of the park on a regular basis with ferocious power. He hit his 58th and 59th homers of the season on Thursday, which means that there’s a very good chance that he’ll make it to 60 before the season ends.

He’s got no chance at reaching the hallowed ground of 73 home runs, but cracking 60 in a season is still amazing and here’s hoping that he can get it done before the Marlins go into hibernation for the winter.

Defensive Play of the Day

Remember when I told you that we’d get to the finishing blow of the Cubs-Cardinals game? Well, here it is. This is how the Cubs ended the Cardinals season. If you’re a fan of St. Louis, look away. If not, then I’d imagine that you’re going to enjoy this catch from Leonys Martin.

What to Watch on Friday

The Red Sox may have gotten trounced on Thursday night, but their magic number for clinching the AL East is down to one, so there could be celebrations going on today. It’ll either come from a hard-fought victory over the Astros (7:10 pm ET), or they’ll take the field in champagne-soaked uniforms should the Yankees drop their matinee game against the Blue Jays (1:05 pm ET).

Meanwhile in the senior circuit, the Brewers are still hanging on by a thread and they’ll have to keep on winning in order to stay alive. They’ll be traveling to St. Louis for the start of a three-game series. Meanwhile, the Rockies will be hosting the Dodgers with the knowledge that if they win and Milwaukee loses, they’ll finally punch their ticket for the postseason. Both of those games will start at around 8:15 pm ET.