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The Tuesday Takeaway

Half-game leads are dumb. You can’t win a division by a half-game. It’s not allowed. If a season ended and a team was declared champions by a half-game margin, someone would surely be like: “Wait a minute! You can’t do that! One of these teams has to play one more game!”

This runs through my head all the time over the course of a baseball season and it’s particularly relevant right now because, well, with five days left in the season there are two divisions in which a team is in first place by a half-game.

The Cubs have the best record in the National League and lead the Central by a half-game over the Brewers because Milwaukee has, to date, played one more game than the Cubs (a loss). The Brewers have transferred what was supposed to be a drama-filled Wild Card race with the Cardinals and Rockies into a sprint with the Cubs to the finish line, thanks in large part to maybe-NL MVP Christian Yelich.

 

Yelich and the Brewers jumped early on St. Louis starter and maybe-Pokemon Austin Gomber in a 12-4 rout. Yelich hit a bases-loaded triple and three-run homer, and Ryan Braun — who somehow is only, like, the eighth-most interesting Brewers player at this point in his career — went deep twice.

While all of this was going on, the Cubs and their MVP candidate, Javier Baez, were putting up a goose egg against Chris Archer and the Pirates in a 6-0 loss.

 

Archer struck out nine in six innings, while the Cubs sent eight guys to the mound and none did particularly well, until it didn’t matter anymore. Baez did go 2 for 4, but Pablo Reyes’ three-run shot for Pittsburgh was more than enough. Between these two outcomes and Joe Maddon putting his foot in his mouth earlier in the day regarding the Addison Russell investigation, it was a no-good, very bad day in Wrigleyville.

Meanwhile out West, the Dodgers’ lead over the Rockies is also down to a half-game because, well, the Dodgers have played and won one more game than the Rockies. Colorado put the Phillies away quickly, turning a one-run deficit in the third inning into a 10-3 win, with David Dahl providing only a portion of the offensive onslaught.

 

There was much more drama in the desert, where the Dodgers came back to tie things up with the Diamondbacks in the top of the ninth on a Chris Taylor RBI double into the pool, only for Eduardo Escobar to end things quickly in the bottom half. Tell us how you feel, Kenta Maeda!

Lost in all of this is that, in addition to challenging the Dodgers for the NL West crown, the Rockies also jumped in front of the Cardinals in the race for the second NL Wild Card spot. The lead? Get this: a half-game!

Quick Hits From Tuesday

The Astros joined the 100-win club for the second straight season with a 4-1 win over the Blue Jays. More importantly (for them) the win coupled with Seattle’s win over Oakland means they’re AL West champions.

 

Nothing really notable about Oakland’s loss, really. Just your typical Matt Chapman committing an error on a routine grounder, which led to a blown save by Blake Treinen.

Wait, what?

***

Oakland’s loss also moved the Yankees one game closer to hosting the AL Wild Card game. The Bronx Bombers put up a seven-spot in the third inning against the Rays and rolled to a 9-2 win.

 

The bigger question for the Yankees at this point, probably, is who is going to start that game on the mound? The presumptive favorite is Luis Severino, who has bounced back from a rough patch to put together a four-start stretch of looking a bit closer to the ace he resembled for most of the season.

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Max Scherzer’s dominance has, at times, felt overlooked this season. The Nats’ disappointing season could be part of the reason why, as has the equally or maybe better-than-equally dominance of Jacob deGrom (as well as the fascination of the ineptitude around him).

But Scherzer has been great, as always, and now he’s in the elusive 300-strikeout club, becoming just the 17th pitcher to reach that mark and the first right-hander since Curt Schilling in 2002.

 

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Getting Trevor Bauer back to full strength (and, ya know, keeping guys like Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez healthy) is priority No. 1 for Cleveland at this point in the season. Bauer was stretched out to four innings in his second start back from the disabled list, giving up a two-run homer to Avisail Garcia in the first inning but nothing otherwise, striking out four and walking zero.

Pairing a healthy Bauer with Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco is Cleveland’s best shot at beating the other heavyweights come October in the race for the AL pennant.

Defensive Play of the Day

Look there were probably better defensive plays than this line drive snared by Jacob Faria, but any time you stare a line drive off the bat of Aaron Judge in the face and live to tell about it, you deserve some recognition.

 

What To Watch On Wednesday

All eyes are on the races in the NL Central, NL West and NL Wild Card. Your relevant matchups include Cardinals (John Gant) vs. Brewers (Jhoulys Chacin); Pirates (Ivan Nova) vs. Cubs (Jose Quintana); Phillies (Nick Pivetta) vs. Rockies (German Marquez); and Dodgers (Ross Stripling) vs. Diamondbacks (Zack Greinke).

In unrelated matters, if you want to watch deGrom pitch one last time, he’ll be on the mound for the Mets against Sean Newcomb and the Braves in a really cool pitching matchup for a game that means nothing. Chris Sale also pitches for the Red Sox against Baltimore Orioles ace Undecided.

Thank you for reading

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