It was a rough weekend for any fans hoping for some final-week excitement in the postseason races.
The Nationals, Indians, Dodgers and Astros ran away with their divisions a while ago, but one division that was still in play – the NL Central – is now just about settled. The Chicago Cubs took three of four in a series with Milwaukee to open a 5 ½-game lead over the Brewers.
The race for the second wild card in the American League looked interesting for a while, but Minnesota's four-game sweep in Detroit has the Twins 4 1/2 games up on the Los Angeles Angels. The National League's second wild card is a bit less clear, but Colorado leads Milwaukee by two games and St. Louis by 2 ½ after gaining a game on both Sunday.
So this next week could be anticlimactic from a team standpoint, but there are a few intriguing stories still worth keeping an eye on:
– Miami's Giancarlo Stanton needs three more home runs to reach 60. Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees has 48, one behind the rookie record set by Mark McGwire in 1987.
– Jose Altuve leads comfortably in the AL batting race, but it's closer on the NL side. Charlie Blackmon of Colorado leads at .326, with Justin Turner of the Dodgers at .321. Blackmon finished fourth last year.
– Cleveland's spectacular month of September has the Indians just a game behind the Dodgers for the best record in baseball. The teams were separated by 15 games at the start of the month.
– If you're already looking ahead to next year's draft, it's still anyone's guess who will end up with the worst record in the majors. Right now San Francisco (61-95) occupies that spot, but Philadelphia (62-94), Detroit (62-94) and the Chicago White Sox (63-92) are in the vicinity.
Here are a few other developments from around baseball:
Making the Sale?
Boston's Chris Sale became the first AL pitcher in 18 years to strike out 300 batters in a season. He struck out 13 against Baltimore on Wednesday night.
The last AL pitcher to do it was Pedro Martinez in his memorable 1999 season, when he went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA. Martinez set Boston's franchise record with 313 strikeouts, and he did it in 213 1/3 innings. Sale has pitched 209 1/3.
The last AL pitcher to fan 300 batters and not win the Cy Young Award was Randy Johnson in 1993, but Sale has a major challenger for that honor in Cleveland's Corey Kluber.
Toronto's Ryan Goins pretended to throw the ball back toward the pitcher – a move attempted all the time at all levels of baseball, but which rarely accomplishes anything. This time, Todd Frazier of the Yankees was caught by that hidden-ball trick , absentmindedly shuffling his feet and stepping off second base long enough to be tagged out Friday night.
At the other end of the baserunning spectrum was Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton, who raced around to score Sunday on a play in which he'd initially been caught in a rundown between first and second. When Boston's Dustin Pedroia made a wild throw past first, Hamilton took off and went all the way to third. And since the catcher had vacated home, Hamilton kept going, reaching the plate before the defense could do anything about it.
Line of the Week
Arizona's Chris Iannetta homered twice and drove in eight runs Friday night in a 13-11 victory over Miami.