The AL Wild Card now has three teams all within a game of one another, while an NL Wild Card contender takes a massive blow while on a winning streak.
Cleveland Indians (86-61, 2nd AL Central, 0.5 WC GB)
Winners of 4 straight games, the Indians are just half a game back from the second Wild Card spot and just a full game back of the first Wild Card spot. With just over two weeks to play, it is certainly coming down to the wire between Tampa, Oakland, and Cleveland.
Cleveland’s pitching remains to be the most impressive part of this team. Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber have proved to be elite pitchers in this league, but the rest of the rotation has held their own. Zach Plesac was called up earlier this season and has put up decent rookie numbers. With a 3.64 ERA, Plesac is not letting too many runs cross the plate. However, he doesn’t strikeout many batters either. Over his 106.1 innings pitched, Plesac has managed to retire 79 batters via strikeout for a K/9 rate of 6.69.
24-year-old Aaron Civale has pitched in a productive manner in the back end of the rotation. Debuting in June, Civale was sent down and called back up in the first week of August. In his 8 starts this season, Civale has a remarkable 1.93 ERA. He too does not “whoa” people in the K/9 category since his stands at 7.33, but he certainly pitches to contact in the right way. Among all starting pitchers in the MLB with at least 45 innings pitched, he ranks 13th in WHIP at 1.05. He rarely gives up the long ball too, as he has just given up just 2 in his 46.1 innings pitched.
The Indians wrapped up a quick road trip out west to Anaheim where they faced the Angels. Shane Bieber took the mound for game 1 and he pitched a gem. He went 7 innings striking out 8 Angels while giving up just 1 run on 5 hits. The Tribe certainly backed him up, as Yasiel Puig started the evening with an RBI single in the 1st frame. Jason Kipnis kept the ball rolling in the 2nd inning as he launched a 2-run homer to extend the lead. Albert Pujols was responsible for the only run Bieber allowed with his solo homer in the 2nd.
Up 3-1 in the 6th, Yu Chang sent a 3-run homer over the fence for his 1st career home run. After Jared Walsh’s pinch-hit solo homer in the 8th for the Angels, the Indians would win 6-2.
The Angels certainly look bland with Mike Trout’s absence, and Tuesday’s game is a good example of that. Zach Plesac started for the Indians, and to put it lightly, the Angels lineup might as well have not shown up. We’ll pick things up in the 2nd inning.
Jordan Luplow hit his 12th homer of the season to give the Tribe the early 2-0 lead. In Luplow’s next at-bat the next inning, he walked with the bases loaded to bring in another run. The next batter, Franmil Reyes, cleared the bases with a double to make the score 6-0. After Francisco Lindor’s solo homer in the 7th as part of a two-run innings, the Angels were unable to respond…at all.
Zach Plesac finished the evening with a complete game shutout that included 5 K’s and 4 hits allowed. The Indians blanked the Angels, 6-0.
Wednesday’s battle between the two was certainly more entertaining. The Indians put 4 quick runs on the board in the first 2 innings thanks to homers by Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor. However, after that, they were held scoreless for the remaining 7 innings. The Angels had plenty of time to put runs on the board.
David Fletcher’s RBI single in the bottom of the 2nd put the Angels on the board and within 3 runs. Shohei Ohtani’s solo shot in the 5th made it a two-run game. In the 8th, Kole Calhoun hit a solo homer to make it a 1 run game.
Cleveland used 3 pitchers in the 9th inning alone, but that strategy proved to be successful as the Tribe would hang on to win 4-3.
The Indians host the Twins for a crucial series over the weekend. Currently at 4 games back in the division, the Indians can get themselves within a game of Minnesota if they are able to sweep. With Fangraphs projecting a 53.6% chance at making the playoffs, Aaron Civale will take the mound for the Indians against Jake Odorizzi.
Milwaukee Brewers (77-68, T-2nd NL Central, T-2nd Wild Card)
The Brew Crew have won 6 straight and 10 of 13. With things going in the right direction, Milwaukee is tied with the Cubs for the 2nd wild card spot.
With Milwaukee’s rotation being a problem, their lineup is dangerous from top to bottom. With Chritian Yelich out for the season with a fractured kneecap, his season numbers are certainly worthy of an MVP award. This means more than one player in the lineup will have to step up. Who will the Brewers look towards for their run production? It’s easy. Keston Hiura.
As one of baseball’s top prospects, Hiura was called up in mid-May. His numbers this season are fantastic, and it’s looking like he’ll be a valuable part of this Milwaukee lineup for years to come. With a .301 average and .941 OPS, the 23-year-old is putting up great numbers for the NL Rookie of the Year award. He can do a little bit of everything, as shown by his 16 homers and 9 stolen bases.
The scoring started in the 1st inning on Monday’s game one of four against the Marlins in Miami. Lorenzo Cain knocked in Yasmani Grandal on an RBI single to get things going. Cory Spangenberg then drove in Christian Yelich on a groundout to extend the lead in later in the same inning.
After a run scored in both the 5th and 6th innings, Trent Grisham drove in 2 runs on an RBI triple, and Yasmani Grandal hit a 2-run homer in the same frame, making it an 8-3 game. The game would end with the same score, as Trent Grisham picked up 5 hits on the day in the leadoff spot, falling a homer short of the cycle.
Grisham entered Tuesday’s game in the 1st inning after Chritian Yelich fouled a ball of his kneecap which would end his season with a fracture. Hernan Perez’s 2-run homer in the 2nd gave Milwaukee the quick go-ahead. With the Marlins able to put a run on the board in the bottom half of the inning, the Brewers led by just one.
Yasmani Grandal drove in a run in the 3rd which was responded by Isan Diaz in the 4th when he drove a single to right field to bring in Starlin Castro. Castro stepped to the plate later on in the 8th inning where he smashed a solo home run to tie the game at 3. Tyler Austin pinch-hit in the 9th and he was able to bring Grandal in from 3rd on a sac fly to put the Brewers back on top late in the game.
Drew Pomeranz secured his 1st save of the season after giving up 2 baserunners in the 9th, but after the close call the Brewers would secure the bittersweet victory, 4-3.
Grisham appears to be prepared to be Yelich’s replacement in RF, as he hit a leadoff homer in Wednesday’s game. The Marlins too scored a run in the 1st to keep the game tied. After the Marlins scored again in the 2nd, Mike Moustakas brought in 3 runs in the 3rd inning to make it a 4-2 ballgame. Pitcher Zach Davies backed himself up with an RBI single in the 4th to extend the lead yet again.
In the 5th, Isan Diaz jacked a 2-run homer to center before Garrett Cooper went yard the very next at bat to tie the game. With the game tied in the 9th, Mike Moustakas hit a 2-run bomb over the fence for his second round-tripper of the game. The Marlins were unable to plate a run in the bottom half of the inning, thus giving the Brewers the 7-5 W.
Milwaukee will close out their series against the Marlins on Thursday where they will look to sweep the Marlins and stay put in the 2nd wild card spot. The Brewers will travel to St. Louis for an inner division matchup against the Cardinals over the weekend, where a sweep could potentially bring them within a game of the 1st place Cardinals. Regardless, the Brewers need to win and hope the Cubs will lose if they want to retain that 2nd wild card spot.
Waiver Wire Targets
Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants (8.9% owned/ESPN)
Cueto is probably a pitcher many people forgot about. He missed 13 months due to Tommy John surgery, but in his first game back on September 10th, he pitched very well. Although he pitched just 5 innings, he gave up just 1 hit and struck out 4. If you are currently in the playoffs, you may want to pick up Cueto as quickly as possible. We all know what he is capable of, and he wants to get productive starts in before the season ends to assure the team that he is healthy and ready to go for the 2020 season.
Homer Bailey, Oakland Athletics (15.5% owned/ESPN)
In his past 5 starts, Bailey hasn’t allowed more than 3 runs. The A’s pitching staff is also pitching very well this second half of the season. Looking at the mental aspect of things, he’s playing for a team that’s on the bubble. He’s going to give everything he can to help his team make the playoffs and judging by his last stretch of starts, it would appear he’s already in that zone. Give him a look if you’re fantasy playoff roster is in need of a pitcher.
Retired Little League baseball utility player.