A look at what’s happening around the majors on Sunday:
The last scheduled day of the regular season will see all 15 games begin within 15 minutes of each other — a perfect setup to settle a pair of NL division races.
The Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers are tied atop the NL Central going into Game 162. Mike Montgomery (5-6, 3.99 ERA) starts for the Cubs vs. St. Louis at Wrigley Field, while the Brewers hadn’t announced their pitcher to take on the Tigers at Miller Park.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies are all even in the NL West. Walker Buehler (7-5, 2.76 ERA) tries to help the Dodgers win their sixth straight division title when he starts at San Francisco. The Rockies, who’ve never finished in first place, face Washington ace Max Scherzer (18-7, 2.53 ERA, MLB-high 300 strikeouts) at Coors Field.
The Cubs, Brewers, Dodgers and Rockies have all clinched playoff spots, but want to avoid wild-card peril. If the divisions are tied after Sunday, they’ll go to tiebreakers Monday at Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium — the winner advances to the Division Series, the losers meet Tuesday in the one-and-done wild-card game.
Milwaukee outfielder Christian Yelich goes into the final day with a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner in the National League since Joe Medwick in 1937 for St. Louis.
Yelich holds a sizable edge in the batting race at .324 and his 36 home runs are tied for most in the league with the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter. Yelich only trails in the RBIs column — he has 109 and Javier Baez of the Cubs leads with 111.
Yelich, in his first season with the Brewers, faces Detroit rookie Spencer Turnbull at Miller Park. The last Triple Crown winner in the majors with Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera in 2012.
No telling who will go where this winter. But this could be free agent-in-waiting Bryce Harper’s final game for Washington, veteran outfielder Adam Jones’ last day with Baltimore and manager Mike Scioscia’s wrapup in the Angels’ dugout.
On his last day as Toronto’s manager, John Gibbons will let catcher Russell Martin run the club at Tampa Bay. Martin hasn’t played since Sept. 3 because the Blue Jays are looking at younger catchers.
“I’m having a little fun with it,” Gibbons said. “Let him see how tough it is.”
The Blue Jays said this week that Gibbons won’t return as manager next year.
After the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chris Taylor hit a ground-rule double that bounced into the hot tub in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ outfield to drive in a run and tie the game in the top of the ninth, 3-3, on Tuesday night, an Arizona Diamondbacks fan took action.
“Give it to me,” she yelled as another person retrieved it from the hot tub.
Then, after receiving the ball, she knew just what to do with it, throwing it back on the field.
It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a home run.
None other than Kristen Lovullo, the wife of Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo.
The Diamondbacks did end up winning the game 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning on a walk-off home run from Eduardo Escobar, giving Arizona fans something to cheer for in the penultimate home game of the year (and inflicting some pain on the rival Dodgers in the process).
Behind a walk-off home run from Eduardo Escobar, the Diamondbacks beat the Dodgers 4-3 at Chase Field on Tuesday. Katherine Fitzgerald, The Republic | azcentral.com
The surveillance footage captured on Sept. 18 from inside Puig’s home showed two burglars going through a bedroom and closet before finding a safe they attempted to crack. They left before they were able to get it open.
TMZreportedon Sept. 23 that police have “significantly increased” their presence in the San Fernando Valley where Puig’s home is located because of the numerous robberies in the area.
The first time Puig’s house wasburglarized was in March 2017, with the robbers making off with multiple pieces of jewelry. Ithappened againduring Game 7 of last year’s World Series when the Dodgers were hosting the Houston Astros.
Thethird incident occurredon Aug. 30. Puig received an alert on his cellphone and saw two men attempting to break in, but he was able to scare them off by yelling through the app on his phone.
The Cuba native has lived in Los Angeles since signing a six-year deal with the Dodgers in 2012. He is hitting .271/.331/.497 in 120 games this season.
LOS ANGELES – The guy wore plenty of neon, some orange, some lime, and he pedaled his bicycle furiously through the front gate at Dodger Stadium mid-day Wednesday. He wore a helmet with those tiny round side mirrors that show like something between a puma’s whisker and a dentist’s tool. As vigorously as he toiled, the high-end bike moved at a pace just above that of a book club’s power walk, as clearly he was in first gear and the pavement below was straight pedal-stomping, quad-burning, my-lungs-are-a-kiln uphill.
In the throes of this apparent misery, his back hunched, his neck jutted, his lips thin as the edge of a lineup card, the guy turned to spy a passing car. In his red and twisted face there bore a passing resemblance to Bob Geren, bench coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers, only way sweatier and possibly hemorrhaging something somewhere. He waved and regripped in one jerk of his left hand, forced a no-problem half-grin, did not teeter over. It was Bob Geren.
Five minutes later, he rolled his rig into an elevator. A Dodgers player looked him up and down. So much to take in.
“Porsche in the shop, Bob?”
Because that’s what players say, especially to older gentlemen wrung out from the last mile and in no condition to defend themselves.
“The parking lot,” Geren admitted, “is the hardest part.”
The last mile. The last effort. The part where you look back with some satisfaction and think, “So that happened.” The parts where everything hurt. The times where others observed, quietly, No matter how bad my day goes at least I won’t be that guy. The hopeless times, when the deficit was nine games. Or eight. Or seven. When others thought, “Geez, these guys might not be very good.” The hopeful times, that day in the third week of September when the lead was 2½ games, the largest of the season at the nearly very best time of the season to have it, that night you finished a sweep of the second-place (formerly and recently first-place) Colorado Rockies, that time you cleared some room in your otherwise taut, game-face psyche in order to consider a sixth consecutive NL West title.
Eleven days left, nine games left, the Dodgers look to be doing it again, not guaranteed to be, but of the mood to be.
Which would leave, of course, October. Again.
Something still could go terribly wrong for the Dodgers. Or, for that matter, terribly right for the Rockies. That said, the end-to-end most talented team in the division and maybe the National League this weekend required some advancement in the wild-card race and beat the St. Louis Cardinals three times, then this week needed room in its division and beat the Rockies three times.
Over three nights, the Rockies, who have not won a division title, lost those three games and also their shortstop, Trevor Story. First Joc Pederson hit two home runs, then Chris Taylor hit a walk-off home run, and then Yasiel Puig came off the bench to hit a three-run homer, and he circled the bases with his biceps flexed, passing his bat he’d chucked into the grass nearly half-way to first base. An NL West race that had been muddled for 5½ months, that at times seemed to wait on the Dodgers to get their act together, was now in danger of being won.
By the team with not enough bullpen. By the team that lost its own All-Star shortstop in April. By the team that couldn’t or wouldn’t be bothered by the slog of the regular season, that had been beaten down by a loss on the first day of the prior November, that was betrayed by its plan to throw depth at every problem, that was betrayed by its third baseman’s wrist, its ace’s back, its closer’s heart, its right fielder’s squirreliness. By the team, sure, with the man-sized payroll. And still, six in six years, if it is to be, is a more than reasonable run, while still there is not a flag above Dodger Stadium that reflects anything of note from the past three decades.
In five seasons, the five before this one, the Dodgers have won 23 postseason games. The Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals: 18. They have flags. The Boston Red Sox: 12. They have a flag. The St. Louis Cardinals: 14. The Houston Astros: 13. A flag. The San Francisco Giants: 13. A flag.
The next hill.
On the penultimate Wednesday night of the baseball season, in front of more than 50,000 in a stadium that expects more but hollered its lungs out anyway, that dragged a triumphant Puig to the top step, the Dodgers finished a week in which they won six times. They won twice in games started by their ace, Clayton Kershaw. And twice in games started by their emerging ace, Walker Buehler. Puig homered six times. The bullpen, housing as many as three reluctant relievers, found its footing in front of Kenley Jansen. And Jansen found his, as well. As though the Dodgers had it all along, that they’d get there eventually, and anyways they had an excuse for running a little late.
The third-to-last Saturday of the 2018 regular season brings us a full 15-game slate of big league action. Here is everything you need to know about the day in baseball.
Puig hits three homers as Dodgers beat Cards again
The Dodgers are taking care of business against the Cardinals this weekend. So is Yasiel Puig. Puig swatted three home runs Saturday afternoon after going deep twice Friday night. It is the first three-homer game of Puig’s career.
Puig is only the ninth Dodger in history with back-to-back multi-homer games. He’s the first to do it since Cody Bellinger last June. The last guy to do it before Bellinger? Adrian Beltre in 2004.
Los Angeles went into this four-game series two games behind the Cardinals for the second NL wild card spot. Three wins in the first three games give the Dodgers a one-game lead over St. Louis for that second wild card spot.
Also, Saturday’s win moved the Dodgers into a tie with the Rockies for first place in the NL West. Colorado will face the Giants later Saturday and will look to regain their half-game lead.
Soto steals three bases for Nationals
Juan Soto’s remarkable rookie season continues. On Saturday afternoon, Soto became the first teenager in baseball history to steal three bases in a game. They were his third, fourth, and fifth stolen bases of the season.
Soto took a .303/.417/.534 (148 OPS+) batting line and 20 home runs into Saturday’s game. Only Tony Conigliaro (24 in 1964) and Bryce Harper (22 in 2012) hit more home runs as a teenager than Soto. Also, Soto has 71 walks on the season, far and away the most by a teenager in history. Rusty Staub held the previous record. He walked 59 times in 1963.
Lindor sets club leadoff homer record; Indians clinch AL Central
Make it eight leadoff home runs for Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. That is a new franchise single-season record. Grady Sizemore held the previous record with seven leadoff homers in 2008. Lindor and Michael Brantley opened Saturday’s game with back-to-back homers.
Lindor tied Ronald Acuna and Matt Carpenter for the 2018 league lead in leadoff homers. The all-time single-season leadoff homer record? That would be 13 by Alfonso Soriano with the 2003 Yankees.
Also, Saturday’s home run was Lindor’s 35th of the season. Manny Machado also went deep Saturday for his 35th homer. They are the first two full-time shortstops (i.e. at least 50 percent of games played at short) with 35 homers in a season since Bill Hall hit 35 with the 2006 Brewers. For real.
On the whole, the Indians scored 15 runs on 18 hits in a laugher. It was fitting, because that’s what the AL Central “race” has been this season and the Indians clinched the division on Saturday with this win. Full story on the clinch here.
Lester, bullpen lead way for Cubs
The Cubs were able to pull off the 1-0 win against the Reds Saturday in a game that featured only four hits for each team. Of the eight total hits, five were infield hits.
Here’s the hit that gave the Cubs the lead for good:
Needless to say, it was not a day of well-struck balls at Wrigley Field. Give at least a partial nod to the pitching. Reds starter Cody Reed struck out a career-high 10 in five scoreless innings.
On the Cubs’ end, Jon Lester was brilliant in seven scoreless innings. He allowed just two hits while striking out nine and walking two. Justin Wilson worked a good eighth while Jesse Chavez, Randy Rosario and Steve Cishek each got one out in the ninth to close it down.
On Lester, he’s now back in a hot streak. Check out the three distinct divisions in his season:
First 15 starts: 2.10 ERA
Next nine starts: 7.51 ERA
Last six starts: 1.73 ERA
Wilson’s also hot. The lefty now has allowed just one run since Aug. 2 (0.84 ERA) and could prove to be the Cubs’ best bullpen arm with Pedro Strop out and Brandon Morrow attempting to come back from a lengthy injury absence.
Red Sox closing in on club record
The Red Sox won their 102nd game of the season on Saturday and they are soon going to be the winningest team in franchise history. Here are the four teams in Red Sox history to top 100 wins:
1912 Red Sox, 105 wins
1946 Red Sox, 104 wins
2018 Red Sox, 102 wins
1915 Red Sox, 101 wins
Yankees stifled by rookie, late comeback falls short
Rookie Sean Reid-Foley took the hill for the Blue Jays in Yankee Stadium on Saturday in what had to look like a good matchup for the home team. Reid-Foley came in sporting a 6.86 ERA in four career starts and was battered by the Yankees in this ballpark on Aug. 18.
This time around, it was the polar opposite. Reid-Foley was very good, striking out 10 while only allowing two hits in five scoreless innings. The Jays had a 5-0 lead when he departed and it would swell to 8-1.
Then, things got a little more interesting. In the bottom of the seventh, Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorius (his second of the game) both homered with what looked relatively harmless shots. With two outs, though, Gleyber Torres doubled in front of two walks and then Miguel Andujar hit a grand slam:
Just like that, it was a barn burner at 8-7 heading to the eighth. The Yankees did get a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the eighth, but Blue Jays closer Ken Giles came on to close out the eighth and worked a four-out save.
“There has been some recent rumble” the Phillies could trade 1B Carlos Santana this offseason, reports NBC Sports Philly. Santana is hitting .233/.354/.429 with 23 homers in the first year of his three-year, $60 million contract.
Indians RHP Trevor Bauer threw off a mound again Friday, reports MLB.com. Bauer has been out a little more than a month now after suffering a stress fracture in his leg. It is still unclear when he’ll be able to rejoin the rotation.
Yankees closer LHP Aroldis Chapman threw a 26-pitch bullpen session Saturday, according to the YES Network. He’s been out since mid-August with a knee issue. Chapman will throw a simulated game early next week, and could return after that.
Cubs closer RHP Brandon Morrow threw a 19-pitch simulated Saturday and expects to be activated in the coming days, reports 670 The Score. Morrow has been out since mid-July with biceps inflammation.
Diamondbacks RHP Clay Buchholz has been shut down for the season with a flexor strain, reports The Athletic. Buchholz was scratched from his most recent start earlier this week. He went 7-2 with a 2.01 ERA in 16 starts this year.
Cubs OF Kyle Schwarber remained out of the starting lineup Saturday. He’s dealing with a back issue and has started just one of the team’s last 10 games. UTIL Ian Happ is playing Schwarber’s usual left field spot Saturday.
Braves 3B Johan Camargo remained out of the starting lineup Saturday. Camargo is nursing a groin injury and has not played since Tuesday. IF Charlie Culberson has filled in at the hot corner for the time being.
Tigers RHP Michael Fulmer exited Saturday’s start after five pitches with right knee inflammation, the team announced. Fulmer gave up back-to-back home runs to begin the game, then had to exit.
Padres 3B Carlos Villanueva has been shut down for the season with a finger injury, reports MLB.com. He’s currently on the disabled list with a fracture and the team won’t rush him back. Villanueva hit .236/.299/.450 with 20 homers this year.
It’s been a wild week for the Dodgers, who are currently riding a four-game win streak after breaking their tie with the Cardinals for the second wild card spot on Saturday. In a stunning 17-4 win over St. Louis, Los Angeles slugger Yasiel Puig was the headliner, clubbing three home runs and collecting seven RBI to help the Dodgers clinch the series win.
After Manny Machado put up a two-run shot in the first inning, Puig drove his first home run of the day into the center field seats on a first-pitch fastball from Cardinals right-hander John Gant. He returned in the fifth with a three-run homer — his 20th of the season and the hardest-hit homer in Statcast-era team history — scoring both Yasmani Grandal and Cody Bellinger to give the Dodgers a four-run boost.
Following another two runs from Bellinger and Max Muncy in the sixth, Puig’s third and final dinger came in the eighth inning on a one-out, 0-2 changeup from right-hander Luke Weaver. This one was hammered into left field as the Dodgers took a 13-4 lead over the Cardinals, which was then garnished with another four runs thanks to Bellinger and Andrew Toles’ efforts in the ninth.
Puig left Saturday’s unbelievable win with a .272/.333/.504 batting line, 21 home runs and .837 OPS through 403 PA. In this series alone, he’s already delivered six hits (a single and five home runs) through 10 at-bats. Saturday’s performance marked the first three-homer game of his six-year career in the majors.
Even taking their crazy win streak into account, however, the Dodgers’ place in the postseason isn’t cemented quite yet. They’re currently tied with the Rockies at the top of the NL West standings and hold a tenuous one-game lead over the Cardinals for the second wild card berth.