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Marty's Musings: the NL West showdown and Gary Sanchez

The AL East is tightening as the Giants lose their grip on the NL West. Gary Sanchez is in beast-mode.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to ‘Marty's Musings', my weekly column of numbers summarizing the past week in Major League Baseball and looking forward to this week's key matchups. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the previous week in MLB and previewing some of this week's key matchups, identifying numbers that are generally not found in a standard box score.

In this week's edition, Gary Sanchez eases the Yankees into ‘rebuilding' mode, Dustin Pedroia has himself a mini-tear, and Josh Donaldson's hat-trick; it's all in this week's Musings.

Numbers

1,012 - Number of hits for Astros slugger (?) Jose Altuve. Altuve is the fastest Astro to reach the 1,000 mark, and he's putting up an MVP-caliber season. He already has over 180 hits this season including 21 homers and 26 stolen bases.

10 - Games started by Dansby Swanson, who is currently manning shortstop for the basement-dwelling Braves. The Atlanta front office thinks Swanson can be a regular for the Braves for years to come and are getting his feet wet prior to the September call-ups. So far, he has 10 hits in 39 plate appearances.

281 - Plate appearances it took Bartolo Colon to earn his first major league base on balls. It happened a couple weeks ago, but this column was on holiday....it needs to be celebrated! Tracy Stallard (MLB career 1960-1966) now has the record for most plate appearances without a walk with 258.

11 - Home runs in 22 games for Yankees promoted prospect Gary Sanchez. Sanchez has been the toast of New York since his call-up. He has already amassed a 2.4 fWAR despite having fewer than 100 plate appearances. He's one of the reasons the Yankees are mildly competitive and within reach of the second wild-card. New York is 3.5 games out of the playoff picture but will have to leap over five teams to make the playoffs.

8 - Players in history who posted 11 consecutive hits, including Dustin Pedroia who joined the club over the weekend. Pedey was 11-11 between Thursday/Friday/Saturday but came up in the eighth inning and grounded into an inning-ending double play. The last batter to reach 11 was Bernie Williams, who did it in 2002; the MLB record for consecutive hits stands at 12.

3 - Homers for Josh Donaldson on Sunday's matinee against the Twins. Donaldson went 3-5 and drove in four runs in a 9-6 slugfest. Canadians celebrated in Canadian-like fashion by throwing their hats onto the field.

2 - Number of division leaders ahead by fewer than five games in the loss column. The Jays, Red Sox, and Orioles are primed for some fun September baseball. Toronto is currently in control but has six remaining games against Boston and Baltimore including a three-game series against the O's that starts Monday. The Red Sox still have seven games left against the O's.

29-8 - The Rangers record in one-run games, which is slightly better than the 2012 Orioles who set the MLB record at 29-9. Texas has run away with the American League West and has somehow clusterlucked their way to a commanding 8.5-game lead over Houston. The Rangers are in great shape to end up with home field in the ALDS, and potentially throughout the entire postseason. Only the Cubs have more wins than Texas. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, but the Rangers can be both!

What to Watch

Monday, August 29

Marco Estrada (TOR) v. Wade Miley (BAL)

The beginning of a key three-game series. The Orioles starters have had a rough last 30 days: 5.41 ERA and a 4.73 FIP. The Jays lead the division and can bury the O's with a sweep, and handicap them with a series victory in Baltimore.

Wednesday, August 31

Chris Sale (CHW) v. Justin Verlander (DET)

A divisional showdown that pits the lowly White Sox against a Tigers team that is desperately trying to close a 4.5-game gap in the Central. Verlander has had a true resurgence and has an ERA 22 percent lower than league average, along with a FIP 16 percent lower. Chris Sale, meanwhile, continues his dominance; he's coming off a 14-strikeout complete game in which he gave up three against Seattle.

Wednesday, August 31

David Phelps (MIA) v. Steven Matz (NYM)

The Mets have been devastated by injuries and their season looks to be done, while the Marlins recently lost Giancarlo Stanton to the DL themselves. Both of these teams are within reach of a wildcard berth with the Mets 3.5 games out and the Marlins 1.5 games out. David Phelps had been doing a nice job filling in as a starter but stumbled a bit against San Diego in a 3.2-inning, four-run outing.

Saturday, September 3

Madison Bumgarner (SF) v. Jake Arrieta (CHC)

The Cubs had a playoff-like series against the Dodgers last week that was competitive, intense, and fun. Although they lost two out of three, they are on cruise control and will easily win the Central. Meanwhile, Bumgarner has to face the NL's best lineup as they try to make up ground to a Dodgers team they let stick around the division for too long.

Pitching Matchups based on early week probables

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Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano