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Marty’s musings: some strange races heat up

This season we’re primed for some more interesting pennant races than we could have imagined.  

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to ‘Marty’s Musings’, my weekly column of numbers summarizing the happenings in the baseball world. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the news and notes throughout the game, and highlighting this week’s key pitching matchups.

This week, a walk-off balk, the A’s somehow manage to catch the Astros, and the resurgent Cardinals make it an interesting wild card race through mid-August. All this news and more in this week’s Musings.

News and Notes

30-16 - Rockies record during an NL-record-tying stretch in which they played 46 consecutive games against teams over .500. Colorado swept the NL East-leading Braves in a four game set in Atlanta this weekend. The Rockies are only half a game behind ARizona for the NL West divisional lead, and are effectively in a three way tie for the NL wild card, with the Cardinals right in the mix as well.

6 - Game suspension for Jose Urena, who purposely hit Ronald Acuna with a pitch for basically being too good. The toothless suspension happened last week, and Urena came back from missing one start to throw his first career complete game. So much for sending a message.

8 - Doubles for the Athletics against the Astros on Saturday night. Oakland continues to pester Houston, taking two out of three games this weekend. The A’s trail the Astros in the AL West by only one game.

28 - Runs the Dodgers scored in a three game series against the Mariners. Both teams are fighting for their playoff lives, but the Mariners seem to be trending in the wrong direction. The Ms managed one victory in the series thanks to a Dylan Floro walkoff balk. The Dodgers are two games behind the DBacks in the West, but have the largest run differential in the National League by quite a bit.

2 - Consecutive shutouts thrown by the Brewers against the Cubs early last week. The Cubs offense continued to sputter, as they only scored four runs in a four-game set with the Pirates. Thanks to two 1-0 victories, they managed to split the series. Chicago remains three games ahead of Milwaukee in the division.

42 - Days left to go when the Orioles were officially eliminated from playoff contention. It’s going to be a slow, slow rebuild in Baltimore.

Matchups to Watch

Monday, August 20

Corey Kluber (CLE) v. Rick Porcello (BOS), 7:05 ET

At this point, it looks exceedingly likely that both of these teams are going to win their divisions pretty handily. Kluber continues to make his march towards another Cy Young, while the Red Sox try to keep their torrid pace without ace Chris Sale, who has been on the DL twice in the past two weeks with shoulder inflammation.

Austin Gomber (STL) v. Alex Wood (LAD), 10:10 ET

The Dodgers host the Cardinals for a three game series in LA this week. The Cardinals fired manager Mike Matheny after an unimpressive 47-46 start. Since then, St. Louis is 21-11, and only ½ a game back to create a chaotic four-way tie for the NL wild card. Let us all root for #TeamEntropy.

Wednesday, August 22

Sean Newcomb (ATL) v. Trevor Williams (PIT), 7:05 ET

While it is highly unlikely the Pirates are going to make the playoffs, they can shake things up in the NL, as they play the Braves, Brewers, and Cardinals over the next week and a half. A strong showing can position them better in the NL wild card race, but playing spoiler is probably the only satisfaction Pittsburgh will get this season.

Thursday, August 23

Aaron Nola (PHI) v. Max Scherzer (WAS), 1:05 ET

The Phillies’ pitching has kept them afloat in the NL East, as they continue to chase the Braves for the division. Meanwhile, the Nationals cannot get anything going, despite throwing out one of the best pitchers in the game every fifth day. We keep waiting for DC to take that major leap, but we keep being underwhelmed. Three games against the Phillies is yet another opportunity to potentially right the ship.

Friday, August 24

Milo Mikolas (STL) v. Antonio Senzatela (COL), 8:40 ET

Both the Cardinals and the Rockies are very much in the thick of the playoff hunt this season, but both are competing against multiple teams including each other. This weekend’s three game series is a major opportunity for one team to gain the edge over the other.

Sunday, August 26

TBD (SEA) v. Zack Greinke (ARI), 4:10 ET

Greinke has been phenomenal this season, and has pitched the DBacks to first-place. Seattle has been without James Paxton for the last couple weeks, and are hoping to get him back on the mound soon in order to salvage a playoff run. He could be activated from the DL on Sunday, but either way, this is a huge series for both squads.

*All pitching matchups as of Sunday night’s pitching 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