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Marty’s musings: an ever-tightening NL race heats up

The Red Sox stumbled in a series for the first time in 2018, while the surging Cardinals continued to make noise in a tight NL playoff race.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Arizona Diamondbacks Matt Kartozian-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, Buster Posey’s hip injury shuts him down, Kendrys Morales chaes history, and Matt Holliday makes his MLB reintroduction. Meanwhile, the Nats continue to struggled as the Braves and Phillies continue their NL East dominance. All this news and more in this week’s Musings.

News and Notes

9 - Consecutive series wins for the St. Louis Cardinals, who are now ½ a game ahead of the Brewers for the first NL Wild Card. Since axing manager Mike Matheny, the Cards have been on a roll, and look likely to make the playoffs ---- an unlikely scenario just a month ago.

6-8 - Months’ recovery-time for the Giants Buster Posey, whose season effectively ended last week. The Giants tried to put Posey in the field to get the most out of him before his hip surgery, but he had been completely ineffective and optioned to get the surgery done earlier rather than later.

5 - NL teams within 2 ½ games of a wild card berth. The NL is tightening up as we head into September, with none of the three divisions with a clear runaway winners.

7- Consecutive games with a home run for Kendrys Morales, who is one away from the MLB record for most consecutive games with a homer. Morales recent slugfest has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise abysmal summer in Toronto.

2,098 - Career hits for Twins veteran Joe Mauer. Mauer moved into second place on the twins franchise all-time list, and only trails Kirby Puckett, who ended his career with 2,304 hits. Another two to three seasons for Mauer, and he’ll likely surpass Puckett.

0 - Runs allowed for Aaron Nola who outdueled Max Scherzer last week to stop a four-game Phillies slide. Nola struck out nine and walked only one batter in an eight inning effort. Scherzer put up a strong game himself, going seven innings and allowing only two runs, but Nola’s effort bested him.

1 - Times the Red Sox have been swept so far in 2018. They lost three straight to the Rays over the weekend, and lead the Yankees by six games after New York took four straight from Baltimore.

73 - Run differential for the 65-66 Nationals who have the fifth best RD in the NL, but are highly unlikely to the make the playoffs. The Dodgers meanwhile, lead the National League in run differential, with 121, and are mired in second place behind the Diamondbacks. It’s been a strange year in the NL.

38 - Years-of-age for Matt Holliday who looked done after a lousy year as a bench player for the Yankees in 2017. In his four games back with the Rockies in 2018, he’s gone three-for-nine, including hitting a pinch hit go-ahead home run on Saturday nigh to break a scoreless tie against the Rockies main wild card competition, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Matchups to Watch

Tuesday, August 28

Max Scherzer (WAS) v. Aaron Nola (PHI), 7:05 ET

A rematch of last week’s gem, the Nationals can play spoiler for the Phillies who have had their ups-and-downs the last two weeks. The Phillies are in the heart of the NL wild card race, while the Nationals are unlikely to make up the ground they’ve lost. Either way, these are two NL Cy Young candidates squaring off for the second time in a week, which should make for an exciting game.

Jacob deGrom (NYM) v. Cole Hamels (CHC), 8:05 ET

deGrom continues to make his case as the best pitcher in the National League, but the Mets rarely score any runs for him. Meanwhile, the first-place Cubs solidified their rotation by adding Hamels, who has been masterful in his first five starts. Hamels went the distance his last time out, giving up only one run to a lousy Cincinnati offense.

Wednesday, August 29

Trevor Cahill (OAK) v. Dallas Keuchel (HOU), 2:10 ET

The Astros had struggled the early part of August, but look on track after sweeping the Angels over the weekend. The Athletics meanwhile continue to make noise in the AL West, and trail Houston by only a game and a half. Cahill has been one of the reasons Oakland has been on-track for their first playoff berth in a decade.

Thursday, August 30

Antonio Senzatela (COL) v. Clayton Richard (SD), 10:10 ET

While this isn’t a marquis pitching matchup, the Rockies series against the Padres is incredibly important because this six-game road trip is the prelude to a homestand stretch where they play the Dodgers and DBacks. To be able to go into that homestand positioned well in the standings will make a huge different if Colorado is going to make the playoffs.

Friday, August 31

James Paxton (SEA) v. Mike Fiers (OAK), 10:05 ET

Oakland has replaced Seattle as the team most likely to chase down the Astros, but the Mariners are not out of the playoff race yet (despite their best attempts). The A’s only trail the Astros by two games in the loss column.

Zack Greinke (ARI) v. Clayton Kershaw (LAD), 10:10 ET

This race may go down to the last days of September, as the Dodgers seemingly had the edge over the DBacks all year, but have yet to pull ahead of them in the standings. There are a few good games to watch this series but the highlight will be seeing how a rejuvenated Clayton Kershaw does in a key game against Arizona’s ace.

*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