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Marty’s musings: well into September, the NL playoff picture remains murky

With three weeks left the National League playoff picture is as opaque as it’s been all year.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-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, the Cardinals make it official with their new manager, the Red Sox showcase some late-inning firepower, and Jacob deGrom continues to make his case for NL Cy Young despite pathetic run support from the Mets’ offense. All this news and more, in this week’s Musings.

News and Notes

29-16 - The Cardinals’ record since Mike Shildt took over the team from Mike Matheny. The team announced last week they were removing the ‘interim’ tag from his title, and signed him to a three-year contract. Although the Cards are currently on a three-game slide, Shildt helped turn their season around, and St. Louis is currently sitting in the second NL wild card slot.

4 - Strikeouts for the AstrosJose Altuve on Wednesday night, the first time the reigning MVP has ever K’d four times in one night. The stretch lasted for 1094 games over eight seasons.

-0.2 - 2018 fWAR for Albert Pujols, who underwent season-ending surgery last week. Per bWAR, Pujols wasn’t as bad, and his 0.4 bWAR put him just shy of 100 wins for his career. It’s been a pretty forgettable tenure in Anaheim, over the course of seven seasons, he’s accumulated fewer than seven wins per FanGraphs.

4 - Year contract extension for Astros’ skipper A.J. Hinch. Hinch managed Houston to their first-ever World Series Championship last year, and has positioned the team as heavy-favorites in the AL West. Barring any unforeseen craziness in the AL, they’re likely to take on the Indians in the ALDS.

8 - Teams in the National League that are either in a playoff position today, or within 3 ½ games of taking over a playoff spot. While the American League looks solidified going down the stretch, there is still much to be decided in the NL, particularly the National League West, which has seen three different teams hold sole possession of first-place over the last week.

3 - Outs Andrew Benintendi made in an 11-run seventh inning against the Marlins last Wednesday. The Red Sox were down 5-2 going into the seventh, when their offense exploded. Benintendi made the first out on a sacrifice bunt (interesting call at the time and in retrospect) and then grounded into a double play later in the inning. Wednesday showed how you can never count Boston out of any game, and the White Sox found the same thing the following night, when they took a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning, only to allow nine runs the rest of the game.

3 - Teams in a calendar year for Andrew McCutchen, who the Giants traded to the Yankees in a post-non-waiver-deadline deal. The move raised questions as to the potential full-strength return of outfielder Aaron Judge. Judge claims he is making good progress on his broken wrist, but the yankees are taking all precautions and mitigation plans they can.

5 - Consecutive 100-strikeout seasons for Yankees’ reliever Dellin Betances. He is the first reliever to ever have that many strikeouts over half-a-decade.

1 - Game won the Diamondbacks in their four-game series against the Dodgers. With LA taking three of four, and the Snakes losing to the Padres on Labor Day, the Dodgers have now moved ahead of them by a game, though the Rockies have moved ahead of both Arizona and Los Angeles, and into sole possession of first place.

25 - Consecutive starts of three of fewer runs for the Mets’ Jacob deGrom. deGrom had to drive in the only run the Mets gave him while he was on the mound, and New York’s offensive woes with him pitching continued against LA on Monday night. deGrom currently has 7.4 wins per FanGraphs, and an 8-8 record.

Matchups to Watch

Tuesday, September 4

Mike Montgomery (CHC) v. Wade Miley (MIL)

The Brewers have made some noise in the NL Central but still trail the Cubs by four games. It is looking more likely that they will have to settle for a wild card slot rather than a division crown this year, which is still more than most expected coming into the year. There is still plenty of time for things to shake out in a crowded NL wild card field.

Wednesday, September 5

Luis Severino (NYY) v. Mike Fiers (OAK), 10:10 ET

It is looking more and more likely that the Yankees will play host to the A’s for the right to play the Red Sox in the ALDS. Oakland took the first game of the series on Monday, but the Yankees send out their likely wild card starter Wednesday against the Athletics.

Friday, September 7

Clayton Kershaw (LAD) v. Jon Gray (COL), 8:40 ET

The Dodgers moved ahead of the DBacks over the weekend, but they still trail Colorado who has their fate in their own hands. Kershaw has been excellent recently and will take-on the Rockies in the first of a three-game set. All three of these games will be important for both teams, with the Rockies getting the Diamondbacks next.

Kevin Gausman (ATL) v. Patrick Corbin (ARI), 9:40 ET

With the Phillies fading in the East, the division looks like it is the Braves to lose. They have a rough stretch this week, when they face the Red Sox for three games, and then are off to Arizona for four games. Kevin Gausman has been masterful since his trade to Atlanta, while Patrick Corbin continues to put up the best season of his career.

Saturday, September 8

Gerrit Cole (HOU) v. Brian Johnson (BOS), 4:05 ET

Cole has been one of Houston’s best starters this season, and will meet his match against a difficult Red Sox lineup. Boston and Houston have been the best teams in the American League since the start of the season, and this three-game set may be an ALCS preview if the Sox can beat the wild card team, and the Astros can handle the Indians in the ALDS.

Cole Hamels (CHC) v. Max Scherzer (WAS), 7:05 ET

The Nats season is basically over, but Max Scherzer remains must-watch tv. He’ll take on the Cubs, the toast of the NL, on Saturday night. Cole Hamels meanwhile has been amazing since his trade to the Cubs, posting only five earned runs in 45 innings of work.

*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