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Marty’s musings: Hall of Fame weekend and tight wild card races

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Many of the divisional races are well-defined, but the NL still has a lot up-in-the-air. 

National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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 we take a look at last weekend’s Hall of Fame class of 2019, a crowded NL wild card race, and the death of Pumpsie Green, who broke barriers as a Major Leaguer with the Red Sox.

All this news and more in this week’s Musings.

News and Notes

6 - Players enshrined into Cooperstown over the weekend. The Class of 2019 includes ‘closer extraordinaire’ Mariano Rivera, designated hitter Edgar Martinez, pitchers Mike Mussina and Roy Halladay, closer Lee Smith, and Harold Baines.

85 - Year-old Pumpsie Green passed away last week. Green was the first-ever black player to play for the Red Sox, the end of an ugly intolerant and racist Boston era that did far more to contribute to the Red Sox futility over the years than the (made-up) ghost of Babe Ruth. Boston inducted Green into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2018.

1 - Game suspension for Aaron Boone, whose epic tirade (NSFW) got him tossed from the first game of last Thursday’s double-dip against the Rays. The Yankees are in the driver’s seat in the AL East, with a full nine game lead over the second-place Rays.

5 - RBIs for Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg, who hit a three-run home run and a two-run single against the Braves on Thursday night. No pitcher has driven in five runs since April 2014, when Madison Bumgarner did it against the Rockies.

3 - Game losing streak for the Twins last week, who took two of three from Cleveland, but lost the third game, then lost a two-game set against the Mets. The Twins are the last of the MLB teams to lost three straight. They still lead Cleveland by three games in the AL Central, though that lead has been cut in half.

11 - League-leading shutouts for the Dodgers this season. Walker Buehler was masterful in the Dodgers 9-0 romping of the Marlins Sunday afternoon. The Dodgers are cruising to an NL West crown, 16 games in front of the second-place .500 Diamondbacks and Giants (50-50).

474 - Foot monster dinger hit by Mets first baseman, and HR Derby champion, Pete Alonso. It’s his 45th barrel of the year, and the longest Mets’ home run tracked in the Statcast era (which goes back to 2015).

11 - Of the 15 NL teams are either in a playoff spot already, or within 5 ½ games of a playoff spot. The Marlins are done, 15 games behind the second wild card spot. The Mets and Reds’ seasons are over as well, as they are both seven games behind the second WC spot. The Pirates, Padres, and Rockies all have 52 losses, and while still are technically ‘close enough’ it’s the Giants and Diamondbacks at 2 ½ out, and the Cardinals and Phillies at ½ game out that make this really interesting. With so many teams close, it should be an interesting trade deadline.

Matchups to Watch

Tuesday, July 23

Chris Sale (BOS) v. Yonny Chirinos (TB), 7:10 ET

All the Yankees do is win these days, so the Red Sox and Rays will be battling for wild card spots going forward. Chris Sale earned his first win at Fenway in over a year last week, while the Rays are licking their wounds following a 1-5 skid.

Wednesday, July 24

Chris Bassitt (OAK) v. Justin Verlander (HOU), 2:10 ET

Oakland is not going to catch the Astros for the division, but they are well-positioned for a wild card berth, and are currently tied with Cleveland for the top spot. They take on the ‘stros this week in Houston and can make a statement that they can contend with the best teams and pitchers in baseball.

Thursday, July 25

Jose Berrios (MIN) v. Lucas Giolito (CHW), 8:10 ET

The White Sox lost four straight to the lowly Royals last week, and this week get the first-place Twins. Minnesota had a sizable lead in the Central, but it’s been cut-down to three games. Winning the series against the White Sox would help right the ship.

Friday, July 26

Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) v. Aaon Sanchez (WAS), 7:05 ET

The Nationals have been playing well since the beginning of June, and are tied with the Brewers for the top wild-card spot. They continue to chase the Braves, with whom they split a four-game set with over the weekend. Ryu meanwhile continues to be the best pitcher in the National League, and is helping cruise the Dodgers to the playoffs as the NL favorites.

Saturday, July 27

Kyle Hendricks (CHC) v. Brendan Woodruff (MIL), 7:10 ET

The Cubs and Brewers have been jockeying for first place in a crowded NL Central for most of the year. Entering this week, the Cubs lead the division by two games, making this series at home very important for the Brew Crew.

*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