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Marty’s musings: tight races and great matchups

Playoff races are heating up as September rapidly approaches.

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/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 two big National League sweeps, Pete Alonso ties a record, and we review the Red Sox 12-minute game. We also preview a number of exciting potential playoff previews and several teams going head-to-head as they jockey for wild card spots.

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

News and Notes

1 2/3 - Innings pitched in a minor league game for Carlos Carrasco, who has been working to get back on the field despite his leukemia diagnosis. Not only would he be a great shot-in-the-arm for an Indians team that is within distance of catching the Twins for the Central lead, but the emotional positivity of watching someone so recently diagnosed with blood cancer making his way back to a rotation would be a phenomenal story for baseball.

12 - Minute continued rainout game that the Red Sox and Royals played at Fenway Park on Thursday afternoon. Despite the abbreviated affair that started in the tenth inning, and which Boston won in a walkoff in the bottom of the tenth, everyone seemed to enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere. Kids got in for free, adults got in for $5, and concessions were cheap. It was like the old days...if only for 12 minutes.

41 - Home runs for rookie Pete Alonso, who set the Mets’ franchise record last week by tying Todd Hundley (1996) and Carlos Beltran (2006). Alonso is the late-season favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award, espiecally with the Padres Fernando Tatis Jr. out for the year due to injury.

26 - Atlanta hitters who struck out in a 14-inning game at Citifield on Friday. The 14 strikeouts tied an MLB record for most Ks in a game, but despite all the whiffs, Atlanta managed to best New York 2-1 in the first game of an on-the-road three-game sweep. The Braves have a commanding six game lead in the NL East, and kept pace with the second place Nationals who had their own big weekend in Chicago....

23 - Runs the Washington Nationals scored in a three-game sweep of the Cubs this past weekend. The Cubs looked entirely overmatched against their fellow wild card competitor, and now trail the Cardinals by 2 ½ games in the NL Central.

262 - Home runs allowed by Orioles’ pitching this season, a new MLB record. With over a month still to go (they broke the record on August 22nd), Baltimore pitchers are going to obliterate the previously standing number. The Yankees accounted for nearly ¼ of the homers, but Orioles pitching has been a mess all season.

30/30 - Season for Braves’ 21-year-old outfielder Ronald Acuna. He stole his 30th base on Friday, becoming the second- youmgest player in MLB history to go 30/30. Unsurprisingly, Mike trout is the youngest; Trout hit 30 homers and stole 49 bases in his age-20 2012 season.

23-2 - The Houston Astros home record against the division this season. In total, Houston has runaway with the division due to their utter dominance against the West, where they won 41 games. The Astros are 12-1 against Seattle, 10-5 against Oakland, 8-3 against the Angels, and 11-6 against the Rangers.

Matchups to Watch

Monday, August 26

Adam Wainwright (STL) v. Gio Gonzalez (MIL), 7:05 ET

After taking two-of-three at home against the Brewers last week, Milwaukee heads home to try to return the favor in their own ballpark. This game starts a three-game set that can help the Brewers dig out of a 4 ½ game divisional hole, or further bury them behind both the Cardinals and Cubs.

Tuesday, August 27

Michael Pineda (MIN) v. Lucas Giolito (CHW), 8:10 ET

Giolito dominated the potent Twins lineup last week, throwing a three-hit, complete game shutout. He struck out 12, and walked zero in his best performance of the season. The Twins are 3 ½ games up on Cleveland in the Central, and have been excellent on the road all season. They’ll have their hands full on Tuesday night though.

Wednesday, August 28

Kyle Hendricks (CHC) v. Noah Syndergaard (NYM), 7:10 ET

The Cubs currently sit in the second wild card slot, going from being one back for the top spot to being four back after being swept by the Nationals last week. The Mets are only two games behind Chicago for that last spot, though they are effectively tied with Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Wednesday is the middle game of a three-game set that should deliver great energy considering the playoff implications going into Labor Day.

Tyler Yarbrough (TB) v. Gerritt Cole (HOU), 8:10 ET

Houston is cruising to another AL West pennant, while the Rays are fighting for their life just to make the playoffs. With Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow shelved, Tyler Yarbrough has stepped-up his game to fill in the void. In his three starts (a combined 19 innings of work), he has only yielded one earned run and has a 23:0 strikeout to walk rate. At the moment, Cleveland, Tampa, and Oakland are all vying for two American League wild card spots.

Friday, August 30

Brett Anderson (OAK) v. CC Sabathia (NYY), 7:05 ET

The Athletics offense took advantage of questionable Yankees’ pitching last weekend in Oakland, taking all three games of the series. Labor Day weekend, the A’s are coming east to play New York. While New York has a comfortable lead in the American League, they are jockeying with the Astros for home field advantage.

Shane Bieber (CLE) v. TBD (TB), 7:05 ET

As we head into September, the Indians and Rays get their shot at one another head-to-head to see who has the playoff advantage heading into a tight September wild card race. While the Indians have a chance at the division, the Rays are playing for a wild card slot only. It looked like Corey Kluber might be joining the Indians rotation this week, but a setback has moved his return out a couple weeks, making Bieber’s starts that much more important.

Saturday, August 31

Zack Davies (MIL) v. Cole Hamels (CHC), 2:20 ET

Both Milwaukee and Chicago are looking up at St. Louis in the standings, and both teams have impact-series this week. This weekend, the Cubs play host to the Brewers who are really in a make-it-or-break-it time in their season, as their next 12 games are against the Cardinals, Cubs, and Astros. A good two weeks and they can be sitting pretty entering the home stretch.

Sunday, September 1

Marcus Stroman (NYM) v. Jason Vargas (PHI), 7:10 ET

While not an impressive pitching matchup, the division rivalry between the Mets and Phillies is that much more interesting with recently-traded Jason Vargas taking on his former club, both of which are very much in the playoff hunt. Despite the seemingly positive narrative surrounding the Mets and the Phillies getting press for being on the downswing, the two clubs are basically in the same spot chasing a wild card spot.

*All pitching matchups as of Sunday night’s pitching probables


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