LEADING OFF: Cubs and Twins can clinch, Harper getting close
A look at what’s happening all around the majors today:
The Cubs can clinch the NL Central for a second straight year with a win against St. Louis or a loss by Milwaukee. Jake Arrieta (14-9, 3.43 ERA) pitches for Chicago, making his second start since missing nearly three weeks with a hamstring injury. The Cardinals counter with righty Carlos Martinez (12-11, 3.63), who gave up seven runs to Chicago on Sept. 15.
After going 59-103 last year, the worst record in the majors, the Twins (82-74) can clinch an AL wild card and their first postseason berth since 2010 with a win at Cleveland and an Angels loss to the White Sox in Chicago. Minnesota will start 44-year-old Bartolo Colon (6-14) against the AL Central champion Indians. The surprising Twins are the 13th team in big league history, and first since the 2009 Seattle Mariners, to go from 100-plus losses to a winning record the following season.
WAITING ON YOU
Perhaps slugger Bryce Harper will be well enough to return to the Nationals’ lineup in Philadelphia. Any plans the NL East champions had of Harper coming back from his knee injury Monday night were dashed due to flu-like symptoms. ”We just have to see how he feels,” manager Dusty Baker said. ”You hate to waste these days, but you also hate to push him out there when he’s not ready. Hopefully, it’s just an overnight thing.” The 2015 NL MVP has been sidelined with a bone bruise in his hyperextended left knee since slipping on a wet base Aug. 12. He has missed 42 games.
BOSTON BANGED UP
The Red Sox are hoping for good news on a pair of injured hitters: Mookie Betts and Eduardo Nunez. Betts exited Monday’s game with pain in his left wrist a few innings after going over 100 RBIs for the second straight season. Nunez aggravated a right knee injury that had kept him out of Boston’s previous 13 games. Chris Sale (17-7, 2.75 ERA) tries to push the Red Sox closer to an AL East title when he takes his major league-leading 300 strikeouts to the mound against Toronto. Boston’s magic number is three to clinch its second consecutive division crown.
Dallas Keuchel and Cole Hamels, a pair of left-handed aces who have both missed more than 50 games this season, pitch the middle game of a series between the Astros and Rangers. AL West champion Houston is still playing for a chance at the AL’s top record, but two-time defending division champion Texas could be eliminated from wild-card contention Tuesday. Keuchel (13-5) is making his 12th start since missing 53 games during two DL stints, for a pinched nerve in his back and then neck discomfort. Hamels (11-4) missed 51 games because of a right oblique strain and is making his 18th start since coming back.
WILD AT HOME
With slugger Aaron Judge looking to add to his rookie-record total of 50 home runs, the Yankees are one step from assuring themselves home-field advantage if they wind up in the AL wild-card game. To do it, New York needs just one win or a Minnesota loss. Rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery (8-7) starts against visiting Tampa Bay, while the Twins play at AL Central champion Cleveland. Of course, the Yankees would still love to catch Boston for the AL East title. They trail the first-place Red Sox by four games with six to play.
SHAKEN IN ST. LOUIS
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is in concussion protocol after taking two foul balls off his mask Monday. ”I haven’t heard from the medical team yet and I don’t know what’s going on,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said after the game. The Cardinals are 2 1/2 games behind Colorado for the second NL wild card.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball