LEADING OFF: Dodgers can clinch NL West; Cubs on a roll
A look at what’s happening all around the majors today:
THE WEST IS NEARLY WON
The Dodgers can clinch their fifth straight NL West title with a victory in Philadelphia and an Arizona loss at San Diego. Already assured at least a wild-card berth in the playoffs, Los Angeles has dropped three games in a row and 19 of 24. Left-hander Alex Wood (15-3, 2.69) tries to stop the slide when he pitches against Jake Thompson (2-2, 4.46) and the last-place Phillies, who need three wins to avoid a 100-loss season.
EYE ON THE PRIZE
With the playoffs right around the corner, the World Series champion Cubs are riding their longest winning streak of the season. They have a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL Central over Milwaukee and will go for their eighth straight victory when veteran lefty Jon Lester faces Tampa Bay. Lester (11-7), who lost to the Rays on July 4, has won three consecutive starts. Chicago extended its string to seven games Tuesday night with a 2-1 win in manager Joe Maddon’s return to Tropicana Field. Maddon managed Tampa Bay from 2006-14. A crowd of 25,046, the largest at the ballpark since opening day, gave him a standing ovation in the middle of the first inning.
Luis Severino starts for the Yankees after getting moved up two days to face Minnesota in the finale of a three-game series. New York manager Joe Girardi said the move was made to give Severino three more regular-season starts if needed as the team tries to overtake first-place Boston in the AL East. The Yankees, who have a comfortable lead in the wild-card race, trail the Red Sox by three games with 11 to play. ”Our goal is still to win the division. We’ve clinched nothing at this point,” Girardi said. ”We still have a lot of work to do in front of us so it gives us the ability to start him three more times.” Severino will be pitching on regular four days’ rest. He has never faced the Twins, a potential opponent in the AL wild-card game. ”I can see their weakness and I can face all their hitters and see what I can do with their lineup,” he said. The 23-year-old Severino is 13-6 with a 2.93 ERA and has not allowed more than one earned run in nine of 12 outings since the All-Star break. Bartolo Colon (6-13, 6.39) gets the ball for Minnesota, which is trying to hang onto the second wild-card spot.
ACE IS UP
Chris Sale (16-7, 2.86 ERA) attempts to match his career high for wins when the Red Sox wrap up their series in Baltimore. He needs 13 strikeouts to become the first AL pitcher with 300 in a season since Pedro Martinez in 1999. Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia is expected back in the starting lineup. Pedroia was used as a pinch-hitter Tuesday night after leaving Monday’s game when he fouled a ball off his nose. Designated hitter Hanley Ramirez (left arm soreness) also is likely to play, manager John Farrell said. Ramirez was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game Tuesday.
THE LONG BALL
From here on out, every time a hitter goes deep this year it will extend a big league record. Kansas City outfielder Alex Gordon’s solo shot in Toronto on Tuesday night was the 5,694th home run of this major league season, breaking the mark set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era. The record was broken with just less than two weeks remaining in the season. ”A pretty cool thing to be a part of,” Gordon said. ”I didn’t hit many this year, but I guess I made one count.”
Oakland rookie Matt Olson has homered in five straight games, tying Matt Stairs (1998), Dave Kingman (1986) and George Alusik (1962) for the second-longest streak in Athletics history behind Frank Thomas’ six in 2006. Olson and the A’s play a matinee in Detroit. The 23-year-old first baseman has 15 home runs in his last 21 games and has hit 23 since coming up from the minors in early June. ”It’s been pretty spectacular, for the amount of time he’s been here and what he’s done,” manager Bob Melvin said. ”That’s the kind of player you build around.”
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