A look at what’s happening all around the majors today:
Coming off a loss Tuesday night, the World Series champion Cubs make their second attempt at clinching a second straight NL Central title when veteran John Lackey (11-11, 4.67 ERA) pitches in St. Louis. The rival Cardinals, who are 2½ games behind Colorado for the second NL wild card, counter with Michael Wacha (12-8, 4.00) as they try to prevent Chicago from celebrating on their home turf.
After going 59-103 last year, the worst record in the majors, the Twins (83-74) are on the cusp of grabbing the final American League playoff spot. They can wrap up the second wild card and their first postseason berth since 2010 with a win at Cleveland or an Angels loss to the White Sox in Chicago. Minnesota, which has won five in a row, will start rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia (4-6, 4.48 ERA) against the AL Central champion Indians, who are one game ahead of Houston for home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. 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.
Luis Severino (13-6, 3.03 ERA) gets a postseason tuneup for the Yankees when he starts against Tampa Bay with an eye toward his potential assignment in the AL wild-card game. New York still hopes to chase down first-place Boston in the AL East, but is likely to host Minnesota in the one-game playoff next Tuesday night. Severino has allowed one run or none in nine of 13 starts since the All-Star break, going 8-2 with a 2.34 ERA. He will face the Rays on six days’ rest.
LITTLE BIG MAN
AL West champion Houston hopes to have Jose Altuve back in the lineup at Texas after the All-Star second baseman didn’t start Tuesday night. Altuve, a leading contender for AL MVP, was hit by a 95 mph fastball Monday and left the game. The team said X-rays were negative and he had a bruised left forearm. Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Tuesday the 5-foot-6 Altuve was fine, just sore. Altuve leads the majors with a .348 batting average and needs one hit to reach 200 for the fourth straight season.
A year after missing much of Cleveland’s run to the World Series because of an injury, Danny Salazar is trying to show he’s even worth a postseason roster spot. The right-hander has been in and out of the rotation lately, and he’s allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings over his past two starts. He’ll get a chance to find his rhythm in a start against Minnesota.
A couple of playoff-bound pitchers get their final tuneups before long layoffs. Houston right-hander Justin Verlander tries to win his fifth straight start in a game against Texas, while Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill (1-8, 3.50) takes a 2.45 September ERA into a start against San Diego. Both pitchers will then wait more than a week to pitch in the playoffs.
It’s that time of year in Cleveland — the Indians are chasing a World Series, LeBron James is gearing up for another season, and Trevor Bauer is talking about his drones. Cleveland could do without the latter. The righty lost a drone Monday in a suburban park, and posted a message on Twitter asking the person who took it to return it as soon as possible. Last year, Bauer sliced open his right pinky tinkering with a drone during the ALCS and needed stitches. He started Game 3 in Toronto, but didn’t make it through the first inning before the cut opened, making it impossible for him to pitch.
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