Slowly but surely, the MLB season is coming to a close. That means pennant races are heating up and a few teams are getting closer to clinching their spot in the postseason. Let’s check out the top stories of the past week as we head deeper into September.
The Royals have been an afterthought in 2018 but they were nearly a part of history last weekend as rookie Jorge Lopez was just three outs from a perfect game. In just his seventh career big league start, Lopez retired the first 24 batters he faced before issuing a walk to lead off the 9th and giving up a hit before exiting. The 25-year old was acquired by Kansas City earlier this summer in the Mike Moustakas trade, but he looks like he could be a keeper.
Down and Out
Bad news seems to keep rolling in for the Oakland A’s. This week they learned that young ace Sean Manaea will indeed require shoulder surgery to address a problem with his rotator cuff. The surgery will officially end his 2018 season. However, recovery is expected to last a full year, which could very well keep him sidelined for the entire 2019 season as well. Oakland is heating up again and staying within striking distance of both the Astros in the AL West and the Yankees for the top wild-card spot. Nevertheless, this is obviously a tough blow for both their present and future.
Guess Who’s Back
Unlike Oakland, the Red Sox actually regained a left-handed ace this week. Chris Sale made his return from the DL on Tuesday, the same night Boston officially clinched at least a wild-card spot. Sale threw just one inning against the Blue Jays, as he wasn’t able to make any minor league rehab starts before coming back from his second DL stint this season due to shoulder trouble. He will have to gradually work his way back to form over the next few weeks in hopes of being back to normal by the start of the postseason.
Not Gonna Make It
Speaking of the Red Sox, the club has closed the door completely on Dustin Pedroia making a comeback this season. Pedroia says he’s close to 100% after a long recovery from knee surgery. But with the minor league season over, he won’t have the chance to play in any games to get back in playing shape. Of course, the Red Sox have been just fine without him and have both Ian Kinsler and Brandon Phillips to play second base. However, his experience in the postseason would have been nice to have come in October.
Still No Verdict
There is still no return date in place for Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who has been out since the end of July with a broken bone in his wrist. His initial timeline was three weeks, but he’s now been out twice that long at the team’s peril. Judge has started to take batting practice but is still experiencing some pain. The longer he stays out, the less time he’ll have to find his rhythm and timing at the plate before the playoffs, specifically the one-game Wild Card Playoff the Yankees appear destined to play in.
On the bright side, the Yankees are starting to believe that closer Aroldis Chapman will make it back from his knee trouble before the end of the season. His season has been in doubt since he landed on the DL last month, but now there are signs that he could be back. However, there is no specific timeline for a return.
Keeping Things Close
The Atlanta Braves have started to pull away in the NL East, helped along by a Philadelphia losing streak. But the other two divisions in the National League remain tight at the top. The Brewers have won four of six head-to-head meetings with the Cubs over the past week and a half, bringing them to within a game of Chicago atop the NL Central. The Cardinals are also close at 3.5 games behind the Cubs.
In the West, the Rockies remain on top, but the Dodgers are just 1.5 games back with the Diamondbacks hanging around at 3.5 games back. Meanwhile, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are two games and four games, respectively, behind the Cardinals for the second wild-card spot. Milwaukee has started to separate for the top wild-card spot, but the Brewers obviously have their eye on overtaking the Cubs for the division.