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Oswalt a bright spot in Mets' loss to Nats

Rookie right-hander's 5 strong innings give club reason to be optimistic
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

WASHINGTON -- Outside of a few aches and pains here and there, the Mets' rotation has stayed remarkably healthy this season. A group with significant injury concerns heading into the spring has quelled nearly all of them, with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz in particular combining to start 111 of the team's first 155 games.

As a result, a year after exposing their lack of rotation depth during an injury-riddled season, the Mets have relied relatively little on their extra arms. But they will head into the winter optimistic about the one depth piece they've seen consistently, rookie Corey Oswalt, who delivered five innings of two-run ball Saturday in a 6-0 loss to the Nationals.

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WASHINGTON -- Outside of a few aches and pains here and there, the Mets' rotation has stayed remarkably healthy this season. A group with significant injury concerns heading into the spring has quelled nearly all of them, with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz in particular combining to start 111 of the team's first 155 games.

As a result, a year after exposing their lack of rotation depth during an injury-riddled season, the Mets have relied relatively little on their extra arms. But they will head into the winter optimistic about the one depth piece they've seen consistently, rookie Corey Oswalt, who delivered five innings of two-run ball Saturday in a 6-0 loss to the Nationals.

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"We know that we have an impactful pitcher on our hands," manager Mickey Callaway said.

'Onesie Bros' made an appearance at Mets game

Although the Mets will not ask the 25-year-old Oswalt to be a member of their 2019 rotation, they will almost certainly ask him to do what he did Saturday at Nationals Park. Spot starting for Wheeler, whom the Mets shut down for the season due to workload concerns, Oswalt wriggled out of jams in the first and second innings, and retired eight of the final nine batters he faced. In between, the Nationals troubled Oswalt only for a Trea Turner two-run homer in the third.

Video: NYM@WSH: Turner smashes a 2-run jack to left field

The Mets' defeat landed more squarely on the shoulders of reliever Jerry Blevins, who allowed a three-run shot to Matt Wieters in the sixth inning, and on an offense that mustered just one hit against rookie starter Austin Voth and a quartet of relievers.

Those factors foisted a loss upon Oswalt, whose overall numbers -- 3-3 with a 6.08 ERA -- hardly tell the story of his summer. Frequently shuttled between Triple-A Las Vegas and the Majors, and between the big league bullpen and rotation, Oswalt owns a 4.06 ERA in starts on four or five days' rest. That includes each of his three starts this month, in which he holds a 3.38 mark.

"The shuffling back and forth is just how the game goes sometimes and what the team needs." Oswalt said. "But it's nice to be on a little bit of a routine, and building off that going into games."

Video: NYM@WSH: Plawecki cuts down Zimmerman stealing

While Callaway has hinted that he wants the Mets to acquire free-agent starting-pitching depth over the winter, Oswalt will remain a part of the team's plans -- especially since the club appears content with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman as bullpen cogs instead of rotation pieces. None of the Mets' top four pitching prospects -- Justin Dunn, Franklyn Kilome, David Peterson and Anthony Kay -- will be ready for the Majors by the start of next season, making Oswalt an insurance policy in the event of injury.

"We need to go out and make sure that we have as many starting options as we possibly can, because that can keep you in it when guys go down," Callaway said. "And guys go down. We've been fortunate this year with the health of most of our arms, but you can't expect that every single year. So we have to be prepared for the worst."

Video: NYM@WSH: 2 Mets fans sport onesies at Nationals Park

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Leaky bullpen: His recent run of 13 consecutive scoreless outings definitively in the past, Blevins has allowed at least one run in each of his last three appearances. The left-hander's trouble Saturday began when Anthony Rendon hit a one-out double in the sixth, then moved to third on Juan Soto's groundout. Blevins intentionally walked the next batter, Ryan Zimmerman, compounding the effects of Wieters' subsequent homer.

Due to become a free agent after the season, Blevins owns a 4.61 ERA.

Video: NYM@WSH: Wieters crushes a 3-run homer to left

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Mets' one-hit performance could have been worse. Leading off the fourth inning, Michael Conforto punched an inside fastball to the opposite field, away from the Nationals' defensive overshift. Rendon managed to glove it and attempt a jump throw to first base, but not in nearly enough time to nab Conforto.

That wound up being the Mets' only hit. It was their most meager offensive performance since the Dodgers also one-hit them Aug. 6, 2017.

Video: NYM@WSH: Conforto legs out an infield hit in the 4th

HE SAID IT
"He has a knack for throwing the ball over the plate. He's got a lot of deception in his fastball. … He's got enough weapons to go out there and compete." -- Callaway, on Oswalt

UP NEXT
Matz will start the Mets' final road game of the year Sunday at Nationals Park. The owner of a 2.29 ERA over his last six outings, Matz will put that run of success on the line against right-hander Erick Fedde in the 1:35 p.m. ET game.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Corey Oswalt

'Onesie Bros' cheer on Mets at Nationals Park

The weather seems to be cooling off, so what better way to celebrate the beginning of fall than with Mets snuggies? Just ask the "Onesie Bros."

Young fan takes being fake ump seriously

In recent years, we've seen plenty of fans dress up like umpires and "call" the action from the stands. It's a fun gag, an excuse to both dress up and shout at the top of your lungs without the people around you looking at you like you're crazy. 

But for Vincent, a 10-year-old at Saturday's Mets-Nationals game in D.C., it was no laughing matter -- this was a business trip.

deGrom adds quality-start record to Cy resume

Ace tosses seven frames of one-run ball; bats lend support with three-run third
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

WASHINGTON -- There are still some out there who do not consider Jacob deGrom the National League's best pitcher, some who won't be convinced no matter how much evidence surfaces to the contrary. Wins are wins, and they've been around more than a century. To many, they are religion.

Yet it doesn't take a degree in advanced baseball analytics or even a fluency in them to understand deGrom has risen so far beyond his win-loss record as to render it irrelevant. In beating the Nationals, 4-2, on Friday at Nationals Park, deGrom took another step in proving that. He delivered his 23rd consecutive quality start to break a tie with Bob Gibson and Chris Carpenter, setting a single-season Major League record.

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WASHINGTON -- There are still some out there who do not consider Jacob deGrom the National League's best pitcher, some who won't be convinced no matter how much evidence surfaces to the contrary. Wins are wins, and they've been around more than a century. To many, they are religion.

Yet it doesn't take a degree in advanced baseball analytics or even a fluency in them to understand deGrom has risen so far beyond his win-loss record as to render it irrelevant. In beating the Nationals, 4-2, on Friday at Nationals Park, deGrom took another step in proving that. He delivered his 23rd consecutive quality start to break a tie with Bob Gibson and Chris Carpenter, setting a single-season Major League record.

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Now sporting a 1.77 ERA with one start remaining, deGrom has, for all intents and purposes, locked up the NL ERA title. More and more, the NL Cy Young Award also appears to be a foregone conclusion. deGrom has compiled more consecutive starts of three runs or fewer (28) than anyone in Major League history, and is almost certain to become just the sixth pitcher this century to throw at least 200 innings with a sub-2.00 ERA.

He struck out eight on Friday, increasing his season total to 259, the fifth-highest mark in Mets history; only Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver ever racked up more. He also can join Pedro Martinez and Christy Mathewson as the only Major Leaguers in the last 110 years to post sub-2.00 ERAs with at least 250 strikeouts and 50 or fewer walks.

"He's just able to do things other guys aren't," Mets outfielder Jay Bruce said.

On Friday, that began with what catcher Devin Mesoraco called one of deGrom's best fastballs of the season -- a signature offering that appears to rise as it reaches home plate, maxing out at 99 mph. It continued with deGrom's league-best knack for run prevention. The only Nats player to score off deGrom did so after he walked the leadoff man in the second inning. Two batters later, Ryan Zimmerman hit a sacrifice fly.

Mesoraco returns from injury to catch for deGrom

Moments later, deGrom picked Wilmer Difo off first base, then retired 15 of the final 17 Nationals he faced.

Video: NYM@WSH: deGrom picks off Difo to end the 2nd

"I've been fortunate enough to throw the ball pretty well this year," deGrom said. "I just try to learn from the outings that I've had and go out there and continue to throw the ball well."

The Mets even supported deGrom with offense this time, starting with Bruce's RBI single in the first inning. He hit an RBI double in the third, and Dominic Smith's RBI single and Mesoraco's RBI double followed in the inning. That pushed deGrom's record (9-9) back to .500, potentially sparing him the ambivalence of becoming the first starter in history to win a Cy Young with a losing record.

Video: NYM@WSH: Mesoraco plates Smith with double in 3rd

One start remains for deGrom: Wednesday against the Braves. If he wins, he will finish with a winning record.

"I think he's just getting better and better," Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper said. "He's a special ballplayer. He's one of the best in baseball from both leagues."

Video: NYM@WSH: deGrom strikes out Harper with 99-mph pitch

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Bruce on the loose: Since coming off the disabled list in late August, Bruce has been on a tear, hitting twice as many home runs in his last 25 games (six) as he did in his first 62. Although Bruce did not homer off Nationals starter Joe Ross on Friday, he twice knocked in runs. The second of those, plating Michael Conforto in the third inning, kick-started a rally.

"Last year was arguably the best season in my career," Bruce said. "You don't just forget. … I feel healthy now, and I just look to finish up here on a high note."

Video: NYM@WSH: Bruce drives an RBI double to right

SOUND SMART
Although deGrom enjoyed a rare three-run cushion for most of Friday's outing, he upped his season total to 608 batters faced with the score either tied or the Mets leading or trailing by a run. That is the most in the Major Leagues.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Threatening to undo all of deGrom's early work, the Nationals brought the potential tying run to the plate with one out in the eighth, down by three. Victor Robles hit a ground ball to the left side, where Todd Frazier fielded it and made a move to tag Spencer Kieboom, but threw to second base for a forceout instead. Jeff McNeil then fired the ball back to Frazier, who tagged Kieboom for an unusual 5-4-5 double play.

Video: NYM@WSH: Frazier's head up play nets two outs

HE SAID IT
"It's been pretty automatic. He's either going to give up zero or one pretty much every time he goes out. … It's so impressive. Jacob has, in my opinion this year, set himself apart with how he's performed. That's no disrespect to any of the guys who are having great years for the other teams, but Jake has been very dominant this year. … He's very, very boring in the best way possible." -- Bruce, on deGrom

UP NEXT
With Zack Wheeler shut down for the year due to his heavy workload, Corey Oswalt will rejoin the rotation on Saturday at Nationals Park. Oswalt, who has already spot started twice this month for the Mets, will oppose right-hander Austin Voth in the 4:05 p.m. ET game.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

Back from injury, Mesoraco catches for deGrom

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

WASHINGTON -- For the first time in 18 days, Devin Mesoraco returned to the field on Friday, starting behind the plate against the Nationals. Returning this season was never a guarantee for Mesoraco, who received an epidural injection two weeks ago to treat a bulging disk in his back. That Mesoraco did so with Jacob deGrom on the mound is a testament to the latter's comfort level with him behind the plate.

"I'm sure that he knows that Devin's very, very prepared," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said of deGrom. "I think Jacob likes the fact that they're on the same page a lot with the pitches they want to throw to hitters. … When you have success, you want to stick with what's been working."

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WASHINGTON -- For the first time in 18 days, Devin Mesoraco returned to the field on Friday, starting behind the plate against the Nationals. Returning this season was never a guarantee for Mesoraco, who received an epidural injection two weeks ago to treat a bulging disk in his back. That Mesoraco did so with Jacob deGrom on the mound is a testament to the latter's comfort level with him behind the plate.

"I'm sure that he knows that Devin's very, very prepared," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said of deGrom. "I think Jacob likes the fact that they're on the same page a lot with the pitches they want to throw to hitters. … When you have success, you want to stick with what's been working."

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For Mesoraco, returning to active duty also offered a chance to make an offensive impact before becoming a free agent for the first time in his career. Prior to his injury, Mesoraco was batting .213 with a .295 on-base percentage and a .374 slugging mark. But his 10 home runs were his most since 2014, when he hit 25 for the Reds and made the All-Star Game.

He added a couple of doubles and an RBI in Friday's 4-2 win over the Nationals.

Health, mostly, has prevented Mesoraco from doing anything like that again and is what will give teams in need of catching help pause this winter; from 2015-17, Mesoraco appeared in just 95 games. Still, Mesoraco believes he is healthy now and that his neck issues will not require more than routine maintenance going forward.

"You want to finish the year healthy. You don't want people to have questions going into the offseason," Mesoraco said. "With the things that I've dealt with the past couple of years -- missing so much time, being hurt, not being able to play -- free agency hasn't been on my mind at all. It's just been, 'All right, let's make it through the year. Let's try to be healthy.' That's really been it."

Since receiving the epidural, Mesoraco has not been limited in baseball activities, taking regular batting practice and catching bullpen sessions.

"It's good to be back in there," Mesoraco said. "Hopefully, I can finish the year healthy and on a high note."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Devin Mesoraco

30 best games of '18 -- 1 player from each team

MLB.com @RichardJustice

We went in search of magic. That is, players rising up and doing something they may remember forever. Every team, all 30 of them, has moments like this.

From bunches of home runs to bunches of strikeouts, from household names to players you may not have heard of before, these are players that become part of the fabric of a season.

We went in search of magic. That is, players rising up and doing something they may remember forever. Every team, all 30 of them, has moments like this.

From bunches of home runs to bunches of strikeouts, from household names to players you may not have heard of before, these are players that become part of the fabric of a season.

Here we go: 30 special individual performances for 30 teams:

American League East

Blue Jays: Yangervis Solarte
Date: May 3 vs. CLE
The infielder collected five hits, including a decisive 11th-inning grand slam, in a 13-11 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field. He became the second player in the live-ball era with at least five hits, including an extra-inning grand slam. The other was Jim Rice in 1984.

Orioles: Manny Machado
Date: 
May 11 vs. TB
Machado hit two home runs, including a seventh-inning grand slam, and drove in six as the Orioles beat the Rays, 9-4, at Camden Yards. At 25, he became the youngest Orioles player to hit 150 home runs. "Words can't even describe how exciting that it is, reaching that milestone," he said.

Rays: Ji-Man Choi
Date: 
Sept. 10 vs. CLE
Choi's two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning produced a 6-5 victory over the Indians. In one swing, he kept Tampa Bay's postseason hopes alive and extended its home winning streak to 12 games.

Video: NYY@BOS: Betts his slam, collects four hits vs. Yanks

Red Sox: Mookie Betts
Date: 
April 10 vs. NYY
Betts scored five runs and collected four hits, including two doubles and a grand slam, in a 14-1 victory over the Yankees at Fenway Park.

Yankees: Luis Severino
Date:
May 2 at HOU
Severino struck out 10 Astros in the first complete game of his career, a 4-0 victory at Minute Maid Park. "I wouldn't want to be in the box facing him," teammate Giancarlo Stanton said. "He's going to pound the zone at 100 mph, and if you look on time for that, you're going to get that 90-mph slider. It's exactly what we needed tonight and another par-for-the-course outing for him."

AL CENTRAL

Video: Must C Clutch: Lindor homers twice to hold off Twins

Indians: Francisco Lindor
Date:
May 31 at MIN
Lindor had two doubles, two homers and four RBIs in a 9-8 win over the Twins at Target Field. He joined Adrian Beltre, Jim Edmonds and Rafael Palmeiro as the only players since 1908 to have two such games in the same season.

Royals: Jorge Lopez
Date:
Sept. 8 at MIN
Lopez took a perfect game into the ninth inning in the seventh start of his career. The 25-year-old right-hander walked the leadoff hitter in the ninth, then allowed a hit before departing in what would be a 4-1 win over the Twins at Target Field.

Tigers: Nicholas Castellanos
Date:
Aug. 13 vs. CWS
Castellanos went 5-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs in a 9-5 victory over the White Sox. Among the hits was a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh inning off Jeanmar Gomez.

Twins: Eddie Rosario
Date:
June 3 vs. CLE
With his father sitting a few feet from home plate, Eddie Rosario homered three times, including a two-run walk-off shot that gave the Twins a 7-5 victory over the Indians at Target Field. "It was Rosie's day," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I've seen a lot of good days in the big leagues. But I don't know if I've seen one that was more dramatic than that as far as the first inning all the way through the end."

White Sox: Matt Davidson
Date: 
March 29 at KC
Davidson became the fourth player to hit three home runs on Opening Day as the White Sox rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Royals, 14-7, at Kauffman Stadium. "What an incredible day he had," teammate James Shields said. "Really happy for him. He works his butt off every day, and to have a day like that is pretty special."

AL WEST

Video: LAA@NYY: Trout goes 5-for-5 with career-high 4 XBHs

Angels: Mike Trout
Date:
May 26 at NYY
Trout had a home run, three doubles and an infield single in an 11-4 victory at Yankee Stadium. "He's an unbelievable player and I think he showed that tonight," Yankees starter Sonny Gray said. "He put some good swings on the ball and in the fourth, he hit that homer. That was ultimately the icing on the cake for me."

Astros: Gerrit Cole
Date:
 May 4 at ARI
Cole struck out 16 D-backs in a one-hit complete game, an 8-0 victory at Chase Field. He finished it with a 99-mph fastball to strike out Jarrod Dyson. "Wow," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "It's hard to describe. It's an incredible display of pitching."

Athletics: Sean Manaea
Date:
April 21 vs. BOS
Manaea threw the seventh no-hitter in Oakland A's history in a 3-0 victory over the Red Sox at the Coliseum. "I've caught a lot of great pitchers in this game," A's catcher Jonathan Lucroy said, "and that was the most well-pitched, well-executed game I've ever had behind the plate."

Video: Paxton tosses sixth no-hitter in Mariners history

Mariners: James Paxton
Date:
May 8 at TOR
Paxton returned to his native Canada to no-hit the Blue Jays, 5-0, at Rogers Centre. It was the first complete game of his career. "To have it happen in Canada. What are the odds?" Paxton said. "Just very special."

Rangers: Rougned Odor
Date:
July 28 at HOU
Odor hit two home runs and had a double and two singles in a 7-3 victory at Minute Maid Park. "We talked about finding his swagger, getting his swagger back, getting that confidence back," then-Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Know that you're a really good player and just go show it and stay focused on every single pitch."

NL EAST

Video: Must C Classic: Acuna's 2 homers make history

Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr.
Date:
Aug. 14 vs. MIA
Acuna homered twice and added a single in a 10-6 victory over the Marlins at SunTrust Park. The 20-year-old hit the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the first inning to become the youngest player ever to homer in five consecutive games. "He's the best player I've ever seen," Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte said. "He's just unbelievable."

Marlins: Jose Urena
Date:
Aug. 19 at WSH
Urena retired the final 16 Nationals in a complete-game 12-1 victory at Nationals Park. "You can just see the fire in his eyes every time he's out there," Marlins shortstop JT Riddle said.

Video: NYM@CHC: deGrom K's 10, notches 2 hits vs. Cubs

Mets: Jacob deGrom
Date:
Aug. 28 at CHC
deGrom struck out 10 Cubs and allowed one run in an eight-inning masterpiece of a loss at Wrigley Field. "The guy is as advertised," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That's different. That's another level of stuff."

Nationals: Max Scherzer
Date:
May 6 vs. PHI
Scherzer struck out 15 Phillies in 6 1/3 innings in a 5-4 victory at Nationals Park. He was the first pitcher in history to get 15 strikeouts in 6 1/3 (or fewer) innings. "He doesn't slow," Nationals manager Davey Martinez said. "I watch him in the gym. I watch him watch video. His mind is constantly going and constantly learning."

Phillies: Odubel Herrera
Date:
June 22 at WSH
Herrera scored four runs and had four hits, including a homer, in a 12-2 victory at Nationals Park. "It's simply incredible what he can do," teammate Zach Eflin said. "The thing with Odubel is that he can shake off anything at any given time. He can look like he's struggling and next pitch he sends it 440 feet."

NL CENTRAL

Video: MIL@CIN: Yelich records cycle with 6 hits, shows arm

Brewers: Christian Yelich
Date:
Aug. 29 at CIN
Yelich hit for the cycle -- the first of two Yelich cycles this season -- and had six hits in all in a 13-12, 10-inning victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park. "I've never seen a game like that," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's coming up there and you're thinking he can't do it again, and he does it again."

Cardinals: Matt Carpenter
Date:
July 20 at CHC
Carpenter became the second player in MLB history to hit three homers and two doubles in a game. He did it all in in six innings in an 18-5 victory at Wrigley Field. "I'm having a hard time coming up with words to describe a day like this," Carpenter said.

Cubs: David Bote
Date:
Aug. 12 vs. WSH
Bote delivered a pinch-hit grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning at Wrigley Field to turn a 3-0 loss into a 4-3, walk-off victory over the Nationals. He became the first Cubs player to hit a pinch-hit walk-off grand slam since Earl Averill in 1959.

Pirates: Jameson Taillon
Date:
April 8 vs. CIN
Taillon tossed a one-hitter and drove in Pittsburgh's first run in a 5-0 victory over over the Reds at PNC Park. It was Pittsburgh's first complete-game one-hitter since A.J. Burnett shut out the Cubs in 2012. "This guy, he's special," Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli said.

Reds: Scooter Gennett
Date:
May 26 at COL
Gennett collected five hits -- a first-inning home run and four singles -- and was part of a game-ending defensive play to close out a 6-5 victory over the Rockies at Coors Field.

NL WEST

D-Backs: A.J. Pollock
Date:
April 30 vs. LAD
Pollock hit three home runs in an 8-5 win at Chase Field. "I'm seeing the ball pretty well right now," he said. "I don't know. Some days it just works."

Video: Must C Classic: Puig crushes 3 homers vs. Cardinals

Dodgers: Yasiel Puig
Date:
Sept. 15 at STL
Puig launched three home runs and drove in seven runs in a 17-4 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Puig explained his power surge as only he can: He said the grasshoppers that have swarmed Busch Stadium have gotten him going. He said he considered eating one or two. Manager Dave Roberts had a better explanation. "He's focused and he understands the importance of every pitch," he said. "And when he does that, he's as good as anybody in baseball."

Giants: Andrew McCutchen
Date:
April 7 vs. LAD
McCutchen went 6-for-7 with four RBIs, including a walk-off home run, in a 14-inning, 7-5 victory over the Dodgers at AT&T Park. Giants manager Bruce Bochy called the victory "epic" and added, "It's one of those Giants-Dodgers games that will be talked about."

Padres: Christian Villanueva
Date:
April 3 vs. COL
Villanueva belted three home runs in his 14th career game in an 8-4 victory over the Rockies at Petco Park. "I have a lot of dreams, I have a lot of goals, and I think, little by little, I'm starting to reach them," Villanueva said.

Rockies: DJ LeMahieu
Date:
June 28 at SF
LeMahieu's go-ahead home run at AT&T Park probably did more than give the Rockies a 9-8 victory. It came at a time when they were in fourth place in the NL West and had fallen eight games off the pace. There was speculation they might sell at the Trade Deadline. The Rockies won 44 of their next 69 games. Only the Cubs did better in that time.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Mets hit 2 homers off Scherzer, win in 12

New York prevents Nats ace a chance at 20 wins; pinch-hitter Lobaton drives in go-ahead run
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

WASHINGTON -- Given a chance to push the last man standing against Jacob deGrom out of the National League Cy Young race, the Mets at least prevented Max Scherzer from changing the texture of it.

Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce hit back-to-back home runs on Thursday, ensuring that Scherzer -- the only NL pitcher who still had a chance at reaching 20 wins -- would not reach that mark. His no-decision was long in the books by the time Jose Lobaton hit a 12th-inning sacrifice fly to give the Mets a 5-4 win over the Nationals.

View Full Game Coverage

WASHINGTON -- Given a chance to push the last man standing against Jacob deGrom out of the National League Cy Young race, the Mets at least prevented Max Scherzer from changing the texture of it.

Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce hit back-to-back home runs on Thursday, ensuring that Scherzer -- the only NL pitcher who still had a chance at reaching 20 wins -- would not reach that mark. His no-decision was long in the books by the time Jose Lobaton hit a 12th-inning sacrifice fly to give the Mets a 5-4 win over the Nationals.

View Full Game Coverage

"We wanted to put as many up as we could against him," Conforto said.

Video: NYM@WSH: Lobaton lifts a go-ahead sac fly in the 12th

A shade less than his typical dominant self in recent weeks, Scherzer entered the night 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA over his last four starts. That bit of imperfection allowed deGrom, who is 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA over the same stretch, to take command of the Cy Young race. In a recent, informal poll of MLB.com's Baseball Writers' Association of America members, deGrom tallied 30 of 33 first-place votes.

Gsellman first visitor to use the Nats' bullpen cart, as Doolittle looked on carefully

He was an interested observer Thursday as Scherzer cracked for Conforto's two-run homer in the third inning and Bruce's ensuing solo shot. But Scherzer, in a style befitting of deGrom, did not crumble. Instead, the defending NL Cy Young Award winner retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced, finishing with 13 strikeouts. Scherzer's 290 whiffs are a Nationals record, positioning him to become the third pitcher in the last 16 years to reach 300.

"We kept saying, 'Keep on him, keep on him, keep on him,'" Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "Unfortunately, it's Scherzer, and that's not easy to do. To do what we did was pretty good. To keep on scoring off a guy like that is pretty tough."

Video: NYM@WSH: Rosario makes an excellent diving grab

No matter what deGrom achieves over his final two starts, he will not come close to matching that figure. But deGrom's 1.78 ERA stands three-quarters of a run better than Scherzer's 2.57 mark, offering the strongest argument in his favor. His penultimate start will come Friday in Washington.

"You're aware of it, but that's not why you go out there and pitch," Scherzer said of personal milestones and awards. "You go out there and pitch to win. I wanted to come in today and win a ballgame and unfortunately, we lost. … For me, those are milestones, and I don't pitch for those. I pitch to win."

Video: NYM@WSH: Scherzer notches career-high 285th K of 2018

That Scherzer can no longer reach 20 wins was as much a credit to Thursday's Mets starter, Jason Vargas, as it was to Conforto and Bruce. Holding the Nationals scoreless over the game's first five innings, Vargas did not crack until Trea Turner singled and Anthony Rendon hit a two-run homer in the sixth. Two batters later, Vargas was out of the game, having allowed just one other hit.

"For the most part, I was able to keep the ball down," Vargas said.

Video: NYM@WSH: Vargas fans 8, collects hit off Scherzer

The Mets added some insurance on Bruce's RBI single off Matt Grace in the eighth, but could not hold the two-run lead. After Anthony Swarzak allowed both men he faced in the bottom of the inning to reach base, Rendon hit an RBI groundout and Juan Soto followed with a game-tying double.

Four innings later, the Mets finally broke through again versus Washington's bullpen. After Amed Rosario hit a leadoff single, a pair of walks -- one unintentional, the other intentional -- loaded the bases. Lobaton followed with a sacrifice fly, and Paul Sewald nailed down the final three outs in the bottom of the inning.

Video: NYM@WSH: Sewald retires Rendon to earn the save

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Rookie test: Daniel Zamora, at least, did his job in the eighth -- if only barely. After Swarzak put two men on base with no outs, the Mets called on Zamora, a rookie with 14 strikeouts over his first seven career innings. Bryce Harper fouled off seven pitches before Zamora, on his ninth offering, induced a flyout to the warning track.

His exhale was short-lived. With Gsellman in the game, Zamora watched from the bench as the Nationals tied things on Rendon's groundout and Soto's double to force extra innings.

"Harper kept on fouling them off -- a great at-bat by Harper," Callaway said. "But [Zamora] kept on sticking with his strength, didn't give in, and got one off the end [of the bat]. It was a little bit of a scare, but in the end, he executed a pitch."

Video: NYM@WSH: Zamora gets Harper to fly out to the wall

SOUND SMART
Conforto's long ball was his 29th opposite-field shot among 75 career homers. Among big leaguers with at least 40 homers since 2015, Conforto ranks fourth in opposite-field percentage behind Eric Hosmer, Joey Votto and Freddie Freeman.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Several days of heavy rain wreaked havoc on the Nationals Park outfield. When Adrian Sanchez attempted to field Jeff McNeil's double in shallow right in the first inning, he kicked up a sizable divot.

Four innings later, when Mets left fielder Dominic Smith made a diving grab to rob Sanchez of a hit, another chunk of turf dislodged from the ground. Smith and center fielder Brandon Nimmo spent several moments trying to piece things together before returning to their respective positions.

Video: NYM@WSH: Sanchez, Smith make divots at Nationals Park

CALLAWAY EJECTED
Incensed after home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn ruled that McNeil offered on a bunt attempt in the 10th inning, Callaway earned a quick ejection as he burst out of the dugout to protest. It was the first-year manager's second ejection of the season.

"I thought it was two [bad calls] in a row to put our hitter in a bad situation, down 0-2," Callaway said. "I just kind of lost it."

Video: NYM@WSH: Callaway is ejected for arguing in the 10th

HE SAID IT
"I don't know if there was a point in time where I was rounding the bases and I was thinking about Jake. But when we look up and we're leading, 3-0, against Scherzer, and we still have time to put up more runs against him, we're definitely feeling good about that. We're definitely cognizant of it before the game and after the game, but during the game, we're just up there competing." -- Conforto, on deGrom's Cy Young quest

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
After singling in the 10th, Harper stole second base and was called safe after beating Kevin Plawecki's throw. The Mets challenged the call, and after a crew-chief review the call was overturned.

Video: NYM@WSH: Plawecki throws out Harper at second base

UP NEXT
With Scherzer's start in the books, deGrom will try to remain the presumptive NL Cy Young favorite when he takes the mound for a 7:05 p.m. ET game Friday at Nationals Park. He has just two outings remaining: one on Friday opposite Nats right-hander Joe Ross, and one next week against the Braves.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto

Here's why deGrom is NL's Most Valuable Player

Mets' ace leads Brewers' Yelich in FanGraphs WAR, 8.3 to 6.1
MLB.com @mike_petriello

Jacob deGrom is probably going to win the National League Cy Young Award. Let's just accept it. We've moved past the discussion over whether his 8-9 record will prevent him from winning the award (it won't, correctly) and stepped right into it starting to seem like a foregone conclusion. That's in part because deGrom deserves it, and in part because voters place too much emphasis on late-season performance -- and chief competitors Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola each have September ERA marks north of 5.00.

Instead, let's ask a far more interesting question: What if deGrom is actually the Most Valuable Player in the NL? Let's make the case.

Jacob deGrom is probably going to win the National League Cy Young Award. Let's just accept it. We've moved past the discussion over whether his 8-9 record will prevent him from winning the award (it won't, correctly) and stepped right into it starting to seem like a foregone conclusion. That's in part because deGrom deserves it, and in part because voters place too much emphasis on late-season performance -- and chief competitors Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola each have September ERA marks north of 5.00.

Instead, let's ask a far more interesting question: What if deGrom is actually the Most Valuable Player in the NL? Let's make the case.

It's not likely to happen, we admit, but deGrom has a much stronger argument than you might think. Here are the reasons you will hear not to vote for him ...

• Because he's a pitcher, and pitchers have their own award
• Because the Mets are not contending
• Because he has an 8-9 record

... and we have good reasons why none of that matters. First, let's explain why you should consider deGrom for the honor.

Reason No. 1: deGrom's lead in Wins Above Replacement is enormous
This entire argument is not going to be about Wins Above Replacement, we promise, but it's a good place to start, because this is exactly what it's supposed to do -- help compare value across different positions. As our glossary entry states, "WAR measures a player's value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player at his same position." Well, yeah.

Video: NYM@BOS: deGrom strikes out 12 hitters in 7 innings

To simplify that, the idea is that it looks at hitting, running and fielding (for a position player), and a variety of inputs for a pitcher (like strikeouts, walks or runs prevented, depending on the version) and adjusts it for difficulty of position and park. It allows us to compare a good-hitting, good-fielding third baseman (Anthony Rendon , 5.3 WAR) to a better-hitting, less defensively valuable first baseman (Paul Goldschmidt , 5.2 WAR) and say that they've been basically equal in value this year. 

It's not perfect. It's not expected to be, and award balloting should not just be about "who has the most WAR." It is, however, one of the best tools we have at the moment. It should inform a voter's decision, but not make it for them.

With that in mind, we can look at FanGraphs for their leaderboard of combined WAR, which credits deGrom for his hitting and fielding work as well as pitching. 

9.2 -- Mike Trout, Angels
9.1 -- Mookie Betts, Red Sox
8.3 -- deGrom, Mets
8.1 -- Jose Ramirez, Indians
7.5 -- Scherzer, Nationals
7.4 -- Alex Bregman, Astros
7.2 -- Francisco Lindor, Indians

(A version of this same leaderboard using the slightly different "runs allowed" definition of WAR changes the numbers slightly, but not the order. It actually bumps deGrom up to 8.6. This includes his hitting and fielding value, as well. A third version of WAR, at Baseball Prospectus, has deGrom tied for fourth.)

In the world of Wins Above Replacement, 2 WAR is "league average," and 4 WAR is considered All-Star level, so you can see how strong these years are -- and that deGrom is squarely in the mix, essentially tied with Ramirez behind Trout and Betts.

Video: NYM@CHC: deGrom K's 10, notches 2 hits vs. Cubs

That WAR leaderboard tells us something else, too. If you look at the top 15 names, 10 of them are in the American League. The AL has Trout and Betts, Lindor and Ramirez, Bregman and Matt Chapman. It has J.D. Martinez, who doesn't rate highly in WAR because of a lack of defensive value, but who will be in the AL MVP Award discussion anyway as he chases the Triple Crown. The NL ... doesn't. That's going to be important.

deGrom is on that list because he's in that rarefied air of having an ERA below 2.00 while throwing 200 innings that's been done only 19 times in the past 50 seasons, most recently by Jake Arrieta in 2015. He's there because he's fourth among qualified starters in strikeout rate while having the 13th-lowest walk rate. deGrom is there because he deserves to be; at his projected rate, he'll have the highest pitching WAR since Randy Johnson's 9.0 in 2004.

But what about deGrom's competition?

Reason No. 2: There's no obviously great candidate in the NL
The NL has a ton of good candidates. You can make a strong case for Christian Yelich or Lorenzo Cain of the Brewers, or Nolan Arenado or Trevor Story of the Rockies, or Javier Baez of the Cubs, or Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals, or Scherzer of the Nationals, or Goldschmidt of the D-backs. There are a lot of good cases, but unlike the AL, there may not be a great case, in that it's something of a split field, with no one pulling apart from the crowd.

No one, that is, except deGrom. Let's look at the NL WAR leaders for hitters only, and right now we'll see Yelich (6.1 WAR) and Cain (5.4) at the top, well behind deGrom's 8.3, and that enormous gap is sort of the point. All of the names we mentioned are having strong years, but a six-win season is usually more "very good" than "great." In just the five seasons between 2013-17, 45 hitters had a six-win season -- and that doesn't even include pitchers. The NL has had at least one hitter put up a six-win season every full year dating back to 1927. This kind of year happens a lot.

Video: MLB Tonight breaks down the NL MVP race

Trout, for example, has had seasons of 9 WAR or more three times. Bryce Harper had a 9-WAR season in 2015. Yelich is going to end up with something in the range of 6.3 WAR, and that's the real question: How often has the NL MVP Award gone to a player with a total that low?

"Not often," is the answer. In the 50 seasons preceding this year, the NL MVP Award went to a hitter 48 times. Yelich's 6.3 WAR mark would top only seven of them, including some of the most questionable award winners from decades gone by, like when Steve Garvey (3.8 WAR) somehow topped Mike Schmidt (9.4 WAR) in 1974. 

Again, that's not to discredit Yelich, who has been great, but his park-adjusted batting line is relatively similar to that of Brandon Nimmo, a good player having a great year who is in no one's NL MVP Award discussion.

Yelich, Baez, Arenado or anyone noted above would be a perfectly fine choice. They're just not a no-doubter choice, like Harper in 2015, like Trout most years. That opens the door for deGrom. That makes this realistic. 

OK, so what about those reasons that would be held against deGrom? Let's briefly dissect and refute the common arguments against it.

Reason No. 3: "Because pitchers shouldn't win the MVP Award."
First of all, that's not the rule. "Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters," says the instruction to voters on ballots.

Besides, pitchers still can and do win the award. Clayton Kershaw did in 2014, as did Justin Verlander in '11. So did another dozen other pitchers to win the MVP Award since the Cy Young Award was introduced in 1956, and 25 have done it all-time, so that holds little water.

"Pitchers get into one game every five days, while position players play every day," goes another, and that's true. It also misstates the impact that actually has. For example, Trea Turner has 691 plate appearances this year, the most in baseball. deGrom has faced 786 hitters while on the mound, and hit 68 more times as a batter. That's 854 total plate appearances impacted. That's 163 more than Turner. It's 249 more than Yelich. Even if you include Yelich's 239 putouts in the field, that draws them to about even. The "once every five days" argument doesn't hold weight.

Video: NYM@LAD: deGrom helps cause with RBI single

Reason No. 4: "Because the MVP Award winner must come from a winning team."
While the Mets have had a nice second-half rebound -- they're 31-27 since the All-Star Game -- they're obviously not going to make the playoffs or reach .500. To some voters, that's a disqualification. It shouldn't be. We understand that deGrom isn't collecting wins because his teammates haven't done their jobs. Shouldn't we understand that's the same reason the Mets are in fourth place? Value can come from anywhere; the only thing deGrom could have done to make the playoffs this year was to have been traded to the Dodgers or Braves or Cubs. 

Either way, the ballot is clear on this point. "There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means," the instructions read. "It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team.

Reason No. 5: The MVP Award winner need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier."
It should be noted that only seven players from losing teams have won the MVP Award, but there are signs that voters are softening on this, because two of those winners -- Trout in 2016 and Giancarlo Stanton in '17 -- came in the past two seasons.

Reason No. 6: "Because a starting pitcher has never won the MVP Award without winning 20 games, and a pitcher has never won the MVP Award from a losing team."
Well, that's true. They're both true. But if we're going to be shattering tradition by assuming deGrom wins the NL Cy Young Award, why stop there?

Yelich or Baez will probably win, because they're non-pitchers having great years for contending teams. It doesn't have to be that way, though. deGrom has a strong case for baseball's most impressive award, if you care to hear it.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

Gsellman is first visitor to use Nats' cart

The revival of the bullpen cart has been a highlight of this season, for sure. Few players have embraced its return to MLB more than Sean Doolittle, who was the proud first passenger in the Nats' cart earlier this month after being an outspoken member of the pro-cart lobby

Being the first Nats player to use the team's cart, and the second pitcher overall to use the D-backs' new cart this season, Doolittle has a strong sense of pride associated with it ... and maybe feels a bit possessive about it?

Flores shut down due to arthritis in both knees

First baseman expected to be ready for Spring Training
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

WASHINGTON -- An examination on Thursday revealed that Wilmer Flores is dealing with early-onset arthritis in both knees. Flores, 27, is done for the season, though he remains optimistic about his future prognosis.

"Hopefully, it's not something I have to deal with my whole career," Flores said. "I'm going to do everything I can to keep the pain away."

View Full Game Coverage

WASHINGTON -- An examination on Thursday revealed that Wilmer Flores is dealing with early-onset arthritis in both knees. Flores, 27, is done for the season, though he remains optimistic about his future prognosis.

"Hopefully, it's not something I have to deal with my whole career," Flores said. "I'm going to do everything I can to keep the pain away."

View Full Game Coverage

It was a disappointing campaign for Flores, who amassed his highest plate appearance total since 2015 but hit just 11 homers, his lowest number in four years. Overall, Flores batted .267 with a .319 on-base percentage and a .417 slugging mark. One of the game's most potent weapons against left-handed pitchers from 2015-17, Flores hit just .237/.284/.326 against them this summer.

Now, his season is over, though the Mets believe he will be fine long before the start of Spring Training. Doctors gave Flores a hyaluronic acid injection, a common treatment for osteoarthritis, and told him he should be pain-free in about a month.

"It's not like surgery is recommended at this time or anything," manager Mickey Callaway said. "Rest and a couple of injections is supposed to knock this out pretty good."

Video: NYM@BAL: Flores belts a 2-run homer in the 9th

Although most types of arthritis are not curable, they can be managed with proper treatment. In particular, Flores said, he will need to do more lower-body work to keep his quadriceps strong, thereby keeping pressure off his knees.

"I don't think it's really going to affect me," said Flores, noting that he had been experiencing knee pain for about six weeks before committing to treatment. "I just had to take care of this right away because it was going on for a while. I was just trying to stay out there playing, but at this point in the season, I didn't see any reason. My decision was to start taking care of this."

The issue complicates the Mets' offseason assessment of Flores, who is under team control for one more season, and due an arbitration raise from the $3.4 million he made last year. Although Flores started a team-high 73 games at first base for the Mets this season, the club expects to give reps at the position to Jay Bruce, Dominic Smith and No. 2 prospect Peter Alonso in 2019.

When asked about Flores' future role, Callaway demurred.

"That's really hard to say," the manager said. "I think that really depends on what the rest of our team looks like. He can definitely obviously fill in, and start, and swing the bat well and play good enough defense. … We'll just have to see what the makeup of our team looks like next year."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Wilmer Flores

Youth is served: Mets' best rookie this season

MLB.com

Each year, a new group of rookies sets out to make a mark in the Major Leagues, and in 2018, many of these young players have made history with their performances. They're fueling clubs during postseason races, as well as giving fans a glimpse of what's to come in the years ahead.

With the aid of all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a look at each team's best rookie this season:

Each year, a new group of rookies sets out to make a mark in the Major Leagues, and in 2018, many of these young players have made history with their performances. They're fueling clubs during postseason races, as well as giving fans a glimpse of what's to come in the years ahead.

With the aid of all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a look at each team's best rookie this season:

Video: Callis looks at rookies' long-term futures

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Ryan Borucki
Borucki has opened his Major League career with quality starts in 10 of his first 15 outings. Even though Borucki did not make his debut until the end of June, he has the third-most starts of at least six innings and two runs or fewer among Major League rookies. Only San Francisco's Dereck Rodriguez has registered more of those starts this season. Borucki appears to be a future cornerstone of the Blue Jays' rotation and his rookie campaign has been an overwhelming success with a 3.86 ERA.

Orioles: Cedric Mullins
It's been a tough year for Baltimore, but Mullins has given O's fans a glimmer of hope in the past two months. Since becoming the first Oriole to record three hits in his debut, the center fielder -- who moved Adam Jones over to right -- has showcased his range and speed and has become a table-setter for a lineup that sorely needs more dynamic players.

Rays: Joey Wendle
Tampa Bay acquired Wendle from Oakland during the Winter Meetings -- the same day the Yankees finalized their acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton. Many found humor in how the Rays "answered" their division foe's acquisition. Wendle has hardly been a joke, though. He's played second base, third base, shortstop, right field and left field. While Wendle's glove has been dazzling as billed, particularly at second, his bat has been equally so. He always seems to be in the middle of rallies. Wendle has above-average speed and runs out every ball, and he's shown decent power. He has been a big reason for Tampa Bay's marked improvement this season.

Red Sox: Brian Johnson
Out of options, Johnson had no option but to become a dependable contributor for the Red Sox this season, and that's exactly what he has done. Though he has unspectacular numbers (4-4, 4.24 ERA), Johnson has been one of the most important members of the pitching staff for manager Alex Cora because of his ability to move seamlessly between the bullpen and starting rotation, and often doing both roles within days of each other. In 12 starts, Johnson is 4-2 with a 4.06 ERA. He could have a few more wins, but he was taken out just shy of five innings numerous times.

Yankees: Miguel Andujar
Nothing was handed to Andujar, who made the most of an early-season opportunity when Brandon Drury landed on the disabled list to grab hold of the third-base job. Andujar's calling card is his bat, and he quickly cemented a reputation as an extra-base hit machine, tallying the third-most extra-base hits by a rookie in Yankees history behind Joe DiMaggio (88) and Aaron Judge (79). The AL Rookie of the Month in June and August, Andujar has worked to polish his defense. With Gleyber Torres also enjoying a strong season, the Yanks have two legitimate choices to follow Judge as the AL Rookie of the Year Award winner.

Video: BOS@NYY: Andujar opens scoring with a solo HR in 2nd

AL CENTRAL

Indians: Shane Bieber
Indians manager Terry Francona jokes that Chris Antonetti, the team's president of baseball operations, did not bring Bieber to MLB camp in the spring because the manager would not have let the pitcher return to the Minors. Bieber, 23, cruised through Double-A and Triple-A, posting a 1.47 ERA with 77 strikeouts vs. seven walks in 79 2/3 innings. When the back of Cleveland's rotation ran into some issues, Bieber rose to the big leagues. He debuted in late May and returned for good in June. The rookie has enjoyed a promising campaign and figures to be a part of the Tribe's postseason pitching staff.

Royals: Brad Keller
Keller, a right-hander, was an absolute steal in the Rule 5 Draft. He started the season in the bullpen and eventually graduated to the rotation, where he has been arguably the Royals' best starter and certainly a top-of-the-rotation guy moving forward. Opposing hitters throughout the season have called facing Keller an "uncomfortable at-bat." His four-seam fastball, which hovers around 93-95 mph, moves like a cutter, and he has worked to develop an effective slider and changeup. During a recent six-game stretch, Keller went 4-1 with a 1.85 ERA, permitting just a .645 OPS. While Keller, 23, likely won't win the AL Rookie of the Year Award -- especially with Shohei Ohtani, Torres and Andujar in the running -- he at least deserves some consideration. Keller is a lock for the rotation in 2019.

Tigers: Niko Goodrum
The Tigers took a chance on the former Twins second-round pick, extending a Spring Training invite in the hopes that his versatility and athleticism would help him stick while learning on the job in the big leagues. Much to their surprise, Goodrum has become essentially an everyday player and a cog in Detroit's lineup, with a .741 OPS that ranks second on the team to Nicholas Castellanos. He has made a start at every defensive position except center field, catcher and pitcher.

Twins: Jake Cave
The Twins took a chance on Cave in March, acquiring him from the Yankees for Minor League right-hander Luis Gil, and Cave has responded with a strong rookie season. The 25-year-old wasn't expected to play much this season, but with center fielder Byron Buxton out most of the year because of injuries and offensive inconsistency, the left-handed-hitting Cave has filled in nicely. He's capable of playing all three outfield positions and has shown some power offensively, hitting .257/.300/.458 with 11 homers and 13 doubles through his first 82 career games.

White Sox: Daniel Palka
The White Sox picked up the left-handed slugger off waivers from the Twins on Nov. 3, 2017. While he didn't break camp with the team, Palka not only leads the White Sox in home runs, but also set a single-season franchise record for most homers from a left-handed-hitting rookie. Palka has a knack for the big hit, having knocked out six home runs in the ninth inning. Left-handed reliever Jace Fry made a solid late-inning rookie impression, but Palka provided the biggest power boost.

Video: CWS@CLE: Palka breaks scoreless tie with HR to center

AL WEST

Angels: Shohei Ohtani
A rocky Spring Training created some questions about how Ohtani's talent would translate to the Majors, but he quickly erased those doubts once the regular season began. For two months, he dazzled as a two-way phenom for the Angels, emerging as a dominant right-handed pitcher with a triple-digit fastball and devastating splitter and an impact left-handed bat with impressive raw power. An elbow injury derailed his magical season and led to a Tommy John surgery recommendation earlier this month, but it hasn't prevented Ohtani from continuing to hit. He is the first player to log 10 pitching appearances and hit 20 home runs in a season since Babe Ruth in 1919, making him a front-runner for the AL Rookie of the Year Award.

Video: SEA@LAA: Ohtani goes back-to-back with Trout for 20th

Astros: Max Stassi
Stassi made his Major League debut during the Astros' 111-loss season of 2013, and he has bounced between the big leagues and Triple-A each season since while maintaining his rookie status. He's spent most of this year as Houston's backup catcher to Brian McCann, and he is hitting .233 with eight homers and 27 RBIs through 85 games. Stassi was on pace to catch more games than McCann, who missed a chunk of time with knee surgery, and Martin Maldonado, who was acquired in a July trade and cost Stassi significant playing time down the stretch.

Athletics: Lou Trivino
Trivino has been an absolute godsend for what's become a deep and dangerous Oakland bullpen, arriving in late April and quickly taking over setup duties behind All-Star closer Blake Treinen with a high-90s fastball and a mid-90s cutter -- a devastating duo. The flamethrowing right-hander singlehandedly bridged the gap for much of the first half before the midseason arrivals of Jeurys Familia, Shawn Kelley and Fernando Rodney, working multiple innings more times than not. Center fielder Ramon Laureano, who has been superb on both sides of the ball since his August promotion, also deserves consideration.

Mariners: Daniel Vogelbach
The 25-year-old first baseman made the Opening Day roster after a huge spring, then was sent down when he struggled at the plate in April. But after putting up good numbers again in Triple-A, Vogelbach has flashed his power potential with a couple of big home runs this week as a September callup, including a game-winning pinch-hit grand slam to beat the Astros on Monday.

Rangers: Ronald Guzman
This is a tossup between Guzman and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who did a terrific job in a utility role that included time at catcher. But Guzman has emerged as the Rangers' first baseman of the future by showing power, run production and superb defensive ability. There is still more improvement and development needed, but Guzman is among the AL rookie leaders in home runs and RBIs. His emergence also allowed Joey Gallo to take over in left field, which had been a troubled spot for Texas.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Video: STL@ATL: Acuna Jr. belts a solo smash for his 26th HR

Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr.
Acuna has lived up to his top prospect status, as he spent the season's second half producing numbers baseball has seldom seen from a player who has not yet turned 21 years old. He introduced himself to the Majors in April and then suffered a late-May knee injury that sidelined him for a month. But when Acuna was moved to the top of Atlanta's lineup immediately after the All-Star break, the 20-year-old outfielder suddenly became one of the game's top catalysts and power threats. He became a strong NL Rookie of the Year Award candidate and likely earned some down-ballot NL MVP Award consideration.

Marlins: Brian Anderson
Not only has Anderson been the Marlins' top rookie in 2018, he has established himself as one of the young faces of the franchise. He's also built a case to be a top-five finisher in the NL Rookie of the Year Award balloting. On the big league roster from wire to wire, Anderson has played third base and right field. He will lead all NL rookies in games played and hits.

Mets: Jeff McNeil
McNeil was never a top prospect, and when he arrived in the big leagues, he first drew attention for his unusual knobless bat. But since he took over at second base following the Asdrubal Cabrera trade, he's been a revelation at the plate, commanding attention for his outstanding contact ability and all-around hitting prowess. McNeil hasn't slowed down, either -- he leads all rookies in hitting since his July 24 debut, including 17 multihit games in 54 contests, and is second among all players in triples in that span, with five.

Nationals: Juan Soto
Soto wasn't even the Nats' most heralded prospect coming into the year -- that was Victor Robles. But he's hit at an almost unprecedented level for his age, putting himself on lists alongside names like Griffey and Harper. Soto's combination of plate discipline and power marks him as a future star. He's not only a top NL Rookie of the Year Award candidate; he might even get some down-ballot consideration in the crowded NL MVP Award field.

Video: Must C Classic: Soto youngest to swipe 3 bags in game

Phillies: Seranthony Dominguez
One of the reasons the Phillies held first place in the NL East as late as Aug. 12 is Dominguez, who joined Philadelphia's bullpen in May. He posted a 1.85 ERA in 34 appearances through Aug. 3, striking out 49 and walking 13 in 39 innings, becoming manager Gabe Kapler's most trusted weapon with the game on the line. Dominguez struggled down the stretch as the former starter adjusted to a new role, but there is no question NL East batters are not looking forward to facing him in the future.

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: Freddy Peralta
Taylor Williams pitched in more games and Corbin Burnes is playing the most significant role among Brewers rookies down the stretch, but in terms of aggregate value this season, Peralta gets the nod. By making 14 starts, including a history-making 13-strikeout Major League debut on Mother's Day, Peralta helped hold together a starting rotation that was a quiet strength for much of the year despite Jimmy Nelson's year-long absence and significant disabled list time for Zach Davies, Wade Miley and others. Among Major League starters who pitched at least 70 innings, only Chris Sale had a lower opponents' average than Peralta.

Cardinals: Jack Flaherty
With respect to Harrison Bader (3.5 fWAR), Jordan Hicks (105 mph fastball) and Yairo Munoz (.275 average), it's Flaherty who has emerged as the star of St. Louis' loaded rookie crop -- and the Cardinals' new ace. Premature? Not if you consider how the on-the-playoff-bubble Cards manipulated their rotation so Flaherty will be on turn to start their most important game of the year, whether that's the NL Wild Card Game or a must-win during the season's final series. The 22-year-old has earned the responsibility: He ranks among the NL rookie starter leaders in strikeouts (first), starts (second), innings (second), ERA (fourth), wins (first), fWAR (second) and WHIP (third).

Cubs: David Bote
An 18th-round Draft pick in 2012, Bote was pressed into duty when Kris Bryant was injured and has delivered in the clutch. On July 26 against the D-backs, he smacked a game-tying two-run homer with one out in the ninth. On Aug. 12 against the Nationals, Bote delivered a pinch-hit walk-off grand slam in the ninth. That blast helped teach people how to pronounce his last name (it's bow-tee). He hit another walk-off homer on Aug. 24 against the Reds and is the first Cub since Bryant in 2015 with two walk-off homers in one season. Bote has helped support the Cubs' motto to be versatile, starting at second, third, shortstop and in the outfield.

Video: David Bote's heroics vs. the Nationals this season

Pirates: Richard Rodriguez
Far from a household name, the 28-year-old rookie has become a vital part of Pittsburgh's bullpen in his first extended Major League opportunity. Signed as a Minor League free agent, Rodriguez entered the week with a 2.57 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 79 strikeouts in 63 innings over 56 appearances. Rodriguez doesn't possess overwhelming stuff, but he's getting the job done with a 92.9-mph four-seam fastball he throws about 75 percent of the time plus a swing-and-miss slider.

Reds: Jesse Winker
Winker gets the nod despite having his season cut in half by injury. After a slow start, he found his stroke and some power. Overall, Winker batted .299/.405/.431 in 89 games but was slashing .362/.465/.554 in June and July before his year was halted by right shoulder surgery in his non-throwing arm to repair an injury that nagged him even in the Minors. Expected to be fully recovered by Spring Training, the 25-year-old with great plate discipline could be an even bigger offensive threat when fully healthy.

NL WEST

D-backs: Yoshihisa Hirano
While Hirano is technically a rookie as far as Major League Baseball is concerned, he certainly was not inexperienced coming into this season after spending 11 seasons pitching in Japan. The D-backs signed him to a two-year contract during the offseason, and he has more than met their expectations. Used primarily in a setup role through the first five months of the season, Hirano's effectiveness -- along with his unflappable makeup -- eventually got him moved into the de facto closer's role in September.

Dodgers: Walker Buehler
In any year not involving Acuna or Soto, the Dodgers' 24-year-old sensation would likely have been a favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year Award. Since his April recall from the Minor Leagues, Buehler was a steady presence through Clayton Kershaw's extended absence and has since cemented himself beside Los Angeles' ace at the top of the rotation, allowing two or fewer runs in 17 of his 21 starts. With the Dodgers embroiled in a tight divisional race, he has a 1.62 ERA since the start of August, and with his season mark at 2.74, he could become Los Angeles' first rookie starter to post an ERA under 3.00 with at least 20 starts since Hideo Nomo in 1995.

Video: COL@LAD: Buehler K's career-high 12 over 6 frames

Giants: Dereck Rodriguez
The son of Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez is steadily establishing his own identity as a ballplayer as well as his candidacy for a respectable finish in the NL Rookie of the Year Award balloting. The 26-year-old, who converted to pitching from playing the outfield, demonstrated his consistency by pitching at least six innings and allowing two or fewer runs in nine consecutive starts. Despite their losing record overall, the Giants are 9-8 when Rodriguez starts. What makes Rodriguez's story even more remarkable is that he did not pitch above Double-A in Minnesota's farm system last year. San Francisco signed him as a Minor League free agent last November.

Padres: Franmil Reyes
Reyes was left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft last December after leading all Padres Minor Leaguers in home runs in 2017. Thankfully for San Diego, he went unselected. Reyes' power is otherworldly, and he's made huge strides with his approach at the plate. The hulking 6-foot-5, 275-pounder is still a liability defensively. But he's grown into a legit middle-of-the-order game-changer.

Rockies: Ryan McMahon
Drafted as a third baseman but blocked at the hot corner by one Nolan Arenado, the 23-year-old McMahon made the Opening Day roster with eyes on the starting first-base job, but he was beat out by veteran Ian Desmond. After struggles at the plate and two extended Minor League stints, McMahon's .330 on-base percentage since his July 29 recall is fourth among Rockies. He has also shown a penchant for clutch homers -- four of his five 2018 long balls have come late in close games with Colorado trailing, including a memorable three-run walk-off shot against the Dodgers on Aug. 11.