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Is home field an advantage in Wild Card Game?

MLB.com @_dadler

The 2018 MLB playoff picture is getting clearer by the day, as teams clinch postseason berths and matchups start falling into place. It will all be settled over the next week, before the postseason gets underway with the National League Wild Card Game on Oct. 2 and the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 3.

The AL Wild Card Game matchup will likely feature the Yankees against the A's (barring a furious rally by Oakland to overtake Houston in the AL West). The NL Wild Card race is more wide open, with the Brewers leading, the Cardinals in the second slot and the Rockies close behind.

The 2018 MLB playoff picture is getting clearer by the day, as teams clinch postseason berths and matchups start falling into place. It will all be settled over the next week, before the postseason gets underway with the National League Wild Card Game on Oct. 2 and the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 3.

The AL Wild Card Game matchup will likely feature the Yankees against the A's (barring a furious rally by Oakland to overtake Houston in the AL West). The NL Wild Card race is more wide open, with the Brewers leading, the Cardinals in the second slot and the Rockies close behind.

Postseason Picture: Where we are right now

But one thing that's up for grabs for the Wild Card Game in both leagues? Home-field advantage. All those teams will be playing for the right to host the winner-take-all games.

Wild Card standings

Has home field helped in the Wild Card Game? MLB.com breaks down the history since its inception in 2012, when MLB expanded to a two-Wild Card playoff format in each league.

Video: MLB Tonight on the chances A's host Wild Card Game

Has there been a home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game?
Not so far. Of the 12 Wild Card Games played across both leagues since 2012, the home team has won five, while the visitors have taken seven. But the home team did win both of last year's Wild Card Games -- and one of those teams, of course, was the Yankees, who beat the Twins, 8-4, at Yankee Stadium.

In the AL, the Wild Card winners have been evenly split. The home team has won three of the six games -- 2014, '16 and '17. In the NL, the visiting team has taken four of the six Wild Card Games, with the home wins coming in 2013 and '17.

Video: NL WC: Rodney gets final out, D-backs advance

Home teams to win the Wild Card Game
2017 Yankees: 8-4 over Twins, AL
2017 D-backs: 11-8 over Rockies, NL
2016 Blue Jays: 5-2 over Orioles (11 innings), AL
2014 Royals: 9-8 over A's (12 innings), AL
2013 Pirates: 6-2 over Reds, NL

Home teams to lose the Wild Card Game
2016 Mets: 3-0 to Giants, NL
2015 Yankees: 3-0 to Astros, AL
2015 Pirates: 4-0 to Cubs, NL
2014 Pirates: 8-0 to Giants, NL
2013 Indians: 4-0 to Rays, AL
2012 Rangers: 5-1 to Orioles, AL
2012 Braves: 6-3 to Cardinals, NL

What about other recent winner-take-all playoff games?
Going back to 1995, when the original Wild Card playoff format was implemented, the home team has a losing record in winner-take-all games. There have been 58 winner-take-all postseason games played across all rounds since 1995. The home team is 27-31.

By series: home teams are 5-7 in Wild Card Games, 11-18 in Game 5 of the Division Series, 7-3 in Game 7 of the League Championship Series and 4-3 in Game 7 of the World Series.

What's been the key for the home teams that won their Wild Card Game?
Offense, offense, offense. The home teams to win Wild Card Games haven't exactly been doing it in pitchers' duels. Last year's scores are a perfect example -- 8-4 for the Yankees at home over the Twins in the AL, 11-8 for the D-backs at home over the Rockies in the NL.

Home Wild Card winners have averaged 7.8 runs in those games. The only team that didn't homer multiple times in its win was the 2014 Royals -- against the A's -- and they still scored nine runs.

The lowest-scoring winner was the Blue Jays, who beat the Orioles, 5-2, in an 11-inning 2016 AL Wild Card Game. And even that game was decided by a big blow -- Edwin Encarnacion's walk-off three-run homer.

What happened to the home teams that lost?
On the other end, when the home team has lost the Wild Card Game, they've often simply run into opposing aces who were lined up for the elimination game. In fact, the past five times home teams have lost the Wild Card Game, they've been shut out.

In three of those games, the starting pitcher did it all himself -- Madison Bumgarner shut out the Mets in 2016 and the Pirates in '14, both on the road, while Jake Arrieta shut out Pittsburgh on the road in 2015, the year he won the NL Cy Young Award.

Video: Must C Clinch: Gillaspie, Bumgarner give Giants win

Another of those games was actually against the Yankees -- the 2015 AL Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium, when AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the Astros' 3-0 win over the Bronx Bombers.

How do this year's Wild Card contenders rank in terms of offense?
The Yankees lead the Majors with 252 home runs and entered Monday second in runs per game, averaging 5.15. The A's aren't far behind, ranking third in home runs with 218 and they were fifth in the Majors with 4.97 runs per game entering Monday. (The top five scoring offenses in baseball are the five AL playoff teams.)

Of the teams in the NL Wild Card mix -- the Brewers, Cardinals and Rockies -- St. Louis has the strongest scoring offense at 4.74 runs per game (tied for second in the NL). Colorado is next at 4.65 (sixth in the NL), followed by Milwaukee at 4.54 (seventh). If the NL West-leading Dodgers fell into the Wild Card pack, they'd have the strongest offense, an NL-best 4.87 runs per game. The NL Central-leading Cubs, who could be a Wild Card team if overtaken by the Brewers, rank fourth in the NL at 4.71 runs per game.

Do any Wild Card contenders have an ace who could neutralize home-field advantage?
In the AL, the A's starting rotation has been depleted by injuries, so they're likely to make heavy use of their deep relief corps no matter who starts. The Yankees, already locked into the Wild Card Game, could line up a starting pitcher -- but it's uncertain which one. Luis Severino's rocky second half mean he's no longer a lock (and he was knocked out of last year's Wild Card Game after one-third of an inning). Masahiro Tanaka has had an up-and-down season, too, although he has a very strong playoff record. J.A. Happ has been terrific since joining the Yanks, but Severino and Tanaka are more established at the top of New York's rotation.

In the NL, the team with the clearest-cut ace is the Dodgers with Clayton Kershaw, who could be lined up for a Wild Card Game if needed -- but if their division lead slips, they might need him to pitch on the final weekend of the regular season.

The Cubs are probably in the best position from a starting pitching standpoint -- they have three strong options in Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Cole Hamels, which would give them flexibility in lining one up for a winner-take-all game. But if they can hold their lead in the Central, they won't need to.

The Cardinals have a pair of strong candidates in Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty, but they might need one or both to pitch at the end of the regular season. If Mikolas pitched on normal rest on Friday, he'd be on short rest for the Wild Card Game the following Tuesday; if Flaherty followed on Saturday or Sunday, he'd be unavailable to start the Wild Card Game.

Similarly, the Rockies would love to have Kyle Freeland ready, but if he needs to pitch in his final turn in the regular season on Friday, he'd be on short rest for the Wild Card Game like Mikolas. The Brewers don't really have an ace-type pitcher.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

A's clinch first postseason berth since 2014

Oakland hits four homers to celebrate punching postseason ticket
MLB.com @JaneMLB

SEATTLE -- The A's improbable season will extend to October.

By virtue of a Rays loss on Monday, the A's automatically punched a ticket to the postseason just minutes after first pitch in Seattle. Then they went bonkers and hit four homers to beat the Mariners, 7-3, and put an exclamation point on an extraordinary day, capping it with a champagne-soaked celebration.

View Full Game Coverage

SEATTLE -- The A's improbable season will extend to October.

By virtue of a Rays loss on Monday, the A's automatically punched a ticket to the postseason just minutes after first pitch in Seattle. Then they went bonkers and hit four homers to beat the Mariners, 7-3, and put an exclamation point on an extraordinary day, capping it with a champagne-soaked celebration.

View Full Game Coverage

They fumbled around empty beer bottles, in search of the next amid a jubilant scene that spelled out months-long perseverance.

Video: OAK@SEA: Treinen on clinching a postseason berth

"We've still got unfinished business, but man we earned this," outfielder Stephen Piscotty said. "Just like our manager, our fearless leader, said, we deserve this. Just kind of the hunger for the game and wanting to win. It's not found everywhere. This team just wants it. I feel like we want it more than other folks. We're gonna give it our best this postseason."

Shop for A's postseason gear

The sneaky A's look set for a date with the Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 3 but must make up ground if they want to host the affair at the Coliseum. New York holds a 1 1/2-game lead on the A's with five to play.

"There's still a little time left to digest this and move forward, but these guys have high aspirations and hope this isn't the only celebration that we have," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Even if it doesn't happen where we play at home, these guys haven't been afraid to play on the road."

Video: OAK@SEA: Athletics talk clinching postseason berth

Melvin's A's last made a postseason appearance in 2014, when their season abruptly ended in heartbreak in a theatrical Wild Card tilt with the Royals. The road back has surely been rocky, making the return that much sweeter for these A's, who have sealed four playoff berths in the last seven years and nine in the last 19 under executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and his crew.

Video: SEA@OAK: Athletics GM David Forst on A's clinching

"We had three tough years, and we've been through that before," A's general manager David Forst said. "But when you go through three tough years like that and people kind of count you out, and understandably so in a lot of cases, I'm proud that people throughout the organization stuck with it, that ownership trusted what we were doing, and that Bob gets the credit he does for turning this group into a postseason team."

They were hardly expected to be here; after they stumbled to three consecutive last-place finishes and entered the season with baseball's smallest payroll, they anticipated gradual improvement. On June 15, they were 11 1/2 games out of first place, their record a meager 34-36 and their postseason chances severely slim. Then they won their next five games. And 14 of 17. Then it was 40 of 54, a Cinderella tale in the making.

Video: OAK@SEA: Olson talks A's clinching postseason berth

The front office did its part by augmenting a weakened pitching staff midseason, swinging deals for starter Mike Fiers and relievers Jeurys Familia, Fernando Rodney and Shawn Kelley.

"Probably happened a little quicker than most people thought, but we've got some big-time players in that room," Melvin said. "This group is the best group I've had in all my years in managing. It's about just playing for the guy next to them, and that was kind of a theme we talked about, play for the guy next to you. It's more powerful than playing for yourself. That's what these guys do better than anybody."

Video: OAK@SEA: Athletics crush 4 home runs vs. Mariners

Following their 95th victory on Monday, which featured a go-ahead, two-run homer from Matt Chapman in the seventh inning, they improved to an MLB-best 61-26 since June 15. AL MVP candidate Khris Davis collected his Major League-leading 46th homer and 120th RBI in the game, and Jed Lowrie and Jonathan Lucroy also homered.

"I'm watching my dreams come true right now," said Davis, who has amassed 131 homers in three seasons with Oakland, more than any other MLB player in that span. "I'm just appreciative of the moment right now. It's amazing just to share it with my teammates and give them hugs and tell everybody that I'm proud of them and I'm proud to be with them."

The A's are baseball's best story, readying to take on the game's grandest stage well ahead of even their own schedule despite much adversity. Their rotation has been decimated by injuries, yet they've managed to stay afloat with a makeshift staff while employing a potent offense and a formidable bullpen, along with a steady defense in a wondrous season.

Video: Olson's RBI single in the 8th

"You can't fake talent over the course of 162 games, and we have that," Lowrie said, "and we pull for each other."

Video: OAK@SEA: A's President Dave Kaval on A's clinching

"They've been writing the story all year," Forst said. "There's 25-plus incredible stories out there of guys who contributed who weren't expected to, of guys who came back from injuries, guys who just got here a month ago and played a part. Anytime things come together like this, it's really special. I'm thrilled for Bob and his staff. It's a really special day."

UP NEXT
Lefty Brett Anderson (4-5, 3.96 ERA) will be on the mound for Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. PT tilt with right-hander Mike Leake (10-10, 4.10) and the Mariners at Safeco Field. Anderson has a 1.29 ERA in two starts against Seattle this season.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics

Final Rookie of the Year Award poll

MLB.com @RichardJustice

Almost from the first hour of Spring Training, pretty much everyone in and around baseball agreed that Shohei Ohtani of the Angels and Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Braves were the rookies they were most interested in seeing. Sometimes, these things turn out the way they were supposed to.

Ohtani and Acuna hold sizable leads in our final Rookie of the Year Award survey of MLB.com's members of Baseball Writers' Association of America. Acuna received 34 of 36 first-place votes to comfortably outdistance 19-year-old Nationals outfielder Juan Soto in the National League balloting.

Almost from the first hour of Spring Training, pretty much everyone in and around baseball agreed that Shohei Ohtani of the Angels and Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Braves were the rookies they were most interested in seeing. Sometimes, these things turn out the way they were supposed to.

Ohtani and Acuna hold sizable leads in our final Rookie of the Year Award survey of MLB.com's members of Baseball Writers' Association of America. Acuna received 34 of 36 first-place votes to comfortably outdistance 19-year-old Nationals outfielder Juan Soto in the National League balloting.

In the American League, Ohtani got 26 of 36 first-place votes, with Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar getting nine and teammate Gleyber Torres one.

Ohtani, 24, led our AL survey only one other time, back in May when he was baseball's first true two-way player in almost a century. He finishes the season as a designated hitter after sustaining ligament damage in his right elbow in June. Ohtani has made just one pitching appearance since then and appears to be headed for Tommy John surgery that puts his 2019 schedule into doubt.

In terms of talent, Ohtani answered every question. He had a 3.31 ERA and 11 strikeouts per nine innings in 10 starts as a pitcher, and he had 20 home runs and a .923 OPS in 342 plate appearances as a designated hitter.

Acuna, 20, made his Major League debut on April 20, homered in his second game and has taken off from there. He has 25 doubles, 26 home runs, 15 stolen bases and a .926 OPS in 105 games.

Acuna took over the top spot in our NL Rookie of the Year Award survey in the next-to-last vote, and he has widened his lead over Soto since then.

Here's a closer look at the leading vote-getters:

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Shoehei Ohtani, Angels (154 points)
Ohtani is the first player in MLB history with 20 home runs as a hitter and 50 strikeouts as a pitcher. He needs one more stolen base to join Mike Trout and Devon White as the only rookies with a 20-home run, 10-stolen-base season in Angels history.

Miguel Andujar, Yankees (93 points)
Andujar's 51 multihit games are the most by a Yankees rookie since Tom Tresh had 54 in 1962, and the most by an AL rookie since Trout had 56 in 2012. Andujar's 43 doubles are the most for a Yanks rookie since Joe DiMaggio had 44 in 1936.

Video: BAL@NYY: Andujar passes Matsui on rookie doubles list

Gleyber Torres, Yankees (71 points)
Torres' 23 home runs are the third most by a Yankees player before his 22nd birthday; ahead of him on that list: Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. His seven two-run home runs are the second most in the Majors, trailing only Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who has eight.

Others receiving votes: Joey Wendle, Rays; Brad Keller, Royals.

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves (176 points)

Acuna has a 1.053 OPS, with 14 doubles and 19 homers since manager Brian Snitker moved him into the leadoff spot after the All-Star Game. He leads the Majors with 53 runs in that span. Acuna's eight leadoff home runs are a Braves franchise record, and he's the 10th player -- and the first since Trout -- to have at least 25 home runs and 15 stolen bases in his rookie season.

Juan Soto, Nationals (110 points)
Soto leads MLB rookies with at least 450 plate appearances in batting average, on-base percentage, walks and RBIs. He's second in slugging, OPS and home runs.

Video: WSH@ATL: Soto hits 20th homer for 3rd most as teen

Walker Buehler, Dodgers (25 points)
Buehler has held hitters to a .171 batting average since the All-Star break, lowest in the Majors. His 2.14 ERA in that span is the fifth lowest, and his 0.89 WHIP is tied with Jacob deGrom of the Mets for the second lowest.

Others receiving votes: Jack Flaherty, Cardinals; Harrison Bader, Cardinals; Dereck Rodriguez, Giants.

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.

Postseason Picture: Where we are right now

A closer look at the divisions, Wild Cards and tiebreakers
MLB.com

With the Rays' loss to the Yankees on Monday officially punching Oakland's ticket to the postseason, the five teams that will represent the American League in the playoffs are now set. On top of the pack, the Red Sox clinched the best record in the Major Leagues and secured home-field advantage throughout the postseason with their franchise-record 106th win.

The only races yet to be decided in the Junior Circuit are in the AL West and the Wild Card. Houston, leading the A's by 4 1/2 games in the division, saw its magic number drop to two after a victory in Toronto. And while the A's remarkable second-half surge will officially play on into October, they still have a chance to secure home-field advantage for the Wild Card Game, remaining 1 1/2 games back of the Yankees with their win at Safeco Field.

With the Rays' loss to the Yankees on Monday officially punching Oakland's ticket to the postseason, the five teams that will represent the American League in the playoffs are now set. On top of the pack, the Red Sox clinched the best record in the Major Leagues and secured home-field advantage throughout the postseason with their franchise-record 106th win.

The only races yet to be decided in the Junior Circuit are in the AL West and the Wild Card. Houston, leading the A's by 4 1/2 games in the division, saw its magic number drop to two after a victory in Toronto. And while the A's remarkable second-half surge will officially play on into October, they still have a chance to secure home-field advantage for the Wild Card Game, remaining 1 1/2 games back of the Yankees with their win at Safeco Field.

Meanwhile, in the NL, the Brewers opened a critical series in St. Louis with a win over the Cardinals, extending their advantage for the first Wild Card spot to three games and cutting the Cubs' NL Central lead to 1 1/2 games with some help from Jameson Taillon and the Pirates. Colorado also now looms only a half-game back of St. Louis for the second Wild Card after clobbering the slumping Phillies at Coors Field, but didn't pick up any ground on the Dodgers, who mounted a late comeback against the D-backs to maintain their NL West lead.

Postseason bracket

Here is a division-by-division breakdown of the playoff picture, recapping Monday's action and taking a look at where each contender stands heading into today. Within each division, clubs are listed in order of current standing.

Explaining tiebreaker scenarios for '18 postseason

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

RED SOX (106-51, .675)

Status: Clinched AL East; clinched best record in MLB.

Yesterday's result: Beat CLE, 6-2. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: Guranteed the best record in baseball, Boston is locked in as the first seed for the AL in the postseason, with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Today's schedule: vs. BAL (7:10 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Friday-Sunday vs. NYY

Video: BAL@BOS: Red Sox get franchise record, home field

YANKEES (96-60, .615)

Status: Clinched AL Wild Card spot. Lead OAK by 1 1/2 games for first AL Wild Card.

Yesterday's result: Beat TB, 4-1. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: If the Yankees and A's tie for the two AL Wild Card spots, home field in the Wild Card Game would go to the winner of the season series, but with each club having won three games, the tiebreaker would go to the club with the better intradivision record. The Yankees (40-30 vs. AL East) hold a lead over the A's (36-35 vs. AL West) in that regard.

Today's schedule: at TB (7:10 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Friday-Sunday at BOS

Video: NYY@TB: Yanks pitching staff 2-hits Rays in win

AL CENTRAL

INDIANS (88-68, .564)

Status: Clinched AL Central.

Yesterday's result: Beat CWS, 4-0. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: Cleveland is locked in as the third seed in the AL for the postseason.

Today's schedule: at CWS (8:10 p.m. ET) 

Video: CLE@CWS: Kluber earns 20th win with seven scoreless

AL WEST

ASTROS (99-57, .635)

Status: Clinched postseason berth. Lead OAK by 4 1/2 games in AL West.

Yesterday's result: Beat TOR, 5-3. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: In the event of a tie with Oakland atop the AL West, the Astros would host a one-game tiebreaker by virtue of taking the season series, 12-7.

Today's schedule: at TOR (7:07 p.m. ET)

Video: HOU@TOR: McCann, Reddick crush back-to-back home runs

ATHLETICS (95-62, .605)

Status: Clinched postseason berth. Trail HOU by 4 1/2 games in AL West; trail NYY by 1 1/2 games for first AL Wild Card.

Yesterday's result: Beat SEA, 7-3. More >

Key tiebreaker: If the A's and Yankees tie for the two AL Wild Card spots, home field in the Wild Card Game would go to the winner of the season series, but with both teams having won three games, the tiebreaker would go to the club with the better intradivision record. The Yankees (40-30 vs. AL East) hold a lead over the A's (36-35 vs. AL West) in that regard. If the A's tie the Astros for the AL West crown, Houston would host a one-game tiebreaker by virtue of taking the season series, 12-7.

Today's schedule: at SEA (10:10 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Tuesday-Wednesday at SEA

Video: OAK@SEA: Athletics clinch postseason berth

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

BRAVES (88-68, .564)

Status: Clinched NL East. Trail CHC by 3 games for No. 1 seed in NL; lead LAD by a half-game for No. 2 seed in NL.

Yesterday's result: Off

Key tiebreaker: In the event of a tie for the best record in the NL, the higher seed would be determined by intradivision record, since the Braves and Cubs each won three games apiece in the season series. Atlanta (47-23) is assured of finishing with a better intradivision record than Chicago (37-33). In the event of a tie for the second seed in the NL, the Dodgers would be awarded the second seed by virtue of winning the season series with the Braves, 5-2.

Today's schedule: at NYM (7:10 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Tuesday-Thursday at NYM, Sept. 28-30 at PHI

Video: PHI@ATL: Adams belts a solo homer for his 2nd RBI

NL CENTRAL

CUBS (91-65, .583)

Status: Lead MIL by 1 1/2 games and STL by 4 1/2 games in NL Central; lead ATL by 3 games for No. 1 seed in NL.

Yesterday's result: Lost to PIT, 5-1. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: In the event of a tiebreaker game for the division title, the Cubs would have home-field advantage over the Brewers, by virtue of their 11-8 record vs. Milwaukee in the season series. In the event of a tie for the best record in the NL, the higher seed would be determined by intradivision record, since the Cubs and Braves each won three games apiece in the season series. Atlanta (47-23) would be awarded the higher seed over Chicago (37-33).

Today's schedule: vs. PIT (8:05 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Friday-Sunday vs. STL

Video: PIT@CHC: Hamels drives a solo homer to center field

BREWERS (90-67, .573)

Status: Trail CHC by 1 1/2 games in NL Central; lead STL by 3 games for first NL Wild Card.

Yesterday's result: Beat STL, 6-4. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: The Brewers' final three-game series against the Cardinals, concluding Wednesday, will determine the winner of the season series, with the Brewers leading, 9-8, and who would have home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game if the two clubs finished tied for both Wild Card spots.

Today's schedule: at STL (8:15 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Tuesday-Wednesday at STL

Video: MIL@STL: Thames lines a triple in the 8th

CARDINALS (87-70, .554)

Status: Trail CHC by 4 1/2 games in NL Central; lead COL by a half-game for second NL Wild Card spot, trail MIL by 3 games for first NL Wild Card spot.

Yesterday's result: Lost to MIL, 6-4. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: The Cardinals' final three-game series against the Brewers, concluding Wednesday, will determine the winner of the season series, with the Brewers leading, 9-8, and who would have home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game if the two clubs finished tied for both Wild Card spots. Should St. Louis finish tied with Colorado for the second NL Wild Card spot, the Cardinals would host a tiebreaker by virtue of winning the season series, 5-2.

Today's schedule: vs. MIL (8:15 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Tuesday-Wednesday vs. MIL, Friday-Sunday at CHC

Video: MIL@STL: Ozuna laces 113.9-mph home run off Hader

NL WEST

DODGERS (88-69, .561)

Status: Lead COL by 1 1/2 games in NL West; trail ATL by a half-game for No. 2 seed in NL.

Yesterday's result: Beat ARI, 7-4. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: Should there be a tiebreaker game for the division title, Los Angeles is currently in position to host the Rockies because it won the season series, 12-7. The Dodgers lost the season series to the Cardinals, 4-3, so in the event of a tie for a Wild Card spot, Los Angeles would play at St. Louis. In the event of a tie for the second seed in the NL, the Dodgers would be awarded the second seed by virtue of winning the season series against the Braves, 5-2.

Today's schedule: at ARI (9:40 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Tuesday-Wednesday at ARI

Video: LAD@ARI: Freese hits solo jack to right field in 5th

ROCKIES (86-70, .551)

Status: Trail LAD by 1 1/2 games in NL West; trail STL by a half-game for second NL Wild Card spot. 

Yesterday's result: Beat PHI, 10-1. Recap >

Key tiebreaker: In the event of a tie for first place in the division, there would be a tiebreaker game to determine the NL West champion. The Rockies would be on the road for such a game against the Dodgers due to the result of their season series against Los Angeles (7-12). If there is a tie for the second NL Wild Card spot, the Rockies would travel to St. Louis for a tiebreaker game as a result of losing the season series to the Cardinals, 5-2.

Today's schedule: vs. PHI (8:40 p.m. ET)

Key series remaining: Tuesday-Thursday vs. PHI

Video: PHI@COL: Story doubles, reaches extra-base milestone

POSTSEASON PICTURE

If the playoffs began today, here's how they would look:

Postseason schedule

NL Wild Card Game (Tues., Oct. 2)
Cardinals at Brewers

AL Wild Card Game (Wed., Oct. 3)
Athletics at Yankees

NL Division Series (begins Thurs., Oct. 4)
NL Wild Card Game winner at Cubs
Dodgers at Braves

AL Division Series (begins Fri., Oct. 5)
AL Wild Card Game winner at Red Sox
Indians at Astros

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros

The 10 best seasons on losing teams

Trout is having a performance for the ages on a sub-.500 club
MLB.com @mike_petriello

Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, maybe the best player you'll ever see, and he's having his best season. Within his .314/.459/.632 line, you'll find the following:

• Baseball's best on-base percentage, leading the American League for the third straight year

Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, maybe the best player you'll ever see, and he's having his best season. Within his .314/.459/.632 line, you'll find the following:

• Baseball's best on-base percentage, leading the American League for the third straight year

• Baseball's second-best slugging percentage, a hair behindMookie Betts

• A 198 OPS+, a mark so legendary that it's been reached by only a handful of players in the past century. (Among the greats who never had a year like that: Albert Pujols, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Miguel Cabrera, Joe DiMaggio and Alex Rodriguez.)

But Trout is not going to win the AL Most Valuable Player Award, obviously. He's probably not going to win because the Angels are going to miss the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. While Betts is phenomenal in his own right and incredibly deserving due to his own fantastic season, at least part of his support will come due to the fact that he's fortunate enough to be teammates with Chris Sale, J.D. Martinez, Craig Kimbrel and others. Trout is ... not.

Because of the inability of the Halos to build a team around him, we're now seven full seasons into Trout's career, with one playoff appearance and zero playoff wins. It's incredibly depressing, but it also made us start thinking: How often have we seen a season this good coming on a team that couldn't even manage a winning record?

Video: LAA@OAK: Trout belts his 35th home run to left

The answer, as you might expect: "not often." 

The way we went about this was relatively simple. First, we looked for seasons of 10 Wins Above Replacement, dating back to the end of World War II. WAR isn't a perfect stat, obviously, but it's not possible to get to 10 WAR without being irrefutably great. For context, 2 WAR is considered league-average, 4 WAR is All-Star quality and anything above 6 WAR is star level. A 10 WAR season is so rare that in the years since the end of the WAR, it's happened just 52 times, 30 from hitters and 22 from pitchers.

As you'd expect, most of those seasons came on winning teams, including Betts this year, and that's because it's really, really hard to have a player so great surrounded by players so weak that they can't even get to .500. These are the 10 players who managed to do it in that timespan, and here they are, ranked by WAR in that season.

1. Steve Carlton: 12.1 WAR, 1972 Phillies (59-97)
1.97 ERA, 346 1/3 innings, 182 ERA+

This is exactly the season you'd want to see atop a list like this, because this is basically the platonic ideal of "great season on a bad team." Carlton unanimously won the National League Cy Young Award while posting a 1.97 ERA for a last-place Phillies team; for what little individual pitching wins matter, his 27 represented nearly half of Philadelphia's wins that year. Carlton almost singlehandedly prevented the Phils from losing 100 games, impressive considering they hit just a collective .236/.302/.344.

2. Roger Clemens: 11.9 WAR, 1997 Blue Jays (76-86)
2.05 ERA, 264 innings, 222 ERA+

Clemens' brief mid-career interlude in Toronto produced a pair of AL Cy Young Award-winning seasons, but zero playoff appearances. There's no amount of good pitching that can overcome a team .244/.310/.389 batting line, the worst in baseball that year. Only three Blue Jays hitters played enough to qualify for the batting title; while Carlos Delgado was very good, Joe Carter and Ed Sprague (combined .231/.294/.392 in 1,230 plate appearances) were not.

Video: TEX@TOR: Clemens fans 14 in a two-hit shutout

3. Wilbur Wood: 11.8 WAR, 1971 White Sox (79-83)
1.91 ERA, 334 innings, 189 ERA+

The knuckleballing Wood topped 300 innings each year from 1971-74, which tells you a little about how different the era he played in was. The '71 season was his best year, as you can see by his 1.91 ERA, and this wasn't a bad team, pairing strong pitching with league-average offense; the White Sox even outscored their opponents by 20 runs. That all suggests a team hovering around .500, and that's what it was, just slightly on the wrong side of it.

4. Cal Ripken Jr.: 11.5 WAR, 1991 Orioles (67-95)
.323/.374/.566, 34 home runs, 162 OPS+

The 1991 Orioles weren't quite as unsuccessful as the '88 or the 2018 versions, but they still finished 24 games behind the first place Blue Jays, because they simply couldn't pitch. (A rotation led by the likes of Bob Milacki and Jeff Ballard put up a 5.29 ERA, the worst in baseball that year.) Ripken, however, had what was the best year of a Hall of Fame career. He won the AL MVP Award that year, if you're looking for hope for Trout this season.

Video: Ripken wins Home Run Derby and ASG MVP in 1991

5. Gaylord Perry: 10.8 WAR, 1972 Indians (72-84)
1.92 ERA, 342 2/3 innings, 168 ERA+

This was Perry's first year in Ohio after a decade in San Francisco, and it went well: he edged Wood for the AL Cy Young Award. His new team could pitch, finishing with the seventh-best ERA in the Majors, and it wasn't all Perry, because Dick Tidrow kicked in 237 1/3 innings of 2.77 ball. As you'd expect, the offense was dreadful, hitting .234/.293/.330 and scoring only three runs per game, third lowest in the AL. This is a recurring theme, isn't it? Baseball is a team game. One player can't overcome the weaknesses of 24 others.

6. Mike Trout: 10.5 WAR, 2016 Angels (74-88)
.315/.441/.550, 29 home runs, 173 OPS+

That's right, Trout was already on this list. He's the only player to appear here twice, which says a lot about how great he is and how the Angels have simply not been able to build around him. (Assuming Trout finishes at 10 WAR this year, he'll be one of only eight hitters to have three or more such seasons. He turned 27 last month.) The 2016 Halos had a similar inability to every other recent Angels club, which was an inability to keep pitchers healthy and productive. It didn't help, either, that their second-best hitter was either C.J. Cron or Kole Calhoun. (Trout won the AL MVP Award that year, for what it's worth, and has finished in the top two of the AL MVP Award voting in ever year of his career except for last year, when he finished fourth because a thumb injury limited him to 114 games.)

Video: SEA@LAA: Trout makes a spectacular catch at the wall

7. Zack Greinke, 10.4 WAR, 2009 Royals (65-97)
2.16 ERA, 229 1/3 innings, 205 ERA+

After a few rough years getting his career off the ground and a strong season in 2008, this was Greinke's true breakout year, an AL Cy Young Award-winning campaign that put him in the select group of the few true "aces" around the game, where he remains nearly a decade later. Unfortunately for him, Greinke was surrounded by one of the least imposing rosters of the 21st century; the Royals' entire lineup was worth a total of 3.4 WAR. There's no amount of great pitching that can overcome nearly 2,000 plate appearances given to Yuniesky Betancourt, Willie Bloomquist, Jose Guillen, Mike Jacobs and Mitch Maier, who combined to hit .244/.306/.366 with poor defense, for -5 WAR.

8. Ernie Banks: 10.2 WAR, 1959 Cubs (74-80)
.304/.375/.596, 45 home runs, 156 OPS+

Banks famously played parts of 19 seasons with the Cubs without once making the postseason, and he won his second consecutive NL MVP Award in 1959. It's not hard to see why; he was the only Cubs hitter that year to post at least 400 plate appearances while being at least league-average. Thanks to Banks, their 4.3 runs per game was about league average, but if that's as far as they could get with a season this massive, it tells you a lot about everyone else.

9. Bob Feller: 10.1 WAR, 1946 Indians (68-86)
2.18 ERA, 371 1/3 innings, 151 ERA+

Consider this: Feller was incredible in 1946, throwing a nearly-unbelievable 371 1/3 innings to go with that sparkling 2.18 ERA. Yet his Cleveland team still had a 3.62 ERA that was worse than the 3.46 league average, which tells you something about how ineffective his pitching teammates were. The Indians didn't exactly make up for it with the bats, either; only one team had a lower on-base percentage than Cleveland's .313.

10. Mike Trout: 9.9 WAR, 2018 Angels (75-81)
.314/.459/.632, 38 home runs, 198 OPS+

No, 9.9 WAR isn't 10 WAR. Let's assume that Trout can get that last fraction of a point in the final week, not that it really matters. The 2018 Angels haven't been bad, not really, but despite being gifted with the stunning impact of Shohei Ohtani, they've mostly been irrelevant. Calhoun got off to a terrible start, and offseason acquisitions Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart didn't have much impact, plus Pujols' decline continued while Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker got hurt. Playing in the suddenly brutal AL West didn't help, either. 

It's true that the Halos haven't won anything with Trout around. But it's important to remember it hasn't really been his fault, either. Trout is already a historically great player, and he just had the best season of that great career. Let's not allow the weaknesses of the roster around him to obscure that.

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

Los Angeles Angels, Mike Trout

Fasten your seatbelt: We could get a 4-way tie

Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Rockies in for a wild final week
MLB.com @castrovince

We had dreams. Big dreams. Dreams of a three-way division tie. Or a five-way Wild Card tie. Or -- gulp -- an eight-way tie spanning all the division and Wild Card races. As recently as a month ago, the National League dared us to dream about these ridiculous scenarios with its peculiar cluster of clubs.

And then something happened. Math happened.

We had dreams. Big dreams. Dreams of a three-way division tie. Or a five-way Wild Card tie. Or -- gulp -- an eight-way tie spanning all the division and Wild Card races. As recently as a month ago, the National League dared us to dream about these ridiculous scenarios with its peculiar cluster of clubs.

And then something happened. Math happened.

OK, the eight-way fever dream was not meant to be (there's always next year). But we've still got some very realistic tiebreaker possibilities in play in this last week of the regular season, and foremost among them is that the Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers and Rockies could all end up with the same record -- leaving both the NL West and the two NL Wild Card spots up in the air after Sunday's final out.

Those four clubs finished Monday within three games of each other in the loss column:

Brewers: 90-67, 1 1/2 games back of Cubs in NL Central, 3 games up in race for top NL Wild Card spot
Cardinals: 87-70, 3 games back of Brewers for top NL Wild Card spot, 1/2 game up in race for second NL Wild Card spot
Dodgers: 88-69, first place in NL West
Rockies: 86-70, 1 1/2 games back of Dodgers in NL West, 1/2 game back of Cardinals for second NL Wild Card spot

And here are their remaining schedules:

Brewers: at Cardinals (Tuesday, Wednesday), vs. Tigers (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Cardinals: vs. Brewers (Tuesday, Wednesday), at Cubs (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Dodgers: at D-backs (Tuesday, Wednesday), at Giants (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Rockies: vs. Phillies (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), vs. Nationals (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)

If the Brewers go 1-4, the Dodgers go 3-2, the Cardinals go 4-1 and the Rockies go 5-1 -- voila! -- there's the kind of chaos this dual Wild Card format (which so far has only given us one tiebreaker game, back in 2013) has never seen before.

So what happens if there really is a four-way tie?

Monday, Oct. 1: Two tiebreaker games
The Rockies and Dodgers would play a game to determine the NL West winner. Los Angeles would host that game by virtue of winning the season series, 12-7.

And the Cardinals would play the Brewers (the site can't yet be determined because the season series is still unsettled) to determine one NL Wild Card spot.

Tuesday, Oct. 2: The consolation game
Monday's losers would face each other to determine the other NL Wild Card club. The site of this game would determined by the outcome of the regular-season series between the two clubs involved (intradivision record the next determining factor if the season series was a split, but that's not the case in any of these options).

So here's who would host in each potential scenario:

Brewers vs. Dodgers: Dodgers host (4-3 record in 2018 meetings)
Brewers vs. Rockies: Brewers host (5-2)
Cardinals vs. Dodgers: Cardinals host (4-3)
Cardinals vs. Rockies: Cardinals host (5-2)

Wednesday, Oct. 3: The real NL Wild Card Game
This game is scheduled to be played on Tuesday, but a four-way tie would make that schedule impossible to honor. The winner of Monday's Brewers-Cardinals game would face the winner of Tuesday's consolation game, with home-field advantage determined by the same factors as described above.

If we assume that the Cubs maintain the NL's No. 1 seed over the Braves (and for this four-way tie to even exist, Chicago would have to maintain its top spot in the NL Central), the winner of this game would then proceed to Wrigley Field for the start of the NL Division Series. As of now, the NLDS is scheduled to begin with Game 1 on Thursday, Oct. 4 and Game 2 on Friday, Oct. 5.

If you're scoring at home, there's a scenario that exists in which the Brewers, to use the most extreme example, end their season in Milwaukee on Sunday, play in St. Louis on Monday, play in L.A. on Tuesday, play in St. Louis again on Wednesday and play in Chicago on Thursday and Friday.

That's just "plane" crazy.

Of course, the four-way tie isn't the only remaining tie possibility. Here are some other scenarios still in play:

Scenario: The Dodgers and Rockies tie for the NL West title and tie the Cardinals for the second NL Wild Card spot (behind the Brewers)
The Dodgers and Rockies would play at Dodger Stadium on Monday, Oct. 1, to determine the NL West champion. The loser of that game would then travel to St. Louis to play the Cardinals the next day to determine the second Wild Card spot. The winner of that game would play the Brewers on Wednesday.

Scenario: The Dodgers win the NL West, and the Brewers, Cardinals and Rockies all finish with the same record
The Cards, Brewers and Rox would choose/receive A, B and C designations, based on head-to-head records. Club A would host Club B on Monday, Oct. 1, to determine one NL Wild Card spot. Club C would then host the loser of that game on Tuesday to determine the second NL Wild Card spot.

Scenario: The Dodgers and Rockies tie for the NL West title, and both clubs finish behind the Brewers and Cardinals in the Wild Card standings
Simple. A Monday tiebreaker game in Los Angeles between the Dodgers and Rox to determine who advances to face the Braves in the NLDS.

Scenario: The Cardinals and Brewers tie for the two NL Wild Card spots
Also simple. The winner of the season series (still undetermined, as of this writing) hosts the NL Wild Card Game.

Scenario: The Cubs and Brewers tie for first in the NL Central, with both clubs ahead of the Dodgers, Rockies and, naturally, Cardinals in winning percentage
The two clubs would play Monday at Wrigley Field (the Cubs won the season series, 11-8) for the NL Central title, and the loser would host the NL Wild Card Game the following day.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies

Error helps Brewers shave magic number to 3

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

ST. LOUIS -- In the end it wasn't employing an opener, or bullpenning, or whatever term the analytically-minded choose to apply to the hybrid path the Brewers took to 27 outs Monday night that made the difference in a game they desperately wanted to win.

In the end, it was a little bit of help from the opponent that pushed Milwaukee closer to clinching a spot in the postseason.

View Full Game Coverage

ST. LOUIS -- In the end it wasn't employing an opener, or bullpenning, or whatever term the analytically-minded choose to apply to the hybrid path the Brewers took to 27 outs Monday night that made the difference in a game they desperately wanted to win.

In the end, it was a little bit of help from the opponent that pushed Milwaukee closer to clinching a spot in the postseason.

View Full Game Coverage

"Wins are precious and you're doing everything you can to make sure you're in the playoffs, and we're inching closer to that," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell after a 6-4 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. "We aren't quite there yet."

Christian Yelich logged his 97th and 98th RBIs and Ryan Braun homered and drove in two runs as the Brewers closed to within 1 1/2 games of the National League Central-leading Cubs and pushed another game ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card standings. Milwaukee now leads St. Louis by three games and Colorado by 3 1/2 games.

Video: MIL@STL: Braun smashes a solo homer into second deck

Milwaukee's magic number to clinch a postseason spot is down to three.

"Every game is the biggest game of the year. Tomorrow will now be the biggest game of the year," said Braun. "We're well aware of the circumstances and the numbers and how many games up we are, where [the Cardinals] are at, where the Rockies are. We've approached every game the same way the last couple of weeks and that's worked well for us.

"But I do think that having this experience and playing these meaningful, stressful, anxiety-filled, pressure-filled games, is something that benefits us because we've been doing it for a couple weeks. We'll show up [Tuesday] and do it the same way."

The twists and turns of Monday's game, including a 31-minute rain delay in the seventh inning, overshadowed the Brewers' surprise decision to scratch scheduled starter Chase Anderson in favor of left-handed reliever Dan Jennings, who threw three pitches and called it a day.

Eight other relievers followed including Freddy Peralta, who did the bulk of the work with 3 2/3 innings; Josh Hader, who surrendered three runs on a pair of Cardinals homers in a rainy sixth; and Joakim Soria and Corey Knebel, who covered the final six outs with closer Jeremy Jeffress unavailable because of neck spasms.

Video: MIL@STL: Knebel K's Martinez, the side to notch save

It all added up to a Brewers victory in part because the Cardinals kept stepping on themselves. Starter Jack Flaherty was outstanding until a sudden lapse of command in the top of the sixth, when he walked two batters and hit another before reliever Dakota Hudson took over and walked Braun, forcing in the first of two Brewers runs.

Video: MIL@STL: Braun draws free pass with bases full in 6th

It was defense that let St. Louis down in the eighth, when the Brewers took the lead. An Eric Thames triple skipped past Cardinals right fielder Jose Martinez before an errant pickoff by Cards reliever Bud Norris provided the go-ahead run. Norris was throwing over to first base in an effort to hold Mike Moustakas, he of one stolen base this season.

"That's first and third, they're trying to hold a runner close in case we hit and run, squeeze or something like that," Counsell said. "So we caught a little bit of a break when the throw went away. You take the break sometimes. Sometimes you need a break, too. We got one there."

Said Cards manager Mike Shildt: "I'm always a glass-half-full guy, but it's always a little harder when you feel like you didn't take care of your own business when it was there. We didn't help ourselves."

Video: MIL@STL: Shildt on errors, pitching in loss

The Brewers' victory sealed the eighth 90-win season in franchise history and guaranteed they will head home for the final series of the regular season in position for the first NL Wild Card.

They still have their sights set on the Cubs, however.

"You've seen what these guys can do this past month," Hader said. "These guys have been working at-bats and scoring guys. These guys are going to keep rolling. We want to keep the momentum going."

Video: MIL@STL: Brewers on 6-4 win over the Cardinals

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Heads-up baserunning: It might have looked like a mistake when Travis Shaw was tagged out between second and third to end the Brewers' half of the sixth inning, but it was actually one of the pivotal plays in the game. Shaw was one of the three Brewers who walked in that inning and was at second base when Moustakas lifted a sacrifice fly to left field. Jesus Aguilar was the runner at third, and as the throw headed home, Shaw broke for third and induced third baseman Jedd Gyorko to cut off the baseball and go for the out. Aguilar touched home a moment before Gyorko applied the tag.

Video: MIL@STL: Moustakas drives in Aguilar with sac fly

"First of all, it was a great send by [third-base coach Ed Sedar]," said Counsell. "It was a very nice, aggressive play by Eddy. I don't think the throw gets to the plate. The question, to me, is could it have been cut and thrown home. Travis did really nice baserunning to put himself in the vision of Gyorko. It was a good play all around. Good play by Eddy. Good play by Travis."

Cards get to Hader: By the bottom of the sixth, the Brewers had a lead and the man they wanted on the mound in Hader, the dominant lefty who had struck out 17 of the last 20 batters he faced before a three-batter flurry, bookended by Martinez's solo home run and Marcell Ozuna's two-run shot in the rain, gave the Cardinals a 4-3 lead. Entering the night, Hader had surrendered six home runs all season, and only once had allowed more than one homer in a game. That was in July against the Marlins.

Video: MIL@STL: Hader K's Carpenter to end the 5th

Hader's fastball velocity, down a tick to a 94.2 mph average, indicated he may have been having trouble gripping the baseball.

"I can't use that as an excuse," Hader said. "I made mistakes, left two pitches over the middle. That hurt me. The walk didn't help as well. … It was wet; it was raining. Obviously, it's not the easiest thing. But I made a mistake, threw two fastballs down the middle. You saw what happened."

Video: MIL@STL: Counsell on Hader's struggles in win

JENNINGS GETS THE START
A number of players were out for dinner Sunday night after the team charter landed in St. Louis, debating who would get the start after Counsell announced Anderson was being skipped. Jennings didn't find out it was him until he got a text from an unfamiliar number Monday morning.

That number belonged to Counsell.

"Somebody asked me if I was going to go five tonight before the game and I said, "Five pitches or five innings?'" Jennings joked.

Video: MIL@STL: Jennings retires Carpenter, exits in 1st

The idea, Counsell confirmed later, was limiting Peralta's exposure to Carpenter, the Cardinals' left-handed-hitting leadoff man and MVP candidate. The Brewers knew they didn't have enough left-handers to cover all of Carpenter's at-bats, so they made the strategic decision to get the left-on-left matchup they wanted for the first at-bat, then see if Peralta could cover the second.

The first part worked, but the second did not. Carpenter hit an RBI double off Peralta in the third inning.

Video: MIL@STL: Carpenter lines an RBI double in the 3rd

Did Jennings see the future of baseball in Monday's exercise?

"I kind of hope not," he said, "just because I really do see a value in having starting pitchers and relievers. That's what we grew up with and if it is going to shift in that direction, maybe the guys coming up will be more used to it and implemented at lower levels just to get guys used to it. ... Tonight, it seemed a little more like we're going to have all hands on deck because we need to win this game."

HE SAID IT
"I almost took the base out and held it over my head." -- Thames, on his triple. He entered the night hitting .125 since the start of August and has slipped into a bench role with the addition of Curtis Granderson to the outfield mix

Video: MIL@STL: Thames lines a triple in the 8th

UP NEXT
The Brewers won't mess around with an opener Tuesday, when veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez takes the mound for his fourth Milwaukee start. The Brewers have won each of their first three games behind Gonzalez, who is coming off six scoreless innings against the Reds in his most recent outing. He'll work opposite Cardinals left-hander Austin Gomber in the 7:15 p.m. CT affair.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Ryan Braun, Josh Hader

Select few have reached 300 K's in a season

Scherzer aims to be just 17th pitcher to accomplish feat since 1900
MLB.com

Max Scherzer won't get the chance to earn his first World Series ring next month, but he can check off one of the highest achievements on his career to-do list.

Scherzer is in contention for his third straight National League Cy Young Award, a streak that only Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson can currently boast. He could lead his league in wins for the fourth time in his career, and pace the league in innings for the second time in the past three campaigns. Scherzer has already clinched his NL-record fifth consecutive season with 250 strikeouts, and now he could go one step further.

Max Scherzer won't get the chance to earn his first World Series ring next month, but he can check off one of the highest achievements on his career to-do list.

Scherzer is in contention for his third straight National League Cy Young Award, a streak that only Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson can currently boast. He could lead his league in wins for the fourth time in his career, and pace the league in innings for the second time in the past three campaigns. Scherzer has already clinched his NL-record fifth consecutive season with 250 strikeouts, and now he could go one step further.

Scherzer enters the final week of the regular season with an MLB-most 290 strikeouts on his ledger. While baseball's obsession with round numbers runs deep, there's little denying the significance of a 300-strikeout season (even in today's K-friendly climate for pitchers). With the Nationals' ace on the verge of writing another big bullet point on a potential Hall of Fame resume, here's a rundown of the previous 16 pitchers who have reached the 300-K plateau within a single season.

SIX 300-K SEASONS

Randy Johnson, LHP
Years: 2002, '01, '00, 1999, '98, '93

Few pitchers have ever intimidated on a mound as much as The Big Unit, and once the 6-foot-10 Johnson corralled the wildness that plagued him in Montreal and his first years in Seattle, it was lights out for hitters.

"I told Randy he could be the most dominating pitcher in baseball if he would just work on his game," fellow Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan said in 1992. "He was a lot like me when I was younger. He was just pitching and not doing a lot of thinking."

Video: Randy Johnson fans 250 for 6 straight seasons

Whipping his high-90s fastball and biting slider seemingly from first base, Johnson wiped out batter after batter in an astonishing run through a remarkable renaissance in his 30s and early 40s. Seven of the top 10 strikeout-rate seasons by a qualified starter through 2002 belong to Johnson, peaking with his banner '01 campaign in which the 37-year-old struck out 37.4 percent of hitters (still the second-highest rate in a qualified season since 1900) before dominating even further during the D-backs' postseason run. The 1,746 strikeouts Johnson accumulated in a five-year period from 1998-2002 might remain unmatched for a long, long time.

Nolan Ryan, RHP
Years: 1989, '77, '76, '74, '73, '72

Before Johnson came along, it was hard to foresee any pitcher striking out as many hitters over as many years as The Ryan Express. Ryan's trade from the Mets to the Angels in 1972 represents one of the most favorable changes of scenery for any player, as the hard-throwing righty blossomed from a back-of-the-rotation starter in Queens to the preeminent strikeout artist in baseball history.

"I've never been afraid at the plate, but Mr. Ryan makes me uncomfortable," said Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson. "He's the only pitcher who's ever made me consider wearing a helmet with an ear flap."

Video: Check out Nolan Ryan's unreal career strikeout stats

Ryan averaged one strikeout per each inning of a ballgame, first through ninth, which might be the best stat to show his dogged determination to sit down each and every hitter he faced. He also averaged 10.1 strikeouts per nine from 1972-78 (when the average starter during that time averaged roughly five), and then he averaged 10.6 strikeouts per nine in his age 40-44 seasons at the end of the following decade. That's how one becomes the game's all-time K leader by a wide margin.

THREE 300-K SEASONS

Video: A look at Curt Schilling's first and last strikeouts

Curt Schilling, RHP
Years: 2002, 1998, 1997

Schilling is baseball's modern leader in strikeout-to-walk ratio among retired pitchers thanks to his innate ability to command the ball. His 33 walks in 2002 represent the fewest of any of the 300-strikeout seasons on this list, and all three of his 300-K campaigns rank within the top 10 of that list.

Schilling notched back-to-back season of 300 punchouts in 1997 and '98 with Philadelphia before joining forces with Johnson in Arizona midway through the 2000 season. Two years later, the pair made the D-backs the first (and thus far only) team in modern history to boast two 300-strikeout pitchers in the same rotation.

Video: 2015 ASG: Koufax throws out first pitch to Bench

Sandy Koufax, LHP
Years: 1966, '65, '63

"The Left Arm of God" was a completely appropriate nickname in the eyes of Koufax's opponents, as they watched impossibly hard fastballs rain down alongside hissing curveballs from the pitcher's mound. Koufax remains one of the most beloved and revered pitchers in history thanks in large part to his willingness to pitch through pain; he likely would have tallied many more 300-strikeout seasons had chronic arm and shoulder ailments not swayed him to hang up his spikes for good at age 30.

"It was frightening," said Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who famously stated that Koufax would tip his pitches but batters still couldn't hit them. "He had that tremendous fastball that would rise, and a great curveball that started at the eyes and broke to the ankles. In the end you knew you were going to be embarrassed. You were either going to strike out or foul out."

The lefty peaked with 382 strikeouts in his penultimate 1965 campaign, a Major League record until Ryan did his idol one better in '73. Don Veale, the NL's next-closest strikeout pitcher that year, finished more than 100 punchouts behind.

TWO 300-K SEASONS

Video: Pedro strikes out 17 Yankees on Sept. 10, 1999

Pedro Martinez
Years: 1999, '97

Martinez's 1999 season has plenty of arguments for the greatest campaign by any modern-day hurler. His 37.5 percent strikeout rate that year is the best by any qualified starter, as is his 11.6 fWAR, while his 1.39 FIP rating in '99 ranks second behind Christy Mathewson (1.29) way back in '08. And this wasn't just the case of a pitcher trying to throw as hard as he could; Martinez walked just 37 hitters the entire year. And don't forget the one game that didn't count: When Martinez punched out five of the six batters he faced in an electric All-Star Game performance at Fenway Park.

"The '99 season, I think, was something different," said Martinez, who paced the American League in wins, ERA and strikeouts that year. "The triple crown as a pitcher, you can't top it. In such a difficult era to play, I would have to say that's the highlight."

Martinez's final season in Montreal wasn't too shabby, either. The Dominican righty led the Majors with a 1.90 ERA and struck out 305 to capture the 1997 NL Cy Young Award -- the first of his celebrated career.

J.R. Richard
Years: 1979, '78

It's safe to say Richard got the baseball world's attention when he tied a Major League record with 15 strikeouts in his debut against the Giants in September 1971. But Houston's righty really put it all together seven years later, when he placed fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting with a 3.11 ERA and an MLB-most 303 strikeouts. Richard rode his triple-digit fastball and menacing slider to another strikeout crown (313) in '79, and was poised for more the following year before a blood clot in his neck and subsequent stroke brought his career to an abrupt end at age 30. He remains one of baseball's biggest "what if" aces based on what lay ahead in his unfinished second act.

Sam McDowell
Years: 1970, '65

McDowell was nicknamed "Sudden Sam" for a reason, as his rocking-chair motion from the left side could lull a hitter to sleep before his fastball got on top of hitters with purpose. Like Ryan, hitters could never really get comfortable in the box against McDowell, who led the Majors in walks on five occasions. But he also racked up five AL strikeout crowns with the Indians, beginning with a breakout 325-strikeout campaign in 1965.

McDowell's punchout prowess inspired Sports Illustrated to feature him on its cover in May 1966 with the headline "Faster than Koufax?" -- and the southpaws' heaters were a legitimate source of debate at the time. Control issues would keep McDowell from reaching that kind of level, but he did top 300 strikeouts once more in a 305-inning season with Cleveland in 1970.

Video: Harold and Al break down rare footage on Monday

Walter Johnson
Years: 1912, '10

Johnson's fastball was truly unprecedented when he came on the scene late in 1907, and he used that to his advantage for years to come. Whipping his signature heater from a dropdown delivery, The Big Train racked up a record 12 league strikeout titles in a span of 15 years from 1910-24, peaking with a pair of 300-strikeout campaigns at the beginning. Johnson's 313 strikeouts in '10 were just 130 shy of the Boston Braves' entire pitching staff that season, and his 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings were nearly twice as many as the league average.

"His fastball looked about the size of a watermelon seed," Ty Cobb once said of Johnson, "and it hissed at you as it passed."

Rube Waddell
Years: 1904, '03

Waddell might be remembered for his off-beat personality as much as his pitching prowess, as he occasionally missed starts while he was out of town on fishing trips, and he walked off the mound in the middle of a game. But when Waddell focused his attention toward the catcher, he could be downright dominant. The southpaw paced the nascent AL in strikeouts six years in a row (and led the Majors in each of those last five seasons), peaking with 349 for the Philadelphia A's in '04. That stood as baseball's single-season record for more than half a century before Koufax surpassed Waddell in '65.

Video: Must C Classic: Sale joins elite company with 300th K

ONE 300-K SEASON

Chris Sale
Year: 2017

Sale surged to the line, fanning the Orioles' Ryan Flaherty for his 13th strikeout in his second-to-last start of the regular season at Camden Yards. That made him the first AL pitcher to reach 300 since Martinez in 1999, and just the second southpaw after Johnson to hit the mark since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973.

"That's special," Sale said of joining Martinez in the Red Sox's 300-K club. "We all know that's about as good a company as you can get. Being here and having that name thrown around is special to me; I don't take it lightly."

Video: SD@LAD: Kershaw tallies his 300th K of the season

Clayton Kershaw
Year: 2015

Kershaw entered his final start of the year needing six strikeouts to reach the 300 plateau, and he was efficient in getting there, reaching the mark within the first 10 Padres he faced. The Dodgers' ace kept his typically stoic resolve as the Dodger Stadium crowd gave a standing ovation, but his teammates were certainly aware of the countdown.

"I know it meant a lot to him, even though he lied and said it didn't," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "I was counting from the first strikeout of the game. I knew what we needed to get to and where his pitch count was at, just hopeful he would execute so those strikeouts would pile up and get to that number."

Video: TEX@HOU: Scott talks about the Astros team from 1986

Mike Scott
Year: 1986

Scott and his split-fingered fastball were so dominant in 1986 that the Mets accused him of scuffing the baseball during the NL Championship Series. While that was never proven, Scott's overpowering stuff was undeniable. Scott had never topped 137 strikeouts coming into '86, making his 306 punchouts one of the more unexpected totals in recent history. His 11 starts with 10 or more strikeouts were just shy of half his career total, and his magical '86 also included a no-hitter against the Giants in his second-to-last start.

Video: 1972 Carlton-Wise trade was seen as fair at the time

Steve Carlton
Year: 1972

Cartlon's strikeout reputation was well established by 1972; he had set the single-game record with 19 strikeouts for the Cardinals three years prior. Still, Lefty's 310 K's in his debut season with the Phillies took his career to a new level. Carlton won an MLB-most 27 games and posted a 1.97 ERA for a Phillies club that lost 97 games, making his season the best individual performance by a player on a losing team.

"Sometimes I hit him like I used to hit Koufax," Hall of Famer Willie Stargell once said of Carlton, "and that's like drinking coffee with a fork."

Eight years later, Carlton would help complete Philly's renaissance by winning the decisive Game 6 of the 1980 World Series.

Mickey Lolich
Year: 1971

Lolich's 308 strikeouts in 1971 probably aren't the most memorable achievement of his career -- that would be his three complete-game victories over Bob Gibson and the Cardinals in the '68 World Series -- an indication as to how talented Lolich was in his prime. He worked hard for the honors in '71, leading the Majors with a total of 376 innings that has been topped just one time since. Lolich's 308 punchouts remain a Tigers record, and no Detroit pitcher has equaled his 25 wins from that year since.

Vida Blue
Year: 1971

The A's likely would not have won three straight World Series crowns without Blue in tow, but the lefty's best season came right before Oakland's title run. In his first full season as a Major League hurler, Blue compiled an AL-best 1.82 ERA and a Major League-best eight shutouts to go along with his 301 punchouts, topped that year only by Lolich. Sports Illustrated featured Blue in his day-glo yellow A's uniform in mid-May, labeling him the "hottest" pitcher of them all. With Blue, Rollie Fingers and Catfish Hunter leading the way, the A's punched their first postseason ticket in 40 years, eventually falling to the Orioles in the ALCS.

Bob Feller
Year: 1946

Feller's fastball ranks among the most revered in baseball history, and few could touch it in 1946. In his first full season back from World War II, "Rapid Robert" racked up 348 strikeouts to finish one shy of Waddell's record at the time. Feller tried hard to break the record down the stretch, starting two games on short rest and coming into another game in relief. The Hall of Famer finished with an MLB-most 26 wins, representing about 38 percent of the hapless Indians' total for the season.

Fellow Hall of Famer Bucky Harris, the longtime manager of the Washington Senators, probably summed up the best way to beat Feller: "Go on up there and hit what you see. If you can't see it, come on back."

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Dodgers rally in AZ to trim magic number to 5

MLB.com @kengurnick

PHOENIX -- There won't be a party anywhere at Chase Field for the Dodgers this week, but they moved closer to a party somewhere by wearing down the D-backs on Monday night in a 7-4 win that trimmed the magic number to clinch the National League West to five.

With Dodgers fans packing the park for the look and feel of a home game, the first-place visitors overcame two deficits and finally took the lead against Arizona's bullpen with seventh-inning runs on pinch-hitter Max Muncy's RBI single and a run-scoring groundout by Manny Machado before adding three insurance runs in the ninth on a pair of wild pitches by Yoshihisa Hirano and an RBI double by Machado, who had to hustle for a double after thinking it was gone.

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PHOENIX -- There won't be a party anywhere at Chase Field for the Dodgers this week, but they moved closer to a party somewhere by wearing down the D-backs on Monday night in a 7-4 win that trimmed the magic number to clinch the National League West to five.

With Dodgers fans packing the park for the look and feel of a home game, the first-place visitors overcame two deficits and finally took the lead against Arizona's bullpen with seventh-inning runs on pinch-hitter Max Muncy's RBI single and a run-scoring groundout by Manny Machado before adding three insurance runs in the ninth on a pair of wild pitches by Yoshihisa Hirano and an RBI double by Machado, who had to hustle for a double after thinking it was gone.

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"We waited them out and got to their 'pen," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "We had guys coming off the bench, and that was the difference in the game."

David Freese, acquired for stretch-run games like this, had an infield single during the seventh-inning rally, having already homered and singled to drive in the first two runs for the Dodgers, who lead the Rockies by 1 1/2 games with five to play.

Video: LAD@ARI: Freese hits solo jack to right field in 5th

"I really like the at-bat quality, and he's gotten big hits for us, but tonight was probably the biggest, the home run that tied the game up," said Roberts. "He's a leader, doing things the right way, and guys tend to follow him.When we're talking about approach and having a plan as a team, he's all in. He's all that we had hoped for."

The feeling seems to be mutual for Freese, who is hitting .375 since being acquired from Pittsburgh on Aug. 31 to give the Dodgers a professional right-handed bat for opposing pitchers like Arizona lefty Robbie Ray.

"You understand what this organization is trying to do and you get called upon to help out," said Freese, part of the club's right-handed-hitting platoon. "You do whatever Dave asks of you. You need to be productive and help the team, and so far, I think I've done a decent job of doing my thing and filling my role. This never gets easy, but we're all professional hitters and we're handling it pretty well."

The Dodgers have 40 players active and, from where Arizona manager Torey Lovullo sits, they seemed to use all 40.

"They have a long bench, and it was exactly what our advance scout had predicted -- that after the fifth inning they would start to maneuver and start to roll things over. And we were trying to create the best matchups possible, but you don't have enough guys to do it," Lovullo said. "It's how they've been operating, I'm sure, for several weeks, and it's been working."

Video: LAD@ARI: Machado plates Puig to put Dodgers ahead

After the seventh-inning rally put starter Clayton Kershaw (9-5) in line for the win, the Dodgers bullpen held off the D-backs, with Caleb Ferguson, Scott Alexander, Kenta Maeda and Kenley Jansen working the final three innings. Jansen allowed a leadoff homer to A.J. Pollock in the ninth, and Maeda's outing was marred when he hit Christian Walker in the face with a 94-mph fastball. The D-backs announced that Walker had a facial contusion.

For the first eight innings, Arizona's offense was all Ketel Marte, who homered, tripled, singled and drove in all three runs off Kershaw. Marte also took Kershaw deep in last year's National League Division Series, saying after that he wasn't very impressed by the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner. This time around, Marte was more reserved in his comments.

"Every time when I faced him, he would strike me out," the switch-hitter said of his struggles against Kershaw before last year's NLDS. "I didn't think last year I was that good from the right side. Last year, I said, 'I'm going to face you next year, too.' I feel good. I'm trying to do my best out there."

Both starting pitchers struggled to control the damage. Ray entered the game 4-0 against the Dodgers over the past two seasons, but he was trailing after three batters when Freese's single on an 0-2 pitch knocked in Chris Taylor. Ray walked the next two hitters, but the Dodgers stranded the bases loaded.

Video: LAD@ARI: Marte homers, tallies 3 hits off Kershaw

Kershaw lost that early lead after three batters, on an RBI triple by Marte past diving right fielder Matt Kemp. Marte was stranded at third base, but he made sure that didn't happen in the third inning, when he homered to left with two outs for a 2-1 Arizona lead.

In the fifth inning, Freese came through again, delivering a game-tying, line-drive homer to right field, his 11th this year and second since joining the Dodgers.

But again Kershaw couldn't deliver a shut-down inning and again it was Marte, who cashed in Chris Owings' one-out double with a two-out RBI single for a 3-2 lead.

"We got a run in the first and gave it right back. Freese homered to tie it, and I gave it right back," said Kershaw. "Those are rules of pitching you don't want to break. Fortunate to get through that tonight. The guys really battled and scratched and made their bullpen cover four innings."

Video: LAD@ARI: Muncy ties game with pinch-hit knock in 7th

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Roberts said a key to the game was Justin Turner's 11-pitch at-bat in the fifth inning. Although it ended in a flyout, it was followed by Freese's home run and it helped run up Ray's pitch count to 100 by the fifth inning, his last.

"I know they wanted to get him through sixth with the lead," said Roberts. "J.T.'s at-bat, you could see he was gassed. He strikes a breaking ball to Freese. Next fastball, he didn't get it where he wanted and Freese hit a home run. J.T.'s at-bat there was key."

Video: LAD@ARI: Roberts on Kershaw, 9th-inning rally in win

SOUND SMART
Kershaw is 6-1 with a 2.36 ERA over his last 12 starts and 8-1 in his last 15 starts. He's 16-9 in his career against Arizona.

Video: LAD@ARI: Kershaw K's 6 over 6 innings of 3-run ball

HE SAID IT
"We can't approach a day looking for help. We put ourselves in a situation where we're in the driver's seat. There's going to be some scoreboard watching, that's natural. But it's on us to take care of our own business." -- Roberts, on not counting on losses by the Rockies, who won their fourth straight game on Monday

UP NEXT
Walker Buehler starts Tuesday night's tilt against the D-backs and Matt Koch, who fills in for the injured Clay Buchholz, and fans can watch the 6:40 p.m. PT matchup free on MLB.TV. It's a long shot that Buehler finishes higher than third in NL Rookie of the Year Award voting, but he's already unofficially the No. 2 starter in the Dodgers' rotation. He's coming off one of his best starts, a career-high 12 strikeouts over six innings against the Rockies in L.A.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, David Freese, Clayton Kershaw, Manny Machado