Tanaka returns to help Yankees' postseason push
The number of remaining regular-season games left on the schedule can be counted on one hand, which means we're closer to figuring out the postseason field and how it will fall. To have an even better idea, stay tuned to Wednesday's games.
Here are five things to watch for:
1. Tanaka returns: BOS @ NYY, 7:05 p.m. ET
The Yankees get their ace right-hander, Masahiro Tanaka, back just in time to make a push at the American League East, or at least clinch a Wild Card spot. New York hasn't been to the playoffs since 2012, and the club can clinch a postseason berth tonight with a win against Boston coupled with two of the following outcomes: a Cleveland win against Minnesota in one of their two games today, an Astros loss to the Mariners, or either a Rangers loss to the Tigers or an Angels loss to the A's. A Yankees loss, however, would cede the AL East to Toronto. It will be Tanaka's first start since Sept. 18, when he sustained a Grade 1 right hamstring strain trying to beat out a bunt.
2. NL Central there for the taking: STL @ PIT, 1:35 p.m. and 7:05 p.m. ET
This pivotal National League Central matchup was delayed a day after Tuesday's rainout, but Pittsburgh and St. Louis are set to play two Wednesday in a split doubleheader at PNC Park. A Cardinals win in either matchup will clinch the division, while the Pirates are also focused on fending off the Cubs to hold on to the top NL Wild Card spot. In the early contest, Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha will take the mound opposite Bucs ace Gerrit Cole, who's undefeated in three career home starts against St. Louis. In the nightcap, Tyler Lyons will start for the Cardinals in place of the injured Carlos Martinez, while Charlie Morton goes for the Pirates.
3. Lester shooting for a record: CHC @ CIN, 7:10 p.m. ET
Jon Lester can help establish one of the best single-seasons from a Cubs left-hander in his first with the club. The southpaw has struck out 198 batters entering his Wednesday night start against the Reds, just four shy of Ken Holtzman, who set the record for a left-hander in a season with 202 in 1970.
4. Fighting for the Wild Card: MIN @ CLE, 7:10 p.m. ET
There's hope yet for a second playoff team from the AL Central. The Indians are all but out of it, but the Twins still have a fighting chance against the Yankees, Astros and Angels. With Tuesday's rainout, the Twins have two opportunities to gain ground in the Wild Card race with a doubleheader against the Tribe. Minnesota right-hander Kyle Gibson will face the Indians' Carlos Carrasco in Game 1, and Mike Pelfrey and Cody Anderson will toe the rubber in Game 2. In his last outing, Carrasco became the first Indians pitcher with at least 15 strikeouts in a shutout with no more than one hit allowed.
5. Kazmir struggling: HOU @ SEA, 10:10 p.m. ET
The Astros are in dire need of Scott Kazmir righting the ship on Wednesday night against the Mariners. The left-hander was outstanding after being dealt from the A's mid-season, but he has since fallen into a slump at the most inopportune time. Kazmir has gone just 3 2/3 innings in each of his last two starts, and he has given up seven or more hits in three of his last five.