First-third awards – AL MVP

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Let’s turn back to VORP to generate the list of candidates. Hitters only, for now:

1. Joe Mauer – 36.0
2. Jason Bartlett – 31.3
3. Justin Morneau – 29.7
4. Evan Longoria – 29.4
5. Adam Jones – 27.4
6. Victor Martinez – 27.2
7. Kevin Youkilis – 26.7
8. Jason Bay – 26.2
9. Torii Hunter – 24.7
10. Russell Branyan – 24.0
11. Carl Crawford – 22.9
12. Ian Kinsler – 22.0

That’s a very good list of candidates. I think Marco Scutaro, who ranks
17th in WARP, is a better choice than Branyan or Crawford, but he’s not
cracking that top nine. The list includes the top eight in OPS and the
top three in RBI. Mark Teixeira, who ranks ninth in OPS and fourth in
RBI, could well end up being the AL MVP, but he didn’t do much at all
during April and he’s getting a big boost from the new Yankee Stadium
(1126 OPS at home, 846 on the road).

How about those same 12 listed with their OPS, RBI and games played totals:

1. Joe Mauer – 1357 OPS, 35 RBI in 30 G
2. Jason Bartlett – 1014 OPS, 30 RBI in 44 G
3. Justin Morneau – 1046 OPS, 47 RBI in 54 G
4. Evan Longoria – 1005 OPS, 55 RBI in 52 G
5. Adam Jones – 1002 OPS, 36 RBI in 48 G
6. Victor Martinez – 992 OPS, 40 RBI in 53 G
7. Kevin Youkilis – 1147 OPS, 33 RBI in 39 G
8. Jason Bay – 1033 OPS, 51 RBI in 52 G
9. Torii Hunter – 976 OPS, 42 RBI in 50 G
10. Russell Branyan – 1036 OPS, 25 RBI in 47 G
11. Carl Crawford – 830 OPS, 25 RBI in 54 G
12. Ian Kinsler – 912 OPS, 40 R in 51 G

Obviously, Mauer’s numbers really stand out. Still, he’s played in
55 percent of the Twins’ games so far. If he remains the AL’s best
player over the rest of the year and plays in 80 percent of the Twins’
games, he should be the AL MVP. However, he hasn’t been the MVP through
two months.

Bartlett won’t be there at the end, but he’s still a serious
candidate now, even with the recent DL stint. Still, I think the top
Ray has to be Longoria, if only because he has played in eight more
games and been just about as effective. Similiarly, Bay has the
advantage of Boston’s two candidates.

So who is the AL MVP through two months? Well, it’s Zack Greinke of
course. If Mauer had put up these kind of numbers over 45 games, rather
than 30, he’d probably get the nod. Greinke, though, has supplied his
team with more victories than any of these hitters. The Royals have
gone 8-3 while scoring a total of 49 runs in his 11 starts. Also, while
Greinke is only pitching once every five days, he’s still helping the
team the rest of the time by saving wear and tear on the bullpen.
Greinke has already pitched five complete games, and he’s averaging 7.5
innings per start.

First third AL MVP

1. Greinke
2. Longoria
3. Morneau
4. Mauer
5. Bay
6. Bartlett
7. Roy Halladay
8. Hunter
9. Martinez
10. Jones

What’s on Tap: Previewing Saturday’s action

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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It’s the last Clayton Kershaw start of the regular season. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

The Dodgers already have the NL West in the bag, but they’re still fighting for home-field advantage against the Nationals. Should the two teams end up with the same regular season record by Monday morning, the edge will go to the Dodgers, who have a better head-to-head record this year. Kershaw has already been announced as the starter for Game 1 of the NLDS, while the Nationals have kept their lineup close to the vest for the time being.

Facing the Dodgers is Giants’ left-hander Ty Blach, who is poised to make the second major league start of his career this afternoon. The Giants are in a precarious position heading into the last two games of the year and have the potential to force a three-way tie among NL wild card contenders. A thorough breakdown of the wild card and home-field advantage possibilities has been outlined here.

You can find more from Saturday’s action below.

New York Mets (Bartolo Colon) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Phil Klein), 1:05 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates (Chad Kuhl) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Michael Wacha), 1:05 PM EDT

Baltimore Orioles (Wade Miley) @ New York Yankees (Luis Severino), 4:05 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) @ San Francisco Giants (Ty Blach), 4:05 PM EDT

Miami Marlins (Wei-Yin Chen) @ Washington Nationals (Tanner Roark), 4:05 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester) @ Cincinnati Reds (Tim Adleman), 4:10 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer) @ Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez), 4:15 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers (Jordan Zimmerman) @ Atlanta Braves (Aaron Blair), 7:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Hector Santiago) @ Chicago White Sox (James Shields), 7:10 PM EDT

Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ) @ Boston Red Sox (Eduardo Rodriguez), 7:10 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Jake Odorizzi) @ Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis), 8:05 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta) @ Colorado Rockies (Jeff Hoffman), 8:10 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Clayton Richard) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley), 8:10 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Collin McHugh) @ Los Angeles Angels (Tyler Skaggs), 9:05 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Jharel Cotton) @ Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma), 9:10 PM EDT

Settling the Scores: Friday’s results

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Norichika Aoki #8 of the Seattle Mariners is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run off of starting pitcher Raul Alcantara #50 of the Oakland Athletics during the second inning of a game against the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Raul Alcantara was in the business of distributing home runs on Friday night.

Robinson Cano caught the tail end of a 94.1 m.p.h. fastball in the first inning, driving it to center field to put the Mariners on the board. In the second, Norichika Aoka found his fourth home run of the year on a similarly-placed heater. The Mariners then targeted Alcantara’s off-speed stuff, picking on the right-hander’s changeup and slider to get two more home runs in the third: the first, another dead-center blast by Cano, and the last, a bomb by Nelson Cruz that popped off the center field wall and survived an umpire review.

Taijuan Walker, who enjoyed the spike in run support from his 3.6 average, was not immune to the home run bug either, giving up the first and only run of the night on Ryon Healy’s 102-m.p.h. home run in the sixth inning.

While Walker excelled at run prevention, he also came one walk shy of hitting a career-high mark, with five walks spread over six innings. Seattle’s bullpen stepped in for three perfect innings to close out the game and, despite six perfect frames from Oakland relievers Zach Neal and Daniel Coulombe, quashed the A’s hopes of closing a four-run gap.

The Mariners’ win on Friday puts them one game back of the wild card; if they take the rest of the series and the Tigers and Blue Jays lose one of their remaining weekend games, the Mariners will tie for the remaining wild card spot. With Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez on the hill this weekend, winning shouldn’t be an issue. Getting the Blue Jays to collapse against the Red Sox (and, to a lesser extent, the Tigers against the Braves) is another story.

Here are the rest of the box scores from Friday’s games. Keep an eye out for the first modest bat flip of Jose Bautista‘s career, Madison Bumgarner‘s eighth RBI of the year, and the Orioles’ three-homer inning.

Orioles 8, Yankees 1

Marlins 7, Nationals 4

Mets 5, Phillies 1

Cubs 7, Reds 3

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3

Tigers 6, Braves 2

Rangers 3, Rays 1

Rockies 4, Brewers 1

White Sox 7, Twins 3

Indians 7, Royals 2

Cardinals 7, Pirates 0

Diamondbacks 5, Padres 3

Angels 7, Astros 1

Mariners 5, Athletics 1

Giants 9, Dodgers 3