Cleveland’s big early lead in the AL Central is slipping away

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Cleveland shocked everyone by going 18-8 in April and kept rolling through the first three weeks of May, giving the Indians an MLB-best 30-15 record as of May 23.

That put them seven games ahead of the Tigers in the AL Central and double-digit games ahead of every other team in the division, but the Indians have gone 4-11 since then–including an extra-inning loss to the Twins this afternoon–and if the Tigers win tonight that big early lead will have disintegrated from 7.0 games to 0.5 games in just two weeks.

Even at 34-26 the Indians have dramatically out-performed expectations that included many preseason predictions pegging them for fourth or even fifth place in the AL Central, but with Detroit just a game back and Chicago still lurking within striking distance manager Manny Acta will have to get things back on track in a hurry.

I’ve certainly been wrong about the Indians so far, but at this point I’d pick them to finish in third place.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.