Photo finish

State of the Races

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This is pretty much all you need to know:

Boston:  89-70
Tampa Bay: 88-71

Atlanta: 89-70
St. Louis: 88-71

Such wonderful symmetry, both in record and in dynamic. A faltering would-be giant above the guys everyone wrote off in August. A three-game sprint to Wednesday evening or — if things break just right — one-game playoffs on Thursday. It’s not quite the 1993 NL West or the 1987 AL East, but ’tis enough. ‘Twill serve.

For Boston it’s three games in Camden Yards with Josh Beckett, Erik Bedard and Jon Lester facing Tommy Hunter, Zach Britton and AlfredoSimon.  For Tampa Bay it’s three at home against the Yankees with James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and David Price facing Hector Noesi, Bartolo Colon and, well, Joe Girardi will cross that bridge when he comes to it. Given Boston’s recent struggles with Baltimore and the Yankees not exactly trotting out the finest portion of their rotation, let’s call it a push. A push, however, favors the Red Sox as that one game is pretty big.

Atlanta has the unenviable task of hosting Philly, with Randall Delgado, Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson taking on Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.  Meanwhile the Cardinals take on the Astros with Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and Chris Carpenter facing Wandy Rodriguez, Henry Sosa and Brett Myers.  Here the schedule and the matchups clearly favor the Cardinals.

Photo finish anyone?

Jon Niese leaves start with knee pain

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Mets starter Jon Niese left his start Tuesday night against the Cardinals due to left knee pain.

Niese walked two and gave up an RBI single before leaving with a trainer with one out in the bottom of the first inning. He was eventually charged with three earned runs. Robert Gsellman, just up from Las Vegas, took over, making his major league debut under unexpected circumstances.

Niese, who has not pitched well at all since coming over in a trade with the Pirates, is likely to be placed on the disabled list after the game or before tomorrow’s game.

Mark Trumbo’s home run streak ends

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 11:  Mark Trumbo #45 of the Baltimore Orioles hits an RBI single against the Oakland Athletics during the fourth inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 11, 2016 in Oakland, California. The Baltimore Orioles defeated the Oakland Athletics 9-6. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Mark Trumbo still has many chances to hit a home run tonight — it’s only been an inning or so in the Nats-Orioles game — but his weird home run streak is over.

Coming into tonight’s game, Trumbo’s last seven hits had been homers. The all-time record had been 11, set by Mark McGwire back in 2001. The last time Trumbo got a hit that wasn’t a dong was back on August 11. Later in that game, however, he hit a grand slam. After that he went 6 for his next 34, with all those safeties dingers.

But that’s over now. In the first inning tonight he drove in a run with a two-out single. Then he was thrown out trying to stretch it to two. Good job on the RBIs, Mark. Bad job on the base running. Judgment withheld on the homer streak because, really, that’s just kind of weird and cool.