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?

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.