Chris Carpenter on the verge of rejoining Cardinals rotation

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Chris Carpenter’s miraculous comeback from what was supposed to be season-ending thoracic outlet syndrome surgery is nearly complete, with just one more hurdle to clear before rejoining the Cardinals’ rotation.

Carpenter is scheduled to throw a 90-pitch simulated game Saturday and Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that “barring any surprise development Carpenter is set to make his season debut next week.”

Carpenter last started for the Cardinals in Game 7 of the World Series. He pitched that night on three days’ rest and logged a grand total of 273 innings between the regular season and playoffs at age 36.

He was shut down during spring training after experiencing numbness in his arm and neck. Surgery in July was expected to knock him out for all of this season and put his status for 2013 in question, but Carpenter told Langosch that he was holding out hope for a quicker return all along:

I went into [surgery] strong enough and knew that if I came out of it strong enough, I thought there was a chance. My goal the whole time was to be prepared to let these guys know how I felt at the end of the season so they could go into the offseason knowing what they could count on me for next season.

In other words, even Carpenter never imagined starting multiple key games down the stretch this year, which is exactly what may happen if he can get through tomorrow’s session healthy.

Albert Pujols is eighth on the all-time home run list

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Albert Pujols kicked things off for the Angels in dramatic fashion on Friday night, cranking a two-RBI home run off of the Orioles’ Jeremy Hellickson to give the club an early lead in the first inning. The 350-footer was his 18th home run of the year and No. 609 in his 17-season career, tying Sammy Sosa on the all-time home run list for eighth overall and most home runs hit by a player born outside of the United States.

With the home run, Pujols sits just three homers shy of tying Jim Thome’s 612-home run record for seventh on the all-time list. That figures to be the last major milestone still ahead of the designated hitter this season, with Ken Griffey Jr.’s 630-home run mark still a distant 21 blasts away.

The Angels, meanwhile, ran with Pujols’ lead, collecting home runs from Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron, Kaleb Cowart and Mike Trout. It wasn’t quite enough to quash the Orioles, however, who surged to a 9-7 finale after Manny Machado went 3-for-5 with three home runs and struck a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

Nationals place Max Scherzer on 10-day disabled list with neck inflammation

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The Nationals placed right-hander Max Scherzer on the 10-day disabled list with left neck inflammation, the team announced Friday. Scherzer was scratched from his scheduled start against the Padres and replaced by left-hander Matt Grace, though an official roster move has yet to be made to fill his spot on the roster. The assignment is retroactive to August 15.

Scherzer experienced a similar pain on the right side of his neck at the start of the month, though this is the first official stint he’ll serve on the disabled list in 2017. While comments from club manager Dusty Baker suggest that the injury wasn’t caused by any particular trauma, it seems likely that the ace right-hander will be sidelined for at least one more start.

It’s a terrible time to lose a star pitcher, especially with the Nationals positioned to make a deep run in the postseason, but their 14-game cushion in the NL East should buy them some time while Scherzer’s on the mend. Prior to his bout of inflammation, the 33-year-old looked remarkably healthy this season. He pitched through his fifth consecutive All-Star campaign and currently boasts a 12-5 record in 24 starts, complete with a 2.25 ERA (good for second-best among qualified starters), 2.2 BB/9 and 12.3 SO/9 in 160 1/3 innings.