Everything’s coming up Bud

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I’m still not at all fond of the wild card play-in game, in no small part because the wild card, since it’s been introduced, has quite often been the league’s second best team. I don’t think a team should be penalized for being in the wrong division.

However, year one of the new wild card format is giving us a lot more excitement than we might have otherwise.

The NL races would have been all but over with three weeks to go if not for the second wild card. The division titles are set. Sure, there’s a chance the Braves could collapse again and blow their big wild card lead, but it hardly seems likely. Even after losing three in a row to the Brewers, they’re still five games up on the second wild card-leading Cardinals with 18 games to play.

The American League, on the other hand, would have plenty of crazy races going on regardless. But the second wild card means there’s still some hope for the Angels and Rays, who would be pretty huge longshots otherwise. And while it is possible that the team with the league’s second-best record may well end up in the wild-card playoff game, it’s not like there’s any clear second best team in the AL right now.

Because of the second wild card, there are currently 19 teams with some shot at going to the playoffs. That’s a pretty amazing total with just 18-20 games left in the season.

Steven Matz to skip next spring training start with elbow issues

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Mets’ left-hander Steven Matz will miss his Grapefruit League appearance on Monday after experiencing soreness in his left elbow, according to a report by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Matz reportedly first felt discomfort in his elbow on Wednesday after pitching four innings against the Marlins, but a medical evaluation revealed no structural damage.

Still, it’s unsettling news for the 25-year-old, who is coming off of an injury-riddled 2016 season. Matz pitched to a 3.40 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 during his sophomore campaign with the Mets, but his success was hampered by a bevy of shoulder and elbow issues that culminated in season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.

Comments from Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson indicated that while the club doesn’t believe anything is significantly wrong with Matz’s elbow this time around, the setback could have an impact on his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. Until he’s cleared to return to the mound, the club is expected to take a longer look at rotation candidates Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.