UPDATE: Acta wasn’t kidding about Hafner returning this week. He’s in tonight’s lineup, batting sixth for the Indians.
Travis Hafner has been out since August 5 with a back injury and has been limited to just 60 games this year, but manager Manny Acta said yesterday that he’s “optimistic” the 35-year-old designated hitter will rejoin the Indians’ lineup at some point this week.
Assuming the Indians decline his $13 million option for 2013 this is the final season of Hafner’s four-year, $57 million contract, which means it’s also likely his final season in Cleveland after spending most of that time on the disabled list with an assortment of injuries.
When healthy Hafner has never ceased being productive, posting an OPS above .800 in each of the past four seasons, but he hasn’t played 100 games since 2010 and hasn’t played 120 games since 2007. It’d be nice to see “Pronk” contribute a few big hits as a proper sendoff.
With a 6-1 win over the Twins in Sunday’s season finale, the Royals clinched the best record in the American League, which nets them home field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS. The Royals stand at 95-67 while the Blue Jays, who lost on Sunday, finish at 93-69.
95-67 is the Royals’ best record since finishing 97-65 in 1980, when they lost the World Series to the Phillies. Their division title is their first since 1985.
In the ALDS, which starts on Thursday, the Royals will host the winner of the AL Wild Card game between the Astros and Yankees. They are looking to avenge last year’s World Series loss, in seven games, to the Giants. The Blue Jays will host the Rangers in the other ALDS series.
Both the Astros’ and the Yankees’ fates were decided before their own games had completed on Sunday. The Rangers defeated the Angels, which clinched a Wild Card spot for the Astros. Then the Astros dropped Sunday’s season finale to the Diamondbacks, which clinched the first AL Wild Card slot for the Yankees. The Yankees are on their way to a loss against the Orioles as of this writing, but that will not affect anything now.
The Astros were in a 3-3 tie with the Diamondbacks in the seventh inning, but reliever Chad Qualls served up a two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt. That would prove to be the deciding factor in a 5-3 loss.
The Yankees are losing 7-4 to the Orioles behind a subpar start by Michael Pineda and a shaky performance by the bullpen.
The MLB postseason opens up with the Yankees hosting the Astros on Tuesday in the AL Wild Card game. The winner moves on to face the Royals in Kansas City in the ALDS.