Cupcakes, clinchers to decide the NL Wild Card

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File this under Deep Thoughts, I guess, but I’m struck by the remaining schedules of the NL Wild Card contenders:

Cardinals: Cubs, Astros, Nationals, Reds;
Brewers: Nationals, Reds, Astros, Padres;
Dodgers: Reds, Padres, Rockies Giants

The Cards seem to have the easiest go of it, with two cupcake teams and two teams that have clinched the playoffs and will either be resting their players or, at the very least, may not quite have that eye of the tiger you’d see if they hadn’t clinched.

That Padres series for the Brewers is sorta dangerous, as San Diego is in Play for Pride mode. I mean, yes, I suppose the Cubs and Astros are too, but the Padres at least have talent to make such an inspiration meaningful.

Schedule often doesn’t matter that much in baseball, but it’s interesting to see just how much the Astros are affecting everything, what with beating the Phillies last week and then having so many games against the contenders late.

Down the stretch they come.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.