The Brewers lost 7-6 to the Astros last night and now sit five games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot with five games left to play. While the Brewers’ playoff hopes are hanging by a thread, Ryan Braun is busy making history.
Braun doubled in the sixth inning last night before stealing third base. He now has 30 stolen bases on the year to go along with a career-high 41 home runs. This is just the 11th time in MLB history that a player has amassed at least 40 homers and 30 stolen bases in one season.
Here are the others:
2006: Alfonso Soriano – 46 home runs and 41 stolen bases
1999: Jeff Bagwell – 42 home runs and 32 stolen bases
1998: Alex Rodriguez – 42 home runs and 46 stolen bases
1997: Barry Bonds – 40 home runs and 37 stolen bases
1997: Larry Walker – 49 home runs and 33 stolen bases
1997: Jeff Bagwell – 43 home runs and 31 stolen bases
1996: Barry Bonds – 42 home runs and 40 stolen bases
1996: Ellis Burks – 40 home runs and 32 stolen bases
1988: Jose Canseco – 42 home runs and 40 stolen bases
1963: Hank Aaron – 44 home runs and 31 stolen bases
Braun won the National League MVP award last season by hitting .332/.397/.597 with 33 home runs, 111 RBI, 33 stolen bases and a .994 OPS. He has a strong case for the award again this year on pure numbers alone, delivering a .319/.391/.602 batting line to go along with a .993 OPS. His 41 homers and 112 RBI currently lead the National League. Of course, the chances of a repeat are likely pretty slim. The Brewers are almost certainly going to miss the postseason and we’ll probably see quite a few voters dock him for his overturned PED test. Not saying it’s fair, as he should be assessed on his 2012 contributions alone and not the controversy that followed him into spring training, but that’s the reality of the situation.
There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.
Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.
Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.