Travis Hafner quietly having a good, healthy year in Cleveland

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He’s no longer the middle-of-the-lineup monster he was from 2004 to 2006 and the Indians have been pretty miserable all season, but Travis Hafner is quietly having a very productive and mostly healthy year.
He’s already played 101 games after shoulder problems limited him to a total of 151 games in the previous two seasons and Hafner has hit .298/.391/.483 in 80 games since a terrible first month.
That can’t compare to the incredible .308/.419/.611 line he posted during his three-year peak, but Hafner is hitting .347/.418/.551 since the All-Star break and has come back from the injuries to re-establish himself as a very solid designated hitter and middle-of-the-order threat. I’d credit the Indians for having the patience to stick with him throughout all the health problems and mediocre production, but in reality they didn’t have much of a choice.
As part of a contract extension signed in mid-2007, he’s making $11.5 million this season and is still owed $13 million for both 2011 and 2012, plus a $2.75 million buyout for 2013. His contract isn’t going to get any less cringe-inducing for Indians fans, but at least Hafner is back to being an asset again.

Video: Dexter Fowler robs Asdrúbal Cabrera of three-run homer

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
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Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler made a critical catch in the eighth inning of Wednesday afternoon’s series finale against the Nationals. With the Cardinals leading 5-1, the Nationals were threatening with runners on first and second with one out against lefty Andrew Miller. Asdrúbal Cabrera worked a full count before serving a 3-2 outside slider to right field. The ball had home run distance, but Fowler tracked it, leaped at the wall, and robbed Cabrera of a three-run home run.

Carlos Martínez relieved Miller, getting Victor Robles to ground out to end the inning. The Cardinals would go on to win 5-1.

The game had playoff implications on both sides. The win bumped the Cardinals’ hold on first place in the NL Central to 2.5 games while the Nationals’ lead over the Cubs and Brewers for the first NL Wild Card shrinks to just one game.

The Nationals will close out their final road trip of the regular season with three games against the Marlins before hosting the Phillies for five games and the Indians for three. The Cardinals, meanwhile, begin their final road trip of the regular season with four against the Cubs followed by three against the Diamondbacks before closing out the season at home with three games versus the Cubs.