Tuesday’s wild card matchup preview

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With the AL wild card all knotted up and still just one game separating the Braves and Cardinals in the NL, here’s what we have to look forward to on Tuesday night.

AL wild card

Boston – Erik Bedard (5-9, 3.50 ERA)
Baltimore – Zach Britton (11-10, 4.44 ERA)

New York – Bartolo Colon (8-10, 4.02 ERA)
Tampa Bay – Jeremy Hellickson (13-10, 2.90 ERA)

The Red Sox and Rays are all tied after Boston lost 6-3 and Tampa Bay won 5-2 tonight.

Bedard makes his second start since returning from knee and hip problems; he allowed four runs — one earned — in 2 2/3 innings against Baltimore last week. The Red Sox get to face a rookie they’ve handled very well so far; Britton is 1-1 with a 10.80 ERA and a 3/4 K/BB ratio in 6 2/3 innings in his two starts against the club. He has a 5.14 ERA in five September starts.

The Rays also have a favorable matchup, it would seem. Colon is winless since July and has a 6.64 ERA in four starts this month. He’s also 0-3 with a 6.60 ERA in three starts against Baltimore this year. Hellickson has a 2.28 ERA this month and a 2.50 ERA since the All-Star break. Plus, he faced the Yankees last week and allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

NL wild card

Philadelphia – Roy Oswalt (8-10, 3.86 ERA)
Atlanta – Derek Lowe (9-16, 4.92 ERA)

St. Louis – Jake Westbrook (12-9, 4.48 ERA)
Houston – Henry Sosa (3-5, 4.68 ERA)

Ideally, the Braves would wrap this one up Tuesday so that they wouldn’t have to send ace Tim Hudson to the mound on Wednesday.  For it to happen, Lowe will have to snap a skid that has seen him lose four straight.  His quality start last week against the Marlins (3 ER in 6 1/3 IP) was his first since Aug. 31. Oswalt was shaky in his last start, giving up six runs in 7 2/3 innings against the Nationals.  He’ll likely only throw five or six innings in this one. Oswalt is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts against the Braves this year, while Lowe is 1-3 with a 4.13 ERA in four starts versus the Phillies.

Of course, with a one-game lead, the Braves would need a win and a Cardinals loss to clinch. Westbrook will have something to say about that. He’s beaten the Astros both times he’s faced them this year, and he has a 2.61 ERA in four starts this month. Sosa will be making his first start against St. Louis since debuting last month. A product of the Jeff Keppinger deal, he’s turned in quality starts five of his last six times out. However, he’s also given up five homers in his last three starts.

Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich win MVP Awards

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Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich were announced on Thursday evening as the winners of the 2018 Most Valuable Player Awards as voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Betts, 26, led baseball with a .346 batting average, a .640 slugging percentage, and 129 runs scored. He also put together a .438 on-base percentage with 32 home runs, 80 RBI, and 30 stolen bases while ranking among the best defensive outfielders. According to Baseball Reference, Betts was worth 10.9 WAR, the highest total by a position player since Barry Bonds in 2002 (11.8). It was the 21st time a player compiled a 10.9 WAR or better since 1871. The others to do it along with Betts and Bonds: Cal Ripken, Jr., Joe Morgan, Carl Yastrzemski, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, and Honus Wagner.

Betts is the first Red Sox player to win the MVP Award since second baseman Dustin Pedroia in 2008. Other members of the Red Sox to win the award include Mo Vaughn (1995), Roger Clemens (1986), Jim Rice (1978), Fred Lynn (1975), Carl Yastrzemski (1967), Jackie Jensen (1958), Ted Williams (1946, ’49), Jimmie Foxx (1938), and Tris Speaker (1912).

Angels outfielder Mike Trout and J.D. Martinez each received one first-place vote with Betts receiving the other 28. Trout finished in second place with 265 overall points, Indians infielder José Ramírez finished third with 208, and Martinez finished fourth with 198. They were followed by Alex Bregman, Francisco Lindor, Matt Chapman, Khris Davis, Blake Snell, Justin Verlander, Mitch Haniger, Aaron Judge, Xander Bogaerts, José Altuve, Blake Treinen, Andrelton Simmons, Whit Merrifield, Edwin Díaz, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Jed Lowrie, Trevor Bauer, Aaron Hicks, and Chris Sale.

Trout is now one of four players to finish second in MVP Award voting four times, joining Stan Musial, Ted Williams, and Albert Pujols. Trout was the runner-up behind Miguel Cabrera in 2012-13 and Josh Donaldson in 2015.

Yelich, 26, led the National League with a .326 batting average, a .598 slugging percentage, and a 1.000 OPS. He also put up a .402 on-base percentage with 36 home runs, 110 RBI, 118 runs scored, and 22 stolen bases while playing above-average defense in the outfield.

Yelich is the first member of the Brewers to win the MVP Award since outfielder Ryan Braun in 2011. The other Brewers to have won the MVP Award are Robin Yount (1982, ’89) and Rollie Fingers (1981).

Nearly a unanimous choice, Yelich was voted in first place on 29 of 30 ballots with NL Cy Young Award winner getting the other first-place vote. Cubs infielder Javier Baéz finished in second place with 250 points and Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado finished in third place with 203 points. They were followed by Freddie Freeman, deGrom, Paul Goldschmidt, Lorenzo Cain, Trevor Story, Matt Carpenter, Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon, Ronald Acuña Jr., Aaron Nola, Justin Turner, Max Muncy, Jesús Aguilar, Anthony Rizzo, Nick Markakis, and Eugenio Suarez.

Coincidentally, both MVP Award winners hit for the cycle this season. Betts achieved it on August 9 while Yelich did it twice, on August 29 and September 17. Yelich also finished two home runs and one RBI short of the Triple Crown.

The BBWAA voters submitted their ballots before the start of the postseason, so the fact that the Red Sox won the World Series and that the Brewers made it to Game 7 of the NLCS had no impact on the award results. That the Red Sox won a franchise record 108 games during the regular season and the Brewers won the NL Central tiebreaker over the Cubs certainly could have been factors for many voters, however.