Tigers win, White Sox fall three back with three to play

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The Tigers bested the Twins 2-1 in Minnesota on Sunday, but the White Sox failed to keep pace,  losing 6-2 to the Rays to fall three games back in the AL Central with three to play.

B.J. Upton hit his 27th and 28th homers for Tampa Bay, and David Price was in control, yielding two runs in seven innings to become the first 20-game winner in Rays history. Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney finished up from there as the Rays took three out of four in Chicago.

Detroit won despite being outhit 10-7. Of course, all of Minnesota’s hits were singles. Prince Fielder hit a two-run homer in the eighth to do all of the damage the Tigers needed this one.

Miguel Cabrera’s bid for the Triple Crown appears poised to go down to the wire. He ended the game 0-for-3 with an intentional walk, lowering his average to .325. Joe Mauer went 3-for-4, also with an intentional walk, raising his average to .323. Also, Mike Trout went 2-for-4 in the Angels’ victory, putting him at .322 entering the second game of a doubleheader. Josh Hamilton didn’t homer, so Cabrera remains tied for the AL lead with 43 there. The RBI title is all wrapped up.

The Tigers will be able to clinch the AL Central by winning in Kansas City any of the next three days. The White Sox have already been eliminated from the wild card, so things appear very bleak for them.

Tampa Bay still has a slim shot. The Rays really need a loss from the A’s today, though. They’ll end the day two or three back of Oakland for the second wild card.

Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.