The New York Times’ Benjamin Hoffman looks at how the Astros moving to the AL West has made life easier for the A’s and Rangers and harder for the AL East teams who may be trying to nab a wild card spot. After noting how Texas and Oakland have fattened up on Houston, he says:
Unfortunately for the Yankees, and the other four teams in the A.L. East, their division has no weak link. The Toronto Blue Jays are in last place, but they had an 11-game winning streak until the Rays beat them Monday.
I hate the unbalanced schedule in the wild card era. Teams are competing for the same playoff spots against varied competition and that’s just unfair.
That said: it has been thus since they went back to the unbalanced schedule many, many years ago. And while there are no weak links in the AL East now, there were many years when the Rays were doormats and the Orioles and Blue Jays used the big spending of the Yankees and Red Sox as excuses for not competing. So yes, it stinks that the setup is this way, but it something that goes around and comes around.
Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.
Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.
Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.