So, if MLB suspends Braun and A-Rod, what’s next?

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T.J. Quinn and Mike Fish reported Tuesday that MLB is prepared to suspend Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and “as many as 20 players” in connection with the Biogenesis scandal “sometime after next week’s All-Star break.” Outside the Lines got this from several sources, some likely from within the commissioner’s office. MLB hasn’t been shy about leaking info in the case.

Of course, “after the All-Star break” is pretty general. One would think it’d have to be pretty much right around the All-Star break for there to be even a slim chance of any suspensions being served this year. It’s typically a couple of months between when a player is notified he tested positive for a banned substance and the appeals process plays out (which is all supposed to be happening in secret). In this case, it could be considerably longer, given that there aren’t any positive tests.  MLB may announce the suspensions all at once, but there are going to be 20 or so distinct cases here, all of which could be argued separately.

With the appeals process to be played out, it’s just not very realistic to think that anyone is going to end up serving suspensions this year. That’s true even though it’d seem to be best for Braun and A-Rod to serve suspensions now rather than next year, given the Brewers’ disappointing record and the state of Rodriguez’s hip. Braun hasn’t been willing to admit any wrongdoing, and hasn’t cooperated with MLB’s investigation. Does anyone think he’ll give up his right to appeal now?

There are also key figures for contenders in the mix. The Rangers’ Nelson Cruz and the Tigers’ Jhonny Peralta are among those rumored to be in line for suspensions. The Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez is mentioned in Biogenesis documents, though reports have him being in the clear since he obtained only legal substances.

If MLB wants to suspend the players, the time to do it is either now or after the World Series. Overshadowing the pennant races by doing it in August or September would be profoundly dumb. Even though MLB likes to parade its dirty laundry for all to see, it’s not that stupid. But even if the players are suspended now, this almost certainly will turn into an offseason matter. 12 weeks isn’t enough time to work through the biggest set of suspensions in league history.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.