Previewing the final day of the 2014 regular season …

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There are still three undecided races heading into the final day of the regular season: the American League Central, the National League Central, and the second American League Wild Card spot. Let’s get weird.

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

1:08 p.m. ET: Twins at Tigers

July 31 deadline acquisition David Price can put a bow on Detroit’s fourth consecutive American League Central championship with a win over the Twins and Kyle Gibson. It’s as simple as that for the Tigers.

2:10 p.m. ET: Royals at White Sox

If the Tigers don’t beat the Twins, the Royals can force an AL Central tiebreaker (Game 163) in Detroit on Monday if the Royals beat the White Sox on Sunday behind flame-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura. Chicago is throwing Chris Bassitt. At worst, the Royals will host the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday.

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

1:05 p.m. ET: Pirates at Reds

The Pirates can force a Game 163 for the National League Central title if they beat the Reds on Sunday afternoon and the Cardinals lose. The Bucs are facing Johnny Cueto in Cincinnati and the Cardinals are throwing Adam Wainwright at Arizona, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has decided to use Gerrit Cole in Game 162 rather than save him for Wednesday’s National League Wild Card Game. Pittsburgh has already clinched hosting duties for that Wild Card Game. The Giants are locked in as the opponent.

4:10 p.m. ET: Cardinals at Diamondbacks

If the Cardinals win in Arizona, they’ll have their second straight National League Central crown. It’s pretty simple for St. Louis. Wainwright is expected to get the ball no matter what happens in Cincinnati.

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE WILD CARD

3:05 p.m. ET: Athletics at Rangers

The A’s can lock up the second American League Wild Card spot with a win behind 24-year-old right-hander Sonny Gray, who rattled off a career-high 12 strikeouts in his last outing. The Rangers could throw left-hander Derek Holland, who was scratched from his start on Saturday night due to a migraine headache.

4:10 p.m. ET: Angels at Mariners

The Mariners kept their hopes alive with a dramatic 11th-inning victory over the Angels on Saturday night at Safeco Field and have ace right-hander Felix Hernandez pitching in Game 162. If the A’s lose on Sunday to the Rangers, the M’s can force a Wild Card tiebreaker on Monday. Seattle would host that game.

 

Hinch, Luhnow, will be eligible in 2021 even if there are no games in 2020

A.J. Hinch (left) and Jeff Luhnow (right)
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You no doubt recall that former Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch and ex-Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow were given the one-year bans and were subsequently fired in January due to the Astros sign-stealing scandal. It’s possible, however, that each of them could be back in baseball without having missed a single game.

That’s the report from Buster Olney of ESPN, who has learned that Hinch and Luhnow will become eligible in 2021 even if there are no games played in the 2020 season. The reason: Hinch and Luhnow’s suspensions are tied to “the end of the 2020 postseason.” In contrast, players who are suspended for PED offenses for violations of the league’s domestic violence policies are suspended for a set number of games. Their suspensions will not begin until games begin and, if the number of games in the 2020 season ends up being fewer than the number of games in their suspension, it will carry over to 2021.

It would not shock me a bit if another team hired Hinch at some point down the road. And, despite the league’s finding that Luhnow fostered a “toxic” environment in the Astros’ front office, I would not be at all surprised if he were hired as some sort of advisor down the road and, potentially, found himself running a team again. His tenure in Houston was discovered to be objectively awful from an ethical perspective, but (a) he won; and (b) he cut costs, and those are the two biggest priorities for most teams. Not necessarily in that order.