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AL MVP race shaping up much better for Mike Trout

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A month ago, there were two very strong alternatives for voters to turn to in denying Mike Trout his second AL MVP award. Recent weeks, though, have not been so kind to Jose Altuve and Josh Donaldson.

Altuve, whose batting title seemed assured in mid-August, is hitting .195/.232/.390 over his last 19 games. His average has slipped from .366 on Aug. 20 to .340 now, and his OPS has dropped 50 points to .950. Meanwhile, his Astros have turned into major long shots in the wild card chase after a 4-8 start to September.

Donaldson was out of the lineup for a third straight game Wednesday and is undergoing an MRI on his right hip. Before taking a seat, Donaldson was hitless in his previous seven games, taking his OPS from .985 to .952.

Mookie Betts has overtaken both Altuve and Donaldson for second place in the AL in rWAR. Here’s the current breakdown:

9.3 – Trout
7.9 – Betts
7.5 – Altuve
6.6 – Donaldson
6.6 – Manny Machado
6.5 – Brian Dozier
6.5 – Kyle Seager

Betts might actually be the strongest alternative to Trout if the Astros fail to make the playoffs. Still, how are writers really going to justify voting for him? Trout has a higher average, a higher OBP by a whopping 80 points and a higher slugging percentage while playing the more difficult position and hitting in a much tougher ballpark for hitters than Betts does. Yes, one has done it in the pressure of the race, but does anyone believe Trout is ill-equipped to play meaningful September games? Does anyone really think the Red Sox are better off today with Betts than they would be with Trout?

It probably doesn’t hurt Trout, either, that David Ortiz, the AL’s best hitter this year, could cut into Betts’ support somewhat. Any division on the clear No. 1 alternative to Trout makes it more likely that he’ll get the award. If Altuve finishes up with a .350 average and the Astros sneak into the wild card, then he could be the favorite. If Donaldson or Betts goes on a major tear for a postseason team during the final two weeks, then that might just be enough. As is, though, it’s going to be difficult to deny Trout the hardware.

Brewers, Dodgers announce lineups for NLCS Game 7

Jhoulys Chacin
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It’s winner-take-all tonight. The Brewers are out for their first National League pennant in franchise history, while the Dodgers will look to secure back-to-back pennant wins for the first time since 1977-78. Taking the mound: Right-handers Jhoulys Chacín and Walker Buehler, both of whom were last seen in Game 3 of the NLCS. Chacín fired 5 1/3 shutout innings of three-hit, six-strikeout ball to secure his second win of the 2018 postseason, while Buehler took his first loss after allowing four runs and striking out eight over seven innings.

Here are the lineups for Game 7:

Dodgers

1. Joc Pederson (L) LF
2. Max Muncy (L) 1B
3. Justin Turner (R) 3B
4. Manny Machado (R) SS
5. Cody Bellinger (L) CF
6. Yasiel Puig (R) RF
7. Chris Taylor (R) 2B
8. Austin Barnes (R) C
9. Walker Buehler (R) P

David Freese will sit out of the Dodgers’ series finale, though he could be brought in later to pinch-hit. In his place, Max Muncy will shift from second to first base, with Chris Taylor covering second and Joc Pederson slotting into the left field corner and batting leadoff. Taylor and Puig have also swapped places in the batting order, with Puig getting bumped up to the no. 6 spot for Saturday’s game.

Brewers

1. Lorenzo Cain (R) CF
2. Christian Yelich (L) RF
3. Ryan Braun (R) LF
4. Travis Shaw (L) 2B
5. Jesús Aguilar (R) 1B
6. Mike Moustakas (L) 3B
7. Erik Kratz (R) C
8. Orlando Arcia (R) SS
9. Jhoulys Chacín (R) P

Not surprisingly, there are no changes on the Brewers’ end here. They’ll try to replicate yesterday’s 7-2 stunner as they face off against Walker Buehler for a World Series berth.

Game time is scheduled for 8:09 PM EDT at Miller Park.