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September Scramble: MLB playoff spots, intriguing plots

September 2, 2019
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Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer throws during the fourth inning of the team's baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
1 of 4
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer throws during the fourth inning of the team's baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

All-Star ace Luis Severino heating up in the bullpen, maybe. Gavin Lux making his debut, Bruce Bochy saying farewell.

Plus playoff spots and seeding.

Major League Baseball is heading toward a September scramble, a perfect setup for what’s on deck this fall. The postseason begins Oct. 1 with the NL wild-card game. But plenty to sort out before then, with Max Scherzer, Javier Báez, Bryce Harper and more in the mix.

Severino is among several injured stars who could make a difference down the stretch, and beyond.

The 21-year-old Lux is part of the call-up crop after hitting almost .400 in Triple-A for the Dodgers. Bochy is set to manage his last game when the Giants close the season.

And remember: Last year, Game No. 162 wasn’t enough decide things, because tiebreakers were needed to determine two division champions.

Across the board, a stacked lineup in this final month. What to watch:

READY OR NOT

Imagine the Yankees with a healthy Severino and Dellin Betances in the bullpen, along with sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Edwin Encarnacion. Quite a boost, right?

All over the majors, contenders have their fingers crossed that top players on the injured list can come back and contribute.

Cleveland would look pretty formidable if ace Corey Kluber could pitch alongside Carlos Carrasco. The Indians need pop from ailing José Ramírez, too. The Rays hope Cy Young winner Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow can return while the Astros are waiting for Carlos Correa and Ryan Pressly.

Dodgers slugger Max Muncy, Milwaukee sparkplug Keston Hiura and Atlanta outfielder Nick Markakis are looming. The Mets are still thinking about Jed Lowrie. An All-Star infielder with 99 RBIs for Oakland in 2018, he hasn’t played this season because of several injuries after signing a $20 million, two-year contract.

“When guys have missed so much time, it’s tough to say this day they’re going to be here, ready to go,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said.

TOUGH SKEDDING

Kris Bryant facing Adam Wainwright on the final day at Busch Stadium, with playoff spots on the line. Cool, and could happen. The Cubs and Cardinals play seven times in the last 11 days, ending with a showdown in the Show-Me State.

The last month of the schedule is full of intrigue, and includes this interleague matchup: Cleveland at Washington. No doubt, Francisco Lindor and Juan Soto and everybody involved would prefer to be facing players they’re familiar with, especially with postseason placements on the line.

Pete Alonso, Jacob deGrom and the Mets play a lot at home the rest of the way while J.T. Realmuto and the Phils face a rugged, five-game set at Nationals Park in the final week.

OUTSIDE THE BOX

Brett Gardner banging his bat on the dugout ceiling. Justin Turner’s ump bump. Justin Verlander tossed, a start before pitching his no-hitter.

Talk about robot umpires has ramped up after a recent series of ejections over ball/strike beefs. Keon Broxton tossed a batting glove toward an umpire’s face after getting called out, and Charlie Blackmon and Rhys Hoskins were ejected in the last week.

The rage often stems from the computer box on TV screens. But how about a curveball where a only stitch grazes the outside line — is that a strike? No matter, look for more disputes now when every pitch is put under a microscope.

THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE

Yeli vs. Belli. At the All-Star break, it was already determined they would duel in a doozy of a race for the NL MVP. But since then, a couple other guys have whacked their way into the discussion.

Anthony Rendon is on a tear, putting Washington atop the NL wild-card race. Freddie Freeman keeps piling up huge numbers for the dangerous Braves. That’s not to discount Cody Bellinger, whose bat and glove rank him ahead of reigning titleholder Christian Yelich and everyone else as the player to beat.

Also, get ready for the old Mike Trout debate. His WAR numbers are easily the best in the AL, but his Angels are headed for another losing season. He’s twice won the honor, but four times finished second when his on-field stats often said otherwise.

PARTICIPATE OR PRECIPITATE?

Most every year, weather seems to play havoc in the last few weeks. Might mean teams waiting out a three-hour rain delay at Yankee Stadium, as Texas and New York did Monday. The Reds played back-to-back doubleheaders over the weekend for the first time since 1968 in St. Louis and there was a brief halt at Miller Park while the retractable roof closed during a rainstorm.

Hurricane Dorian forced a doubleheader Tuesday in Tampa Bay and no telling if the storm will impact games later this week. We’ll see whether the weather will be factor toward late September. How about an early snow in Denver? Just in time to chill Milwaukee’s playoff chase at Coors Field.

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