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LEADING OFF: NL West showdown, Cards-Braves, Cubs slumping

September 17, 2018
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Colorado Rockies left fielder David Dahl (26), center fielder Charlie Blackmon (19) and right fielder Carlos Gonzalez (5) celebrate a victory over the San Francisco Giants after a baseball game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Scot Tucker)

A look at what’s happening around the majors today:

FINAL COUNTDOWN

With the Rockies a half-game ahead of the Dodgers for the NL West lead, the teams begin their final series of the regular season. Jon Gray (11-7) pitches the opener of a three-game set at Dodger Stadium against Hyun-Jin Ryu (4-3). Gray is 4-0 in 11 starts since returning from the minors. After getting shut out on consecutive days, the Rockies ended their longest scoring drought of the year during a 3-2 win Sunday in San Francisco. Colorado is 41-34 on the road this season, and one more victory will break the franchise record for wins away from Coors Field.

HUNT FOR OCTOBER

It’s a potential playoff preview and a matchup of All-Star pitchers when Miles Mikolas (15-4) and the Cardinals visit first-place Atlanta. Mike Foltynewicz (11-9) starts for the Braves, who lead second-place Philadelphia by 6½ games in the NL East. Atlanta’s magic number is eight to win its first NL East title in five years. But the Braves have been struggling at home, where they have lost eight of 11 and are 38-36 overall. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said third baseman Johan Camargo should be back in the lineup after missing four games with left groin tightness.

SILENT STICKS

Leading the NL Central by 2½ games over Milwaukee, the Cubs hope to get their slumping bats going when they face left-hander Patrick Corbin (11-5, 3.05 ERA) in Arizona. Chasing its third consecutive division championship, Chicago scored only five runs in a three-game home series against last-place Cincinnati over the weekend. The Cubs have totaled 15 runs in their past seven games. “We have to do better than one run somehow,” manager Joe Maddon said. Left fielder Kyle Schwarber (back) has missed six games in a row and didn’t accompany the team to Arizona.

REST UP

Mookie Betts and the major league-leading Red Sox get a day off before their first chance to clinch a third straight AL East crown. Boston can wrap up the division title at Yankee Stadium for the second time in three seasons, needing only one win during a three-game series that opens Tuesday afternoon. Betts, a contender for AL MVP, left Sunday’s win over the Mets after hurting his left side making a throw to home plate. He said the injury is minor and he’ll be in the lineup Tuesday. The Yankees hold a 1½-game lead over Oakland for the top AL wild card. New York manager Aaron Boone said star slugger Aaron Judge could return to the lineup against Boston.

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