Today brings the final games of MLB's regular season, which means there's a lot to be a whole lot less baseball, which is a major bummer. For the Indians (and most other teams), it means this is it this year. For the Cardinals today is just about avoiding any calamity, so that they can head into the postseason as healthy as possible. For ten other teams though, there's still something on the line, whether it's home-field advantage, a division title, or a spot in the postseason. Plus, there are a few individual accomplishments still in the air.
Here's what to watch for...
Win today and finish with a winning record. Lose today and finish with a losing record. I know that for many fans there difference between 81-80 and 80-81 is nonexistent, but to me the chance to finish above .500 is worth fighting for.
Danny Salazar is 11 strikeouts shy of 200 for the season. If he gets there, he'll give the Indians three players with 200+ (Kluber and Carrasco are already there), and they'd be only the fourth team in MLB history with a trip of guys at that level in the same season.
Michael Brantley (who will not play today) leads all MLB players with 45 doubles. Matt Carpenter leads the NL with 44, while Nolan Arenado, Todd Frazier, and Jason Kipnis all have 43. It'd be cool to have Brantley and Kipnis finish 1-2 in the AL, so hopefully Boston's Mookie Betts doesn't hit any today. (He has 42 doubles at the moment.)
Carlos Santana is tied with Jose Bautista for the American League lead in walks, with 107.
In the National League
The Cardinals will finish #1, the Dodgers #2, and the Mets #3. The Pirates and Cubs will be the Wild Card teams, but which team is at home for that game is TBD. If the Pirates win or the Cubs lose, Pittsburgh hosts, but if the Cubs win and the Pirates lose, the game will be at Wrigley Field.
Clayton Kershaw is at 294 strikeouts, putting him 6 away from 300. Only six pitchers (Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, and J.R. Richard) have reached that number in the last 40 years, and no one has done it since Johnson and Schilling in 2002. Kershaw will probably only pitcher four innings though, so he'd better tally some Ks early.
Bryce Harper and Dee Gordon are both batting .331, but Harper is a fraction of a point ahead. What they do today will determine the NL batting crown.
In the American League
If the Royals win or the Blue Jays lose, Kansas City is #1 in the AL, but if the Blue Jays win and the Royals lose, Toronto gets home-field advantage for as far as they go this postseason.
The Astros are in a crazy position:
- If they win and the Rangers (who have clinched a postseason spot, but not the division) lose, the two teams would play on Monday to decide the AL West winner.
- If the Astros win and the Rangers win, but the Yankees lose, Houston will host New York in the Wild Card Game.
- If the Astros win and the Rangers and Yankees both win too, New York will host Houston in the Wild Card Game.
- If the Astros lose and the Angels win, the two teams will play on Monday to determine which one gets to the second Wild Card spot and a trip to the Bronx.
The Astros are on the road, playing the Diamondbacks. The Rangers and Angels are playing in Texas. The Yankees are in Baltimore.
Jose Altuve leads in the American League with 38 stolen bases. The last time a player led either league in steals with fewer than 40 was 1994, when Craig Biggio led the NL with 39 of them. That season was shortened by the labor stoppage though. The last time a player led either league in steals with fewer in 40 in a full season was 1962, when Luis Aparicio led the AL with 31 of them. Can Jose sneak in two more?
Edwin Encarnacion has 39 home runs. His teammates Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista have already reached 40. No team in American League history has had three players with 40+ home runs. (No AL team has ever had three players with 39+ homers either, so Toronto already has that, but we humans like our round numbers, so 40 would be nice.)
Aside from a doubleheader between the Cardinals and Braves, all the games today take place at the same time, so no one can just wait and see what happens before deciding how hard to push in their own game. It's the last time we'll get so much baseball in one day this year, so enjoy it.