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Angels’ Simmons to IL, Ohtani will play vs. Twins

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The Los Angeles Angels are placing shortstop Andrelton Simmons on the 10-day injured list after an MRI on Tuesday revealed a Grade 3 left ankle sprain.

Simmons was hurt while trying to beat out an infield hit in the eighth inning of Monday night’s loss to the Twins.

X-rays were negative, but the MRI confirmed the Grade 3 sprain. Simmons will see a foot and ankle specialist Wednesday, the team said.

Also, Shohei Ohtani will play Tuesday night against the Twins after taking a ball off his right finger while swinging at a third strike on Monday against Minnesota.

Ohtani will DH and bat third for the Angels.

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What really happens in the MLB replay review room?

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NEW YORK — In a square midsize room above a popular Manhattan eatery, the fate of a playoff baseball game — or even an entire series — could be determined. Major League Baseball’s video review room — used for manager challenges and umpire crew-chief reviews — is a big part of baseball all season, but especially so in September and October.

But what do we know of what goes on in that room?

On a recent quiet afternoon in New York, ESPN.com was allowed access. Per MLB rules, it was given only before the first game of the day began. Video reviews are such a large part of baseball now, we sought to get some answers about a process that could loom large at any time over the tension-filled nights of late September and October.

How is the room set up?

There are six stations with an umpire assigned to each, depending on how many games are going on. Each station has two televisions, so each umpire is watching up to two games at once during the regular season. Next to each umpire is a technician who can control the replays as they come in from the TV trucks on-site. An umpire supervisor is on hand as well.

So what happens on a close play that might be challenged?

The umpire at that station immediately begins to give second and third looks at the play as the replays come in from the trucks on-site. Even before the umps in the stadium have put on the headset, the ones in New York have already been looking at the play. Once a play is officially challenged, the other umpires in the room, as well the supervisor, can gather around the umpire who has been watching that game and advise him as they watch replays of the play. The replay tech will have any number of angles to show the umpires and can sync up two shots at once.

When it comes time to make a call — hopefully within two minutes — final say comes from the one umpire who has that game.

Do the umpires on-site and the replay umps in New York communicate about the call?

Not really. Once a call goes to replay, it is up to the replay official to make the call, and the umpires at the stadium where the play took place are not involved in that process.

How many reviews does each umpire at a station average per night?

Believe it or not, there are only 0.5 reviews per game, so if an umpire is watching two games, he’ll average about one review per night. Obviously, that can vary, but the average is one review for every two games.

What are some of the hardest calls to make even with review?

In general, video review teams cite three calls as most difficult: hit by pitch, fair/foul home run calls on balls that go higher than the foul pole, and tag plays at second base.

Hit-by-pitch calls: These can be difficult for obvious reasons: Did the ball hit the bat or part of the hand, or both? If so, which did it hit first? Often, a ball will careen one way or another, indicating it must have hit the bat, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t touch a hand or finger first. Slow-motion replays usually can tell the story, but it can still be a difficult call: bat or hand?

Fair/foul over the pole: These aren’t fun and take a lot of back-and-forth with the mouse. At the end of the day, review or not, it’s still a judgment call.

Tag plays at second: One simple reason second base stands out over the other bags is because of where the cameras are in relation to the field. First, third and home are closer to the stands, so they often have cameras very nearby — with better replay looks. Second base is also where overslides and pop-up slides happen the most, sometimes allowing for minuscule room for a tag.

Does a tie really go to a runner?

First, yes, there are ties. But instead of automatically going to the runner, the call simply reverts back to whatever the call on the field was. Ties will elicit a “call stands” notation.

What else might surprise fans?

One thing fans might not know, especially on close plays at first base, is that the ball is considered in the fielder’s glove as soon as it touches any part of the leather — it doesn’t have to be in the pocket with the glove closed. So if the replay shows the ball touching leather before the runner touches the bag, and before the ball is actually caught, then the runner is out. Of course, the catch has to be completed.

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Power Rankings — Who will win final battles for NL wild cards?

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All season long, the Dodgers and Astros have been dueling for the top spot in our rankings, with the Dodgers winning out more often than not, having finished No. 1 in 16 of the first 23 weeks since Opening Day. But the Astros just won their eighth week at the top slot. Our voters aren’t so sure they can hold it, though — the Astros received only two of five first-place votes, with the Yankees gaining two more and the Dodgers the last. Could the Bombers sneak in and bust up the Astros-Dodgers reign atop our rankings in the final two weeks of the regular season?

Outside the shakeup at the top, this week’s rankings didn’t see many major changes. The Diamondbacks’ three-spot slide was the biggest drop for any team, while eight teams notched a single-spot advance to tie for the largest improvement. This close to the end of the year, things seem pretty set — except as far as the wild-card races are concerned.

The competition for wild cards will provide most of the drama during the season’s remaining days. The fade of the National League’s top wild-card seed, the Nationals, is hurting them here as well, as the Brewers and Mets have put the pressure on the Nats and Cubs among the NL’s wild-card wannabes. Meanwhile, of the American League’s trio of teams aiming to get to the play-in game, the A’s and Rays have ceded nothing to the Indians as Cleveland tries to keep up before time runs out.

For Week 24, our panel of voters was Bradford Doolittle, Christina Kahrl, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian and David Schoenfield.

  • Houston Astros
    2019 record: 98-53
    Week 23 ranking: 2

    Give outfielder George Springer much credit. Everyone knew he had power, as he averaged 28 home runs over the past three seasons, but he also hit .269 in that span — better than league average, but not special. This season, Springer has made major strides in his hard-hit percentage, and he is striking far more pitches inside the strike zone. Springer could also reach 100 runs scored for the fourth consecutive season, quite a feat since he has missed more than 20 games in each of the past three. He is one of the top leadoff hitters in the sport and we know what he can do in the World Series. — Eric Karabell

    ICYMI: Greinke’s eight pitch types keeps ’em guessing

  • Los Angeles Dodgers
    2019 record: 97-54
    Week 23 ranking: 1

    The Dodgers clinched their seventh straight division title, but the good news over the weekend was that Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu snapped mini-slumps with strong starts against the Mets. Kershaw gave up two runs and four hits in 6⅓ innings, and Ryu gave up two hits in seven scoreless innings — lowering his MLB-best ERA to 2.35. He has given up zero runs in nine of his 27 starts and two or fewer 21 times. Gavin Lux also hit his first two major league home runs as he makes a bid for the postseason roster. — David Schoenfield

    ICYMI: Judge Dodgers on NL West dynasty, not WS title they’re still chasing

  • New York Yankees
    2019 record: 98-53
    Week 23 ranking: 3

    The injury bug continues to strike. Gary Sanchez is out for at least a few days because of tightness in his left groin, and Edwin Encarnacion is out because of an oblique injury, with a hopeful return before the end of the regular season. Giancarlo Stanton comes back this week with limited time to ramp up for the postseason. Meanwhile, 36-year-old Brett Gardner continues to rake, with seven home runs in September. His total of 25 home runs is four more than his career high, and his .500 slugging percentage is well above his previous best of .428. — Schoenfield

    ICYMI: Why unlikely ace German might be in Yanks’ October pen

  • Atlanta Braves
    2019 record: 93-58
    Week 23 ranking: 4

    The Braves took two of three from the Nationals — that’s five of seven against their NL East rivals this month — as Mike Soroka outdueled Max Scherzer on Friday with six one-hit innings, and Mike Foltynewicz continues to pitch his way into the postseason rotation as he gave up four hits and one run in six innings Saturday. Nick Markakis also returned from his fractured wrist and went 2-for-4, 4-for-5 and 1-for-4 in the three games. Ronald Acuna Jr. watch: He’s at 39 home runs and 36 stolen bases after picking up two of each this week. — Schoenfield

    ICYMI: Why Markakis could be October difference-maker

  • Minnesota Twins
    2019 record: 91-58
    Week 23 ranking: 5

    Catcher Mitch Garver continues to amaze. He will not accrue enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, but you will not find another player with 30 home runs in fewer than 300 at-bats this season. In a baseball world of extreme power, Garver leads the way in home runs per at-bat, topping sluggers such as Mike Trout, Joey Gallo and Christian Yelich. The Yankees’ Gary Sanchez probably will lead all catchers in home runs this season, but Garver, who entered 2019 with seven big league homers in 387 career PA, is the brightest surprise at the position, and a key to Minnesota’s postseason success. — Karabell

    ICYMI: Buxton out for year after shoulder surgery

  • Oakland Athletics
    2019 record: 90-60
    Week 23 ranking: 6

    With former All-Star closer Blake Treinen struggling badly enough to lose his ninth-inning gig, Liam Hendriks has come up big in the second half for the A’s, notching 17 saves since the break while striking out an incredible 50 of 106 batters faced. If Treinen could only regroup from his command issues, the A’s pen could be the sort of shutdown unit that helps a long-odds playoff team far exceed expectations. — Christina Kahrl

    ICYMI: What the A’s need to do to win a wild card

  • Tampa Bay Rays
    2019 record: 89-61
    Week 23 ranking: 7

    The Rays’ playoff push continues unabated even as the roster returns to a semblance of health. Tyler Glasnow has been dominant in short stints since returning from his long stay on the injury list. This week, Tampa Bay is expected to welcome back reigning AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, who is slated to start Tuesday against the Dodgers. Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who has been out because of a bad back, returned to the starting lineup in a win against the Angels on Saturday. The returns couldn’t be more well-timed: Not only are the Rays neck-and-neck with the A’s in the race for the top wild-card spot, both with a growing buffer over the Indians, but the schedule turns mean. Tampa Bay has a two-game set at Dodger Stadium before flying home to face the Red Sox and Yankees at the Trop. — Bradford Doolittle

    ICYMI: Wander Franco, Luis Robert or Gavin Lux? Law’s 2019 Prospect of the Year is …

  • St. Louis Cardinals
    2019 record: 83-66
    Week 23 ranking: 9

    An upcoming weekend series against the Cubs, whom they play in seven of their final 10 games, gives the Cardinals a chance to lock in an NL Central title. Cardinals pitching has been thoroughly dominant in September, leading the majors in ERA (2.86) and quality starts (nine). In the past 30 days, four of the Cardinals’ five regular starters — Jack Flaherty (1.38), Dakota Hudson (1.67), Michael Wacha (2.36) and Adam Wainwright (2.51) — all have sub-3.00 ERAs. — Tristan H. Cockcroft

    ICYMI: Do Cards have a shot at any HR records in Year of the Home Run?

  • Washington Nationals
    2019 record: 82-66
    Week 23 ranking: 8

    The Nats finished 7-12 against the Braves — and 7-12 against the Mets. Thank goodness for the Marlins (they’re 13-3 against them). The Nationals’ lead in the wild-card race is suddenly not such a lock as they’re just 1½ games ahead of the Cubs and 2½ ahead of the Brewers. You know who’s having a remarkable season? Howie Kendrick, who turned 36 in July. In a part-time role, he’s hitting .336/.386/.559. He has hit .321 over the past three seasons. — Schoenfield

  • Cleveland Indians
    2019 record: 87-63
    Week 23 ranking: 10

    Getting swept in a doubleheader by the Twins on Saturday dealt a near-mortal blow to the Indians’ AL Central hopes in a series not made any easier by closer Brad Hand‘s absence because of an arm injury. Salvaging a win from the series Sunday gave them a 10-9 lead head-to-head against the division leaders while keeping their wild-card hopes alive. Cleveland has to hope it keeps feasting on the Tigers in its opening series of the week after running up a 15-1 record over Detroit so far. — Kahrl

    ICYMI: Who will step up for Indians in wild-card push?

  • Chicago Cubs
    2019 record: 81-68
    Week 23 ranking: 11

    Despite growing panic in Chicago and rampant speculation on the future of manager Joe Maddon, the Cubs have managed to cling to a playoff position, with both a division title or home-field advantage in the wild-card game still on the table. If one of those things happen, we might point to the club’s decision to recall infielder Nico Hoerner from Double-A in the wake of injuries to Javier Baez and Addison Russell as the season-saving moment. Hoerner, 22, has added to this season’s list of dazzling debuts in baseball with an OPS over 1.200 in his first week in the majors. He’ll get a chance to further embed himself in the hearts of Cubs fans this week, as Chicago finishes out its home schedule with a three-game set with the Reds followed by a huge four-game series against the NL Central-leading Cardinals. — Doolittle

    ICYMI: Cubs’ hopes ride on Darvish

  • Boston Red Sox
    2019 record: 79-70
    Week 23 ranking: 13

    With a huge offseason looming, the first order of business for the Red Sox, of course, is replacing Dave Dombrowski as head of baseball operations. Two obvious names with deep Red Sox ties can be crossed off fans’ wish lists. Mike Hazen is off the board after the Diamondbacks GM signed an extension with the team last week. And Cubs GM Jed Hoyer probably isn’t going anywhere either. Hoyer and his family bought a house on the North Side this summer and told the Chicago Tribune, “I didn’t want [anyone] to think we’re leaving. We’re happy here and hope to be here for a long time.” Theoretically a late-season meltdown that sees the Cubs miss the playoffs could lead to massive housecleaning at Wrigley, but that’s highly unlikely. — Steve Richards

    ICYMI: Red Sox face $13 million-plus luxury tax bill

  • Milwaukee Brewers
    2019 record: 80-69
    Week 23 ranking: 14

    The always-resilient Brewers have managed to stick in the thick of the NL wild-card chase even after losing reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich to a fractured kneecap. Their schedule is favorable, as Milwaukee hosts a pair of second-division clubs this week, San Diego for four games and Pittsburgh for three. The Brewers finish on the road against two more sub-.500 teams in Cincinnati and Colorado. According to rest-of-season schedule strength calculations at baseball-reference.com, Milwaukee has the easiest slate remaining among NL wild-card contenders. — Doolittle

    ICYMI: Can Brewers keep wild-card hopes alive without Yelich?

  • New York Mets
    2019 record: 77-72
    Week 23 ranking: 15

    Right-hander Marcus Stroman entered Thursday with one quality start in seven chances since arriving from the Blue Jays, then stymied the Diamondbacks with six innings of shutout ball until running into mild trouble in the seventh. It was his best outing as a Met, and Stroman surely will be tested this week with a start at Coors Field, and then figures to face the Marlins and Braves in the final week, and each game is critical. Stroman is among the bottom 20 for qualified starting pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings, and home runs have not been an issue, so he needs his defense behind him. The Mets need good innings. — Karabell

    ICYMI: You gotta believe … in Pete Alonso

  • Arizona Diamondbacks
    2019 record: 76-74
    Week 23 ranking: 12

    The D-backs seem to finally be out of the playoff conversation for good, but they made a big statement about their future by signing GM Mike Hazen to a contract extension, assuring he won’t be leaving for a return to Boston to fill the Red Sox vacancy. Hazen has drawn a lot of praise for balancing being competitive in the present while building up the farm system for the future. Two Arizona assistant GMs, Amiel Sawdaye and Jared Porter, also have deep Boston roots and could be candidates for a position in Boston or elsewhere. — Richards

    ICYMI: Could Ketel Marte snag NL MVP award?

  • Philadelphia Phillies
    2019 record: 76-72
    Week 23 ranking: 16

    Scott Kingery was one of the worst players to qualify for the batting title a season ago, producing a ghastly .605 OPS over 484 PA. His second season has gone considerably better, with more than 50 extra-base hits and an OPS more than 200 points better. He has done this despite starting 30 or more games at center field and third base, neither his primary position. Kingery is not drawing walks as once expected, but this more aggressive version rakes at pitches in the strike zone, and he is a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman should the Phillies move him there. This is a future All-Star. — Karabell

  • Texas Rangers
    2019 record: 74-77
    Week 23 ranking: 17

    A change of scenery has suited prospect Nick Solak, who was acquired by the Rangers from Tampa Bay for right-hander prospect Peter Fairbanks in July. The 24-year-old Solak, a second-round pick of the Yankees in 2016, made his big league debut Aug. 20 and has a slash line of .322/.433/.529 with 18 runs, 15 RBIs and four home runs, including one off Fairbanks last Thursday. — Richards

    ICYMI: One HR record the Rangers could reach

  • Cincinnati Reds
    2019 record: 70-80
    Week 23 ranking: 18

    The Reds’ elimination from postseason contention is unavoidable, but they’ve been focused on their 2020 auditions this September. Michael Lorenzen‘s experiment as a two-way player, à la Shohei Ohtani, has been interesting. Lorenzen has made a pair of starts in center field this month, is a .276/.333/.586 hitter in 64 plate appearances between this and last season, and has contributed a 3.12 ERA, six saves and 20 holds in his 69 appearances on the mound. — Cockcroft

  • San Francisco Giants
    2019 record: 72-78
    Week 23 ranking: 19

    Getting Johnny Cueto back in action was good to see, but it’s also a reminder of the Giants’ lasting commitments going forward. Cueto and battery mate Buster Posey are both signed through 2021 (with club options for ’22), Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are also signed through 2021, and Evan Longoria through 2022. Salaries for those five players alone adds up to more than $91 million on the 2020 payroll, which might deter making free agent Madison Bumgarner at least a qualifying offer unless they find a taker for the last year of their commitment to Jeff Samardzija at $19.8 million. — Kahrl

    ICYMI: Cueto dazzles in 2019 debut

  • San Diego Padres
    2019 record: 68-81
    Week 23 ranking: 21

    Chris Paddack has significantly boosted his performance over the past couple of weeks, despite it being a time when he’s being discussed as an imminent shut-down candidate. He hasn’t given up more than one run while pitching at least 5⅓ innings in each of his past three turns, with his next outing — and perhaps his last of 2019 — set for Tuesday at Milwaukee. Paddack won’t win the National League’s Cy Young award, but he should steal some votes in the race and gives the team a bona fide future ace. — Cockcroft

    ICYMI: Don’t forget Tatis among top NL rookies

  • Los Angeles Angels
    2019 record: 67-82
    Week 23 ranking: 20

    It is hard to believe, but the Angels entered the weekend still lacking a pitcher with 100 innings pitch for them this season. How can that be possible? Well, injuries and poor performance have been a problem. Right-hander Trevor Cahill should get there in his middle relief role, and starter Andrew Heaney could if he remains in the rotation until season’s end, but this highlights how pitching has let the club down in 2019. The team ERA could finish a run higher than the previous two seasons, when it was 4.15 and 4.20. Unfortunately, things might not be much better in 2020. — Karabell

    ICYMI: Ohtani can hit, pitch — and keep teammates laughing

  • Pittsburgh Pirates
    2019 record: 65-85
    Week 23 ranking: 22

    After how poorly this team had performed with the bat immediately after the All-Star break, would you believe that since Aug. 24 the Pirates have been the NL’s highest-scoring team? Since that date, the team boasts the majors’ batting average leader in Kevin Newman (.429) as well as the No. 6 hitter in that same category in Adam Frazier (.382), with Newman chipping in 23 runs and 15 RBIs as well. — Cockcroft

    ICYMI: Crick out for year after fight with teammate Vazquez

  • Colorado Rockies
    2019 record: 65-85
    Week 23 ranking: 24

    A strong week at Coors Field was a bit too little, too late for the already eliminated Rockies, but it did include another hot streak for Nolan Arenado. Arenado has belted six home runs in September alone, his current .315/.380/.595 slash lines would each set new personal bests if they stick, and he’s within striking distance of his previous career highs of 42 home runs and 133 RBIs. — Cockcroft

  • Chicago White Sox
    2019 record: 65-83
    Week 23 ranking: 23

    The stakes might not be high at the moment for the White Sox, but after a season full of flashes, rookie Eloy Jimenez has settled into a nice groove down the stretch. Jimenez is hitting .333/.387/.684 in September, while cutting his strikeout rate to 19%. That has been a season-long trend for the young powder keg. Jimenez struck out at least 29% of the time in each of the first three months of the season, cut that to 25% by August and has continued that improvement this month. It’s no coincidence that Jimenez has averaged a homer every 11.4 at-bats during September. — Doolittle

    ICYMI: Where Luis Robert ranks among Law’s Prospects of the Year

  • Seattle Mariners
    2019 record: 61-88
    Week 23 ranking: 25

    Welcome to the majors, Kyle Lewis. Promoted from Double-A Arkansas, where the outfielder hit 11 home runs in 457 at-bats, he homered in his first three major league games — only the second player in major league history to do so, after the Rockies’ Trevor Story did it in 2016 (Story homered in his first four). The Mariners honored Ichiro Suzuki on Saturday with a special Mariners Franchise Achievement Award and Ichiro thanked the fans with a six-minute speech — in English. “You welcomed me with open arms and you have never stopped,” Ichiro said. — Schoenfield

    ICYMI: M’s rookie Lewis homers in first three games

  • Toronto Blue Jays
    2019 record: 59-91
    Week 23 ranking: 26

    Rookie wunderkind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. might have hit the proverbial wall. He had the month of his season in August — .341/.406/.571 for a .977 OPS that was more than 150 point higher than his next best month — but has slumped badly in 11 September games, slashing .167/.217/.238. Even so, it has to be considered a successful debut season for Vladdy. — Richards

    ICYMI: Where does Vladdy Jr. rate among top AL rookies?

  • Kansas City Royals
    2019 record: 55-95
    Week 23 ranking: 28

    The Royals need to finish over .500 the rest of the way to avoid their second straight 100-loss season and sixth in franchise history. The franchise record for losses — 106 in 2005 — appears to be safe, barring a complete collapse over the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, Kansas City confronts contenders the rest of the way, as the Royals get Oakland, Minnesota, Atlanta and Minnesota (again), in order. — Doolittle

    ICYMI: Royals owner says selling difficult, but it’s ‘right time’

  • Miami Marlins
    2019 record: 52-97
    Week 23 ranking: 27

    With free agency probably around the corner for Starlin Castro — the team has a $16 million option for 2020 with a $1 million buyout — he has chosen the right time to heat up at the plate, hitting a team-best 13 home runs since the All-Star break. Since the entire roster has managed only 60 in the second half, he has been one of the few hitters to keep those unhappy few Fish fans entertained. — Kahrl

  • Baltimore Orioles
    2019 record: 49-100
    Week 22 ranking: 29

    We could focus on Baltimore reaching 100 losses for the second straight season, but we’d rather emphasize the positive, such as it is. How about Trey Mancini? In addition to hitting a career-high 32 home runs, the Orioles slugger has 11 opposite-field homers, second in the AL to New York’s Aaron Judge. — Richards

    ICYMI: The state of MLB’s terrible teams as the two worst meet

  • Detroit Tigers
    2019 record: 44-104
    Week 22 ranking: 30

    With Niko Goodrum probably shelved for the rest of the season, what little good news there might be from the lineup involves middle infielder Jordy Mercer (team-best .366 wOBA since the All-Star break) and a healthy Christin Stewart getting back out in left field and posting a .284/.343/.484 slash line in the second half. At 25, Stewart is one of the few guys in the lineup with a chance of playing for a future Tigers team above .500. — Kahrl

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    What to watch for over the last two weeks of the regular season

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    We have two weeks left in the regular season. Four of the division races are over (or virtually over), the Indians are clinging by their stirrups in the American League Central, and only the National League Central, with the Cardinals, Cubs and Brewers separated by three games, looks to promise us those “What’s the score in the other game?” moments the rest of the way.

    So let’s check on what to watch for over the final 14 days — starting with two key injury updates from Sunday.

    Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo leaves because of sprained ankle

    Rizzo was injured fielding a bunt in Sunday’s win over the Pirates, seriously enough that the team took X-rays to make sure there wasn’t a fracture. There wasn’t, but Rizzo will have an MRI on Monday and we’ll learn about the length of his absence.

    Obviously, losing Rizzo would be a big blow to a Chicago offense that just erupted for 46 runs in a three-game sweep of the Pirates — the most runs the Cubs have scored in a three-game series since 1900. The Cubs have a lot of defensive flexibility throughout the roster, but they don’t really have a backup first baseman — Ian Happ replaced Rizzo in Sunday’s game, and Victor Caratini and Kris Bryant have started a few games there. Rizzo leads the Cubs with a .404 OBP and his absence combined with Javier Baez being out because of a hairline fracture in his left thumb leaves Chicago scrambling a bit in the infield.

    The Cubs do have depth (although Addison Russell also is out right now because of a concussion) and rookie shortstop Nico Hoerner has provided a surprising lift since his call-up, hitting .379/.438/.655 in seven games. The Cubs can still go with Bryant at third, Hoerner at shortstop, Ben Zobrist at second and Happ at first, with David Bote in reserve, but with seven games still left against the Cardinals, they’ll miss Rizzo.

    Mike Trout out for remainder of season: AL MVP up for grabs?

    After Trout missed his eighth game in a row Sunday, the Angels announced he would have season-ending surgery for a nerve issue in his right foot, something called Morton’s neuroma (a thickening of the tissue around a nerve leading to the toes, creating pain in the ball of the foot). So Trout’s final numbers: 134 games, .291/.438/.645, 45 home runs, 110 runs, 104 RBIs. He leads the AL in home runs, OBP, slugging and WAR. His lead over Alex Bregman in WAR entering Sunday was 8.3 to 7.4 (Baseball-Reference) and 8.6 to 7.3 (FanGraphs). Bregman went 1-for-3 on Sunday and is hitting .295/.420/.579 with 36 home runs, 114 runs and 104 RBIs.

    Does Bregman have a chance to pass Trout in the MVP race? Working in Bregman’s favor: Trout plays for a bad team and won’t play at all the final two weeks. MVP voters don’t give as much weight to playing on a playoff team as they used to, but they still give some weight. Also, Trout’s 136 total games would be low for an MVP winner, although not unprecedented. Mookie Betts played 136 last year and beat Trout in the voting. Bregman’s triple-slash line won’t match Trout’s, but with a strong final two weeks, Bregman will have impressive counting numbers, will be close to Trout in WAR — and will play for a division winner.

    National League MVP race: Up for grabs?

    With Christian Yelich out for the season because of a fractured right kneecap, we still have a two-man (or three-man race). Or, heck, even a four-man race, as we don’t want to completely dismiss Yelich:

    Cody Bellinger: .304/.407/.625, 44 HRs, 112 R, 108 RBIs, 6.08 WPA

    Anthony Rendon: .332/.416/.625, 33 HRs, 112 R, 118 RBIs, 5.51 WPA

    Ketel Marte: .327/.387/.590, 32 HRs, 96 R, 91 RBIs, 3.81 WPA

    Yelich: .329/.429/.671, 44 HRs, 100 R, 97 RBIs, 7.86 WPA

    WPA is win probability added, sort of a proxy for “clutch.” Yelich, Bellinger and Rendon ranked first, second and fourth in the majors heading into Sunday (via FanGraphs). With Yelich done compiling counting stats, and Marte probably fourth on the list right now, it looks like a two-man race between Bellinger and Rendon (although Yelich does lead in FanGraphs WAR, WPA and triple-slash line). Rendon has the momentum as he’s finishing strong, while Bellinger has a sizable lead in Baseball-Reference WAR thanks to his defensive metrics. This looks like a close vote that could go in either direction.

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    Ryan Braun smashes a grand slam in the top of the 9th inning to give the Brewers a 7-4 lead over the Cardinals.

    OK, that NL Central — and wild-card — race

    We’ve tried to bury the Cubs. We’ve tried to bury the Brewers. It’s not over yet, with Ryan Braun‘s go-ahead grand slam Sunday that lifted Milwaukee to a dramatic win over St. Louis tightening the race. The Cardinals are two up on the Cubs and three up on the Brewers, but consider:

    • The Brewers have the easiest remaining schedule of any playoff contender in terms of opponents’ winning percentage (four against the Padres, three against the Pirates, three at Cincinnati and three at Colorado).

    • The Cubs and Cardinals play those seven games against each other, so that might help the Brewers. The Cardinals have three against the Nationals, four at Wrigley, three at Arizona and then host the Cubs for three to end the season. The Cubs have seven at home against the Reds and Cardinals and then six on the road against the Pirates and Cardinals.

    This is a good moment to remind everyone of the three-team tiebreaker rules. Teams are given A, B and C designation, with the team having the best winning percentage against the other two teams having first choice. Right now, the Cubs are 16-15, the Brewers are 19-19 and the Cardinals are 15-16. It’s possible all three teams end up 19-19 against each other. In which case the tiebreaker becomes overall division record.

    Anyway, Club 1 (the Cubs, as of now), would pick their designation in the following scenario: Club A hosts Club B. The winner of that game then hosts Club C.

    Of course, all of this is complicated by the possibility that we could end up in a three-way tie for the NL Central with another club also tied for a wild card. For example, imagine these final standings:

    Nationals: 89-73 (7-7 rest of way)
    Cardinals: 88-74 (5-8 rest of way)
    Cubs: 88-74 (7-6 rest of way)
    Brewers: 88-74 (8-5 rest of way)
    Mets: 88-74 (11-2 rest of way)

    The Nationals win the first wild card, but then we have a four-way tie with the Mets. The NL Central teams are sorted by A, B and C, and the Mets would be Club D. A hosts B and C hosts D. If D (the Mets) wins, they are the second wild-card team and the winner between A and B would be the NL Central winner. If Club C beats the Mets, then the winner of A and B would play C. The winner of that game would be the division winner and the loser would be the second wild card.

    We also could end up with a five-way tie if the Nationals fall back. As of now, MLB has no tiebreaker scenarios in place for a five-way tie. The simplest would be the three Central teams playing out their scenario for the division title and one wild-card spot and then the Mets and Nationals playing a game for the other wild-card spot.

    By the way, as of now, the NL wild-card game is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 1, with the AL game on Wednesday, Oct. 2, so that will have to change if we end up with two days of tiebreaker games.

    AL wild-card race

    The A’s have won six in a row to build a 1½-game lead over the Rays, with the Rays 1½ games up on the Indians. The remaining schedules:

    • Oakland: vs. KC (3), off day, vs. TEX (3), off day, at LAA (2), at SEA (4)

    • Tampa Bay: off day, at LAD (2), off day, vs. BOS (4), vs. NYY (2), off day, at TOR (3)

    • Cleveland: off day, vs. DET (3), vs. PHI (3), off day, at CHW (3), at WAS (3)

    Anything could happen here. The A’s are red hot and have an easy remaining schedule; FanGraphs gives them a 95.6% chance of making the playoffs. The Rays have the tougher schedule, but they’re already in L.A. after playing the Angels this weekend and will benefit from three off days. The Indians get the Tigers and White Sox and fading Phillies before finishing with the Nationals, who might have clinched a spot by that final weekend.

    Chase for best record and home-field advantage

    The Yankees and Astros are tied at 98-53 with the Dodgers one game back. The Yankees’ biggest worry right now is getting everyone healthy: Gary Sanchez is dealing with a sore groin, Edwin Encarnacion has an oblique issue and Giancarlo Stanton is supposed to return this week. (Dellin Betances threw eight pitches in his season debut Sunday.) The Astros are still waiting on Carlos Correa. The Astros finish with the Rangers, Angels, Mariners and Angels again. The Yankees get the Angels, Blue Jays, Rays and Rangers. The Astros won the season series over the Yankees, so Houston holds the tiebreaker edge.

    Home run crown chase

    With his otherworldly second half, Eugenio Suarez has tied Pete Alonso for the major league lead at 47 home runs. In 60 games since the All-Star break, Suarez has hit .304/.386/.724 with 27 home runs. Insane. At the break, he was 11 home runs behind then-leader Yelich. If Suarez does win the home run title, it would be the second-largest gap at the break overcome by a home run champ. Jimmie Foxx trailed the leader by 12 home runs in 1935 and ended up tied for the MLB lead with 36 home runs.

    AL Cy Young race

    Maybe the best awards race over the final two weeks is between Astros teammates Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Verlander tossed a no-hitter on Sept. 1 and has double-digit strikeout games in nine of his past 11 starts. Cole has given up three runs in his three September starts and is on a run of six consecutive double-digit strikeout games. He also has won 13 straight decisions. Season stats:

    Verlander: 18-6, 2.58 ERA, 206 IP, 123 H, 38 BB, 275 SO, 34 HR

    Cole: 17-5, 2.62 ERA, 192.1 IP, 130 H, 45 BB, 292 SO, 27 HR

    Wow. Who ya got?

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