Updated 2014 MLB Playoff Chances with Just 1 Month Remaining

There is just one month left in the 2014 MLB regular season, and while the playoff picture is starting to take shape, there is still a lot to be decided between now and October.

In the National League, there are a total of eight teams that can still be called legitimate contenders. The Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers look like safe bets to win their respective divisions, but the NL Central is still up for grabs, and both wild-card slots are wide open.

The American League picture is similarly cloudy, as there are nine teams that can be called contenders. The Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels look to be in a good position to be playing in October, but the AL Central and AL West are still up for grabs, and the second wild-card spot behind whoever loses out in the AL West is as tight as any race.

What follows is a look at each team's chances of reaching the postseason, with the following factors taken into account.

  • Recent performance
  • Key players lost or returning from injury
  • Remaining schedule

So with one full month of baseball to go, here is a division-by-division look at the playoff chances of all 30 MLB teams.

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Cincinnati Reds : An Early Free-Agency and Offseason Primer

While the Cincinnati Reds are not technically out of the wild-card race yet, things are looking worse by the day. They sit six games back in the wild-card race, and they have been awful since the break. Over the past 50 games, Cincinnati's record is just 20-30.

It might be time for the Reds to start planning for 2015 and beyond.

The Reds will need to make some decisions this offseason on what to do with the pitching staff. Improving the bullpen and adding another bat should be the main focus in free agency. Finally, they just need to get healthy. 

With this season winding down, let's take a look at what the Reds need to do this offseason to get back into the postseason in 2015. 

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Anibal Sanchez Setback Means Tigers Must Act Before Waiver Trade Deadline

This isn't how the Detroit Tigers saw the script playing out.

When they made the blockbuster deal of the deadline, nabbing David Price in a three-team trade with the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays, the Tigers were supposed to run away with the American League Central and position themselves for another World Series run.

Instead, they're clinging to their playoff lives.

Even after Tuesday's 5-2 win over the Yankees, Detroit trails the Mariners by a half-game for the second wild card and the Kansas City Royals by 1.5 games for the division lead.

Worse, they got news that after a setback during a throwing session on Monday, right-hander Anibal Sanchez is out indefinitely.

"I threw just one pitch," Sanchez said, per MLB.com's Jason Beck. "As soon as I felt it, I knew I had to stop, because I couldn't even move my arm."

The pain, Sanchez told Beck, was the result of scar tissue tearing from the pectoral strain that landed him on the disabled list August 10.

Before the injury, Sanchez owned a 3.46 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with 102 strikeouts. He also boasts a 2.95 ERA in six postseason starts.

Now the Tigers must deal with the very real possibility they'll be without one of their best starting pitchers for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs—if they get there.

That's no sure thing. Yes, Price has pitched as advertised since arriving in the Motor City, posting a 2.35 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 30.2 innings. 

The rest of the rotation is riddled with question marks. Sinkerballer Rick Porcello, who got the win Tuesday against New York, has been solid, but his ability to step up as a postseason horse is unknown. 

Speaking of unknowns, Justin Verlander, once a horse among horses, has wobbled through the worst season of his professional career, losing steam on his once-blazing fastball and sporting a pedestrian 4.82 ERA through 26 starts.

The other cog in the Tigers' staff, reigning AL Cy Young-winner Max Scherzer, is having another All-Star campaign. He's also an impending free agent who rebuffed a lucrative contract extension this spring, per ESPN.com.

All that adds up to an interesting conundrum for the Tigers. They're built to win now. But what they've built might not be enough.

That means taking a long, hard look at the waiver market and quite possibly swinging a move.

The biggest name being bandied about is Bartolo Colon of the New York Mets, who cleared waivers Monday, as first reported by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.

Colon has posted a 3.82 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 167.1 innings, another solid season for the ageless 41-year-old.

There may be other suitors for the veteran right-hander, such as the Los Angeles Angels, who recently lost ace Garrett Richards to a knee injury.

That could drive up the price.

On the other hand, Colon is owed $11 million next season and eventually Father Time will catch up; it's tough to imagine him costing the farm.

On the other, other hand, as Mark Craig of Newsday points out:

The Mets are also open to dealing Colon in the winter, when a wider pool of teams could attempt to land the pitcher. Rival executives believe Colon would draw healthy interest because his salary would be attractive for teams in search of a mid-rotation starter. Because he's already under contract, his cost would be locked in, an advantage over free agents on the open market.

There are other options. Trevor Cahill of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Scott Feldman of the Houston Astros were floated by CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman as possible waiver chips. Expect Detroit to at least kick the tires on any viable candidates.

At this point, all options are on the table, at least theoretically.

This may not be how Detroit saw the script playing out. Sometimes, though, you're forced into a last-minute rewrite.

 

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Mike Napoli Smashes 451-Foot Home Run into 5th Deck vs. Blue Jays

Mike Napoli gave Boston Red Sox fans who were still up watching their team in the 11th inning a treat Tuesday.

His three-run home run traveled an astounding 451 feet and put Boston ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, 9-4. It proved to be a critical blast because the Blue Jays scored three runs of their own in the bottom of the 11th. ESPN Stats & Info noted that it was business as usual for Napoli in Toronto:


The moonshot was Napoli’s 16th home run of the season and pushed his RBI total to 50 as the Red Sox picked up the W.

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Astros Fan Spikes Ball Straight into the Ground During Ceremonial First Pitch

A lucky fan got a chance to throw out the first pitch at the Houston Astros game Tuesday. She was so excited that she forgot to let go of the baseball until it was far, far too late.

Take a look above. 

50 Cent, you're off the hook. Actually, no, you're not off the hook. Your first pitch will still go down in history for all the wrong reasons. But at least you have some company now.

In all fairness, this fan seemed like a good sport about the whole thing. She got what looked to be a warm hug from the team mascot, Orbit, and her unbelievable start to the game clearly motivated the 'Stros to a 4-2 win over the Oakland Athletics.

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Bosch Laser Measure Lets You Get Rid Of The Tape Once And For All

bosh-laser-measure

When you’re in your backyard building things, you’re inevitably going to have to use your trusty measuring tape. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of using one, you’ll know what a pain in the rear end they can be. They’ll come unhooked, bend when you need them to stay straight, and snap back at you haphazardly. Sure, we sound like incompetent DIYers, but so are a great number of people who just want to build things, with limited experience. Bosch Tools has a line of laser measuring tools, the latest one of which is so small it could fit in a tight jean pocket. It’s the GLM 15, and can measure things up to 50ft. away with 1/8 inch precision. What’s more, it’s only $50, which is very little money to save you the kind of hassle a regular tape can give.

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Deal Of The Day: 60% Off On The Bluetooth Shower Speaker

redesign_speaker_mf123

Last time we wrote about this Bluetooth Shower Speaker, you guys bought it in droves. Well, the deal is back for another couple of weeks. It’s a simple waterproof Bluetooth speaker that attaches to your shower’s wall through a suction cup. The battery lasts 5-6 hours, there are buttons to control your music, and even a mic to let you take phone calls while you’re getting clean. At $39 after the 60% rebate, it’s really a steal.

[ Get The Bluetooth Shower Speaker ]

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Arby’s Has An Off-The-Menu ‘Meat Mountain’ Option

Meat-Mountain

A while ago, Arby’s got tired of people thinking they only serve roast beef. To fight that perception, they created the poster pictured below; it’s a gigantic creation featuring a sample of every type of meat served at the restaurants. It was only meant to be illustrative, but then of course customers started asking for the very sandwich on the picture. Can you blame them? Arby’s, loathe to turn down anyone’s money, accepted the challenge and started serving the ‘Meat Mountain’ to customers who’d specifically request it. It’s a $10 sandwich, and it’s not on the menu, but they’ll sell you one if you ask for it. And here’s what’s in it:

2 chicken tenders
1.5 oz. of roast turkey
1.5 oz. of ham
1 slice of Swiss cheese
1.5 oz. of corned beef
1.5 oz. brisket
1.5 oz. of Angus steak
1 slice of cheddar cheese
1.5 oz. roast beef
3 half-strips of bacon

meat-mountain-sign

VIA [ ThatsNerdALicious ]

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This Harness Lets You Strap A GoPro To Your Dog

gopro-fetch

Man’s best friend probably has some crazy stories to tell, if only he could. Between those twigs he dug up, the butts he sniffed and the water he splashed around, doggie’s life is filled with adventure. With the Fetch Harness from GoPro, he’ll be able to tell you all about it, even if he has no idea what he’s doing. The strap securely attaches your camera to your pet’s chest or back, so you can get two angles. It fits dogs of all sizes, from 15 lbs to 150 lbs. It’s padded at all adjustment points for comfort, and is completely washable. At $60, it really is an inexpensive way to capture some interesting footage.

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Anthony Rizzo Injury: Updates on Chicago Cubs Star’s Back and Return

Anthony Rizzo started off Tuesday's game by hitting his 30th home run of the season. Unfortunately, he ended it by leaving early with an injury.

The Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans provided the news:

Manager Rick Renteria talked about the injury after the Cubs' 3-0 win via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times: 

After a mostly disappointing 2013 campaign, Rizzo has been fantastic this season. Entering Tuesday's contest, the first baseman was hitting .278/.376/.510 while chasing Giancarlo Stanton for the National League home run crown.

He hasn't just carried a big stick, though. As CBS Chicago's Bruce Levine argued, the 25-year-old has also been a vital part of the Cubs' improvement on defense:

Rizzo’s fine play has begun to challenge Paul Goldschmidt and Adrian Gonzalez for recognition as the best fielding first baseman in the National League. The numbers bear out some of the obvious numbers considered for a Gold Glove award. Entering play on Sunday, Rizzo led all major league first baseman in chances, (1200) assists, (102 ) and putouts (1089 ). He was also ranked fourth in double plays contributing to 94 twin-killings on defense.

The Cubs (59-72) aren't going anywhere this season, but with a stacked farm system, they are believed to be on the cusp of becoming a legitimate contender in the National League.

While youth is a large part of the reason for that optimism, Rizzo's play this season has been another. He looks ready to anchor this team for a long time.

Fortunately, the injury doesn't sound serious. Leaving the game was likely just a precautionary move from Chicago, which was leading by three runs at the time of Rizzo's departure.

If he is forced to miss any time, Chris Valaika would likely see some time at first base.

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Pedro Alvarez Injury: Updates on Pirates 3B’s Foot and Return

As if Tuesday night couldn't get much worse for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pedro Alvarez is apparently in a walking boot.

Dan Zangrilli of 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh reported that the 2013 All-Star third baseman needed the aid of a boot as he departed PNC Park:

Alvarez left the Pirates' 5-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals after suffering from "left foot discomfort," the team announced:

That was after the Pirates revealed Andrew McCutchen exited early as well with "left rib discomfort." Losing one of those players would've been bad enough, but to watch them both go down is concerning for Pittsburgh.

Alvarez might be experiencing a slight drop in his power numbers from the past two years, but he's still second on the team in home runs and tied for second in runs batted in. The Pirates can't afford to have his bat out of the lineup for too long.

Pittsburgh is 5.5 games out in the National League Central and a game back in the wild-card race. Making up either one of those deficits would be harder to do without Alvarez.

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Andrew McCutchen Injury: Updates on Pirates Star’s Ribs and Return

The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the thick of the National League wild-card race, but they received some unfortunate news Tuesday evening. The team’s official Twitter page filled fans in on the details regarding the health of superstar Andrew McCutchen:

McCutchen was 0-for-3 when he left Tuesday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals. His importance in the Pittsburgh lineup cannot be overstated, though.

On the year, he is hitting .307 with 20 home runs, 70 RBI, 69 walks and 17 stolen bases. He also boasts a .942 on-base plus slugging percentage and is a crucial piece of the team’s defense from center field.

The defending National League MVP has helped lead the Pirates into playoff contention for the second consecutive year. They are 1.5 games out of the second wild-card spot, and this series with the Cardinals (who lead all wild-card contenders) is particularly important.

Losing McCutchen for an extended amount of time would cripple Pittsburgh’s postseason hopes. Stay tuned for updates as they develop.

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Tim Lincecum’s Bullpen Move Can Be Wild Card X-Factor Down the Stretch

At one point this season, there was hope. A lot of it.

Tim Lincecum was on a roll, and his two-year, $35 million contract that was completely panned when it was announced looked like it might have some value after all. The San Francisco Giants had shot to the best record in the league and were being talked about as the best team in baseball.

Lincecum’s 10-start run, with one extra-inning relief appearance tacked on at the end, was a factor. His 2.89 ERA, .187 BABIP and second-career no-hitter between May 28 and July 22 had the Giants wondering if this was a return to Lincecum’s previous form at a time when Matt Cain was injured and Madison Bumgarner was starting to struggle.

Turns out it was all way too good to be a true revival for The Freak.

Lincecum’s ERA in his last six starts is 9.49, and opposing hitters are hitting .341/.422/.622 against him since the All-Star break. All the reasons the contract was questioned came storming back, and the Giants announced Monday they were pulling the two-time Cy Young Award winner from the rotation and dropping him off in the bullpen.

It’s a move that could very well strengthen their clutch on a playoff berth and give them a rare and incredibly valuable weapon: a dominant reliever capable of pitching more than one inning an outing. 

There is a precedent for this. The Giants moved Lincecum to the bullpen for the 2012 postseason, and he was flat-out dominant. He made a single start in those playoffsGame 4 of the National League Championship Series against St. Louisand was shelled for four earned runs in 4.2 innings. All of his value came out of the bullpen, from where he allowed one run in 13 innings (0.69 ERA), struck out 17 and walked two with a 0.38 WHIP 

Lincecum’s velocity was up in that postseason, and the bite on his other pitches reverted to devastating. Basically, he was the old Freak in a compacted form. In short bursts, he was brilliant and played a key role in the Giants winning their second World Series in three years.

If Lincecum can be that kind of weapon in 2014, he becomes the kind of luxury not afforded to most teams. If he comes anywhere close to duplicating what he did as a reliever in the 2012 postseason, he immediately becomes the most valuable non-starting pitcher in the majors.

For now, it seems like Lincecum is on board with the change.

But Dave Cameron over at Fangraphs.com tells us to be leery of the move back to the bullpen working the way it did two Octobers ago. His findings say Lincecum’s value is diminished because so many of his problems arise when he has runners on base, and it is a valid point. Lincecum is tolerable when the bases are empty, but he is a tire fire when guys get on, and considering his lack of command at times, he puts himself in jams he can no longer escape.

There is a “however” here. Lincecum’s numbers with the bases empty and with runners on in 2012 aren’t that entirely different than they are this season. Also, three of his five relief appearances in 2012 started mid-inning with runners on base.

If the Giants truly are concerned about those splits, they can put Lincecum in favorable situations. If effective, he can become a two-inning specialist starting in the sixth or seventh inning. Or, if matchups are favorable, he can pitch the eighth and ninth. He can even piggyback a start here and there. As long as he is a reliable out-getter, Lincecum gives manager Bruce Bochy options and flexibility.

It’s the kind of asset that can shorten the game for a so-so rotationits numbers should get better minus Lincecumand give the Giants a bullpen advantage in any series they play.

Now, it’s quite possible, and even likely, that the big-stage moments of 2012 helped Lincecum’s success. He’s never been one to shrink in the spotlight, so when the lights were brightest in 2012 and the adrenaline was peaking, he was able to channel something not present during the regular season. That might explain the velocity spike and improved filthiness.

Then again, aiming to throw 30 pitches is much different than pacing for 100. We shouldn’t forget that atrocious start I mentioned earlier against the Cardinals with all eyes on him in those playoffs.

This 2014 experiment will likely start by giving Lincecum low-leverage situations to succeed, like placing raw meat at the foot of a wounded animal. If Lincecum gobbles it up, the Giants can eventually send him on the hunt for bigger prey.

That is when Lincecum will have the opportunity to make that bloated contract look sensible and become the kind of X-factor no other National League club can boast down the stretch and into October. 

 

Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News, and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter and talk baseball here.

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Yonder Alonso Injury: Updates on Padres 1B’s Recovery from Forearm Surgery

Yonder Alonso will undergo surgery to repair a damaged tendon in his right forearm. 

The San Diego Padres first baseman was already ruled out for the season with the injury, but he continued to weigh his options for recovery. Ultimately, though, he elected to go with surgery. 

According to MLB.com's Corey Brock, he will be ready for 2015 spring training:

After a promising rookie campaign in 2012, Alonso has seen his numbers dip in each of the past two seasons. In 84 games this year, he hit just .240/.285/.397 with seven home runs and 27 RBI. Those are numbers you can live with from your shortstop—not your first baseman. 

The 27-year-old has struggled to simply stay healthy. He has multiple DL trips due to various hand injuries over the past two seasons, and when he was starting to finally get into a groove—he hit a scorching .522 in 10 August gameshe suffered the forearm strain. 

He has failed to play in 100 games in each of the last two seasons. 

The hope here is that Alonso, who is eligible for his first year of arbitration this winter, can get back to 100 percent and start living up to the potential he once had as a top prospect. 

Still, he was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds by San Diego's old management, and his opportunities may be wearing very thin. 

 

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Why Pittsburgh Pirates Made Right Decision Demoting Gregory Polanco

Throughout the first two months of the 2014 regular season, Pittsburgh Pirates fans all over the nation were anticipating the major league debut of the organization's top prospect, Gregory Polanco.  

When his big day finally came on June 10, the 22-year-old phenom made an immediate impact on his team's struggling offense.  

Through his first 93 at bats, Polanco was batting .301 with three home runs and 13 runs batted in.  

Since then, however, the rookie has hit a wall, as his batting average has dipped to just .241 on the season.  

After collecting just one hit in his last 30 at bats, Polanco was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis, and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is confident that the move will only help the young star.  

According to Stephen Pianovich of MLB.com, Hurdle said, "We'll give him the opportunity to get down, get some at-bats, get out of the spotlight that's been here for a week and find his way. I believe he will and come back and help this ballclub in September in a very positive fashion."

It would be no surprise if Polanco is one of the players who will be called up when the roster expands in September, as he is simply too talented to continue to struggle this mightily.  

The Pirates were smart in sending Polanco down to Triple-A at this point in the season.  Considering there are only seven games remaining in the regular season for Indianapolis, Polanco will have a week to regroup and get back into the swing of things.  

The Pirates have struggled to play consistent baseball all season, yet they only sit just 1.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants for the second wild-card spot.  

With just over a month left to play in the regular season, the Pirates have to find a way to ignite their offense and string together a nice winning streak.  Otherwise, it will be an extremely disappointing season for a team that just reached the postseason last year for the first time since 1992.  

If Polanco can regain his confidence at the plate over the next week down in Triple-A, there is plenty of reason to believe the Pirates can make a playoff push in September.  

There is no harm in removing Polanco from the lineup considering just how ineffective he has been. Instead, it is a great move that can pay great dividends for the Pirates come September, when the organization will be seeking another trip back to the playoffs.  

*Statistics Courtesy of Baseball Reference

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Phillies’ A.J. Burnett Becomes 1st Pitcher with 12-Strikeout Game for 5 Teams

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett struck out 12 batters in Monday's 3-2 win over the Washington Nationals, thus becoming the first player in major league history to record a 12-K game with five different teams, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Burnett has accomplished the feat with each team he's played for: the Phillies (2014), Pittsburgh Pirates (2012-13), New York Yankees (2009-11), Toronto Blue Jays (2006-08) and Florida Marlins (1999-2005).

Monday's was perhaps the most surprising of Burnett's 12-strikeout performances, as the right-hander hasn't been particularly effective this season. Not only does he own a 7-14 record and 4.30 ERA, but Burnett's 7.9 K/9 would be his lowest since 2010 (7.0) if it were to hold up.

In four previous starts against the Nationals this season, Burnett compiled just 17 strikeouts, failing to top seven in any of the outings.

Additionally, the Nats are the hottest team in baseball, having won 12 of their last 14 games, even after Monday's loss.

That said, the Nationals do have a pit of a weakness for the punch-out, with their 21.1 strikeout percentage ranking 24th in the majors. Of the six teams behind them, only the division-rival Atlanta Braves (22.5 percent) and Miami Marlins (23.3 percent) have a realistic shot at the playoffs.

As for Burnett, the 37-year-old hurler is widely expected to retire after the season, after he contemplated the move heading into this year. Among active players, Burnett's 2,337 career strikeouts trail only the 2,437 compiled by injured New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia.

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5 Players St. Louis Cardinals Will Promote in September

With less than a week until rosters expand from 25 to 40 on September 1, the St. Louis Cardinals will welcome a handful of reinforcements as they enter the final month of the regular season in a jam-packed National League Central Division race. 

A club looking for an extra jolt will benefit from the added depth and talent when rosters expand. 

Manager Mike Matheny isn't going to balk at an opportunity to fortify his roster. 

"I think everybody is pretty clear in our system what the priorities are, and the priority is winning here," he told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. "If we have need, we go get players who can come and help us. They do a great job of adapting in our system to fill holes."

The Cardinals certainly have need for players who can provide a spark of energy. The most glaring void is the bench, where Cardinals pinch hitters rank 13th in the majors (sixth in the NL) with their combined .234 average. 

That said, here are five players the Cardinals will promote come September based on their success at Triple-A Memphis this season: 

 

Randal Grichuk, Outfielder

Randal Grichuk spent nearly a month with the parent club and never found his groove at the plate. He hit just .136 in 19 games. However, the 23-year-old outfielder has made the most of his time in Memphis this season. He's hitting .259 with 71 RBI and a .311 on-base percentage in over 100 games with the Redbirds. More impressive is Grichuk's team-leading 25 home runs this season.

The Cardinals could use Grichuk's bat in late-game situations. Matheny could also utilize Grichuk by giving him a chance or two to keep starting outfielders Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos fresh. 

 

Pete Kozma, Shortstop  

With Jhonny Peralta, Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong eating up innings in the Cardinals infield, Pete Kozma was the odd man out. He eventually landing in Memphis. 

But with Mark Ellis on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle, the Cardinals need depth in the infield. 

For the season, Kozma has 30 extra-base hits to his credit, including eight home runs. 

Kozma may only be hitting .253 at Memphis this season, but he brings playoff experience. And that's always a plus for any team. 

 

Stephen Piscotty, Outfielder

Stephen Piscotty is the most major league-ready outfielder in the Cardinals organization, and he's more than deserving of a promotion in September. 

The 23-year-old has a knack for getting on base with his .348 on-base percentage this season. He's also gone deep eight times and driven in 65. 

When it comes overall production at the plate, the Cardinals need Piscotty's presence on the bench, if not in occasionally in the lineup. 

 

Xavier Scruggs, First Base 

With Matt Adams the everyday Cardinals first baseman, Xavier Scruggs won't be called up permanently for the foreseeable future. However, his overall stats this season at Triple-A Memphis warrant a well-deserved promotion. At the very least, the Cardinals should give the 26-year-old minor leaguer a few at-bats in September.

Scruggs, who is hitting .280 for the Redbirds this season, has launched 20 homers and driven in 83. Moreover, over his last 10 games, Scruggs is hitting .297 with a pair of homers, four RBI and eight runs scored.

 

Tim Cooney, Pitcher  

You can never have enough pitching, which is why the Cardinals need to take a long look at 23-year-old lefty Tim Cooney.

Cooney (13-6, 3.55 ERA) is having a stellar season for Memphis. He leads the team in wins and innings pitched (152).

The Cardinals could utilize Cooney by putting him in the bullpen to eat up innings in order to keep the other relievers fresh. 

"We just push forward with the best that we have," Matheny told Langosch. And these five players will certainly help the Cardinals in the final month of the regular season. 

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Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg Records 1st 200-Strikeout Season of Career

Though he gave up five runs and lasted just four innings, Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg recorded his 200th strikeout of the season during Sunday's 14-6 win over the San Francisco Giants.

He entered Sunday's contest with 198 strikeouts, looking to hit 200 for the first time in his career. The 26-year-old righty reached the milestone in the second inning when he caught Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong looking.

Strasburg had already surrendered a pair of runs at that point, and he'd later exit with a 5-2 deficit, only to watch his teammates storm back for a blowout victory. With no part in the decision, Strasburg still owns a 10-10 record, though his ERA (3.59) and WHIP (1.20) took a hit.

The right-hander became the fifth pitcher to hit the 200-strikeout mark this year, joining David Price (221), Max Scherzer (209), Corey Kluber (205) and Felix Hernandez (204), all of whom play in the American League.

Strasburg's closest competitors for the National League strikeout crown are Johnny Cueto (191) and Clayton Kershaw (184), the only two remaining candidates for Cy Young honors.

While his other statistics have been a bit disappointing this year, Strasburg is already tied for ninth place on the Nationals/Expos single-season strikeout list, with his 202 matching the total accumulated by Floyd Youmans in 1986.

Pedro Martinez, who struck out 305 batters in 1997, is safely perched atop said list. However, with Bill Stoneman (251 in 1977) sitting well below Martinez in second place, Strasburg has a shot to grab the No. 2 spot on the list.

It will take an impressive effort, as Strasburg needs 50 more strikeouts to pass Stoneman and will likely make just six, or perhaps seven, more starts this season. The NL strikeout crown is a much easier goal, though Kershaw is closing in fast.

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Yankees’ Jacoby Ellsbury Records 1,000th Career Hit

New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury recorded the 1,000th hit of his career in Monday's 8-1 win over the Kansas City Royals, per MLB Milestones on Twitter.

Entering the game with 998 career hits, the 30-year-old outfielder singled off Royals pitcher James Shields to open the contest but then went hitless in his his next two at-bats. Facing Shields for a fourth time in the seventh inning, Ellsbury laced an RBI single to right field, reaching 1,000 career hits while extending the Yankees' lead to 4-1.

The speedy outfielder then made No. 1,001 count, hitting a two-run homer off Royals reliever Francisley Bueno in the top of the ninth inning. With 11 homers this season, Ellsbury already has the second-best single-season total of his career, trailing only the 32 that he shockingly hit for the Boston Red Sox in 2011.

Set to turn 31 on Sept. 11, Ellsbury is only now reaching 1,000 career hits in his eighth season because of the number of games he's lost to injury. Following his late-season 2007 debut, Ellsbury averaged just 113.7 games per season for the Red Sox from 2008-2013. He logged just 18 games in 2010 and 74 in 2012 sandwiched around his outlier near-MVP season in 2011.

Though it may take a while for the injury-prone label to wear off, Ellsbury has played in 126 of the Yankees' first 129 games this season after playing 134 games for the rival Red Sox last year.

The early career injuries killed Ellsbury's chances of ever reaching 3,000 hits, but 2,000 should be doable.

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Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton Becomes 12th Player with 150 Homers at Age 24

Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton hit his 150th career home run in Monday's 7-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels, thus becoming the 12th player in major-league history with 150 homers through his age-24 season, per MLB Stat of the Day.

Stanton, who turns 25 in November, hit his milestone homer in the fourth inning off Angels reliever Cory Rasmus, lining a ball well over the left-center-field fence in Anaheim for a 428-foot blast. The three-run homer helped Miami get back to .500, with a 65-65 record leaving them three games back of the San Francisco Giants for the second wild-card spot.

Stanton's 33 home runs are tops in the National League this season, four ahead of the 29 hit by Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. With the next closest challengers being New York Mets first baseman Lucas Duda (26) and Atlanta Braves outfielder Justin Upton (25), Stanton has an excellent chance to lead the league in homers for the first time in his career.

Among players who started their careers in the expansion era (since 1961), Stanton—at 24 years, 290 days—is the sixth-fastest to reach 150 homers, per ESPN Stats & Info. The expansion-era record belongs to Andruw Jones (24 years, 158 days), who is followed by Ken Griffey Jr. (24-180), Albert Pujols (24-212), Alex Rodriguez (24-255) and Johnny Bench (24-288).

Off to an historically fast start in his young career, Stanton is already just four home runs away from Dan Uggla's franchise record of 154.

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