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MLB News and Notes: Looking Down The Stretch

With the trade deadline over, teams start to focus on the final quarter of the season and the push for the playoffs. With that in mind, let’s start with a look around the league midway through August.

A Look Around The League

American League East: The American League East seems to be all but sewn up. The Yankees, despite all of their injuries, hold a commanding 8.5-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite the disparity in the division lead, though, the Rays would still be in the playoffs if the season ended today, as they hold the second Wild Card spot. As for the Red Sox, last year’s World Series winner, they sit 16 games back in the division and 7.5 back in the Wild Card race.

American League Central: This is by far the most exciting of the AL races. After the Twins dominated the division all season long, they now find themselves in a tie for first place with the Cleveland Indians. If the season ended today, they would both be in as the loser of the division would be the first Wild Card team. Still, for the surging Indians, all things seem to be going right, and the Twins might be in trouble.

American League West: Like the AL East, this one is pretty solidly in hand by the division-leading Houston Astros. They currently hold a 10-game lead on the Oakland A’s and have the division all but wrapped up. For the A’s, they are still fighting for a Wild Card spot, though, as they sit just 1.5 games back for the second spot.

National League East: The Atlanta Braves currently sit comfortably in the driver’s seat in this division, but I am sure they would love to expand their lead even more. Currently, they sit 6.5 games ahead of the Washington Nationals. For the Nationals, they currently hold the first Wild Card spot while the surprising New York Mets sit just a game out of the second Wild Card spot.

National League Central: This is still anyone’s division. While the Cubs are in first place, the Cardinals sit just two games back, and the Brewers are 2.5 games back. Even the Reds, against all odds, are only seven games back. As it sits now, St. Louis holds the second Wild Card spot, while the Brewers sit just a half-game behind. The Reds are five games out of the second Wild Card.

National League West: This one has been decided for a long time. At 79-41, the Dodgers hold a whopping 19-game lead on the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks. This is more about how good the Dodgers are than how bad the Diamondbacks or Giants are. Arizona sits just three games back of the second Wild Card spot while the Giants sit 3.5 games back.

Mets Sign Panik Amidst Surge

After being designated for assignment by the San Francisco Giants last Tuesday, Joe Panik has found a new home. The second baseman signed with the surging New York Mets. After trading for Scooter Gennett, the Giants didn’t have a need for Panik, and, after not being able to trade him, decided to release him outright. On the season, Panik hit just .235/.310/.317 for the Giants with three home runs and 27 runs batted in. In two games thus far with the Mets, he is 1 for 5 with a run scored.

Diamondbacks Designate Holland

A former All-Star closer has had a long fall from grace and now finds himself on the unemployment line. Last week, the Arizona Diamondbacks announced that they designated for assignment closer Greg Holland. Despite starting the season respectably, he has not been able to maintain his success. On the season, he is 1-2 with a 4.54 ERA and 1.374 WHIP. He has 17 saves and 41 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings of work. Still owed a decent amount of money in both salary and bonuses, it is unlikely that he is claimed, and more likely he finds his way to free agency with Arizona still on the hook for his contract.

Cubs Sign Lucroy

While Jonathan Lucroy may no longer be the All-Star that he once was, he is exactly what the Chicago Cubs need right now. In a series of unfortunately-timed events, the Cubs went from having three catchers on their roster to just one. After Willson Contreras returned from the injured list, the Cubs traded Martin Maldonado to the Houston Astros. Shortly after that trade, though, Contreras was once again injured, which left just Victor Caratini on the roster for the Cubs.

While Taylor Davis performed admirably in a backup role, the Cubs were looking for more experience and found it in Lucroy, who was recently released by the Los Angeles Angels. This season Lucroy is hitting .245/.313/.373 with seven home runs, 32 runs batted in and 28 runs scored.

Prior to being released, he had just returned from the injured list after suffering a concussion and a broken nose when he was plowed at home plate by the Astros’ Jake Marisnick. For Lucroy, it gives him a new opportunity on a contending team, while the Cubs get the veteran backstop to help fill the gap until Contreras is able to return.

No One Seizing The Opportunity In Atlanta

The closer spot is wide open for Atlanta relievers, but it doesn’t appear that anyone wants the position. The Braves went out and made a flurry of deals at the trade deadline, bringing in relief pitchers Shane Greene, Mark Melancon, and Chris Martin. All three of these players have struggled, though.

After being anointed the closer on Friday, Melancon gave up four earned runs on Saturday. In fact, after five games apiece with the Braves, Greene has an 11.25 ERA, Martin a 10.38 ERA and Melancon a 9.82 ERA. That isn’t exactly what you would want from your big trade-deadline acquisitions.┬áThe Braves hold a comfortable lead in the division, but as they look to the playoffs, they can only hope that someone steps up their game sooner than later.

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