Hottest team: Marlins (7-1 last seven, 13-3 last 16)
The Fish have climbed three games over .500 for the first time in 2017 after completing a sweep of the Padres. Giancarlo Stanton crushed his 50th homer to snap a 2-2 tie in the 8th, as if the run they’re on is destined by some force of nature. Miami swept its second consecutive home series and improved to 10-1 at Marlins Park in August with a single game remaining, but they’re now going on the road to continue their unlikely playoff push.
Because it doesn’t get terribly crowded at the yard down in Miami, the Marlins were actually just as good out of the suitcase as they were at home until this month, which should serve them well since their final road trip of the season takes to Arizona and Colorado, the teams currently residing in the wild card slots they’re attempting to chase down. Miami is just 2-5 at Nationals Park this season, but have managed to avoid being swept in each of their first two trips. They’ll look to get off to a good start in the series behind Jose Urena (12-5, 3.68 ERA), who is unbeaten thus far this month. Max Scherzer (12-5, 2.25) returns from a stint on the disabled list due to neck inflammation . Stanton has homered twice in 15 career at-bats against Scherzer, batting .267, but the Fish have managed just two earned runs in 16 innings over three starts thus. Scherzer has held Miami to a .127 average thus far.
Coldest team: Royals (0-4 last four)
Normally it takes a longer losing streak to make this category, but considering the Royals haven’t scored since Thursday, we’ll make an exception. Since rallying to stun Colorado on Eric Hosmer’s walk-off 3-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, Kansas City has actually scored one fewer run than that blast provided despite 36 innings worth of at-bats. They’ll take a 34-inning scoreless stretch into tonight’s home date against the Rays. This group dug itself a hole by struggling at the plate, so it’s no surprise that they’ve now been shut out an MLB-high 13 times and are back under .500 after a scoreless run through what was probably the most important series of their season. They’ll hope to find a breakthrough against Tampa Bay’s Austin Pruitt, a rookie who they’ve only seen as a reliever back on May 8. Pruitt gave up three runs in two innings, but only one of them was earned.
Hottest pitcher: Luis Severino, Yankees (11-5, 3.10 ERA)
The Yankees have won eight of nine starts that their 23-year-old righty, increasing the likelihood that manager Joe Girardi would go with him over Masahiro Tanaka in a winner-take-all wild card game. You can’t argue with the results, especially since the Dominican righty has allowed one earned run or fewer in seven of the last eight. Currently third in the AL in ERA (3.10) and WHIP (1.10) and fourth in strikeouts with 183, Severino gets an opportunity to demonstrate how he’d respond in a big moment by squaring off with former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (12-4, 2.65) and the defending AL champs, who have outscored opponents 33-6 over their current four-game winning streak. Kluber is 9-2 with a 1.87 ERA since June 1, so he’s worthy of this category too. This is the type of matchup we’d see in a Game 1 of an ALDS or ALCS. Bookmakers have this as a toss-up and have set the total at 7.5.
Coldest pitcher: Chris Tillman, Orioles (1-7, 7.75 ERA)
Despite being banished to the bulllpen after consecutive starts where he was roughed up for 15 runs (13 earned), the veteran righty put in over five inningsof work against the Angels last time out and is back in the rotation when necessary. Unfortunately for Baltimore, the Birds have dropped seven of the last eight games in which he’s made an appearance, his ERA is astronomical and he comes off a game where he walked a season-high six batters. Can things get worse? You know the answer to that is always yes. Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Danny Valencia are a combined 26-for-69 (.377) with five home runs and 15 RBI.
Biggest OVER run: Cubs (7-3-1 last 11)
If it weren’t for that triple play they were unfortunate enough to have go against them, Chicago would’ve been a part of another game to the high side. Instead, the Cubs lost 6-3 and actually dropped a series in Philadelphia, finishing their six-game road trip at 3-3. Chicago averaged just two runs per game in its defeats and 13 in victories, which makes it hard to anticipate just how they’ll react to returning to Wrigley Field on what may be a rainy night. Lefty Mike Montgomery (4-6, 3.43) spun a scoreless six innings last time out, while Pirates righty Trevor Williams pitched eight shutout innings to help foil Rich Hill’s masterpiece. This over run may be in trouble.
Biggest UNDER run: Rockies (7-2 last nine, 16-6 last 22)
Colorado’s six-game road trip is finally over and it managed to win three of the last four. The Rockies have managed over four runs in a single game only three times in the last 19 games, and they needed a great effort from Jon Gray and the bullpen just to survive the latest low-scoring effort in Sunday’s 3-0 win. Their cushion for that second NL wild card remained just 3.5 games over Milwaukee thanks to a pair of upsets over the Dodgers, so the pressure to start swinging the bats better is certainly a factor. Colorado went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position in Atlanta and have faced seeing key cogs like Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story suffer through prolonged slumps. Today’s series opener against the Tigers kicks off a nine-game homestand that features division rivals Arizona and San Francisco coming through town next, but there’s no chance anyone is looking ahead or concentrating on anything other than busting out of their collective funk at the plate. Getting back home may help, as may the presence of Detroit righty Jordan Zimmermmann (7-11, 6.11), who has surrendered seven earned runs in three straight starts.
Matchup to watch: Indians at Yankees
Beyond the Kluber-Severino matchup that gets to be the best thing about Monday night’s baseball card, there’s also the fun of watching Joe Girardi and Terry Francona play chess.
These games are probably going to be lengthy and feature a lot of bullpen work, which should work in the Yankees favor but may not be as lopsided as one would think. Although New York has assembled the deepest, most high quality bullpen in baseball, some of the pieces have been off of late. Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and David Robertson have each made pitches the Yankees wish they could have back. The Tribe won’t have Andrew Miller available since he’s on the DL, so they’re relying on Kluber and tomorrow’s starter, Trevor Bauer, to work deep into games so that they dont have to be reliant on a depleted bullpen.
Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley remain out, while the Yanks just got Starlin Castro and Greg Bird back in the lineup. This is a clear opportunity for New York to put together an impressive series that sends the message that they’re prepared to play with the AL’s elite and won’t be scrambling with the teams fighting for the second playoff start. Managing a young team, it’s important for Girardi to get them to believe while also ensuring the atmosphere in the Bronx becomes an advantage.
Despite not being the healthier team, the Indians have been dominant of late and will throw their ace out there first. From Cleveland’s standpoint, if it can start planting seeds of doubt in the Yankees minds by getting the better of them in a series just before September, it could come in handy next month.