With Milwaukee having won 15 of their last 17 games and the Cubs on a six-game losing streak, the last week of the season will be deprived of some of the drama it could have had. The NL playoff spots are largely locked up with the Cubs four games back of the Brewers who hold the second NL wild card spot and who are a half-game back of the Nats for the top Wild card spot. The Brewers trail the Cardinals by 3.5 games in the Central, but that’s the complete NL playoff picture.

Things are tighter over in the AL with the A’s, Rays and Indians battling for the two wild card spots. Oakland has a 1.5-game lead on Tampa who has a half-game lead on Cleveland. Tampa has that half-game lead because they completed a comeback against the Red Sox last night. The Sox led 4-0 after the top half of the fourth, but the Rays erased that lead and then some with a six-run bottom half. The Astros and Yankees also remain in a heated battle for the best record in the league. The Astros have a half-game lead and will travel to Seattle and Los Angeles this week while New York will travel to Tampa and Texas.

Pitching Performance of the Day

With Monday being a short, five-game slate, we’re light on options here. Patrick Corbin was solid with 17 swinging strikes generated in a one-run, six inning win, but we’re going to go a bit off the board here and highlight a reliever. In the seventh inning of that Rays comeback win, Nick Anderson generated seven swinging strikes in his one inning of work in which he allowed one hit and struck out two.

Anderson was traded from Miami to Tampa this season and made his first appearance as a member of the Rays on August 1. Since that time, you could make the case than Anderson has been the best reliever in baseball. In 20 innings pitched since his Tampa debut he has a 49.3-percent K-BB% and 1.08 SIERA, both of which lead the league among qualified relievers in that time frame. His 23.7-percent swinging strike rate as a Ray is second among relievers behind only Liam Hendricks. Anderson turned 29 in July, has never pitched in the major leagues before this season, and is pitching like the best reliever in the game right now. Bizarre.

Hitting Performance of the Day

Two players hit two home runs on Monday night. One was Austin Hays who had eight plate appearances in a 15-inning game, four of which ended in a strikeout. The other was Jorge Alfaro who went 2-for-4 with a walk and five RBI in addition to his two homers. We’d love to talk about Alfaro’s big night as part of a late season surge that portends good things to come next season, but sadly that isn’t the case. Alfaro was league average in the first half but had a 78 wRC+ in the second half entering Monday. The five strikeout-less plate appearances last night brought his strikeout rate on the year down to an even one-third. Despite all that, you can enjoy watching Alfaro hit his first career grand slam, which was the first one the Mets had allowed this season.



What to Watch for Today

As we come down the stretch, the MVP battles remain interesting. In each league you have a player who leads the league in fWAR but will not play again this season, Mike Trout in the AL and Christian Yelich in the NL. 

Were Alex Bregman to maintain his WAR-per-game pace he has been on this season, he would finish the year at 8.1 fWAR, exactly half a win behind Trout. With the Astros potentially ending the year with the best record in the league and Trout only playing 134 games on a bad Los Angeles team, it is possible voters don’t give the MVP to the most talented player in Trout, though not likely. Bregman would need to have a narrative-changing monster final week to overcome Trout.

Over in the NL, Cody Bellinger could end up with the same 8.1 WAR mark Yelich is at or at least come damn close to it as he currently sits at 7.8. With that gap being narrower than the one between Bregman and Trout, the healthy Bellinger is likely the favorite. It’s hard to say whether Milwaukee’s recent surge is good or bad for Yelich’s case. On one hand he only played in the first few wins of their 15-out-of-17 stretch. But on the other, he could end the season as the NL WAR leader on a playoff team.