While much of the focus last offseason was on the trade that sent Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins to the Yankees, there was another deal involving Miami that has turned out to have quite an impact on the postseason race.
Christian Yelich was sent from the Marlins to Milwaukee in late January, and his second-half surge at the plate has the Brewers in good position to play on into October. If the season ended now, Milwaukee would be the National League’s top wild card, and the division title is still in play for the Brewers, who trail the Cubs by only 2½ games in the NL Central. Milwaukee can thank Yelich, who is hitting .343 with a .700 slugging percentage since the All-Star break.
There’s been some discussion lately about whether a pitcher might win the NL MVP award, and that’s in part because the top position players haven’t really distinguished themselves. But Yelich’s work down the stretch for a team in contention has been impressive. The Brewers gave up a highly regarded prospect in Lewis Brinson to acquire Yelich. So far it’s working out nicely.
Milwaukee ranks in the middle of the pack in the NL in both runs and ERA, and the bullpen that was so stellar early this season can only do so much. Despite their flaws, the Brewers have won 17 of their last 25 games, solidifying their postseason chances at a time when teams like the Phillies and Diamondbacks have stumbled.
Elsewhere around the majors:
The Cleveland Indians clinched their third straight AL Central title Saturday, becoming the first team this season to win a division. It was almost a year to the day since last season’s Indians clinched. Cleveland secured the 2017 AL Central crown on Sept. 16, the day after the team’s historic 22-game winning streak was snapped.
The Indians won 102 games last season but lost in the Division Series. This year’s team can’t finish any better than 96-66 and will likely have the worst record of any American League playoff team, but Cleveland is certainly good enough to beat anyone in a short series.
The Indians will likely open the playoffs against either Houston or Oakland.
Credit Tyler Austin for the hustle. During an otherwise nondescript matchup Sunday between the Twins and Royals — who are a combined 58 games under .500 — the Minnesota first baseman made a running catch in foul ground and then went tumbling over a railing near the dugout. Austin also homered to help the Twins win 9-6.
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Like the Indians, the Los Angeles Dodgers have slipped a bit after cruising through the 2017 regular season. Unlike Cleveland, the Dodgers are in a division that’s good enough to make them pay. So Los Angeles still has a fight on its hands just to make the postseason. If the Dodgers do get in, they can look back on Saturday night’s game at St. Louis as one of the key moments. That’s when Yasiel Puig hit three home runs to lift Los Angeles over the Cardinals 17-4.
The Cardinals rebounded with a 5-0 victory Sunday night, knocking the Dodgers a half-game behind Colorado atop the NL West. Los Angeles is tied with St. Louis for the second wild card.