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The Opener: AL West Race, Cobb, Santana

On the heels of an early-morning transaction, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:

1. AL West race tightens:

The AL West race tightened up yesterday, as the first-place Astros fell to the Orioles while the Mariners toppled the A’s and the Rangers bested the Red Sox. Houston holds the division lead as things stand, though their 84-68 record stands just half a game above their rivals’ identical 83-68 records. With the Rays already guaranteed a place in the postseason and the Blue Jays holding onto the second Wild Card spot as things stand, it’s wholly feasible that one of the three clubs contending for the AL West title misses the postseason when all is said and done. The Mariners, in particular, have total control over their playoff fate going forward; their final ten games come exclusively against Texas (three away, four at home) and Houston (three at home).

Seattle will send George Kirby (3.57 ERA) to the mound today to take on Oakland’s Joey Estes, who’ll be making his MLB debut. Veteran Jon Gray (4.05) will take the mound for Texas and square off against impressive young Boston righty Brayan Bello (3.71) in their contest. Houston will look to Cristian Javier (4.74) against Baltimore’s quietly excellent Kyle Bradish (3.12).

2. Cobb exits:

Giants right-hander Alex Cobb exited yesterday’s loss against the Diamondbacks just two pitches into the third inning due to a hip impingement. Cobb has been pitching through the issue since the middle of June, as noted by Evan Webeck of The Mercury News, and it’s unknown when or whether he’ll return to the mound this season with just 11 games left on the calendar. The Giants are rapidly falling out of the postseason race thanks to a 6-11 record in September. FanGraphs gives them just a 5.2% chance of making the playoffs at this point. Those odds figure to be even slimmer without Cobb, who pairs with Logan Webb as the only two regular starters San Francisco utilizes.

3. Santana approaching milestone:

As the Brewers close in on the NL Central crown, first baseman Carlos Santana is simultaneously closing in on a career milestone. The 37-year-old veteran currently sits at 299 career home runs after hitting his 21st home run of the season last week, and the slugger has 11 games left on the Milwaukee schedule in which he can become the 159th player in major league history to reach 300 homers. It would be an excellent capstone on a 2023 campaign that saw Santana reach the 20-homer mark for the first time since 2019, when he was an All-Star, received MVP votes, and won a Silver Slugger award. Since then, Santana has seen his production wane, hitting .215/.320/.373 (93 wRC+) while playing for five teams in four seasons.


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