Big League Stew - MLB

The Juice: Already? Astros officially eliminated from postseasonNine innings and nine items to get you going. Ladies and gentleman of the Stew, take a sip of morning Juice.

1. Be gone with you! We're not even within a week of the calendar flipping to September, but the Houston Astros have already tumbled into an early grave. A 9-5 loss to the Colorado Rockies, combined with Milwaukee's doubleheader split in Pittsburgh earned Brad Mills'(notes) bunch a mathematical elimination from the 2011 playoff chase.

And all while we can still wear white to summer picnics! For shame.

The Astros are currently 42-86 and on pace for 109 losses. That'd be the most in baseball since the 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks lost 111 games. In case you're wondering who's next to get the assured go-ahead for booking tee times, the Baltimore Orioles' elimination number is nine, while the Florida Marlins' measures at 11.

2. Slumping snakes:  Speaking of the D'Backs, this isn't how you unseat a defending champion. Despite San Francisco's recent woes, Arizona is managing to do them one worse. A 4-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on Monday night brought the team's loss streak to six, though they still own a one-game lead in the NL West over the Giants. They've scored only seven runs in their last six games.

3. V is for Victory: ... and also Justin Verlander(notes), who became the first 19-game winner in the majors by going seven solid innings in Detroit's 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. He's won his last seven starts and now has a chance to notch his first 20-win season before Sept. 1.

"Do I know where I'm at?" Verlander said. "Of course I do, but I've said time and time again, those things, totals, season stats, are meant to be looked at at the end of the season."

OK, that's fine. But can we take off the blinders and note that ...

4. Growing throne:  ... the Tigers' lead in the AL Central now measures at a season-high 5.5 games? An off day from the Chicago White Sox and a 3-2 loss by the Cleveland Indians to the Seattle Mariners gives them that edge with just 35 games to play.

5. That's amore!: A three-run homer by Mike Napoli(notes) in the sixth inning keyed the Texas Rangers to a 4-0 win over the Boston Red Sox.  As has been mentioned a few times this season, think the Angels lineup misses Napoli this year? His Fangraphs' WAR stands at a career-high 3.6 so far and the Halos, who were off on Monday, sit 4.5 games behind the Rangers.

6. Sittin' Starlin: See if this makes sense: Mike Quade gave Starlin Castro(notes) a "mental day off" on Monday for the mental day off he took on Sunday. Coming up with a PC term for getting your butt benched is taking this all a little too far, no? At any rate, the rest of the Chicago Cubs' offense just took a plain, old day off, stranding 15 runners in a 3-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Fredi Gonzalez's crew has won five straight.

7. Bruised birds: There's going to be a lot of second-guessing of Tony La Russa in St. Louis this Tuesday morning. The Cards' skipper yanked a dominant Chris Carpenter after he hit the Dodgers' Juan Rivera(notes) to start the top of the ninth and then Aaron Miles(notes) tied the game with a triple off Fernando Salas(notes). He later scored the winning run in a 2-1 comeback triumph for Los Angeles.

8. Smooth sailing?: Though the Brewers won their 13th straight game over the Pirates in the day's first game at PNC Park, they couldn't extend the streak to 14 and dropped the nightcap by a score of 9-2. No matter. That Cardinals collapse put St. Louis nine games behind the Brewers in the NL Central, which gives them the biggest lead in any division.

9. An A for August: Not a bad month for Cliff Lee(notes). He's 4-0 with a 0.58 ERA this month after pitching seven scoreless innings in Philly's 10-0 win over the New York Mets.

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