Jose Ramirez continued building his compelling AL MVP case, crushing a go-ahead two-run double off lefty Carlos Rodon -- making his first relief appearance since 2015 -- in the seventh inning Thursday, leading the Indians to a stunning four-game series sweep over the White Sox, with a remarkable 5-4 comeback victory. The 28-year-old infielder terrorized the White Sox’ pitching staff, providing a pair of game-winning hits in the pivotal four-game set. He set the tone with a three-run dinger on Monday, and also belted a three-run walk-off homer on Tuesday -- with lefty-masher Jordan Luplow mashing a walk-off homer on Wednesday -- before his latest heroics in the series finale. Ramirez has been sizzling at the dish over the last few weeks, hitting .375 (27-for-72) with 10 home runs and 22 RBI in 20 games this month.
The pivotal four-game sweep has reshaped the entire AL Central landscape, as the playoff-bound Indians find themselves just one game behind the second-place White Sox, and two games behind the division-leading Twins, with only three games remaining in the condensed 2020 campaign. The Tribe will square off against the cellar-dwelling Pirates, who own the worst record in baseball, this weekend. Meanwhile, the Twins will face off against the Reds, and the White Sox will lock horns with the cross-town rival Cubs. Speaking of the White Sox, they’re left with more questions than answers heading into the home stretch of the regular season after Thursday’s latest implosion. The puzzling decision by manager Rick Renteria to summon Rodon in a critical bases-loaded situation for his first appearance in nearly two months immediately backfired and resulted in their fifth consecutive loss. Chicago is headed back to the postseason for the first time since 2008, but they’ve dropped seven of their last 10 contests and extinguished any semblance of momentum they had built up over the last few weeks. They also might be without outfielder Eloy Jimenez for a few days after he was forced to exit Thursday’s loss due to soreness in his left foot. He’s considered day-to-day right now, but there’s a chance that he’s sidelined until next week. As former Yankees manager Joe Giradi famously said, “It’s not what you want.”
Clevinger Injury Clouds Padres Future
Hard-throwing right-hander Mike Clevinger was diagnosed with a sprained elbow Thursday after undergoing an MRI. According to Kevin Acee of The San Diego Union-Tribune, “the Padres are holding out hope Clevinger will pitch for them in the postseason, even as they privately acknowledge the odds are against it happening.” The 29-year-old righty was the highest-profile starter jettisoned at last month’s trade deadline, coming over to the upstart Padres from the Indians, in exchange for three major-league players and a trio of upper-echelon prospects.
After missing his previous start due to biceps tightness, Clevinger lasted just one inning against the Angels on Wednesday before exiting for precautionary reasons after experiencing similar discomfort. There's a chance that Clevinger could return for the Padres at some point next month, but it seems unlikely right now that he'll be able to pitch in the first round of the postseason. It’s a substantial loss for the Padres, who are slated to kick-off their first postseason series in 14 years next Wednesday. If they win that best-of-three series, they will advance to the NL Division Series the following week on October 6. Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported late Thursday that the Padres are targeting an NLCS return date for Clevinger. Whether he has a chance to return in some capacity to aid San Diego’s postseason run depends on when he resumes throwing over the next few days.
In his absence, the Padres will be forced to rely heavily on electrifying right-hander Dinelson Lamet, who has put together a remarkable 2020 campaign, posting a career-best 2.07 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 89/19 K/BB ratio across 65 1/3 innings. It also places additional pressure on soft-tossing righty Zach Davies, who has put together a phenomenal Padres debut, allowing three earned runs or fewer in 11 consecutive starts this season. There’s a chance that the Padres elect to lean heavily on their heavily-reinforced, veteran-laden bullpen, but they’ll likely need to get something out of uber-talented righty Chris Paddack, who has struggled in his sophomore campaign, recording a 4.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 55/11 K/BB ratio across 55 1/3 innings. Losing Clevinger for an extended period isn’t a crushing blow to the Padres’ postseason chances, but it amplifies the pressure on Lamet, Davies, Paddack, and their stable of bullpen arms.
Conforto’s Season Over; Cohen Tabs Alderson
After a valiant attempt to continue playing through left hamstring tightness, Michael Conforto’s long-awaited breakthrough campaign came to a premature end on Thursday, when he was officially placed on the 10-day injured list. He first experienced hamstring discomfort last Sunday, and attempted to return Wednesday, after sitting out a pair of games, yet the issue ended up resurfacing. The 27-year-old outfielder’s prodigious raw talent finally translated into all-around offensive production as he established new career-high marks in batting average and on-base percentage, finishing the truncated 2020 campaign with a stellar .322/.412/.515 triple-slash line with 40 runs scored, nine home runs and 31 RBI across 233 plate appearances. He even chipped in three stolen bases, for good measure. Per FanGraphs data, Conforto’s .401 weighted on-base average (wOBA) ranked 15th out of 145 qualified hitters this season. He’s eligible for salary arbitration for the third and final time this winter after completing his metamorphosis into a complete offensive stalwart and one of the better right fielders in the game. Per Statcast metrics, his overall defensive numbers slipped this year, but he graded out as an upper-echelon defensive right fielder last year. Simply put, there are zero deficiencies in his game anymore. Conforto has clearly established himself as a central cornerstone of the Mets future, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him land a massive long-term extension this offseason.
The Mets have been virtually eliminated from the postseason picture, with FanGraphs placing their odds at making the playoffs at a paltry 1.5 percent entering Thursday’s slate of games, but the next era in Mets history is beginning to take shape. New owner Steve Cohen, who has a purchase agreement in place to buy the franchise for roughly $2.475 billion, said Thursday that he plans to hire longtime major-league executive Sandy Alderson as the Mets’ next president if he is approved to take over ownership of the team. “If I am fortunate enough to be approved by Major League Baseball as the next owner of this iconic franchise, Sandy Alderson will become president of the New York Mets and will oversee all Mets baseball and business operations,” Cohen said Thursday in a statement obtained by the New York Post. “Sandy is an accomplished and respected baseball executive who shares my philosophy of building an organization and a team the right way. I am excited to have Sandy in a key leadership role with the Mets if my purchase of the team is approved. Let's Go Mets!”
Alderson served as general manager of the Mets from 2010 to 2018. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2015, he took a leave of absence in June 2018, after announcing that his cancer had returned. Instead of returning to New York, he was hired by the Athletics, where he previously spent 17 seasons as their vice president of baseball operations, as a senior adviser to baseball operations in January 2019. He’s well-known and well-regarded around the baseball world, and the thought is that his involvement might help sway any “no” votes to “yes” votes when it comes time for MLB owners to approve the sale of the Mets. Joel Sherman of the New York Post has reported that Cohen, who's worth close to $14 billion, plans to name himself chairman and CEO.
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Longtime Royal Gordon Announces Retirement
Royals outfielder Alex Gordon announced Thursday that he is retiring from baseball at the conclusion of the 2020 regular season this weekend. The second overall selection in the 2005 MLB Draft, Gordon spent his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, and played a central role in their World Series championship in 2015. His iconic game-tying home run off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 of the 2015 Fall Classic forced extra innings, propelled the Royals to an eventual 14-inning victory, and turned the tide of the entire series. The 36-year-old veteran began his professional career as a third baseman, and floundered at the big-league level for years before switching to left field and blossoming into the game’s elite defender at the position. He captured seven Gold Gloves -- along with a Platinum Glove in 2014 -- and has also recorded a major league-leading 101 outfield assists since 2010. A three-time All-Star selection, Gordon will be remembered as one of the franchise’s most iconic position players, and a central component of a mostly homegrown Royals’ core, which recorded back-to-back World Series appearances earlier this decade.
American League Quick Hits: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 3-for-4 with a solo homer as the Blue Jays clinched a playoff spot with a victory over the Yankees … Hyun-Jin Ryu fired seven shutout frames to pick up a win in that contest … Jordan Montgomery yielded three runs and also recorded eight strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings in the loss … George Springer, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve tallied three hits each and also homered in the Astros’ lopsided victory over the Rangers … Willie Calhoun went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and three RBI in the loss … Lance Lynn was shelled for 10 runs (nine earned) over 5 2/3 innings in a loss to the Astros … Hanser Alberto went 2-for-4 with three RBI and a stolen base, and Austin Hays went 3-for-5 with a solo homer in the Orioles’ blowout win over the Red Sox … Salvador Perez socked a three-run homer and Adalberto Mondesi collected four hits and a pair of stolen bases in the Royals’ win over the Tigers … Miguel Cabrera went 3-for-5 with a 450-foot two-run homer and three RBI in the losing effort … Jeimer Candelario exited Thursday’s game against the Royals due to tightness in his lower back … Renato Nunez was held out of the Orioles’ starting lineup on Thursday against the Red Sox with knee soreness … Jose Iglesias homered in his return to the Orioles’ lineup Thursday. He had been sidelined since taking a pitch off his left wrist last Saturday … Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters Thursday that rookie right-hander Deivi Garcia will likely start against the Marlins on Saturday … White Sox activated LHP Carlos Rodon and LHP Aaron Bummer from the 45-day injured list and also designated RHP Steve Cishek and LHP Ross Detwiler for assignment … Blue Jays activated RHP Nate Pearson from the 10-day injured list.
National League Quick Hits: Corbin Burnes left Thursday’s start against the Cardinals with lower back discomfort. The 25-year-old righty allowed three runs over 3 2/3 innings before exiting the contest. He’ll undergo testing in the next few days, and his status for the playoffs (if Milwaukee qualifies) should be updated in the coming days … Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos told MLB Network Radio Thursday that Max Fried (ankle) will be ready to pitch Game 1 of the playoffs. The 26-year-old southpaw was removed from Wednesday's start against the Marlins after just one inning for precautionary reasons after suffering a left ankle injury … Walker Buehler struck out six batters over four scoreless innings against the Athletics in his return to the Dodgers’ rotation after missing two weeks with a blister on his right hand … Corey Seager clobbered his 15th round-tripper of the season in the Dodgers’ win over the Athletics … Pablo Lopez recorded six strikeouts over five scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Braves … Dylan Carlson went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and three RBI to lead the Cardinals past the Brewers … Yadier Molina recorded his 2,000th career hit in that contest … Andrew Miller recorded a two-out save, his fourth of the season, in that one … Colin Moran, Josh Bell, Adam Frazier and Bryan Reynolds homered in the Pirates’ lopsided win over the Cubs … Chad Kuhl scattered two hits over seven shutout innings to pick up the win in that one-sided affair … Kevin Gausman racked up nine strikeouts over six innings in a no-decision against the Rockies … Daniel Bard tossed 2 2/3 scoreless frames in relief to pick up a win against the Giants … Robinson Chirinos went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBI to lead the Mets past the Nationals … David Peterson allowed one run over seven innings to pick up the win in that one … Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced Thursday that Clayton Kershaw will make his scheduled start on Friday against the Angels … Cardinals placed RHP Carlos Martinez on the 10-day injured list with a left oblique strain and also recalled RHP Johan Oviedo from their taxi squad … Trea Turner returned to the Nationals' starting lineup on Thursday against the Mets after sitting out Wednesday’s contest due to general soreness. The 27-year-old shortstop had started all but one of the team’s 57 games this season … Mike Yastrzemski (calf) remained absent from the Giants' starting lineup on Thursday, but was able to pinch hit later in the contest. The 30-year-old outfielder hadn’t appeared in a game since suffering a mild right calf strain last Thursday. He ran the bases on Thursday morning and appears to be progressing toward a full return entering the final weekend of the regular season … Ian Happ (ankle) and Kris Bryant (oblique) remained out of the Cubs' starting lineup on Thursday. Happ tweaked his ankle while running the bases on Wednesday night, though Cubs manager David Ross made it sound like his absence Thursday is more precautionary than anything. Bryant hasn't appeared in a game since exiting Monday night’s series opener against the Pirates with lower right oblique discomfort … Brewers placed RHP Freddy Peralta on the paternity list and recalled LHP Eric Lauer from the team’s alternate training site … Marlins activated OF Magneuris Sierra from the 10-day injured list.