September Loves Yasmani Grandal

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Though he’s always been able to hit for power and reach base, hitting for average wasn't Yasmani Grandal’s strong suit. He went 34-181, good for a .181 average, before being placed on the injured list. However, since returning from the injured list after recovering from a torn tendon in his left knee, he carries a .379 average through 58 at-bats.

He’s also putting the ball in play lately, and the results have been interesting. Since coming back from the injured list on August 27, the backstop has a .349 BABIP, compared to a .189 BABIP from the beginning of the season, leading to when he was sidelined.

Grandal is usually known for two outcomes: either walking, or going deep. Grandal’s walk rate has always been outstanding, as he’s known to be a patient hitter that isn’t afraid to let a few pitches pass before finding one he likes. His 2021 walk rate is one of the best in the league -- a career-high 22.9%. He also carries a respectable chase rate of 15.5%. His K% has also gone down 7.3% from 2020. He’s also making hard contact; his hard-hit rate is in the top 3% of the league. The White Sox are generally very good fastball hitters, and Grandal is no exception - he carries a .441 wOBA against velocity. He has a .400 wOBA against breaking pitches, which should force pitchers to be more creative when facing him.

Though his performance was also a topic in last week’s column, the White Sox catcher earned himself a spot in this week’s breakdown, too. He hit singles in four consecutive games this week, including two RBI singles. On Sunday, the catcher homered and walked while helping the White Sox to a 7-2 victory over the Rangers. His home run was his 22nd of the season, and the fourth in the month of September. He’s now also homered in back-to-back games as he also went deep on Saturday.

The cards have lined up well for Grandal this year, and he seems even stronger after returning from injury. He’s a traditionally good hitter in September (.812 career OPS), and he continues that tradition in 2021. He has been absolutely outstanding this month, with an OPS of 1.084, and batting average of .333. Grandal also has a season -- and career high -- wRC+ of 160, currently the highest of anyone on the White Sox through 320 plate appearances, with just 13 games left in the regular season.

Notable Performances

Eddie Rosario hit for the cycle on Sunday at Oracle Park, for his first career cycle, and the fourth cycle of the 2021 season. His final hit was a leadoff single in the top of the ninth. Perhaps even the most impressive: he completed the cycle on five total pitches, the fewest in league history. Rosario and Freddie Freeman are also the first Braves teammates to hit for the cycle in the same season; Rosario is also the eighth Brave to hit for the cycle in franchise history. As of Sunday evening, the Braves have a 1.5-game lead in the National League East.

With their sweep of the Padres finalized on Sunday, the Cardinals have won eight straight games. Tyler O’Neill smacked a two-run go-ahead bomb in the eighth inning on Saturday night; on Sunday, he continued the momentum by scoring three runs, and going 1-for-2 at the plate with a stolen base. The 26-year-old outfielder carries a .385/.467/.769 line in 30 plate appearances over his last seven games, including three home runs, 10 RBI, 10 runs scored, and two steals. Nolan Arenado has also been excellent during this stretch; in this past week, he has a .259/.333/.481 line, with five runs scored, two home runs, and five RBI. With the series sweep, the Cardinals are still very much in the running for the second NL Wild Card spot, with a three game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies.

For the first time in franchise history, the Toronto Blue Jays have four players with 25+ homers and 90+ RBI. Bo Bichette, Marcus Semien, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez remain the core of a frighteningly good lineup. On Wednesday, Bichette smacked a three-run homer in the first inning, later adding on a sacrifice fly and an RBI single. Guerrero smashed his 46th round-tripper of the year on Friday, a 399-foot blast to overtake the MLB lead; he’s now two homers ahead of Shohei Ohtani. With their 5-3 win over the Twins on Sunday, the Blue Jays now have a one and a half game cushion for the second AL Wild Card spot. The Red Sox have a one-game lead, for the first spot.

Gavin Lux hit not once, not twice, but thrice on Sunday, in the Dodgers’ 8-5 win over the Reds. The 23-year-old has recorded four multi-hit efforts over his last seven games. This week, he’s amassed quite the triple slash line: he’s 11-for-22 (.500)/.577/.773 with six runs scored, one homer, eight RBI, and as many walks (three) as strikeouts, in 25 overall plate appearances. The Dodgers had their ticket to the playoffs punched on Wednesday; they’ll be headed to their ninth consecutive postseason, the longest streak in franchise history.

The Milwaukee Brewers are also headed to the postseason; they clinched a playoff spot on Saturday evening, after a 6-4 win over the Chicago Cubs. This marks the fourth straight postseason appearance for Milwaukee. Manny Pina homered twice, with Eduardo Escobar and Jace Peterson following suit. Much of Milwaukee’s success can be attributed to breakout performances over the year by Corbin Burnes, Adrian Houser, Omar Narvaez, and Willy Adames.

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Injury Report

Joey Gallo was removed from Saturday’s game with neck tightness, a day after one of his best performances in a Yankee uniform, where he went deep twice. He was not in Sunday's starting lineup. It’s unknown at this point if he’ll be out long, but for now, consider him day-to-day.

Jonathan Loaisiga began a throwing program on Friday, playing catch to start, and is hoping to return to the Yankees before the end of the 2021 season. He landed on the IL earlier this month due to a rotator cuff injury. He was successful this year, with a 2.25 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 66/15 K/BB ratio through 68 innings of work, before being sidelined.

A.J. Pollock suffered a grade two hamstring strain on September 5, but is scheduled to play in simulated games Monday at Camelback Ranch in Arizona. He appears to be making progress, and could return to the club as soon as this week.

Wander Franco did some hitting on the field on Friday, and has been ramping things back up. He could return from the injured list as soon as he's first eligible, on September 21. He’s been sidelined since September 11 due to tightness in his right hamstring.

Chris Bassitt will throw another bullpen session Monday, according to A’s manager Bob Melvin. It seems as if Bassitt will indeed make a return to the A’s rotation before the season ends. Whether or not he’ll be able to ramp his pitch count to a starter’s degree is questionable, but the A’s are still in a push for the playoffs, and his return would certainly help morale. He was struck in the face with a line drive on August 17, in Chicago.

Honor Roll

Corbin Burnes (6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 11 K on Saturday), Xander Bogaerts (3-for-5, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI on Saturday), Corey Kluber (6 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 4 K on Friday), Joey Gallo (3-for-4, 2 HR, 3 R on Friday), Alex Bregman (2-for-5, 1 R, 4 RBI, 1 BB on Thursday), Jordan Montgomery (5 2/3 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 12 K on Thursday), Robbie Ray (7 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 13 K on Wednesday), Andrew Benintendi (5-for-5, 4 RBI, 1 R on Wednesday), Drew Rasmussen (5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K on Tuesday), Adolis Garcia (3-for-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI on Tuesday), Logan Gilbert (6 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 9 K on Monday), Miguel Sano (3-for-5, HR, 2 RBI on Monday), Eric Lauer (5 1/3 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 8 K on Sunday), Garrett Hampson (3-for-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R on Sunday)

And that concludes yet another Week that Was, as the regular season draws closer to a thrilling close. Join us next week as more confirmed entries to the postseason become validated -- we will definitely see a few more ball clubs lock up spots within this upcoming week.