Our top five ...
1. Shin-Soo Choo back to the DL. Oakland starter Ross Detwiler hit Choo on the upper left forearm, and the Rangers compared Choo's injury to the fracture Robinson Chirinos suffered earlier in the season, when he missed 60 days. So Choo -- who will be making his fourth trip to the DL -- could be out for the rest of the season, leaving the Rangers without an obvious choice to hit leadoff. Nomar Mazara, who replaced Choo in the game, may be the guy with his .338 OBP, but he doesn't run well and his OBP has hovered around .320 after a hot start in April. Rougned Odor has poor leadoff skills with a sub-.300 OBP. Elvis Andrus has hit lower in the order all season, but his current .346 OBP is his highest since 2012 and he hasn't hit leadoff regularly since 2010. This could also lead to another chance for Joey Gallo to get some at-bats (although Ryan Rua will get called up from Triple-A and not Gallo). Maybe Delino DeShields, last year's leadoff guy, gets another chance.
Another thing to watch for the Rangers down the stretch: Can they continue their clutch hitting? As Joe Sheehan pointed out in his Monday newsletter in regard to the team's 26-8 record in one-run games (which would be the highest winning percentage since 1900), "It's their offense, which is the best in the AL in hitting in high-leverage situations, that has been the driver of that 26-8 mark. In that way, the Rangers look more like the 2015 Twins than the 2012 Orioles."
"High-leverage" refers to situations when the games are closest. Here are the high-leverage numbers from Baseball-Reference for the top six teams entering Monday, and how that number compares to the team's overall OPS.
1. Cardinals: .811 OPS (+.040)
2. Reds: .809 OPS (+.100)
3. Rockies: .794 OPS (+.000)
4. Rangers: .778 OPS (+.027)
5. Indians: .778 OPS (+.007)
6. Tigers: .775 OPS (+.009)
The Reds have been insane in these situations and the Cardinals have been terrific, but while the Indians and Tigers have essentially hit the same, the Rangers' OPS goes up 27 points -- even higher if you remove the high-leverage situations from the totals. Is clutch hitting a thing? It has been huge for the Rangers. And it was again on Monday when Adrian Beltre erased a 2-1 deficit with a grand slam in the fifth -- a rally that began with Choo's unfortunate HBP.
2. Mariners win again, Angels lose again. Sticking with the AL West, the Mariners won for the 11th time in 13 games while the Angels lost their 11th in a row. Mike Trout belted his seventh career home run off Felix Hernandez -- a 440-foot shot to straightaway center -- but the game's key moment came when Trout did not face Hernandez. With the M's up 3-2 in the seventh, Felix walked Kole Calhoun with two outs to put runners at first and second. Optimal bullpen usage would demand that Mariners manager Scott Servias call on strikeout wizard Edwin Diaz, since this was clearly the game's deciding moment. If the middle relievers blow the lead, reserving Diaz for the save situation is pointless. Of course, this is why the setup guys deserve more credit, since they actually enter with guys on base.
Anyway, Seattle reliever Tom Wilhelmsen entered and the runners moved up on a passed ball on a 2-2 count. With the count now 3-2, the M's still pitched to Trout. He screamed a liner to deep left field, but Nori Aoki chased it down. Disaster avoided. Diaz would get the glory of the save by retiring noted MVP candidates Jett Bandy, Cliff Pennington and Nick Buss.
3. Who is Chad Green? The Yankees obtained the 25-year-old right-hander from the Tigers in the Justin Wilson trade in the offseason, and he was brilliant in a 1-0 victory over the Blue Jays, allowing two hits and recording 11 K's in six scoreless innings. Other than his pitch efficiency -- 104 pitches -- it was one of the more impressive starts by a Yankees rookie in a long time:
What a start it was for the Yankees rookie. pic.twitter.com/1kbPFKvrGU— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) August 16, 2016
Is Green the real deal? He entered the day having allowed eight home runs in 27⅓ innings, although this hasn't been an issue in Triple-A, where he allowed three home runs (and just 68 hits) in 94⅔ innings, posting a 1.52 ERA for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Keep in mind that Green has gone back and forth five times on the Triple-A shuttle, so he hasn't had a chance to develop a regular routine in the big leagues. He will now. Green's fastball averaged 94.8 mph on Monday, so this is a live arm with a fastball/curveball/slider combo.
His numbers in the Detroit system were nowhere near as impressive, as he allowed 170 hits in 148 innings in Double-A in 2014. Curiously, Baseball America didn't even rank him as one of Detroit's top 30 prospects before the trade. Still, there's some clear upside here and somebody for Yankees fans to enjoy watching down the stretch.
4. That Jayson Werth contract wasn't a complete disaster after all. The Nationals beat the Rockies 5-4 as the bullpen tossed five scoreless innings in relief of Max Scherzer, who labored through a Coors Field special with 97 pitches in just four innings. One key for the Nats has been the play of Werth:
Werth is hitting .255/.345/.455, has played in 105 of the team's 117 games, and along with leadoff hitter Trea Turner gives the Nationals a nice top of the order in front of Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper. Remember when Werth signed that seven-year, $126 million contract before the 2011 season? It was heavily criticized at the time, mostly because it covered Werth's age-32 through -38 seasons (he still has one year remaining). He had a poor first season, an injury-riddled second season when he played just 81 games, and then played well in 2013 and 2014. Last year was a mess, however, as he hit .221/.302/.384 in 88 games, and the final two seasons didn't look promising. Anyway, it hasn't been a great contract for the Nationals, but it has worked out reasonably well compared to many $100 million contracts.
5. Hunter Pence doing Hunter Pence things. He slipped, he stumbled, he fell, he still made the catch:
Alas, the Pirates beat the Giants. Don't sleep on the Pirates!