Matthews: Brewers Big Winner in NL Central Race

posted by Bob Matthews - 

BREWERS LOOK LIKE THE BIG TRADE WINNER IN THE NL CENTRAL RACE...

NATIONALS CELEBRATE NON-TRADE OF BRYCE HARPER IN A BIG WAY

By my reckoning, the Milwaukee Brewers did enough on the trade market to earn the edge entering the stretch run over the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central.

Milwaukee liberated power-hitting infielders Mike Moustakas from Kansas City and Jonathan Schoop from Baltimore, and underrated relief pitcher Joakim Soria from the White Sox. They figure to appreciate going from the American League outhouses to – possibly – the NL penthouse.

In the NL East, I believe there will be a three-team race to the finish line because of the trades made by Philadelphia and Atlanta, plus the trade Washington didn’t make.

Entering Wednesday, the Phillies (59-48 record) are ½ game ahead of Atlanta (57-47) and 5 ½ games ahead of Washington (53-53).

The Braves added slugging outfielder Adam Duvall (64 HRs and 202 RBI with Cincinnati in 2016 and 2017), good-hit, fair-glove infielder Eduardo Escobar and pitcher Kevin Gausman, who never reached his potential with Baltimore but has the stuff to be a big winner.

The Phillies helped their offense by dealing for catcher Wilson Ramos and veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera.

The Nationals decided not to trade slugger Bryce Harper, who has a lousy .223 batting average but the power (25 HRs) and the incentive (he’s a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent) to carry the team down the stretch. Dealing him would’ve been a white flag of surrender, but Washington has time to overtake Milwaukee and Atlanta – if the starting rotation comes around.

Washington celebrated the move to keep Harper by crushing the New York Mets 25-4 Tuesday night. It was the most runs by a MLB team since Texas had 30 against Baltimore August 22, 2007.

Pittsburgh has a long shot chance in the NL Central. The Pirates are hot (16-4 in the last 20 games), playing with confidence and Chris Archer and reliever Keone Kela should give the pitching staff a boost.

I have no idea why Colorado stood pat in the NL West. Giving a look to veteran slugger Matt Holliday is a fun story but seems like a desperate move to me.

I was surprised Minnesota traded slugging second baseman Brian Dozier to the Los Aneles Dodgers. He’s a soon-to-be free agent but he’s only 31 and was a stabilizing veteran on a young Twins team. He’s a huge upgrade at the position for the Dodgers. Here’s a stat oddity -- the new Dodgers DP duo – Dozier and Manny Machado – each has 143 HRs since 2014.

Boston, baseball’s best team, got even better with the deals for second baseman Ian Kinsler and starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.

I’ll say this for Baltimore and Minnesota – Rochester’s latest parent clubs – they both acquired lots of bodies for proven veteran players. You know how that usually works out.

The Orioles traded SS Many Machado, 2B Jonathan Schoop and pitchers Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day for 12 prospects/suspects -- pitchers Evan Phillips, Bruce Zimmerman, Luis Ortiz, Dean Kramer and Zach Pop, infielders Jean Carlos Encarnacion, Jonathan Villar, Jean Camona, Rylan Bannon  and Breyvie Valera, outfielder Yusniel Diaz and catcher Brett Cumberland.

The Twins swapped 2B Brian Dozier, INF Eduardo Escobar, and relief pitchers Zach Duke and Ryan Pressly for 10 players -- pitchers Devin Smeltzer, Jhoan Duran, Chase De Jong and Jorge Alcala, infielders Logan Forsythe and Ryan Costello, and outfielders Luke Raley, Gabriel Maciel, Ernie De La Trinidad and Gilberto Celestino.

WISHING SU AND THE BONNIES PLAYED HERE EVERY OTHER YEAR

The Syracuse U. and St. Bonaventure basketball teams will collide for the second straight season at the Carrier Dome, Saturday, December 29.

That’s great news. But shouldn’t they play every season.

And doesn’t it seem reasonable to alternate the home sites – Syracuse and Rochester?

Syracuse leads the series 24-3 but the Bonnies scored a 60-57 road upset in overtime last season to snap a 14-game losing streak versus the Orange.

SU and the Bonnies played at Blue Cross Arena December 3, 2003. SU won 87-78 before 11,650 fans. Hakim Warrick, Billy Edelin and Gerry McNamara combined for 66 points for the Orange.

SU versus St. Bonaventure would sell out every-other-year in Rochester. It would be as special treat for alumni of both schools.

MANZIEL’S CFL DEBUT SHOULD MEAN BOFFO RATINGS ON ESPN2

ESPN officials must be ecstatic that former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will make his Canadian Football League playing debut Friday, 7:30 p.m., on ESPN2.

His new team – the Montreal Alouettes – will host his former team – the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who traded him without giving him any playing time.

Montreal has a CFL-worst 1-5 record and has been outscored 192-92. Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Hamilton as a 6-point favorite with an over/under of 49.5 (combined points by both teams).

BOSTICK BACK UP WITH THE PIRATES

Christopher Bostick (Aquinas Institute), 25, has been promoted to the Pittsburgh Pirates and his versatility – he can play second base and in the outfield – should help the Buccos down the stretch.

He was enjoying a big 2018 season at Indianapolis (International League) -- .295, .787 OPS in 78 games – before undergoing emergency appendix surgery in late June. He batted .296 (8-for-27) with the Pirates last season.

SHORT SHOTS

The Bills bashing continues. Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus this week ranked the wide receiver corps of the 32 NFL teams. Buffalo was 32nd.  No disagreement here but it hurts. The top five: Minnesota, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Pittsburgh.

Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels) hit his 30th home run of the season Tuesday night. He is 20-for-21 stealing bases. Jose Ramirez (Cleveland) has 32 HRs and is 24-for-27 stealing bases. They’re the only MLB players with at least 20 HRs and 20 stolen bases this season. Javier Baez (Cubs) has 22 HRs and is 19-for-22 stealing bases. It looks like the 30-30 Club’s drought since 2012 (Trout and Ryan Braun) will continue.

First baseman Tyler Austin on Tuesday night hit a home run and became the 57th player to appear in a game for the Rochester Red Wings this season. That’s a lot. But his former International League team this season  – Scranton/Wilkes-Barre – has used 61 players this season.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Wednesday, August 1

Austin Rivers (46)...Kennys Varags (28)...Madison Bumgarner (29)...Mike Wallace (32)...Adam Jones (33)...Glenn Dorsey (33)...Edgerrin James (40)...Darick Holmes (47)...Bobby Hamilton (47)...Stacey Augmon (50)...Greg Jefferies (51)...Bart Conner (57)...Geordie Robertson (59)...Kiki Vandeweghe (60)...Cliff Branch (70).

Thursday, August 2

Kristaps Porzingis (23)...Paul De Jong (25)...Evander Kane (27)...Skylar Diggins (28)...Grady Sizemore (26)...Golden Tate (30)...Meaghan Klingenberg (30)...MMA Nick Diaz (35)...Troy Brown (47)...Tony Amonte (48)...Cedric Ceballos (49)...Tim Wakefield (52)...Linda Fratianne (58).

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

August 1

100 years ago (1918), Pittsburgh and the Boston Braves played a MLB-record 20 scoreless innings before the Pirates won 2-0 in the 21st inning...82 years ago (1936), Adolph Hitler opened the 11th Summer Olympics in Berlin...55 years ago (1963), Arthur Ashe became the first African-American tennis player named to the U.S. Davis Cup team...47 years ago (1971), Richard Petty won the Dixie 500 in Atlanta and became to first NASCAR driver to reach $1 million in career earnings...25 years ago (1993), Reggie Jackson was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

August 2

154 years ago (1864), Saratoga Race Course, America’s oldest race track, opened its inaugural thoroughbred meet with four days of racing...66 years ago (1952), 17-year-old future heavyweight boxing champion won the gold medal in the heavyweight division sat the Helsinki Summer Olympics...6 years ago (2002), American swimmer Michael Phelps won an unprecedented third straight gold medal in the 200 individual medley.

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