Real or not? Granderson shines as Dodgers keep finding ways to win

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With the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ season spiraling out of control — they lost a game on Sunday! — new acquisition Curtis Granderson made his biggest impression yet wearing Dodger blue on Monday.

Granderson hit a grand slam last Thursday in his final plate appearance for the New York Mets. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, he’s the first player in major league history to his two grand slams over a four-game span for two different teams.

His first L.A. grand slam was a huge one, as it turned a 3-1 deficit to Gerrit Cole and the Pittsburgh Pirates into a 5-3 lead. The Dodgers now have eight grand slams this season, two more than any other team. Also, Monday’s win marked the fourth time this season they’ve won a game they trailed by three-plus runs entering the seventh. They had one such win in the four-year period from 2013 to 2016.

At this point, they need only 14 wins to even make the playoffs:

A 12th-inning home run by Yasiel Puig propelled the Dodgers to another win over the Pirates on Monday, further reducing their magic number. The Dodgers are on pace for 115 wins, one shy of the record set by the 1906 Cubs and matched by the 2001 Mariners.

ESPN Stats and Information


But Monday’s win didn’t come easy, as Pittsburgh tied the game off methodical Dodgers set-up man Pedro Baez. The Dodgers won in extra innings, though, thanks to Yasiel Puig‘s 22nd homer in the 12th. Puig also won the day with this eclipse spoof:

Meanwhile, Clayton Kershaw‘s three-inning simulated game went so well that he tacked on a fourth inning. Next up is a start for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday against Omaha. It’ll be only 60 pitches or so, but if you happen to be driving down Mickey Mantle Drive toward Bricktown Ballpark on Saturday, you might want to pop in. Kershaw against Triple-A hitters? That will be something to see.

Standing headline: “New York Mets pitcher injured.” The Mets announced Monday that starter Steven Matz is done for the season. He’ll have surgery on the ulnar nerve is his left elbow, a procedure similar to the one teammate Jacob deGrom went through in September.

Matz and deGrom were part of the Mets’ rotation in the 2015 World Series, along with Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey. Since that Fall Classic, it has been a never-ending string of calamities for the foursome that was supposed to spearhead a new golden age for National League baseball in New York.

This is Matz’s third disabled list trip since the Series; his 2016 season was truncated by a shoulder problem. Syndergaard has been on the DL since

May 1 because of a torn lat muscle, an injury with a complex backstory of its own. Harvey has been out since June 15, his third DL trip since the 2015 Series.

Only deGrom has enjoyed a healthy season, as he’s on pace to make a full contingent of 32 or 33 starts*. Among the group last season, only Syndergaard made at least 30 starts. If none of the pitchers currently on the shelf make it back before the end of the season, Matz (13), Harvey (13) and Syndergaard (5) will have combined for 31 starts this season.

*Note: deGrom leads the NL with 165 innings pitched. He has thrown 17 innings more than last season. So might the Mets want to tread carefully over these last few weeks?

Pitchers get hurt. Every team deals with it. The unlucky ones see injuries cluster together. It can undermine entire seasons or spur franchises to pivot into a rebuild. We’re probably not there yet with the Mets, who can look to shuffle the position player lineup this winter and hope that the fragile foursome can bounce back in 2018. It’s the same script as this season.

But it’s not great optics that Matz has apparently been pitching through pain for quite a while.

The Mets have been at least four games under .500 since the middle of May and have never been part of any kind of playoff race this season. Given all the problems they’ve had keeping their young pitchers healthy, it boggles the mind that Matz has been pitching hurt. It’s not like he was pitching well: Matz’s ERA is 6.08. What could possibly have been the point?

Eventually, the Mets need to review their processes for keeping players upright. It has to be done; why wouldn’t it? Even if they are convinced they have been guilty of nothing but bad luck, why would you not throw everything you have in investigating if there isn’t a better way? Obstinance solves nothing.

As for Harvey: Harvey is gamely trying to work his way back and made a rehab start for Double-A Binghamton on Monday. He went three innings, giving up four hits and two runs while striking out three. Reports on Twitter from those who watched pegged his velocity as ranging from 89 to 92 mph. He also allowed this homer to Anthony Alford, one of Toronto’s top prospects.

Not a particularly encouraging outing, but again, Mets: There’s no rush here.

Buxton rampage continues. The Minnesota Twins began a long day Monday by putting star third baseman Miguel Sano on the DL because of a stress reaction in his left shin, a malady caused by fouling a ball of his leg the other day. Still, Minnesota improbably hangs in the thick of the American League wild-card race, and there seems to be enough offense even without Sano.

For one, Brian Dozier is again going off in the second half of a season. He homered in the second game of the Twins’ doubleheader split in Chicago and is now hitting .313/.392/.646 since the All-Star break with 13 homers and 32 RBIs in 35 games. Dozier pulled this act last season, too, hitting 28 of his 42 homers during the season half.

More pertinent for the future of the young Twins has been the amazing offensive turnaround of Byron Buxton. Buxton has been one of baseball’s best defenders all season, but during the early part, you had to wonder just how long Minnesota could carry such an offensive non-entity no matter how great his glove might be.

Buxton was hitting .195 with a .552 OPS and had struck out 80 times (nearly a third of his plate appearances) through the end of June. He also homered on Monday, and is now hitting .350/.395/.573 since July 1 with five homers — four so far in August — and 23 RBIs. Given his defense and 22 stolen bases in 23 attempts, Buxton once again looks like a coming star.

All this has kept Minnesota afloat, along with Paul Molitor’s amazing job of juggling his outmanned pitching staff. To wit: In Monday’s doubleheader, the Twins started Tim Melville and Dillon Gee. Neither pitcher had started a game for the Twins all season. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, a team hadn’t debuted two starters on the same date this late in a season in 20 years.

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