The National League playoff field was set on Monday, but the roles are still fluid.
The Washington Nationals saw their longshot wild-card hopes dashed, while the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and — wait 20 years for it — the Pittsburgh Pirates all wrapped up playoff berths. The Atlanta Braves are already in as the National League East winners.
In Los Angeles, it’s getting safe to start sizing up first-round matchups.
So today, for your consideration as a first-round opponent, the Reds.
Their number one starter was supposed to be Johnny Cueto. He won 19 games last season. This season he’s been bothered by a lat strain and missed nearly three months with the injury starting in June. The right-hander came back Sept. 16 and made another impressive start yesterday, but the Reds are hesitant to say if and when Cueto would pitch in the postseason.
If it’s not Cueto, expect Mat Latos to take the ball for Cincinnati first. Latos revealed to the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s been pitching with an abdominal strain since June 30. That’s affected his repertoire, which is now quite fastball-heavy, and has resulted in fewer strikeouts.
The Reds haven’t clinched anything more than a playoff berth, so Latos or Cueto could find themselves pitching in the win-or-go-home wild card game. Either way, the Dodgers will likely be seeing one of these guys in Game 1 of their first-round series if they draw the Reds. That’s got to be more favorable than the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, the Pirates’ Francisco Liriano, or the Braves’ Mike Minor, Julio Teheran or Kris Medlen (all of whom are reportedly under consideration).
In that regard, give the advantage to the Dodgers. And knock on wood.
Some bullet points for a Guinea-Bissau Independence Day:
• ESPN.com’s Keith Law chose Ricky Nolasco as one of seven “free agents who have most helped their value” in 2013: “His strong performance after a move to a playoff team could convince teams that he’s more than that, which would put him in line for an Edwin Jackson-style four-year deal.”
• CBSsports.com ranks the Nolasco trade as the second-biggest in-season acquisition of 2013.
• Report: The Dodgers peed in the pool.
• Congratulations on a long career to Kaz Ishii. The 40-year-old pitcher for the Seibu Lions, who announced his retirement yesterday in Japan, made 86 starts for the Dodgers from 2002-04. He has 182 career wins, including 39 in MLB.
• If Dixie Walker were alive and playing for the Dodgers today, I imagine he’d bat second. Claimed off waivers from the Detroit Tigers in 1939, Walker averaged 60 strikeouts a season every year until 1947. He posted a 21st-century worthy OBP of .386 as a Brooklyn Dodger. And despite making all that contact he never hit into more than 10 double plays in a season. Walker was born 103 years ago today.
• How Gold Glove award voting works, per Boston Red Sox infielder John McDonald via FanGraphs: “When you put managers and coaches in front of a ballot, offensive numbers factor into their Gold Glove awards. I know that, because I’ve heard coaches talk about it. ‘He didn’t hit well enough for me to vote for him.’ ”
• Statistically speaking, Major League Baseball hasn’t gouged ticket-buying fans as much as the NFL or NHL, but hasn’t been as kind as the NBA, over the last 10 years (via Team Marketing Report on Twitter).
• We know that the number one pick in the 2014 draft belongs to the Houston Astros. North Carolina State pitcher Carlos Rodon is the early favorite.
• Via MLB Public Relations on Twitter, there have been 18 games of 15 or more innings this year, most since and the fourth-most since 1916.
• The idea of a baseball game drawing a 0.0 rating begs some questions: How does TV advertising generate any revenue for the Astros? Did the broadcasters take any potshots at foreign-born opposing pitchers? And was it the “Pregnant Men” episode of the Cosby Show? That would make some sense.
• For those of you who missed the last episode of “Breaking Bad” on Sunday, don’t worry. Huell is still waiting. Enjoy the music: