Welcome to Three Up, Three Down: The MLB hot/cold report. Every week, we’ll try our best to break down who’s heating things up in the baseball world and who’s currently stuck in the back of the refrigerator in a state of deep chill.
Brewers finally beat their boogeyman
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Going into this week’s action, the Brewers were still hanging around at the top of the NL Central and playing quality baseball. The major question was whether or not they could actually beat the Cubs. After all, Milwaukee’s struggles against the divisional rivals from Illinois have been a thorn in the team’s side for a long time. You could argue that it cost the Brewers a Wild Card berth last season, and their early stumbles against the Cubs this season had to have been in their heads.
Fortunately for Milwaukee, the Brew Crew at least proved it can indeed get the best of the Cubs after Milwaukee took two out of three against them in their series this week. It sure got dicey after Monday’s game when the Cubs managed to take advantage of some bad defense to score a run off of Josh Hader in the eighth inning before scoring five runs in the 11th inning to win. However, the Brewers responded by shutting out the Cubs over the next two games in order to take two out of three and win the series.
Right now, the Brewers are currently in possession of the best record in the entire National League. It appears that their willingness to be one of the only teams that was actually active during the hot stove season is paying off here in the actual regular season. Plus, they’ve proved they can actually beat the Cubs so the sky is really the limit for the Brewers at this point.
Joe Maddon gets weird in a fun way
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
Speaking of the Cubs, while they may have taken the series loss in Milwaukee this week, they won the hearts of the people thanks to Joe Maddon doing weird things in the dugout. His latest tactical shenanigans involved flip-flopping between two pitchers in the same inning.
Steve Cishek was the pitcher going into the bottom of the eighth, but Maddon decided to use Brian Duensing to face pinch-hitter Eric Thames. He also decided that he wanted to use Cishek later on in that inning, so he moved Cishek to left field for the at-bat. Once Duensing was done with Thames, Maddon had Cishek return to the mound, and Duensing went to left field. Cishek got the second out, and Duensing went back to the mound. However, Willson Contreras ended up playing left field, and Cishek was done for the day.
This is easily the wackiest tactical move that you’ll see all season. If we somehow see something crazier, then you know that it had to be amazing. For Maddon, this was just a typical Wednesday, and amazingly, this wasn’t even the first time he had done something like this. What will he come up with next?
The AL’s best is really, really good
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
We’ve spent enough time in the NL Central; it’s now time to venture out into the American League. There are now four teams that have separated themselves from the pack in the AL: the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and, surprisingly enough, Seattle Mariners. All four of those teams have done a ton of winning over the past month or so, and they all have shown little to no signs of slowing down.
All four of those teams currently have more than 40 wins under their belts, while the Red Sox are actually inching closer and closer to the 50-win mark. Meanwhile, the Yankees have been keeping pace, which means the AL East will very likely end up turning into another classic, season-long battle for supremacy between those two hated rivals.
Meanwhile in the AL West, the Astros are clobbering teams with their predictably strong offense, while the Mariners have basically just been on a never-ending tear since losing Robinson Cano to injury/suspension. It’s even gotten to the point where GM Jerry Dipoto stated that Cano may find himself out of a spot at second base when he finally returns. That may be bad news for Cano personally, but it’s actually great news for a team looking to finally end a painfully long postseason drought.
Shohei Ohtani may or may not be out for the season
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Oh man, this one really stinks. One thing we know for sure is that Shohei Ohtani currently has an injured UCL, which probably means we’re not going to see him on the mound for the rest of this season. What we don’t know for sure is whether or not he’s going to need Tommy John surgery in order to heal what’s going on in his elbow.
If he doesn’t need the surgery, then there’s still a chance that he can return later this season, even if it isn’t as a pitcher. That’s the position the Angels are taking. If you’re an optimist, that’s the position you should take as well. If you’re a cynic, it’s time to prepare for the worst since there are reports that he may indeed need Tommy John surgery, which would wipe out the rest of this season and the 2019 season for Ohtani as well.
Of course, everybody is rooting for Ohtani to return as quickly and as healthy as possible. While he was active, he was doing a great job both as a hitter (.289/.372/.535) and as a pitcher (3.10 ERA, 3.22 FIP) and was worth 2.0 WAR according to FanGraphs, which is nothing to sneeze at considering he was pulling double duty. The game needs guys like him. Here’s hoping that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Ohtani here in 2018.
Detroit Tigers will have to do without Miguel Cabrera
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
While there’s still speculation as to whether or not we’ll see Ohtani again this year, there’s no doubt about Miguel Cabrera’s 2018 season. He’s done for the year after suffering a ruptured biceps tendon, and it ends what seemed like a bit of a bounce-back season for the future Hall of Famer. Granted, all Cabrera needed was to simply be decent and he would have surpassed what was a disastrous 2017 season, but it’s still a bummer to see one of the game’s active greats lose a season due to injury.
Even though Cabrera was nowhere near the monster he was during his prime, he was still one of the Tigers’ top hitters according to wRC+, so the fact they will have to do without him for the rest of the season is definitely a bummer. Granted, the AL Central is basically “the Cleveland Indians and friends,” but as of right now, the Tigers are hanging around with the Twins as the best of the “friends” part of that equation.
This could result in the Tigers fading away, but hey, if the Mariners could go on a tear without Cano, maybe Detroit could still hang around? It’s a bit of a strange comparison, but baseball is a strange game.
Two teams lose relievers for extremely dumb reasons
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
After discussing injuries that bummed me out, it’s time to talk about injuries that are just embarrassing. For starters, the Red Sox are now down a reliever after said pitcher injured himself following a fit of anger. A month ago, Carson Smith punctuated a rough outing by tossing his glove all the way across the dugout. He ended up injuring his shoulder in the process, and the injury was severe enough to cost him the rest of the 2018 season.
Meanwhile, the Rangers may be down a reliever as well for a dumb reason. Texas and the Dodgers engaged in a mini-brawl on Wednesday night after Matt Kemp barreled into Robinson Chirinos in a home-plate collision. Of course, the benches cleared for a shoving match, which also means the bullpens had to get involved. In the process of running to the diamond from the bullpen, reliever Chris Martin reportedly tweaked his hamstring. There’s no word on how serious it is, but we can all agree that getting injured before you even get to participate in the brawl is amazingly lame.
Demetrius Bell can be contacted on Twitter @fergoe, which is where you can catch him tweeting mostly about any and everything under the sun. If you enjoyed what you’ve been reading, then go ahead and give him a follow!