Nationals eye division title, Wild Card races heat up
By Austin Laymance
Bartolo Colon can help the Twins move one step closer to the postseason when he takes the mound this afternoon against the Royals as part of a full schedule of games streaming live on MLB.TV.
The Twins are holding onto the second American League Wild Card spot, but there are six clubs chasing them in the standings. The Angels, Rangers, Orioles, Royals, Mariners and Rays are all within 4 1/2 games of the Twins.
In the National League, the Nationals have a chance to become the first club to clinch a division title if they beat the Phillies and the Braves beat the Marlins.
There's sure to be plenty of drama on the baseball diamond this afternoon, and it will all be capped off with the Indians seeking 18 straight wins as they take on the contending Orioles on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
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Here's what to watch for throughout the day (all times ET):
Bartolo faces Royals: MIN@KC, 2:15 p.m., MLB.TV
The Twins will go for a series win behind Colon as they look to hold their ground in the race for the second AL Wild Card. Left-hander Jason Vargas starts for the Royals, who are 3 1/2 games behind Minnesota.
Colon, 44, has been a nice addition to the Twins since he joined their rotation on July 18. Since then, the veteran is 4-3 with a 3.94 ERA in 10 starts. Meanwhile, Vargas will be looking to turn things around. He's 2-7 with a 8.13 ERA over his last 11 starts.
Nats hope to clinch: PHI@WSH, 1:35 p.m., MLB.TV
The Nationals can clinch the NL East for a third straight year if they beat the Phillies and the Braves beat the Marlins. While fans may be doing some scoreboard watching (the Marlins play at the same time), the Nats will need to take care of business on their own.
Stephen Strasburg gets the ball for the Nats, who are 18-6 this year when the ace takes the mound. Strasburg has been on a tear of late, going 2-1 with a 0.67 ERA over his last four starts. He has not allowed a run in his last 26 innings.
Rookie right-hander Ben Lively starts for the Phillies. In his last outing, he beat the Mets with seven innings of one-run ball and went 2-for-4 at the plate with a home run and four RBIs.
"It's a lot better," Nats manager Dusty Baker said of clinching at home. "I mean, there's no comparison. And it's really good for the fans and our families and all of the people who have been with us throughout thick and think, ups and downs, rain and shine at home."
Stanton eyes home run No. 55: MIA@ATL, 1:35 p.m., MLB.TV
Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton will look to add to his Major League-leading home run total and help keep Miami's slim postseason hopes alive in the finale of a four-game series against the Braves. Stanton went deep in the first inning Saturday for his 54th homer.
Odrisamer Despaigne starts for the Marlins, who would be eliminated from the NL East race with a loss to the Braves and a Nationals win over the Phillies. Miami is still in the hunt for the second NL Wild Card, but the Brewers and Cardinals are ahead of them in the standings as all three clubs chase the Rockies.
R.A. Dickey toes the rubber for the Braves. Stanton has good career numbers against the knuckleballer, with a .346 average (9-for-26) and two homers in 26 at-bats.
Brewers go for sweep: MIL@CHC, 2:20 p.m., MLB.TV
The Brewers will send Zach Davies to the mound as they look to complete a three-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The first-place Cubs, who lead Milwaukee by three games in the NL Central, will give the ball to Kyle Hendricks.
Davies is 9-4 with a 2.37 ERA in his last 14 outings. The right-hander is more important than ever to the Brewers' postseason hopes, as the club learned Saturday that starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson will miss the remainder of the season because of a shoulder injury.
Hendricks has turned things around after a slow start to the year and owns a 2.82 ERA over his last 17 starts. Still, he'll need some help from his offense, as the Cubs have been limited to two runs in this series.
AL Wild Card contenders clash: NYY@TEX, 3:05 p.m., MLB.TV
Rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery will be on the mound for the Yankees against right-hander A.J. Griffin for the Rangers when these teams meet in the rubber match of a three-game series at Globe Life Park.
The Yankees are holding on to the top AL Wild Card spot, while the Rangers are 2 1/2 games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card. New York is 2 1/2 games up on Minnesota.
Montgomery is seeking his first winning decision since July. He's 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA in his past six starts. Griffin faces the Yankees for the first time this year, and he's 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in five career starts against the Bronx Bombers.
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.