MLB Roundup: The heat is on in the pennant races

Jay Bruce's turnaround at the plate is part of what has kept the Mets in front in the National League wild-card race. Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

First, action from around the pennant races as we close in on the end of the regular season.

1. The Mets are on the verge of clinching a wild-card spot after mashing the Phillies. Jay Bruce has had a big turnaround, and John Harper writes about how it happened.

2. By the first inning of their game with the Dodgers, the Giants knew that the Mets and Cardinals had won, increasing the pressure on them. How did they respond? San Francisco put together a seven-run inning, all of it started against Brandon McCarthy. And they were serious about dealing with protesters, writes Henry Schulman. From his story:

In the top of the fourth inning it turned into one of those crazy Friday nights of yore at Candlestick, when two diminutive protestors wearing Dodger blue ran onto the field and tried to hand the players what looked like foam flowers.

Security guards entered the fray, but Giants players did not wait.

Bumgarner cocked his fist and seemed loaded for bear when the male protester approached him. The interloper then went to the plate, where Giants catcher Buster Posey first motioned for him to stay away then pushed the man to the ground.

“He should be charged with flopping,” Posey said. “I didn’t push him that hard.”

The guy rose and ran into left field, where Angel Pagan extended a hand as if to take the flower then grabbed the man’s arm, lifted him off the ground and body slammed him onto his back as the crowd roared.

Security finally dragged the man and woman away.

“There are crazy people out there,” Pagan said. “You don’t know if your life is in danger. I didn’t want to harm him or anything. I just wanted to help security. It was going to take a long time for them to come and take him down. Bum was on a roll and I wanted him to keep going.”

Madison Bumgarner went a little crazy after mashing a big double; here’s the video. This win was the 100th of his career. Elias Sports Bureau says that only one pitcher who recorded his first 100 wins with the Giants was younger than Bumgarner at the time of his 100th win -- Christy Mathewson at age 24 for New York Giants in May 1905.

3. Carlos Martinez and the Cardinals took care of business, Rick Hummel writes.

Before the game, St. Louis announced it will not pick up the 2017 option on Matt Holliday’s contract, and so his time with the team could be nearing an end, as Derrick Goold writes. From his piece:

Holliday, 36, approached Mozeliak earlier this week to gain clarity on his future with the club. The former batting champ wanted to know as the final home stand came toward an end, if he should have his family present, if he should be planning some farewells. In eight years with the Cardinals, Holliday came to call St. Louis his home, spending several offseasons in the area. He developed a close relationship with several charities and was a regular visitor at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.

At least once he delivered a home run ball to a patient there -- on his way home from the game in which he hit it.

The Cardinals hold a $17 million option for 2017, though Mozeliak said the probability of picking it up is “low.” As far back as spring training, Holliday understood that possibility and expressed a hope to discuss a lower-cost extension that would allow him to finish his career with the Cardinals. A hoped-for conversation in August was derailed by a fastball -- in and hard to Holliday’s right hand.

On Aug. 11, Cubs pitcher Mike Montgomery fractured Holliday’s right thumb with a pitch. Holliday elected to have surgery on the thumb to accelerate his recovery by providing stability. He could not hasten the healing of the bone and after each attempt to return his finger would swell up to a point he could not hit.

The injury made the Cardinals’ decision for them.

“It stinks,” Mozeliak said. “The unfortunate part of baseball or sports is injuries. But when you sit in my seat it cannot solely be relationship-driven. I have to think about this long term and what we think is best for this organization and how we think we can be stronger and how we can get stronger. So it’s unfortunate nothing lasts forever, especially in sports.”

So with all of that serving as the backdrop, Holliday returned to the Cardinals and had a really cool moment.

Michael Wacha will get the ball today and start for the Cardinals, who will have to use their bullpen extensively, in all likelihood.

4. The Orioles also took care of business, getting a lot of help from Jonathan Schoop. The Orioles moved a game ahead of the Blue Jays and are now in control of their own destiny in the last two days, with their magic number for clinching a playoff berth down to two -- any combination of two in Baltimore wins or Detroit losses.

Buck Showalter would like to keep veteran outfielder Michael Bourn into next season. Baltimore has hit 250 homers.

5. As the Jays lost in Boston, Detroit bashed the Braves, with Miguel Cabrera leading the way, and the Tigers are now just a half-game behind Toronto. From Anthony Fenech’s story:

On the first pitch of the game, Ian Kinsler sent a fly ball home run distance to left field but a few feet foul. On the fourth pitch, Kinsler kept it fair, giving left-hander Daniel Norris all the offense he would need. Cameron Maybin followed with a single off righty Matt Wisler before Miguel Cabrera hit the first of two 400-foot rockets over the center-field fence.

In the third inning, Cabrera hit his second. It was his 38th of the season, marking his 39th career multi-home run game and sixth of the season.

Asked about the special streak Cabrera is on -- 8-for-11 with four home runs in the past three games -- Ausmus said: “For him, it’s pretty normal. He’s set a standard offensively that few have ever equaled in the history of the game.”

The Tigers roared like champions Friday, Lynn Henning writes.

6. All the Mariners can do is win and wait, Ryan Divish writes, and on Friday they bashed a bunch of homers to hang in the AL wild-card race.

About the races within the races

• With Yu Darvish showing that he is getting better and better, the Rangers locked down home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs.

From Elias: Darvish has accumulated 812 strikeouts through 100 starts, which is by far the most strikeouts of any pitcher in his first 100 major league starts (previous record was Chris Sale, 766). No relief pitcher has allowed a run for Texas since September 20. The 29⅔ scoreless innings by the Rangers bullpen is the second-longest streak in franchise history (the record is 35⅔, set by the Senators in April 1969).

• The Indians still have a chance to overtake the Red Sox and get home-field advantage for the AL Division Series, and Francisco Lindor finally broke out of his slump Friday. Cleveland still doesn’t know who will start Game 1 of the division series.

• On Friday’s podcast: Reds general manager Dick Williams talked about the future of Devin Mesoraco and Joey Votto and the controversial ending in Cincinnati’s loss Thursday and what it could mean for instant replay; Red Sox head groundskeeper Dave Mellor described how the elaborate image of David Ortiz was cut into the grass of Fenway Park; Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald spoke on the emotional week for the Marlins; and the Fireball Express of Karl Ravech and Justin Havens dole out MVPs, Cy Youngs, etc.

Here’s Friday’s Scoreboard podcast.

• Some executives say that if the Blue Jays decide to make a change with manager John Gibbons, a natural candidate for the Toronto job will be Bud Black, the former manager of the Padres. Black worked in the Indians organization for Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, has a ton of experience and is perceived as being open to the use of analytics.

• The Reds announced that Bryan Price will return as manager.

• This season for Albert Pujols with the Angels is over.

• The Marlins opened their final series with a victory over the Nationals. After all they’ve been through in the past six days, you would understand if some of them are greatly looking forward to the offseason.

The Marlins are drawing praise for their handling of the aftermath of Jose Fernandez’s death. Wei-Yin Chen hopes to get a hit today with Fernandez’s bat.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Walt Weiss’ future is still in question, Rockies GM Jeff Bridich said.

2. White Sox executive Kenny Williams might move on to a higher calling, and Dan McGrath writes that the White Sox could use a shakeup.

3. The Cubs formally announced extensions for GM Jed Hoyer and vice president Jason McLeod that run through 2021.

Dings and dents

1. All Blue Jays infielder Devon Travis needed was a couple of days off, he said.

2. The Diamondbacks are being plagued by injuries down the stretch.

3. The Rockies’ Tyler Anderson is dealing with some general arm soreness.

4. Danny Valencia of the Athletics has a neck issue, while Jed Lowrie needed another surgery this month.

5. Dillon Gee got some positive news about his lungs.

Friday’s games

1. Chris Carter blasted his 40th homer of this season for the Brewers.

2. The Twins set a club record with their 103rd loss.

3. Chad Bettis is finishing this season for the Rockies on a high note.

4. The Angels are finishing their regular season with a burst of wins, and Daniel Wright picked up his first victory in the majors.

5. Matt Wisler had a tough day for the Braves.

6. Yordano Ventura pitched with a heavy heart for the Royals and lost.

7. The Twins were not happy with something the White Sox's Tim Anderson did when he homered on Friday night. Here’s the video of Anderson’s homer.

8. Pirates rookie Tyler Glasnow lost his final start of the season.

NL West

• Brandon McCarthy’s audition to pitch in the postseason did not go well. The Dodgers have a lot of bullpen options.

NL East

• Bartolo Colon’s secret is in the wrist and not the waist.

Jace Peterson would like the Braves to keep interim Manager Brian Snitker.

Max Scherzer lobbied for change with the Metro for public transportation in Washington D.C. during the playoffs.

• There is a goodbye for Ryan Howard, and an era, as Bob Ford writes. Matt Gelb wonders whether the Phillies have accomplished enough this year.

AL West

• The Rangers have this lineup quandary: If they use Shin-Soo Choo, then who will lose at-bats?

Jose Altuve has a slight advantage on the hits leaderboard.

AL Central

• It looks as though Kurt Suzuki has caught his final game for the Twins, Mike Berardino writes.

AL East

• Some good might be the result of all of the Tampa Bay Rays’ losses, Marc Topkin writes.

• The Yankees don’t need a big offseason splash, Anthony McCarron writes. Ken Davidoff wonders what the Yankees will do with Michael Pineda.


• Cal Ripken says Adrian Beltre might be the greatest third baseman ever.

Dick Enberg called his final game at Petco Park. Here’s video of the pregame ceremony.

• Tom Hoffarth writes that Vin Scully deserves one last honor at Cooperstown.

• Pete Rose is trying the next-best option for him to get into the Hall of Fame, Hal McCoy writes.

And today will be better than yesterday.