A look at what’s trending in MLB:
Win-win: Mike Trout missed seven weeks because of a thumb injury and Clayton Kershaw was out six weeks because of a back injury, yet both have displayed such excellence that each could win a coveted trophy. Even if Trout cannot carry the Angels into the wild-card game, he and Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros are likely to finish in the top two spots in American League MVP voting; Trout would become the first player in major league history to finish first or second in six consecutive years. Kershaw, shooting for his fourth National League Cy Young Award, leads the league in earned-run average (2.12), wins (tied, 17), and winning percentage (.813), and is second in strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.71). Kershaw has 24 starts; Max Scherzer (14-6, 2.59) has 28 starts and 58 more strikeouts. The Dodgers’ Kershaw would join Roger Clemens and Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux as the only players to win the Cy Young Award more than three times.
22 up: After the Cleveland Indians’ AL-record 22-game winning streak came to an end Friday, a lively crowd saluted the team with a standing ovation. The Indians came back onto the field and applauded their fans, after which, pitcher Trevor Bauer offered up an amazing note: Not only had he played on another team with a 22-game winning streak, but he also was the losing pitcher when both streaks ended. On Friday, he and the Indians lost to the Kansas City Royals 4-3. In 2010, when he played at UCLA, he and the Bruins lost to Stanford 8-4. The 2010 Bruins finished second in the College World Series, to South Carolina.
Price of relief: David Price’s $217-million contract is the richest for any pitcher in major league history. What is that worth in the playoffs? One or two innings a game, at least in this October. The Boston Red Sox plan to try Price, beset by elbow trouble much of the year, as a reliever for the rest of the regular season, and into the postseason. In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays called up Price — one year out of college — and used him almost exclusively in relief in an end-of-season run that ended in the Rays’ lone World Series appearance. He was the winning pitcher in the Rays’ first victory in the AL championship series, and he got the save in the clincher, as the Rays beat … yes, of course, the Red Sox.
Oaktown shuffle: When the Oakland Athletics this week announced a downtown site as their desired home for a new ballpark, they targeted 2023 for its opening. No one on the current roster might be playing for the A’s then, but the long time frame reflects cold reality: The mayor wanted the A’s to pick another location, the neighborhood activists are opposed, the A’s do not control the land and the team still wants a share of control over the Coliseum site it plans to abandon. Under different management, the A’s in the past dozen years unveiled plans for a new ballpark in Oakland, Fremont and San Jose. None came to pass. If this one doesn’t work out, the A’s could end up building next to the current Coliseum — or leaving town.
Brave new world: Much respect to the Minnesota Twins, in position to become the first team to lose 100 games one season and make the playoffs the next season. The Twins’ charge is led by kids: center fielder Byron Buxton, 23, whose on-base-plus-slugging percentage jumped from .594 in the first half to .974 in the second half, and shortstop Jorge Polanco, 24, whose OPS jumped from .596 to .919 (both stats through Friday). Not to pick on first-year general manager Thad Levine, but he actually said this the other day on ESPN 1500 in Minneapolis: “We are aspirational of being a playoff-relevant team moving forward.” He’s not the only one among this uber-educated generation of executives that could use a course from Ned Colletti on speaking to fans in plain English. Mitigating factor: No tanking team tells its fans that it is cutting payroll but will “do more with less.”
French toast: It has been five years since Frank McCourt, boycotted by fans and pressured by then-commissioner Bud Selig, sold the Dodgers out of bankruptcy court. Under new ownership, the Dodgers have won the NL West every year since then. McCourt last year bought the storied French soccer club Marseille, and the fans there already are disgruntled, with the club in 11th place in a 20-team league and calls for him to step in and fire the coach. McCourt alienated fans in Los Angeles, but never did they unfurl signs like the ones at last week’s Marseille game, which asked “Who is the boss in this club?” and colorfully called out McCourt. The signs were in English, to make sure he got the message.
SERIES OF THE WEEK
TWINS AT YANKEES
Monday through Wednesday
If the playoffs started today, this would be the American League wild-card matchup. The Yankees probably would want Luis Severino (13-6, 2.93) to start and could arrange their rotation accordingly; the Twins might need their best pitchers in the final week of the regular season in trying to hold off the Angels for the second wild-card spot. In this series, the Yankees could start two pitchers acquired in trade: Sonny Gray, who came from Oakland and has given up more than two earned runs once in eight starts for New York, and Jaime Garcia. The Atlanta Braves traded Garcia to the Twins in July; Minnesota flipped him to the Yankees after believing it might fall out of contention. Garcia started one game for the Twins and won; he has started six games for the Yankees and won none.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin