The Atlanta Braves might win the NL East. Maybe the Phillies will win it. It isn't out of the question that the Nationals will somehow pull off a miracle run in September and surge past them both, though that seems pretty unlikely, as they continue to sink like that seventh-grade science experiment in which you had to build a device to keep an egg afloat in a bowl of water.
The point here: I don't know which team will win the division. I guess I'd go with the Braves over the Phillies, but it very well might come down to the season-ending series between the clubs in Philly. I do know this, however: The Braves are almost certainly going to be better over the next five seasons than they have been in 2018.
The latest evidence was Monday's major league debut of 20-year-old right-hander Bryse Wilson, the No. 44-ranked prospect on Keith Law's midseason top 50 list. Wilson allowed three hits over five scoreless innings in a 1-0 victory over the Pirates, becoming the youngest starting pitcher on record to win a 1-0 game in his debut (and the youngest starter with a scoreless debut since Scott Kazmir in 2004).
Wilson impressed with a fastball that hit 97 mph a few times and averaged 94.9 mph, a little more velocity than I expected. He sustained it through his five innings and 87 pitches, hitting 97 in his final inning and 96 to his final batter. He flashed the slider Keith called above-average and mixed in a few changeups, getting three outs with the pitch.
There's nothing too fancy here -- Wilson started 15 of the 19 batters he faced with fastballs -- but he's a polished 20-year-old with a bright future. That's a testament to the Braves scouting staff that nabbed him in the fourth round in 2016 out of a North Carolina high school.
The most important fastball of the night, however, came from Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte, with this assist in the seventh inning to preserve the 1-0 lead:
Wilson became the fourth Braves starter to win his debut this season, joining Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard and Touki Toussaint. Soroka and Allard are also 20 (Toussaint is the old man at 22), making the Braves just the third team since 1900 to have three starters debut in the same season at 20 or younger. Then you have 26-year-old All-Star Mike Foltynewicz and 25-year-old lefty Sean Newcomb, who have headlined the rotation all season, plus veteran Julio Teheran, who is signed for two more seasons and eats up innings.
The pitching riches don't end there. Keith's list included Toussaint at No. 22, plus Kyle Wright at No. 18 and Ian Anderson at No. 29. Wright, the team's first-round pick in 2017 out of Vanderbilt, has already reached Triple-A. Anderson, the third overall pick in 2016, is another 20-year-old, and he's in Double-A after blowing through the Florida State League with a 2.52 ERA.
Then there's super-stud rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. growing alongside MVP candidate Freddie Freeman, plus an enormous amount of payroll flexibility next season, with only Freeman, Inciarte, Teheran and Darren O'Day under contract. It's an enviable position to be in. Even as risky as young pitching can be, this season -- playoffs or not -- is just the start for the Braves.
Pesky Mariners irritate Astros with late win: Hey, don't blame Collin McHugh for Houston's late-game bullpen issues, at least not before his outing Monday in Seattle. He had pitched in 42 games before Monday and allowed just nine runs and never more than one run in any outing. Now he has a three-run outing, as Robinson Cano broke a 4-4 tie with a three-run homer to left-center, his first in six games since returning from his PED suspension:
Edwin Diaz closed out the 7-4 win for his 48th save, tying Fernando Rodney's club record. Give some credit to Felix Hernandez, bumped from the rotation last week but back in after James Paxton was hit by a line drive. It looked like another short outing for Felix after Houston took a 4-2 lead in the third, but he ended up going six innings without further damage.
The Mariners swept the Astros in a four-game series earlier this month in Houston -- all one-run wins, with Diaz getting all four saves -- so this is five straight over Houston, and it keeps Seattle's playoff lifeline alive, as the Mariners are just 3.5 games behind the Astros and A's, who won 9-0 behind Mike Fiers to tie Houston for first. Going back to July 30, the Mariners and Astros will play each other 10 times over 20 games. The Mariners have held their own at 6-2, helping the A's in the process.
By the way, the Astros have the second-lowest bullpen ERA in the majors, believe it or not.
OK, nothing too dramatic there. It's a good win over a bad starter, a game Milwaukee better win if it's going to chase down the Cubs. Josh Hader, who pitched one inning Sunday after resting for eight days, threw two scoreless frames, so it looks like Craig Counsell is ready to start using him more.
The amazing note here is that Bailey fell to 1-11, 6.17 ERA -- and the Reds dropped to 1-16 in games he has started this season. Ouch. In the wild-card era (since 1995), the worst such mark given at least 20 starts is the Mariners' 3-17 record in Ryan Rowland-Smith's starts in 2010 (Rowland-Smith went 1-10, 6.75). The 2003 Tigers went 1-16 in Adam Bernero's starts (thanks to Lee Singer for the research help).
Putting it another way: The Reds are 55-70, so they're 54-54 in games Bailey doesn't start.
Indians send Red Sox to second straight loss: It was a good game at Fenway, with Corey Kluber facing Rick Porcello in a game that doesn't have much bearing on who makes the postseason but could certainly be a matchup we see in the postseason. Kluber wasn't really sharp, throwing first-pitch strikes to just 12 of the 28 batters he faced, but he survived with three runs in 6 1/3 innings, and the Indians took the lead in the seventh on Greg Allen's two-run homer off Porcello with two outs (just his second home run of the season):
The most interesting part of the game, however, came in the bottom of the ninth, when the Red Sox scored one run off Cody Allen before he preserved a 5-4 victory by getting Ian Kinsler to fly out to left with two on. It seems every time I watch Allen, he's doing that tightrope thing. He's 25-for-28 in save chances, but he has allowed nine home runs, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is his worst since he became the Indians' closer in 2014. This shaky 28-pitch outing was another indicator that he seems very vulnerable come October. Jerry Crasnick has the report from Boston.
Murphy reportedly claimed: The New York Post's Joel Sherman reported Monday that a team has claimed Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, who has been swinging a hot stick of late, with a .340/.370/.534 line since the All-Star break. If true, the Nationals have 48 hours to trade Murphy or pull him back off waivers.
Sherman reported that the Yankees were not the team that claimed Murphy, but any of the NL contenders certainly could find a way to use him, at second base or first base or as a valuable weapon off the bench.