It was perhaps a strange sensation for the Braves on Tuesday, the shoe on the other foot for a change.
The team that has grown used to being the underdogs, to packing up and going home while the other dugout spills onto the field to celebrate a postseason series victory, was doing the dispatching on Tuesday. It wasn't a playoff series win -- not yet, at least -- but it was noteworthy in its own way, the latest decisive clinch for a mini dynasty forming in the NL East.
The Braves locked up their third consecutive NL East title Tuesday when they rolled over the Marlins 11-1. The Marlins, meanwhile, saw their aspirations of a surprise division title go up in smoke and must now scrap to hold onto a postseason spot with a handful of games left to go.
It wasn't long ago that it was the Braves on the outside looking in. Before this recent run of divisional dominance, the Atlanta club had come in third place or worse in the three seasons preceding their division title in 2018. That 90-win team was followed by an even more impressive 97-win bunch in 2019, and this year's club has a shot at posting the best winning percentage of the three, even if their win total will finish in the 30s.
They stamped out the upstart Marlins' hopes Tuesday with both pitching and hitting. Braves hitters bopped five homers, led by Marcell Ozuna's 4-for-5, two-homer, five-RBI night, and Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson also homered as the Braves plated 11 runs on 15 hits.
Pitching, which has been the team's struggle for most of this abbreviated season, also came through for them on this night. The club got five scoreless innings from Bryse Wilson, who struck out seven while allowing just three hits. The bullpen held up from there, getting Wilson his first win of the season.
The team now sets its sights on edging the Cubs for the No. 2 seed in the National League. Little has been decided in the NL with five days left to play, so there's still much for the Braves to play for -- this week and into October.
Speaking of the Cubs, they also punched their ticket to October on Tuesday. Though they lost to the Pirates, the Phillies' loss means the Cubs will be part of the eight-team NL postseason bracket in some way, shape or form. The Cubs are now focused on holding off the rest of the NL Central -- they're one of four teams currently .500 or better within the division -- for the title.
Elsewhere, the Indians are also playoff-bound after a dramatic walk-off win over the division-rival White Sox. After the Sox plated two runs in the top of the 10th inning, the Indians pushed one across before Jose Ramirez socked a three-run, walk-off homer to lock up a postseason spot. The Indians also kept their AL Central hopes alive with the victory over the first-place Sox.
Simmons Opts Out of Rest of 2020
The first fairly high-profile end-of-season opt-out came Tuesday.
Andrelton Simmons, with the Angels on the verge of postseason elimination, opted not to play in the team's final five games of the season, starting with Tuesday's contest against the Padres. With the opt-out, the 31-year-old free-agent-to-be may have also played his last game as a member of the Angels.
“Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association developed an environment and system that empowered players and provided us the opportunity to decide on whether to play or opt out of the season,” Simmons said in a statement. “At this moment, I feel this is the best decision for me and for my family. We don’t know what the future holds, but we would like to sincerely thank the Angels organization and Angels fans for welcoming and making us feel at home.”
If it is the end of his Halos career, it closes a second act that displayed a demonstrably better offensive skillset than during his days with the Braves. Simmons has hit .281/.328/.394 in 561 games with the Angels, compared to a .256/.304/.362 line in 499 games in Atlanta.
"Earlier today, Andrelton Simmons informed the club that he has chosen to opt out of the remainder of the season," the Angels said in a statement. "This year has presented unique challenges for many and the Angels respect Andrelton's decision."
Even before Tuesday's COVID-19 decision it had been a tough year for the shortstop. Simmons played in just four games before landing on the 10-day injured list with a sprained ankle. He missed close to a month's worth of games before returning, hitting .297/.346/.356 in 30 games overall.
With Simmons out, the Angels used David Fletcher at shortstop on Tuesday, a trend likely to continue for the remainder of the season. The principal beneficiary on Tuesday was Luis Rengifo, who started at second base with Fletcher at short. That doesn't offer much upside for fantasy purposes, unsurprising for a team that hasn't carried much fantasy interest outside of a few key pieces this year.
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Looking Forward to Moore in 2021
If this is the last we've seen of Dylan Moore in 2020, a proper appreciation is in order.
Moore, a seventh-round pick in 2015 who posted a .691 OPS in 113 games in his rookie year, came virtually out of nowhere to be a fantasy hero to many in this truncated season with his combination of power and speed. In 38 games, the 28-year-old hit .255/.358/.496 with eight homers and 12 steals, swatting and stealing his way into hearts across the country.
That electric season ended on a low note Monday when Moore, for the second time in a week, was hit in the head by a pitch, forcing him into the concussion protocol. The Mariners placed Moore on the 7-day concussion list on Tuesday.
"It’s a big blow," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He’s been great all year. He’s really swung the bat well and certainly what he can do defensively all over the field, we’re going to miss him this last week.”
If there's a positive to take from Tuesday's news, it's that Moore seems to have done enough to warrant a starting spot entering spring in 2021. After splitting time between the outfield and second base this year -- while also appearing in multiple games at first base, shortstop and third base as well -- Servais said Moore should have a home on the diamond and in the lineup with regularity come next season.
“He is going to play, that’s the biggest thing,” Servais said. “I’d like to see him maybe get settled in at second base, but we’ll see. The offseason always brings change in how your team is going to look, but he’s in a great spot. He made such huge improvements offensively, the power, the ability to use all fields to hit, handling different pitches in the strike zone better than he ever has. It’s a credit to him and the work he put in. He’s had an awesome year for us.”
National League Quick Hits: Mike Clevinger (biceps) is scheduled to start for the Padres on Wednesday against the Angels. Clevinger was scratched from his last scheduled turn in the Padres' rotation Saturday versus the Mariners due to right biceps tightness, but he made it through a bullpen session without issue on Monday and should have little to no restrictions on Wednesday. The 29-year-old right-hander has registered a 3.10 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 38/14 K/BB ratio in 40 2/3 innings (seven starts) this season between Cleveland and San Diego ... Cubs manager David Ross told reporters Tuesday that Kris Bryant has some "stiffness" in his lower right oblique. Bryant made an early exit from Monday night's game against the Pirates after tweaking his oblique on a swing and he was not available on Tuesday, but Ross expressed optimism that the third baseman will be able to return at some point this week ... Diamondbacks activated 2B/OF Ketel Marte from the 10-day injured list. Marte wound up missing just under two weeks with inflammation in his left wrist. The 26-year-old has been a disappointment this season after his breakout showing in 2019, but he has six games left to pad his stats. Josh Rojas was placed on the IL in a corresponding roster move due to lower back inflammation ... Justin Turner was scratched from the Dodgers' lineup Tuesday due to left hamstring discomfort. It's the same hamstring that he strained in late August. Turner missed the first two weeks of September and had been limited to DH duties since being activated from the injured list early last week. He was penciled in to play third base Tuesday for the first time since August 28, but Edwin Rios filled in at the hot corner instead ... Michael Conforto (hamstring) remained out of the Mets' lineup Tuesday against the Rays. Conforto has now missed back-to-back starts with hamstring tightness, though Mets manager Luis Rojas said he was available off the bench Tuesday. Consider him day-to-day ... Reds activated RHP Sonny Gray from the 10-day injured list. Gray made his return Tuesday against the Brewers. The 30-year-old showed little rust in his first start since September 10, striking out eight while allowing just one run over five innings of work. Unfortunately he didn't get a win for his efforts, but he lowered his ERA to 3.73 with the strong return to the mound ... Mike Yastrzemski (calf) remained out of the Giants' starting lineup on Tuesday night. Yastrzemski is still working through the mild right calf strain that he suffered last Thursday. He played catch and hit off a tee on Monday, so the situation does seem to be trending in a positive direction. The 30-year-old outfielder is sitting on a stellar .285/.390/.553 batting line with nine home runs and 33 RBI in 49 games ... Cubs activated LHP Jose Quintana from the 10-day injured list. Quintana started for the Cubs on Tuesday night against the Pirates after missing a little over two weeks due to left lat inflammation. He also sat out the first four weeks of the season because of a cut on his left thumb. The veteran southpaw allowed a run in two innings of work before exiting ... According to Dionisio Soldevila of Periodico Hoy, Dominican prosecutors are claiming that Pirates prospect Oneil Cruz was under the influence of alcohol when he crashed his vehicle and killed three people on Monday. Initial reports about the tragic incident stated that alcohol was not involved. Cruz could be facing a lengthy jail sentence -- and the end of his professional baseball career -- if what the prosecutors are saying is true. The 21-year-old shortstop ranked as a consensus top-100 prospect leading into the 2020 season after batting .298/.356/.475 with eight home runs and 11 stolen bases in 73 games last summer in the minors.
American League Quick Hits: Nelson Cruz (knee) remained out of the Twins' starting lineup on Tuesday. Cruz hasn't played in a game since Friday because of soreness in his right knee, but it sounds like the Twins are mostly just playing things safe ... Yasmani Grandal (hand) was not in Tuesday's lineup against the Indians. Grandal was removed from Monday's game after being hit in the right hand by a foul tip, but the good news is that X-rays turned up negative. Consider him day-to-day for now. James McCann started behind the plate in his stead ... Triston McKenzie was available out of the bullpen Tuesday against the White Sox. It appears the Indians are preparing him for his potential role during the postseason. McKenzie was previously lined up to start Friday against the Pirates. The 23-year-old has been very impressive so far in the majors, posting a 3.68 ERA and 36/9 K/BB ratio in six starts over 29 1/3 innings ... Robbie Ray will start Wednesday against the Yankees. Chase Anderson was previously listed as probable for that start, but he'll now pitch out of the bullpen. The switch means that Hyun-Jin Ryu will start the series finale against the Yankees on Thursday ... Jose Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th to give the Indians a 5-3 win over the White Sox and clinch a postseason berth on Tuesday. Ramirez had already built a strong MVP candidacy in recent weeks, and a walkoff homer against a division rival to clinch a playoff berth certainly won't hurt. The homer was Ramirez's 12th in 23 games and 17th overall this year. He has a .979 OPS, which ranks fifth in the AL, and he arguably has more defensive value than everyone above him on that list (Jose Abreu, Nelson Cruz, DJ LeMahieu and Mike Trout).