READY OR NOT
Nationals slugger Bryce Harper could come off the disabled list and return to the lineup in Philadelphia. "We're still trying to make up our minds," manager Dusty Baker said Sunday. Harper, the 2015 NL MVP, has been out with a bone bruise in his left knee since slipping on a wet base while running out a grounder Aug. 12. Washington has already clinched the NL East title and home-field advantage in a best-of-five Division Series that will begin Oct. 6. But there's only a week left in the regular season for Harper to test his knee and get comfortable at the plate before the playoffs start. "I think he is itching at getting back out on the field," teammate Max Scherzer said. "Hopefully, he can come back and get his timing back because that is going to be the hardest thing for him."
Fenway Park can start preparing for a potential celebration. Boston returns home from an 8-1 road trip with a magic number of three to clinch its second consecutive AL East crown, a feat the team has never accomplished. Mookie Betts and the Red Sox finish the regular season with three games against last-place Toronto and four vs. Houston in a possible postseason preview. Drew Pomeranz (16-5) gets a playoff tuneup against the Blue Jays. The left-hander is 7-1 with a 2.62 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break.
The Cubs and Cardinals begin a significant series in St. Louis. Chicago can clinch a tie for the NL Central title by winning the opener, but perhaps more important, it would like to get Jon Lester on track before the playoffs. Lester (11-8, 4.56 ERA) gave up seven runs to Tampa Bay in his last outing and has a 5.91 ERA in four September starts. The Cardinals are 2 1/2 games behind Colorado for the second NL wild card, and rookie Luke Weaver is a big reason why they've stayed close. Weaver (7-1, 2.05) has won seven straight starts, including five against division rivals.
LONE STAR KNOCKOUT
The Astros can eliminate the rival Rangers from playoff contention during a series at Texas this week. The Rangers trail Minnesota by 5 1/2 games for the second AL wild card with just seven left. Collin McHugh (3-2, 3.44 ERA) starts the opener for Houston — he looked good last time out in his first start since tearing a fingernail on his pitching hand. Andrew Cashner (10-10, 3.44) is set to pitch for the Rangers.
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