OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS Minnesota has a chance to widen its 6 1/2-game lead in the AL Central over Cleveland and perhaps all but salt away the division title when the Indians come to town for a three-game series. Michael Pineda (11-5, 4.11 ERA) pitches the opener for the Twins, back home from an 8-2 road trip. Adam Plutko (6-4, 4.53) goes for Cleveland.
CLOSING IN Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers have a magic number of four to clinch their seventh consecutive NL West title. They could do it at home over the weekend against rival San Francisco — depending on how Arizona fares in Cincinnati. Kershaw (13-4, 2.96 ERA) starts the first game opposite Jeff Samardzija (9-11, 3.61), who is 0-3 with a 4.21 ERA in five appearances at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles lefty Rich Hill will face hitters as he works his way back from a forearm strain.
WINDY CITY WORRIES Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel was placed on the 10-day injured list with elbow inflammation Thursday, retroactive to Monday, ahead of a big series against Milwaukee. Chicago also scratched All-Star shortstop Javier Báez with lingering soreness in his left thumb. Kimbrel hasn't pitched since allowing a three-run homer to Brewers slugger Christian Yelich in a 4-0 loss Sunday.
"He felt a little something pop up in that outing so just to be on the cautious side, we had an MRI done," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "It showed everything is in place structurally. He just has a little inflammation.
"His elbow was pristine just like when we signed him, which is good news, but unfortunately we have to give him a few days without throwing to let it calm down," Epstein said. Kimbrel is 0-2 with a 5.68 ERA and 13 saves in 21 games for Chicago.
Báez hasn't played since jamming his thumb on a slide Sunday. X-rays were negative. AILING ASTROS Houston right-hander Aaron Sanchez will have surgery on his pitching shoulder and miss the remainder of the season. Sanchez hasn't appeared in a game since Aug. 20.
All-Star outfielder George Springer was diagnosed with a mild concussion and will sit out a few games. He is expected to return early next week. Springer was carted off the field Tuesday after his head hit the wall when he made a catch against Milwaukee.
MANAGER MISSING White Sox skipper Rick Renteria is scheduled for surgery on his right rotator cuff in Chicago and will miss a weekend series against the visiting Los Angeles Angels. Renteria plans to return to the dugout early next week. Bench coach Joe McEwing will run the team in Renteria's absence.
"I do intend to play again this year," the 57-year-old Renteria joked. Renteria played parts of five seasons in the majors from 1986-88 and again from 1993-94. He was an infielder for the Pirates, Mariners and Marlins.
All-Star right-hander Lucas Giolito (14-8, 3.30 ERA) faces Mike Trout and the struggling Angels in the opener.
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