Center fielder Cedric Mullins continues to give Baltimore hope for the future. After missing two games because of a sore left hip, he returned on Aug. 31 and hit his first career leadoff homer, then showed off his defensive skills.
“That game would have been out of hand if he hadn’t made some of the plays he made,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He was a real bright spot.”
Andrew Cashner took the loss in that game, but the righthander also saw Mullins as a reason for optimism.
“It’s nice getting a look at that guy,” Cashner said. “You hear a lot about these guys coming up but don’t really get to see them play. I didn’t get to see Ced that much in the spring, but anytime you can add spring to your team, it changes things.”
❚ Another reason for at least a little bit of optimism: In the second half through Sept. 2, a span of 40 games, Baltimore was first in the American League and third in the majors with a .268 batting average, first in the AL in hits and fifth in the AL with 57 homers and a .437 slugging percentage.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox didn’t have a No. 1 catcher even after Christian Vazquez, the opening-day starter, was activated almost two months since being sidelined by a broken finger.
In his absence, Sandy Leon, a terrific defender, had been the primary catcher but was hitting only .111 in the second half as the week began. Blake Swihart was hitting .138 when his agent requested a trade in May, but he finished July with a .412 batting average after Vazquez was hurt early in the month. Swihart cooled off in August, however.
Is the job up for grabs? “I think it’s fair, yeah,” manager Alex Cora said.
It’s not an ideal time to have a question mark at such an important position, but the Red Sox have dealt with this before. Backup David Ross replaced starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia during the 2013 playoffs and helped the Red Sox win the World Series.
❚ Red Sox pitchers combined to strike out 18 Chicago White Sox batters on Sept. 1, the third time they had struck out 18 or more batters in a nine-inning game this season. The other 29 major league teams had done so four times combined.
New York Yankees
Aaron Judge said his wrist felt “great” when he swung a bat Sept. 3, but the Yankees had no idea how soon he’d be back when they acquired Andrew McCutchen from the San Francisco Giants last week to shore up the outfield.
General manager Brian Cashman had been in touch with San Francisco for about a week before the trade was done. Giants executives wanted to give their club every chance to get back into contention.
“It was a long week, but I’m glad it resolved the way it did,” Cashman said.
McCutchen’s only concern was how his 9-month-old son, Steel, would react to Dad being shorn of his beard, per the Yankees’ ban on facial hair. So he held his son as he shaved.
“He stared at me for about five minutes and touched all over my face,” McCutchen said.
❚ There’s no guarantee closer Aroldis Chapman (knee) will return before the end of the season. “I don’t know. I can’t tell you I have a level of confidence or not,” Cashman said.
Tampa Bay Rays
Sometimes a change of scenery is all that’s needed. Maybe it’s also a change of role.
In 34 appearances, all in relief, with Pittsburgh this season, right-hander Tyler Glasnow had a 4.34 ERA. The Rays made him a starter when they acquired him at the trade deadline, and he had a 3.23 ERA in his first six outings.
Glasnow said his big-league experience, including his failures, has helped him, but he feels “more athletic” working as a starting pitcher again.
“I definitely feel different than I did in Pittsburgh, for sure,” he said. “I feel more free out here, and I’m able to be relaxed and perform. I think I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here.”
❚ The Rays went 17-10 in August, the first time they were more than two games above or below .500 for a month since May 2017. It was the sixth-best winning percentage in the majors for August and the third best in team history for that month.
Toronto Blue Jays
Among the reasons for Toronto’s dismal season has been its pitching, among the worst in the majors in many categories. On Sept. 1, Toronto tied a franchise record by using its 34th pitcher of the season, and righthander Marco Estrada got roughed up in a loss to the Marlins at Miami.
“Our starting pitching has been getting hit around pretty good the last week to 10 days, putting us behind the 8-ball,” manager John Gibbons said. “It’s hard to come back each night.”
Besides the problems of Estrada, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season and is dealing with a lingering back issue, Aaron Sanchez has had what Gibbons calls “two lost years” because of injury and Marcus Stroman is on the disabled list because of a blister.
❚ Josh Donaldson likely was gone as a free agent after the season, so his trade to Cleveland on Aug. 31 didn’t have a major impact on Toronto’s future plans for third base. Top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is expected to take over next year.
“Our recent visitor has been escorted out of the ballpark, unharmed. Though we may bring her back if the score doesn’t change soon.”
Orioles’ Twitter feed During the Aug. 29 game against Toronto regarding the critter dubbed “The Rally Raccoon,” which was seen throughout Camden Yards during the team’s homestand. The Orioles rallied in that game to beat the Blue Jays.
Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins is congratulated in the dugout after hitting his first career leadoff home run Aug. 31.