MLB es­sen­tials:

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE -

Trans­ac­tions, stand­ings, cal­en­dars, se­ries to watch.

❚ Team notes, Pages 20-21

❚ Player stats, Pages 23-25

❚ Box scores, Pages 30-39

CAR­DI­NALS AT BRAVES (Sept. 17-19)

It’s the start of a huge week for the Braves, who play their fi­nal seven reg­u­lar-sea­son home games against St. Louis and then the Philadel­phia Phillies, their only com­pe­ti­tion for the Na­tional League East ti­tle. It’s also big for the Car­di­nals, whose strong sec­ond half has put them in play­off con­tention. The Braves swept a three-game se­ries June 29-July 1 at Busch Sta­dium, just be­fore Mike Shildt re­placed Mike Ma­theny as the Car­di­nals man­ager.

MARINERS AT ASTROS (Sept. 17-19)

Seat­tle had hoped to chal­lenge Hous­ton for the Amer­i­can League West ti­tle, but that’s no longer re­al­is­tic and the Mariners’ fad­ing wild-card hopes are al­most ka­put, too, as they wrap up their sea­son se­ries with the Astros. The teams have split 16 games this sea­son, and that in­cludes the Mariners’ four-game sweep last month at Hous­ton as closer Ed­win Diaz got the save in each of the vic­to­ries. The Mariners face AL West teams in their fi­nal 17 games.

ROCK­IES AT DODGERS (Sept. 17-19)

The NL West and wild-card con­tenders have split their six games at Dodger Sta­dium, and “home run or bust” was the dom­i­nant theme. The Dodgers hit six homers but bat­ted .192 with zero stolen bases. Their best hit­ter at home, where their OPS (on-base plus slug­ging per­cent­age) is 30 points be­low their road rate, is Max Muncy (18 homers, .979 OPS). The Rock­ies have bat­ted .195 at Dodger Sta­dium with seven homers, in­clud­ing two apiece by Nolan Are­nado and Ian Des­mond.

CUBS AT DI­A­MOND­BACKS (Sept. 17-19)

The Cubs are look­ing to win their third con­sec­u­tive NL Cen­tral ti­tle while the Di­a­mond­backs are aim­ing for their first NL West crown since 2011. The teams split a four-game se­ries in July at Chicago, and the fi­nal game was par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable — David Bote and An­thony Rizzo hit back-to-back homers to give the Cubs a walkoff vic­tory. Ari­zona first base­man Paul Gold­schmidt went 5-for-15 (.333) with one dou­ble and one home run, and Cubs short­stop Javier Baez was 3for-10 (.300).

RED SOX AT YAN­KEES (Sept. 18-20)

The Red Sox lead the sea­son se­ries 8-5 and have outscored the Yan­kees 81-62. But New York is 4-2 against Bos­ton at Yan­kee Sta­dium, and with six games left in the sea­son be­tween the two AL East be­he­moths the Yan­kees still have time to catch the first-place Red Sox. Mookie Betts is bat­ting .412 with two home runs, 10 RBI and 16 runs scored against the Yan­kees this sea­son, while Gian­carlo Stan­ton is hitting .408 with three homers, 10 RBI and 11 runs against Bos­ton.

WHITE SOX AT IN­DI­ANS (Sept. 18-20)

The In­di­ans are cruis­ing to their third con­sec­u­tive AL Cen­tral ti­tle, while the re­build­ing White Sox hope to be con­tenders once their youth move­ment comes to fruition. Chicago had its first win­ning month of the sea­son in Au­gust, go­ing 17-12, but has lost 10 of 13 to Cleveland this sea­son. In­di­ans third base­man Jose Ramirez is hitting .356 (16-for-45) with three dou­bles, five home runs and 10 RBI in the sea­son se­ries.

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