The only thing that may be able to stop Chris Sale's Cy Young hopes is his own left shoulder.
Sale was placed on the 10-day disabled list Saturday with mild left shoulder inflammation, the second time this month he's been sidelined by the ailment. The DL trip comes less than a week after he was activated from the disabled list, also for left shoulder inflammation.
"Just a little bit more of the same [feeling in the shoulder from] the last episode we had," said Sale. "Just trying to stay on top of things and get it better."
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Between stints, Sale dominated the Orioles last weekend, striking out 12 while allowing just one hit over five scoreless innings. So he certainly didn't show any signs of being affected by the ailing shoulder.
If there's a team that can afford to be without its ace for the foreseeable future, it's the Red Sox. After their win Saturday, the club is 88-36 and has a comfortable lead on the rest of the league for the top spot in the postseason.
"I think it's a smart move," manager Alex Cora said. "In these situations, there's a process. Before the start, during the start and after the start. It was taking him a while after the start, and where we're at right now -- not only as an organization, but [for him] as an individual -- we have to take care of him. This guy is very important for what we're trying to accomplish, and if he needs to skip one, two, three, whatever, we're willing to do that. He'll be back. Like he said, he feels better than the last time we put him on the DL. So, he'll get his rest, he'll go through treatment, and we'll go from there."
Given the quick return to the DL, the team hasn't put a timetable on Sale's recovery. With Eduardo Rodriguez working his way back from his own DL stint, the Sox won't lose much -- in terms of production and, if the first four and a half months are any indication, in terms of wins and losses -- with Sale sidelined.
Altuve (Knee) Set For Short Rehab Stint
The Astros continue to lose ground in the AL West standings -- more on that later -- but they're set to regain the services of one of the best players in the league this week.
Jose Altuve, who has been out since July 25 with a sore right knee, will begin a rehab assignment Sunday with Triple-A Fresno. If all goes well, Altuve could be back with the Astros as early as the first part of the week when the club is in Seattle, manager A.J. Hinch said.
"The plan is just to get him into a game and get him a little bit more comfortable, a little bit more confident, and then make an assessment on what all that means," Hinch said. "Obviously, it's convenient for him to go to Tacoma, and we're going to Seattle next. The hope is that it will be a very short stint and he'll able to rejoin us."
Altuve underwent a "rigorous" workout Friday and came out of it OK, clearing the way for his rehab assignment. He'll play for the Fresno club Sunday in Tacoma -- they're visiting the Mariners' Triple-A affiliate, conveniently -- and will rejoin the team, but not necessarily be activated, Monday in Seattle.
In his absence, Marwin Gonzalez and Yuli Gurriel have split second base duties. Perhaps the biggest loser in the playing time equation, though, will be Kyle Tucker, who has struggled to produce in limited action and who might be the player sent out when Altuve returns.
Cards, A's Make Playoff Moves
Late August is crunch time for many fantasy leagues with playoffs approaching, and in the same way, postseason races can begin to cause consternation for MLB teams around this time as well.
Two teams saw their once-comfortable leads slip away Saturday, as the Athletics pulled into a dead-even tie with the Astros for the AL West title and the Cardinals actually passed the Brewers for the final Wild Card spot in the National League.
Both feats are incredible, regardless of how the next month and a half go, after both teams found themselves well behind in the standings just a few weeks ago. Two months ago Saturday, the Athletics were in fourth place in the West, 12 games out of first place. When Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was fired on July 14, the team was one game over .500 at 47-46.
Pitching has been at the heart of both teams' resurgences, and it was on display for both clubs Saturday. In drawing even with the defending World Champions, the A's got seven shutout innings from starter Trevor Cahill. Cahill has been stellar when on the mound this year, going 5-2 with a 3.12 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 85/25 K/BB ratio in 15 starts. The A's also benefited from eight doubles in the game, two each from Khris Davis, Matt Olson, Stephen Piscotty and Josh Phegley.
One of the brightest stars for the Cardinals this year, even when they were struggling, has been Miles Mikolas, and that was true Saturday as well. The right-hander, who wasn't even in MLB last year, won his 13th game of the season, tossing six innings of one-run ball. Mikolas has a 2.85 ERA in his 25 starts this year.
The final six weeks of the regular season should be fun.
National League Quick Hits: Stephen Strasburg (neck) threw 42 or 43 pitches in a bullpen session Saturday and came out of it well, Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. The only question remaining is where Strasburg will make his start Tuesday, with the Nationals or on a rehab assignment. Martinez said that's still being decided. Either way, he's almost certainly going to be back some time this week ... Jacob deGrom struck out nine batters and allowed only an unearned run in a 3-1 complete-game win over the Phillies on Saturday. He finally got his record over the .500 mark at 8-7 and lowered his league-leading ERA to 1.71 after 25 starts. He crossed the 200 strikeout mark for the third time in his career and now has 204 punchouts against just 36 walks in 168 innings ... Kolten Wong left Saturday's game against the Brewers with a right elbow contusion. Wong was hit in the elbow by an errant Wade Miley pickoff attempt in the bottom of the third inning. He stayed in to run the bases, but was replaced by Greg Garcia at second base in the top half of the next inning ... Mike Foltynewicz struck out nine batters while tossing seven shutout innings but did not get a win as the Braves lost in extra innings on Saturday. The 26-year-old right-hander has been one of the biggest surprises of the campaign, going 10-7 so far with a 2.72 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 24 starts. He owns 161 strikeouts in 139 innings ... Jose Martinez was scratched from the Cardinals' lineup Saturday due to right hip tightness. He was replaced in the field and in the batting order by Tyler O'Neill. The injury doesn't sound overly concerning, so he should be back in there in a day or two. Still, it's a situation to monitor ... Paul Goldschmidt went 4-for-4 and knocked in four runs against the Padres on Saturday. That didn't stop the Diamondbacks from losing, but it was still a huge night for him. Goldschmidt had RBI singles in the first, third, and seventh innings and knocked in a run with a double in the fifth. The 30-year-old has been on a torrid hot streak of late, hitting .488 (20-for-41) over his last 10 games ... Jimmy Nelson (shoulder) threw a bullpen session Saturday. "I’m still doing everything in my power" to return this season, he told MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. The bullpen, the first documented session in his return from major shoulder surgery last September, is certainly a step in the right direction, but time continues to tick as he races against the clock for a return in 2018 ... Joe Musgrove held the Cubs to one run in seven innings and was credited with a win on Saturday. He struck out seven batters without issuing a free pass. This makes five consecutive quality starts for Musgrove ... Matt Harvey tossed 6 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball and earned a win over the Giants on Saturday. He sprinkled four hits -- all singles -- and one walk while striking out five batters in the gem outing. Harvey improves to 6-7 on the season with a 4.91 ERA in 21 starts and four relief appearances with the Reds and Mets.
American League Quick Hits: Mike Trout (wrist) is not expected to rejoin the Angels until the next homestand. The Angels are on the road until Friday, so they're not expecting him back for close to a week. Trout was originally expected to return from the disabled list when first eligible last week, but he left the team when his 24-year-old brother-in-law passed away suddenly Wednesday morning. The Angels are obviously going to give their superstar all the time he needs during this tragedy ... Shohei Ohtani (elbow) threw 20 fastballs in a light bullpen session Saturday. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said the next step is likely facing live hitters in his next workout in Arizona. Ohtani is managing a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow that was diagnosed earlier this year ... Adrian Beltre (hamstring) was back in the lineup for the Rangers' game Saturday against the Angels. Beltre had sat out all the team's games since Monday with a hamstring issue, but he took batting practice ahead of Friday's game and was deemed good to go for Saturday ... J.D. Martinez slugged his MLB-leading 38th homer in Saturday’s win over the Rays. Martinez also drew a walk, stole a base, and scored a run in the first inning. The 30-year-old has hit safely in six straight games and owns a monster .333/.404/.667 batting line on the year ... Alex Cobb largely breezed through the AL Central-leading Indians on Saturday, allowing two runs in a complete-game, 4-2 win. Cobb gave up five hits and a walk while striking out three, needing exactly 100 pitches to complete his nine innings. Cobb has somewhat quietly been pretty good in the season's second half and has lowered his ERA to 5.09 -- a testament to how bad he was in the first half -- in 23 starts overall.